Spire Integrated Systems, Troy, Michigan

Which Products Are Your Most Profitable?

Spire Integrated Systems relies on iPoint software to isolate the sales, profit and install history for individual products, among other efficiencies.

The smallest new construction project Spire Integrated Systems handles is $80,000. Jason Bellanti says adopting iPoint six years ago enables the Troy, Mich.-based company to track products and profitability much more efficiently.

These sound like simple questions, but many integration companies have difficulty answering these inquiries with any level of specificity:

  • Do you know which products are your most profitable from an equipment, labor and even cost-of-inventory standpoint?
  • How many change orders do you generate per project?
  • How often do you have discrepancies between your proposals and your sales orders?

At Spire Integrated Systems in Troy, Mich., the ability to answer these questions and more are among the key benefits gleaned from its adoption of iPoint software.

While many integrators can point to a particular product with a high equipment margin as their highest profit-generator, they often have trouble dialing down to the specific dollar amount of profit. Using iPoint, Spire is able to hone in on the net profitability of every product the company installs, and use that information to create better proposals, generate upgrade opportunities, and manage technicians and inventory more effectively.

“The product history feature to the software comes in handy,” says Jason Bellanti, vice president, general manager and partner at Spire Integrated Systems. “Let’s say there is a new processor released for an existing product on the market. I can look back at the product history and every project in which we installed the old processor. I can analyze those previous projects for potential upgrade sales opportunities with the new upgraded component. I can also catch if there are pending projects in the pipeline where I have specified the old product, and immediately convert those to order the new one.”

Tracking Inventory Efficiently

Hand-in-hand with that product history information is inventory management.

“I like the inventory management the most because you can track a product history all the way from putting it into a proposal, converting that proposal to an approved sales order or a change order if something changes,” adds Bellanti. “Then we can track a product all the way through to which project manager requested the part to be ordered, who actually ordered the part, who received the part, who delivered the part to the job site and when it went out.

“Every phase along the way, we know exactly what happened with that product, and there are time stamps, date stamps and employee stamps that we can look at. There’s a certain level of accountability that the software brings, which really comes in handy,” he says.

Spire began using iPoint back in 2014 when it needed an end-to-end software solution to help manage every aspect of the business.

“We were really looking for something that we could use from the design and engineering phase, the beginning of the project, all the way to have a close-out punch list and finishing a project that included inventory management, invoicing, work orders,” says Bellanti. “The ability for the technicians to add electronic work orders was a really big thing for us because we were using paper up until that point. iPoint really opened the door to some additional possibilities for us.”

Sales Orders vs. Proposals vs. Change Orders

Spire Integrated Systems is a 25-person company that handles multiple six-figure projects at the same time. Bellanti estimates the company’s minimum job size is $80,000. With large projects the norm, it means there can be complex proposals and change orders.

“From an efficiency standpoint, one thing iPoint does differently is it separates proposals from sales orders,” he says. “The software is set up so that once you create a proposal, you can’t generate sales orders until the proposal is approved. You can ask for a client’s signature right through the software. Then, only certain employees in the company with the proper permissions can approve that proposal and turn it into a sales order.

“That locks it in. Only after it is locked in can you order or request a sales order for products. It really helps to reduce the number of errors and mistakes from the incorrect products being ordered while still in the proposal phase. I think that’s one of the biggest efficiencies we have experienced from the software,” he says.

Bellanti also likes the change order feature, which is link to a sales order.

“That is a huge increase in efficiency because we can easily track a change, whether it’s a zero-cost change or has a dollar amount associated with it. The software will automatically track the dollar amount that changes and locks it onto the software. Again, the software requires formal approval before anything can be done with it.”

He points to the formal approval process and e-signatures as one of the key processes Spire adopted because of iPoint.

“We basically demand an e-signature… and a monetary deposit… from the client before we will move forward. That formal process was a change in the way we did business,” he concludes.

SoundVision, Mooresville, North Carolina

Ending the Software Revolving Door

SoundVision in Mooresville, N.C., cuts its proposal turnaround time by 75% and boosts closing rate to 95% using iPoint.

Mark DiPietro of SoundVision in Mooresville, N.C., changed software every two years before discovering on iPoint four years ago. “I guess I just wanted to waste money,” he jokes.

Unfortunately, software can sometimes be a revolving door for integrators. You try one for two years… it doesn’t work so you try another one. Two years later that one is discarded and it’s time to try another one.

Mark DiPietro, managing partner at SoundVision in Mooresville, N.C., just north of Charlotte, admits he was one of those integrators.

“I was stupid. I guess I just wanted to waste money,” he chuckles.

“For many years, I was more involved in wearing multiple hats on the business. I was doing the proposals, ordering, and the scheduling in a lot of cases. I was trying to find one software that did everything exactly the way I wanted it. I don’t know if that software actually existed, but I don’t do that anymore.”

