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Think Digital – Build a Successful Business with Digital Marketing

Marketing has transformed and moved online over the last decade, making it a necessity for any company wanting to become or remain successful. Gone are the days of successful newspaper ads and door-to-door sales. Digital marketing is a fast and effective way to catch the attention of potential customers using the Internet and other digital communication channels. Our team at ...

Do you have a communication standard? No? Foxtrot Alpha India Lima!

Nearly 75% percent of communications that are received are interpreted incorrectly! In today’s world, we have way too many ways to communicate with our co-workers.  Over the phone, text message, email, messaging software, video conferencing, software alerts, and in person just to name a few.   Companies that want to operate efficiently communicate on purpose. The military uses the phonetic alphabet ...

Dynamic Feedback Loops

Agile Workflow In 2017, I launched a start-up, LincEdge.  My goal was to create a fast, dependable, high quality, source of JIT labour in the Construction Industry.   That’s when I was introduced to Agile, which I’d incorrectly understood was confined to software development. Agile is a rhythm of workflow, that is rigid and disciplined and that creates feedback loops ...

We Improve What We Measure: What Are Your Top 5 KPI’s?

Businesses must leverage strategic measurements to enhance their performance and drive growth. Strategic decision-making is essential for growth and sustainability. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) act as guiding beacons, offering valuable insights that enable businesses to measure progress, identify areas for improvement, and drive success. By focusing on specific metrics, companies can make informed decisions, optimize processes, and ultimately elevate their position ...

Use Meeting Agendas

Meetings can be problematic: too many, not enough, too long, too short, no takeaways, no agendas. If we start with a simple agenda for each meeting we can make sure we stay on track and efficient. Here are a few ideas to help craft an effective agenda. We’ll focus on a “one-on-one” agenda in this example but you would use ...

Be Diligent in Asking Your Clients About their Experience, Opinions and Suggestions

No Card, No Letter? How many times have you bought a large purchase, such as a car, a Peloton, a watch, an expensive purse, and after you pay the ticket or check it is over?  No follow-up note, no call from the store manager or company asking how you like what you bought or how your buying experience went?  Not ...

Breaking Down the Brand Cycle

Understanding the 9 Phases of the Brand Cycle When you google “The Brand Cycle” links to bicycle shops and fitness centers flood the page. It’s not until a part of the way down the first page, sandwiched between a Facebook page and a Yelp review, that an article explaining the brand cycle of a business appears. So, what exactly is ...

Can Your Client Visualize What Your Project Management Looks Like?

Does your contract dictate your client experience? A contract is nothing more than legal protection that lays out the obligations of your company to your client and vice versa.  In the event there is a discrepancy about the project, you can both revert back to the contract to clear up any misunderstandings. Most companies bury the project milestones, timelines, and ...

Building Communication Pillars

A sustainable business depends on effective communications.  Company values, vision, purpose and mission are foundational. They provide clarity and alignment.  However, the Integrity and effectiveness of the foundational principles are upheld through and depend on communications. “When brands test, teach and learn along with employees on the go, you will not only solve the current problem but also future-proof your ...

Reflecting on the Year: Crafting a Strategic Plan for Business Success in the Coming Year

As we approach the end of another year, it's the perfect time to reflect on our business journey and set our sights on the opportunities that lie ahead. As you ponder your plan for the next year, consider these three key ideas to elevate your business to new heights: Embrace Digital Transformation: In an ever-evolving digital landscape, businesses must not ...

Am I Overstaffed?

We would all like to run profitable businesses. The largest expense for a business are its people. If we have too many of them compared to our sales volume we can quickly tank profitability. Fortunately there are a few easy things to take a look at to determine if we are overstaffed (or underselling). Once we understand where we are ...

Seeding, Cultivating and Growing a Passionate and Caring Workforce

The Best Way To Be a Better Leader is to Fail I have many stories of success and failure in growing employees and instilling passion and loyalty in a work culture.  The best way to be a better leader is to fail.  Failure teaches you a lot if you are open to learning and changing your ways.  Yes, you can ...

10 Helpful Tips To Recession-Proof Your Business

Time To Thrive! Why it’s essential to market your business now more than ever. It’s often periods of crisis or downturns in the economy that present you with the greatest opportunity to gain a leg up on your competition and to not only survive but thrive. In order to prepare for any economic uncertainties, here are 10 tips that could ...

How to Implement Change in Your Organization and Make it Stick

Nobody likes change…especially in organizations.   Worse yet, nobody likes being told what to do without an explanation or a chance at discussing why the change is happening.  But as organizations grow and add more employees, change is inevitable and when it’s implemented incorrectly, it can have catastrophic effects. Assuming the organization has done its homework on what the change is ...

Why Do Businesses Fail?

Unfortunately, business failure is common: About 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, only half make it through their fifth year and a staggering 70% of businesses don’t make it past 10-years. As for the remaining, it does not necessarily mean they succeed – it means that they’ve survived. So why do businesses fail?  According to Dun & ...

Mastering Year-End Inventory Counts

As the year draws to a close, are you prepared to embark on the crucial task of conducting a year-end inventory count. This annual process involves meticulously assessing and documenting all items within your company's inventory. The importance of a thorough year-end inventory count cannot be overstated, as it provides a reliable foundation for strategic decision-making, financial accuracy, and operational ...

Creating a Training Matrix

Integrators have technicians of varying skill levels. From integrator to integrator those technicians are completely different in terms of their given skills, certifications, titles, pay scales, etc. Even within an integrator there is usually no clearly defined structure for what defines an Entry Level, Mid Level, or Senior Level Tech. The use of a training matrix becomes incredibly powerful in ...

