Perhaps the longest running challenge for businesses in the Audio Visual Integration business has been dealing with the cycles and seasonality that comes with this industry.
For integrators that work with education customers there is the summer, and maybe a few opportunities over extended breaks to implement new projects. If your business centers around government contracts you may find yourself awaiting the busy "Buying Season" that recently commenced. And while corporate clients tend to buy on a more consistent basis, even they have fiscal budgets and times when they are more apt to spend.
This cyclical nature that we deal with creates all sort of challenges. It makes purchasing more difficult, AR and AP can find themselves out of sorts and maybe the most difficult is staffing for busy and then "Rightsizing" when things return to normal. It hits a point where normal can seem anything but as you begin to not know what the right size is.
In short, the integration business can be complicated.
However, the last thing you want to do as an integrator is say no to profitable business (Note Profitable)! So how can an integrator say yes to more business while mitigating some of the painful ups and down with staffing? Here are a few ways that we see work every day.
The 5 Ways Integrators Can Say Yes More Often
- Labor: Unlike eating your desert first, I'm going to jump right in with what i think may be the biggest challenge. When it comes to saying yes more, availability of installation resources is probably the number one problem I have seen. The work that AV integrators do is too complicated to just send hands and therefore the workers need to be specialized. With union requirements sometimes coming into play that can throw an even bigger wrench into the whole thing. These days there are companies that can help provide skilled labor on demand for partners doing AV projects. I recommend highly that you have a few of these companies on your speed dial for times when business is screaming.
- Design: One area we often see integrators getting held up is in the design phase. When work comes piling in, just like the labor force, the engineering teams get busy. Leveraging an outside partner to handle design or CAD drawings can speed up the pre-sale and or pre-install engineering requirements.
- Programming: An oldie but a goodie. For a long time organizations have looked for outside programming resources because there are so many products to program and systems to know. Crestron, AMX, Biamp, Cisco and a plethora of other products require customer or specialty knowledge to program. Having a group of go-to companies for each technology subset before you need them is a great way to be able to deliver for diverse requirements.
- Purchasing: It is ideal to think that all the equipment you will need for a quick-turn project will be in stock and available on a moments notice. We all know however, that this is NEVER the way it works. In fact, the more you need it, the more likely it will not be available or in stock. Unless of course you have access to a diverse set of suppliers that can meet the equipment need and pricing need so you can get the gear and still turn a profit.
- Logistics: What does your warehouse look like during busy season? While I'm sure every one of your company's situation is a little bit different, I have seen what integrator warehouses can look like when things get busy. Full of equipment with a best effort of organizing by project and phases but almost never easy to do. It is possible to procure in a way that equipment can come in a timed fashion or be shipped straight to a site (Link to Herman Logistics Info). This way what comes to the warehouse is only the equipment you need rather than what you don't.
Put to Action - Making these 5 Tips Work for Your AV Integration Business
There is an old rule in the world of business. "Failure to plan on your end shouldn't constitute an emergency on mine."
Have you seen this before? Signs like this have sat on the bosses desk and even maybe your teachers desk for years. However, we all know that sometimes you just can't plan for every curveball that gets thrown our way.
For instance, business might be smooth sailing and then a proposal you put together 6 months ago that you thought was dead comes back to life. Now it is a fast track project and it is all yours. It is great to get the new business, but a complete nightmare to figure out how to get the equipment ordered, designs finalized and labor on-site.
Moral of the story? If you want to say yes more often, you should plan ahead and have the relationships in place. That isn't to say you can plan ahead for the business you don't know you are going to have. However, you can plan ahead by having relationships with the right labor sources, engineering support services, independent programmers and value added distributors so you can say yes more often while creating happy customers and a more profitable business.
Have a tip for saying yes to more business? We'd love to hear your secret or not so secret tips for growing your business. Join the conversation below.