Five Steps to Stay Committed to Improving Your Business

Improving your business can often fall into a similar category as trying to lose those stubborn 15 pounds. You know you need to do it, and at times you get fired up about it, but at the end of the year you still didn’t lose any weight and maybe even put on a couple more pounds. Likewise, you probably didn’t get around to implementing any of the new business strategies you’ve been thinking about.

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Concept image of making growth strategy.

Image: Thinkstock

We fail to follow through due to lack of accountability. You can have the most brilliant idea for your business, but if you don’t hold yourself accountable to follow through on that idea, then it will be gone as quickly as it was devised. This is especially difficult in business because you usually have to rely on multiple people in your company to stay accountable. Have you ever devised a new strategy, held a meeting explaining your new plan, and then watched as people defaulted to their previous habits? Let’s define how to create and implement an improvement plan that actually becomes a permanent part of your business culture.

1. Schedule Regular Meetings
Meetings are one of the first items people cut when they’re trying to make more time for other things. But meetings are a vital component of a successful business, providing a protected time and place to stay connected, work together, and focus on business growth. Regularly scheduled meetings help team members stay accountable and be inspired to generate ideas and plans.

2. Write It Down For Everyone to See
You’re probably thinking: I write stuff down all the time. Great! Where are those documents right now? Chances are you have no idea or they are scattered among various notepads. What did you do with your management meeting notes after the meeting? If you want to implement any type of change, write down your plan and clearly display it in a public forum; this will immediately create a level of accountability.

3. Break It Down
Take your random scribbled notes and hone them. To make this an actionable improvement plan everyone can use, it needs to be clearly defined and broken into action items that can be implemented, tested, revised, and completed. Start by defining general action items that can be used as units of measure for the progress of your plan’s implementation. Keep it general and short, focusing on defining the plan’s milestones. Assign each milestone to a team member who will be accountable for overseeing the action items that will cumulate in the completion of that milestone.

4. Create A Deadline
During a project for a client, you typically have milestones that are completed sequentially and each of the milestones have their own due date. Granted the dates often move, but there’s still a deadline. When defining a business development plan, approach it the same way. Your business growth plan is the written proposal. Clearly define what you will be doing and when it will be done. By defining a timeline for your business growth you are able to reinforce accountability.

5. Create an Action Board
I’m a big fan of action boards—such as a large white board posted in a main gathering area—where you write down your primary milestones and immediate action items. When you have your management meeting, review your current milestones and determine what objectives can be accomplished over the next 30 days. These action items should be limited to only items that can absolutely be completed in that time frame. Again, each action item must be owned by a single person. Each action item and its owner should be on this board, providing visible accountability and the direction and progress.

If you’re ready to improve your business, create an environment of accountability. Hold regular meetings, document your plan, issue deadlines, break your plan into milestones, assign the milestones, and publicly display your plan, milestones, and 30-day action items on a public action board. Finally, continually review, revise, and improve your plan. As management expert Kenneth Blanchard said, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses—only results.”[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Story Behind Our Last-Minute Plan to Exhibit at CEDIA

If you had asked me in March if iPoint was going to CEDIA, I would have confidently stated, “No way.” Even though we’ve been around for three years, we’ve purposefully stayed with a slow-and-steady grassroots growth strategy, acquiring most of our business by word of mouth. I would never have guessed that by July we would have nearly doubled our dealer base and would be on target to triple the size of our business by the end of the year. But that’s exactly where we found ourselves, and the press was starting to take notice. At that point CEDIA was only two months away, and we had no plan, no booth, and no budget. So yeah, we decided to go for it.

After a few phone calls to the folks at CEDIA and a couple lucky bounces, we ended up with a great booth location and 600 square feet of blank canvas. Easy enough. Now the hard part: getting a booth designed, fabricated, and built in two months. In situations like this, never underestimate the power of Google. We used it to find a helpful sign company that sold preconfigured truss booth displays, and they could have one shipped to us in three weeks. That left us with less than a month to design the graphics and produce the signage, and one week to actually make it to CEDIA.

