AV Matters
The Stimson Group Newsletter
All AV Issue Dec 2007
In This Issue
Survey Preview
Best Practices
Pirates Rule
Rental Education
Book Review
About The Stimson Group
R&S Quick Links
Seasons' Greetings,

This month I begin a new article series inspired by the many companies that have invited me into their offices. Each month I will share an observation I commonly make to my AV Staging clients. This month's installment outlines the cable management theory that is one of my staging Best Practices. Future articles will each cover a different topic that will help guide you to a better overall Rental & Staging operation. 

Also, check out the Rental Education link on your left and learn more about a useful new publication from InfoComm.

Best Wishes and a Happy New Year,
Tom (TR) Stimson, CTS
My Direct Email

InfoComm Announces 2008 Officers and Board of Governors
The Stimson Group is proud to announce that Tom Stimson, CTS has been elected as the 2008 Secretary-Treasurer of InfoComm International. "I am very honored to be selected and look forward to working with all the dedicated officers and Board members in the coming years," says Tom. The Board also welcomes seven new members including Matt Emerson, CTS of Ceavco who will fulfill Tom's unexpired term as Chair of the Rental & Staging Council. To read the full press release, click here.

LA Roadshow - Thanks!
The Rental & Staging Roadshow took place on Dec 5th at the LA Convention Center. Tom Stimson, CTS and Joel Rollins, CTS-R gave seminars on sales, operations, and project management. Fourteen exhibitors in addition to another ninety on the DV Expo exhibit floor were visited by Roadshow attendees from Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Colorado. These events are a great way to meet a lot of folks and hear what is happening in your world. Next stop...Orlando. Check back next month for more information on date and location.
Monthly Trends Survey

Last month's survey reviewed business trends for 2007 and predictions for 2008. Some of the comments regarding most surprising developments of the past year were enlightening and others downright funny. Download a PDF of the results here.

This month our survey asks about email practices and in particular - how we filter spam. I hope the results will give some insight into what if anything works. Take the December survey at this link.

Best Practices Installment:
Don't Let Cable Wrap You Up

There probably isn't a more un-sexy topic for Stagers than cable and accessories. They are absolutely critical to almost everything we do, but get very little of our creative and innovative energies. As I visit more companies and engage in projects to improve costs and save time, the last place my customers expect me to look is in their cable bins - but that's where a lot of the money goes.

During the warehouse tour where I get a glimpse of what makes a company tick, I am drawn to activity. What are people doing and why are they doing it now? The two most common sights are 1: Someone looking for an adapter, accessory, or widget and 2: Someone handling cable. They are doing it now because the item or cable is needed on the order that is currently being prepped. Most managers are surprised when I later connect those activities to their escalating direct labor costs. And it's not just in the warehouse - cable and accessory issues affect labor costs on showsite too.

The basic problem with cable and gack (all those little pieces that make the big ones work) in general is that the time required to handle them costs more than the incremental cost of buying more of these items. For owners it can be frustrating to have to spend so much money on wires that do not seem to be a revenue center. But cable is more than a "non-revenue" item - it represents a huge labor cost for wrapping, sorting, counting, and re-packaging. Then there are the added costs when you come up short on showsite and have to send a care package or worse - have to sub-rent cable.

So what's the solution? One part of the answer is to own more cable. My rule of thumb for smaller and fast-growing stagers is to own twice what you think you need to outfit the gear you own. (Larger companies can often reduce that number to 1.5x.) Extra cable alone will not save money. You also have to pre-package it. Cable kits do two important things: Kits force you to send extra cable and kits can be prepped in advance. Sending extra cable to showsite reduces the time it takes to find the right cable and cuts down on supplemental shipments. Having a 2:1 cable to equipment factor allows your team to prep cable for future shows instead of just filling the order currently being pulled. This takes a time-consuming and labor-intensive task and moves it to a more convenient time.

