As an avid runner, I love the story of the first sub 4-minute mile. For over a thousand years countless people tried to run a sub 4-minute mile. It was commonly believed to not only be dangerous, but impossible. However, on May 6th, 1954, a 25-year-old medical student in the UK, Roger Banister, ran a mile in 3:59:04. Less than 6 weeks after Roger Bannister accomplished this incredible feat, Australian John Landy completed a mile run in 3:58, beating Bannister’s record. Now, running a sub 4-minute mile is a regular occurrence in High schools, and professional races all over the world. I am fascinated by the power of the mind, once it is convinced the impossible is indeed possible – the perspective shifts and miracles begin to happen.
I experienced a change in my perspective early in my career, roughly 25 years ago. I was working for an integration company and we were charging $50/hour for labor. I left that Integration company to work for a different company and was shocked to discover that the new company charged $80/hour for labor and $100/hour for programming labor. A conversation followed with my new employer to educate me on the reasoning behind the labor rates. My new employer was very committed to the pricing and the value offered by the company and its team; which defined the labor pricing. I was told “we are not an average AV Integration Firm, we are exceptional!” Our company was a founding member of CEDIA had regular projects as feature articles in industry publications, which were prominently displayed in our world class showroom. The installation team was formed by extremely talented and experienced technicians who had previously worked as sound engineers for local musicians, like Prince and others. The company was convinced that we were a premier AV Integration Firm and if a consumer wanted the very best design, craftsmanship and ongoing service and support, they would be willing to pay to receive those benefits. Once I understood the reasoning behind the pricing and witnessed how my boss delivered his proposals with great pride in our brand, I shifted my perspective and successfully stood behind the pricing, and the value we had to offer our clients.
Perspective is a really fascinating subject to me. I always enjoyed discussing subjects with my mother-in-law, because she had a unique gift to look at a subject from a perspective that I had never thought of previously. Have you ever had someone significantly shift your perspective? Maybe they helped you to understand that one of your worst experiences, became the best learning or growth experience? Sometimes failures shape our success and challenges create opportunities.
I know that many markets around the world are currently struggling due to economic challenges, political issues, currency rate, government imposed tariffs, etc.. I like to look at difficult times as a great challenge to develop powerful opportunities. As a business owner or leader, you should consider: “who is going to come out of this period stronger: you or your competition?” If you want to become stronger and more effective, now is the time to do it, not tomorrow, not next week, now! It is time to ask yourself and your team some difficult questions:
• What are you doing to attract more customers and grab more market share? It is time to ramp up your visibility with new and existing customers: contribute some articles to local papers or magazines. I suspect they would love to have some guest editorials on technology. Create a newsletter to communicate cool new trends with your existing customer base. Discuss topics they may find interesting: Voice Control, Energy Management, Device supervision and remote management services, Wellness, Lighting and Circadian Rhythm, etc.. Become more active on Social Media and show off some completed projects, offer some monthly features on cool, new technology or an exciting project spotlight.
• How can you become more successful in each project? Evaluate your product offering. Are you selling the best solution for each product category? Is that product/brand adding value to your business, or is it simply a me-too product? I see many integrators around the world, who are losing money in key product categories, because it may be “easier to sell” a certain product. If you are simply taking the easy road, the highway will eventually run out of pavement. It is equally important to look at the product categories you are offering on each project. How can you maximize the opportunity with each client? Are you offering lighting control, shading, door entry, HVAC control, home theatre furnishings and acoustic treatments, security, surveillance, device supervision, etc.
• Review some business analytics: what product categories are growing or shrinking, which ones are the most profitable? Where could you add new revenue or increased profit opportunities? If you can’t pull this data from your accounting or other business management software, you can manually go through past projects and use a pencil and paper to analyse some data and make educated decisions to improve the health and future of the business.
• Challenge your beliefs: Carefully evaluate some of your beliefs about products, brands, business policies and try to flip them upside down. You may believe that X product may be too expensive but make a list of all the benefits offered by the product and you may find further value to determine it is actually priced too low. Or you may find that a leading product in a category is driving your profits margins down, and it is time to seek an alternative that is more profitable and adds further value to your business. Maybe it is time to flip a policy and add more long-term value to your business, by offering a unique benefit. Look at what Amazon did by simply offering “free” shipping with its Prime service. They turned a challenge: cost of shipping vs. buying from a store, into an opportunity: save a trip to the store and get it delivered for free.
Next time you are faced with a challenging situation, try to shift your perspective and ask yourself what positive developments can come from this situation? Don’t be shy to include your team in this exercise. The power of team collaboration on activities like this is invaluable. Make your next lemon a lemonade stand!