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The driveway trial-run

The driveway trial-run

Having no idea where to start with the graphics, I turned again to the internet and signed up with an overseas graphics firm. This was a terrible idea. We burned two weeks and had nothing to show for it. So with one week to go, my Level 1 support member Dillyn, who does the custom proposal templates for all new iPoint clients, volunteered to give it a shot. He knocked it out of the park, but it still took us two weeks to complete. Fortunately, the sign company was able to put a rush on our booth and it arrived one week before the show.

At this point, my worst nightmare was getting to CEDIA and putting together our booth, only to find out that something was wrong or missing. So to be safe, we decided to assemble the entire truss display at my house in the driveway, much to the delight of the neighbors driving slowly by. It took two days in the hot sun, but everything checked out. Working late into the night, we screwed casters onto the shipping containers so we could move them around and packaged everything back up. The next day I was on the road, driving to another city to buy a new cargo trailer and bringing it home. The following day we packed up the new trailer, piled into the truck, and set off on our voyage from Topeka to Dallas.

The trip to Dallas was uneventful, which turned out to be our luckiest break of all. After unloading and setting up at the convention center, we headed back to the hotel. One block before we got there, we hit a big bump in the road and the trailer popped off the hitch. Upon closer examination, we could see that the trailer was 2 5/8 inches and we only had a 2-inch ball. So, we had travelled more than 600 miles at 75 miles per hour with a trailer loaded to the hilt, all on a hitch that wasn’t even attached—and all without incident.

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The booth's debut at CEDIA

The booth’s debut at CEDIA

In the end, all that hard work and good luck paid off. Our first CEDIA was a blast, and our booth was at capacity for the entire show. I don’t think any of us even had a chance to eat lunch on any of the three days. We had the opportunity to meet with many of our users and hear how iPoint has helped their business, and also met hundreds of new integrators looking to improve their own operations.

CEDIA 2016 was a crazy ride, and I learned a lot about doing trade shows. I’m so glad we did it and can’t wait to see you all next year![/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Your Product Mix: Diversification vs. Niche

When talking about our retirement investments, it’s commonly recommended not to put all your eggs in one basket. But does this philosophy hold true when structuring your business and product offerings? What are the pros and cons of having a diverse range of products, services, and markets versus carving out a specialty niche for yourself, where you tailor products and services to appeal to a target market?

gearsturningAs part of the business coaching we do at iPoint, we ask our dealers to describe the products and services they offer and which of those are the most and least profitable. While the responses vary, we see a common split between dealers that serve many markets and have a very diverse line of products and services, and dealers that have a more focused approach — specifically targeting a niche market where they excel. The niche dealers generally consider themselves high-end and focus their marketing resources on acquiring new business solely within their chosen niche. The diverse camp opts to cover all their bases by doing whatever work comes their way.

“The benefit of having a diverse product line is to smooth out the cash flow. The quick, smaller jobs fill in the gaps between the large lump sum revenue generated by construction-based projects,” said Aaron Koker of Kansas Audio and Video. “The challenge when offering many different services like security and satellite in addition to the traditional AV products is that you have to manage a lot more small parts inventory and sporadic scheduling. In addition, the margin on smaller jobs is usually a lot lower, so you have to be really efficient to make it work.”

The secret sauce is to look not just at the bottom line, but at the components that make up your bottom line. When you have your metrics on the different components of your business, you can evaluate what makes you money and what costs you money. When new dealers start using iPoint, we often ask them what their margins have been on the different product categories they sell, and the vast majority have no idea because they lacked the tools or processes to track the data. Without valid data, it is difficult to make informed decisions about what products and services to add or remove.

A good business management program will have a way to see your initial margin on a specific product category, but you must also take into account the additional costs including inventory overhead, installation efficiency, failure rate, training time, additional tooling, design and engineering, as well as any losses caused by disruptions to your current production cycle.

Wynne Walker with Symbio Lighting and Control explained the process they went through when evaluating a new product category for their high-end residential AV company. “After a local rep suggested we start selling and installing outdoor landscape lighting fixtures, we decided to run the numbers and see if it made sense for us,” Walker said. “Although the product had big margin potential, it required us to make an initial investment of over $50,000 in tools, vehicles, and inventory.”

