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Nov 2013 - Vol 8, Issue 11
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Welcome Back

Fall is in the air and year end is upon us. All those things you planned on getting done this business year are glaring up from your desk. For most of you, that means business has been good - pushing projects off a little bit longer. Will this trend last? I guess it's time to send out a survey request:

(4 questions, less than 3 minutes) How was this year? How will next year be? Take this five minute survey and we will publish the results in the December issue of AV Matters.

Don't forget to take the survey. Our collective perspective is a lot more bankable than a couple of anecdotes! Speaking of one guy's opinions, I am often asked how I think the economy is doing and when the next Recession will start. (Like I would know!) I thought I might point to the kinds of signs that tell me we should all be a little more confident and plan on growth for the foreseeable future. Warning: some of my leading indicators are just silly, but make sense when you think about it:

(Rolling Blog) Politicians on both sides of the aisle are predicting doom and gloom, but apparently big business isn't listening. While many individuals seem to have been scared by the rhetoric, corporations are seeing something else ....

Each month I endeavor to share another short video for you. The Youtube page is growing! You have heard me say many times how important it is to get customers into your building.  I have observed an interesting phenomenon that might motivate you to work a little harder at it: 

In this month's installment of AV Matters Video Blog, Tom Stimson talks about the best sales tool you already have but are probably forgetting to leverage: Your Office. If you want to improve your close rate and win customers for life, then impress them first with a visit to your place of business....


The Best Sales Tool You Already Have

Alford Media Chili Cookoff - Benefiting Becky Cutler
I can't say enough great things about the Alford Media Chili Cookoff. Aside from the fact that it's just plain fun, they have turned it into a benefit for deserving friends. This year's beneficiary is Becky and Kelly Cutler, longtime friends of the Alford Media Family and well-known in the local music community. Becky has recently been diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease). Their home needs major modifications to accommodate her limited mobility and I hope you can come out and support these fine folks.
The Chili Cookoff takes place Sunday November 17th. Arrive before 1pm! That's when the presentation of the Chili Teams takes place and the chili-tasting begins.

This past week I was honored to participate in InfoComm's final podcast for the year. The discussion was about how 2013 has turned out and what to expect in 2014. You can find all InfoComm podcasts at this link.

InfoComm Webinar: Wearing Too Many Hats? 
I hope you caught this webinar live, but even if you didn't it is archived at this link. Just register and you will get instant access to the recording. You can download my handout here.

Plus I penned a follow-up article, which is this month's Best Practices column below.

Independent Blogs Worth Visiting
I am not the only one that writes independently for our industry. Check out these great blogs: 
AV Shout - Christopher Neto, AV Industry News, Views, and Information
avnation - Tim Albright and others. Integration and technology blogs and podcasts.

If you have or know of other independent bloggers that cover topics relevant to AV, Live Events, or Systems Integration - send me the link!

Don't forget to visit our sponsors! These good companies are choosing to support AV Matters because they know that we support you. To learn more about plans for AV Matters in 2014, visit our home page.

Thanks for reading (and watching and listening) !

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I recently completed another webinar for InfoComm entitled, "Wearing Too Many Hats? How to Solve Being Too Busy." You can view the archive of that event here, but today I want to expand on a couple of the concepts covered in the session.


The signs of too busy are everywhere if you just look for them. Websites that are out of date, inactive, or one-dimensional indicate that this mission-critical tool is not on the top of anyone's priority list. Teams that are always pointing to specific individuals or processes in general for delays and missed deadlines are a sure sign that something is amiss. When drilling down into a problem generally leads to the conclusion that the company needs more people, but the P&L says the money isn't there - this definitely points to a too busy problem. Owners or top executives that can't make time in their busy schedules for anything other than a potential revenue-generating event are usually the heart of the problem. In Consultant-speak we say these would-be leaders spend too much time working in their businesses and not enough time working on them. (Consultants love pithy phrases like that.)


The reason so many companies suffer from this disease is not from a lack of personnel or resources; being too busy stems from employees wearing too many of the wrong hats.


