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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

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 design and install, detailing the decisions I made in system design, proposal process, prewire, trim out and installation.

Back in April I posted Part 1 of this saga where I discussed The Spec Out. If you missed that, I went over my thought process on coming up with the system for this job; how I tackled the size of the job and figured out the best way to handle audio/video distribution and control as well as my choices on selecting the system components.  


In May I posted part 2, where I discussed The Setup and detailed how I presented the items I was planning on using to Rod and Sandy – the husband and wife builder team running the project. Prior to giving them the proposal, I wanted them to understand what each component was, why I selected it and how it worked. Being able to bring them into our showroom allowed me to demonstrate the Kaleidescape, Lutron and Control4 systems to them, letting them experience how the finished system would perform. Also helpful was the housewide Wi-Fi coverage map produced by Pakedge and the on-site demo my local Sonance rep firm provided of the SLS outdoor audio system.


So, up to this point, we had not really discussed budget. The only guidance I had received from the builder was that it needed to be a system fitting a home of this size and scope, the home theater needed to be really impressive, the home needed rock-solid Wi-Fi coverage and it all needed to be simple to use. He also said that a home theater in the $70-80,000 range “wouldn’t frighten” him.


In creating the proposal, I went through the home area by area, building the system that met all of these goals. Our company has tried using proposal software over the years, but ultimately we continue returning to Microsoft Excel. I know there are some terrific tools out there that can produce very professional looking proposals, but most of our clients appreciate the simplified, single-sheet, easily summarized look that we’ve come up with in Excel. When we had used proposal software in the past, it ended up with pages (and pages...) listing lengthy descriptions of each widget and wire type and connector and fitting, producing a daunting amount of information that 99% of clients have absolutely no interest in. A simple line item of “Necessary cabling, connectors and terminations” sums all of that up much more succinctly. Plus the Excel files are easy to share and email and, honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever lost a project because we used Excel over something fancier.


My business partner and I discussed how we should present this proposal to Rod and Sandy at length. Undoubtedly, there is something impressive about plunking down a book-sized proposal that is dozens of pages and makes a meaty thunk when it lands on the table. As it was, our Excel proposal came in at 18 pages, divided into prewire (4 sheets), security and surveillance (3 sheets), networking, individual living suites (5 sheets), home theater, house A/V distribution (2 sheets), lighting, and a totals summary. Additionally, we had the entire Lutron HomeWorks QS reports printed to support the lighting design, not only detailing the parts required for the system, but showing the technical documents and wiring schematics we would supply to the electrician.


Please click here to continue reading Part 3 at Residential Systems...

Categories: October 2013, CTA

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