Another one of my favorite CSIA 2010 presentations was given by Rick Pierro, President of Superior Controls, Inc. After benefiting from the association for many years, Rick graciously decided to give back by discussing the Top 10 Concrete Business Tips Learned over 25 years as a system integrator.
Rick had several interesting suggestions for about the recruiting process. For instance, he recommends giving a candidate a written test in which a problem is given without adequate information. This simulates the common experience of an integrator who must work on a poorly defined customer requirement. You can then gauge their demeanor with respect to these constraints. If he is successful, you can continue the interview. If not, be polite and respectful. Keep in mind he may be hired by your best customer. So, give him a way to save face (e.g. it looks like your strengths lie elsewhere).
Superior Control does advocate the use of contractors. As a matter of fact, he recommends giving them the same test (mentioned above). But, they only hire them on a time and materials basis – and make them sign a non-compete. The contractors are paid bi-weekly and expected to keep good timesheets. He also says that they have been successful at paying less by paying early (net 10).
Emergency Support Contracts
With customers reducing head count during these tough economic times, they may be more interested in emergency (24-7) contracts. Superior Control will often sign a 1 year agreement which automatically renews if not cancelled 30 days before the expiration date. Charges for support hours include 1 hour minimum for phone support, 4 hour minimum for on-site support, plus travel time. Then, pay your engineers a nominal coverage fee and an hourly rate with minimums. They also include a quarterly half-day ‘maintenance visit’ to identify any potential issues — as well as look for new opportunities.