What are you up to today?

Quite a busy day today! It started with a site meeting for a new residential development of 10 high-end houses inside a gated estate. Even though the details of the contract have been finalised the integration process has been on-going as the build progressed.

Equipment placements have been updated and the first steps to running the main length of the cabling between each of the properties as well as the perimeter of the development have been started. Once done with that, it was back to the office quickly to order some stock for the job as we deliver to site in stages but given the current currency fluctuations I thought it best to order most now to try and combat any price increases.

This afternoon I am going to a residential client who is interested in updating their cinema room. It will be the first meeting between us so I am interested to see what he currently has installed. We will also talk about budget, what he hopes to be left with once the project is complete and what sort of technology he is looking to incorporate.

Some clients have a very clear idea of what they want to do and some are looking for guidance. I know this client has contacted us due to our Gold Denon Specialist status so it is safe to assume he will be looking to use one of their new AVR range. Once I’m finished there it will be a case of taking everything I have found out during the meeting and starting to work on a concept for him fitting in with his ideas.

I usually prefer days ‘on the tools’ as I am very hands on with my company installations, but I also enjoy meeting new clients, especially those who are looking for inspiration and are keen to really try and create something special.

How and why did you pursue a career in the AV/Install industry?

I actually originally pursued a career as an accountant and did get my qualifications, however it became clear to me very early on that a job where all you get for your efforts is a neat stack of paperwork wasn’t for me. That being said, my original career has stood me in good stead with regards to running my own business, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time!

It was when I was on my way out of accounting that I first got into the AV scene. I took two weeks holiday from my accounting job and went for a work trial at a company that serviced the yacht industry, originally going in there as an email support tech. I fell in love with the world of yachting and having spent my teenage years as a mobile DJ to earn some money on weekends, AV felt natural to me, even if I had no idea what I was doing.

One Friday afternoon my then-boss came in the office where me and the other junior were working and said one of us most go the South of France for the weekend and one of us to North Germany the following week. I had football tickets for the weekend so went for the week in Germany! This was my first experience on site and I loved it. It also turned out that I was quite a lot of use there, instead of what people, myself included, maybe expected – I thought I would be going to pass tools and file papers.

I have always been a quick learner but I took to AV installations like a duck to water. That one-week in Germany turned into nine months; at the beginning I flew between London and Bremen every week but in the end it made more sense to relocate there.

This was my first experience of building a mega yacht and it was one I couldn’t get enough off. In six months I had learnt basic German language and circumstances led to me being the site manager as I was the only employee on site; all others were contractors of the company. After that first build I had managed to garner a bit of a reputation and then began contracting myself out to other AV companies and things went from there.

What project are you most proud of in your career and why?

I have been very lucky to be involved in some of the largest privately owned yachts ever built, meaning I have been exposed to some of the best tech at sea and the most exciting projects. Due to confidentiality agreements I can’t give much detail, but I worked out of the Lurssen shipyard in Bremen for a couple of years and have a few world records on my CV in terms of projects.

The scale of the installs and the products being used made these huge achievements, especially when some of the companies that manufactured the equipment told us that what we intended to do wasn’t possible. Due to being part of a great team we delivered over and above what anyone would have thought we could.

My best job satisfaction moment would have to be here in Cape Town, South Africa where I have now started my own AV and CCTV company.

We did a high quality sound installation on a rooftop pool bar, which had its own set of challenges. This gave me the most satisfaction as it was my first project where I did almost everything myself, from design to installation and commissioning. It worked a treat, sounded awesome and I was left with a very happy customer.

What is the worst thing (outside of your control) that has ever gone wrong on a project?

Three days before sea trials there was a fault with the fire detection system on a boat. The sprinklers got activated on the main guest corridor and drenched everything. It made for huge delays as the carpets all had to be ripped up and done again and there was no access to the area for days, meaning we had a very tight push to get the installation done in time. It led to some long days and longer nights!

As an installer, what is one thing you’re tired of hearing either on the job, or about your job?

There are two things: firstly that AV is easy and anybody can do it. I always say it is a dark art, something you can either do or you cannot. You need to be a logical thinker, good with your hands and really understand what your products will do in any given scenario.

Second is when customers compare my suggested products to a high street equivalent and can’t understand why the custom install product is more expensive. The worst thing to hear from a client is: “I have the equipment already, I just need you to install it so it will be cheap, right?”

What advice would you give new installers breaking into the industry?

