As you drive around, have you noticed those “Covid Hero” signs?

“A Hero Lives Here!”

“Thank you Essential Workers!”

“Thank you First Responders!”

“Thank you Healthcare workers!”

“Some Super Heroes Wear Scrubs.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone put out a sign that read, “AV Heroes Work Here.”

I mean really, think about it.  What you and your team have pulled off is nothing short of miraculous.  I have higher ed customers who only two months ago were informed they were responsible for providing the needed technology to allow remote access to every classroom on campus- and oh, by the way, the available budget was far less than anything ever attempted before.  In fact, the Covid pandemic has placed demands on you in ways you could not possibly have imagined just a few months ago – certainly in ways you couldn’t have imagined when you sat around planning your budget allocations for 2020!

One customer summed it up this way:  “Being an AV Manager right now is like riding a bike.  Except the bike is on fire.  And you’re on fire.  And everything is on fire.  And you’re in Hell!”

But you know what?  You did it. One of our customers bought 800 Huddly cameras.  Another bought 300 Shure lapel mics so professors would not have to share.  Another upgraded 200 classrooms.  And today, many of them are up and running despite the obstacles.

Orders like this were happening all across the country – and that put an enormous strain on the supply chain.  Our suppliers deserve a lot of credit too.  Many put on extra shifts to accommodate the demand.  One manufacturer converted office space into a product assembly line.  I personally know of one manufacturer who shipped an order overnight at their expense – just to assure the customer received the product in time.

For Dobil’s part, the entire technical staff deserve an “AV Heroes Work Here” sign.  We engineered technical solutions, we installed distance learning and corporate videoconferencing systems.  We worked crazy hours – evenings, weekends – whatever it took to meet our customers’ required completion dates.  All the while we were navigating constantly changing Covid compliance procedures and mandatory shutdowns.  I don’t know if you know this, but throughout the initial Covid shutdown, Dobil techs fabricated equipment racks in their basements and living rooms.  It is that kind of “can do” culture that has allowed Dobil to excel throughout the years.  Gosh, I’m proud of you guys.

So to our customers, I want to thank you for all you have done and continue to do to support your organization’s Covid response.  I want to thank you for allowing Dobil to be part of your Covid technical solution.  But most of all, I want to thank you for being an AV Hero.

I hope you get an “AV Hero Works Here” sign in front of your office.   Though, I think a better sign would read, “AV Technicians Work Here.

John Williams is a Sales Engineer for Dobil Laboratories, a nationally recognized award winning audiovisual systems integrator based in Pittsburgh, PA.  With over 40 years in the industry, John specializes in creative solutions for audiovisual design and integration in higher education, corporate and house of worship applications.

Well, it’s February – the month of Valentine’s Day and thoughts of love fill the air.

If for a moment we can suspend the romantic connotations, I can’t help asking the question, “Do you love your AV integrator?”  If so, why?  And if not, why not?

One of the more common questions I will ask in the early phase of getting to know a new potential client is, “Who are you working with currently?  Are you happy with their performance?”  The answers I get are often enlightening.  Sometimes the customer will say, “Oh yes.  We are very satisfied with Company ABC.”  – Which causes me to wonder why they are even talking to me at all.  Not that I mind, you understand, just curious.

Other times, the answer may be, “We have been working with Company XYZ and they came in with a great price, but every time we call for service – which is far too frequently – it will take weeks to get a service technician on site and then a few days after the service visit, the system fails again.”  Many times I will ask, “So are you getting pricing from XYZ for this project?”  All too often the answer is, “Yes” – Which causes me to wonder whether or not they are serious about doing business with an integrator who is capable of supporting their audiovisual needs.

So what does all of this have to do with Valentine’s Day?  The answer is “Relationship.”

In a numbers driven bid environment, the word “relationship” is often viewed as a dirty word.  In reality it is not.  We may call it different things – partnership, preferred vendor, or supplier of record.  In the end, the meaning is the same.  It is based on the fundamental understanding that despite all efforts to level the playing field, all potential bidders are not created equal; that some have demonstrated over time that they are better equipped to meet the customer’s needs.  They consistently deliver on their promises and fulfill their obligations.

Just as a couple’s relationship flourishes through years of trust and commitment, having a relationship with a select preferred vendor allows a customer to retain greater mindshare with the partner, provides greater freedom to explore and develop design concepts, shorten project timelines and in the process, simplify procurement through pre-negotiated discount pricing.

So do you love your AV integrator?  If the answer is “yes”, I would strongly encourage you to explore the benefits of a preferred vendor relationship.