DiPietro doesn’t do “that” anymore because now he has iPoint, the end-to-end software solution he adopted about four years ago.

“iPoint allows us to work in a way that is most conducive to our actual business. It allows our designers, operations, technicians, warehouse, and service team to all work pretty efficiently under one umbrella. None of the other software I had did that. One would be great for proposals, another would be great for engineering, or another would be great for workflow. But none of them were good in everything. iPoint is. It really works for us,” he says.

SoundVision has been in business for more than 9 years and today sports 16 employees. The company does a wide range of both commercial and residential projects, with its average residential job around $29,000. At any given time, the company might have seven to 11 six-figure projects in the works simultaneously.

“I’ve always searched for the software. I’ve used D-Tools, Horizon, Simply Reliable, and BidMagic. I have even used Microsoft Word and Excel as well throughout all that time. They all worked good and allowed us to do things quickly and efficiently, but I needed software that tied everything together that could provide me with the financial matrix information on the fly that I need to actually base business decisions on. We wanted a workflow solution and iPoint provides it,” he says.

With the software, SoundVision is able to integrate that financial data with proposals, work orders, scheduling, inventory and QuickBooks accounting.

Using iPoint for proposals has been especially effective for DiPietro. He estimates that prior to using iPoint, his design team would spend four to six hours to create a proposal for an under-$30,000 job. With iPoint, they can crank it out in less than one hour. The same is true for larger proposals, which can now be done in four to six hours versus multiple days.

“More importantly though, we don’t want our designers spending time doing proposals. We want them on appointments with customers. Our goal is to never have a proposal take over 48 hours, with the exception of huge ones. Anything under $30,000 is out the next day 99% of the time,” he says.

And the proposals themselves are high quality. DiPietro says the company has a 95% close rate on any proposal between $7,000 and $30,000.

The real-time data generated by iPoint also helps DiPietro stay on top of labor profitability for every project. He spent years creating a system whereby he can accurately calculate his labor costs on any given project. iPoint allows him to see those calculations in real-time.

“It gives us a really good understanding of whether we want to take on a project and realize the job profitability. With iPoint, it is all in a matrix… all the numbers are right there,” he notes.

Two of DiPietro’s favorite aspects of the iPoint software are the notifications and the product tracking.

“We use Slack as our internal communication system. We rarely text or email each other. iPoint has wonderful integration compatibility with Slack,” he says.

When a SoundVision customer pays his deposit, that automatically sends a Slack notification to the company’s operations person, who then knows he can order equipment for the project. Likewise, when a proposal over a certain amount is written, iPoint automatically sends a Slack notification to the project manager to review it. Also, salespeople get automatic notifications for their commissions when a client makes a payment.

In terms of the equipment tracking capabilities, using iPoint the company can track a product from the purchase order to an individual van to the jobsite. Nothing gets lost in the ordering, staging or delivery phases.

DiPietro recalls one incident previously where four staff members spent over one hour searching for a missing Apple TV.

“It was this ridiculous odyssey over a $180 device. It was stupid, but that’s what we did. That was the genesis for us to know there had to be a better way,” he recalls.

AV Design Consultants, Springdale, Arkansas

Integrator Yields Miraculous Profit, Efficiency Results Using iPoint

AV Design Consultants increases profits by 15%, eliminates $25,000 in annual lost
inventory, and boosts labor utilization rate by 25%. How’d they do it?

“iPoint has allowed us to get 25% more, on average, in labor utilization and billing on our project proposals,” says Chris Palmer, operations manager at AV Design Consultants in Springdale, Ark

Miracles really can come true … even in the custom electronics industry. In just the past three years, Chris Palmer, operations manager at AV Design Consultants in Springdale, Ark., has boosted the company’s overall profits by 15%, reduced its annual lost inventory by $25,000, and increased its labor utilization rate by 25%. But it wasn’t a miracle that did the trick… it was iPoint software.

AV Design Consultants has been in business for 13 years. With 14 employees on staff, the company’s revenues are 90% from the residential market, with its typical projects ranging between $25,000 and $100,000. Like many custom integrators these days, AV Design Consultants’ biggest challenge is finding skilled labor. That dilemma means the company needs to be as efficient as possible to maximize profits.

“We all face the same challenges, which are tasks like dealing efficiently with work orders in the field, producing proposals, managing labor between technicians and other positions, and effectively administering project management and programming,” says Palmer.

“We needed a central repository for our business’ day-to-day data… things like client data, billing history, project-specific notes, inventory status, and work order management. The main reason we switched to iPoint was to obtain better in-the-field transparency of day-to-day operations,” he adds, noting that every person in the company interfaces with the software every day.

Palmer admits that the company’s improvements are not just because AV Design Consultants switched to iPoint, but he says many of the profit-boosting aftereffects were facilitated by the software.

