- Business Performance: Live! Technologies, Columbus, OH
- Customer Experience: Conference Technologies Inc., Maryland Heights, MO
- Differentiating Strategies: Atrion, a Carousel Company, Warwick, RI
- Employee Engagement: Unified AV Systems, Atlanta, GA
- Strategic Transformation: ClearTech, Altadena, CA
- Talent Development: Mechdyne Corporation, Marshalltown, IA
“This year brought incredible submissions,” says NSCA Executive Director Chuck Wilson. “We had very close voting – some categories were tied until the last vote arrived. Reading the submissions tells me how advanced our industry has become. In some cases, it shows how creative our members must be to set themselves apart. I see a bright future for these firms.”
This year’s Excellence in Business awards honor six systems integration firms in their efforts to adapt to the constantly changing industry:
- Live! Technologies, winner in the Business Performance category, created a “Define, Design, & Deliver” model to encompass end-to-end client consultation, service, and support. The model extends and defends the core business while building emerging areas: leveraging project management, increasing numbers of service/maintenance contracts, continuous quality and efficiency improvement, reducing excess capacity, and growing programming and design jobs. Live! hasn’t lost a client since 2013, suggesting that these efforts have been highly successful. The company achieved 118% growth across three consecutive years, with 45.3% occurring in 2016.
- Conference Technologies Inc., winner in the Customer Experience category, needed to increase customer feedback volume and frequency after adding seven locations and thousands of customers. A shift from quarterly to weekly surveys helped the company become more responsive and have deeper conversations to solve problems sooner. A database captures feedback, with a portal for real-time storage, analysis, and access. A third party makes feedback calls to remove bias. Information is calculated and shared as it’s received; scores are displayed on the intranet and digital signage. Teams discuss feedback each week to shape themes and clarify priorities. With thousands of responses, Conference Technologies Inc. maps out the customer journey to help employees understand when and how they impact it.
- Atrion, a Carousel Company, winner in the Differentiating Strategies category, experienced growth that prevented it from focusing on going “wide” with clients. Twenty-five questions were created to help staff assess client relationships. Based on responses, clients were placed in categories. The clients in the highest categories indicated strong relationships (or the potential for strong relationships). Research verified that the clients in the lowest category took up valuable sales and pre-sales engineering time – while paying late or haggling over pricing. Staff explained to these clients what needed to occur in order for them to continue on as customers. Creating a joint venture with another integrator also allowed clients in the low category to be smoothly transitioned to a different organization. In two years, Atrion revenue grew by 81%, clients were reduced from 400 to 200, and salespeople now support 20 or fewer clients vs. 40. In 2016, revenue grew from $119 million to $156 million with 14 salespeople.
- Unified AV Systems, winner in the Employee Engagement category, went from being 33% employee owned under the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) to 100% employee owned in 2016. A formal Employee Engagement Survey was launched with a 95% participation rate. Management advisory teams (volunteers) study detailed data from survey results to make recommendations to management. They also develop strategic plans and communications tools to help everyone understand the ESOP program. Most valuable performers (MVPs) provide input on company operations and are recognized with all-expenses-paid trips. Employees now have an appreciation for the company’s future potential, steer operations to achieve that potential, and benefit from achieving that potential through stock ownership and a profit-sharing plan.
- ClearTech, winner in the Strategic Transformation category, launched a managed services program by approaching a key client to begin with a test pilot program. An internal team member was promoted to oversee managed services (this person also attended NSCA’s Pivot to Profit event), and an e-business solution was adopted as the CRM for managed services. Managed services is now a line item in project proposals, and a new website and marketing materials were developed. The client that assisted ClearTech in the launch has signed three managed service contracts; ClearTech has increased its services business from less than 5% to a projected 15% of 2017 revenue.
- Mechdyne, winner in the Talent Development category, implemented key hiring changes. When a potential candidate applies, he/she undergoes a rigorous process to gauge attitude, technical training, and client focus, taking four assessments and a personality test so Mechdyne understands potential fit. The HR department also implemented a new applicant tracking system, weekly recruitment meetings, and velocity reports. Five years ago, Mechdyne’s hiring timeframe averaged 96 days. Today, it’s 49 days. New hires are encouraged to seek training and continuing education. Every department’s career ladder lays out requirements for advancement; it’s up to each teammate as to how quickly he or she is eligible for promotion. These changes have resulted in a successful company that employs more than 150 happy teammates.
Award winners will be recognized at NSCA’s Business & Leadership Conference, March 2-4, in Chandler, AZ. They will also be joined by a Diversified executive, Commercial Integrator’s Integrator of the Year, to explain the reasoning behind their company transformations. To attend the conference, or learn more, visit www.nsca.org/blc.
The National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) is the leading not-for-profit association representing the commercial low-voltage electronic systems industry. NSCA is a powerful advocate for all who work within the low-voltage industry, including systems contractors/integrators, product manufacturers, consultants, sales representatives, architects, specifying engineers, and other allied professionals. NSCA is dedicated to serving its contractor members and all channel stakeholders through advocacy, education, member services, and networking designed to improve business performance. For more information, visit www.nsca.org.