An Integrator’s Invisibility Cloak: How to Serve Demanding Homeowners in the Hamptons
Using MSE Audio and Savant as its go-to brands, Mancaves in Southampton, N.Y., adapts to their clients' schedules.
Jason Knott · October 9, 2015
Dan Silberman, president of Mancaves in Southampton, N.Y., just might have some of the most-demanding clientele in the industry, but he is up to the task by delivering a high level and very unique service.
When Mancaves is not working with its core cadre of custom and spec homebuilders on Long Island, the company is working with ultra-affluent clients that do not want to ever see a technician or have indications that an A/V or whole-house automation project is taking place at their weekend residences, primarily in the ritzy Hamptons area. The end result is that Silberman and his team are able to only work in the home when the clients are not around, and must clean up—including patching walls and repainting—every week before the client arrives.
Here is how it works:
At the request of many of its clients who are usually only in their Hamptons’ homes on weekends, Mancaves’ crews arrive on Mondays and must end on Thursdays leaving the home as if no work at all is taking place.
“They don’t want to see us there,” says Silberman, who has operated Mancaves since 2005. “They want the house prepped for them to arrive on Friday. We will cater to those requests. So for example, if a customer wants invisible in-ceiling multiroom audio speakers that require us to plaster over them, that job could take us four to six months in a retrofit because we only have availability to work in the home two days per week.”
On Monday and Tuesday technicians open up the walls and run the wires, then Wednesday they patch the holes and on Thursday they paint and clean.
“Then, we start all over again the following Monday. We subcontract the paint work and the spackling, but we do everything else. Why? Because they expect and demand perfection. We believe that many of our staff are capable of painting and spackling work, but we choose to hire a specialist for that finish work. These homeowners will pay the price to have our work completely invisible to them every weekend when they arrive at the home. But we hope they appreciate the extra level of care and detail,” says Silberman.
By comparison, he says if he and his team of four technicians were able to work on a project like that in a home where they didn’t have to be “invisible,” it could take less than one month.
“It takes a lot of time and patience to work that way; however we abide by whatever the customer requests. As for the cleaning of the property, we choose not to hire out for the cleaning services. Why? The employees that are responsible for the actual cleaning work obviously don’t care as much as we do. It will be incredibly easy for a mistake to happen and we simply do not want to be responsible for their actions. We clean everything! I mean everything! When walls are open the dust flies everywhere even if we are careful and place plastic over furniture and sealing off rooms, which we always do. When the walls are open, the dust flies everywhere even if we are careful and place plastic over furniture and seal off rooms, which we always do,” he says.
To mitigate the mess, his team covers everything in plastic, lays down double moving blankets on the floors, and wears only socks … no booties over boots, except when climbing on ladders.
“The number of holes we cut depends on the wire and speaker placement. We’ve had situations where we pre-wired a home for in-ceiling speakers and the homeowner decides that he wants in-wall invisible speakers. So we have to cut open the ceiling, retrievet the wire, marry to a wire extension, then cut holes in the walls and make it disappear. Then we have to patch and paint and clean by Friday morning. It can take quite a bit of time. So it means that we can’t make Swiss cheese out of the house. It would take too long to patch, paint and clean. So, we only do two or three speakers at a time,” he says.
MSE Is Go-To Audio Brand
This full white-glove service is what sets Mancaves apart from its competitors. The company also differentiates itself with its product selection. Silberman’s go-to brand for the past two year is MSE Audio, which includes Induction Dynamics, Phase Technology and Rockustics.
“We fully design our theaters alongside with our acoustical panel and chair supplier Cinema Design Group Inc. When the architects and designers require CAD drawings, CDGI does it to perfection. I use MSE Audio for several reasons. First, the company has been around for 50 years so I know they aren’t going anywhere. Second, my customers really appreciate sound quality. We are a believer in the very best audio quality and must not be seen within our theater designs.”
For the last two years, Mancaves was asked to do the Hamptons Designer Showcase House by Traditional Homes.
"We chose to use the Induction Dynamics line in the first Designer Showcase. We just blew everybody’s mind. It was that incredible. Just from that one opportunity, we got a tremendous amount of business. Admirers such as the ex-president of Paramount Pictures to Roger Waters’ [of Pink Floyd] wife came in and were taken back by the quality of the audio, as well as the clean and crisp design of the non-traditional theater. By far, this is the ultimate custom Hamptons theater."
