Updated: February 10, 2016
I learned a lesson when I began focusing on growing my business: I found it was sometimes easier to find a way to save $100 per month in recurring costs than it was to sell a $100 per month agreement. When you’re in hiring mode (and especially when hiring in our industry is as difficult as it can often be), time can be just as valuable a resource, and the same thinking applies. Save time, save money. It’s an old formula, and it works.
How efficient is your operation? When was the last time you evaluated your systems, workflows, and processes? Compared to even just a few years ago, there are much more efficient ways to create scopes/designs, engineer schematics, procure product, and monitor/support technology. I recently outlined numerous apps and services that are easy to implement, but the general trend beyond the software recommendations is that these are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications with a focus on user experience that are A) easy to trial, B) easy to pay for, and C) easy to use. For example:
Slack is a free communication tool that allows for instant communication and collaboration across your team in private and topic-based channels. When we implemented it at OneVision we saw the amount of information sharing skyrocket (which means problems get solved better, faster) and most of our internal emails went away. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Time tracking is something most integrators need to do in order to bill properly, but how many integrators require their full-time team members to track 100% of their time? (Crucial when hourly technicians are forced to be accurate in order to get paid.) We use Harvest to do that and then base a percentage of team members’ reviews on how accurate their time tracking has been. Accurate time tracking allows for proper resource allocation and profit analysis. The tool you use doesn’t matter so much; it’s the accuracy that makes the difference.
Slateplan helps you collaborate with your clients by defining system requirements and budgets in real-time in the very first meeting. Slateplan also saves you time and money by ensuring that you only spend engineering hours on projects that have a well-defined scope, a client-approved budget, a signed contract and a designer retainer.
SupplyStream eliminates the need to manage the dozens of ordering processes that exist across different suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers. Many dealers have already consolidated a few of their brands into SnapAV, but SupplyStream takes it further by consolidating every single ordering platform (even those with protected brands such as Control4, Crestron, and Savant) into one secure catalog and shopping cart. When dealers can rely on fast shipping from the Web, it allows for just-in-time delivery and therefore less inventory on-hand, which is a coveted operational efficiency that the best supply chain specialists strive for.
Award-winning D-Tools, which works with SupplyStream and will soon integrate with Slateplan, allows for easy drag-and-drop engineering so that installations become more efficient and accurate. Avoiding errors in the field leads to lower labor costs, fewer unpaid service calls, and happier clients. If you’re using D-Tools, you might consider Blue Dog Data Services to help keep your D-Tools database dialed in with the most accurate accessories, packages, and labor information.
After you’ve won the project, now you need to design and engineer it. Dave Tkachuk of Symbol Logic has been providing outsourced engineering services for many years. Provide him with the scope and design and he will return a full set of drawings that you can use to guide your install. For any integrator, especially a growing one, Dave’s services can lower your cost of goods by saving you from hiring a dedicated engineer until you know you need one full time. Another option is Audio Design.
Ihiji, whose Invision offering for years has been viewed as the platform used to deliver revenue generating service plans, is expanding its reach to become the go-to tool to make service teams even more efficient and effective than ever. Managing contacts, service plans, documentation, and trouble tickets will be a lot easier with this new SaaS tool called Ihiji ServiceManager. They aptly position their two products together as being your Service Operations Center (or SOC for short). Using this new product, your service contracts are billed, managed, and renewed with a few clicks, leading to faster and more consistent cash flow. When integrators set up their SOC, including Ihiji Invision remote technology management, costly truck-rolls are replaced with quick and efficient remote diagnostics. And with the inclusion of re-bootable outlets from any number of manufacturers, you can take diagnosis a step further and actually fix the problem without any of the cost or disturbance of visiting the home.
Do you know just how much are you leaving on the table with inefficient systems and processes? There are many professionals in the industry who dedicate their professional careers to helping integrators evaluate their businesses, suss out the problems, and implement new processes. One such consultant, AV Industry veteran Paul Starkey, founded Vital Management to provide consulting services designed to identify and implement these strategies.
All of the above have proven invaluable to streamlining our processes at OneVision, and I can personally and heartily recommend them; others in the field provide these services as well, but I don’t have personal experiences to relate. Please reach out to me directly to share your thoughts and experiences.
A few more thoughts on how to boost your company’s efficiency.