In addition to the up-front investment, there can often be a learning curve you have to plan for. What will it take to get your people properly trained to sell and install the new products?

When asked about the challenges of adding outdoor lighting, Walker responded: “Our techs didn’t like the outdoor manual labor of burying cables, and it wasn’t a good use of their time. We learned that it would be more efficient to outsource the manual labor of trenching. In addition, inventory is a major process, and we have to stock many parts to deal with a lot of small changes.”

In general, it’s easy to not account for the full impact that small changes can have on a business’s operations. It can often take months of retraining and inefficiency to recoup the cost of simply changing the manufacturer of an existing product line, let alone adding a completely new category.

When evaluating your company, if you find that having too many product offerings is lowering your overall profitability, then you should analyze the value of that product to your business. Here are a few questions you should ask when evaluating the validity of a product category.

• Does it add value to another more profitable category?

• Does an entry-level service like a quick flat-screen install lead to a larger distributed audio and video job?

• Does it provide revenue if your larger revenue channels decline due to market conditions outside of your control? For example, if you are a high-end new construction integrator and the building market has another recession, can you shift focus to shades, lighting, or security, which may be more resilient in a recession? If you shift all the energy from the category in question to another more profitable category, how will this affect your current production?

At the end of the day, there is not a single correct answer. Depending on the needs of your business, the decision to brand yourself as a niche, high-end company may be just as valid as being a one-stop shop for everything. The important takeaway is that you start thinking about your business as a system of many interworking parts and not just one big entity. By breaking down the components of your business and measuring the impact each one has individually as well as part of the whole, you can make strategic decisions that will ultimately empower you to confidently grow your company and your profits.

AV Nation CEDIA16

Industry news outlet AV Nation interviewed iPoint CEO Brooks Swift at the recent CEDIA event in Dallas, TX. Here is the interview as published today.

 

iPoint wins CE Pro BEST award at 2016 CEDIA

iPoint is honored to be recognized by CE Pro as winner of their 2016 CE Pro Best Award. This award is given to innovators and industry leaders by CE Pro magazine and we were awarded as best Business Operations / End to End Software.2016 CEPro BEST-winner

CE Pro is pleased to announced the winners of this year’s BEST Awards. The BEST (Best Electronic Systems Technologies) Awards recognize the most noteworthy new products and technologies in the industry.

“The BEST Awards have quickly become recognized by manufacturers and integrators to represent products that really make a difference in the market,” says Jason Knott, editor-in-chief, CE Pro. “I am always amazed at some of the unique innovation and problem-solving solutions for integrators that come out of the awards. It’s exciting to see many of these new products go on to achieve great success.”

This year’s 173 entries were judged on innovation, functionality, competitive advantages and benefits to the installer by a dozen credible industry leaders, along with the editors of CE Pro.

Winners’ products and technologies will be featured in the November Issue of CE Pro magazine and recognized during CEDIA 2016.

CE Pro Editors. (2016, September 16). CE Pro Announces 2016 BEST Award Winners. CE Pro, Retrieved from http://www.cepro.com/article/ce_pro_announces_2016_best_awards_winners

Oh Baby!

A great big CONGRATULATIONS to iPoint developer Rob on the birth of his daughter.

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Welcome to the iPoint family!

iPoint Goes Big for CEDIA 2016

iPoint LLC, a full-service business management software provider serving the home technology market, today announced that CEDIA 2016 will mark the company’s first time exhibiting at the event. Attendees can stop by iPoint’s booth 1719 during the show at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Sept. 15-17, to explore the latest updates to the iPoint Control platform, watch live demonstrations, and enter to win prizes.

“This year’s theme is ‘Think Big,’ and we’ve taken that to heart,” said Brooks Swift, founder and CEO of iPoint. “At our first-ever CEDIA, we wanted attendees to be as excited as we are about their businesses and making them operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible. At our booth, they’ll see our latest version of the iPoint Control platform and future updates, as well as learn more about our exciting partnership with Vital MGMT that further streamlines our invoicing system. On top of that, they’ll be able to enter to win one of 12 iPads and our grand prize drawing for a complete iPoint system with one year of maintenance.”

