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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Tracking the Mega Job: Part 3 - The Pitch

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Bringing you up to speed...


Earlier this year, my custom installation company – Custom Theater and Audio – landed the biggest job in our 18 year history, both in the physical size of the home (21,500 square feet under roof on one floor sitting on 4 acres of property) and in financial scope of the job. I decided to chronicle the project over the course of our de...

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How Fixing a Toilet Gave Me Job Security

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Fact: I’m really not very handy around the house. I’m utter rubbish when it comes to finding things, I do the bare minimum of yard work to keep the POA from sending me letters (and by “bare minimum” I mean “write a check to the guy that cuts my grass and breaks my sprinkler heads” ),  and I don’t at all enjoy “tinkering.̶...

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Now You See It...Now You Sell It!

Posted on September 10, 2013 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Our custom installation company is fortunate enough to have a showroom for meeting with clients and demonstrating systems. We feel it’s a huge advantage for us, and a differentiator between smaller, pop-up-over-night, one-man-in-a-van outfits as the showfront lends an air of stability and credibility. But what to display is always a concern, as that is money out of pocket that often results in gear that is never sold or sold at greatly reduced pricing.


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The Venerable iPod Helps Me Deliver on a Promise

Posted on September 3, 2013 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

When a long-term client came to my showroom and told me he was building a new swimming pool in his backyard and wanted to ensure that he had really impressive but simple-to-use audio for entertaining, I knew I had the perfect solution.


One of the benefits of being an equipment reviewer on top of my day-job, custom installer gig is that I get to experience and play with an array of products I might not normally consider or even be aware of...

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Golf, Custom Installation, and the Master Key

Posted on August 21, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (2)

Back when I was a golf professional, I gave lessons to people with a variety of skill levels—single-digit handicappers, beginners, kids, high handicappers. And as much as I enjoyed collecting the money for the lesson—and believe me, I did—I truly wanted each student to come away from the 30-minute session with some tip or swing thought that would help their game—a grip adjustment, a better weight shift, or some short game or course management tip to help...

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Paying Ex-Employees Forward

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

When I’m gone, when I’m gone… You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone…” – Anna Kendrick


You can have a terrific business, establish a wonderful environment for employees to flourish and grow and feel respected, offer terrific pay and benefits, and be the kind of “World’s Best Boss” that would put Michael Scott to shame, and there can still come a time that an emplo...

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What's Your Dress Code?

Posted on July 10, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

“Dress for the job you want.” – Your High School Guidance Counselor


“Dress for the clients you want.” – Me


Sometimes it seems like many members of our industry have co-opted the title “installer” as a license to wear any manner of “edgy” clothing. I remember walking the halls of my first CEDIA and I was shocked at how many people were...

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Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Posted on June 26, 2013 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (3)

Back when I was a golf pro, I went out one night after work for a 9-hole round with a college player that carried only a single club called a chipper. For you non-golfers, a chipper is designed to let high-handicap players – ie: people that aren’t very good – more easily chip a ball up onto the green when they are just off. It basically resembles a putter with an angled head and has a putter grip. (Any decent player would just use like an 8-iron...)

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Preemptive Problem Solving - Sharing the Tribal Knowledge

Posted on June 20, 2013 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

My favorite blogs to read are those where other installers share their personal experiences in the field and their interactions with clients. It helps us to see that big company, small company, young company or industry vet, luxury high-rise condo in Manhattan, or 1,000 square foot cookie-cutter development in BFE, things are pretty much alike all over.


Last week I read a blog by Heather Sidorowicz titled, “

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Managing Customer Expectations

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

As an industry that prides itself on doing custom work, we like to promise the moon and stars. No wish or desire is too grand, no hope or dream too elaborate or unobtainable. “You want the lights to turn on, the thermostat to drop, the blinds to raise, and the music to start playing the Rocky theme at full volume every time you walk into this room? Yep, sounds totally reasonable to me!”


And the truth is, when the budget and ti...

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Why Custom Integrators Can Still Thrive Without Mega-Rich Clients

Posted on June 5, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Perusing the June 2013 issue of Residential Systemsthe digital issue no less; you can read it here – I came across a column by Ira Friedman entitled “Targeting the Mega Rich: Why Ultra High Net Individuals are the Best Custom Integration Clients.”


Ira had some interesting points in his p...

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Management Lessons Learned from Reality TV

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I’ll admit that watching reality TV is one of my vices. (Though, after coming clean about listening to Taylor Swift, I feel like I’ve pretty much thrown the medicine cabinet door wide open and invited you all to have a good long look.)


My particular brand of reality fetish has nothing to do with singing or dancing...

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Tracking the Mega Job - Part 2: The Setup

Posted on May 24, 2013 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Bringing you up to speed…


So, my custom installation company – Custom Theater and Audio – landed the biggest job in our 18 year history, both in physical size of the home (21,500 square feet under roof on one floor sitting on 4 acres of property just back from the ocean) and in financial scope of the job. I decided to chronicle the project over the next several months, the decisions I made in system design, the pr...

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Always Do the Right Thing

Posted on May 13, 2013 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Da Mayor: Doctor...


Mookie: C'mon, what. What?


Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.


Mookie: That's it?


Da Mayor: That's it.


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Ingram Micro Expo: Plugged in to CE

Posted on May 9, 2013 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

The world’s largest technology distributor, Ingram Micro Inc., owners of CE distribution powerhouses AVAD and DBL Distributing, hosted a vendor expo for resellers this past week in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the absolutely beautiful Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort, a AAA 5-Diamond rated property. (You can read all about this ...

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Top 10 Theater Design Mistakes - Part Two

Posted on May 3, 2013 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

As I wrote in Part One of this piece, I've been a custom installer for the past 15 years, and in that time I see people making the same home theater design mistakes over and over. And over.


And these are real-world systems costing between $10,000 to $50,000 where you can get an amazing home theater experience, but th...

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Top 10 Theater Design Mistakes - Part One

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Since 1998, my full-time day job has been that of custom installer, and a frequent part of that job has been working with people on the design and installation of their new home theater/media rooms. And saying that I’ve been involved in over a hundred theater installs wouldn’t be an exaggeration. I’ve also had the opportunity to go on many jobs where another “installer” did the system and the homeowner was unsatisfied with the results—a lot o...

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Translating Client-Speak for Custom Installers

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Over the years, I’ve had my share of customers that used odd vernacular to describe things that I had to interpret what they were actually trying to say. One client called up complaining that his monitor wasn’t working. “Monitor?” I asked. “You mean the TV?” “No, not my TV, my monitor.” “Which TV are we talking about?” “My monitor! Not TV, Monitor!” We went back and forth for several minutes before I was ab...

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Tracking the Mega Job: Part 1: Spec Out

Posted on April 18, 2013 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (22)

We recently landed the biggest project in our company’s 18 year history – both in physical size of the home and in financial scope of the job – and I thought I would start a multi-part blog post chronicling the project over the next several months, the decisions I made in system design, the proposal process, the prewire, trim out and installation.


I have a feeling that many readers out there have custom install shops lik...

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Why Apple's Advice is Right and Wrong for Us

Posted on April 16, 2013 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

When I come across a quote that I find especially meaningful or poignant in magazines or books that I’m reading, I write it down – or take a picture of it – so I can remember it.


In reading an extensive interview with Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, in the December 10-16, 2012 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, I stumbled across this quote from Apple’s new CEO:


A gre...

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