AV Matters Header Orange 600

Feb 2014 - Vol 9, Issue 2
  Our Sponsors

Working Hard?

It's busy season in AV world. There seems to be a lot of work going down, and that's a very good thing indeed. Enjoy the ride!

More Case Studies Online
Last month I introduced a wonderful video Testimonials piece and a video Case Study of a past project. This month I have four more video Case Studies to introduce. I am featuring this one from Live Technologies in Columbus, Ohio. They are Systems Integration and Event Staging company with long list of accomplishments.

Case Study: Live Technologies
Case Study: Live Technologies
You can view the rest of these projects on my website or directly from my Vimeo page.

I can't thank the folks at Magic Production Group enough for all their creativity and vision in bringing these videos to life. We have more content from the Stimson Group Roundtable event that will be released by the next issue of AV Matters. Stay tuned for information on how you can experience this unprecedented event yourself.

Business Networking
It's not just busy season, it is also networking season. This week I will be presenting a workshop on Proposals and RFP's to the International Technology Rental Association in Scottsdale, AZ. As luck would have it InfoComm is hosting a Roundtable event at the same hotel so I plan on popping in there as well.

Then in two weeks, InfoComm Live takes place in Atlanta, GA Feb 26-27. This is a well-attended event in a great location I hope to see you there. Registration is free to InfoComm Members.

In March and April, we have the Almo E4 AV Tour with stops in Dallas on Mar 11 and Orlando on Apr 23. This is also a free event with an excellent list of exhibiting companies, great networking, and of course top notch speakers. I will be presenting two seminars: My very popular "Don't Be a Commodity: Dealing with RFP's" plus "The New A/V Integration Model". Registration is open now.

And...on April 5th I will be providing a Keynote presentation to the attendees of Intellievent's Extreme Impact User Conference in Monterrey, California. If you are an Intellievent customer, don't miss this fabulous weekend of fun and networking!

Workshop Praise
Last month I introduced a workshop called Negotiating for Fun and Profit. It's all about reducing negotiable points and focusing on even trade choices. The early reports are in. Jon Young of Heroic Productions says,
"It's like we've been asking customers to haggle with us all this time. In the past month we have already reduced the number and types of negotiating points. Not only are our margins coming in higher, we are closing sooner."

Negotiation for Fun and Profit works in Systems Integration too. Give me a call or email for more information.

What DOES Tom Really Do?
The Best Practices feature will be back next month. In the meantime you can view past columns on my website. Instead, it's once again time to talk about what Consulting is and how it might benefit your company.

Interested in Sponsoring AV Matters? Visit our home page.

Thanks for reading and please share this with your co-workers and encourage them to subscribe as well.  As always, I welcome your questions and comments.



214-553-7077 direct

Like us on FacebookView our profile on LinkedInView our videos on YouTube Visit my blog

bestpracticesBest Practices Blog


Most of us have wished at one time or another for someone who could show us a better way to do things. The first step in making the case for Consulting is to help you understand that no matter their circumstances, most companies can benefit from an outsider's perspective and contributions.  I myself use a peer mentoring group of consultants, plus I employ two fantastic marketing companies to help keep my vision and message on track. These experts see things that I can't necessarily see myself, or if I do - they put it in better context. They also introduce me to tactics and strategies that I may have overlooked. For instance, I am migrating towards Vimeo as my primary video hosting site. Not only does it just look better than YouTube, it is easier to configure my content for sharing. YouTube has its uses, but until my professionals showed me the differences, I was wasting a lot of effort and getting a less than ideal product. It's a small thing, but then again - it isn't. Once these issues were pointed out in context, the extra effort to switch made a lot of sense. This is a fairly low value example, but when we start to get into sales strategies, scheduling, or inventory utilization, the numbers add up quickly.

Start With A Goal

Every project starts with a Goal and every company has them. The Case Studies and Endorsements that I have recently added to my website are all from historically successful companies with smart CEO's who chose to hire a Consultant so they could become even better companies. In the videos, they talk about their goals and reasons for hiring a me. Even though the projects and circumstances were all different, each client specifically mentions that a fresh point of view was a top priority.


However, not everyone is clear about their goals at first.Very often that initial conversation with a prospective client begins with "I'm not sure what I need, but tell me how this works..." The fact is, Consulting works a little differently for everyone because  clients have different objectives. What I need to know is, "What prompted you to call in the first place? Where does it hurt? What keeps you up at night? What would you change if you could?" Here's a couple of my all time favorite responses to my 'Where does it hurt?' question:

  • "It hurts Monday mornings. All the stuff that went wrong over the weekend, the backlog of warehouse chores, the clients that waited to the last minute to confirm projects..."
  • "I want to fire all my salespeople because every time they sell something I seem to lose money."
  • "I want to be able to afford you."
  • "I feel like I am working for my employees instead of the other way 'round."

