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Discussion Starter #1
I have been setting up friend's, family members, and co-workers audio/video systems in the evenings and on weekends for some time now. I do this mostly for fun (very little profit) but just today I have run across somthing new. An actual client that has sought out my services.

I would like to project a fairly professional image so I need some assistance in coming up with a questionaire of sorts to help me uncover what his expectations, desires and requirements for the system are.

If you are a professional in the audio/video field what are some of the questions you ask?

If you are not a professional in the audio/video field what are some of the questions that you would like to be asked.


I already have a career, but this hobby/addiction of mine has the potential of supporting itself. I have until next Friday to polish my presentation and would welcome any and all suggestions or advice.
 

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Hi simonsez, the first question that was asked of me was...How much do you want to spend?. Once you know the budget, I would guess room size would be the next concern.

How knowledgeable is your client? it helps with recommendations. I think if you have their best interest at heart, they will know it, and you'll do fine. Good Luck!

Glimmer Man
 

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Simonsez,


I have been doing the same thing for several years now and have about 30 installations to my credit. First, get the business side setup. That means whatever your local jurisdiction requires for licensing, tax (yes taxes) and insurance. Decide whether you will be doing this on a consultation basis (ie services only) or will you be selling equipment also. If you will be doing services then make sure you understand the guidelines for constructing a good HT, including acoustics, seating, viewing restrictions, lighting restrictions as well as the audio and video equipment. If you will be dealing equipment then get your contacts in order, there are many distributors who deal with custom installers. Finally, get a business card with your name and logo made up.


When you meet your potential client remember that you are service oriented and act accordingly. The first thing you need to know is where in the house you will be locating the theater. Also, find out if you will be a general contractor for its installation (you have to get the crews together then) or will you be advising laborers he will get and pay for. In viewing the area, check for the quality of construction ie places where sound will potentially leak to other areas of the house. Many houses built in the 80s and 90s are very poorly constructed (even million dollar homes) so expect to do a lot of caulking, sealing and underlayment work to confine the sound. Find out his intentions for the theater. Is it for multi-purpose use such as a play area for young kids, or for friends to watch football or dedicated for theater only. The purpose of the room will affect every aspect of the theater construction, especially the acoustics and line of sight to the screen. If you are not involved with the construction aspects and just doing the wiring and assembly then find out his/their tastes in music and films. Get the wife involved, he and she will appreciate it more if they are both involved. Definitely find out their budget and knowdege of electronics. If they can not program a VCR then you have a lot of work to do with programming a user friendly (and forgiving) remote. Budgets are tough for people to talk about because they do not know how much things should cost for this application and second they are uncertain what margins you will receive. If they tell you that they want to spend 1000 dollars then will they get a $500 theater and $500 worth of advise. Or, will they get $800 for equipment and $200 for advise. This is something you must resolve, that is what margins you expect to get for your services. Customarily, custom installers will get retail for the products and discount the labor or discount the equipment accordingly and charge more for their labor. The bottom line is they get their margins. If you will not sell equipment then charge a premium for your services, provided they are worth it. Remember this is your valuable time and expertise which you are selling.


I could go on but let me cut it off here. One last thing for services provided, make sure you understand acoustics and have equipment for measuring the acoustical properties of a room. This may cost you several thousand dollars, but, if you are serious about home theater then it is a worthwhile investment. Check out GoldLine equipment. They are online at www.gold-line.com


Good Luck, maybe someday we'll be swapping client stories.


Dave:)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
David, and Glimmer Man thank you for the replies. David, I'm not sure that there is a large enough market in this area for me to do this full time, but you advice is appreciated because I do want to present a professional image.

Switching to daydream mode: wouldn't it be nice to make a career out of somthing I would do for free;)

Glimmer, he is somewhat knowledeable but he has very little free time to research - he would rather pay me to to the research shop and hook things up. Basically he likes sports and movies and wants to come home, press a button and relax.
 

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Ahh! like most folks, just push a button and go, my wife is the same way...:) I'm doing almost the same thing now, helping some friends upgrade their system. They know little or nothing and they are trusting me to add upgrades that look and sound good and that also will handle future upgrades.
 

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I would appreciate as much input as I can get. You have never been bashful about giving advice before...yes....I'm talking to YOU
 

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Most importantly since you are NOT a professional A/V person you should this fact up front. Be honest. There are certain expectations and liabilities of for professional installer/serviceman and you may not be able to meet them.


Even though you have done a great job for others this doesn't mean you won't mess up this time. And if you happen to F&&^ up are you prepared to pay the consequences?


Sorry to be a wet blanket on your fire but "consulting" isn't as easy as many believe it to be. It is clear to me that you already do not know what you are doing; so be careful. You client WILL pick up on your appreshension so please preface your first meeting by stating you are NOT a pro but have done this services many times before for others.


Good Luck


Chris
 

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Chris, at first I was slightly offended by your post but some of your points ring through. However, just because I ask for the advice of others or seek counsel of those more experienced than me does not mean that I do not know what I am doing. I have been in the professional home installation business for 9 years (Invisible Fence) I have also run several highly successful offices/dealership for other people and continue to do so today. Therefore I am fully aware of my responsibilities and potential liabilities. I do not intend to make a career change today, but the possibility of having my own business - thus the fruits of my labors is appealing.

