Whether it’s after an annual Business & Leadership Conference, or after a conversation with a member, it’s easy to catch the buzz of the integration space and think about how bright the future looks. One takeaway I constantly experience is the power of our industry as a whole. In a small industry like ours, it is sometimes natural instinct to be protective of what we do. A lot of us believe that we have some type of “secret sauce” that sets us apart. But I often hear those protective vests come off, especially at events like the Business & Leadership Conference, where integrators open up and share what works (and what doesn’t).
The thought leaders and speakers provide amazing food for thought at our conferences, but I think some of the extremely intimate, member-to-member conversations about their businesses may be the most valuable conversations for many.
One of the themes I often talk about is the rapid rate of change that affects how we run our businesses. It’s hard to keep up with technological shifts while simultaneously trying to train staff, win sales and run a profitable business. This is the challenge for any business, but for us, change is happening very quickly. We have long been in technology, but we benefited for many years from being an industry where our implementations were more iterative than disruptive. But
now it feels much different.
We are hybrid IT, AV and security shops. We need expertise about more than just control systems. We need to know IoT, Big Data and the cloud, and they’re all supposed to be in our wheelhouse. When we are amidst a run of success, we’re often limited in the amount of time we have to stay up to date on education requirements. It’s a whirlwind!
I believe that everyone in our industry needs to lean on one another, now more than ever before, to gain insights and hone best practices. This will keep us not only relevant, but also successful.
They say that “a rising tide raises all ships,” and I couldn’t agree more. I believe that, the better each integrator does, the better our industry looks. When a customer has a bad experience with one or two integration firms, it reflects on our industry as a whole. By leveraging the best ideas and successes of integrators across vast geographies and verticals, we can apply that knowledge to our project to deliver a better experience.
As much as we talk about that “secret sauce,” I can say with confidence that the things separating the best integrators from the others are almost always small, but significant, practices. “The devil is in the details,” as they say, and I happen to agree. In most cases, the best and the rest are separated by a few small things they do better: delivering on time more frequently, or even just being more responsive to customer needs, for example.
Each year at the Business & Leadership Conference, we reward integrators that have no only completed some of the finest projects in the land, but have also taken risks to change practices, shift the way they do business and try new things to improve the customer experience and the bottom line.
Our Excellence in Business awards recognize the very best of the best. This recognition is a reflection of an opportunity for integrators to collaborate on how we can all do better. We have far more to gain by working together and sharing best practices than we have to lose by holding our secrets close to our vests.
I don’t think we should give away legitimate trade secrets, but I genuinely believe we can help each other by sharing, learning and growing as an industry.
We can get there by talking about the seemingly “little” things we’re doing better or that have helped us achieve greater levels of profitability. Here are a few examples from our Excellence in Business aware winners:
- Live! Technologies, winner in the Business Performance category, identified trends and opportunities, and then created initiatives to address them.
- Conference Technologies, Inc., winner in the Customer Experience category, changed the volume and frequency of gathering customer feedback.
- Atrion, winner in the Differentiating Strategies category, created a system that helped staff identify customer who deserved more time and attention.
- ClearTech, winner in the Strategic Transformation category, launched a new managed services program.
- Unified AV Systems, winner in the Employee Engagement category, took steps to recognize employees and increase engagement.
None of these ideas is so earth shattering that we haven’t thought about them ourselves. The difference is that these companies noticed a potential problem and then took steps to address it instead of relying on the status quo. We can all learn from what these integrator have done to improve business and boost the bottom line.