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Tracking what everyone’s doing — down to how much wire they’re using — is one example. “We were doing three million dollars a year,” Susan says of her old firm in Seattle. “I audited our books, and we realised that change orders we hadn’t tracked properly had cost us $100,000.” “We asked ourselves ‘What are we doing?’ It was like we left the back door open with a sign that said, ‘FREE CABLES.’” Susan has learnt how to adjust her approach to QuickBooks, and the philosophy she’s developed is pretty simple: “Learn how to apply the software to the business, and not the business to the software.”

Are You Getting What You’re Worth? Frank White, a long-time CEDIA volunteer, is working on a new class called “Five Ways to Get What You Are Worth.” Its overriding mantra is best summed up in Frank’s own words: “Your hourly rate is not what people buy; they buy outcomes.” The five principles Frank is laying out — and yes, we’re aware that this particular format only scratches the very top layer of the surface of the material — are:


Always be “trial closing.” Yep, add a “T” to the “ABC” acronym that’s practically a sales cliché. The “trial close” is how you gauge customers through the process. Example: When an initial estimate is given, the follow-up question is the trial close: “Is that what you expected?” As Frank points out, a freakout (“$18 grand? Are you kidding me?”) is better than “We’ll get back to you.” The former is, at least, an engagement.


Control your costs, both fixed and variable. To that end, says Frank, one needs to understand that things like rush-hour drive time chews up billable hours of labour. Once you’ve begun to figure this out, says Frank, “Gear the verticals of your project: What has the best margins? Then bias your business to those parts of the project.” Take care to understand what part of a project will really need the most attention. “That distributed audio gear will last through five TV sets,” says Frank.


Control your control tendencies. Integrators love their control systems — they’re slick, they carry an “Oh, wow!” factor, and they let a good integrator show off his closing skills. But, as Frank notes, it’s easy to get carried away with an aspect of the job that usually only accounts for 15% of the budget.

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Keep the proposal broad. Don’t make it granular. It’s not an engineering document. “I don’t like separating the labour and material costs of a job, either,” says Frank. You’re just giving the client more ways they can ‘work’ you.”

Raise your labour prices. This dovetails back into the second item on our list. You pay each technician for every moment they work. Ask yourself the question: How much is traceable to an actual invoice? “For most firms in the contracting world, that number’s 55%,” says Frank. “I’ve asked some really smart people in this business what the average is in custom integration, and the number they gave me? Around 32%. We can do much better.”

This CEDIA Podcast can be found at as Episode 117 or iTunes number 1917a.


Profile for CEDIA EMEA

CEDIA Communicates - Quarter 3 2019  

This quarter we feature two project profiles, dive in to 5G, discuss cable disruption, and preview the CEDIA Awards.

CEDIA Communicates - Quarter 3 2019  

This quarter we feature two project profiles, dive in to 5G, discuss cable disruption, and preview the CEDIA Awards.