A/V Integrators Need to Invest in Themselves Too

By Ann Johnson, CFO of Premiere Systems

Winning a bid to provide a $750,000 solution in a multi-million dollar home is a big deal for any A/V integrator—it certainly was for Premiere Systems. However, business rarely runs as smoothly as you want it to, and you have to be prepared for anything.

For example, after winning the $750,000 deal, we immediately put our plan in action: we consulted with the customer, bought the equipment and scheduled technicians to start installation. We were good to go. But just as we were about to start, everything stopped.

Construction on the house halted due to circumstances beyond our control and we were left in limbo for several months. Then, after getting the green light to resume, the customer requested newer technology that had been introduced during the long delay. We had to go back to the drawing board.

It’s a situation that many A/V integrators have faced and one that can have disastrous consequences if you don’t have clear visibility into your suppliers’ inventory and your bench availability. Success in the high-end, pro A/V market often depends on the integrator’s ability to adapt to changing business conditions and customer requirements. Those are the hallmark of any good business, of course, but in our market the stakes are amplified.

Construction delays, building permits, and a myriad of other factors can wreak havoc on a project—and profitability. Our ability to be flexible is a key to our business, as is our willingness to invest in the right tools and processes to ensure that we can remain flexible.

As a custom integrator of A/V, surveillance, telepresence, lighting control and other home and SMB solutions for more than 20 years, Premiere Systems recognized that our ability to provide customers with the solutions and services they want—when they need them—pays big dividends.

Overcoming Obstacles

In the A/V world, we need to be able to stop and start on a dime. Once a building permit is obtained or construction has resumed, customers expect you to act quickly. Delays cost them money too.

Compounding the challenge, newer and more innovative technology hits the market every day—often while we’re waiting to finish a project. Customers want those products instead. As an integrator that wants do right by customers, it becomes our job to figure out how to provide that state-of-the-art solution that customers want, even if those products weren’t part of the original plan.

At any given time, Premiere Systems may have 40 to 80 ongoing projects, all in various stages of progress and working in conjunction with construction companies and electricians to coordinate schedules. With so many moving parts—and partners—our ability to get an accurate view of inventory and costs is imperative.

For the $750,000 project, we needed to know how much labor we’d already invested and specifications for the products we’d ordered because they were for a specific space in the wall. We had to be quick on our feet to save as much money as we could.

For years, it was a manual process to understand where we stood because of disparate and obsolete systems that we’d outgrown. It wasn’t fun. But just like A/V technology, services management solutions have also evolved and improved.

We implemented Tigerpaw Software’s platform to integrate inventory, project management and other functions across the business. That allowed us to reexamine the work we’d already done, analyze what products were already installed, what was on order and what could be returned.

Without an integrated solution, that would have taken five times the work and greatly impacted our potential profitability. But we worked everything out. The project was successful, the customer happy—in fact they plan to hire Premiere Systems again on a second home.

A Worthy Investment

Our business continues to grow, in part because we made the necessary investments for our company that allows us to track sales, inventory and prospects, with visibility into labor costs and product availability. I would estimate that we’d need up to four more employees to do all that our PSA solution now does for us. It’s made our job a lot easier.

It’s interesting—we all do a great job convincing customers to invest in technology, but we often don’t do a good enough job to take care of ourselves. Like many small businesses, we’re often so focused on servicing clients that we forget that we need to invest in our own business from time to time. That’s the wrong attitude to have.

If you’re looking to grow your business, reach that next level of success, spend the time or money it takes to make that happen. We did, and we’re glad we did it.


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