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Dec 2013 - Vol 8, Issue 12
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Seasons Greetings!

As the office starts to quiet down for the holidays, I hope you have time to review AV Matters, all those magazines on your desk, and the myriad of online resources that help you work on your business and careers. I suggest that you bookmark this issue, because it will be tough to get through it all in one sitting.

After so many years of slow economy - where time just seemed to drag on and on - suddenly I look back and 2013 is already over. As I review the items for this month's AV Matters, there's a LOT of end of the year tidbits to share.

The Stimson Group is pleased to announce the release of the 2014 Business Forecast Survey conduct in last month's AV Matters. This annual poll of the AV Industry drew over 150 responses with hundreds of reflections on what they should have done in 2013 and what they expect in 2014. Click through to download the PDF....

This month's AV Matters blog is of course, an end of the year piece. In it, I recall some of the best practices that have evolved through the years often in response to the Recession. It's amazing how relevant these ideas continue to be.

In late November, InfoComm gathered four AV Industry observers to reflect on the news of 2013. Check out this insightful podcast online or download to your digital listening device.....


What will 2014 hold? Care to guess? Me neither. I prefer my forecasts to be scientifically imperfect but founded on data....

I am fielding a lot of calls and emails from Rental-Stagers about capital purchasing strategies - something I have not seen a lot of the past couple of years. It's great to be on this topic again...

Recent Keynote Content
Every time I give a presentation I make a point of posting my slides on my website in advance. There are three new topics from this past month. If you are considering hiring a speaker for your team meeting, industry event, or training - I promise I will get everyone thinking....

What a great day! Six influential business owners from the AV and Live Events industries gathered near DFW for a candid and lively discussion on a variety of business topics. In the months to come, we will be sharing these videos and introducing you to the attendees. Learn more and see some of the official photography...

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BestPracticesBest Practices Blog


Bestpractices2013 End of the Year Reflections 

Every year I struggle for a moment or two about how to address the end of the year or the beginning of a new year. Frankly, 2013 will end and 2014 will start without my help but like most of you, the end of a year causes me to reflect on what has worked and where the next year will lead me.


There's an implied obligation of bloggers and pundits to somehow mark milestones. I'm a very fortunate (or, perhaps lucky) to have found my way into this consulting career. I enjoy meeting new folks and learning about a new company energizes me. Many of my articles, videos, and seminars are the direct result of an "aha" moment with a colleague or client. So it seems appropriate to revisit some of these blogs and share a little of the backstories.


If I could sum up what I have learned in my career in one sentence, it's that the same wise business practices matter in good times and bad. One of my more pithy sayings is that "good business is just good business." For instance, many companies have skipped over creating an exit strategy (or succession plan) because "we're not there yet." However, the things you do to ensure a profitable exit are the same things that build a good business. It doesn't matter why you start the journey as long as you are paying attention as you go.


In Dec 2009 we were staring the Recession right in the face and denying its existence as best we could. The advice I was doling out seemed timely, but looking back most of it was timeless. I wrote the following piece for Rental & Staging Systems magazine and I think it still applies today.


Five Skills That Are Key in Any Economy 


A few months later in 2010 I wrote about shrinking margins and how to deal with them. Again, the concepts are as relevant today as they are now, but at the time so many companies were flailing about for revenue that they seemed to have forgotten how to run a business. I likened it to driving down a long highway, realizing you are running out of gas, then driving faster in hopes of finding a gas station. Business owners were blaming lost revenue and low margins on their sales teams and all but ignoring the gross profit that was bleeding out of their processes. As margins shrank, so did our spirits.


Is AV in A Race to the Bottom? 


The following was one of my favorite pieces because old cars is a passion of mine. It was March 2011. I used the idea of tinkering on classic cars as a metaphor for business owners using analog tools to work on their digital businesses. What was happening at the time? I was working with some pretty stodgy business owners that were holding on to their 1980s (or in some cases 1970s) business models. At one point I felt like a car mechanic again as I had to explain to an owner that the best his business model could ever do was break even. He needed a new engine to keep apace with the industry, not a rebuild of the old one.


Tinkering With A Classic 


My frustrations continued  in October 2011. By then I could clearly see that the problem most business owners were having was the misconception that revenue would solve their problems. In fact, many of my clients were hurting their businesses by chasing top line, when too often there was no bottom line in that business. Looking back I have found that clients that looked objectively at their book of business tended to do better if they reduced revenue by 10-20% by firing the bad clients. The net result was that the profit from the remaining projects could shine and the sales team had more bandwidth to find new business. In phase one of the change, revenue would drop and profits would rise. In phase two, both revenue and profit go up.


Low Margins? Let's Go Over This One More Time 


By February 2012, the AV segment seemed to be turning the corner. The Recession was long over and most companies had stopped their downward slide and were growing again. Much progress was made in controlling costs and focusing on sales margins. Now it was time to pay attention to planning. Marketing seemed to be the most neglected area in most of my clients, and getting folks to understand why it wasn't optional was not working. I needed a call to action and fortunately, every company has one. It's their website.


Marketing 201: Website Intervention 


A side note: I have noticed that many websites have been refreshed or revamped in the past two years. Some of them well. But I still guesstimate that 70-80% of all our industry's websites make us look like amateurish copycats.  


Fall of 2012 was finally the time to reintroduce folks to the concept of a business plan. This is a potentially huge undertaking that most companies shy away from. I did write a couple of blogs about it, but one of the better tools was this video. Can you really do a business plan in 90 minutes? No of course not. But can you touch on the key issues and create the motivation to dive a little deeper? You bet!


The 90 Minute Business Plan 


In 2014, I think the consulting cycle will include retraining sales teams to sell on value proposition, win clients instead of customers, and focus on long term profit instead of projects and transactions. This kind of takes me full circle back to 2007 when sales training first became a large part of my business. Here's the best concept I have ever shared when it comes to understanding customers:


Customer Buying Styles 


The Journey continues...yours and mine. I will continue to identify what I feel are best practices if you will continue to consider them and apply the ones you think you can be successful with. Together we can raise the bar for everyone and some of us will go even higher in the process. Have A Great 2014!


Yours Truly,




The post 2013 End of the Year Reflections appeared first on The Stimson Group.




Here's a few scribbles from the margins: 

Don't let the closing process bog down: fear of alienating the prospect to close the sale prevents weak salespeople from finding out what will happen next. You can't lose a sale you haven't completed. You only risk uncovering the truth, and you do not want to postpone that.

If you believe prospects are scarce, then you never want to lose one. If prospects are abundant, then how would your sales process change? Focus on good fits. If you are not a good fit, move on. If the prospect is unwilling, move on.

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.