A DWS Is More Than Just A Log

Documentation is one of the keys to success.
Custom corner-mounted subwoofer, requiring almost zero floor space that still creates the extra “oomph” needed for the room.

Let me share an experience that may have caught many of you off guard. Many years ago, when my business first started growing, I had more than one project going on simultaneously. I realized that I could not be at every job site, that I had to rely on others. I found out quite fast that different workers have different retention levels for information, and that they would interpret information differently: Some would do what I wanted and some would not; even the simplest things sometimes went awry. A DWS was the key.

This is the story of a restaurant project in City Island NY, and how important documentation is. The lead came in and I met with the owner about his needs. He wanted to upgrade the sound (had some lights) to something with more impact (his DJ effort was paying off), and he wanted to have a system of his own so he could stop paying for the DJ’s equipment.

This was a typical “pub” type of eatery. During the day, there were tables across from a 50-foot-long bar; some patrons ate at the bar and some at the tables. Two additional rooms in the back were used for “DJ” night and for special occasions.

The owner wanted background music during the day in the bar area (the original system was no longer working). At night, he wanted a high-impact DJ system with sound and lights, and he wanted it to be movable between the two back rooms. There was some existing lighting, and a controller in one of the rooms, but no audio.

There was an equipment closet I could use for the amplification and processing, but I would need a custom made portable case that would house a DJ mixer, turntables (yes this is a little dated) and the lighting controller. This would have to be moved from one room to the other at will, and easily connect to the head-end equipment. This was actually the first time I tried to put audio and lighting control together, and it worked well. I used a multi-pin EDAC connector that connected from the “DJ” case to two different locations, one in each room. (Let me give a shout-out to one of the best pieces of equipment ever, the Rane SM-26! This one rackspace mixer was the “Swiss Army knife” of equipment. It enabled either six-in and two-out, or two-in and six-out, balanced or unbalanced, with easy level control; it worked great for this project.)

In addition, because of limited floor space, the owner did not want any loudspeakers on the floor. And, with a low ceiling height, he didn’t want any hanging from the ceiling, either. Sound familiar? Big sound, and does not want to see anything or take up any space. No problem.

The requirements did not end there: multiple rooms but one system to save money and, of course, the client wants it done right away! So I took the job, got a deposit and started work. I sent a three-man crew to work for three days to do the pre-wiring while I built the loudspeakers. We started on Monday and were to finish by Friday: two days to mount the loudspeakers, terminate the cabling and get it going. This was a little tighter than usual, but doable.

The job entailed mounting the main loudspeakers in the ceiling (four in each room). I had enough space above, and used a lighting tile that fit the ceiling grid and allowed the sound to be heard below (got the idea from the Long Island Railroad; I looked up and saw this white plastic tile with lights above it). I custom- made two subs for each room. They were triangular to fit in the corners of the room and were attached to the walls. They worked great. I was able to sell the idea because they would only take up the space of one person standing in each corner.

Every day at 11:30am, the bartender told my crew to stop working until 2:30pm. I was not able to reach the owner about this, considering our tight schedule, leaving messages with the bartender for him to call me.
The day we were to finish, on Friday, the owner called, screaming about why we were not done. I went to see him, and this is where my Daily Work Sheet (DWS) came into play.

I complete a DWS every day, which goes out with the project foreman. In addition to all the regular info (address, contact, etc.), there are three “important” sections: the “ Work To Be Done” section details exactly what I expect to be finished that day; the “Work Completed” section where the project foreman writes in exactly what the crew did that day (and any other relevant details), and the “Signature” section, with room for the site contact to sign each day. That’s right, not only do I have this form filled out every day onsite, but I also have it signed by the site representative, every day.

For this job, this sheet had notes saying that we were prevented from working from 11:30am to 2:30pm daily, totaling nine hours (we lost a full day), and it was signed by the bartender. When I met with the owner (he was the type who would exploit every “nook and cranny” to avoid paying you), I did not argue: I just explained the situation, that I left messages for him to call because the bartender stopped us from working each day (not in our agreement), and showed him the Daily Work Sheets, with his bartender’s signature.

He was shocked that I had that—almost flabbergasted would be the expression; he was sure he was going to get away with a big discount for late completion. Having this document alleviated the issue. He then asked when we would be done (we didn’t work over the weekend), and we agreed we would come in first thing Monday, and that he would have the system up and running for the following weekend. In fact, I let him know that there might even be additional charges for labor because I did not account for that extra day. It ended up that I did not have to charge any extra, and the finished system sounded and looked great.

This DWS that I had developed only a few months earlier really saved me here. If you are not using one, you should be. If you do not have one, email me at, and I will send you a sample.

Ever had a project where a document saved you, or the lack of a document turned out to be an issue, let me know.

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