July 2014 - Vol 9, Issue 7
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July Snuck Up On Me!
InfoComm: Technology, Networking, and
What's the next big thing? I have no idea. Probably a Unified 4K LED Wall with a mobile interface - from what I saw at the show. On the other hand I was very pleased to see so many of you at InfoComm, but between being under the weather and having a shortened schedule this year, it was a whirlwind week. 

Meetings, meetings, meetings - It sounds like business is good out there, but more and more I am talking with leaders about the stress that a healthy economy puts on systems and processes. I am thrilled to say that I added five new clients at the show and renewed or extended relationships with several others. I wonder what I could have done if I had been healthy and had more time? I'll never know...

My annual dinner was at Capital Grille and I was happy to host owners/executives from nine companies. I try to choose guests that probably don't know each other, but have something in common. There are already some blossoming business relationships developing from the networking that evening. Thank-you to Gabe Solomon, President of Mertz Crew for hosting this year.

Another tradition I have is to meet up with my fellow InfoComm Past-Presidents to catch up on our lives and businesses. Working as closely as we do on the Board, it is not surprising how long-lasting relationships become, but Officers of the association develop a special bond. Not only were we witness to all the events of an era, we were involved behind the scenes in matters that can't be discussed outside of a small circle. I am very grateful to those colleagues for their friendship, counsel, and many contributions to the industry.

Even though I spent little time on the floor, one trend was obvious: Booth Babes were back this year and the effect was rather offensive. For the uninitiated, Booth Babes refers to the practice of hiring attractive hostesses to stand in your booth to draw in attendees. In Las Vegas this is big business. Sometimes the "models" are in costumes (imagine what Marketing people think nerds would like) or simply they are in their shortest little black dress and tallest heels. At any rate, the practice stepped across a line this year and InfoComm CEO, Dave Labuskes is thankfully asking for a rethinking of this practice: 
I am so happy that InfoComm's CEO spoke up about this. I did not get to spend much time on the show floor, but this was clearly a "booth babe" year. A strong economy and well...Vegas...generally brings out the Fembots. I attended one party hosted by a manufacturer that had so many rented hostesses that I left rather early. These were just kids and made up like, well...As the dad to two women in the same age group, I was offended. Time to grow up folks. Misogyny is so last century.

InfoComm shook up events for Stagers by nixing the Rental & Staging Forum, but that opened up great time slot for a networking roundtable event. Read about the results here:

The tables were turned on Tom Stimson at InfoComm this year. Instead of Tom teaching his usual Best Practices or Business Strategy courses, fifty-five business leaders from all over the globe took him to school in a two-hour discussion.
The Rental & Staging Business Exchange was a workshop at InfoComm where Live Event executives exchanged ideas [...]...


All in all InfoComm 2014 was a great show, a memorable event, and very productive. My apologies to everyone I missed. I really wish I could have spent time with all of you.

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Around the Table with Tom Stimson

"Watching this video series is the most powerful strategic decision you can make in 2014." - Tom Stimson


The CEO Video Series, Around the Table with Tom Stimson puts you at the table with thought-leaders from successful companies in the Live Events. Plus each episode includes analysis and insights from Tom Stimson, the management expert for the AV Industry.  


Episode 5: Producing Content
Content Services is no longer an emerging trend. It is a real solution that makes your technology more valuable. In Episode 5, our CEOs frame the opportunity and tactical solutions of their Content Production services.

"If you want us to be accountable, let us do the whole solution."
"The distinction between producing content and an Event Producer...we can manage everything we are responsible for...the final product is so much better."
"We have re-branded that part of our business...we are not going to compete with Event Producers."
"It infuses you into the sales process much earlier"
"You are selling solutions, not just selling gear...Most people don't know what the equipment could really do for them."

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bestpracticesBest Practices Blog

AV Matters' Best Practices Sponsor 

Tom Stimson MBA CTS  

"Do you do training?" I get asked this all the time, but it's the wrong question. The question I have to give back is "Sure, but the real questions is do YOU do training?" 

