It takes a different mindset to work with subcontractors. The first thing you need is a clear scope of work.

Subcontract labor is a vital component to the industry that allows integrators to expand and contract based upon their work load. Here are three things to remember when hiring your next sub.

December 18, 2015 By Tim Albright

During my time as director of operations at Innovad I was able to see a different view of the AV industry, that of a subcontractor. We provided programming services to integrators for a variety of projects.

Since leaving there I have had several conversations with others in similar businesses about the viability of such a company. The question I am often asked is, “Does the AV industry have a need for subcontract labor and programming?”

As a technology manager I wasn’t really aware of this aspect of the industry. We really didn’t use subs. We either would bid out the entire job and the integrator would do it or we would design, install and program the jobs ourselves, getting the components from local integrators. Crestron’s CAIP and AMX’s VIP program were there and I knew some of these folks, but we didn’t really interact with them.

It wasn’t until I stepped into the world of integration that the role of the sub came full front.

A subcontractor is a component, a tool. They are a piece of your operations just like the boxes you sell. That is not to diminish what they do, it is to recognize that from a business standpoint they give you a product and service for a set price. You will then take that price and markup a bit and pass along that price to your clients.

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It takes a different mindset to be a sub. You are not selling to end users, you are selling to other AV professionals. These are people who know as much, or more, than you do about the industry, the technology, and the systems. You go into a relationship with task of satisfying two sets of people; the end user and the integrator. This is sometimes easier said than done.

There are a few things to remember to keep you and your projects working successfully.

1. A clear scope of work. This may seem simplistic but you would be surprised how many subcontractors enter into a job without a clear idea of what success looks like.
2. Constantly updated drawings. This matters whether you are programming or installing the equipment. Things change. They always do. If you are not kept up to date on the latest revision success will not be achievable.
3. An agreed upon pay schedule. This is up to you and your business model. We would typically ask for 40 percent down and the rest at completion, but these can be negotiated.

To answer the question, yes, subcontract labor and programming are important to the industry. They are a vital component that allows integrators to expand and contract based upon their work load. What would you do if you suddenly landed the biggest job of your company’s lifetime? Hire ten more programmers or techs? Good luck with that.

Call a sub, have a conversation. Get a quote. If you don’t like the quote, get another from a different sub. They are in business to help you be successful and create the best exceptional experience AV has to offer.