To remain competitive and buoyant, take a step away from your world and see it with ‘fresh’ eyes. A large part of the economic dynamic we are all experiencing requires shifts in perspective, which, if directed at the right elements, can reap good results. Look inside your firm, deep into the processes, the ‘how’ of your purpose.

Here is where you will find opportunity; profits oozing out of old stale ways, dripping from ‘good enough’ mindsets, seeping from poor communications or steps missed. Chances are many of these processes have not sustained organizational dynamics like changes in people, special arrangements with clients or lack of sustained attention. Likely you have some very good systems, great ideas and innovations borne from experience, books or collaboration with staff and colleagues. I’ll bet, though, that your internal mechanisms could benefit from a fresh look.

Pull all your processes out of their dusty binders and do a serious audit. Here are some guidelines to revitalize your internal world through a ‘fresh’ approach:

Fresh 1: Never compromise a process. Always stay consistent to your processes. If a process isn’t working for you…

Fresh 2: Ensure you have a ‘process’ around reviewing, revitalizing and ensuring compliance.

Fresh 3: Regularly communicate and train to processes.

Fresh 4: Keep the processes alive. Follow each project through the process, preferably with visual cues, for instance a Gantt chart.

Fresh 5: Hold people accountable to the process.

If you aren’t working to this standard, you are leaving a lot on the table. You cannot afford to experiment on clients or your staff. Your consistency and determination to create, train and hold your people accountable will create a strong enduring company that shines above the competition.

We recently had a client push us for an early move-in date. Our sales guy hadn’t reviewed our timelines, a critical part of our process. The team wanted to move fast and were willing to forfeit QC and full testing. The answer was easy—No. Not on your life. We needed to swallow a bad pill and the best thing for all energies invested was to swallow it at the earliest possible moment, not later when we would have risked system integrity. Never compromise the process, even to cover for an early miss.

When you do miss a step, take it as an opportunity to train and to enhance the process. Some steps require discretion and trust. Not everything can be systematically committed to a check list and audited.

Over the years, I’ve learned that a lean agile organization needs commitment to process; yet in opposition to this, it should resist the temptation to bureaucratize the firm. Creating cumbersome systems to ensure people are doing their job is often a sign that management is not willing to discipline or hold people accountable. A new ‘law’ or form is created to mitigate bad habits rather than communicate and discipline.

Hit the Key Steps

If this seems like a daunting task, start with the 20 percent of your processes that you believe will get you 80 percent of the way. Talk to your staff to get clarity and perspective. Top of my list are: Selling which constitutes the first 5 percent. We want to ensure that what we communicate and sell is congruent with the firm’s commitments internally. This might cover product choices, pricing and labour allocations. This phase should ensure clarity with the client so they understand what to expect regarding order lead times, payment timelines as well as fabrication, programming and commissioning.

Another focus might include sign-off points. They should be reviewed so that critical touch points are identified and sign-off ensured. This might include initials on the contract for critical milestone or process review, scope completion and sign-off by the team prior to client presentation, racking sign-off and final QC signoff.

Find a way to take a fresh look at how you sell, produce and service. Keep the concept of fresh alive, and stay open to failings and the need to reinvent. Most importantly, bring fresh to relentless attention to detail, training and communication. Take a fresh view on your own determination, and ensure that everyone in your firm is aligned and knows you are going to hold them and yourself accountable.

Marilyn Sanford is principal of Pacifitech Media Systems, Inc., LaScala Vancouver, La Scala Victoria, Smart Home Shop in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Email her with questions at: Marilyn@lascala.ca. CR

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Marilyn is a Registered Professional Accountant and a CEDIA Fellow. Marilyn was attracted to the Custom Electronics field in 1992 when she cofounded a firm in Vancouver,  Canada. Marilyn merged this business in 2000 with La Scala in Vancouver and sold the firm in 2013. She is a founding member of CEDIA Canada, and President from 1996 through 1999. From 2000 through 2007 she sat on the International CEDIA Board and was an Executive member in the latter half of her term. Marilyn is currently involved with two startup firms offering services to the Custom Installation Market: LincEdge, offering online labor sharing software, and b3pro, linking service providers and business advisors to CI firms.