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By Jeremy J. Glowacki January 9,2013
|The ForresterTech team, back row (l-r) Ben Forrester, Ed Mills, Thad Forrester, and Dustin Willis. Front row (l-r) Chris Allison, Wayne Pierce, Robert Gann .|
A little over a year ago, Residential Systems
embarked on a partnership with respected industry
consultants Ryan Brown, from Media Environment
Design, and Leslie Shiner, from The ShinerGroup,
who agreed to mentor one lucky winner of the
magazine’s inaugural Resi Business Makeover
contest. A few months later Ben and Thad
Forrester, co-owners of Springfield, Missouri’s
ForresterTech, had begun the challenging, but
rewarding, process of taking their fledgling custom
integration company to the next level.
Checking in on ForresterTech as their project
winds down, Ben Forrester said that it was looking like
ForresterTech’s books would be in the black at the end
of 2012, which he called “a very exciting prospect.”
Ben attributes this financial milestone directly
to the help Residential Systems provided through
Brown and Shiner. “I can’t fully express the
difference this help has made to our business,” he
said. “We still have a long way to go, but we have
definitely come a long way as well.”
As Brown and Shiner wind down their generous
consultation work with ForresterTech, Residential
Systems asked Ben to offer his top 10 lessons
from the past year. He was very democratic in his
assessment, assigning five lessons to each of his two
mentors. Next month, we’ll interview Brown and
Shiner to glean their own post mortem assessment
of ForresterTech’s Business Makeover.
Top 5 Lessons Learned from Ryan Brown
1 CRM Software is Key
Ryan helped us implement Zoho and it has been
the single best improvement throughout the process.
2 Track Service Calls
We easily do twice as much service work as
I thought we did. We were letting thousands of
dollars worth of service work go unbilled. We are
also identifying sales opportunities with the service
work and flowing that information back into our
3 Software Tools are Only as Good as
Your Processes to Utilize Them
Doing things right takes more time; we definitely
understand that on the install side of things, but
the same applies for back-office operations
as well. It takes more time to enter all of
the correct information into a case, or into
D-Tools that initial time. The efficiency
gained the next 1-100 times is well worth the
initial extra effort.
4 Proposal Software is Expensive
and Time-Consuming, but
Properly entered information into your proposal
generation software (D-Tools in our case) makes
all the difference in the world. With accurate,
fully burdened labor costs, and properly entered
equipment costs, we can get an accurate gauge
of how much money we can anticipate making
on a project. We currently aren’t at a point to
measure how well we actually do on a project,
but we are actively working on that step.
5 Take Time to Properly Train
Yours elf and Your Staff on
It is a very good idea to get help properly
setting up the software that you plan on
utilizing, so you use it correctly.
Top 5 Lessons Learned from Leslie Shiner
1 Hire an Accountant
Unless you have some piece of paper (or
enough cash in the bank) to prove that you
are the financial guru that you think you are,
get help with your finances.
2 Know Your Labor Costs
The idea for this makeover is born out of the
show Restaurant Impossible, and as Robert Irvine
says, “Know your food costs.” After working for
several sessions with Leslie, I was able to figure
out a pretty good estimate for our fully burdened
labor costs. It was almost exactly twice what we
were figuring for costs for an hour of labor, and
dramatically affects overall project profitability.
With the right costs figured in, we can accurately
estimate projects and set labor rates.
3 Get Help Setting Up Your Chart of
In an attempt to gain more detail, we ended up
breaking the information into such small parts, it
provided no real meaningful information. For our
new chart of accounts, less is more.
4 If Your Balance Sheet Makes No
Sense, Something is Wrong.
Understanding the financial side of your business is
the key to your long-term success. Regular financial
meetings definitely help.
5 Don’t be Afraid to Start All Over
If things are a total mess with your books, as
was the case with our Quickbooks data, don’t be
afraid to start all over. In 2013 we are starting over
with a new Quickbooks file, new chart of accounts,
etc. The new books will give us real business
information, instead of a bunch of numbers.