Let's take the salespeople example, because who hasn't wanted to blame a salesperson at one time or another? My first probing response might be, "So, just how do you measure profitability?" Typical replies vary from "I just know" all the way to "We do a detailed job cost report on every project."  Subsequent questioning might reveal that the sales team has no tools for effectively evaluating profit margins themselves or perhaps they have no clearly defined target to begin with. Sometimes we even discover that the incentive plan actually drives lower profit instead of higher. Usually there is a combination of circumstances, policies, and processes that affects outcomes. So now that we have an idea of what the real issues are...

How MUCH of the Problem do you want to solve?

Hey, it's a fair question. Personally I would like to solve the entire problem, but sometimes we need to take smaller bites of the proverbial elephant. Here are four Consulting approaches to address some portion of just about ANY problem.

Executive Coaching

Coaching is a great tool when you have limited budget, but need to work on a lot of things. It generally involves one to two hour phone call once a month in which the client shares background and asks for specific help on pressing topics.  The advantage is that a proactive client can learn a little about a lot of things quickly and go apply those lessons themselves. The downside to this method is the limited exposure the Consultant has to the underlying issues, players, and history of the firm. Advice may be incomplete or the recipient may not have the resources or skills to apply them. Still, most coaching engagements deliver measurable progress.


Seminars and training are also potential Consulting engagements. Not all Consultants are trainers and not all Trainers can consult, but the two disciplines often overlap. In our earlier example, the solution to low sales margins might be a seminar on capturing more profit, better proposal writing, or negotiation skills. Training does not necessarily solve the problem, nor does training imply that the subject is the right one for the problem in question. On the other hand, rarely is training a waste of time and it often helps reveal what the underlying issues are in an organization. For instance, I once conducted a full day Sales Training Seminar to what turned out to be a room full of customer service representatives that had no use for the business development skills I was teaching. The person that hired me wanted to grow revenue, but what she really needed was a seminar on how to sell add-on products, whcih we then scheduled.

Subject Matter Expert

Consultants should be experts at something, and therefore that knowledge is valuable if you can figure out how to tap into it. In my practice this kind of engagement often manifests itself as spending a day in someone's board room being peppered with questions. It's actually kind of fun for the Experts. For clients that simply have a lot of industry or business questions, want to know more about a subject or segment they are unfamiliar with, or want to test ideas, theories, or products - hiring an Expert can be a good investment.  


Sometimes the Expert is asked to prepare a Briefing on the subject matter. This can serve as the basis for the ensuing discussion and demonstrates the Expert's position on the subject matter. The benefit of hiring an SME is that a well-prepared client can test a lot of ideas and hear alternatives in a very short amount of time. The downside is that you are hiring someone's knowledge. It's expensive and you are responsible for capturing the knowledge in the time allotted. An alternative to an SME session is a retainer agreement where the Consultant charges you in advance for a predetermined number of hours and you use those as needed.


Consulting projects are where the field really opens up. Let's take our Sales example again. If the client's goal is to address all the problems: training, policies, processes, management, and incentives that affect the profitability of a sales transaction, then the Consultant's approach can be more comprehensive. He or she might break the project down into steps that allow the client to work within their time and funding restraints. Or, the project can be based on a series of defined outcomes or goals. For example, the Sales project might be broken down into steps: Evaluation and Assessment, Recommended Training, Review and Restructure Pricing Policies, Develop Pre-Job Cost Model, Redesign Sales Chain of Command, Develop Commission and Incentive Plan, Train New Sales Manager, etc...


The Evaluation and Assessment step is particularly handy as it serves as the basis for just about any project. In my practice, this what I call the Under the Hood process and it familiarizes me with the company, its employees, financial results, and operational processes. This background allows me to be a better SME because I can answer questions and offer advice in context of how the company is currently setup. In fact, hiring the evaluation step before agreeing to the rest of the project might actually eliminate the need for some of the steps.

What Does It All Cost?

So, there is no simple answer here. Some Consulting engagements are easy to price such as Coaching and Training sessions. Call and ask; these are east to quote. SME work and Projects can involve an unlimited amount of intellectual property and are therefore the fees are often based on the value of the topic. However, it is important to know what your goals are worth to you. I once had an extended conversation with a prospective client that wanted his employees to be happier. He couldn't put a value on this for himself and therefore we simply couldn't find a methodology that fit his needs and non-existent budget. On the other hand, a client once called me with a morale issue brewing in his company. He KNEW the potential ramifications and associated costs of a company-wide meltdown plus he had already seen a drop in revenue and increase in internal costs. We quickly developed a project scope and fee that met his needs (and we did identify the sources of the problem and addressed those issues in short order).


My point is that in order to figure out what a Consultant costs, you need to understand what you are trying to solve, improve, or learn and what it might be worth to you. The same applies to hiring any kind of outside services whether it be marketing, accounting, or computer network support. It never hurts to get one of us windbag Consultants on the phone and you will be amazed at how much we will do for free - just to hear ourselves talk!


The post Working With A Consultant appeared first on The Stimson Group.



Here's a few scribbles from the margins: 

The path to continuous improvement has a budget in the middle of the road. Budgets allow you to make decisions in context, represent the plan, measure results, remove the obstacles of cost (you can plan to have money for that), or introduce a barrier to ad hoc ideas (slow things down). Budgets are a vital business tool.

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.