It is hard to find anyone that disagrees with the concept of training employees. I won't even bother to cite the value in education. Let's assume you all know as well. So why don't more companies commit the time and expense? I'll tell you why: They are short-sighted, kinda selfish, and a little bit afraid. And - they are in good company because this seems to be a common problem in small businesses. The right question is, "Can you help figure out how to develop a training culture?" My answer is yes. Here's what you need to understand to start to remove the obstacles to a better educated workforce.

Training Obstacles

I hear far more complaints from employees these days about the lack of training opportunities in their companies than I do from owners. Employers sometimes tell workers to learn on their own time and at their own expense, but then expect to reap the benefits of those efforts. Needless to say employees balk at this and end up settling for unspectacular careers.

Likewise, employers will tell you that when they have provided training, the employee expected a pay raise or promotion as a reward for completion. Or, they immediately took a new job; or they didn't retain the knowledge. Both parties are half-right, which means they are also half-wrong. The root problem is cultural and more than a little bit generational. IN any case, we have to start our work at the top.

The list of objections to training that I hear from employers is rather long, but here are few of my favorites:

1. "I am training people for someone else to steal."

I agree with you 100%. If you do not work hard to retain employees, then they will leave. Remember the Richard Branson quote, "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to." However, this IS a chicken and egg thing. You have to start treating employees well in order for the retention thing to work. I am honestly thinking right now of employers who have told me, "I will treat them better when they work harder." I can't make this stuff up!

2. "Back in my day we learned during our free time and proved ourselves valuable through extra effort. We earned the right to be trained!"

Yes, you probably did. (Did you use the curmudgeon voice in your head when you read that quote?) Back when technology was analog and you COULD learn how to do something by fiddling with the knobs, training was more informal, self-driven, and 'on-the-job'. This is now the 21st century and it takes a computer to turn on a lamp or 'pot up' a microphone. Operating standards are also much higher. Plus today's workers expect to do more than sweep the floor and push boxes when they are hired. Who can blame them? I can't think of one valuable job in our industry that doesn't require advanced training.

3. "We don't have the time. Whenever we schedule training, a big project pops up."

This is actually less of a time argument than it is a money thing. If you were committed to training, you would honor the schedule and hire extra workers, sub-contractors, or freelancers to do the work. You have to be committed to the point that excuses don't matter.

4. "No one trains the way I think it should be done."

Can't argue with that other than to say then, create your own training! However, the managers that deliver this objection are often ones that are too busy themselves to work on such a project. In other words, Managers need training on how to be a better manager. Maybe we should start there.

Training Culture

The obstacle that most managers want my help addressing is the employee expectation of more compensation as they become more trained. Meanwhile the employer wants an ROI and needs to see a track record of the employee making more money for the company. The fact that this paradigm exists points to the need for a training culture within organizations. This is not something that an be brought on overnight by introducing new policies and programs. Continuing education is a requirement to survive in today's business world.

Training needs follow-through. At a minimum you must guide the newly-trained employee into situations where they can use their new skills successfully. You also need to give them support from more experienced personnel to protect the project and the worker from failure. A certificate doesn't replace experience, just as 'time on the console' doesn't replace training anymore.

There is so much more that goes into changing the way you and your employees think about training. Company culture is Doctoral level theory, but it all starts with a good attitude, a willingness to learn from mistakes, and a commitment of time and money. The biggest obstacle is perhaps the person at the top, and that's a great place to start teaching some new ways of thinking. 

Tom Stimson, MBA, CTS, is president of Stimson Group LLC, a Dallas-based management consulting firm specializing in strategy, process improvement, and market research for the Audiovisual Industry. Tom is a Past-President of InfoComm International and a current member of InfoComm's Adjunct Faculty. 



Here's a few scribbles from the margins:

Do you know what your ideal customer looks like? Do you understand that kind of customer? Do they understand you?

Why would you market to anyone else?

See you next month, - Tom Stimson  


About Thomas R. Stimson, MBA, CTS

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.