Tracking a $20M Install: Final 4 Integrators

Although the field has been narrowed to four integrators, find out why the client became 'pissed off.'

Tracking a $20M Install: Final 4 Integrators
Mark Sipe · June 11, 2010

CE Pro is documenting the ups and downs of this ambitious $20 million, 28,000-square-foot home installation.

Mark Sipe of Abacus Prime LLC, who has been tasked with designing and managing the installation of the electronics, is looking for a CE pro to excel on the project. If you’re interested, email Mark at [email protected]. Here Sipe’s next running commentary on the project. Good luck Mark!

After I chose the control system, I thought I would then choose the integrator. Well, not so fast.

I was approached by someone who asked me to rethink my decision. The offer was sort of like a blank check: whatever I needed for the price of the Control4 system. Wow.

I decided to talk to the client since, ultimately, it is his decision. But I found out the person who approached me had also been talking to the client, using a negative spin approach. The client was told the original choice was a beater Chevy and the proposed system was a Rolls Royce.

This approach backfired and pissed off the client, who is not somebody you want to make mad. Given the misdirection and having read all the comments, there started to be a pattern of negative sales going on. I respect - and like - all the companies I was selecting from, as well as the local reps I met with. So this is more of an isolated incident, but it does reflect what I see going on with the blogs and forums.

The client is sticking with Control4.

Picking a Designer

Once you have the product, the next step is finding an installer and making sure we have a good plan and proper design.

Final 4 Worthy?
Mark Sipe has narrowed it down to the final four integrators. What do you think of the list? Is each company final four worthy? Comment

I decided to budget for and select a separate design/engineering company so the integrator could better focus on the installation. Some integration companies have successfully incorporated design/engineering services into their offerings, but this is a small percentage of the industry. 

After reviewing numerous design firms, I selected Firefly Design Group. The company has a good track record of working with integrators and contributing to the success and profitability of the project. Once the system is designed and put out to bid, some won’t have every product we spec, but they will have products comparable in price and performance.

How will Firefly Design Group properly calculate the number of hours for trim, programming, etc? They will post generic labor hours that only I will see to use as a reference. Each bidder will submit what it takes for their company to do the work. I will ask for a breakdown in each bid to review product margin and labor hours. The whole process should be open and transparent. As technicians, we sometimes lose sight of how a process works.

Final Four

For this project, I want a machine of quality, speed and performance (notice how I didn’t mention price). I have seen enough jobs, installers, trims, showrooms, racks and business owners to know what to look for in the bidding process. Here are the companies I have chosen to bid on this project.

CyberSound: One of the largest players in Arizona, Jon Summer runs a tight ship and has built an impressive company. One of the largest showrooms I have ever been in, and it’s still growing. Summer has some of the finest products available and can draw on considerable manufacturer support.

  About the Author

Mark has been both a commercial and residential integrator and systems engineer for over 25 years. He works with Builders, Homeowners and Architects to design and support all types of projects around the world. He is also a software developer (SalezToolz) and mad scientist/inventor (Xspot Products) all developed around what he saw as a need for the businesses he works with and supports. He has been a CEA Mark of Excellence judge the last 6 years and CE Pro Best awards Judge. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Mark at [email protected]

Follow Mark on social media:

Mark also participates in these groups:
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View Mark Sipe's complete profile.


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