Partnering with Competitors When Work Piles Up

5/7/2013 6:04:00 PM

We currently have the “problem” everyone wishes they had: more work than our small company can handle. Every business has its busy season and right now, we have an influx of new projects coming in daily. Trust me, I am not complaining. But while I’m excited for all the new opportunities, I also want to make sure that I am giving every client my utmost attention.

In fact, last week we got a call from a vendor referral, and the client needed new remotes to replace their old Harmony’s that were no longer working. It would be a very small job, especially given that we are currently working on three large installations simultaneously. My company’s workload would have pushed out the smaller job at least two weeks and, to me, that would be poor customer service.

What we needed was a way to either expand or contract our company, according to business cycle, without incurring hiring, training, overhead, and downsizing costs. That is where my partnerships and relationships with other integrators have come into play. A few weeks ago I wrote about building relationships with other integrators (read that here) that you trust to your company to handle the load while you are on vacation. But these partners are important in so many other ways, too.

For this remote control client, I was able to have one of the companies in my Home Theater Rebuild integrator partner network in Manhattan visit the customer for an evaluation within 48 hours of my vendor’s initial referral. The client was happy, I didn’t let my vendor down, and I was able to provide Home Theater Rebuild member Home Theater Advisors with some small fill-in work that kept a tech busy and brought in some revenue.

It’s essential that we build relationships with ancillary businesses (contractors, architects, designers, etc), but it is equally important to develop partnerships with our peers running integration companies. By working with several other integrators that I know and trust, I am still able to maintain a high level of customer service and have someone that I can recommend to clients in a timely fashion. As a result, the client feels that they were listened to and not ignored because of time constraints, the other integrator gets some incremental work that could turn into something bigger or another referral, and we get some additional revenue and profit as a referral bonus from the other integrator.

And what comes around goes around. A few months ago, Home Theater Advisors was called in to a project for whole home control. Immediately upon walking onto the jobsite and speaking with the client, the owner knew that this project was beyond his business model. He immediately called me in, and we did a seamless handoff with the client. Now, The Source will be installing a Crestron system and handling the whole project, subbing out as much as possible to Home Theater Advisors and also providing them with a referral bonus.

There is a lot of competition between integrators, but there needs to be cooperation as well. Everyone needs a way to quickly scale up or down, or just have someone they can lean on in a time crunch. Building relationships with other integrators benefits everyone, and also gives you a great sounding board for when you just need that independent, third-party perspective. So go to networking events or vendor trainings and find people with similar business philosophies—people you can relate to and people you want to work with. It takes time and effort, but it is invaluable.

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