The Pyramid Trick: How to Plan the Future While Balancing the Business Present

Published: 2015-11-06

Since leaving InfoComm on my way to whatever is next I’ve had the opportunity to do some great things. I’ve gotten to speak at events, serve as a panelist, attend sales meetings, consult, and as a freelancer been both a tech and manager at some live events.

These opportunities have allowed me to see a common thread, or challenge, and that is: planning for the future while balancing the business present. Following a great panel discussion on future technologies and the AV business with AV Nation at CI Summit in Washington, D.C., I quipped on Twitter that perhaps integrators needed a full time futurist on their staff to keep up with all that is happening and the exciting opportunities coming in our technological future.

Now, while I know it’s not realistic for companies to do that and in fact we had some fun on Twitter creating titles for this fictitious position, it does beg the question, who is responsible for the future in your business? Specifically, who is looking at future technology or solutions and planning what that will mean to your business next year and three to five years from now?

At a recent sales meeting I attended there was the usual discussion about the overall business. What was accomplished over the past year, big wins, some tough losses and then the sales numbers overall and then sales numbers by product categories. It was agreed that it had been a banner year in which everyone had gone above and beyond in time and effort and exceeded sales expectations. From there it was on to next years plan.

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That’s when it got interesting. The plan called for further significant increases in each of the standard product categories/solutions. In fact the number was broken down into what had to happen each month. Ok, a challenge for sure given the normal course of business and the inevitable change and new products (technology) from the core manufacturers in their line, but doable. Now for the punch line. By the way sales team, you are also going to be selling two new technologies next year that will require significant time to learn, present, and close and they are a little outside the box from what we normally do.

Now, I won’t go into further detail but I’m sure you can see some of the challenges ahead for this team and this company. Was there a plan here? I’m sure there was in the eyes of the person making the presentation. Two new cool things that we need to sell so let’s add them and get moving.

In the AV industry we are bombarded daily through social media, publications, news, manufacturers and yes, even customers, on what the newest technology is and what is coming that will be the future. And we thrive on it because we love it. But pure love of technology does not make a business thrive or survive in the long term.

Earlier when I asked who is responsible for planning which future technologies you’ll integrate as part of your business, you probably answered, “That’s my responsibility,” if you are the owner or senior manager at your company. But do you have a regular process for doing that planning? How do you balance that need to sell new or future technology with your day-to-day operations? And where do you get the information you need? Above all, how do the new technology solutions integrate into where you see your company going and do you have the resources to focus on them?

The Internet is chock full of tools for answering the questions above and there are some great business consultants in the industry that can help as well.

To get started, try something simple. Draw a pyramid and divide it into three parts.

In the bottom section write the technologies that are core to what you do today. There shouldn’t be anything new here. In the middle section write a limited number of new technologies that you have or want AND can allocate resources to in the next year. The key to this section is the honesty you have with yourself that you either have the resources to allocate to these technologies or you will add the resources. Finally, in the top section, which is the smallest, you should write the technologies you want to keep an eye on—the ones you want to investigate further.

Now on to the hardest part. Assuming you were accurate about what your core was and the resources available, nothing can move from one section into another or be added without something being subtracted or more resources being allocated.

Is this all there is to it? No, but hopefully it will get you thinking and planning for future technology while balancing the business present.

Author Duffy Wilbert, CTS, CAE, served as senior vice president of InfoComm International from 2003 to 2015. He previously held several titles at Sony Electronics over the course of 12 years.

Posted in: Insights, News

Tagged with: AV Nation, CI Summit

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