“The biggest thing for us internally was the reduced lost inventory. It was easily $25,000 a year that iPoint saved us in lost inventory. We are now able to track all of those little everyday parts and pieces that are in the warehouse and then go out on a job. Those parts were not getting billed as efficiently or effectively as we would like,” says Palmer.

“That sounds small, but those little parts and pieces add up really quickly depending on size of company you are. We put a lot of value in being able to efficiently track that inventory.”

Palmer says other key iPoint features that have added to the company’s efficiency include the ability to send clients an email with the technician’s photo in it so the customer knows exactly whom to expect to see on the jobsite.

“That’s really good,” he quips.

From a proposal standpoint, AV Design Consultants has improved its labor quoting capabilities with the software. For years, Palmer says he underquoted his labor costs.

“iPoint has allowed us to get 25% more, on average, in labor utilization and billing on our project proposals that are going out the door. The way the software works, it kicks back metrics for you, and you’re able to look at high-level data for improved job management, whether that is tracking product change orders, labor hours, or total job profitability,” he says.

In terms of implementation, Palmer gives kudos to iPoint, especially in regards to helping AV Design Consultants change some of its business practices that were not the most efficient.

“The software just made us better. You definitely need to have a good workflow process in place for your proposals and sales, installation and service, and billing. If you don’t have that in place, then adopting new software is going to be tough. You also have to have someone who is committing a portion of his time to accurately set up your product database, vendor list and customer database. Garbage in is only going to give you garbage out.”

He concludes, “iPoint is fantastic throughout the onboarding process. I give those guys a lot credit. They almost hound you weekly to make sure you’re progressing and not hitting any roadblocks that are going to lead to failure, and make the software implementation process as painless as possible.”

CommTech, Pierre, South Dakota

Growing Diversity Requires Flexible Software

CommTech uses iPoint to handle its residential and commercial service agreements, retail sales, inventory management, and Quickbooks integration.

Chris Anderson, owner of CommTech in Pierre, S.D., says iPoint has cut its billing cycle time from 45 days to 10 days, a 78% improvement time-wise.

Integrators’ businesses today are more diverse than ever, and that means they need software that can handle that diversity. CommTech in Pierre, S.D., is precisely one of those low-voltage businesses.

The 21-person company handles both commercial and residential installations, has two locations (soon to be three) spread across the state of South Dakota, has a retail store, and is expanding its recurring monthly revenue. That broad range of needs led the company to adopt iPoint as its software solution and resulted in a 78% faster billing cycle, among many other benefits.

CommTech has its original roots in providing digital wiring infrastructure for schools, then started adding phone systems, networks, intercoms, security, surveillance, access control, video distribution and wireless networks.

“We kind of do it all. We do anything from putting the cable in the wall to installing wireless access points, routers and firewalls… and everything in between,” says Chris Anderson, owner, who began working for the company, then called Eminent Communications, in 2005 and purchased it in 2010.

Being a jack of all trades is a necessity given the potential limitations on growth based on population. Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, has a population of 13,600. That’s one reason the company expanded into Rapid City, 175 miles to the West, several years ago. CommTech is now the midst of opening a third location 160 miles north of Pierre in Aberdeen, S.D.

About 80% of CommTech’s business is commercial work, with the education, small to medium business (SMB), correctional, and the government sectors among the vertical markets where the company plays. CommTech has even installed intercom systems at three local U.S. Air Force bases. On the resi side, Anderson says the move to Rapid City is helping to expand its home automation, security, audio and video business in the Black Hills.

Moreover, CommTech has a walk-in retail element to its business, where patrons can buy a TV, computer or audio system. Lastly, the company is growing its service contract business with monthly or yearly maintenance contracts with customers.

Difficult Software Journey Results in iPoint

All that complexity has made the company’s software journey a bumpy one. Its first business management software system worked well, but did not have the ability to support a retail presence.

“I needed something that could utilize UPC codes. The software we had could not do that, and the software company said adding UPC code capabilities was not on its development roadmap at all,” Anderson recalls.

That deficiency led Anderson to another well-known software company. After paying a consultant to train the staff for six months, CommTech flipped the switch on the software.

“It didn’t work very well. It was clumsy, it was cumbersome. Things were hard to find. The integration with Quickbooks wasn’t right either. We were getting stuff in Quickbooks that shouldn’t have been there, and we couldn’t figure out why. In my mind, it wasn’t very intuitive. Our technicians were having a hard time with it, so we were clearly not taking advantage of all it had to offer,” he adds.

In February 2018, CommTech moved to iPoint. After just six weeks of training, the company was live on the software.

“The way it flows just fits our business. We do everything now in iPoint. When a salesman is getting a proposal ready… it is in iPoint. When the proposal is approved, it becomes a sales order in iPoint. All the equipment purchase notifications are sent out, the project manager is notified in iPoint. Then all the billing is done in iPoint and finally it ends up in Quickbooks for accounting purposes.

