For integrators, one of the best elements of attending CEDIA 2016 is the unexpected business-related gems you learn from commiserating with your fellow custom integrators. I am not talking about product discoveries, but tidbits related to running your business effectively are often overheard in the aisles or the educational sessions.
For several years, industry consultant Leslie Shiner has conducted the “Work Smarter, a Not Harder” workshop to encourage integrators to share efficiency tips. This year, her panel included CE Pro 100 integrator Dennis Jaques of Maverick Integration in Nashua, N.h., CE Pro 100 integrator Shawn Hansson of Logic Integration in Lone Tree, Colo., Mark DiPietro of SoundVision in Mooresville, N.C., and Randy Stearns, president of D-Tools and a long-time integrator. Here are 26 great tips from the panel and the audience that you might implement today.
1. Keep Craigslist Ads Year-round
Finding employees is like fishing: the bait (your ad) has to be seen by the fish (your potential employee) exactly at the time they are swimming past (or seeking a new job in the case of an employee). He never sees if you cast your line out just 30 seconds before or after that fish swims by. Mark DiPietro of SoundVision maintains his aid year-round for integrators who use Craigslist to find employees. The employment ads are only $25 per month for Network Posting. Also, there is a barrage of applications whenever you place a Craigslist ad. Then it falls off. He says that renewing the ad monthly bubbles back up to the top of the queue, and more applications come in. On the flip side, many integrators do not like Craigslist because they are bombarded with resumes, and often, the candidates are not well-qualified.
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2. Ask Distributors for Employees
One great source of potential employees is distributors. They discuss integrators daily, so they know who is busy and who is not. They also hear from technicians who might be seeking new employment. Putting the word out with your local distributor whenever you seek employees is a good idea.
On the flip side, some integrators don’t want to send their technicians to pick up the equipment at the local distributor for the same reason they will likely be solicited for employment elsewhere. The best way to prevent that is to breed a strong company culture whereby a technician will not jump ship for 25 cents more per hour from another company.
3. Shadow Employees
DiPietro says the best way to onboard a new technician rapidly is to “shadow” him with a more experienced technician. That cannot be easy if you are a tiny operation, however.
4. Create a ‘Process Book.’
Dennis Jaques of Maverick Integration is so process-driven that he created a 500-page book that documents every process the company does, from pre-wire to trim out to final.
“Every employee is set to that standard and has to pass the test in the book. They don’t get the next book until they pass the test on the first section,” he says.
To create the book, Maverick started by spending $500 to purchase the ESPA training curriculum, then added to it. Today, the company has spun off a separate training group called the Maverick Technical Institute that trains dealers not just how to install a system but also how to ring the doorbell when they arrive at the home, how far to stand away from the doorbell, and how to greet the customer.