28.03.18

Keys to Project Success – 2. HOW TO AVOID THE TIME TRAP

clock on table - time management

This month we are going to look at how we can avoid the time trap I mentioned in my previous article in my ‘Keys to success’ mini-series. When I say the time trap I am referring to the time when we would come away from a new client meeting full of optimism only to have this dashed on the rocks of the day-to-day demands on our time.

We would forever be spending those precious few days after that initial meeting trying to work out where we could fit this new proposal into our ever burgeoning schedule.

…And it took a visit to the states and a complete shift in our company structure but we eventually found a way to defeat this.

It all started when we made a large investment in a new estimating and design software tool.

Once we had our hands on this software we realised it had the potential to streamline our business. But there was a problem, there was so much to this software that we were never going maximise the potential of our investment without some in depth training. The company who provided this software offered online training and good technical support but it was the decision to attend their three-day training session that year in the US that was our real game-changer.

During this training we obviously learned a massive amount about our new software tool, but it was the US integrators that we met there who would change the way we would do business forever. They told us that the way our business was set up with both owners doing sales, then our own proposals and design and even having more or less our own install teams was madness. In their words we might as well have had two separate companies!

“…it was the US integrators that we met there who would change the way we would do business forever.”

These integrators taught us that the best way forward was to choose one owner who would go out and do all the selling, while the other would stay behind in the office creating all the proposals and designs. They also told us to follow a repeatable pattern, installing the same systems again and again for each and every client just tweaking them to suit that client and their property.

When we got back from that trip we completely changed the face of our company overnight. We decided that as I had an educational background in design that I would be the one who would take on the creation of all the proposals and designs, supporting my business partner who would do all the selling. My business partner would support me in turn by taking the lead role on the day-to-day running of the business, thus protecting my schedule allowing me to focus my attention on proposals and design.

From that day on, working as a team like never before, we never missed an opportunity to quote on a job, always delivered our design work on time and had more time to focus on our clients.

The impact this had on our business was massive, in that year we doubled our turnover, simply by be being more client focused and never missing an opportunity.

In fact the impact this had on me was far more wide-reaching. I saw so much potential in this concept that I eventually decided to leave my business partner and set up on my own. But this wasn’t an attempt to hang him out to dry by becoming his competitor, on the contrary it was a natural progression and we would work together for many years to come.

More of this in a moment but now I would like to pick up on something I mentioned previously. As I hinted at in my previous article in this mini-series, one of the most important things we can do is make time to qualify our potential clients. This helps us focus our attention on only those people that are the best fit for our business.

And just what are the best ways to qualify our clients I hear you thinking! Not surprisingly the answer most people come up with is software. There are a number of software products out there which are designed to deliver quick estimates or initial proposals when talking to clients for the first time about their requirements. However they all suffer from the same drawback; the time you need to invest to set them up in the first place with your own preferred kit and prices. They can also be intrusive in meetings, distracting you from the most important thing, listening to the client. Instead you find yourself fighting with a phone or tablet as you try to capture all the information available!

The best answer I found was by preselecting example jobs to take to that initial client meeting. Here it might be best to use an analogy: if you were to go into an exclusive car showroom, you would expect the salesperson there to be able to show you a range of models and then talk about different trim levels and a host of options and put prices to all of this. I believe it’s this same technique that we should employ to qualify our clients. By showing a new client what the different possibilities are for their property through example jobs and putting prices to these, we are quickly able to help the client show us what they want. It really is that simple.

But this poses another question; where are you going to get your hands on these example jobs? The answer to this is, and some more ideas are coming up in the final article in this series.

Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. Since then he worked in numerous high end audio outlets, culminating in owning and running his own successful AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break he started Jones designs in August 2009 which morphed into a Ltd. company called designflow, in 2015. Designflow aims to increase awareness of design in AV and help installers win more jobs and create proper documentation for them.