“It used to take us 30 to 45 days to close out our billing at the end of the month. Now it takes 10 days. It is amazingly smooth and easy. Everything worked right out of the gate. If we had a question or problem, they would answer it. If they didn’t know the answer, they’d find the answer and fix it. We had not experienced that with our other software vendors,” says Anderson.

He pinpoints the Quickbooks integration as one of the most impressive aspects.

“Quickbooks is hard to integrate, but in iPoint you can actually delete and change invoices and the software will communicate that back and forth with Quickbooks. There are not many other software offerings that can integrate with Quickbooks as well as iPoint. Plus, the new app is easy, fast, and works. I also like that they are always adding new solutions, like Morning Coffee,” says Anderson.

The software also tracks the company’s service agreements and RMR billing. In terms of the UPC codes for retail, iPoint handles that, as well as the inventory needs in each office location

First Priority Audio, Pompano Beach, Florida

Big Projects Can Expose Software Need

First Priority Audio in Pompano Beach, Fla., can now tackle big projects with confidence to track its labor efficiency, which improved by 15% with iPoint software.

First Priority is able to generate reports using iPoint at various phases of big projects that help the team assess the status of its labor profitability.

No doubt about it… large complicated projects that stretch out over many months will strain a custom integrator’s operations. Any inefficient process — from improper ordering of equipment to poor scheduling and tracking of technician productivity — is likely to be revealed on a big project. The end result can be broken timelines and lower profit.

Joel Hernandez, sales and marketing manager at First Priority Audio in Pompano Beach, Fla., knows this first-hand. Recently, the 16-year-old company undertook one of its largest projects, which required accurate ordering and efficient labor utilization. But if the company had not adopted iPoint software in 2016, it would have been difficult to figure out its labor efficiency on a large project like that.

With iPoint, Hernandez says First Priority is able to quantify the amount of labor it is using for every project, not just large jobs.

“Everyone thinks they have a grasp on labor,” he says wryly, but using iPoint, First Priority can say it does with confidence. ‘We do all of our time tracking through iPoint. Our guys check in and out using iPoint. So, we know every minute of the day what guys are working on,” he explains. “This allows us to pinpoint how efficient our guys are, and the dollar amounts attached to their work.”

Labor Utilization to 75%

Using the timeclock features in iPoint to clock in and out, and to log into and out of work orders, First Priority Audio can now accurately track technicians, and the company has seen its labor efficiency increase by 25% for installation technicians, according to Hernandez.

Technicians on new projects now are billed at a whopping 75% utilization rate. Overall, if you include the company’s service team, the labor utilization rate is about 65%, says Hernandez.

“When we started tracking our team [labor] number it was about 50% average for all of our techs. Our standard install technicians now operate in the mid-70% range for our labor efficiency. Overall, service techs are not as efficient because they have more drive time. Those numbers vary week to week, and technician to technician, but we are around the mid-60% and that is great,” he says.

Hernandez is quick to point out that labor utilization indicates the percentage of time the technicians are at the jobsite, but does not necessarily indicate how productive they are once they arrive at the project.

“75% of the time they are at a job working, but it does not mean they are working the entire time… that’s a different number, which you can also track in iPoint. We are looking at that and it is going to be an accurate number too.,” he says.

Hernandez calls that percentage “true hours” and using iPoint he can conduct an assessment at various phases of the project, such as when the project hits 50% of hours used versus hours sold, and 75% of hours used versus sold. With that information, First Priority can adjust or make necessary changes to boost profitability.

“If we know that number we can adjust, but the goal is not to miss by a lot. No one can estimate a job with complete accuracy. The same is also true of smaller jobs too. On smaller jobs you have a tight number of labor hours and if you don’t manage them properly that two-day, quick-and-profitable job turns into a four-day job. Our techs see it too in iPoint and it gets updated. They know how many hours are left and how they need to push through a job.”

He continues, “If you are off on that labor analysis calculation by 25 or 50 hours … if you are putting in 25 to 30 hours that you didn’t bill for, you just dragged down your gross margin drastically. That gross revenue is going out the door, and you’ve just dragged that profit number down to 30% to 40% on your gross labor,” Hernandez emphasizes.

Tying Together All Functions

First Priority also likes how iPoint ties together multiple back-office functions.

“It’s one place to look up information as opposed to three or four if you are using product management, proposal software, accountability and more,” he says. “I am no longer managing three or four pieces of software,” notes Hernandez.

“The iPoint mobile app is also good. Other software companies say they have a mobile app, but those apps are stripped down or limited. Whereas the iPoint mobile product is full-fledged.”

Sound Concepts, Jonesboro, Arkansas

iPoint Software Helps Integrator Reduce Potential for Human Error

Sound Concepts in Jonesboro, Ark., uses iPoint software to speed up its billing and inventory processes, and reduce human error.

