It pays to keep in touch with other integrators in your geography. Not only can you find a great person to bounce ideas off of — both business strategy and technical details — but you can also build up a great referral network as well.
Over the years, I have referred quite a few projects to other integrators that I know and trust. Oftentimes it is because we are too busy at the moment to take on more work, or it’s for control systems we don’t support. I have several integrators I know well in the region and trust to give their names to customers. In a couple of situations they have even taken over former clients of ours who still have older control systems that we aren’t as good at supporting anymore, and the other integrators are more up to speed with those systems.
Recently we had the benefit of being on the receiving end of one of these referrals. A colleague has a friend who is an attorney. The attorney and his client were just talking one day and it came up that the client needed someone who could help with his Crestron system. The attorney called my colleague, who is not a Crestron dealer, so he referred us. It turned out the client needed a full soup-to-nuts upgrade of the system, and it was a very nice-sized project. Because we had referred several projects to this integrator in the past, he was comfortable and confident to refer this project to us.
If a project isn’t the right fit for your company or you just don’t have the time in the schedule to squeeze another job in, instead of just saying “thanks but no thanks” to the client, think of whom you can refer the project to. It builds up amazing goodwill between your companies. You never know when you might need a hand—maybe they’ll have a piece of equipment in inventory that you desperately need on a jobsite one day, or they have connections with a manufacturer you’d like to meet, or you just want to have a sounding board for ideas, thoughts, and even frustrations.
Whatever the reason, having other integrators in your market that you can turn to, refer business to, and who can refer business to you is an invaluable resource. I’ve even shared employees with other integrators, whether they were slow and wanted to keep guys busy or they needed a skillset on a job that we could help with, it can make a lot of sense to have your guys work for someone else you trust every once in a while, and vice-versa.
I know it can be awkward to strike up these relationships, but great places to meet other integrators are at local industry events: manufacturer or rep showcases, distributor road shows, training sessions, or even on a job site while doing a proposal—don’t laugh, I’ve had it happen.
Keep your mind open and spend some time cultivating relationships outside of your comfort zone. You’d be amazed at how rewarding it can be.