ClearTalk is a podcast where Solutions360 chats with industry thought leaders about best practices, strategy and insights within the Integration industry.
EP 22: Best Practices to Inflation Proof Your Integration Business
Today, inflation is top of mind for all integrators, with expectations that it will last into 2023 and maybe longer.
We are thrilled to have Matt Barnette, CEO at PSA Security, join Joel Harris on this important episode of ClearTalk, to share some best practices that will help inflation proof your integration business.
Protecting yourself as an integrator is more important than ever.
Integrators are facing the most competitive market for talent we've seen in years, and with the cost of living rising so fast, it’s placing incredible pressure on wages. What strategies can integrators use to retain talent?
Manufacturing costs are going up every day and integrators have seen upwards of 40% to 50% product increases from some suppliers. At the same time, integrators are in the business of selling projects for the future. What happens if you sold a fixed price contract 18 to 24 months ago? The integration channel needs to look at the terms and conditions in their contracts and make sure that they are covered.
Prior to the pandemic, the integration industry was embracing just-in-time purchasing to maximize profits. The current supply chain issues have flipped this business model on its head, and suddenly, integrators are having to buy inventory to protect their projects. Some manufacturers have two-to-three-year lead times now. How can integrators protect themselves and help each other with this challenge?
Every integrator should have a relationship with their bank, and these are the times when that relationship needs to be solid. This is something that we highly advise even prior to the pandemic, and certainly even more now with what’s going on with inflation.
Listen to the full podcast for all this and much more!
3 Strategies to Increase Business Profitability
On this episode of ClearTalk, Joel Harris, is joined by Tim Archambault to discuss three strategies to increase profits in your integration business.
Increasing profits is a top consideration for all integrators. Prior to joining Solutions360, Tim has worked in a variety of capacities in the integration industry, from data analyst to operations management to sales management. We are thrilled to have him on the podcast to share his expertise and proven methods to help integrators increase profitability.
1. Buy more effectively
It is more important than every to get the best deal possible from suppliers and cut waste throughout your company.
2. Boost productivity
Before you can boost productivity, you have to be able to measure it. It is important to determine the right KPIs that give you visibility into productivity, and then you have a baseline to measure against and monitor progress. What gets measured, gets managed.
3. Find your best customers and sell them more
The best account executive will be even more effective if they don’t work alone. It is a fascinating story how Tim was able to triple the size of a key customer account by creating a team with a sales engineer, a project manager and customer service working together with the account executive to support that customer.
Instead of having one gatekeeper with all the knowledge of that customer, a full team worked to truly understand the core business of that customer. This gave them a foot in the door, which opened more opportunities, and ultimately tripled the revenue from that customer.
To paraphrase Zig Ziglar, everyone is in sales. Maybe you don’t hold the title of salesperson, but if you deal with customers, you are in sales.
Listen to the full episode to find out how Tim put all these strategies into practice.
What's All That Noise?
Why are we busy and what are we doing with our time?
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau
While it might be funny to think of yourself as an ant, take a look at your daily routine and consider if you’re using your time productively, or merely keeping busy for the sake of being busy.
On this episode of ClearTalk, Brad Malone is joined by Jennifer Jackson, Manager of Professional Services at Solutions360 to share some time management strategies that help them be more productive.
“Between the two of us, we’ve been project managers for over 50 years, managing a wide range of projects,” says Malone. “And without fail there are people and events trying to drag us down into the quagmire of the day to day.”
“A few of my fundamental principles for time management consist of setting a good schedule, as much in advance as possible,” Jackson shares. “Then it’s really important to manage expectations with everybody I work with. And that could be management, customers, or direct reports.”
How does Q360 help with time management?
"Q360 is a massive tool, and it offers a ton of data to help manage projects and people," Jackson continues. "I have a standard set of reports, workflows and dashboards that I review on a daily and weekly basis, which gives me visibility on all my active projects and their status."
"There is also a dedicated project management dashboard that provides direct links to a couple key reports from that dashboard so that PMs can review project labor forecasts, and project revenue cost forecasts."
Also on the podcast:
• How lists can help you stay on track, or get back on track.
• What is the difference between urgent and important?
• What is the best way to deal with time stealers?