At CEDIA 2016, iPoint will showcase the latest version of its powerful iPoint Control platform — the company’s flagship software suite engineered to streamline business operations and provide a central point of communication and documentation for the user’s entire company. With this update, users experience further QuickBooks™ integration that enables improved levels of data transfer between iPoint and QuickBooks. A new online syncing capability allows users to create a new customer, invoice, and payment receipt from any Windows®, Mac®, or iOS device and then sync that data to QuickBooks online from a computer or iOS device. Other updates include multiple ongoing change order support, part requests, Google® calendar support, quick estimates, and more.

iPoint has also teamed up with Vital MGMT, owned by industry veteran Paul Starkey and accomplished business coach Steve Firszt, to create the most efficient and comprehensive sales-to-production process available. For almost two years, iPoint collaborated with Vital Management to develop a truly automated invoicing system that allows dealers to provide summary invoices to clients in order to receive progressive deposits, while still accurately tracking production time and parts, and seamlessly invoice those as delivered. The result is 100 percent visibility of any company’s true income and expenses, eliminating the need for anyone but accounting to interact with QuickBooks and reducing the time and labor spent on business operations tasks. Representatives of Vital MGMT will be available to meet with attendees in the iPoint booth.

Attendees who stop by iPoint’s booth 1719 and attend a full demonstration will be entered to win one of 12 iPads and a grand prize drawing of a complete iPoint system with one year of maintenance, valued at $8,500, which will be announced at the end of the show. More information about iPoint and the iPoint Control platform is available at www.iPointSolutions.net.

 

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About iPoint

iPoint LLC is a premier business consulting and software engineering firm offering full-service business management software and true live, one-on-one support for the home technology market. At the heart of the company’s solutions is the iPoint Control platform, which streamlines business operations and provides a central point of communication and documentation for integration enterprise. Accessible anywhere, anytime and from any device, the iPoint platform combines CRM, proposal, sales orders, invoicing, purchasing, inventory control, project management, scheduling, work orders, parts and time tracking, time clock, task collaboration and mileage tracking in a single program — eliminating the need for multiple programs to handle these tasks individually and automating the business administration workflow. The result is an intelligent ecosystem that saves time and money. The iPoint platform is available for Mac®, Windows®, and iOS. Headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, the company works to deliver unparalleled business support and digital solutions through cutting-edge technology advancements. More information is available at www.iPointSolutions.net.

iPoint version 5.08.20

iP icon Logo

iPoint version 5.08.20

Welcome to the August 2016 iPoint update. We are excited to bring more than 30 enhancements to your desktops and tablets this month. Here is a breakdown of each of the enhancements by module along with some tutorial videos to provide more detail.

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dashboard_proposals Proposals

LOCATIONS / GROUPS IN DESIGNER – When you add a part to a proposal or change order, you will notice an expanded parts tab which simplifies the process of selecting what Location and Group you want to put the part. No more drop down lists… it is all right there on the pop-over.


DEFAULT LOCATION ON CUSTOMER – When setting up your customer, you can create a default list of rooms / locations to be used on any new proposal you create. This streamlines the setup of new proposals for your existing customers.


ITEM COLOR DETAILS – When you add a part to your proposal, you can now adjust the color of the item on the item details pop-over without changing the master item characteristics. And the adjusted color will also push through to the purchase order.

dashboard_salesorders Sales Orders

MULTIPLE CHANGE ORDERS – Your sales orders can now have multiple ongoing change orders. You don’t have to finalize one before starting another. Much like proposal revisions, only one change order can be active at a given time. But the ability exists to bounce between change orders. This feature must be enabled on settings.

          Go to: Settings > Module Settings > Proposals > Options > Check “Require Change Order Approval”


VIEW REVISIONS FROM SALES ORDERS – Proposal Revisions are now visible from the Sales Order on the Reports Tab. This is for reference purposes so you can see the history of proposal revisions that got us to the current Sales Order.

dashboard_projects Projects  & dashboard_workorders Work Orders

WORK ORDER AGING – Next time you look at your work orders, you’ll notice a new sort option by Aging. This will let you quickly find old work orders that are not getting addressed by displaying the list in the order the work orders were created.