I have been completely up-front and honest about my lack of specific experience & credentials in the A/V field, and I think my honesty has somehow impressed him regardless of credentials. While I agree that past successes do not prevent future failure, I also belive that if I apply myself I can create success. I am honest with myself and know where my weaknesses lie - and I am not afraid of asking for help or guidance. While you are entitled to your opinion, I am not obligated to agree with it and I am curious as to why you seem a little resist to me trying something new?

I welcome any other feedback (preferably constructive) by you or any other members that wish to reply. -Dave
 

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hey there! just wanted to throw my two cents in!! as a carpenter by trade and an ht dreamer myself, let me me share a couple of things. i have a small business (myself and 2 helpers) the hardest thing to deal with for me is the payment issue, mainly how much. i always undervalue unintentionally as i really am uncomfortable with giving figures out for my work. i do twice the job as the next guy but take less. for that i stay three times as busy and my job feels like its still fun and not work. i never ask the customer anymore "how much do u want to spend" because they always dodge the question as most installers and carpenters will miraculously show up at their figure. people want more for less. try to cover it by throwing out some ideas like an entry level/ mid level and high end set up using similar items by different companies and that will give u an idea where to factor price without asking boldly and scaring off the customer. i started my company after i was told by three snott nose companies i couldnt afford a home theater! haaaa! good luck! everyone wishes they could wake up in the morning and not hate going to work! i dont mind and would like to thank tose who said i couldnt afford it!
 

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I'd give customers a survey to find out their preferences. For example,

On a scale of 1 (unimportant) to 10 (critical) rate the importance of the following:

Screen size

Brightness

Seating

Sound

Bass

etc.


This would give you two things. You would learn the relative importance of various aspects to a customer. It would also give you an opportunity to discuss aspects of home theater they don't know about.


Good luck,

--Burke
 

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One thing I found helpful was to ask, "what would you ultimately like to have". Most people think of today and not what they might get tommorrow. So a lot of times people will say...someday I'd like to add speakers in another room etc. So I tell them to buy a something with multiroom capabilities, in other words don't buy the same thing 3 times over.

In the long run it saves them money and are happy I convinced them to spend 10% more now instead of 300% over the long run
 

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Thank you everyone for the replies thus far!


BurkeLaShell, that is a great idea, even in my current business we often incorrectly assume the customers priorities closely mirror our own. A small survey would be an excellent way to find out what is important to that particular customer and a nice way to get them talking.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by simonsez
Chris, at first I was slightly offended by your post but some of your points ring through.


While you are entitled to your opinion, I am not obligated to agree with it and I am curious as to why you seem a little resist to me trying something new?

-Dave


Hi Dave,


Sorry to offend you; not at all my intention! I am not resistant to you trying something new. Sounds like you've been doing great already. I just wanted to point out that you are not a professional - as implied by you. And I am sure that you know what you are doing when it comes to a paying gig. Where my apprehension lies is in the fact that you bother to ask what you need to do, ask, look for etc... Somebody who truly knows usually has the confidence to charge on without asking such basic questions. This implies to me that you have distant reservations about some of your abilities in a "professional" situation.


I am a consultant and even though I have no professional a/v experience, I have no problem taking on a/v project. This is because I fully understand business practices, consequences and most of all needs assessment. I am confident that I can go in and figure out exactly what a client will need and do the proper research to find the correct answers and equipment.


I am not saying that you can't you or anybody else can't do this but it bothers me that you have to submit an inquiry on what you should do. As they say if you have to ask how much it costs then you can't afford it. Likewise if you have to ask about appearing professional you won't.


Again no offense.... just me spouting my 2 bit advice.


That said this is what I would if I were you. Wanna appear professional?


Get some business cards. Unless you are a graphic designer, one make them for you. Well designed cards make you look more professional.


Set up a LLP or S-Corp and get a bank account.


Figure out how much you cost. don't dicker with the client on price. You may want to do some research on competitive pricing. What ever you do. DO NOT price yourself cheaper than everybody else because you are new to the "game" You're a pro right? so act like one and charge like one!


find some vendors that will give you reseller pricing. Afterall you're a legit business.


Ask lot's of questions like:

What do you want a HT set up?

What do you know about this stuff already?

What are his expectations?

What is the most important aspect of HT?

What have you been looking at?

have you seen other set-ups?

Where do you want to install the system?

How much can you spend? (NOT how much do you WANT to spend...)

What is the catalyst for change?

What does the spouse think?

How long do you expect to keep this kind of system?

can the client do own maintenence?

etc, etc, etc...


these are very basic questions. If you act like you know what you're doing then you should be ok.

Remember the client sees you as the expert. He will turn to for all of his problems for as long as the system is running.


I personally would make sure that he pays 50% to start the project with the balance upon satisfactory completion.


Most importantly, get everything in writting!! And document everything you do and everything he says.


Hope this helps and again sorry for offending you.


Good luck.


Chris
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Chris no need to apologize, and yes your comments have been helpful. Sometime I like to ask simple questions (even if I know the answer) just to see what people will say. Frequently I am pleasantly surprised at the great insight people can provide. Everyone has a slightly different approach to the same problem - often they are simple thing that never would have occurred to me.

RE: Burke's simple questionnaire I figure there are many informed people here why not draw on that knowledge base and see what you all can come up with to augment my presentation.

Why completely re-invent the wheel??
 
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