Ryan Brown, from Media Environment Design, and Leslie Shiner, from The Shiner Group, provided their consulting services for free during Residential Systems Resi Business Makeover of ForresterTech in Springfield, MO, last year.“Sometimes when things are free, people are less likely to appreciate the value when they have something invested in the results,” said industry consultant Ryan Brown, who helped Springfield, Missouri’s ForresterTech improve its business processes in Residential Systems’ Resi Business Makeover Contest. “I thought I was going to have to push a little harder to get the company to follow our recommendations and get them to change their ways, but ForresterTech’s entire team took complete advantage of the opportunity they were given through this program.”
That viewpoint was echoed by fellow consultant on the project, Leslie Shiner, who said that “wanting help and accepting help are two different things. “I had concerns as well about providing a free service, but ForresterTech’s team not only appreciated the help, they also embraced change,” she said.
Residential Systems recently concluded its partnership with consultants Brown, from Media Environment Design, and Shiner, from The ShinerGroup, who both provided a year of free business mentoring to contest winner ForresterTech. As a direct result of those efforts, ForresterTech’s books were in the black at the end of 2012, according to co-owner Ben Forrester, after the company learned that it had been letting thousands of dollars worth of service work go unbilled. The company also identified sales opportunities from its service work and was able to feed that information back into its revamped CRM software. Thanks to Shiner, the company began 2013 with a new set of books, which have been set up specifically to help them manage their company using numbers.
“They now have a process that will work for them and tell them what they need to know to manage and measure productivity and profitability,” Shiner said.
Brown recalled that ForresterTech’s management team was eager to improve its business processes and that they followed through on the direction he and Shiner provided. “I was really expecting to need to prod them along and keep the pressure on, so they would complete the tasks we assigned and help them achieve the goals we outlined early on,” Brown said. “The funny thing was that Ben was usually calling me asking when we were moving to the next step.”
The consultants provided services based on years of experience working successfully with hundreds of integrators. “The approach I took is exactly the way I would approach any company looking for an overhaul or even just a tune-up,” Brown said. “Our services are developed to be flexible, yet structured, so that we can adapt to each integrator’s unique situation and help them become more successful.”
ForresterTech’s challenges were quite similar to those of other integrators with which Brown and Shiner have worked. “Like most integrators we’ve worked with, ForresterTech had a set of books that was set up without a process, without a specific plan or goal as to what information is needed, and what information can be gleaned from the books,” Shiner said. “As we worked through their issues, they came to the realization that their accounting system could be used to help them manage their company, not just write checks and send invoices. It’s always a pleasure to work with companies that can see the value in a good set of books, not only setting it up correctly, but reviewing it, and keeping it clean.”
Brown agreed that ForresterTech did remind him a lot of his previous clients, but what stood out was the company’s acceptance of change. “They were very forthcoming with us about the challenges they faced. We helped them to identify some issues they didn’t even realize were a problem,” he said. “A lot of companies will have at least a few employees who resist the changes we’re trying to implement; it’s human nature. ForresterTech’s team welcomed us with open arms, and they were very open to the changes we were suggesting. They didn’t just take everything as-is, either. They made sure to play an active role and ensure the processes were a right fit, which is critical to a successful engagement. There is no turnkey solution, and that’s what a lot of integrators don’t get. Everyone wants the ‘easy’ button. If it were easy to run a successful, efficient business, then everyone would be doing it!”
Shiner said that in the beginning, the changes may have seemed insurmountable to ForresterTech, but as they worked through the processes, it was rewarding to see their client embrace change and move forward. Now, as the economy improves, Shiner is looking forward to helping many more integrators realize the value of getting a clean and usable set of books, as well as a process to improve
profitability by managing their numbers.
“Focusing on the financials is often the first thing abandoned during an economic downturn,” she said. “However, companies that use their numbers to carefully manage jobs, as well as overhead, are the first to significantly improve profitability during times of growth.”