17 Useful Employee Management Ideas for Integrators

Integrators offer solid advice to help their peers effectively manage employees.

Whenever a group of integrators gets together for a brainstorming session, good advice is sure to flow. That’s exactly what happened at the CEDIA Expo 2014 during the “Work Smarter, Not Harder” panel discussion led by industry consultant Leslie Shiner of The Shiner Group.

Her panel covered everything from finding new employees to general employee management to measuring productivity to selecting software, but because hiring and managing employees is almost universal right now among many custom integrators, we’ve isolated on 17 top tips offered during the session.

The five panelists were Jamie Briesemeister of Integration Controls in St. Louis; Eric Crawford of The Loop Audio Video in Boise, Idaho; Shawn Hansson of Logic Integration in Lone Tree, Colo.; David King of King Systems in Lakewood, Colo.; and former CEDIA president Eric Bodley of Bodley & Associates in Bonita Springs, Fla. For the 100-plus attendees at the session, if they learned one valuable takeaway to improve the management of their custom installation staff, then it was time well spent.

(Likewise, for readers of this article.)

1. Hire for Personality First: Briesemeister advises dealers to “hire for personality first” and technical prowess second. Her company has eight employees, three of which have been added in the past year. In a small, tightknit operation, meshing the personalities and making it a positive workplace environment among co-workers is vital.

2. Use LinkedIn to Find Employees: Integration Controls uses LinkedIn successfully to find and recruit potential employees. Briesemeister says she recently found (and eventually hired) an office manager who had responded to a LinkedIn query within one hour of her posting the job. She notes that other integrators have shared success stories in finding technicians from car audio companies and the military. Real estate agents sometimes make strong sales candidates, according to the panel.

3. Require Techs to Get CEDIA Certification: “Certification is important,” says King. “We try to use CEDIA training as much as possible. Remember that employees need to be motivated. They don’t get to go to CEDIA Expo and get all excited, so you can use training to motivate them.”

4. Use Subs for Big Jobs, Commercial Work: Often, when integrators ink contracts to do large commercial projects, it puts them in a bind employee-wise because those jobs tend to have a specific completion date, unlike most residential jobs. For King, it means he routinely hires subcontractors to complete commercial jobs. “I hate it, but I do a lot of commercial work. Using subs has been a good deal for big jobs. But don’t [simply] find guys at Home Depot and have them wire for you,” he advises.

5. Use Your Guy Feeling on When to Hire: In an age of spreadsheets and software, King says his most accurate indicator on when it’s time to hire a new employee is his instinct. “We don’t have a set formula but have a detailed financial spreadsheet,” he says. For example, he is on track to earn $2 million more in revenue than he predicted for 2014. For King, he believes that simply by keeping track monthly he is able to accurately balance his revenue per- employee ratio. Those monthly calculations mean he uses the accrual method for his revenue.

For example, if he signs a contract for a $100,000 project, he does not load that entire amount into a single month. The month that project starts might only have $30,000 in revenue attributed to it. “So I can look at how many employees I need to reach that $30,000 for the month,” he notes.

6. Create a Company Org Chart: It might seem like busy work, but having an organizational chart even for a small custom installation company is vital. According to Bodley, the most important role of an org chart is for hiring. “Draw up an org chart and include a job description in each box and use that for hiring. The description will allow you to better compare the necessary skills of the position with the job candidate’s skills,” he notes.

Crawford has job descriptions in his company org chart with Key Performance Indicators that he uses during an employee’s personnel review. He has weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual KPIs in the job descriptions. For example, an administrative office manager might have specific KPIs to clean the office weekly and answer phones in a timely manner.

7. Conduct Simple 90-Day Evaluations: While some integrators like to conduct a 30-day review for a new employee, Bodley says that can sometimes be unfair for a technician. “We did a 90-day evaluation … strictly thumbs up/ down from them and from you,” he says. “Remember, you are measuring them, but they are gauging you as a company too.”

Crawford follows that formula. He typically does 90-day reviews for new hires. But for technicians, he also conducts a two-week and one-month review because the job is so important to the success of his company. He then holds a six-month review for installers, then annually thereafter. “The bottom line is that if you have issues with someone, don’t wait 11 months to talk with them about it,” he remarks.

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Tagged with: Business

About the Author


Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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