By Ron Callis


                Business is tight! Now tha...
Ok, not too many professional integrators are          That’s not going to set you apart.
That’s not just the   Because documentation is strong, the best
                                  proposal        and   co...
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Gear Head Secret In System Summer 2008


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Story written by Ron Callis for AVAD\'s quarterly magazine Gearhead.

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Gear Head Secret In System Summer 2008

  1. 1. By Ron Callis “ Business is tight! Now that a difference between those firms prime source of home improve- that had a serious, disciplined ment dollars, the home equity approach to their internal pres- loan, has dried up substan- entation and execution systems, tially, the phone isn’t ringing and those who do not. so much off the Yellow Pages ads anymore. This is the kind of market that separates the serious, well- I’ve been watching integration managed integration businesses businesses succeed and from the overblown trunk- watching them fail for the last slammers. Now that business isn’t seven years – and I’ve spent a lot just falling out of the sky because of time thinking through you’ve got a phone book ad and integration business processes, a pretty car-wrap job on the to figure out what works and company van, it’s easy to tell the what doesn’t work. 8
  2. 2. Ok, not too many professional integrators are That’s not going to set you apart. making their estimates on the back of a napkin any more. Maybe that was always an Instead, come in with a system – a fully-developed, exaggeration. But lots of integrators are still professional-looking method – for identifying the doing things they way they did it back in the customer’s needs and wants (both stated and stone age: Scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad unstated), and defining the job parameters and or sheet of graph paper. scope of work. This has three benefits: 1. It looks sharper and more professional 2. It can lead comfortably into an ‘upsell’ situation that otherwise might come up. 3. It idiot-proofs the intake process – so even a relatively junior salesman can still catch all the important points on the first interview. Think about it: Custom installers will go to almost any length to make a home entertainment system attractive and elegant. We and the client work hard to ‘blend the system seamlessly into the décor.’ Because presentation matters. We all But too many firms go to present proposals to the same client that’s prepared to spend thousands or tens of thousands or even more on a system to make it beautiful, we treat presentation as an afterthought. Excel spreadsheets have their place. But thanks to advances in CAD technology and programming advances, it’s now possible for context may be in the installers’ head. But that just that. And when push comes to shove, those integrators to make a quantum leap forward in might not be enough when the prospects eyes integrators are going to be the ones getting the their proposal presentation. glaze over looking at the proposal. big jobs. Think of it – your customer thinks in terms of It’s possible for your proposal to be a If you’re not one of those solutions, not in terms of products. But too many professional, sophisticated-looking document proposals consist of a list of products and prices, integrators, you need to be. that overlays the integration plan directly over Or you’re going to get dusted. without any mention of the context in which the precise floor plan for the house. In fact, there these products are going to be installed. The are integrators out there who are already doing 9
  3. 3. That’s not just the Because documentation is strong, the best proposal and companies out there are able to brief the client on pricing. You should the job, step-by-step, throughout the entire have an organized project. If difficulties arise, solid documentation system in place allows the integrator to present them as a that tracks the consultant, sitting ‘on the same side of the table’ project from the proposal stage right through all as the client. the change orders, all the way to final completion. The best systems allow for change orders to be “ integrated directly into the working floor plan, at every step. That way, you, the client, and your installers are all operating from one master document, freshly updated, at every step of the process. Everyone is literally on the same sheet, and surprises are rare or non-existent. Create an asset not a job. I’ve seen this happen with dozens of firms: a of it, still, sure. But Microsoft exists and functions talented, bright, charismatic technician at another apart from him now. Marshal arts instructors company will leave his employer and strike out on frequently teach their his own, starting his own company. Typically, he’ll That’s the difference between creating a job and do well for a time. He’ll recruit and train a small students to think creating an asset. Great businesses, both large and crew, and he’ll have short-term success keeping small, will continue to run without the owner’s through the opponent’s them busy. He’ll grow rapidly to a certain point – continued intervention.Think of it – that’s the only body and punch at a spot an and then growth stops. The reason: He’s not a way you can pass on the business to children, or inch behind them. This manager yet. He’s still a glorified technician. sell the business to fund a comfortable retirement. eliminates hesitation and Or fund a prolonged period of sickness or increases power. That’s fine, for some of us. If tinkering disability. If such a catastrophe hit a business run with electronics gear and trouble- by a technician, all would be lost. He’d lose his Integration businesses should do shooting is your first love, go to it. But health and his income at the same time. the same thing. And the know that if that’s what you spend a big documentation lays the chunk of your time doing every day, you But a business run by an owner, who understands groundwork for it. Because the limit your company’s growth. that his goal is to create an asset rather than a job, documentation is so strong, the has a fighting chance of surviving, and providing. best companies are able to present the Instead, consider making the leap from technician Your mission is to transcend the limitations client with a beautiful project book – a to manager. Managers create and manage imposed by the technician mentality and become keepsake documenting the project (with systems – and then set them to running by an owner of capital – in the best sense of the photographs and a narrative of key decision themselves, without your personal intervention. word. And the key to successful ownership is the points). This is a powerful showpiece for the Think of it – Bill Gates could go on a 6 month close care of your business systems – systems that clients’ friends, and is a classy way to finish a vacation tomorrow – and Microsoft will still be are scaleable and replicable. Then you find good project that leaves everyone feeling good. there when he gets back. Bill’s an important part managers and technicians to run it for you. 8