Perhaps no business phrase is better known than “Time is Money,” because no matter what business you’re in, it is relatable (and often, no matter what business you’re in, you don’t have enough of either!). “Time is Money” is definitely relatable in the fast-paced world of Audio Visual Integration. So much of our ability to make a profit comes down to our ability to get jobs done ON TIME, and on budget. Trust me when I say, this is no easy feat. How many of you have seen projects go way past deadline, over budget, and right into the land of sleepless nights and ulcers? I have, and this was a big reason I helped launch our company. We truly believed we could make the process better. However, it takes planning and an unwavering commitment to excellence to make the process better. Jobs don’t get done on time by accident. Often it is the combination of crafty design, thorough engineering, and a crack project management team that keeps a job on track, and on budget. Having said that, there are some common practices you can use to get a project off and running on the right foot. After more than two thousand projects completed, I wanted to pass along some of my favorite tips.
- Kickoff Meeting: We all know that the last five percent of any project is the hardest. This is because so many details aren’t discussed up front. Much is left up to interpretation, and when you hit the training and commissioning phase there is entirely too much “I thought we could do…” A thorough kickoff meeting or series of meetings (depending on the project size) is a great way to get out in front of these issues. Even though the job is sold, knowing about any discrepancies or changes before the install is done allows you to get programmers, engineers, and installers in line before those changes become prohibitively expensive for either party.
- Key Onsite Visit: I’ve heard horror stories of installers going on site to find conditions so bad they weren’t able to start work. Even if this is quickly identified, it can set the project back days, creating a domino effect, impacting all the other projects waiting to follow. I’ve also heard of projects where installers came in and walls were closed down and soffits were in. This is just as bad. Keeping up on the jobsite and having a regular system of on-site visits in place to verify conditions leading up to the install is a great way to avoid disasters on site upon arrival.
- Pre-Fabrication: With much of the equipment being installed these days requiring setup and configuration, the idea of waiting until you’re onsite to fabricate and test racks is a bad one. Everything from defective equipment to programming malfunctions can make this problematic for the install. Not to mention, it does look a bit silly when the installer is loading and building racks onsite when most general and electrical contractors know this is something that can—and should—be done in advance. By building the racks before arrival, you save time and proactively deal with any issues, ensuring everything works properly. That way, time onsite can be dedicated to the things that can only be done, well, onsite.
- Befriend Key Site Personnel: One of the lesser-known tricks of the trade is actively building relationships with the right people, those who will help you get projects done. Sometimes a late night visit or a really early morning start is needed to get a project done on time. Well, most of the time the client contact won’t be there at 11 p.m. but there is a good chance there is a security or site professional that can help you gain access. From the onset of the project, it’s a good idea to get to know these players, so you can have the advantage of getting work done even if it isn’t during the standard 7-3 p.m. job site workday.
- Installers and Subs in the Know: This last one may seem like common sense, but if you have seen some of the things I have, you wouldn’t shrug this off. Bottom line, make sure your installers know what your sales team knows, what your engineers know, and what your project manager knows. I can’t tell you how often installers are missing basic project information, the result of which is even bigger problems for jobs. Add this to your must-do checklist and watch your projects come together just a little bit better.
So there you have it. While it may not be rocket science, these tips should not be ignored. If you put just a little more effort into the planning, you will reap the rewards of projects being turned around on time, and on budget.