Every year I try to dedicate some time to look back to see what I’ve done and what we as a company have accomplished. I find that this is the perfect time to review before I get bogged down with the overwhelming wave of actual year-end paperwork. It’s something I’ve done for the last 14 years I’ve been in business—we look back to close the year out before we prepare to enter a new year and plan our company goals for the coming year. This can be a challenging affair, as occasionally we get jammed with projects stacking up to be finished before year end, but it’s an important part of our review process.
When I sit down with my office manager and business manager, I’ll look at a couple of things. I’ll look at the number of projects we’ve completed versus the number of projects quoted/proposed. I’m digging into the numbers on those completed projects and analyzing our profit margins, where we absorbed costs, how much we were able to increase in profits, and project sales. We look over our employee profitability, how productive all of us are with our time… myself included (which can be a very scary thing to look at, how you as an owner deal with your time).
One thing that I apply in these employee situations is something I learned growing up in my dad’s legal practice: the concept of billable time and how that corresponds to our staff. This is especially valid in regard to our office people and myself. Even though I spend hours any given day working on “stuff,” how much of it is actually billable time? I want to ensure that I don’t get caught up in what I always refer to as “busywork” any more than I want my staff getting caught up in that. This means making sure my staff works minimally on work that is not billable. I found that it is very beneficial to not just let our accounting team crunch these numbers from our books, but to actually pull this data and have some time analyzing it and breaking it down to some actionable points. I’ve discovered that when we leave this until after our year end, it never gets enough time allotted to it because we’ve already turned our focus to the new year and new opportunities.
This year is going to be different, though! No, I’m still going to spend time going over this data; we’re still going to analyze it and break it down to discuss it with our staff. But I’m adding a new wrinkle into the mix. The last two years, I’ve been more involved in both our industry and some executive level events, as well as researching more and more successful business people from outside our industry. I’ve learned a lot about how to work, and more importantly, how to run a business from the people at these events and the people I’ve researched.
More often than not, these great business or life lessons don’t come from the classroom environment; they come from people’s life experiences. This isn’t to take away from traditional learning methods, schools, or even industry certifications. Now I know there have been some articles written about industry certifications and the like, but that’s not really what I’m trying to get into today. I’m talking about the one-on-one method that’s always worked best for me. I’ve always tried to do anything I can to help not only my employees, but other people in our industry in any way that I can. I’ve always felt that whatever success I’ve achieved in life is due to the people who were willing to spend some time and share some of the insight they had with me. I like to think that I’ve done the same.
When we begin our year-end review, we’re going to add this to the areas we look at. We’re going to examine what we’re doing and how much time we’re allocating to teaching and training our own staff on things. I know I spend time in the field with our employees and subcontractors. I want to ensure that whenever we have the opportunity to do so, that we are imparting some of our wisdom and expertise to our people. This year we’re going to do our best to determine how much we are teaching our employees and where we can increase and improve those numbers. Personally, I’m going to endeavor to increase the level at which I offer my experience and knowledge to others in the industry.
As we head into the end of the year and toward the holidays, maybe there isn’t a much better gift to give than some of your time to help others succeed in this industry we all love. I know that I’ve been on the receiving end of this for quite a while, and I hope to never get to the point where I can’t learn from others. But this year I’m going to ensure that we as a company have taken every opportunity to help our people grow in every area. We’re going to take what we find from our year-end review and attempt to build on it in 2016. I hope you’ll join me to increase how much knowledge you pass on this coming year.
New York’s Broadway scene has only one name on its list lately—Hamilton, the hip-hop musical about the life of our founding father, Alexander Hamilton. Of the countless themes that circle every song, the one that sticks out most is Hamilton’s nonstop work ethic to build a better government, while his nemesis Aaron Burr waits and watches patiently on the sidelines as the story plays out. Now, we all know how the story ends—with a deadly duel between Hamilton and Burr—but what remains is Hamilton’s legacy of creating America’s financial system and Burr’s demise as the duel haunts his career for the rest of his days.
As we reflect on the successes and challenges we faced this year, I keep going back to this idea of working hard to achieve your goals versus waiting for the next project to fall in your lap. Through events, conferences, and my writing, I’ve had the pleasure to meet countless entrepreneurs this year who follow that same non-stop, hardworking mentality— inventors, CEOs, engineers, marketing reps—all who dedicate their time to the growth of AV. These are all professionals who understand what needs to be done to keep their businesses moving forward, while also staying ahead of the latest trends. Of course, these pros also keep their eye on the bigger picture—how their efforts benefit the AV industry as whole. We are part of an impressive industry, and I’m excited to see what comes next.
So take a moment to congratulate yourself on another successful year, and to prepare for what 2016 has in store for us—the industry is growing fast. And if you get the chance to catch Hamilton live, give me a call. I’d love to tag along.