Creating a Workplace Culture that Retains and Attracts Top Talent – at Every Level

People Are Your Greatest Asset The most essential part of managing and growing any business is the importance of employees within the organization. People are the greatest asset in a business, period.  If ownership and leadership do not understand the meaning and value of each person, the problem starts at the top.   I was offended whenever I heard someone in ...

What is SEO? And How Does It Work?

WHAT IS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION? Search Engine Optimization (also referred to as SEO) refers to efforts of increasing your site’s visibility when people search for services or products that you may offer on search engines like Google and Bing. These major search engines have a method of ranking pages within search results and SEO deals with having your page boosted ...

Is Your Software Failing You OR are You Failing Your Software?

Every client I work with struggles with software.  They are either frustrated with their existing software or looking at new software that will hopefully fix all of their problems. I’m here to tell you that there is no magic software! Why do you NEED software for your business? Create efficiencies and improve productivity Automate manual tasks Handle a specific task ...

The X-Factor: Driving Customer Loyalty

The Oxford English Dictionary defines x-factor as “a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.”   According to an article by Sunil Menon “Brands that excel at delivering the best customer experience have something special, an x-factor.”  From our earlier article ‘Dare to be Different’, “50% of brand promises are not believed by ...

Have a Disciplinary Process

We hire well, have a documented process, onboard employees to that process, and regularly (usually weekly) manage our teams with dedicated time and intention… Wait, you aren’t doing all those things??? Separate article and discussion… but still, not everyone will make the cut. When employees are falling short of what is needed we have to take action. Having a clearly ...

Managing and Motivating a Talented and Driven Sales Team Isn’t Easy

Managing and motivating a seasoned sales force isn’t an easy feat by any means.  The more successful a salesperson becomes, the more difficult it becomes to motivate and get them to participate in regular programs and incentives.  In fact, the top performers are the salespeople you'll need to spend the most time managing.  The top sales performers are typically the ...

Does your business need an operating system?

Like the CI business, in your business change is the only constant. Companies must continuously evolve and adapt to stay competitive. To succeed in this ever-shifting landscape, having a well-defined business operating system and efficient workflow processes is nothing short of essential. In my experience working with thousands of companies the last 20 years, process and an effective business operating ...

Negative Reviews and how to deal with them

Negative Reviews and how to deal with them Have you ever received a negative review? How you respond makes a world of difference! THE FACTS Research shows that most consumers do research before the purchase process and often trust online reviews, making these reviews key to your business’ success. 88% of consumers trust online reviews about the same as a ...

3 Guiding Principles for Anyone in Sales

I’ve spent 27 years in Sales selling high-end Consumer Electronics and have attended countless “sales training” and “seminars”.  While I learned a lot of tips and tricks at those events, the core of my success can be boiled down to these three principles People buy from people - Relationships matter more than most salespeople realize.   One of the most fundamental ...

Dare to be Different

Different is Important “No longer is a “good culture” good enough to be competitive.  Organizations today must find alignment between their corporate strategy and their corporate culture, or risk never fulfilling their competitive advantage.  Too many organizations, especially within the same industry, look and feel the same to work in. ….in all of the ways that matter, too many are ...

Are You Set Up To Service?

The Aging Smart Home As the smart home market matures, more and more homeowners are looking for help with maintenance, service, and troubleshooting of their smart home systems. This presents an opportunity for Systems Integrators to expand their services and offer profitable smart home services to their clients. However, putting in place a profitable service department for the smart home ...

Is This My Client?

Decisions, Decisions You can’t be all things to all people. Selecting the right client(s) and right project(s) will result in a profitable business. The opposite is also true – painfully true!  Consuming your time with the wrong client(s) prevents you from being able to take the right client(s) and project(s). This is known as “Opportunity Cost”.  Ask These Questions Does ...

Creative Compensation and Incentive Plans are Important for Productivity and Profits

Money Does Not Equal Motivation I learned early in my retail sales management career that money and other motivational incentives do not motivate all people the same.  In fact, what motivates one person does not necessarily motivate the next.  The reason for creating incentive plans and bonuses is to raise productivity, shorten downtime, increase billable hours, increase profits, and stimulate ...

What is Google EAT?

What is Google EAT? And can it help improve your SEO score? Everyone has to eat. And would you believe that making sure your website eats is also important? Figuring out the way to boost traffic to your website is a key step in planning success for your business. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big factor in gaining traffic ...

Increase Retention with New Employees During Onboarding

How to increase retention with new employees during onboarding utilizing the 4 adult learning styles? What does your onboarding process look like this? Sit in the conference room with HR and review documents  Sit with the manager to review their job description Job shadowing with a coworker in a similar role Complete an online tutorial The above process utilizes the ...

Vision, Purpose, Mission

“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time. “  T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets Core Values “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing ...

The Importance of Inventory Management

Why Should I Care About Inventory? I don't stock it. Ah, yes you do. It may be for a short time but yes my friend you are managing inventory in one form or another. Inventory management is a crucial aspect of any business, regardless of its size or industry. It involves tracking and monitoring the flow of products in and ...

Service Pre-Authorization

Is Your Service Profitable? As I meet with integrators it is usually a struggle for most to make money on their projects. For those that have actually cleared that first profit hurdle it is almost always countered by a severe lack of profitability on their service offering. In nearly all cases integrators are literally bleeding profitability on the service side ...

