What is the single most important tool for any integrator? Think about what you use most often on the job site. Consider the element of your toolkit that makes every single customer rely on you. You’re using it right now: your mind. Your value is the sum of your years of experience, your product and technical knowledge, and your ability to envision solutions and make them a reality. The products and tools in your van wouldn’t be the same in anyone else’s hands.
W hen Benjamin Franklin said the only two certain things in this world are death and taxes, he may have been a little bit shortsighted. Dealers know not to neglect the moments of work and play in between, because leisure and productivity are two of the biggest motivators of technology purchases.
While there is no way to completely predict the future, spending some time as a business owner developing your business plan will help you set your high-level objectives, guide the investment of your time and money, and give you a method to track and adapt your business as 2014 unfolds.
By now most of you are well into your 2014 projects and scouting opportunities to make this year better than the last. You’re asking yourself how to increase your marketability as a dealer, expand what you can offer customers, improve efficiency and educate your teams. Many of you will ask, “What aren’t my competitors doing?” There is no shortage of areas in the industry that are ripe for improvement, but too often dealers declare, “there is nothing new under the sun” and going about business as usual.
Integrators are evolving. Over the last few years, integrators have expanded into new solution categories (commercial/pro AV, networking, surveillance and security, etc.) and are very capable of advising their customers on home automation, energy efficiency and control, shading, and other solutions that were not frequently part of the conversation even a few years ago.
The summer months are upon us, and for most of North America, that means it’s time to fire up barbecues, serve cold beverages, and listen to our neighbors complain about the cost of cooling their homes.
Over the last year-and-a-half of discussions with our customers about their businesses and the jobs they’re doing, I’ve made it a point to ask if they are making customers’ phones, tablets and apps part of their solution. This question has a polarizing effect. One group replies with an enthusiastic “yes,” while the other starts ticking off a list of why these devices undermine the effectiveness of the traditional solutions they are building, and why they wish their customers would just stick to playing Angry Birds and texting.
When I ask our dealers if they are installing video conferencing systems as part of their residential or commercial solutions, I often get one of two reactions. In one scenario, either their knowledge of, or experience with, video conferencing has left them with the impression that the only workable options are expensive telepresence solutions. In the other scenario, they are dealing with customers who prefer a free solution like Google Chat or Apple’s FaceTime.
Let me start off by saying that I will not be telling you to add cables, mounts or warranties to the panels you sell. I won’t be warning you not to forget to add audio to your projects. If you are in the industry today, you already understand the concept of attachment sales. What I do want to discuss is a question I hear frequently from dealers: “What else can I sell my customers to deliver more value to them and boost my profits, and how will I find these opportunities?”
“Long is the way, and hard ... that leads up to light”
— John Milton, Paradise Lost