The list of too busy warning signs can get pretty sad: filthy offices, disorganized warehouses, and grumpy employees are easy to spot. But all I need to identify a culture where looking busy is more important than getting things done, is the profit and loss statement:

  • Revenue growth that lags behind the industry
  • Profits that decline as revenue grows

We can find more signs buried in the balance sheet such as a preponderance of idle inventory (see messy warehouse in paragraph one), inconsistent capitalization, and a line of credit that never sees a zero balance to name a few. Management creates this problem and they have a lot of excuses about why they can't fix it. Mostly, they are too busy themselves from wearing too many of the wrong hats!

The Theory of Hats

Or perhaps more appropriately - the Tenets of Hat Prioritization. It starts with the idea that every employee can have only ONE primary hat at any time. A primary hat is the responsibility that he/she cannot say no to. It is the thing that other people depend upon you for the most. Asking someone to have more than one top priority is a formula for disappointing results. You can have more than one primary hat as long as they do not conflict. In other words, the hats must occur at distinct and predictably different times.


Secondary hats by definition have flexible execution schedules. These are responsibilities that can be set aside when the primary hat needs attention. For instance, a receptionist has two primary hats - answering the phone and greeting visitors. Granted, the phone always rings right as someone walks in the door, but the transition from hat to hat can be efficient and friendly. If the Receptionist is also responsible for posting accounts payable, then that is a secondary hat that should never interfere with the execution of the first hat(s).

The Culture of Too Busy

Changing the culture of companies that value being too busy is difficult. Busy has become a management shortcut to assessing whether an employee is performing well or not. A better measure of a person's value is their output or contribution to the common goals. In my consulting practice, I have outed more than one super-busy slacker whose penchant for hoarding too many primary responsibilities was clearly holding the firm back. Most of these folks are not intentionally inefficient, but because they are so busy and because they are frequently praised for being so - the problem persists. I once encountered a trucking dispatcher that routinely assigned himself to make deliveries. He couldn't see the problem; in his mind the delivery needed to be made. What he overlooked was the chaos created by being away from his post. Co-workers were held up in their work because a mission-critical supervisor chose to wear a conflicting hat. The result? Dysfunction without all the fun.


The problem starts at the top. Managers frequently take on roles that have major conflicts in time, geography, and importance. In effect, they start the chain of broken promises, so we need to examine what it is that Management should be doing instead of what most actually spend time on. My job description for managers is pretty simple: "Remove obstacles." Top executives should be devoting as much as 50% of their time to seeing what is down the road that might become and obstacle for their direct reports. Managers should spend about 25% of their time doing this. This is a primary hat. If you neglect it, other people can't get their jobs done in a timely and efficient manner.


The answer to the question of "Why is your team too busy?" is simple: Because YOU are. And, if you are not clever or organized enough to design a job that you can be successful at, how can you do that for your employees? This is another area where independent, outside consultants can be valuable to your company. We can see things that you are too close to recognize and offer solutions that take the larger view into consideration. Ironically, the most powerful resource we have to solve your dilemmas is time.


Here's a few scribbles from the margins: 
  • What is more valuable to your business? Products or Customers? Decide which comes first before someone else decides for you.
  • For any given piece of data, who in your organization should depend upon it? Numbers need to be relevant to multiple persons in different roles to truly be valuable. Sometimes it's the data that isn't on point, but too often your team needs to know how to better apply the data. 

See you next month, - Tom  


About Thomas R. Stimson, MBA, CTS
Stimson Portrait
Tom Stimson consults with organizations to improve their performance through strategic planning, process improvement, and team development. The Stimson Group provides coaching and tools to companies in the Audiovisual Industry that enable them to define and reach their strategic goals.

Whether you serve the Rental/Staging market, the Systems' Integration market, or or provide blended services - The Stimson Group provides unparalleled expertise, industry insight, and methodologies that drive operational efficiencies and increase profitability. 

For more information visit the website.