The Buck Stops Here!

Listening to, Hearing and Empowering Your Managers Growing A Business In my past, I grew within a specialty retail business from an accounting clerk upward, to accounting manager, office manager, general manager, vice president, and then to the organization’s president within a twenty-year period. During my tenure, our staff count went from around thirty to over two hundred.  I learned ...

What is brand marketing?

What is brand marketing? And how can it help my business? A crucial part in being a successful brand is understanding how to market your brand as a whole. Brand marketing is important in so many ways because successful brand marketing can help establish a solid brand association and communicate your brand’s identity. But let’s back it up for just ...

Kaizen – the pursuit for progress not perfection

Continuous improvement is a culture and a mindset. In the organizations that I’ve worked for that embraced this mindset, we had quarterly meetings designed to discuss how we can become better at a specific goal that we set for the session.  These meetings are the polar opposite of what takes place in a quarterly sales meeting and are not a ...

Corporate Culture by Design

According to Katie Heinz in an article entitled Types of organizational Culture, “…it is defined as shared values, attitudes and practices…. It is the personality of your company and plays a large part in your employees’ overall satisfaction.”   A Common Goal and Purpose Culture helps inform the entire team.  It connects people to common goals and purpose.  Think of it ...

Are you managing time or is time managing you?

“Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves” Lord Chesterfield British statesman, diplomat, a man of letters, and an acclaimed wit of his time PRODUCT The systems integration business is unique in many ways. However it has commonality with virtually every other business that sells products that need to be installed. You as the business ...

Beyond Grassroots and Word-of-mouth Sales & Marketing Strategy

Most small business owners start building their businesses with word-of-mouth referrals. As they immediately step on the monthly sales treadmill, they are constantly working to exceed the previous month's sales or previous year's comp numbers, quickly recognizing that there is little time for planning.  While the ongoing, all-consuming process of managing what I deem “business already sold” to completion, open ...

What Comes First? Your Priorities Say A Lot!

A Fly On The Wall I sat in a group discussion of integrators; it was interesting to be a fly on that wall. As various owner/operators shared about their business it struck me how often the priorities that were stated were conflicting and what it said about their company culture (even if they didn’t realize it). While it often takes ...

4 Key Selling Techniques

My 4 key selling techniques from my time in specialty electronics retail that I still use today to close more sales “I’d like to make that appointment.  They are obviously just a bunch of kids playing with wires so I decided it’s better to pay more and get it done correctly.” Classic Stereo & Video Customer in the late 90’s ...

Software Drives Knowledge

Quickbooks and Excel are NOT an End to End Business Operating System If I had to do it all over again, the one tool I would implement without question or delay would be an integrated operating systems solution. One built for my Industry would be preferable.  It is so important to know your metrics and to have information flow that ...

Meet the Faculty: Marc Bally

Marc is the founder and President of Rise Marketing Company. With a background in engineering, Marc's approach to business and marketing is more analytical, building on the facts and bringing solutions to the process. With over 30 years’ experience at starting and building up companies both small and large in the Audio/Video/Security space, Marc brings a wealth of real-world knowledge to the ...

Meet the Faculty: Roberta Lewis

Roberta Lewis is an industry veteran with 40 years of successful consumer electronics retailing and professional A/V sales, Internet marketing, manufacturing sales and public relations, marketing, and communications. Roberta Lewis & Associates, LLC was founded in 2005 to support the broad range of electronics and technology businesses with public relations, marketing, and CE centric strategic sales consultancy. She recently received three prestigious industry awards, ...

The smartPRENEUR Blog/Podcast Season 3 Preview

Welcome to Season 3 Our goal with Simply Reliable's smartPRENEUR Blog and Podcast is simple really. We want to provide actionable ideas to help you improve your business. We recognize that you have limited time. So the smartPRENEUR Blogs are designed to provide 2-3 ideas that can be read in about 3-5 minutes. Likewise The smartPRENEUR Podcast is designed to ...

How to get unstuck

Have you ever felt “stuck” in your business?  All of us get stuck from time to time but rarely do we take action to prevent it from happening in the future.  We either just deal with the issue or tell ourselves that we will fix it next time.  Right now we don’t have time to deal with it.   Sound familiar? ...

Keep It Moving

Your business is not static Your business is not static — at least it shouldn’t be. Every successful company, in every market, has to evolve its offerings, approach, or marketing strategies. Otherwise you risk your products or services getting stale in the eyes of the consumer: all while competitors evolve what they’re doing to meet the changing needs of those ...

Open Culture

Employee Profit Sharing I want to discuss two related yet very different Company initiatives intended to create shared incentives and grow loyalty.   One, I struggled with over the years and simply could not find the right system(s) to support.  Perhaps it was a poor approach or lack of ‘gut’ but we never managed to develop a viable employee profit ...

Process, where to start?

It’s Monday. Did you jump out of bed ready to conquer the world? The phone starts to ring. A tech calls and is running late. You're stuck in a traffic jam. Arriving at the office you learn the products needed for today’s work have not arrived. Your team is looking to you to solve the problem. NOW WHAT? Businesses of ...

Do you have a business development plan in place?

Skilled trade businesses start their businesses servicing a defined niche set of customers, which through word of mouth advertising, the business scales.  Over time, the business continues to scale and you hire more employees to take on the additional workload. At some point, if you want to scale your business even further, you will need to create a business development ...

Marketing: Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Contrary to what some may think, marketing is never just a flash of creative genius, then flawless execution. It’s constant iteration. It’s monitoring what’s working — and more importantly, what’s not working. Marketing means constantly changing directions until you find the strategy that produces returns. Repeat after us: Advertising is an investment. Not an expense But if you invest in ...

