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Defining Your Direction

clock, to get all of our work done before the days end. Then we are attacked by the unforeseen problem, the unwanted interruption, the service call that didnt work, and our hopes of closing the day derail. With todays schedule undone, tomorrows to-do list grows to the point of canceling and rescheduling work until we get our heads above water. In time-management terms this is called the tyranny of the urgent.

Hopefully, we have learned to abide by the law of custom that every job will have unforeseen obstacles and every project will take longer than planned. It is unsettling to count up the unbillable extra hours spent on a big job and realize that after all of your planning and hard work, you actually lost money.

It is easy to get into this business, but it takes more than a geek mentality and skills pulling wire. Even with excellent planning, it is very hard to build a successful, prosperous custom business that will let you retire after 15 years.

Many startup CI companies seem to survive from month to month in a busy, energized chaos that never moves them forward. That is a poor way to run a business. Many of these companies are doomed to fail unless they can get a long-range perspective that places specific measurable goals and a plan to execute them in full view. The very word custom holds a major clue to these business challengesit means that the client retains all control as it is your job to provide them with whatever options, materials, and design modifications that they request. With every detail subject to the clients desires, you lose control and manageability of the project. This customization for clients can kill the unique identity of your company, not only because it leaves you without a final target, but also every deviation from your predetermined course can result in a financial loss. We need to redefine the direction of our companies. Think of your company as a cruise missile, targeted by a high-tech computer guidance system. Once the target is programmed you can never wander off course. A missile like that is impervious to distractions, interruptions, and other outside interference and will always hit the target.

In the classes that I teach at CEDIA, only two percent of those attending said that they had a business plan when they started their businesses. That was when they started, but what about now?

As a consultant, I see that many CI businesses lack clear-cut goals. Now that you have been in business for a while, are you putting out too many fires without a clear plan? Have you taken the time to define the unique personality of your company and who your target market is? Have you positioned your image for success and targeted where you are headed? Does your plan tell you exactly how you will get there? Do you have specific strategies and systems in place to accomplish your measurable goals?

To move forward requires exact targets and timelines for your business. In our young industry there is a huge need for training business owners and managers on how to successfully plan and execute in these areas.

If you are a business owner who is concerned that your company is putting out too many fires or that your plan for the future is not specific enough, feel free to e-mail me with your questions.

Richard Riehl ([email protected]) is an A/V systems expert and consultant in Los Angeles, California.