Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Bill Schuermann
When you look at your business's annual report, what do you see? Annual sales, unit sales, profit (or loss), debt to equity, salaries, receivables, and so on. Year-end financial reports represent a historical recap of a company's business decisions, and the profit and loss statement is an indication if those judgments were wise. But what do you look at during the other 11 months to determine the health of your business? Do you know which boxes are selling and which new digital doodad is in your demo stock? Every company or individual should generate a solutions report as part of monthly reports, because providing clients with the best possible solutions is what grows a business.
So if you plan to have a solutions report, you must determine what information it will contain and what it will look like. Perhaps it will feature an overview of how you solved some unique set of problems for a client, or it might delineate how you creatively applied your skills and imagination. It could also show how you applied some new form of technology in a new way. Maybe it could be a new use for an existing technology that no one had ever considered. Whatever format your solution report might take, it should recap your creative and imaginative approach to fulfilling a client's needs.
Satisfying those needs relies partly on experience. One of my first employers told me to think about job experience not in terms of years but rather in terms of system solutions or events. He would say, “When someone tells you they have 12 years of experience in A/V system design, ask yourself this: is that 12 years of real design experience or one year 12 times over?” Think of it this way: how many systems have you seen that include every digital device possible, and to complete the state-of-the-art system, a host of transformer-laden 70V loudspeakers is hung. What's wrong with that picture? Is it a creative system or just another collection of devices?
Are your system solutions and your product selections of comparable quality? System designs are only as good as the devices selected and the method by which they were installed. Any imbalance typically results in your competitor getting the pleasure of removing your solution and installing his.
When it comes to the relationship with your client, trust is a huge factor. When all is said and done, you should be confident that your solutions instill trust in the client. Are you working within the laws of physics, or are you attempting to establish a new measure of absolute zero? A lack of trust limits your ability to creatively apply an innovative design approach.
Finally, you need to evaluate if you have a variety of solution resources or if you rely on your product suppliers to show you new applications. Are recommendations your only solution resource, or does your creative integration of multiple products result in a creative system solution? You can decide, but I submit that creative solutions will grow your business more consistently than selling collections of products disguised as system solutions.
Bill Schuermannis a consultant for HFP Acoustical in Houston.