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Why and How Integration Firms Must Evolve

NSCA’s Business & Leadership Conference will explore what new tools integrators need to succeed, and how to get them.

If you’re still doing things the way you’ve always done them because that’s what’s always worked for you, you might not be successful for too much longer.

These days, the world of business and the means of communicating with and satisfying customers are changing almost overnight. So, what can integrators do to keep up, and what happens if they don’t?

Dr. Lisa Lang, president of Science of Business in Green Valley, Ariz., will help set the map to the future through a pair of sessions at the 2014 NSCA Business and Leadership Conference in Dallas Feb. 27-March 1.

First, she’ll talk about achieving higher profits through something she’s labeled “theory of constraints.” Lang will also outline “Mafia Offers” that she developed to help you set your company apart from the competition.

Lang has become well-known on the speaking circuit with the theory of constraints, presenting the theory more than 100 times a year for more than a decade. She doesn’t hit the road as often these days, but she still believes just as strongly in the theory.

“Every system in every business has a goal, but there’s usually something limiting it from achieving more of that goal,” says Lang. “If you reduce those constraints and leverage all those systems, you will make more money. It’s about knowing where to focus and how to leverage.

“The theory can be very counterintuitive. Everyone says they want to evolve, but no one knows how to do anything different. You really have to challenge your own thinking, and that’s never easy to do,” she says.

One problem, notes Lang, is many business leaders don’t know what assumptions they should be challenging. “That makes it hard to make significant changes,” she says.

Guy Wallace, systems installation manager for Westbury National Show Systems in Toronto and two-time BLC attendee, isn’t afraid to embrace new ways of doing business.

“As our business needs to grow, so does the way we approach things,” he says. “We need to adapt and start thinking about how the company can and will grow. We already have an excellent reputation and do good work, so what can we do to maintain that and grow at the same time?”

Examples of changes that can serve to keep the business growing while maintaining what’s successful about it include expanding into new markets, changing to a service-based model or strategic alliances, says Wallace.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get ‘Out There’

In the “Mafia Offers” session, Lang plans to challenge the conventional thinking that “time is money.”

“Time is time, and money is money,” she says. “You can’t use time on the job as a way of determining whether you made money on a job. You made the money you made; you just might not have spent your time wisely. Now you have something you can really change on the next job.”

In marketing, the company that thinks differently is typically the one that has a long-term advantage, although “when the competition hears about the fact someone is doing something ‘out there,’ they’ll think it’s crazy,” says Lang.

That follow-the-leader mentality has crept into the systems integration space in a major way in the last several years, she says.

“They’re all thinking the same way and doing the same things, and assuming that’s how it has to be done,” says Lang. “If you open your mind, it can have a financial impact.”

At the BLCs he’s attended, Wallace has heard speakers focus on business life cycles, risk points and other aspects he hadn’t necessarily considered in the past. He’s found it valuable to get away from the technical talk for a few days and learn more from his peers.

“We talk long after the sessions are over,” says Wallace, mentioning it’s not uncommon to see 10 to 20 BLC attendees gathered around the fire talking about business.

“You hear a lot and think a lot, but how much you retain depends on what you act on,” he says.

At Westbury, they’ve paid more attention to the management structure as a result of things he’s heard at previous BLCs. Management meets weekly, but has changed the agenda so it’s not always about minutiae of the day-to-day operations.

“You have to have a vision meeting too,” says Wallace. “If every meeting is always about the details, you never get anything of any real substance out of it.”

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