The key to all this is the kitting. Pre-packaged cable kits of different sizes for every department reduce mistakes, save time, and improve service. Determining what goes into a kit is more art than science, and I will warn you that the methodology will run counter to AV Rental conventional wisdom. To begin with you have to accept the fact that you will send cables and accessories that you do not need on almost every order. Secondly, managers will sense that they are losing large numbers of expensive pieces almost from day one. The truth is, you are not losing as many you think - you are simply not wasting a lot of time looking for them. If you own enough cable, the bins are always stocked and therefore the kits can be refilled whenever they need to be. Most fo the time the  "missing" cable will turn up in the wrong case - just like it usually does. The only difference is that work didn't have to stop to find it.

The proof is in the labor savings, and that starts when specifying shows. Regardless of who specs cable in your system, being able to specify a case instead of listing individual items will be a welcome change. For the warehouse, pulling kits is much faster and think of the time it will save on tight turnarounds when the big dollar gear has to move from show to show. When you are paying overtime to a shop crew, do you really want them sorting cables? This is a task you can save for slower days. Finally, when you sub-rent equipment systems you won't have to completely depend on the supplier's cable to meet all your needs and specifications. Time is money and you will find a lot of time hiding in your cables.

Tom Stimson, CTS
Managing Pirates
The biggest problem with rules is having to follow them. My favorite lines from Pirates of the Carribean all have to do with rules:

PirateElizabeth: Wait! You have to take me to shore. According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren...
Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.

Will Turner: You cheated.
Jack Sparrow: Pirate.

In business we are all opportunistic pirates with varying degrees of morality. Rules are something we work around as we try to take care of customers and finish our tasks. But rules aren't made because of good-intentioned people; they are for people who would favor themselves over the good of the customer or their employer. Individuals have values, but so do companies. The values companies choose to embrace become part of the culture and will attract individuals who share similar values. These values then determine what rules are really needed.

When I conduct training seminars on operations management, the first thing I try to assess are the values of the firm. Because where there are values, you don't need rules. Values such a working as a team, putting the customer first, or assuming the best of each other can go a long way towards replacing rules with more flexible and realistic guidelines. You can take it to an extreme such as the well-know Nordstrom's Inc. employee handbook, which states:

Use your good judgment in all situations.
There will be no additional rules.

In practice I finds that rules are best for dealing with legal matters. Process solves most operational dilemmas. Guidelines empower employees. And company values help deter workers from bad judgement. A little of each in the right spot will get sustainable results.
Education: AV Setup Guide

Putting AV Rental 101 to Work
This month InfoComm's prolific Education Department has released a handy primer for AV Technicians. The AV Setup Guide is a must-have reference for anyone who delivers, sets up, or services basic AV meeting room rentals.The handbook is spiral-bound 5.5 by 8.5 inches made of sturdy paper stock. It covers all the things that might take you months to teach a new hire in OTJT (on the job training).  The guide starts with the basics: customer service, safety, loading trucks, and dressing cable. Then it moves through the standard AV setups of audio systems, visual products, computers, and room layouts. There is a handy troubleshooting guide and a picture reference of more common cable connectors. To purchase copies for your company go to the InfoComm Publications page or call InfoComm Customer Service at 703-273-7200.

Another Must-Read Book
Fire Someone Today

Fire SomeoneCatchy title isn't it? Too often managers look upon dismissing an employee as a breach of faith and a personal failure to help that person succeed. Bob Pritchett addresses those and other common feelings in chapter one of Fire Someone Today. The table of contents reads like an entreprenuer's handbook with such gems as "Nobody Needs an Optimistic Accouuntant" or "You Can Always Find 5%". My favorite chapter is about protecting your business from the perfect employee! Every lesson comes with a personal story from the author's experiences. But I bet most of us can see our own experiences in these fun and insightful lessons. The author's conclusions won't fit everyone, but they will get you thinking!

Order this book on Amazon
Art of SalesAbout Thomas R. Stimson, MBA, CTS

Tom Stimson is celebrating over twenty-five years in the communications technology industry.  As a Consultant, Tom helps companies build smoother operations, focus sales, and increase profit. For more information visit the website.