17 Employee Management Dos & Don’ts for Integrators

Integrators offer solid advice for positive and effective management.

Whenever a group of integrators gets together for a brainstorming session, good advice is sure to flow.

That’s exactly what happened at the CEDIA Expo 2014 during the “Work Smarter, Not Harder” panel discussion led by industry consultant Leslie Shiner of The Shiner Group.

Her panel covered everything from finding new employees to general employee management to measuring productivity to selecting software, but because hiring and managing employees is almost universal right now among many custom integrators, we’ve isolated on 17 top tips offered during the session.

The five panelists were Jamie Briesemeister of Integration Controls in St. Louis; Eric Crawford of The Loop Audio Video in Boise, Idaho; Shawn Hansson of Logic Integration in Lone Tree, Colo.; David King of King Systems in Lakewood, Colo.; and former CEDIA president Eric Bodley of Bodley & Associates in Bonita Springs, Fla.

For the 100-plus attendees at the session, if they learned one valuable takeaway to improve the management of their custom installation staff, then it was time well spent.

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We know the CEDIA Expo is more targeted toward residential integration, but there’s a lesson here for the commercial integrators too. Keep reading for 17 dos and don’ts of employee management.

1. Hire for Personality First. Briesemeister advises dealers to “hire for personality first” and technical prowess second. Her company has eight employees, three of which have been added in the past year.

In a small, tightknit operation, meshing the personalities and making it a positive workplace environment among co-workers is vital.

2. Use LinkedIn to Find Employees. Integration Controls uses LinkedIn successfully to find and recruit potential employees. Briesemeister says she recently found (and eventually hired) an office manager who had responded to a LinkedIn query within one hour of her posting the job.

She notes that other integrators have shared success stories in finding technicians from car audio companies and the military. Real estate agents sometimes make strong sales candidates, according to the panel.

3. Require Techs to Get CEDIA Certification. “Certification is important,” says King. “We try to use CEDIA training as much as possible. Remember that employees need to be motivated. They don’t get to go to CEDIA Expo and get all excited, so you can use training to motivate them.”

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4. Use Subs for Big Jobs, Commercial Work. Often, when integrators ink contracts to do large commercial projects, it puts them in a bind employee-wise because those jobs tend to have a specific completion date, unlike most residential jobs.

For King, it means he routinely hires subcontractors to complete commercial jobs. “I hate it, but I do a lot of commercial work. Using subs has been a good deal for big jobs. But don’t [simply] find guys at Home Depot and have them wire for you,” he advises.

5. Use Your Guy Feeling on When to Hire. In an age of spreadsheets and software, King says his most accurate indicator on when it’s time to hire a new employee is his instinct. “We don’t have a set formula but have a detailed financial spreadsheet,” he says.

For example, he is on track to earn $2 million more in revenue than he predicted for 2014. For King, he believes that simply by keeping track monthly he is able to accurately balance his revenue per- employee ratio. Those monthly calculations mean he uses the accrual method for his revenue.