Overcoming Objections and Closing, Part 2

Here are few a typical objection scenarios. “I want to think about it”. Just be sincere and non-confrontational and ask, “may I ask what specifically you would like to think about?” You’ll find that many people will tell you what’s holding them back. It’s then more likely to be an objection rather than an excuse. “I need to ask my partner, ...

Turnover and Company Culture

The Cost of Turnover I’ve heard horror stories about the cost of turnover in firms, especially smaller firms.   It may be one of the least understood and costly aspects of running a small labor dependent business.   Estimates have ranged from a month’s salary to a year’s salary.   I’m not referring to payouts, I’m referring to the internal ...

A Look Back to Move Forward

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana Deja Vu Have you ever started writing or documenting how you want something done only to later find a file that was created previously, sometimes years ago, and you realize, “I’ve already done this work.” I think this happens to all of us. The first week of January ...

Service Plans – Things to Consider

I have watched as integrators overcomplicate the process of creating a service plan. Answering a few key questions will help to define the framework of your offering and be better able to price it accurately. Keep it simple! Seriously, one page, plain English, one price point (% of System Price), and non-optional. General Timing: Days/Hours of Operation Response Times: Acknowledgement ...

How to convey your value to your clients, builders, architects and designers

Architects and Designers use documentation to show the client their vision for the project and sets the expectation for the client.  It’s also a key piece of information that aligns all of the trades involved ensuring everyone knows what the expectations are and what the end result should look like.   Without it, the project will fail. Most integrators only use ...

Picking Channels

Marketing isn’t just about finding who will buy your products. It’s about where you’re searching for that audience. In the age of the internet, that’s become even more important. A generation ago, you could find leads via direct mail, billboards, referrals, door-to-door sales, or advertising (newspapers, television, radio). Now, those possibilities are compounded even further, with email marketing, search engine ...

What will you accomplish in 2023?

And so this is January. And what have you done? Another year over, And a new one just begun. Yes, I borrowed some of the wisdom from the great John Lennon and appropriated it for a new year in business and life. Back in October I wrote a blog suggesting it was a good time to plan for the upcoming ...

Task Management

In my last smartPRENEUR Blog we spoke to the importance of creating systems to capture detail and ensure effective information flow.   There is no question that task management systems are critical.  Automating is a big help, especially once clear processes which have been documented and tried, are in place.  Some key benefits of task management software:  Single place for ...

Hourly Labor Rates

What to charge clients for integration labor? It’s a two-way street that impacts what the integrator can afford to pay an employee and thereby retain that employee. And then there’s what the client “will” (or presumably “won’t”) pay. If that number is low then the pay, and likely quality, of that given employee will be low. Is that ultimately what ...

How to identify waste that is making your company inefficient

It’s easy to spot waste at the park or at the beach but how do you identify it in your business?  I’m not talking about the overflowing garbage bin in the office, I’m talking about the waste that is slowing you down, creating bottlenecks and employee frustration. In Lean Six Sigma, we use various tools to identify waste in order ...

Overcoming Objections and Closing, Part 1

Let’s get a saying out of the way that you may have heard before: ABC or Always Be Closing. As illustrated in prior blogs, asking great qualifying questions, truly listening to the buying prospect, answering their questions and concerns and taking them down a path that satisfies their wants and needs is the smoothest way a “close” occurs. With that said, there ...

What did you learn? How did you grow?

I hope you had a great year. I did. This is not the place where I bestow the virtues of Simply Reliable’s solutions: smartOFFICE Online, smartOFFICe Mobile, and designMACHINE. Suffice it to say our subscribers seem pleased with the advances put forth in 2022. We delivered more features into the mobile app such as time tracking, work order task management, ...

Your Website

Build it, and they will come. But we’re not talking baseball here: we’re talking about your company website. Creating a website that clearly reflects who you are, what you do or offer, and who you help is not unlike building a house. You start with the foundation, then worry about paint colors and furniture. So where do you start? Domain ...

Selling Under the Influence – How do YOU work with various Communication Styles?

Every personality is not absolute. People can reflect three styles, but typically not the fourth. Refer to the grid below. An Analyst personality may also have traits from a Driver or Relater, but less likely an Expressor. A Driver may have traits of an Analyst and Expressor, but less likely warm and fuzzy Relater traits. Perhaps sometimes, but not their core. Opposite styles ...

Pay Attention to the Details

How to Boost Productivity A 2017 study by NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) revealed that 56% of small business owners consider communication is key to boosting productivity. Further, it stated that the most powerful way to boost productivity is to optimize task management systems, so that the details don’t become protracted, and processes are easily captured and repeated.   No surprise ...

It’s Good To Take A Breath and Appreciate Your World

Do you pride yourself on being a work-aholic? Your typical day starts before the sun comes up. You didn’t sleep well last night because your mind was racing with thoughts; things to accomplish, goals to smash, phone calls to be made, designs to do. Do you often say “I can't, I'm too busy?” Busy for the sake of being busy ...

How To: Efficient Meetings

Some companies don’t meet enough while others meet too much. Others meet an appropriate amount but don’t have a defined set of rules to make sure the time is well spent and effective. Now you do!   Should we meet at all? Info Pushed AT People = Don’t Meet = Memo! Reason: IDS: Identify/Discuss/Solve (EOS Traction) Need: Agenda, Shared Ahead, ...

