Adventures In Wireless Video

Tips on bidding and selecting components for a wireless video project with networked indoor and outdoor CCTV cameras and recorders. The project also included refitting the front doors with new exit devices, a door bell and a remote release system.

This month we will highlight a major wireless video project with the hope that by sharing this experience, it will help locksmiths gain perspective on the many markets and opportunities out there for them, if they are wishing to grow their businesses and learn new technologies.

We spend a fair amount of time bidding jobs and through this experience, we have managed to gain additional business. Whether we bid a project or not depends on the following critical issues.

Are we qualified to perform the project? If it is electronic, security or lock related, our answer is yes. If line voltage work is involved, we know we will either sub it out or tell the client to get an electrician.

Does the scope of work justify the investment in time participating in the bid will involve? This is especially true if the job is outside your normal service area. Also consider the expense you will have to absorb during the warranty period. Smart customers will sometimes recognize that allowing vendors out of their area to bid a project will invite warranty problems. They may disqualify you if they realize your distance and response time for service will not meet their requirements.

Can you afford to do the job? Besides having to commit time to calculating costs and designing the system and compiling the bid package, you still have to consider the unintended consequences if you win. You will lose the services of the employees required to do the job, installers and management, and their vehicles. You will possibly need to acquire additional insurance or licenses. Maybe you will have to send men to obtain factory certifications. And perhaps most importantly, you may have to push your credit limits beyond your comfort zone in order to buy the materials, and then may have to wait to get paid. It’s called taking a risk. It is the essence of capitalism, and is usually required for a business to grow. But it also has caused many companies to fail when the unexpected occurred.

This project included an exhaustive spec, identifying part numbers for every element of the system. But it also had those magic words “Or Equal.”

Sometimes end-users will get a specification and use it to solicit bids. Often the system is designed around proprietary brands, based on obsolete technology and/or the system design is flawed.

End-users are at a disadvantage in that they are likely to be first-time buyers of the type of system they are putting out to bid, but the bidders do it for a living. The end-user doesn’t know who to trust.

Being an established company with a roster of satisfied customers helps in this regard.

Due to a schedule conflict, I missed the first walk-through. Actually we weren’t sure we wanted to participate in the bid. But during an initial phone call to the client, I asked if they had a preferred electrical contractor. They did, so I called next and got them to agree to possibly partner and attending the walk-through.

I realized that an electrician would be needed, and some form of articulating boom would be required to set a lot of the equipment. I also knew it would be helpful to have a partner who was known to the client, and we might require assistance with warranty service.

The project was a two-plus hour drive from our shop. But for a mid $30K project, it was on the playing field.

I scheduled a site visit with the electrical contractor in order to get clarification of some of the details that the electrician failed to obtain during the initial walk-through.

Sometimes end-users are very sensitive about how pre-bids are conducted, wanting to be sure all bidders have the same information upon which to base their bid. They want to preserve the impression that they are fair and square. This client happened to be fair and square.

I wanted to get on site so I could let the customer know that I was an expert, and that our company would be able to do all of the work - the video, the electrical, and the lock work completely, perfectly and competitively priced.

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