Technology Versus Business

Published: June 11, 2020

Now is the time for a confession. For many years, I was wrong or, at best, misguided about the commercial AV industry.

In the 1990s, I was one of the original members of Hughes-JVC (HJT). After managing an AV integration company in St. Louis for several years, what convinced me to leave was technology.

More precisely, new and exciting technology. The team at Hughes Aircraft had invented a new display technology and this led to a joint venture with JVC. That was the proverbial “siren song” that lured me to Southern California.

For over 10 years at HJT, it was technology and a great team that drove me. It was the constant development of something new that I could work with and then teach and sell that was my passion.

This begs the question of where I missed the boat in those days and what I have learned after the fact and continue to learn and apply today.

As in many companies, there were rare but real internal conflicts. Those of us in sales and marketing (not to mention engineering) were on the “technologies rule” side of things. All else be damned.

On the opposing side was the CFO and his minions that were on the “best business practices” side of things. It was the age-old battle of the balance sheet with marketing/sales on one side versus the bean counters who always seemed to oppose us.

Those bean counters were the boogey men, right? Nope. This is what I got so wrong and many still get wrong today.

It was the next stop on my commercial AV industry path that actually taught me (with a tragic example for many) that the business side of AV that was the glue that holds it all together.

At the turn of the century, I joined a company as their VP of Educational Development. The company was a group of 26 regional AV companies joined into a single entity.

Each company was a financial success on their own and brought technical talent and expertise to the new company. Our hopes were high, but it soon fell apart from the top down. It failed for a number of reasons, but it can all be traced back to best business practices or lack thereof.

At the end of my short tenure at that company, I found a business practices mentor and kindred spirit in Mike Richardson. In my role of educating and professionally developing the nearly 3,000 people in the company, Mike convinced me to create with his guidance what has become one of my favorite seminars over the years.

It is entitled “The Business Side of Sales”. It teaches the non-CFOs (you know who you are) among us the importance of business planning, metrics, and best practices and most importantly why it should be important to each of us.

As noted before, what drives most people toward commercial AV is a passion for one or more of the technologies at its core.

A person might be an audiophile, a videophile, or even an IT techie (or all three), and that drives the deep desire for involvement. While passion is a great motivator, what is most important to realize is that commercial AV maybe an avocation, but it is first and foremost a business.

Most business failures occur not in the areas of products or services, but in the areas of business practices and implementation.

Research also shows that by understanding and adhering to standard and accepted business and accounting practices, a foundation of security is established where a business can thrive.

Just as in science where you cannot break the laws of physics, in our world you cannot break the laws of business, at least not legally.

Related: How They Got There: Alan Brawn

As important as your job is to you, and as focused as you are, on your specific objectives, remember that your objectives may well differ from that of others on your team, or the executive staff of the company.

The question is what is important to the executive team who have the responsibility of the overall health of the company? In a very real sense it boils down to economics.

Passion is what you want to do. Skill is what you are great at. But it is economic viability that rules the roost. 

We must be inquisitive beyond our own paradigms and pursue a need to know. Businesspeople have a variety of built-in skills. While there may be a handful who are truly financially savvy and love to poor over the numbers, most of us cringe at the thought of preparing and reviewing things like financial reports.

A businessperson does not have to be a financial expert to be successful. However, it is important to know the basic financial terms that will come up in conversations with colleagues and in some cases investors.

By having everyone in the company understand the implications of financial reports and being part of budget maintenance, a business can increase its chances of success.

Hopefully, we have now broken out of the box of our own existence that many of us live in and can now see the “bigger picture”.

The “bigger picture” is what the CEO and other top management team members must look at each day. Each of us needs to know what part we play and that by conducting ourselves in a cooperative manner with all the other disparate parts of the business we can help ensure success.

The process of understanding each person’s role is one that is the responsibility of the management team as well as the individual employee. Only by gaining an appreciation of the interaction of each item to another in a business can we begin to make order out of chaos and reach the goals of the business plan.

This is the commercial AV industry, but it is first and foremost the commercial AV business.

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