How to use a SWOT Analysis to build a strategic plan

Have you ever built a strategic plan for your company?  It’s a daunting process that can take hours and leave you even more overwhelmed than before you started.  The SWOT Analysis tool is a simple and easy to use tool that can help you build a strategic plan in a quicker and more organized fashion. What is a SWOT analysis? ...

Make it: Better, Different, Special!

So much of building a successful business is about mindset. When it comes to marketing and expanding your company, you can’t simply promote the same products and services for eternity. You have to continuously make your business itself better — not just the marketing of it. You have to spend time figuring out how to differentiate your offerings, and how ...

What is your plan for 2023

This week starts the beginning of the fourth quarter and the end of 2022 or as I like to refer to it twenty-twenty-TOO. A lot has happened over the last couple of years that has made planning a challenge for some. Are you one that had trouble trying to figure out what results you could reasonably expect? Uncertain times they ...

Selling Under the Influence – Influence Buying Behaviors of Communication Styles

In the last blog, we identified style traits. Let’s look at how to work with those traits. Communication Style: The Driver - Result Driven - Confrontation No Problem  Be direct and to the point, quick & concise  Be businesslike, avoid ‘fuzzy’ conversations  Provide well thought-out recommendations  Stick with tasks and results  Avoid stories, too many opinions and surprises  Present a ...

Effective vs. Efficient

Is the process or activity effective? Efficiencies are typically at the heart of planning and tracking business.  Ways to ensure efficiency may include:  tools, training, tracking systems, supervision, etc.  We have lots of ways to highlight and ensure efficiencies.  The question that is rarely asked: is the process or activity effective?  There is an important distinction. A highway may be ...

Abundance vs. Scarcity

Several years ago, as I began a more formal process of networking, I sat down to a coffee with a person who would quickly prove to be insufferable. In very short order it was clear to me that, for a variety of reasons, I would not be referring any business to this individual. But there I was, trapped. I sat, ...

How workflow documentation can help with software implementation

Implementing software into your business can be a daunting task. Sometimes we do it because we have to.  For example, all businesses need to run some sort of accounting software like Quickbooks in order to pay for items, process invoices, etc.  If you have a more mature business and are looking into making certain areas run more efficiently in order ...

What is The ROI of a Trade Show?

If You Build it Will They Come? It’s been a few soft years for trade shows. It will be very interesting to see what the turn out is like at CEDIA Expo 2022 this year. Emerald Expositions, the owner of the CEDIA Expo trade show, seems poised to be successful at bringing most manufacturers back to what used to be ...

A Culture of Improvement

Gaining Insight It used to drive me crazy when I took a look at the codes we’d accumulated for tracking labor.   Yet, what I knew, was the more detail we had, the more insights into what was necessary, billable and ultimately effective, the greater influence and insights we had over what to change, whether to add, improve or discontinue.   ...

Target market and competitive analysis

Who's your customer? A firm rule of marketing: if you don’t know who you’re selling to, you’re not going to sell a lot. And expanding past your own audience, you also need to understand who is your competition. Enter target market and competitive analysis — two vital pieces to any robust marketing strategy. Your Target Market Your target market is, ...

Selling Under the Influence – Communication Styles

Let’s identify the four basic styles and the personality behind the style. First, write down the name of someone that you have a difficult time getting along with. We’ll revisit that later. Communication Style: The Driver - Result Driven - Confrontation No Problem  Tend to be visionaries  Black and white viewpoint & dress  Charts & graphs, few/no people pictures (applies to ...

Brand Loyalty and the Myth of Three

Freddie Mercury sang, “I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” Shakespeare said: a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. So how do these phrases relate to your business? Do you offer everything? Do you carry virtually every control system? How many brands of ...

Being A Pro

What qualities would someone have to have for you to consider them a professional, or pro, in the consumer electronics industry? A quick Google search of “professional defined” reveals a very low bar: “Competent, Skillful, Assured ... Engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.”  Really!? That’s all it takes?  As the former ...

How to use a SIPOC Model to build a Process Map in under an hour

In a previous blog, I talked about the principles of Lean Six Sigma and how at its core, the goal is to remove waste from a process.  You can’t remove waste if you don’t know your process and while writing down your process is a great first step, visual documentation allows you to see how a process should work…and it ...

Logo Design

A logo might seem like a small piece to your overall marketing strategy. But it might be the most important. First Impressions Long story short, your company’s logo is your chance to make a great first impression with potential customers. Make something memorable, unique, and interesting, and people will notice. Have a logo that’s boring, forgettable, and similar to others ...

If You Are Too Busy For Vacation, Something Is Wrong

When was the last time you took a week away from your business? I mean really a week away. No phone calls. No emails. No worrying if the place would still be standing when you returned? Let me get a little closer to home. When was the last time you were home for dinner at a reasonable hour with your ...

Selling Under the Influence: Introduction

This next blog will be a series of multiple Selling Under the Influence sections that go into communication skills, recognizing how others communicate and like to be communicated with, and how it relates to effective selling. In an earlier blog, I asked: What is a sale and what is a salesperson? The textbook definition of a sale is something like this: A ...

Realizing Opportunity

In my last smartPRENEUR Blog, I spoke to the low contribution to profit of trade labor in construction.   Additional Billable Time Now let’s take another tack.  Let’s look at what happens if opportunity can be found to add additional billable time.  If we find 5%, a mere 1.25 minutes per hour, it equates to 42 additional billed hours per year!  ...

