John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Handling Customer Complaints

Posted on August 6, 2014 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Getting complaints sucks.


I mean, who wants to open a letter or an email or pick up the phone to find an upset customer on the other end? Someone looking to tell you what you or your company did wrong or why they are unhappy? We’re primarily in the fun business, and we usually hear things like, “This is so great!” or “I love what you did!”, so dealing with unhappy people is not usually in the cards for us. B...

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Pros and Cons of Owning a CI Showroom

Posted on July 29, 2014 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

When I started in this industry – back in 1998 for those keeping score at home – there were basically two types of CI firms: those with a showroom and those without whom we less-than-lovingly referred to as “trunk slammers.”


At the time, our company, Custom Theater and Audio, had a showroom we were renting; a space next to an interior decorator that we thought create a wonderful synergy as they would undoubtedly s...

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Client Billing: WWJD?

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Service calls are a large and important revenue generator for any custom installation business. In fact, those quick, “Can you come fix this?” or “I need a programming change” calls keep the trucks rolling and help many of us to stay in business in between the large projects. And there is an important cycle to the service call that must be maintained for us to continue to be successful in business: We do the work, we send a bill, the customer pays the bi...

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AV Phone Call Nightmares

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (2)

Customer: Hi, this is Mr. X. Do you remember me?


Me: Umm, I think so… We did a job for you quite a few years ago, right?


Customer: Yeah. You put in a system for me in my new house about 5 years ago. And now my remote isn’t working. I need a service call.


Me: OK. Well, can you tell me a little about your system?


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How to Sell Garbage Disposals and A/V Like a BOSS

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Recently I found myself in need of a new garbage disposal, in-sink grinder thing for our kitchen. Our previous one had failed in a spectacular fashion, with a hole that blew through the side of it, spewing tons of water out of it when we ran our dishwasher. Like most disposals, ours was located in a cabinet under our kitchen sink, so we didn’t noticed the mini-flood until it filled the cabinet with water and then it overflowed out all over the kitchen floor.

...

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Custom versus Production

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

We so frequently work with custom builders on custom projects where things like, “I need that wall reframed for my center channel” or, “We’re gonna need to have the electrician do this for us” are just standard operating procedure that we may lose sight of the experience that non-custom purchasers typically experience when they buy a “mass built” home from a production builder and want it outfitted with some audio/video system.

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The Cost of Doing Business Locally

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it's enemy action.” – Ian Fleming, “Goldfinger”


Remember in the early, Wild West days of the Internet when we used to counter the specter of online retailing with the ominous threats of getting ripped off, receiving the wrong product, or being stuck with some grey-market or broken good that could never be returned? Yeah. Not so much anymore.

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Don't Forget the Best Seat in the House!

Posted on May 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

If you’ve ever taken a cross-country flight in coach, then you know the almost inhuman, Geneva-Convention-straining state of a truly uncomfortable seat. The anemic cushion causes lower back pain, the narrow width confines the hips and thighs, the rigid, mercilessly limited recline locks the spine into a preternaturally upright position, and leg movement is restricted to the subtlest of ankle rotation barely capable of staving off deep vein thrombosis. Sure, these Torquema...

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Hot Potato: After Hours Service Calls

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The other night, as I was just settling in to a wonderful post-work IPA, my cell phone rang. It was 7:15 and it was one of my clients. I answered the phone to see what they needed. The crisis? They couldn’t find Wheel of Fortune on TV. (I’m not even kidding.) They had moved to a new home with a new cable provider and couldn’t find Wheel. She grew up with Vanna, enjoyed watching Wheel every night, and by God, where was Wheel of Fortune on the new TV we sold her...

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Learn from the SEALs: Jobsite Situational Awareness

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

"In military-speak, situational awareness is defined as the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regard to a mission. More simply, it's being aware of what is going on around you.” – “SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster,” Cade Courtley


It’s tough not to be impressed and a little ...

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Pakedge Steve: Network Tech Support Jedi Master

Posted on March 21, 2014 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (2)

We have been steadily plugging along  at our mega install job, getting all the gear racked in, terminating all the wiring, installing all the touchpanels, and programming and testing all the systems and subsystems.


All told, we have 109 Gigabit networking ports on this project. Because the entire home is going to depend so completely on the network being robust and up 100% of the time, I knew that this wasn’t something that we...

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Five Tips to Rack Like a Boss

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Perhaps other than Sports Illustrated or Hooters, no industry is as proud of their racks as ours. (OK, that will be the only rack double-entendre, I promise!) (Also, as a word of caution, “rate my rack” is NOT a site where you go to submit your best A/V rack pics…just sayin’.) The delivery and trimming of the A/V rack often indicates nearing the job’s completion, and a clean, tight rack is a mark of pride for many installers.

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7 Tips for Managing Mega Jobs

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

If you’ve followed any of my posts on our company’s Mega Job so far, you’ll know that we’re neck deep in the largest project we’ve ever done. (The finish line is actually almost in sight...we delivered all the racks of gear this week!) One of the things that I’ve really learned from our Mega Job is that these large projects are very fluid and amorphous and being successful means staying on top of the schedule and managing time both on and awa...

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Five Ways to Turn Social into $ocial

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

“You can be a millionaire… and never pay taxes! You say, ‘Steve, how can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes?’ First…get a million dollars.” -- Steve Martin


Sometimes when I read about people talking about social media for their business and needing to embrace social media to be successful, it makes me think of that Steve Martin quote. It’s like saying becoming a millionaire is ea...

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Business Lessons Learned From Being a Golf Professional

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)

If you’ve followed my blogs for a while, then you probably know that in my pre-custom install life, I was a golf professional. This meant that I worked at a golf course, managed the golf shop, ran tournaments, gave lessons, etc. This differs from being a professional golfer, which is the people you see playing on TV. (My game was good – my handicap got down to a .5 – but those guys are spectacularly, unbelievably great and TV golf was never in the cards for me...

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Was 2013 Worthy of Festivus Celebration or Just a Lump of Coal?

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

—Martin Luther King Jr.


As 2013 winds to a close, it seems fitting to look back and see how the year treated the three of us: us the individual, us the company, and us the industry. Are we better off as 2013 draws to a close and are we still moving ...

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Tracking the Mega Job: Part 4 - The Prewire

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 12:50 AM 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 cour...

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Turn Your Clients into Troubleshooters

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

At some point, even the best-designed system will run into some kind of glitch. Maybe it will be from a power outage, maybe it will be due to a guest with button jab-itis, or maybe it will come from a Stuxnet virus attack. But no matter how it happens, when it happens, you’ll be getting a phone call – or email – from a client wanting to get things back on track.


And when that call comes, having a client that is willing t...

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Should We Bill Like Lawyers and CPAs?

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I remember reading John Grisham’s novel, The Firm, several years ago, and recall Mitch’s marching orders from the nefarious firm of Bendini, Lambert and Locke as being something akin to, “If you talk to the client on the phone, bill them. If you make a photocopy for the client, bill them. If you even find yourself at your desk, drinking a cup of coffee and maybe flipping through a magazine, and your mind happens to wander to where you even think about t...

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Installation Holy Grail: Recurring Revenue

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (1)

Our industry's Holy Grail seems to be developing some form of a recurring revenue stream. Far better than the one-and-done-and-on-to-the-next-one install we typically do, recurring revenue is like that mythical Golden Goose that just poops out stacks of money on a regular basis, while you sit back at your desk, feet up, sipping some Macallan 30 watching all those hundos rolling in and thinking of all the ways to spend it.


In reality, get...

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