Google and YouTube are your friends. I taught myself so much on top of all the on the job training I received and the courses I was sent on. You need a lot of patience and also ask questions of people and listen to the answers.

When it comes to an installation, what would you say is the biggest hurdle?

I have had some situations where third parties have been brought in to pull the cables ahead of my arrival. When the labels don’t match and you have to spend days toning cables to find both ends it can cause massive head aches. Luckily it’s quite rare.

With the IoT (Internet of Things) increasing day by day, where would you like to see the industry in 5 years?

As much as I enjoy gimmick technology, I really feel like anything you install should add value to a project. Things move so quickly that in five years anything could be possible but I hope that the advances in energy efficiency keep on, as well as things that can help a user free up some time and make their life more streamlined. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone in the world only has 24 hours in the day – I’d like to see tech keep on evolving to help people make the most of them.

You have a magic wand; what are the first three things you would change about technology?

1) Standard sizes – either imperial or metric!  When you are using products from around the world that inevitably come missing a screw or two it would make life much easier!

2) Have a go heroes – the guys who first try themselves but don’t know what they are doing. It’s much easier to do something right the first time than to try and fix another guy’s faults. There is also a misconception that it will be cheaper to get a pro to fix things rather than give them the contract from the off.

3) I would ban home theatre in a box – all in one systems.

What is your favourite piece of AV kit on the market right now?

I am interested to see where HDR TVs go. There is only so many pixels a home TV screen can make use of before the effect is diminished so as people talk about 8k, 12k and the like I lose interest.

I am interested to see what sort of improvement doing more with the pixels you already have to work with comes out like though.

In terms of right now I am a big audiophile and have just seen the new Monitor Audio Platinum II range get a best of CES award. Sometimes things take a bit longer to land here in SA but that is a product range I am very excited to listen to.

What product/s or concepts do you think will be the next big thing in the industry?

Although it’s already big worldwide, home automation is just coming into South Africa in a bigger way. The emergence of a lot more affordable ranges, compared to Crestron, which I am mostly, used to, means it is becoming affordable for more people.

As I said, I am big on tech adding value and improving peoples lives so I am excited to take on some more automation projects this side.

Best reaction from a client?

The rooftop pool bar I spoke about earlier. They were an upmarket venue and having no walls or ceilings made getting good, even sound quite difficult. When we were done they were made up.

We had used multiducers on some large boards under the pool decking to give invisible sound, had some strategically placed speakers behind bars, hidden behind flowers and gravel and on the awning and when it played it sounded amazing.

They appreciated the work that had gone on, it was also on a tight time schedule as they were due to open and we completed with a couple of days to spare.

What’s the best thing about life as an installer?

I love the fact that at the end of a project there is something physical. My favourite part is demoing systems to clients once the install is finished – that is when you can show them exactly what they paid for and why.

I have met some great friends on various sites, been lucky enough to travel extensively and been exposed to awesome technology on mind blowing projects. Outside of the AV install, just walking round a mega yacht and seeing everything in the bigger picture is something that will never get old.

You can invite three people living or dead out for a pint or over for dinner (not including family and friends!) Who are they and why?

I know it says no friends, but an old colleague Trombone who I worked with in Germany. We haven’t seen each other in a long time but he was a great learning tool for me and really brought me up to speed with the install side of things. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if I had never had the chance to work alongside him and the rest of that team. We also had a lot of fun together.

I follow a guy called Grant Cardone on Facebook and Twitter. He does sales training but is also very inspirational and uplifting. I have learned that starting a business is not easy and I feel like he would be able to give me some great advice and motivation to keep going and grow to the next level.

The final one would be the owner of a certain football club (who also happens to be a client of ours). I’d like to know if he enjoys my (our) work and get some feedback as to what could be done differently to improve things. You should never stop learning and your customers are your best tool!

You can only listen to one album and watch one film for the rest of your life, what are they?

Movie would be Dumb and Dumber, I love it.

Album is more difficult as I love music of all types and genres. If I had to choose – can I have two?  Either Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon or 2001 by Dr Dre. Classics!

What’s a common pet peeve during a project?

Not being given enough time. Everything is always a rush and people don’t appreciate that there is a good chance the AV guy will be the last one out as we are dependent on almost everybody else (carpenter, electrician, decorator, etc.).

Do you have any hidden talents?

Not a hidden talent, but I can only bend one of my thumbs after an unfortunate accident involving a light bulb.

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