Being an AV integrator — or any kind of entrepreneur — is hard. Managing employees, customers, payroll – there is just always more to get done than there seems time for.
Those of us who run companies understand a life of risk – some real and some imagined. When it comes to managing risk (you can never eliminate it) we have to look in the mirror, honestly proclaim our fears, and then set out a plan to address them.
Here are four fears I come across often when talking to AV integrator business owners. Perhaps you can identify with one or two (or all four)?
1. Things Falling Through the Cracks
Have you ever forgotten to send an invoice to a client? Whenever I ask that while delivering a keynote there is usually one or two tentative hands that go up, and then when others see they aren’t alone a wave of hands appears.
When people aren’t communicating openly and often, and when you are using disparate systems across your organization – things simply fall through the cracks. Not getting paid is certainly scary. So is losing a client because someone forgot to fulfill a commitment.
I suggest two things to consider to address things falling through the cracks. The first is to create a culture of sharing – people need to talk to each other. Tear down any silos and make sure everyone is on the same page.
The other is to ditch your disparate systems and put something in place that will not only track your work, but also automate common processes so they simply cannot fall through the cracks.
2. Not Knowing if You’re Winning or Losing as an AV Integrator
Do you know your exact profitability per client? You’d be amazed at how many people can’t answer that question with a solid “YES.”
Not only that, but after putting systems in place to report on per customer contract profitability, it’s not uncommon to find that some clients you thought were profitable are actually costing you money.
The biggest weakness in determining your profitability at a client level is tracking time. Most integrators are tracking the hardware and making sure they get paid for it, but many don’t put the same stringent requirements on time.
All of your installers need to be accountable for 100% of their time – and all of that time should be allocated to a customer or to your company. If you can’t account for all the time spent on a client job, you have no way of knowing your true profitability.
3. A Key Employee Walking Out the Door
What would your day look like tomorrow if your #1 installer flaked on you and quit with no notice? Would you know everything they were working on, and the state of each job?
Would you know what they have billed for and what yet needs to be billed? Are your key customer relationships attached to one individual who, if they left, would take that relationship with them?
Having a key employee – someone involved with doing the work and getting you paid – is always frightening, but you can minimize the impact by using an AV integrator business solution that captures everything going on, such as notes of conversations, inventory moved to the customer locations, what’s been billed and what needs to be billed, trouble-shooting steps completed, etc.
Put in a central repository and create a culture of accountability, and you will at least be able to pick up the pieces when (not if) you lose a key individual.
4. Are Your Customers at Risk of Being Poached?
New customers are hard to get – it’s always easier and less expensive to keep the ones you have. However, in this age of business convergence it’s hard to see where your next competitor will come from; it might be a similar company across town, or it might be an IT firm that decides it’s time to start doing security products, for example.
Today, almost everything is an end-point on a network, and we’re seeing progressive IT companies moving into AV, unified communications, security and alarm, and so much more.
If you haven’t looked at adding new products and services – making you the converged competitive threat – I highly encourage you to do so!
The more products and services you can provide to your client, the fewer vendors they are dealing with that could take your business away from you; and you can make a lot more money per client in the process.
Running an AV integrator business can be a scary proposition. If you are in a spot where you are paying payroll using credit cards (we’ve been there), it’s hard to think big picture because you are in survival mode.
However, if you are higher up the survival chain than that, I encourage you to put in systems to automate as much as you can, and look past your horizon at what your business could be.
The best way to prevent becoming extinct is to evolve.