In a month I’ll have been in this business for 15 years, and I seem to be reflecting back along the course of my career for what seems like the first time. You know I got into this business not so much as on a fluke, but nevertheless I seemed to have fallen into it. Or at least it fell into me when that speaker stand collapsed and a 15-inch Yorkville Elite speaker came to an abrupt stop, depositing a significant gash directly to the cranium of 6-year-old me. As I played around with AV for the next 10 years, I never thought to make it a career, but as I closed in on the end of high school, for whatever reason, I thought AV looked like a great business to get into, and I subsequently started OMEGA in September of 2001, just two months after graduating.
As most entrepreneurs usually do, I worked hard and put an exorbitant amount of blood, sweat, and tears into my business, and at times, felt like I wasn’t even treading water but continually fighting a fierce undertow. But let’s be honest—that’s what it takes to build a business. You work hard, you put in the time, you try to hire the right people, and you hope that you’ll not only stay profitable but that you’ll exceed your own expectations, and maybe, just maybe, become wildly successful. You’ll build your own empire and bring a bunch of people along for the ride. Soon you realize that this is an even harder goal, because there isn’t just one way to become successful. And what’s worse, success has become synonymous with companies like Facebook and Google and a variety of other seemingly overnight breakout stars. But it’s never really that easy. Just because we work in technology doesn’t mean we’re poised to be the next Instagram.
When it comes right down to it, we’re all in the service industry, as much as the stalwarts of the industry want to stay within their cozy pigeonholes of being an Audio Guy or Video Girl or Control Programmer. The industry has evolved into something different, even in the mere 15 years I’ve been in this business. And just for clarity’s sake, so ya’ll don’t think I’m just a one-trick pony over here, we started in house of worship, and then live sound, residential, automation, lighting control, back to commercial, and now we’ve added a strong IT division. Even though we’ve been in and out of these all at one time, we’re now working in all these verticals. But we don’t let any one of the verticals define us, because we’ve evolved into the service company we are now. Sure, we still sell a box here and cable there, but it’s become so much more then the individual parts and even, dare I say it, more than just the solution. It’s become about the customer!
No, I’m not going to jump down your throat and turn this into something about the customer always being right. No, that’s way too easy, and to be fair, you and I both know that’s pretty far from the truth. What I hope to get across to you is that we need to change our mindset if we really want our businesses to evolve. I’ve never been one to try to play by the rules and have had too many people to count (maybe even some of you reading this) tell me, “That’s not how we do things.” Not that I’m some crazy rebel, I just seem to run my AV company a little differently because a great man once told me to never say no. When people ask if we can do something, the answer has always been yes. That’s part of the evolution that I for one believe will allow companies to continue to grow amid changes to the industry. Maybe it’s time for you to look at your company differently.
Maybe it’s time you realized that although you are a technology company, your company actually provides a service. I believe that this is where we have the opportunity to become truly successful. We can learn to properly provide services to our clients that they not only can use but also can understand the operation. We can learn to properly design solutions that focus on their needs, opposed to our need to move product. We can learn to listen to our clients and serve our clients rather then our own ambitions.
If we can do all that, we’ll find that it really isn’t that far to achieve success. We’ll find that not only will our clients be happier, but we’ll experience the joy of exceeding expectations. Isn’t it time we actually use this wonderful technology we work with to service our customers?
Matt D. Scott is the president and founder of OMEGA Audio Video, in London, Ontario, Canada. Scott had his first encounter with pro audio at age six when a PA loudspeaker fell, cracking his head, and leaving a scar to this day. After mopping up the blood, Scott started his AV career and has been working in pro AV, commercial AV, and residential AV ever since. Scott loves the industry and all things tech! A self-professed tech-head, Scott shares his opinions on social media, local radio, omegaaudiovideo.com, mattdscott.com, and through various publications.
Can we as people working in a highly technical field actually really be in the service industry? Let’s face it; we’re not selling services like your mainstream tech company even though we sell technology. But we are in the service industry whether you believe it or not. We’ve got to the point where what you can offer to your client is what causes them to hire you. We’ve all heard for years that you can’t survive by just offering boxes, but that doesn’t even begin to broach the situation. Anyone can now offer a competing solution that you thought set you apart. The evolution of the box-selling mentality that has morphed into the solution sales pitch is just that—another version of selling that box.
It’s my opinion that what will continue to set us apart and keep our businesses thriving and growing is the adoption of a service mentality. Not just paying lip service to the concept of service contracts, but actually providing service. Being there when our clients need us. Providing what they need and ask for, going over and above their expectations. Yeah, these seem like lofty goals, but the world has shrunk considerably, even in my 15 years in the industry. You want to be different? You want to continue to grow? Why don’t you do something special? What don’t you turn your business into the model for customer satisfaction. Provide the service that your clients need, and they’ll stick with you forever.