Ryan Heringer (left), owner and president, and Jimmy Smith, operations manager, of Sound Concepts in Jonesboro, Ark., use iPoint to produce daily reports that enable them to track every aspect of the business.

It’s 5 p.m., do you know how your custom integration business performed today? Unfortunately, for many custom integrators, the answer is “no.”

For many owners of smaller integration companies who are in the field themselves on sales calls or performing installations, there is often no time at the end of the day to know if checks arrived in the mail, if proposals were signed, or if clients emailed or called requesting service.

Medium- to large-sized CE pros grapple with the same problems, plus if they don’t know the status of various projects in the field, it can be impossible to set the installation schedule and determine the equipment needs for the following day. It is a never-ending cycle.

But for the team at Sound Concepts in Jonesboro, Ark., there are no questions at 5 p.m. with iPoint’s Morning Coffee dashboard reports.

“Every day at 5 o’clock, we have our morning coffee, or in our case, it’s our evening coffee,” quips Jimmy Smith, operations manager, who works closely with president Ryan Heringer to track the data.

“Every day at 5 o’clock, we get a report on all the P.O.’s that were created, how many were submitted, and how many still need to be submitted. We also get a rundown of all our receipt payments that have come into our accounting department. Other things that it reports for us would be when a sales order is fully staged and ready for scheduling.”

“Morning Coffee” is a configurable reporting engine from iPoint that enables the delivery of ad-hoc email reports to specific users on a specific schedule. Those emails can cover multiple aspects of the business and can be set up by the user. In addition to the ones Heringer and Smith have created at Sound Concepts, other common email reports cover project management, warehouse management, sales orders, change orders committed, amount of new invoices, invoices aged 30 days, work orders completed, and work order time detail.

“My favorite part of iPoint from an operations/project management standpoint, is just being able to see everything that is going on. I know where the guys are, and what job they are clocked in on. I know what projects we have going that day and which products are staged and ready to go. Before iPoint, I would have to pull reports from a Quickbooks’ estimate and sometimes it could take a few days,” says Smith.

Getting Everyone Onboard Is Vital

Smith says the biggest challenge with iPoint actually has nothing to do with the software itself.

“As with any software, data out is only as good as data in. Every employee has to really care about what they are putting into the software and that takes a fair amount of training and education. At Sound Concepts we’ve found that our recurring monthly meeting is a great time to bring up new ideas about the software and go over any misunderstandings. Everyone in your company has to understand that this software will work great for you, but you have to have everybody on board,” he advises.

At Sound Concepts, the benefits to the company from iPoint implementation have been numerous.

“Billing has sped up. Proposals are done faster. Inventory management has sped up. Overall, iPoint has just increased our efficiency,” says Smith.

For example, proposals can now be done from anywhere versus having to drive back to the office to create one.

“If I’m on a jobsite and it is a small proposal, like a client just wants a TV installed with seven speakers, I can say, ‘OK, cool. Hold on one second.’ I can run out to the truck, pull out my iPad, create a proposal, walk back into the house and have them sign it right there. In the past, I would have to drive back to the office and send them an email. Then we might converse 15 more times and one week later I would get something signed off,” relates Smith.

While larger projects are normally taken back to the office to engineer them out, Sound Concepts has condensed a process that in many cases would take one week from conception to signature down to less than an hour.

Tracking technicians’ time is another huge benefit Sound Concepts has gotten from the software.

“Previously to track our time and materials, the guys would archaically send in emails with their time. Then, we’d have a person here in the office—either a salesperson who might have extra time or someone in the accounting department—actually extract the time from those emails, go back into the estimate and manually calculate the time so we could accurately bill the project,” recalls Smith.

DeVance Electronic Lifestyle, Carrollton, Texas

How to Manage Daily Business in a Digestible Form

DeVance Electronic Lifestyle uses iPoint’s Morning Coffee to manage its operational ‘dance’ using a daily dashboard of reports.

Stephanie Johnson, CFO, at DeVance Electronic Lifestyle, says the iPoint software helps her understand how one part of the business can directly affect other parts.

Like many custom integration companies, DeVance Electronic Lifestyle in Carrollton, Texas, has become more diverse than ever. The company now touts about half of its revenue from commercial projects, while its residential business is a mix of small $5,000 installations and long-term $100,000+ projects. Meanwhile, after 17 years in business the company has built up a large contingent of past clients, many of which need regular service, but with just five technicians in the field, there is no dedicated service team. It’s a constant “dance.”

To keep track of it all, the company turns to iPoint software, which has been in place at DeVance since 2016. For owner Matt DeVance and CFO Stephanie Johnson, managing the entire operation has been made much easier with iPoint’s Morning Coffee, a configurable reporting engine that gives them the ability to generate particular daily reports based on a specific schedule.

