What is the biggest obstacle that you are having to overcome right now? 
“Extended lead times and keeping up with our busy workload. Business has been very strong ,which has put a strain on our resources. We hired new installation technicians this year to help keep the momentum going.” 

– Brian Perreault, COO for Barrett’s Technology Solutions, Lombard, Ill. 

“Having to say no. It’s hard to turn down good work, but the integration business is not one that scales easily, so I’d rather turn down a job than may over-stress my team, than run the risk of pushing my people too far for the sake of profit as that is a short-term gain but a long-term loss.   It’s certainly about the best problem that we could have.  We have all been very fortunate in this business the last few years. We definitely make sure we prioritize our long-term relationships first as when things inevitably slow down.” 

–  Brian Richards, president of Precision Media, Englewood, Colo.  

“Supply chain issues.” 
– Christian Andrade, senior systems designer, Acoustic Architects, Miami 

“Product & supply chain issues! It becomes difficult keeping installations on schedule and maintain customer relations with the uncertainty of the shipping dates.” 
– Andrew Vaccaro, CEO, Phoenix Systems, North Haledon, N.J. 

How are you dealing with supply chain issues? 
“We are ordering products for our projects well in advance of our usual order times.  In some cases, this could be 12-14 weeks out.  Additionally, we continually monitor our stock position on our “staple” products as well as those that are in short supply and make sure we always have quantities either in stock or on order. When possible, we modify our system design approach to avoid some of the products with serious supply chain constraints. “   

 – Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions 

“We‘ve definitely been caught with our pants down, that’s for sure.  I’ve certainly had regrets that I didn’t place larger “stock” orders with certain manufacturers, but hindsight is always 20-20. I think as we battle through this, integrators need to come together and help each other when one has what the other needs.  In most cases there IS enough product out there, but we are all hoarding gear which is exacerbating the problem.  I think this is where reps come into play as they have access to the knowledge of what each integrator has purchased and can/should be a bridge to connect integrators together who are in a dire pinch. It’s good Karma anyways.” 

–  Richards, Precision Media 

“We’re switching out products to something comparable if available. Over the last year, we have gotten to try out some new brands we never would have looked at without the supply issues.”  

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems 

Which manufacturer that you currently use gives you the most support? 
“This is a hard question to answer because I feel like we get good support from most of our vendor partners.  There are a lot of brands to choose from, so we tend to stay away from vendors that cannot provide a high level of support.  If I had to pick one vendor, it would be WhyReboot.  Bjorn and his team continue to provide unparalleled support, so much so that we really look at WhyReboot as somewhat of an extension to our own team.”   

– Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions 

“We’ve been fortunate and have several great manufacturers that take care of us. Although right now, I am going to have to say ClearOne. They have gone above and beyond for us this year.” 

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems 

What advice would you give to new integration companies that are just getting started? 
Many CI companies, including ours, cater to the luxury market which can be very demanding.  I would let them know that this is not an easy business and it will require many layers of support to provide an excellent experience for their clients. I would suggest they spend the necessary time getting themselves educated on all facets of the business and stick to the types of projects that best fit their capabilities. 

– Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions 

“Take great care of your employees and retain them. Do really high-quality work always, even when it makes a job less profitable. Realize that the larger your business gets, the easier it is to run because you have more people to delegate tasks to. Do what the larger firms are doing.  Follow their lead. The reason they got big is they already made a bunch of mistakes, so when it comes to business practices, product choices, etc., there’s good reasons why they landed where they did. Choosing the wrong control system, lighting or shade solution, or security solution, etc. has a very long tail and enormous tangible and intangible costs over time.” 

–  Richards, Precision Media 

“When designing a system for a client, always check with the manufacturers on lead time, availability, and always extend the expected ETA on equipment.  Also, check with any other contractors involved on their lead times to ensure a jobsite is coordinated properly.” 

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems 
Who was your mentor when you started out? 

“Joe Barrett. I have had the privilege of working with Joe for over 30 years.  Coming fresh out of school at the time I joined Barrett’s I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much from Joe over the years.” 

– Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions 

“My ex-boss who fired me 17 years ago. He told me, ‘Brian…you can do this. You’re a crazy hard worker and I know you could start your own business and be successful.’ And my best friend, who stuck his neck out for me with his biggest client to get me my first big job. It’s all history from there.” 

–  Richards, president of Precision Media  

“Joshua Hamann and Spencer Hauldren are the reasons for my success. They have shared their trials and experience in a formula I can apply to every interaction” 
– Christian Andrade, Acoustic Architects 

How do you feel about dealing with interior designers, builders etc.? 

“Take care of them at all costs. Builders/designers/etc. are creatures of habit, just like all of us.   Once they have their ‘guy,’ you have to screw up pretty bad to lose them, but never take that for granted. You still have to earn it every time. We are a 100 percent referral business and do zero marketing, so we rely solely on them and our previous clients for enough work to keep 32 employees very busy.” 

–  Richards, Precision Media 

“Architects, builders and designers are the core of our business. We love being a part of the initial schematic design process and getting involved before the MEP as it enables the client and avoids change orders and construction delays.” 

– Andrade, Acoustic Architects 

“Over the past 30+ years, I have dealt with many high-end designers, architects, and builders. The majority of them are easy to work with and are able to discuss design and functionality. It makes everyone’s job easier if we are all on the same page from the beginning and not trying to figure it out after the walls are up and paintings are hung.” 

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems