The Price of Oblivion
No news is good news, right? Wrong. Very wrong.
By Bjorn Dybdahl
Over the last year, our entire management structure at Bjorn's Audio-Video reorganized—and not by choice.
The shake-up began in early 2004, with an exodus of relatively new employees in our custom division to a competing business founded by a former salesman of ours. Losing more than half of our custom installers in a matter of weeks taught us we were dangerously out of touch with that part of our business.
Then, as we rebuilt our custom division, other internal issues—not the least of which was the unexpected death of my partner Bob White last December—drove changes in the head office as well.
We did do some things correctly. Our custom sales remained level last summer, thanks to the perseverance of the employees who stayed with us. Also, the succession planning Bob and I had done years ago gave us legal and financial continuity after Bob's death.
But overall, this last year has been a painful lesson about what happens if you don't keep communication flowing in your company and don't plan for all of the "what-ifs" you never want to contemplate.
In short, we paid the price of oblivion.
Some might be surprised Bjorn's had these types of problems. As of October 1, we will have been in business for 30 years. I am a founding member of CEDIA and an early, active member of PARA.
However, until recently, we never gave our custom installation business the management attention it deserved, even though it's been with us since day one and makes up about 25 percent of our total revenue volume.
Four years ago, we began to get serious about custom. We hired a department manager and a scheduler to support the six installers we had then. (Also at that time, we moved into our current 25,000-square-foot retail location/company headquarters, five miles away from our old store location, another 25,000-square-foot building that currently houses our warehouse, service center and custom support.) Gradually, we added more custom installers. A year ago, we had approximately 13.