DeVance starts his day with Morning Coffee reports showing him the sales pipeline and proposals. Johnson can also generate reports for new sales orders created, active sales orders, signed proposals, change orders, purchase orders, new customers added, dollar amounts for new invoices, total invoices year to date, profitability per job, aging, etc.

“Pretty much anything you want to know, you can generate a report for it from iPoint,” says Johnson. ‘iPoint really gives you better overall business management capability. You have everything in one spot, plus it integrates with Quickbooks. For me, iPoint gives me the entire big picture on the business.”

Juggling the Service “Dance”

One other area where DeVance is just beginning to recognize the capabilities of iPoint is in the scheduling function, particularly as it relates to service calls. The company prides itself on providing exceptional customer service to its clients, so it can be frustrating when it has to juggle its technicians between new installations and service calls.

“It’s a dance… it changes every day,” admits Johnson. “There may be times where everything’s hunky-dory because we don’t have any service appointments. On those days, everybody is divided up on projects. Depending on the stage of a project, we will determine which tech is released to go handle a service call.”

To manage the “dance,” DeVance has a project manager on the installation side and a separate service coordinator for its service business who work hand-in-hand together to manually adjust technicians’ schedules to best suit its clients’ needs.

Using iPoint, a company can email a client letting them know exactly when the technician is due to arrive for the service call.

“We aren’t using iPoint to its full potential. When I first joined DeVance two-and-a-half years ago, I saw that immediately. I said, ‘Wow, this software can do so much!’ iPoint helped us realize there are so many more measurables to look at. It makes you think, and say, ‘We should really be tracking that!’ Plus, the metrics are based on industry standards. I really like that aspect.”

She adds, “The software helps you understand how one part of the business can affect another part. For any integrator considering iPoint, you really need to be open-minded and prepared for change… they are good changes that help you really understand the entire business and the role of each department in your company.”

Audio Video Concepts, Indian Trail, North Carolina

iPoint Reaches into the Warehouse for Better Inventory Management

Audio Video Concepts tracks products from delivery to final installation through iPoint’s inventory management module.

iPoint has improved efficiencies all around for Audio Video Concepts, but the organization of warehouse inventory, in particular, has become a well-oiled machine. The platform allows the AVC team to track the whereabouts of products from the second they’ve been ordered until they’ve been installed

How many unused, jobless products are collecting dust in your warehouse? It’s a common inventory issue for many integrators. As projects progress, so do the products, often leaving you with a few unnecessary extras sitting on the warehouse shelves. And often, you don’t realize that you’ve over-ordered until project completion.

Worse yet, these “misfit” pieces run the risk of making it onto your clients’ bills. Even accidentally, charging customers for products that ultimately weren’t used is a bad business practice.

Like many integrators, Audio Video Concepts had dealt with its fair share of inventory issues.

“One of the biggest facets of running an integration business that tends to get overlooked is inventory,” says AVC co-founder and CEO Robert Burns.

“Knowing what’s been delivered, what’s been installed and what’s in stock can challenge even the most organized companies.” Since implementing the iPoint business management platform, however, AVC has dramatically reduced its inventory overhead.

“This portion of the iPoint system alone has helped our company become more profitable,” Burns continues.

By using iPoint, AVC’s inventory manager (and everyone else on the team) is able to monitor the shipping status of products ordered, tag each item with a QR code so that techs can quickly identify products needed for a specific job, track when and where those products have been delivered and installed, and determine immediately which items weren’t used and are now back on the warehouse shelves.

“It’s the ultimate in quality control,” says Burns. “We know exactly where products are at all times, nothing gets overlooked, and when we subtract unused items from a client’s bill it reflects well on our company.”

The iPoint platform touches more than just AVC’s inventory, however. It’s used by every employee in every department in the company — sales, techs, managers, etc. Or course, there’s always a learning curve when bringing everyone on board with a new system, but according to Burns it didn’t take long for everyone on the AVC team to use iPoint efficiently.

“What makes it so seamless and transparent is that it was developed by and for home systems integrators,” Burns remarks. Prior to the company’s current stint with iPoint, AVC had been using a different business management platform.

“We spent thousands of dollars and countless hours implementing it, and after using it for nine months, we saw efficiency drop dramatically.”

It was enough to make Burns re-introduce iPoint to his team. It wasn’t a hard sell. The AVC team had been using the iPoint platform for two years, when Burns decided to switch to a different solution after business doubled in size.

When efficiency plummeted under the new system, Burns flipped the entire company back to iPoint. “It was a grass is greener scenario,” Burns admits. “I thought there was something better, but in the end discovered that iPoint really was and continues to be the best solution for our business.”