Measuring Client Feedback

What Gets Measured Gets Done! It would be comforting to believe that we, as business owners and employees, are trying to delight our customers. But are we? If I asked you to measure how delighted your customers actually are, how would you go about it? Do you know when things went well or, more importantly, when they didn’t? If you aren’t surveying ...

Lean Six Sigma vs EOS vs OKR’s: What tool is right for my business?

Congratulations!  You started a business, it’s growing and you’re busy.  Now what?  Do you still own a business or do you own a job?  Most owners in the skilled trade industry start out as technicians but quickly have to learn how to run and manage a business.  There are a lot of different skills used to run a business like ...

Did You Buy a Job or Build a Career?

What’s the difference between a career and a job you might ask. CAREER The brilliant minds at Merriam-Webster provide this definition of Career. A profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling.  A field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life.   JOB Now let’s see how the ...

What makes a brand?

What is a brand? Branding: it’s one of the hottest buzzwords in marketing. But what actually is a brand? And why is having one so important? Before you develop or execute a marketing strategy, you have to first establish your brand: a unique name, image, or identity for your product, service, or company that distinguishes it from other competitors. A ...

Sales Foundations, Part 2

These are a few more of the most common, proven and useful professional techniques you can use in sales. Feature, Advantage, Benefit (FAB) Salespeople tend to “feature dump” when selling. Being the expert in your industry is fantastic. Sometimes that knowledge overwhelms to buyer prospect if the salesperson bombards them with features. An example is, “someone asks you for the time and you ...

The Anatomy of an Hour

The Importance of Numbers Years ago, when I was running my CE (Custom Electronics) business, I had a meeting with a builder in my community.   We started to talk about the importance of numbers in our respective firms.   The builder was a leader in his Industry having operated successful and meaningful construction businesses.    We discussed my somewhat ...

I Would Die 4U

I would die 4u. I’ll bet you’ve said that to friends or family at some point in your life. But would you really? I think most of us would say well, not literally. So what are we trying to communicate with this phrase? Commitment Committing to someone, something, a lifestyle, or in the case of many of you reading this, ...

Hiring Process

Who is your best hire? Have you ever made a bad hire? Have you repeated that mistake? More than once? Making hiring mistakes are costly to both your business and employees. It’s a time suck, money suck, the onboarding is painful, unemployment payout, the morale of your team, shaken confidence in leadership, retention of your existing staff, and all of ...

Why Process Creation & Documentation Is Vital For Your Business

Does your business have written documentation of its processes or are they all stuck in someones head?  Processes are critical in order for a business to function on a daily basis.  When most businesses are started, the processes are built organically by what the owner wants instead of what the business needs. What is a business process? “A business process ...

Analytics

Be Light, Get Results Right When it comes to marketing, companies need to be light on their feet. They need to develop and execute great campaigns, sure. But before starting a campaign, they also need to make sure they’re able to track that campaign’s results. When you can track how many leads are coming in from which campaigns (and maybe ...

What is Your WHY?

What makes YOU tick? Before we delve into this existential discussion, I have to mention Simon Sinek, who wrote a really great book that I recommend that you read. It's called Start With Why. Now, he is not the first author to question why we do what we do. Kierkegaard, considered the first existentialist, wrote about it 250 years ago. ...

Sales Foundations, Part 1

These are a few of the most common, proven and useful professional techniques you can use in sales. To use a corny phrase, it is not rocket science... Let’s look at some. Be a Human Getting to know your buyer prospect, not just sell to them, is a crucial component of the sales process. We’ll get into personalities in other blogs, but ...

Origins, Expertise, and Labor: How did we get here?

What's the Plan? Over the next series of articles, we are going to explore many aspects of labor management for system integration firms.  The topics we’ll cover include cost of labor, efficiencies vs effectiveness, billable, retention and culture, along with other connected subjects. In the industry’s early years, margins on products were the primary focus.   They were healthy, especially ...

Crucial KPI’s

Wishful Thinking In my previous role as the CEO of an integration firm I tried my best to keep an eye on the fundamentals of the business. I tried to use “the numbers” to paint a picture and help guide decision making. I took to sharing our results with fellow integrators as a way of understanding our business within the ...

Size Isn’t Everything

How Do You Define Success? What is success? What does it look like? Is success defined by the car you drive? Warren Buffet drives a 2014 Cadillac XTS not a Rolls Royce or a Lamborghini. Does the size and location of your house define success? Elon Musk the wealthiest person on the planet, at the time of this writing, just ...

Why you need to start working “ON” your business now

The CEDIA Channel has been going through a lot of changes over the last decade.  In 2008-2009, we saw the Great Recession impact many custom integrators.  Housing starts slowed substantially and projects were cancelled.  Many custom integrators had to scale back their operations, close down showrooms and lay off staff due to shrinking pipelines.  It forced many of them to ...

Vision, Mission, and Values

The Beginning... Even before you build out a full product library, or a team, or even a full suite of branding materials, first comes something even more important: establishing your vision, mission, and values. What do we mean by each? Your vision is your dream for the future. It should include details of where you want your company to go: ...

Sell, or sell not, there is no try…

What is a sale? What is a salesperson? We’ll get into that eventually. True, professional salesmanship has largely become a lost art. To be blunt, a lot of “salespeople” suck at selling. Much of this is due to the fact that many people in sales sort of fell into the profession and never had formal training. This is not their fault since ...

