September 2014 - Vol 9, Issue 9
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The Holy Grail and Other Things
September snuck up on me. With all the kids heading back to school, I have been thinking about what I did this summer. Back in June, just before InfoComm, my wife and I started fostering puppies. We hosted and placed three Border Collie mixes (seen below) plusone Australian Shepherd pup. Three months' worth of non-stop fun, training, and vet trips. All this plus our three adult dogs!

On my summer vacation, I also wrote and conducted six private webinars on Sales and Marketing. In the coming months I will be sharing some of the key thoughts from these valuable seminars and will share how you can access this training for your team. In fact, the first webinar in this series is open for registration. Learn more here.

Are you interested in SPONSORING these webinars? Email me!

About My Grail Quest
Also on my summer vacation, I  experienced a major breakthrough that will help unlock sales growth and profitability. This might be my consulting Holy Grail: I now know what keeps smart companies from growing and more importantly, how to re-program Owners and Managers to let this growth happen.

It all starts with a better understanding of Pricing Theory and Job Cost. This Friday I will be giving a public webinar (registration required) on Pricing and Job Costing for Rental and Live Events. I have been working on this presentation for almost two years. Why? It's a complex topic with HUGE implications for our industry. Registrants will receive a handout in advance, plus next week I will send you an exclusive White Paper that explains the math and mechanics plus access to the archive of the webinar. Learn more below:

The most challenging management discussion that I regularly  encounter is "How do we determine the price point at which a job is no longer profitable?" Do you find that your team struggles with balancing pricing, discounts, and length of event with customer demands and competitive pressures? In this webinar I will demonstrate how as an industry AV Rental has created an arbitrary pricing structure and why it is keeping your company from growing.
NEXT WEEK: InfoComm's
xecutive Conference
InfoComm's AV Executive Conference is September 17-19 in Scottsdale, AZ. I am encouraging my clients especially, and everyone in general to attend.  Last Year's event was a major success and most of you have told me you plan to attend again. That's high praise in an industry that doesn't suffer meetings well!

Visit the AVEC website for complete details. I'll see you there!

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Trivia: Today is 9/9. And this is the 9th issue of the 9th year of AV Matters! That's a lot of 9's...

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100 Days of Effective Prospecting
Re-Discovering customers you already know


Join us for a Webinar on Friday October 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM EDT/1:00 PM CDT


What You Will Learn:

* How to conduct an effective prospecting campaign by mining your existing contacts 

* What to do with that new Account Manager

* Why you never want to send the new salesperson out to "Sell" for you

* How to get prospects to finally engage with you 


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After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Only REGISTRANTS will receive access to the live session, the video archive, the handout, and the White Paper on this topic.


Learn More about this and other upcoming webinars here. 


bestpracticesBest Practices Blog

As much as I tout the importance of having a unique business strategy, if you tell me that your company is unique I am ready to help you fix that


All businesses (even yours) are fairly simple. You have a product or service that drives revenue, costs associated with delivering said product or service, and costs associated with selling, financing, and just 'keeping the lights on.' Most purported attempts to have a unique business model are the result of not fully grasping the basics.


Whenever a business owner begins our pre-consulting conversation with, "Well, we're pretty unique," I know that I am going to be dealing with one of the following:

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  •   A business that evolved from an owner-operator to employees taking on responsibilities without any coordinated plan or, a business with a bunch of family members (or too many partners) in key jobs with unclear management structure
  • A business with a key client that is probably more than one-third of the firm's revenue, but with some sort of hidden obligation or "deal" that keeps the seller from expanding to similar clients
  • A business feels that it is too busy to work on things that it knows or at least senses are important

Unique rarely means "difficult to copy" or "clever beyond words" though sometimes it does mean that the firm is failing to recognize its potential differentiators. More often it implies that no one would else would choose this model on purpose. "Unique" tells me that something needs to be fixed, and broken companies are just not that uncommon. It also indicates that the owner is probably out of touch with peers or colleagues in the industry.


Being different can be an asset, but too often it is used as an excuse to avoid business fundamentals. When I study a "unique" company, the first thing I see is creative accounting. Not creative in that anything illegal is going on; rather, the bookkeeper has no idea what kind of business this is (because the owner doesn't know either): Revenue is improperly segmented, cost of goods sold are non-existent, and too many expenses are treated as exceptions. Being able to see the numbers and connect them to business progress is a fundamental need.


The second attribute of unique companies is a broken or non-existent organization chart. Even a firm with five employees needs to clarify chain of command and responsibilities. I recently worked with a company whose HR/Payroll Director couldn't get employees to fill out required paperwork without the Owner intervening. (Psst: don't piss off the HR person!). Org charts are difficult for many companies because it requires facing the facts about longtime employees in the wrong position.


The third broken fundamental is an undefined compensation plan: Salaries that are all over the map and commissions based on something unhealthy. Given that payroll accounts for as much as 50% of a company's expenses, why wouldn't this be a priority? Being unique is a poor excuse for lack of applied skills.


The most telling trait of the allegedly different is that they aren't different at all. In fact, the company has not changed in years, permanent growth is elusive, and every project takes extraordinary effort because...well,...a unique company does everything they do as if it was the first time. Every project is the same: a surprise.


Real business is boring, but boring businesses make money. The goal is to have a highly differentiated Strategy (with a capital S), but before a company can effectively execute an interesting plan, it has to have a very uninteresting business fundamentals.


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:

"Ironically, when the complexity that we add to our products and services exceeds the needs of our customers, they respond by ignoring the features they do not need and by treating our offerings as if they were commodities."

- Jeff Thull, Mastering the Complex Sale

See you next month, - Tom    


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.