Favorite Features

Inventory management is high on the list of favorite iPoint features at AVC. Here are a few others noted by Burns:

  • Slack integration. This keeps everyone in the loop; from a project’s start to its finish, each of AVC’s 20 employees receives instant notifications of work orders that have been entered, acceptance of proposals, and other important phases of a project.
  • Cloud-based access and iPhone friendly. No matter where an AVC employee happens to be, they have quick, easy remote access to the entire iPoint platform. iPoint recently optimized the iOS interface for easy viewing on iPhones and iPads.
  • The Basic Checkbox. Something as simple as being able to check off a box when a portion of a project has been completed can impact a company like AVC in a big way. It’s intuitive, its quick and it’s to the point. “It’s a small thing, but it’s just one more way that iPoint makes us more efficient.”
  • Vehicle maintenance and registration. iPoint maintains a log and notifies AVC when it’s time for an oil change, a new license plate, etc. to keeping the AVC fleet up and running — and legal.

Stereo Planet, Bend, Oregon

Software Yields 35% Boost in Employee Productivity

iPoint helps Stereo Planet in Bend, Ore., cut inventory by $100K, write proposals 10-times faster, and increase per-employee output by nearly $100K.

As many integrators scramble to find the magic formula to squeeze out single-digit increments of additional profit, the team at Stereo Planet in Bend, Ore., made a single decision less than 2 years ago that has boosted its employee output by a mind-blowing 35%.

On September 1, 2017, the integration company implemented iPoint’s turnkey software solution and the results have been no less than amazing.

The company just finished 2018 earning approximately $3.7 million in revenue with 13 employees. The last time Stereo Planet had revenues in that same range was pre-recession 2007, when it earned $3.7 million… but with 20 employees.

The 2018 results equate to nearly $285,000 in revenue per employee compared to $185,000 per employee 11 years ago (and that was back when equipment margins were much more substantial across the board).

“I attribute much of the improved employee productivity to the adoption of iPoint,” says Jonathan Houston, sales manager at Stereo Planet.

In particular, Houston says the company’s ability to put together quality proposals is “10 times faster” and Stereo Planet carries $80,000 to $100,000 less in inventory due to the software’s just-in-time ordering capability.

Pencil, Paper & Manila Folders… Oh My!

Stereo Planet was founded in 1980 and morphed from a stereo hi-fi shop to a custom installation specialist about 20 years ago.

The company has a showroom that includes a retail element. Its projects range from a simple job hanging a TV to large $500,000 installs, but its sweet spot is in the $20,000 to $80,000 range.

Prior to implementing iPoint, Stereo Planet was using a patchwork of non-industry-specific software and manila folders stuffed with papers, including Microsoft Calendar for scheduling, Microsoft Point of Sale for transactions, and Dropbox to share files.

“Before, we would have a printed work order for the guys, and all their notes would be on that print-out. It wasn’t saved on a computer at all… it literally just went into a file folder. Actually, it just went into a stack of papers; we had a stack of work orders from past jobs. We’d have to look through the stack of paperwork to find it and pull it out,” he recalls.

“Right before we moved to iPoint, I actually organized the folders by month so at least we could ask the customer what month we did the project, then we could go back to the file folder for that month to find the work order and see what notes the technicians had made. We knew we needed to have that information more readily available,” he says.

Houston also recognized the company needed to improve its proposal process.

“I really wanted a way to track from proposal all the way through to finish… everything that was going on with that customer. It was very all over the place… from walkthrough notes to the actual technician’s notes to ordering to the billing. Bringing that all together was big for us,” remarks Houston.

Staff Implementation

The antiquated process also meant ordering and inventory were cumbersome. Houston would physically go through the project binder, tag particular products on work orders and then cross check it against existing inventory to see what needed to be ordered, then pull everything for staging.

“It was difficult just trying to keep track of all that,” he says. “iPoint does a really, really good job of that.

“I would also estimate that our ability to put a proposal together is 10 times faster. iPoint has allowed us to do more just-in-time ordering. Our stock levels are way down… I would say we carry $80,000 to $100,000 less in stock than we did in previous years. That’s a big deal for sure,” he says.

Houston says the staff complained about the new software initially.

“Now, everybody likes it. In the beginning, especially from the techs, there was a lot of pushback. One of the struggles was that the interface looks a little bit different on a computer versus an iPad. Now, the techs love it. They are all very proficient with it. We’ve got it down pat.

“Things aren’t slipping through the cracks anymore because there is a set process in place. It’s much more efficient for sure,” he concludes.


BlueSpeed AV, Tulsa, Oklahoma

BlueSpeed AV Improves Their Bottom Line by 38% with iPoint

BlueSpeed AV in Tulsa replaces 7 pieces of software with iPoint end-to-end solution to increase efficiency and cash flow by 38%.

Technicians for BlueSpeed AV in Tulsa, Okla., can update service tickets in real time and get them signed off by the customer immediately using iPoint. It took the company about a month-and-a-half to fully implement the software.

Any custom integrator would relish the thought of boosting their bottom line by 38 percent. BlueSpeed AV in Tulsa, Okla., just did.