PARTS REQUEST – Hey technicians, have you ever wanted to request a part to be ordered for the job you are working on? Now you can! Parts can be sent to the Purchase Request Manager from Projects and Work Orders as well as the Sales Order.


MANUAL TIME ENTRY – If you don’t have cell coverage on your job, or maybe you just forgot to check in and out of a job, you can now manually enter your time on the job with a convenient Manual Time Entry.


WORK ORDER TIMES – When you clock out of one work order and into another, iPoint will automatically fill in the few minutes of space it takes to push the appropriate buttons. This cleans up our time card functionality. This cleans up our time card functionality when pushing time to QuickBooks for payroll.

dashboard_accounting Accounting

ESTIMATES – Sometimes a proposal is more detailed then you need to present a customer. Now you can generate a quick estimate for a couple of products. This isn’t a replacement for the Proposal process, but will help streamline some of the simple quotes you create.

JOB MARKUP – Invoices can now display the total markup, both as a dollar and percent value. This does not print on your customer’s invoice, but displays on the invoice screen unless the option is selected in settings to hide the markup.

          Go to: Settings > Module Settings > Invoices: check “Hide the Markup Field on invoice layout”


ITEM COSTS – With the correct permissions, you can now edit the cost of an item directly on the invoice.

dashboard_contacts Contacts

NEW CONTACTS – You will notice a new option under Contacts. In addition to customers, you can create contacts. Now you can enter an electrician, builder, or an individual and tie them to multiple Customers. This is part of our upcoming CRM enhancements.


CUSTOMER ITEMS – You now have more control over the items you see in a customer’s Items list. Edit the installation date, location name, serial numbers, and manufacturer. You can even hide the items if you no longer want them to display in the list. This is available on the Customer’s “Items” tab > click on the pencil icon of the part your want to edit.


DEFAULT LOCATIONS ON CUSTOMER – When setting up your customer, you can create a default list of rooms / locations to be used on any new proposal you create. This streamlines the setup of new proposals for your existing customers.


A NEW PINK DOT – In the customer list, any customer that didn’t sync with QuickBooks during a bulk sync will be marked with a pink dot (instead of the green dot). This makes it easier for you to quickly find problems with customer sync issues.

dashboard_itemsItems

ENHANCED ITEM ALLOCATIONS – the Allocations tab for item stock now shows if the product was allocated requested from an invoice, work order or project, in addition to the sales order. This also speeds up navigation to the associated record. On an Item click the “Stock” tab and select the “Allocations” tab at the top of the items used list.

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dashboard_inventoryInventory

IMPROVED RE-ORDER LIST – We have enhanced the ability to request store stock from the Inventory Re-Order List to make it easier for you to pick and choose what you want to request.

dashboard_pos Purchase Orders

PURCHASE ORDERS have been enhanced to provide direct links to the documents where a part was requested. Jump right to the Sales Order, Invoice, or Work Order with the click of a single button. We also indicate if the item was requested for Store Stock.


PACKING SLIPS – If you have vendors drop ship product to your customers, you can now create a packing slip for your vendor to include in the shipment. This will help create branding for the product you have shipped on your behalf. This can be found on a Purchase Order under Options > Advanced: press the “Packing Slip” button.


ITEM UPDATES – Now you can quickly update an item’s information from the Purchase Order. If a price or description changes, we will prompt you to update the item master, so all your details will stay current and up-to-date.


PURCHASE ORDER SYNC ICON – If you receive your purchase item receipts in QuickBooks rather than iPoint, we now have an option for you to change the orange QB Sync dot to green. This option disables the item push receipt function. This is the Override Item Push checkbox in the QuickBooks pop-over of a Purchase Order.

dashboard_settings Settings

CUSTOM TEMPLATES – You now have greater control over merge fields on the cover page and custom headers of your templates. In addition to changing what data fields you include on your custom reports, you can now justify text left, centered, or right.


We’ve enhanced our payment notification – If your customer pays three invoices with one check, the sales person on each invoice can receive notice of the payment.

          Go to: Module Settings > Notification Builder: Notification Trigger is “Invoice Payment Received”


We’ve added support for Canadian Tax Codes and Canadian QuickBooks.

