You can’t do it all alone.
“It gets pretty lonely out there.” Those are the words of almost any owner, team leader or manager within the systems integration space.
Running a business, or part of a business, is hard work. And in the world of low-voltage, AV, security and information tech, the work isn’t easy. The systems we design are highly complex and oftentimes quite expensive. This combination makes for customers with large expectations. They want things to work, even when the request is sometimes unreasonable or completely out of our control.
And then there are your company’s internal operations: hiring, firing, paying bills, making payroll and dealing with the storm of government regulations that affect everything we do. Even though we have to be customer-centric, we also have to constantly worry about these other factors because everything is intertwined.
From the time we arrive in the office until we lock up the shop for the day, we spend time around others. However, people in these roles often feel alone. Why? Why do we allow the burden to fall on us, and how might this affect the bigger picture?
They become an outlet for managers and business owners to operate more confidently, even when situations arise that are out of your control.
Perhaps the most overwhelming reason we end up feeling alone (or without others to help us), even though we have our teams in place, is because of our pride and desire to appear strong for our teams. When we don’t have the answers, we know that shrugging our shoulders isn’t going to exude confidence. If we say we don’t have the answers, what would our teams think?
But when we don’t acknowledge weakness, this can often lead us down a path that doesn’t help our organization (or anyone in it). Our employees need to believe in us, but how can they believe in someone who doesn’t have all the answers? As leaders, what should we do?
The real key for integrators is to build your A-team: your trusted inner circle that operates inside and outside of your business. Some are friends, some are employees and some may be paid service providers. When you combine their capabilities, however, they become an outlet for managers and business owners to operate more confidently, even when situations arise that are out of your control. So who should be on your A-team?
- Accounting/Financial Expert: We might save a bit by serving as our own accountant, but what we save can be eroded quickly by what we lose. An accounting/financial expert with a keen awareness of accrual and project accounting can identify areas that help generate cash flow, improve profits and tidy up your balance sheet.
- Business Process/Operations: Sometimes, working on your business is hard. Having outside input about how you are delivering projects from start to finish is a great way to improve profits. This also can be done to help with internal processes, such as warehouse/inventory management or software workflow.
- Sales/Go-To-Market: The integration industry has long been highly dependent on 1:1 selling, and I don’t see this changing any time soon. As a relationship industry, it’s critical that we continually train and support our salespeople, helping them evolve, teaching them to use tools such as LinkedIn or Referral Networking to reduce the need for prospecting, and that we keep in touch in between projects so they’re ready when something pops up.
- Digital/Marketing: Marketing has to evolve to support the changing sales landscape. Many integrators lack any sort of expertise in the digital transformation that impacts buyers. With online content and social media taking over our lives, it’s important to understand what adapting means to your business.
- Trusted Inner Circle: Although the other A-team members listed here may be folks outside of your day-to-day operations, it’s important that team leaders and executives have their trusted inner circle. It will give you access to someone who can quickly respond to your needs, whether that’s bouncing an idea around or implementing change. Don’t underestimate the power of having trusted resources on the inside.
Even though it’s often seen as a weakness for a business owner to open his or her doors to outside guidance, the truth is that the world’s largest and most successful businesses do it every day. In fact, a business’ willingness to invest in improvement is often what sets it apart.
Whether you’re trying to build a better engineering department or a better company, having your A-team in place is a great way to accomplish your business goals.