Indeed, sometimes software adoption can be hard to quantify for a custom integration company, but without hesitation, Jason Evans, operations and head programmer at BlueSpeed, says, “Using iPoint, we have increased our efficiency in terms of billable hours and time logged on the jobsite by 38 percent.”

The company adopted the iPoint end-to-end software solution about two years ago, and the results have been dramatic.

“We are completely engrossed in iPoint. Everything the software does, we use: invoicing, scheduling, sales orders, purchase orders, receiving, proposals, inventory, Return Merchandise Authorizations (RMAs), and work order and service tickets creation,” says Evans.

“The major, major, major, major change in our efficiency is due to the ability of our technicians in the field to generate work orders in real time. How fast we can now take work order information from the field and convert it through our invoicing process … and essentially generate cash … has increased dramatically.  From an operations standpoint, that is my favorite part of the software,” he says.

BlueSpeed AV is a 10-year-old custom installation company that specializes in  high-end residential system integration.  About 80 percent of its business is residential, but when BlueSpeed  does a commercial project, it tends to be large, such as a recent casino project. The company does design, installation and service for all its projects with a staff of two salespeople, two office administrators, one operation person and 10 technicians.

7 Pieces of Software to 1

Before BlueSpeed adopted iPoint back in April 2016, Evans says the company used seven pieces of software. The company used a combination of Google Calendar for scheduling, Trello to track the status of every project, Microsoft Excel and later D-Tools to create proposals, and Quickbooks for estimating and later invoicing.

“The main reason for making a switch was because my guys in the field were each using their own software and were having a hard time logging their hours, and clocking in-and-out of jobs. We also could not tell what they were doing in real time. They would go out and work all day long in the field, then come back to the office with their saved service tickets or work orders, and only then would we see what happened during the day,” says Evans.

“Now with iPoint, it is all real time. I can log in and see immediately a scope of work progress for the day for every job. I can see what they are doing and where they are in their progress as far as what tasks they have completed as well as what parts they have used for the day… all in real time,” he notes.

Evans uses the example of a service technician who discovers a bad HDMI balun. With the software, he can go directly into the service ticket, add the necessary balun, and present a total service ticket amount for the customer to sign. If the technician needs to get approval from the office, he can call in and Evans can view the service ticket in real time with no delays, no saving, no synching.

“It’s a real-time endeavor… I can literally watch him type.  iPoint gives me all the data I need with just the click of a mouse,” he says ebulliently.

In addition to the work order efficiency, BlueSpeed AV’s accounting team now operates in real time.

“We no longer have to say, ‘We have to do billing for last week.’ Now, we do billing every day. As soon as those tickets switch over to ‘Complete’ they are reviewed and invoiced. Boom. We never have a stack of invoices sitting around that need to be mailed or emailed,” says Evans.

Changing Operations to Accommodate Software

One of the most consistent complaints integrators make regarding software implementation is that they are forced to alter their operations to accommodate the software.

Evans admits Bluespeed had to make some changes in the way it does things to use iPoint. “There is a certain flow to iPoint that the software walks you through in order to make the use of it easier,” he says. “So we did adjust the way we run our business to accommodate the ease of use of the software, but it was for the best. It took away the bottlenecks. It kept everything flowing in a straight line versus like a spider web. Instead of a lot of jumping back and forth between departments within our company, iPoint let us set up a process. It also gives you checks and balances along the way, which is really nice.”

For example, in Bluespeed’s inventory, when a TV is ordered for a project, the software sticks the project name on the purchase order and ties it to the sales order. So when the TV comes in, the packing slip indicates exactly what project it is for. Once you indicate that you Receive the product, it moves to Staging. That means it is no longer in your Inventory.

“It essentially keeps everything in line. The flow does not allow you to do it wrong. So there is no chance you can accidentally sell that TV out from under the customer when a quick sale occurs,” says Evans. “Most integrators will likely have to slightly alter the way their business operates. You can’t shoot from the hip with iPoint. If an integrator takes the time to make some slight tweaks, it will absolutely be beneficial.”

One-Month Implementation Time

“It took us a month-and-a-half after implementation to get all the kinks and bugs worked out,” recalls Evans. “iPoint actually called us more often volunteering to help us versus us calling them needing help. If you follow their doctrine, I think an integrator can implement the software in 30 days. We took a little longer just because I was stubborn and wanted to figure it out on my own.”

Evans discounts the contention that end-to-end software solutions are only for larger custom integration companies. “This software would be beneficial for even a two-man operation because it keeps you laser-focused on the end goal of being profitable and making money. It whole-heartedly pays for itself.”

Another feature that Evans likes is the proposal creation. “As you build your proposals and add products, it shows you the bottom line right at the bottom of the screen. So you can immediately see your profit margin as you create the proposal. There is no guesswork. ” he says