Introducing the smartPRENEUR Blog 2022 and its Faculty

Hello smartPRENEURS, We have some awesome learnings coming. For 2022/2023 we have new faculty members contributing to the smartPRENEUR Blog and the smartPRENEUR Podcast. Every Monday, starting today, we’ll release a new blog post. Each week will bring a different smartPRENEUR Faculty member’s insights based on their experience. Each Wednesday we will release the podcast version of the smartPRENEUR Faculty ...

Meet the Faculty: Tom Coffin

Tom Coffin, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of Simply Reliable, Inc. Tom Coffin co-founded Simply Reliable, Inc. in 2012 to leverage the IP from Simply Reliable Software and utilize the process and workflow concepts originally conceived for smartOFFICE and designMACHINE and bring them to the cloud and to mobile platforms. Professional Experience: Tom has been in the Consumer Electronics industry since ...

Meet the Faculty: Manny Salomon

Manny Salomon, Principal at WWDB Integrated Marketing Manny Salomon founded WWDB (What We Do Best Integrated Marketing in 2010 to work with business owners who are leaders in their industry, reach their personal and professional goals by partnering with them to create their unique brand and attract their ideal client by communicating what they do best. Professional Experience: What do you ...

Meet the Faculty: Chris Smith

Chris Smith, Founder/Principal at TheCo Team Chris Smith founded TheCoTeam in 2020 to Coach | Consult | Collaborate with businesses to help solve problems, achieve operational excellence, and most importantly - optimize profit. Professional Experience: With 20 years of industry specific, domain expertise, Chris has held positions at technology integration firms (Advanced Audio + Cloud9 Smart) and manufacturers (Bowers & Wilkins + McIntosh Labs). Core ...

Meet the Faculty: Jason Sayen

Jason Sayen, Founder/Principal at I am Sayen With over 27 years of experience in the Consumer Electronics Industry he is focused around building customer relationships, strategic process improvement, and problem solving.    I am Sayen, helps business owners understand their process through workflow documentation which aligns teams and removes bottlenecks. Professional Experience  Jason’s work experience includes working at four different CEDIA Manufacturers, ...

Meet the Faculty: Mark Cichowski

Mark Cichowski, CEO at Clarity AV International, Inc. Relevant Past Positions & Experience: Broad experience includes business development (domestic and international), sales management, marketing, client relations, training, extensive domestic and international travel, successful P&L management, operational responsibility, product launches, direct sales, and more. Mark has a results oriented approach with an inquisitive personality, and he's been described as direct, outgoing and positive. Audio/Video roots ...

When is a good time to work ON your business? If not now, WHEN?

May is almost here.  It’s still a big question depending upon where you are in the Country, or the world for that matter, when your city will reopen for business. And. What the new world will look like. How long will it take to return to normal? Is there a new normal? There are many things in this world you …

From Chaos to Process in 7 critical steps

Most small businesses operate in chaos each day! Why? They lack a way of consistently operating their business in a repeatable way.    They typically lack Process SO, how does one change their fortunes? Turn the ship, Invoke manifest destiny?Preparation and research will assist you greatly in Creating Process in your Company. Step 1 View your business as "The Product." ...

Sometimes, even your best employees can fall into a rut or make poor decisions.

It’s time to have one of those discussions with a team member.   Your expectations are not being met and you can’t let the situation fester. Sometimes, even your best employees can fall into a rut or make poor decisions. How do you get your point across?Your discussion should have three elements: Direct Specific Non-punishing Let’s take them in order. …

The Process of Business

Develop Your Team’s Path To Success. Why are some companies wildly successful when others flail and can never seem to move ahead and grow?    Process Yes, it really is that simple. A series of steps designed to bring an action to a successful conclusion. Do you have processes in your business? In fact you do. Have you thought about …

Trying Out Sales Techniques

Trying the Unknown.   In previous parts of this sales blog we have discussed several topics designed to give you a chance to improve sales success, build better customer relationships and enjoy the job of selling more. Future installments will cover additional ways to make selling more successful while building stronger relationships with your customers. No doubt for some people …

How Do You Assess a Team Member’s Value to the Organization?

We interrupt this leadership series for a math lesson. Here’s the question: How do you assess a team member’s value to the organization?  The math:    Contributions – Distractions = Value It’s really that simple and really that difficult.  The most perplexing decisions I had to make as a leader involved high performance team members in critical jobs who were …

The Heart of The Sale

Profitable Companies learn how to charge for their services and how to pitch their value.   Value is dependent on internal systems as well as commitment and discipline to support and iterate these systems.   This guides employees through proven processes to achieve predictable and quality results.  By tracking all aspects, especially labor, firms know both their true costs for …

Control Your Destiny

Control Your Destiny How did you get here? Did you plan to be a custom AV integrator? When the other kids in school were talking about sports, music, girls, etc. were secretly wishing you could be in an attic pulling wires in Florida in August? Probably not! Of course for most of us in the industry that answer is  a …

Coach them up or coach them out!

Coach them up or coach them out.  As a leader, you have the same decision for every person on your team.  Does that seem a bit over the top? It’s not. Let’s discuss why: What motivates employees?  Money can attract employees, but non-monetary factors will cause you to lose them.  You can find a number of recent studies that show …

Opportunities hang out in the wrinkles!

