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Finding Focus in Custom

Without focus, nothing is clear. Put on somebody else’s prescription glasses and tell me what you see. You could not function for five minutes wearing the wrong glasses. You would be disoriented and stumble around banging into things.

So, you’re on your way to make a sales presentation to an important builder. Ask yourself: of all the things you could say about your company, your experience, your products, the proposal in your hand, your clients… what is your focus?

In the world of “custom” installation many of our companies provide a vast array of products and options. We are skilled in audio, video, computers, satellite, security, telephones, lighting, control systems, wiring infrastructures, construction techniques, architecture, and interior decorating, etc. We seem to constantly strive to add more of these systems to our list of capabilities.

Let’s hire somebody who knows gated entry systems, whole-house vacuum systems, video conference systems and automated window blinds. Maybe next year we can buy an electrical contracting company so that we can do all of our own smart lighting and then sell the entire electrical system and HVAC in the package. Think how much more we could bill for all that.

Clients and builders prefer the ease of working with one company who can do it all. But, is that really in your business plan or would you be putting on someone else’s glasses? If you lose focus like this, you could lose your business.

In practical terms, what is focus and how do we maintain it? Imagine that your are in a new reality TV show. All of the contestants are given the challenge of driving your cars from the starting point at your home to an unknown mystery city. You know where you are now, but you don’t know which direction you will be driving. Each contestant is filled up with a single large tank of gas.

You can’t just jump in your car and just start driving. That would waste your time and burn your precious tank of gas. Before you even leave the driveway, you must search for clues about your secret destination. Until you know where you are heading, no amount of driving will help you. You soon realize that all of your past experience and the roadmaps of where others have gone before you are useless.

Before you head out on the highway, you must make an informed decision about where you will end up. Once you determine that California is your destination, then you can open up your map and start driving west. As you follow your map and signs you see, you will cross into California. Then you must find new clues to decide which specific city you are heading for. You will come to giant highway intersections and see other contestants getting off the exit ramps to go to Disneyland. There will be decisive moments where you must choose to stay on the freeway with the other cars or instantly jump onto the exit ramp you have chosen.

Every one of us is on a unique personal journey. We must constantly endeavor to understand what our goals are and how to best achieve them. Every product line that you sell and every client that you work with is like an exit ramp. Even though they all look exciting, you can’t take every turn. Once you choose to head west, you have already excluded all points east. You are constantly coming to forks in the road. Let go and realize that there can be no direction and no progress without saying “No” to many choices and passing them by.

If your CI company has developed a solid business plan, then you are in the minority. Most small startup companies are just making decisions without enough clarity or focus on their ultimate goals. This is risky and is not good business. If you are one of those companies, I encourage you to become a strong leader with clear goals.

Ask yourself the following questions to find the clues you need to define your destination:

1. What are your unique capabilities and skills?
2. What types of systems are you good at and love working with?
3. Who are the clients that your location and capabilities fit with?
4. Who are the vendors that you best fit with?
5. Specifically how do you want to see your company 10 years from now?
There is a big highway ahead for all of us. Make a plan. Pick your own destination and enjoy the ride.