          Go to: Settings > Module Settings > QuickBooks > Registration: check “Canada”


You now have control over the size of text in Snippets.

          Go to: Settings > Module Settings > Proposals > Additional Options (at the bottom): check “Override Snippet Font Size”


Invoices can now print for Single or Double window envelopes

          Go to: Settings > Module Settings > Invoices: choose Single Window or Double Window (at the bottom of the screen)


You can now choose whether to make the Technical Designer as the Invoice Rep 2 or not.

          Go to: Settings > Module Settings > Proposals > Additional Options (at the bottom): check “Use Tech Designer as Invoice Sales Rep 2”

dashboard_reports Reports

COMMISSION REPORT ENHANCEMENTS – We’ve added two enhancements to the commission reports. You’ve always been able to run the commission report based on profit or sales, but now you can pay your labor commission based on profit and your parts commission based on sales (or vice versa). And if you are using the RFP invoice process, the SO report now includes RFP payments in the percentage paid calculation (before it just included payments applied to delivery invoices).

dashboard_calendar Calendar

GOOGLE CALENDARS – iPoint can now interface with your Google Calendar for added visibility to your schedules. With a little setup, your Google Calendar can display your work orders and events directly from iPoint.


EVENT ENHANCEMENTS – Creating a multi-resource, multi person event on the calendar has gotten easier! Now you can quickly choose multiple people as you create your event and it will automatically be placed on all the individual’s calendars. And if your meeting is cancelled, deleting one event will remove all the linked events on everyone’s calendar. (Note: This does not work with Work Orders and this feature doesn’t sync with Google calendars.)

dashboard_dashboard Dashboard

CURRENT CHECK IN – iOS users will now see what work order they are currently checked into on the iPoint dashboard. This is a feature that was previously only available on the desktop PCs.

dashboard_quickbooks QuickBooks

SYNC WITH QUICKBOOKS – We’ve streamlined the process to sync multiple documents at one time to QuickBooks. With a quick sort, you can sync all your un-synced Purchase Orders, Invoices, Customers, or Vendors from their respective lists in Options.

That’s the list for this release. We know there are LOTS of changes. It is our desire to make iPoint solve the issues you face with your business.

Remember, we are here if you need us.
Call our support line, Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm Central time for live support: 1-800-535-4101
You can also email us any time: support@ipointsolutions.net.

Thanks for your support!

iPoint Mission Statement: We create perceptive solutions to solve everyday problems and offer procedural wisdom to help businesses increase profitability and reduce chaos through organized workflow, processes, communication, and documentation.

Its Time to Speak Up… for iPoint

2016 has been a great year for iPoint, and it’s only getting better. I want to thank all of the new partners we brought on so far this year, and all those potential partners that took the time to learn more about our platform.

If iPoint has impacted you this year, please take a minute to vote for us in the Technology Integrator 2016 Impact Awards. The link is here: Vote for iPoint

Thank you again and just so you know, the best is yet to come!

iPoint wants to cover your cost of CEDIA

This is the first time iPoint is attending CEDIA, so we want to do it right!  If you have not already paid for your CEDIA tickets, DONT!  We know that sounds weird coming from an exhibitor, but if you will come by booth 1719 and meet us, we want to cover the cost of your admission! When you go to pay for your CEDIA ticket simply go to http://expo.cedia.net/register-plan/registration and enter the passcode IPN16 when it is time to pay, and iPoint will cover the cost of your admission.

In addition to getting in free, how about a free iPad?iPoint-iPad

After each presentation we are giving away an iPad. Everyone who checks in at the beginning (and is still there at the end) of our presentation is eligible to win. Drawings will be on the spot, so be there when it is over to collect.

If you have not heard about iPoint yet, you deserve to!  Take a look at this article from CEPro  introducing iPoint as the system that does it all!  CEDIA Rookie: iPoint Software Does It All!

The question is, why wait?  Come learn more about iPoint ahead of CEDIA to avoid the lines and see why iPoint is the preferred software package of Vital Management, founded by industry professionals Paul Starkey and Steve Firszt who will also be joining us in out booth!