If you don’t track it, you lose it I recently had a meeting with a builder in my community.   We started to talk about the importance of numbers and metrics when running a profitable enterprise.   He is a leader in his Industry having operated successful and meaningful construction businesses. We discussed my somewhat clumsy and crude business software, …

Features and Benefits 

We all live in a highly technical world. Even more so in the integrator smart home smart office world. Almost everything there is to do with the products you sell, install and service has a big technical aspect. So it is natural that one of the first tendencies we might have when dealing with a prospect is to talk about …

How Public Relations Can Help Build Your Business

Public relations (PR) is one of the most misunderstood parts of marketing. Many organizations treat it as a department separate from marketing to avoid mixing it with advertising and other promotional efforts, but in the end, there is one unified purpose for PR and marketing: creating awareness about your company. It’s not just glitz and glamour, and it shouldn’t be …

How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

You work hard to run your business! You work hard to run your business and always try to do the right thing, yet that challenging customer decided to go online and speak badly about your company and team. Don’t fret. There are a few things you can do to mitigate the occasional bad review. Most people understand that you can’t …

Measuring Performance

Successfully measuring and improving your team members’ performance must be an ongoing process, not an event.  It’s an absolute truth that team members should not hear negative feedback for the first time in a performance review meeting.  The opposite is also true: positive feedback should be delivered when good performance occurs. Without the benefit (or hindrance) of an employee review …

Achilles Heel

Only 35% of Time Gets Billed Years ago, when I was running my Custom Installation A/V Business, CEDIA published some statistics that shocked me.   They had done an indepth member survey and determined that on average only 35% of the time we paid our trades was being billed.   I’m a pretty good numbers person, but realized this wasn’t a …

Qualifying

What is Qualifying? Qualifying your prospect is a sales step common in almost every sales process on earth. You may call it something different but whatever the label qualifying is the process where the salesperson decides how likely a specific prospect is to buy, and based on that assessment what future actions with this prospect make sense to how you …

Growth

GROWTH What one word will define your 2019? As I was listening to my flash briefing this morning, delivered via Alexa, and provided by LinkedIN. An interesting idea was mentioned in one of the stories, at least interesting to me. The article posed the idea that rather than writing out your list of activities and things you are going to …

3 Marketing Tools Every Integrator Should be Using

I get it – you’re busy. You start your day early and end it late. The days don’t necessarily go the way you plan them. Yet, it’s important to keep new sales coming in and establish yourself as an expert in your community. Here are three simple tools you can use to keep the referrals and new clients coming in …

Meet the Faculty: Coleen Sterns Leith

Coleen Sterns Leith, President, Marketing Matters Coleen loves technology, startups and making PR and marketing strategy work. Favorite analog activities include growing orchids, partaking in great food and drinking pink champagne, my French bulldogs, spending time on the water, and being a volunteer and board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The True Cost of Labor

How Much Are Your Billable Employees Costing? The Situation Experience teaches that customers inevitably value hard assets over labor. Even though we depend heavily on labor to design, manage, fabricate and install systems, the consumer is thinking only of the ‘gear’ they’ve procured and the benefit they anticipate. Often too, consumers push back on post-installation service, believing that for the …

What’s more important, managing or leading?

Hint:  that’s a false question. The reality is that to build and sustain a high-performing business you need both.   Simply Reliable’s suite of products help you profitably manage your business, from sales through customer satisfaction.  In this blog series, our goal is to assist you in excelling at leading your business. I was once fortunate to be selected to the …

Meet the Faculty: Santo Cannone

Santo Cannone, Principal Santo Cannone, LLC EIR Tampa Bay WaVE, Ex Fiserv, ConnectWise Santo Cannone’s experience includes leadership positions in sales, product management and operations for companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500, including EDS, Fiserv and ConnectWise. I am now providing management consulting services around product management, sales and operations to select clients.

Meet the Faculty: Marilyn Sanford

Marilyn Sanford, CEO, Ideator, Co-Founder LincEdge Marilyn is a Professional Accountant. She spent 23 years running trade based businesses, offering Low Voltage Custom Integration solutions to demanding and discriminating customers for high end residences and businesses. She has served on boards, taught in her Industry and is a Fellow of the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA). Marilyn Co—founded ...

Meet the Faculty: Mike Humphries

Mike Humphries, Managing Partner at Turn Eight Group LLC For over 25 years Mike has worked at growth oriented companies with responsibility for producing revenue, revenue growth and profits. The last 14 of those years have been spent producing the same results for clients either assisting their team or as an interim part of their exec team. His knowledge and …

How Does Every Project You Now Have or Will Have Begin?

Well, virtually.  Every project past, present or future – with very few exceptions. It begins with a sale. Someone wanted something that your business happens to do. And before it became a real project a deal was closed to provide specific products and services for an agreed upon set of terms. Not many sales leading to a project happen without …

Sales Definitions and Terminology

Understanding the Language of Sales Allow me to introduce myself — my name is Mike Humphries. I’ve work with growth-oriented companies with responsibility for producing revenue. As part of the smartPRENEUR faculty, I plan to talk about process and the need for it in sales. This blog sets the stage for the language that will be used — the language …

Are the tariffs good or bad for the Custom Integrator?

The new price sheets keep coming. When they are from manufacturers with 1,000's of skus it can be a time intensive task to update all those prices. But you have to stay current on your pricing or you will have no idea whether your proposals  and job costs are profitable. One integrator I spoke with the other day spent an ...

Ci4C4 or how to reduce your workflow from 2 days to 23 Minutes

Time is money or so the old adage goes. Here at Simply Reliable we take our responsibility to deliver innovative ways to help small business owners create processes in their business that will put money in their pockets, time back on the clock, deliver a better life experience, and help them deliver on the promises they agree to when proposing ...

The Mastermind Process

“The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich Above is one of the most famous mastermind groups of all time; Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs, The Vagabonds they called themselves. They would arrange camping trips …