Mancaves uses MSE Audio products on every one of its jobs, with Induction Dynamics’ ID1s in its theaters and the Phase Tech digital Audio Reference Theater Systems (dARTS) for room IQ.
“Ordering from one vendor makes it easier, but we are not close minded. We let the customers see and listen to every option and make their own decisions. We find that they like the design of all the MSE products. When I take them into some of the homes we have already finished, they can see and hear the quality,” adds Silberman. "Especially, when I take them into some of the homes we have already finished, they can see and hear the quality. Most of our customers welcome our potential clients to view our finished work. Obviously, we do not intrude on customers lives if they request complete privacy. We always respect their wishes."
He notes that the company is receiving more requests these days for “invisible” speakers that get placed behind any hard surface. Unlike other invisible speakers, MSE Audio’s “Solid Drive” Invisible speakers do not get covered over with a thin layer of spackle and paint.
"They definitely seem to outperform all of the invisible speakers that are on the market. We highly recommend them," says Silberman.
Mancaves started out in commercial audio before migrating into A/V and whole house control. From there, Silberman forged into the residential market concentrating on a couple of premier homebuilders such as Paramount Custom Homes in the Hamptons.
“Joe Criscuolo and Bill Locantro keep us incredibly busy and we love the quality that they demand from all of their specifically chosen companies that they allow to take part in their custom homes," he says.
In terms of control, Silberman says the decision was easy.
"Savant is truly a flawless system design that we love to use in our projects. It and makes it incredibly easy for us to give customers the ability to control every aspect of their estate with one application on all of their personal devices. It’s incredibly easy to use and our customers love it. Lately, we have been doing quite a bit of system rip-outs. Customers are getting rid of their Control 4, RTI and Crestron systems and going with Savant’s 'New' Application for IOS. There is absolutely no learning curve. It just works," he says.
As the networking backbone, Mancaves relies on Ruckus. Silberman says its "flawless Wi-Fi system enables our Savant systems to work the way they should. With our skillfully placed Wi-Fi placements throughout the properties we achieve ultimate Wi-Fi perfection for our customers control and streaming demands."
Today Mancaves is 95 percent residential. Those new homes range between 8,000 and 37,000 square feet and the company routinely puts in six-figures worth of equipment at the customers' requests.
The Art Of The Prewire
Quality is the key to success working with builders and Silberman knows that total quality helps you stand out from our competition.
"We put 100 percent effort into our prewires, wiring estates with tens of thousands of feet of premium wire used. We keep all the wiring clean and tight and completely away from 110v electrical lines. When we complete our custom prewires for spec homes we wire them for everything allowing customers to receive all of their wishes. When builders see the effort that goes into our prewire design, they usually stay with us forever. We are exclusive with many builders for all their low-voltage needs,” he says.
Near 100% Closing Rate
Mancaves started out in commercial audio before migrating control then video surveillance. From there, Silberman forged into the residential market concentrating on a couple of homebuilders out in the Hamptons and mid Long Island doing low-voltage prewires and control systems, primarily using Savant.
Today Mancaves is 95 percent residential. Those new homes range between 8,000 and 15,000 square feet and the company routinely puts in six-figures worth of equipment.
“Quality is the key to success working with builders. Total quality helps you stand out. We put 100 percent effort into our prewires. We try to keep all the wiring clean and tight. Our finish work is important too. We usually stay with our builders forever. We are exclusive with many builders for all their low-voltage needs,” he says.
Silberman is also a bit of a local celebrity. He has appeared several times on Fox & Friends morning show on Fox News Channel, touting gear for the Super Bowl. In another appearance, Silberman participated in a competition to build a “Mancave Shed” vs. a “She Shed.”
“And we won,” he boasts.
Silberman says he has a closing rate close to 100 percent, but like a lot of integrators right now his growth is being limited because he needs more manpower.
“The biggest hurdle I face is time. I need qualified employees that are willing to learn. Lately I have decided to start from scratch and teach new employees the trade. I have been hiring IT professionals because once they know networking and IP protocol I can easily bring them into our industry,” he says.
Because of his demanding clientele, Silberman will not work on more than two jobs at the same time.
“We focus our energy so we don’t spread ourselves out too thin. It shows itself in the quality of the work we do,” he says.
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Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org
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