The audiovisual industry is made up largely of small business owners and even micro-businesses … one or two individuals with a passion for audio and video who decided to take that passion and turn it into a career. We applaud that. JD Systems launched years ago when two New York DJs (Jak Darakjati and Jonathan Joyce) started designing and installing the systems they loved to use. We started out really small. But as we grew, we knew we needed to step it up to continue to provide the quality, service, and time frames our growing list of customers expected. And, from the start, we were all about professionalism. We always made ourselves available to our customers. That hasn’t changed.

But how can you tell if your audio video integrator is in it for the long haul or is going to “get going” when the going gets tough? In the best of times, more than 50 percent of all start-up businesses fail within the first year. And our country’s economy is definitely not in the best of times.

If your audio visual systems integrator folds, who’s going to back their warranty, fix your systems if they break or even answer your questions? Here are five ways to recognize a “fly-by-night” audio video business.

1. They don’t have a website, or their website looks like it was put together by someone’s pre-teen son using FrontPage. – It’s nearly unheard of for a company today not to have a website. A website is the number one investment you can make in any business. Just having a website doesn’t necessarily mean a company is legit, (because they are so easy to make) but if a company doesn’t have one… would you trust them to handle any technology in your commercial venue?

2. They’re on page 20 in a local Google search. – It’s not a crime to be struggling. But if you’re investing even the bare minimum in your business today (which is a good sign that you’re serious about that business and plan to stick around), you’re going to do what it takes to at least get on the first page for the local search engines. It’s like having a Yellow Pages listing a decade ago. Would you have hired a company you couldn’t find in the Yellow Pages back then?

3. They can’t provide references, a portfolio or examples of their work. Most people, today, can take pretty high-quality photos with their cell phone. There’s no excuse for not being able to show off some of your projects. Looking at pictures will tell you if the audio video integrator does a neat, clean job (no hanging wires or extra holes in the walls) and it also adds credibility; the company has work under their belt, and their customers were pleased enough with the job to let them snap a few pictures.

4. They don’t have, or won’t provide, an office address. Some very small audio video integrators work exclusively out of their garage. If this is the case, they’re probably not sharing their home address with customers. This could mean they’re cost-conscious and pass the savings on to the customer. Or it could mean they’re doing this part-time, after-hours, and don’t have the knowledge, experience or time necessary to take on your project. If you opt to go with a micro-business AV contractor, that’s your choice. But you should at least be aware of the risks.

5. They’re unreachable or don’t return your calls promptly. Here at JD Systems, we basically work 24/7. (You should hear us on the phone with our creative team at midnight.) There’s one good thing to be said about Bluetooth and New York traffic; it gives us a chance to catch up on phone calls. But if an AV contractor doesn’t return your calls and is never available, where will he be when you have a technology emergency? This could be a sign that the business isn’t really serious about staying in business — just another red flag that might scream “fly-by-night.”

On the other hand, if the AV integrators you’re speaking with present themselves professionally in every way, from their logo design and website to the way they answer their phone or communicate with you, no matter how big or small the companies are, they’re probably serious about success — which means they’ll be serious about your success, too.