Government contracts: Winning big

Uncertain cash flow, delays and an underappreciation of AV are among the challenges Tim Kridel uncovered when talking with integrators and consultants who target arenas and other facilities for major events such as the Olympic Games.

Government-backed sports projects such as the Olympic Games and World Cup can be a real feather in the cap for AV firms. They also can be a pain for those that aren’t prepared for all of the vertical’s financial, political and procedural challenges.

For example, AV firms rarely work directly with the government agency in charge of the project. Instead, they’re typically subcontractors to the general contractor or even subs to other subs, such as the electrical contractor. It’s also common for audio to be subbed out by the company that wins the safety contract because sound systems help direct patrons during emergencies. So for AV firms, one way to enter this vertical is by cosying up to general contractors and subs already there.

This strategy has its pros and cons. On the plus side, riding their coattails can be a way to get jobs that otherwise might not be possible. On the other, sometimes those intermediaries benefit from their AV sub’s recommendations at the expense of the client and even the AV firm’s reputation.

“If the integrator suggests cheaper equipment, more often than not, that larger profit margin will be absorbed by the main installers and contractors, without actual cost benefit for the end client and, worse than that, failing to deliver on the quality and expected systems performance,” says Ricardo Castro, an audio consultant whose recent projects include Olympic facilities in Brazil.

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