Along with our annual Top 50 Systems Integrators feature, we polled a selection of leading firms on industry topics.

SCN: What was the biggest business challenge of 2016, and how have you overcome it?

John Godbout, founder and CEO, CCS Presentation Systems
Our biggest challenge remains the same: finding, training, and keeping quality technicians. Our attitude in the past had been to recruit technicians who had technical experience, a history of quality performance, a clean driving record, and a positive background check. The combination of technical skills and life experiences was often difficult to obtain. This year we decided to recruit candidates based on their willingness to learn a skill that is in demand. The candidates still needed to pass the life skills requirements, but we felt we could teach them the necessary job skills. Using a local employment agency, we were able to evaluate potential technicians “one more time” prior to hiring them as full-time employees. As they learn, exhibit strong work ethics, and demonstrate their personal willingness to advance, they can apply for promotions that eventually will lead to much greater opportunities within the company. Results look positive so far.

Tim Hennen, president of sales and engineering, IVCi
Companies are choosing to deploy large solutions involving multiple vendors across vast geographical areas. This creates project management challenges. The need to manage “information flow” between all departments engaged in the deployment is critical to the project’s success. Without it, mistakes are inevitable. So, IVCi spent the last five years developing IVCi Project, a sophisticated project management application. It serves as a centralized repository for customer data and monitors team members as they adhere to processes. IVCi project managers rely on this automated tool to manage an entire implementation—from discovery, to final testing, through ongoing maintenance and support.

Dana Barron, CEO, HB Communications
The biggest business challenge for 2016 is the change in client expectations relative to standardized collaboration solutions and project turnaround times. Regarding timelines, HB has adopted “lean” methodology to help evolve our delivery processes to meet these needs. We are also migrating to a new ERP, providing us with the right tools to support new processes. Solution standardization is more of an opportunity than a challenge, and started several years ago with high-level client meetings aimed at understanding client goals and infrastructure and aligning standards with that.

Spike Jones, VP, sales and marketing, CEI
Time, time, and time is our biggest business challenge. Since AV is nearly the end of every project, all of the incremental construction delays almost always end up compressing the AV technology schedule. CEI resolves this problem through aggressive offsite work in our huge, 45,000-square-foot prebuild facility. Also, close coordination with entire project team helps maintain awareness of potential delays and close the gaps during schedule shifts due to construction bumps in the road. The major shift to IT-centric systems requires education and coordination with corporate IT departments. A spirit of cooperation and team approach is vital.

Dale Bottcher, senior VP of sales, AVI-SPL
Our biggest challenge was maintaining our significant growth rate. To achieve this, we needed to provide more for our existing customers, while attracting new customers and new markets. Expanding our global footprint, enhancing our managed services, and strengthening our offerings to be the enterprise customer’s most complete solutions provider helped us meet this challenge.

Jeff Irvin, principal, Spinitar
Our biggest challenge is/was having ready access to skilled personnel to address our increase in workload. Backlog has doubled year over year, and that puts a big stress on our people whose sole interest it is to delight our customer through the build phase of the project.

Bill Warnick, CEO, Solutionz Conferencing
Our ability to provide solutions for organizations at any stage in their communications deployment process makes meeting the demand and the growth of the marketplace formidable. The shift in the industry from hardware to cloud or a hybrid solution has encouraged our customers to re-evaluate their communication strategy and the best paths forward. Creating the unique specific solution for each customer has driven us to be extremely agile and operate as one team. This enables us to continue to provide turnkey audiovisual and video communications solutions for any organization, no matter the size or budget.

Jim Ford, president, Ford AV
We always consider the greatest challenge to be delivering a quality product on time to the customer. With multiple locations across the U.S., our goal for each project is to have consistency in the quality of engineering and the execution of the installation, training, and customer support. It is easy to talk and hard to execute. We spend a great deal of time and effort in perfecting our ability to execute at the highest efficiency and standard of quality.