Expanding to Home Technologies, Part 2: Being the Right Electronic Systems Contractor

Think you’ve got what it takes to make your business successful in home automation? Here’s what to look for


[Editor's note: This second part of a column series by Keith Davis of AVAD will continue to address the topic of how security-installing dealers can expand into the growing world of home automation. Look for Davis' regular installments in our Dealers' Columns article section and in regular issues of our e-newsletter for security dealers.]

Here's a simple concept that is critical to the success of your business: Home technology is worthless unless it is installed correctly by trained and motivated people with the skills necessary to do the job.

In this month's column, I want to explore how security dealers can take the skills they already know, learn new ones and transform themselves into Electronic Systems Contractors (ESCs).

Just as we identified the elements of Home Technology in the first installment of this column series, let's define what an ESC is. Simply put, an ESC is an industry specialist focused on simple home technology solutions that make good business sense for their unique abilities, skills and market. An ESC can also be defined as a security dealer who is also properly trained to install and service home electronics.

Before you begin thinking about adding the letters "ESC" to your resume, there are three areas of your business that must already be in place to create a foundation for this new growth. Failing to build on a firm business footing may save you time in the short term, but over the long haul, it will come back to bite you hard.

Every security dealer wanting to explore the field of home technology needs a dynamic and flexible business plan that must be reviewed and modified from the very beginning. Not having a plan will cause your company to fail by overwhelming the operation with demands that can't be met. If you don't have a written business plan for entering the home technology marketplace, do so now before taking another step forward or decide to remain what you are.

One critical element of the plan must address business growth. Your goal is to sell profitable technology solutions as demand skyrockets, right? To do that, you must be ready with an idea of where the people, trucks, materials and most importantly, the money, will come from. Create a scalable model that prepares your business now, not when you are in the throes of a cash flow and resource crisis.

Lastly, is your company managed well? In other words, are you directing and controlling every aspect of your operation to achieve a desired final outcome? Most small businesses are not managed at all, much less well, because they spend most of their time and energy reacting to whatever. Want your business to be the best it can be? Be proactive and manage the processes that define your company's direction, goals and ability to implement well.

Moving past the basics, a good ESC has several characteristics that set them apart from the competition.

First-class ESCs are focused on profit. Not sales revenue, not on trucks on the road, not on the builders you are working for, but on the bottom line. If you are not in business for profit, what are you there for? You don't have to be a CPA, but learn to read the balance sheet your accountant gives you. Know your cash position at all times and eliminate anything that does not add a fair profit margin to your business.

Successful ESCs focus secondly on relationships. Keep the human element in your operation and be customer-centric. Know about your employees too, for they are people just like you with their own wants, needs and fears. It's not what you know, but who you know and how you relate to them that will define the long-term success or failure of your business.

Next, a smart ESC will stay abreast of the latest home technology trends, but will also wisely choose to wait until the technology is proven and reliable before including them in their product mix. Do not become a manufacturer's beta test site and lose money and customers due to the inevitable glitches found in any product early in its lifecycle.

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