Low Bidder Again? How Did That Work Out For You?

I want to do something a little different this month.

For background, I have spent the last two days with Extron’s Emerging Technologies 4K Road Show (Extron really has it down when it comes to presenting on the road!). At dinner after the first day, to get a discussion started, I told my tablemates that I will be teaching my first class at InfoComm in June in Orlando, discussing gathering information and the use of a questionnaire at the head end of a project (more details later).

I then asked the table if anyone had any subjects they would like me to write about. The first to speak up, David Gill from ASW, said, “What about bid jobs and that they always go to the lowest bidder?” I mentioned that I recently did a piece about bidding on projects, and shared some process and procedure tips and docs (December 2016). At first I thought no, but remembered something I thought about doing related to this topic but never got around to. I then shared with the group this almost forgotten idea I would like to write about, and all agreed it would be worthwhile.

It’s related to the issue of the lowest-bidder for AV projects, with hard-details about how that works out, with facts and details provided by general contractors, architects and…you guessed it…integrators and consultants.

The information I want to gather relates to looking at participants’ last five projects (or so) with AV that was bid, what was the low bid, what were the mid-level bids, if the bid was awarded to the low bidder, and, what was the final cost to the owner of the low bid, compared with the average bids.

Taking a typical project, after it is all said and done, I’ve seen it all: failure to function, not completing the job, the project ends up costing about what the average bid was…or more! Alex Lott from Stagefront had a lot to say about this issue and helped put together this list of what I am looking for:

  • change orders
  • timeline impact
  • impact on other projects
  • impact on other trades
  • call backs (to a higher bidder to fix/complete project)
  • percentage of low-bid-awarded projects completed at the original bid price.

We know that the low-bid frequently does not work out, likely more than folks would want to admit. I am thinking that general contractors and architects need to know as well, if they don’t already. So, I plan to ask readers of general contractor and architecture magazines (in addition to my “What Would You Do?” readers), discussing this issue with relation to AV.

That being said, everyone needs to understand the differences between the contractors they have worked with for years, and AV contractors. We are a young industry, and this industry at this time is not monitored by any independent agency for compliance. Older, more established industries such as electricians, plumbers and others whether low bid or even high bid, with their finished work inspected by an independent authority owners/architects/general contractors do not have the same issues they have with AV contractors. If that work does not meet industry standards, they have to “fix” the issues or the building in question will not get a Certificate of Occupancy.

Low bid just does not work for an unregulated industry (in my opinion, of course), and I wish that qualifications, experience, references and not just price were higher on the priority list. If we could just get this message across to architects and general contractors, they could help lobby the owners (their clients) when they say, “Use the low bidder,” so they understand these facts related to those low bids. We want to help them understand how this isn’t necessarily the best approach.

So, may I ask you: Can you provide bid-project information and details as part of my research? What has been your experience? Please send details to me at

If I could just continue a shameless-plug for my class: “Sales Engineering: Do It Right The First Time,” Tuesday, June 13, 12:30pm-4:30pm. After the introduction and a discussion about the currently posted Church Questionnaire, I will take a vote on what vertical markets the attendees would like to develop, and we will break into groups, each group working toward a common goal: creating new questionnaires (Corporate, Higher-Ed, Government, etc.). Upon completion, I will format and create questionnaires and distribute to all attendees. Hope to see you there!

(For information about how to attend InfoComm, go to

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