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6 Ways to Improve Your CI Business

Industry vet and consultant offers tips and ideas for integrators to increase their bottom lines.

Franklin Karp
Franklin Karp

While it would be a stretch to say Franklin Karp has seen everything in the custom installation business, with over 30 years of experience, it is safe to say he has seen most of it. Some of his stats include his work with Harvey Electronics in the ’90s — eventually helping that company successfully emerge from Chapter 11 — past president of HTSA, and his most recent journey as COO for Audio Video Systems, LLC.

Back in May, Karp launched his consulting company, Franklin Karp & Co., where he is looking to advise and train industry business leaders how to cultivate positive professional relationships with team members and stakeholders to drive organizational growth, increase revenue, and improve all aspects of workplace processes.

Here, Karp provides some advice that integrators could use to see fast improvements to their businesses.

Continue to Sell High-Level Home Networks

I would say the vast majority of clients and potential clients still have inadequate networks, even after two years of pandemic living. When you take into account how many wireless devices are on the home network and how many people may be using them simultaneously, not having a robust, enterprise-grade network is a sin. And if the integrator doesn’t make that point, he or she is making a huge mistake.

Successful Business

Invest in Your Vendor Relations

Vendor relations is something that I don’t think a lot of integrators really understand for a myriad of reasons — like whether they think reps are a pain or that a regional sales manager doesn’t really do anything. Those integrators fail to understand that it’s still a relationship business, no matter how extraordinary the technology is, and basic human dignity needs to be maintained.

No matter the size of the purchase order or who you are dealing with — a regional or an NSM — it doesn’t matter, because it’s musical chairs on that side and the person you beat the heck out of one month could be working for a vendor that you want to do business with a few months later. And now he’s not returning your phone call right away.

I always made it a rule to do business with vendors who I knew would be there when and if I had an issue. It’s inevitable, and you want them to answer the phone, you want them to be understanding, and you want them to try and do the best they can. You may not be their biggest customer, but you’re a customer who treated them with respect and you get respect back.

Commit to Inventory Management Software

I’m still shocked by the lack of inventory management and control integration companies have. Not making the commitment to inventory management software — and I’m not advocating one over another — is an absolute crime.

I spoke to a medium-sized integrator recently about inventory software, and he was frustrated because they had tried one and then another without success. I asked, ‘Who was the champion in your company that was driving the implementation of the software?’ Because it is a cultural shift, and any time you change culture, you’re riding into a hurricane. They didn’t have the right person, so it failed and then it failed again with the next software.

If you don’t have somebody driving the bus and getting people on board, then you are going to fail and you’re losing money because you’re not taking advantage of monitoring and knowing the health of your business — not to mention the licensing fees for the software.

Related: 10 Ways to Revitalize Your Business

Fix Your Website

An integrator must look at the company website clinically. As a matter of fact, get a neighbor, relative, or somebody who doesn’t spend time on the website to check it out. If your website is five years old, it’s already an antique and outdated. It is the least expensive, most important thing that 98 percent of integrators can do on a modest budget. Not having an up-to-date and maintained website is like not mowing your lawn — nobody wants to look at it after a couple of weeks.

Also, Instagram has afforded even the smallest guys the ability to have a meaningful presence in front of eyeballs. Availing oneself of social media is probably the most economical thing that any integrator can do. If you don’t know what to do, look at posts from other CI companies and try to emulate the best ones.

Create a Career Path for Employees

We have tech schools all over the country, but you don’t see a lot of people deciding that they want to do pre-wire or racks or become programmers. It’s just not drawing them in the way it used to. That’s the challenge, and the other side of that is we don’t do a good enough job of showing a full career path. You must give employees a roadmap, and you can’t waste any time in giving it to them. They need to know that, if they perform, it’s not just about the money, which of course is important, but that there’s opportunity for them to advance. I don’t think that enough of that is done in our industry.

Establish Standards and Best Practices for Your Company

Best practices and standards must become a religion in every company. My favorite business book to this day is Good to Great by Jim Collins. He drives home the importance of getting everybody to understand the goal and to function in a similar manner. The entire staff needs to understand that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. People need to appreciate that their work is valued, but they need to do the work the way it’s prescribed — there’s no deviation.

This all translates to the profitability of your company, especially if the project is under warranty, and, more importantly, customer satisfaction. If the customer is calling you for the same issues and it’s something that was not done properly early on, are you going to get a referral from that client? Are you even going to be able to hold on to that client? It comes down to everybody doing best practices and having high standards for what they deliver.

For more information about Franklin Karp & Co. and the consulting services offered, visit