Passing the Baton from Project to Service
What does a typical handoff from project to service look like in your integration business?
Is your hand-off more of a drop-off?
Don’t ring the doorbell and run – set your service team up for success!
On this episode of ClearTalk, Brad Malone and Tofiq Indawala discuss how mature integrators see the purpose of any project is to create a long-term service customer that will generate monthly recurring revenue.
A growing number of integrators have adopted the RMR mindset, but the industry still needs to do a lot of work to understand how to deliver successful handoffs.
Projects are transitory and merely the vehicle to get to service. So, is your service team pulling the project towards them?
Integrators should look at service as a key stakeholder in the relationship with the customer.
“Everything should be geared towards handing the customer over to service,” says Malone. “From the inception of the proposal to the way the project is executed, the work breakdown structure, and the documentation at the end of the project. All this information makes services more successful in maintaining the customer relationship.”
“Traditionally, everybody's taught that the stakeholders of your projects are the executives, sales, or the customer, but they completely forget about service, who must take that ownership of the relationship and service it for 10 to 15 years,” says Indawala.
If your service team is still the red-headed stepchild of your integration company, this podcast is for you!
The Power of Pre-Sales Engineering in Q360
How do you manage pre-sales engineering in your integration business?
Pre-sales engineering is a very important and expensive resource that technology integration companies need to use.
But it’s a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, an integrator is better served when the sales team brings pre-sales engineers into the conversation with the customers. They write a better scope of work, and they do the design upfront.
On the other hand, the more project engineering you do before a contract is sold, the more amount of money you risk losing if you do not win that contract.
When do you stop calling it pre-sales engineering and start calling it project engineering?
We’ll give you one clue –
It's not when the contract is sold.
“It's where you move from maybe a block diagram to a line or where you move from general to specific kind of design. It’s not about when the contract is sold as to when you’re doing project engineering,” says Harris.
“The companies that do it very well achieve balance,” adds Dempsey “There's no clear KPI that we can say, ‘You should be spending X percent of your costs on pre-sales engineers, or you should be converting 70%.’ It really depends, and it's something that needs to be looked at on a regular basis and analyzed by the management team.”
Your percent of win rate will ultimately determine the cost of pre-sales engineering to your sales efforts.
So, this is a very important ratio to maintain and understand - the utilization, and the effective utilization of your pre-sales engineers.
Listen to the podcast for all this a more!
Factors That Drive Maximum Valuation of Your Integration Business
If you are planning on selling your integration business in the future, what are the things you can do today, to drive the maximum valuation?
M&A activity in the integration industry has been rampant over the last few years. Solutions360 sees both a size and scale play driving these acquisitions, coupled with an industry that has owners wanting to sell. As a result, we do not expect integrator M&As to slow down any time soon.
In a previous episode, we defined the internal and external factors that impact the valuation of your company. These are the factors that a potential buyer will look at to determine the value of your business.
On today’s episode, Brad Dempsey and Joel Harris continue that conversation, and drill down on the internal factors. These are the things you can control that will drive maximum valuation for your integration company.
“Internal factors are all about taking risks out of my business. The more risk I eliminate from my business, the more my business is worth.” Joel Harris
3 internal factors that drive maximum valuation for integrators:
1. Show steady earnings
You don’t want earnings to bounce all over the place, even if they are, on average, in an upward trend.
2. Higher growth rates equal a higher valuation
Historical growth rates are not a bad thing, but you are selling the future growth of your business, not the past.
3. Demonstrate sustainable growth
This is important because a buyer wants results that are going to be just as predictable as under new ownership. We will talk more about this in a future podcast, but this includes building out an executive leadership team and putting processes in place that enable an integrator to create a sustainable business.
Also on the podcast –
What are some of the things that should cause concern when you’re looking at an integration company to acquire?
Even if you are not interested in selling your integration business, this podcast is for anyone wanting to run an integration business with long-term profitability in mind.
Listen to the podcast for all this and more!
Tapping into the integrator thought-leaders
I’ve been following Solutions360 for awhile now... Their people are top thinkers in the integration industry and know how to run a business efficiently and profitable. I’ve listen to every episode and have implemented all of their tips into my business. I recommend this podcast to anyone looking to make improvements in their technology integration business.