As the year comes to a close, I have been reflecting on my year as Project Manager of CEDIA’s Survival of the Fittest program. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned from the 10 free Webinars presented to CEDIA members, as well as the panel held at CEDIA EXPO 2009. I’ve also been thinking about what changes I’ve seen businesses make as a response to the current market and what we need to consider as we approach 2010.

In our November Webinar, Ray Lepper talked about the changes he has made in his business. He talked about “right-sizing” his company. He prefers the phrase “right-size” instead of “downsize” to describe a business that is the correct size for the volume it’s producing. Looking at our own companies, it is important that we create a company that can effectively and efficiently produce the work that we sell.

It was valuable to hear from business owners in this industry who have all experienced similar struggles, but have continued to manage their businesses with a focus on not only survivability but profit, as well. In May, Scott Sullivan shared his strategies for increased sales and expense management. He, like Ray, carefully tracks the revenue per employee and uses those metrics to manage his business.

In April, Marilyn Sanford walked us through the strategic planning process. While this market has been difficult for so many companies, Marilyn helped us see the value of stepping out of the day-to-day operations to consider the big picture: to create measureable goals and develop accountability among each member of a staff.

Molly Stone started out the year with simple marketing tools, while Dick Butts shared the characteristics of effective leaders. Daniel Newman helped us consider ways to incorporate recurring revenue into our business models, and we had a lively discussion about “green washing” with Michael Anschel. In August, we learned about all the different certifications that CEDIA offers.

As 2009 comes to a close, think about next year and consider the future economic trends that economic experts, such as David Crowe, predicted. The take-away from all these different Webinars is that we need to ask ourselves “Is my business where it needs to be?” and “What changes do I need to make to proactively continue to sustain a viable business?”

I’m hopeful for 2010; many signs are pointing to economic recovery. CEDIA’s Survival of the Fittest Program will continue to provide valuable information about the unique ways that companies are finding success. We will be hearing from business owners who have discovered and taken advantage of different specific market niches. Think of this as a call for experts. If you or someone you know has found an interesting (and winning) strategy, product, or market, we want to hear from you!

Tell us your success stories. E-mail surviv

The goal of Survival of the Fittest is to provide practical business tools to grow and sustain your business. I know I’m tired of surviving; I’m ready to move on to thriving!

Leslie Shiner, author, speaker and trainer, has more than 20 years of experience working as a financial and management consultant for the construction industry. She is the owner of The ShinerGroup (, a consulting firm helping businesses maximize profits and gain financial control. She manages CEDIA’s Survival of The Fittest program and has recently published “A Simple Guide to Turning a Profit as a Contractor.” She can be reached at

How are you getting ahead this month? See upcoming CEDIA University opportunities on page 40.