John Williams is a Sales Engineer for Dobil Laboratories, a nationally recognized award winning audiovisual systems integrator based in Pittsburgh, PA.  With over 40 years in the industry, John specializes in creative solutions for audiovisual design and integration in higher education, corporate and house of worship applications.

Do you know how much bad AV is really costing you?

Part of my job is providing clients with proposals and financial estimates for a project. After the project is submitted, I am sometimes asked “Why is your price so much higher than XYZ Company?”

At this point, I review the product specifics of our quote and our competitor’s quote with the client. In most cases I discover that we are rarely quoting the same exact products. There are hundreds of brands to choose from when quoting a project. It is important to remember that these products not only vary in cost but also in quality, life-span and integration with other products. In most cases the old adage is true…you get what you pay for.

Why are the two quotes so different?

There are many ways to complete the project, or appear to complete it, since the AV industry doesn’t have a lot of hard rules. Specific projects often involve a lot of trial and error to see what parts and pieces are going to work best. There are many factors going into the cost of a project aside from just the cost of equipment. In order to be provided a turn-key solution for your space, you will also need to consider the costs for a professional to provide installation, creative designs, software programming, commissioning, and training.

Clients naturally think of price as their bottom line, but they need to consider the quality and extent of what services are being provided. Do you really know what you should be getting?  What happens if you have to make adjustments to your project? Will the AV company claim that changing orders weren’t included in the cost?  AV companies can vary greatly in the services they provide and include in their quotes. It is not uncommon for businesses to go with the lowest quote…only to find that the quality and functionality of the work is not present. This can be an expensive problem because it usually involves hiring a more reputable company to fix the mistakes…often from scratch.

Bad AV work can not only cost your company money, but it can also impact the quality of your own work and job performance.

Picture it! You are hosting an important video conference at your office where you are presenting a new initiative. The day before you did a test run and everything worked as planned!  You are feeling confident and prepared for the presentation that could have significant implications for your career. You start your presentation as planned and everything seems to be going well and then it happens…then the screen flickers. The people that have dialed in from across the globe to be a part of this meeting can’t hear you and they are seeing very few of the slides you’re trying to present. Not only are you embarrassed but you are getting angry. Who installed this terrible AV system?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your research when choosing an AV company. In closing, here is my advice when selecting an AV company: 

  1. Get recommendations from other businesses.
  2. Once you have a company in mind, take a field trip to see some of the work they have done in similar industries.
  3. Ask them hard, pointed questions about what is being proposed. Make sure understand exactly what services are included in their quote.
  4. Determine if the AV solutions discussed be forward-compatible with the growing technology needs of your company.

By doing the right research and having the right conversations you will be able to select a reputable AV company that stands by their work. The cost of a functional and high-quality AV system will ultimately be less than the cost of bad AV work.

For more information visit our website www.dobil.com or email us at info@dobil.com.

Conor McCaskey

During a recent site survey, “I had the opportunity to spend some time in my customer’s office,” John Williams.  As I waited for him to finish a brief phone conversation, I did what any good salesperson would do – I looked around at the photos, mementos, and other items of personal significance he had chosen to display.  There were the usual family photos, framed certifications, and commendations; but one framed citation particularly caught my eye.

Todd was a retired Navy lieutenant.  During his tenure, he had served on multiple nuclear submarines.  On the occasion of his retirement, his Commanding Officer presented him with a plaque which now hangs prominently on his office wall.  It is a quote attributed to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, who directed the original development of naval nuclear propulsion.  Here’s what it said:

“Responsibility is a unique concept.
It can only reside and inhere in an individual.
You can share it with others but your portion is not diminished.
You may delegate it but it is still with you.
You may disclaim it but you cannot divest yourself of it.
Even if you do not recognize it or admit its presence, you cannot escape it.
If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else.
Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

I share this with you because as I read it, my thoughts immediately turned to many of the project managers here at Dobil I have had the privilege to work with throughout the years.  In a world filled with “spin” and finger-pointing, they have repeatedly demonstrated what it means to “be responsible.” Audiovisual systems integration is only as good as the last guy standing on the project who has the strength of character to accept responsibility for resolving whatever problems the project may present – especially when to do so is painful or costly.

On behalf of my customers who count on you, Thanks, guys. You really are special.  I am so grateful for the privilege of working with you!

 

John Williams is a Sales Engineer for Dobil Laboratories, a nationally recognized award-winning audiovisual systems integrator based in Pittsburgh, PA.  With over 40 years in the industry, John specializes in creative solutions for audiovisual design and integration in higher education, corporate and house of worship applications.