Who Made You the Expert?

I’ve been prodded to write this series of articles, offering tips and encouragement for those designing and selling audiovisual systems. I pushed back for some time because I never really thought of myself as the authority here. I was told that it’s not about being the authority with the ultimate answers, but that my experience would provide unique insights for certain professionals hitting particular stages in their careers.

As the saying goes “We are all both teachers and students” and I totally agree. While I may have solid advice for one person, I am being helped elsewhere by somebody else. Another saying goes “The older I get, the less I know”. This is the one that I often think about. I probably felt more confident when I was twenty years old to sign up for the lecture tour and instruct the world from my depth of knowledge. Now in my fifties I find myself asking more questions, learning more than ever, and offering advice far less often.

I am also put off by the current “expert culture” (If you haven’t heard that term before, don’t feel bad – I just made it up). One of my all-time favorite sayings is “Those that can’t do, teach”. It seems that today the amount of experts outweigh those that need instruction 10:1. At some point, humans began exiting the womb as experts in their field. Before they can grow armpit hair they write books, host podcasts, and instruct thousands at seminars how to better their careers. If I were a cynical man I would doubt that they could last a single day if they were forced to make a living doing the very thing they are teaching people how to do.

THAT BEING SAID…

In spite of all of that, I suppose I do have a fair number of insights to offer. Where most people’s first AV project might be hanging a TV in a family room, my first AV contract was over six figures for an auditorium speaker system and acoustics. As a Grammy-nominated studio mixing engineer, that first client probably trusted my ears more than the other vendors. But I assume it was much more than that. My unique approach to the consultation, my solution for their issues, and the way I presented that solution gave them the assurance they needed to trust me with that project.

I’ve also never worked for anyone but my clients. What this means is that I never had a boss who guided me along the way with their company’s best practices. I simply navigated the waters – sometimes by trial and error – and learned what was most beneficial to my clients and to me earning their business.

Most of the formalized education in AV surrounds the technical. This is logical. You can’t be an auto mechanic without being trained in brakes, motors and steering. Very little time is spent in the client relationship side and that’s too bad.

So this is why I agreed to write this collection of articles for the AV professional. There should be a few nuggets within them to help navigate the rough waters of consultations, design and proposing our projects. These are fragile moments in a project which require as much care and consideration as wire impedance and network configuration.

Cheers,

Paul