NSCA has announced the winners of its 2017 Excellence in Business awards in six categories.
The trade organization announces these awards annually to recognize integration firms that, from a business perspective, raise the bar for the industry. The awards are celebrated at NSCA’s annual Business & Leadership Conference.
This year’s winners are:
- Live! Technologies in Columbus, Ohio for business performance
- Conference Technologies Inc. in Maryland Heights, Mo., for customer experience
- Atrion, a Carousel company in Warwick, R.I. for differentiating strategy
- Unified AV Systems in Atlanta for employee engagement
- ClearTech in Altadena, Calif., for strategic transformation
- Mechdyne Corporation in Marshalltown, Iowa, for talent development.
“Reading the submissions tells me how advanced our industry has become,” says NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson. “In some cases, it shows how creative our members must be to set themselves apart.”
During BLC, March 2-4, in Chandler, Ariz., the winners will be joined by an executive from Diversified, Commercial Integrator’s 2016 Integrator of the Year, to explain the reasons behind their company transformations.
Here are more details about this year’s winners:
Atrion, a Carousel company, experienced growth that prevented it from focusing on going “wide” with clients. Based on responses to 25 questions in a survey, clients were placed in categories. The clients in the highest categories indicated strong relationships (or the potential for strong relationships). Research verified that the clients in the lowest category took up valuable sales and pre-sales engineering time – while paying late or haggling over pricing. Staff explained to these clients what needed to occur in order for them to continue on as customers.
Creating a joint venture with another integrator also allowed clients in the low category to be smoothly transitioned to a different organization. In two years, Atrion revenue grew by 81 percent, clients were reduced from 400 to 200, and salespeople now support 20 or fewer clients vs. 40 each in the past. In 2016, revenue grew from $119 million to $156 million with 14 salespeople before Carousel purchased the company in the fall.
ClearTech launched a managed services program by approaching a key client with a pilot program. An internal team member was promoted to oversee managed services and an e-business solution was adopted as the CRM for managed services. Managed services is now a line item in project proposals and a new website and marketing materials were developed. The client that assisted ClearTech in the launch has signed three managed service contracts; ClearTech has increased its services business from less than 5 percent to a projected 15 percent of 2017 revenue.
“We are so honored to be selected as a winner for this prestigious award,” says president Christina De Bono. “Our leadership team attended the BLC last year and we were inspired by the theme. We decided to formally launch a managed services program for our company and utilize the education garnered at the conference. We believe that launching managed services is the most important decision we have made to strategically grow our business. NSCA not only gave us the inspiration, but the tools needed to realize our managed service business.”
Conference Technologies Inc. shifted from quarterly to weekly surveys to become more responsive and have deeper conversations to solve problems sooner as it opened seven new offices and thousands of new customers. A database captures feedback through a third party, with a portal for real-time storage, analysis, and access. Information is calculated and shared as it’s received; scores are displayed on the intranet and digital signage. Teams discuss feedback each week to shape themes and clarify priorities. With thousands of responses, Conference Technologies Inc. maps out the customer journey to help employees understand when and how they impact it.
“Customer experience is a topic that inspires everything we do at Conference Technologies, Inc.,” says director of marketing Sara Reasner. “By being focused on our customers, we understand what drives them. This helps us bring solutions that build lasting relationships and nurture success in their businesses. We are very grateful for the award, our employees and customers who make it all possible.”
Live! Technologies created a Define, Design, & Deliver model to encompass end-to-end client consultation, service and support. The model extends and defends the core business while building emerging areas: leveraging project management, increasing numbers of service/maintenance contracts, continuous quality and efficiency improvement, reducing excess capacity, growing programming and design jobs, and raising labor rates and project margin goals. Live! hasn’t lost a client since 2013 and the company achieved 118 percent growth across three consecutive years, with 45.3 percent growth in 2016.
David Mead, co-founder and director of business development for Live! Technologies’ systems integration division, calls the award “a validation of our process and the dedication and hard work of our totally engaged team.”
Mechdyne implemented key hiring changes. When a potential candidate applies, he/she undergoes a rigorous process to gauge attitude, technical training and client focus, taking four assessments and a personality test so Mechdyne understands potential fit.
The HR department also implemented a new applicant tracking system, weekly recruitment meetings and velocity reports. Five years ago, Mechdyne’s hiring timeframe averaged 96 days. Today, it’s 49 days.
New hires are encouraged to seek training and continuing education. Every department’s career ladder lays out requirements for advancement; it’s up to each “teammate” how quickly he or she is eligible for promotion.
“It is so rewarding to be acknowledged by the NSCA for all of the efforts Mechdyne has made in the past years in hiring and retaining our teammates,” says Sue Goodman, Mechdyne’s manager of human resources. “While not always an easy process, our team has done an exceptional job in identifying challenge areas and making the improvements necessary.”
Unified AV Systems went from being 33 percent employee-owned under the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) to completely employee-owned in 2016. A formal employee engagement survey garnered a 95 percent participation rate.
Management advisory teams study detailed data from survey results to make recommendations to management. They also develop strategic plans and communications tools to help everyone understand the ESOP program. And so-called most valuable performers (MVPs) provide input on company operations and are recognized with all-expenses-paid trips.
Employees now have an appreciation for the company’s future potential, steer operations to achieve that potential and benefit from achieving that potential through stock ownership and a profit-sharing plan, says president Barry Goldin. He calls this award “an acknowledgement from our peers that what we are doing is on the right track and among the top tier in our industry.”
“We are honored to be recognized for the hard work that our team has put into these initiatives and hope others can benefit from some of the lessons we have learned,” says Goldin. “As we all work to improve our businesses, sharing successes through the EIB program allows us to learn tips and techniques in some areas.”