Surviving and Thriving as a SI (2 of 3)

July 13, 2010

Sales Training

Rick recommends sales training materials from Dale Carnegie and Sandler. In the Sandler Training, you focus on identifying on the ‘customer pain’. You learn to probe to see if you can help thereby clarifying the project scope, requirements, stakeholders, ….

Terms and Conditions

Rick has several interesting recommendations with respect to an integrator’s terms and conditions. For instance, their billing terms are:

  • 40% of total system cost due upon Superior Controls receipt of order
  • 30% upon submittal of the detailed I/O List and Functional Specification
  • 20% upon execution of SFAT or shipment, whichever comes first
  • 10% upon completion of SAT execution, but no later than 30 days after shipment
    Payment of invoices is net 30 days. Payment of field engineering services is net due upon receipt of invoice. Interest of 1.5% per month will be charged to all invoices outstanding after 30 days.

They also specify their delivery relative to the acceptance of the Functional Specification. No need to get caught with a time constraint because the customer could not agreed to work that needs to be done. Rick also believes it is important to include a non-solicitation clause. And, they maintain intellectual property rights – but licenses the customer to use and copy (but not resell or redistribute) that IP.

Company Overhead

Rick also had several recommendations for reducing company overhead. For instance, he prefers to keep the organization flat (minimal management) and expect more from employees. But, he does recommend an ‘Estimator’ to oversee all ordering. He also advocates the use of administrative assistants responsible for minimizing time and effort of engineering (i.e. documentation set up). And, he says that they have no receptionist or operator – instead relying on technology.

Performance Monitoring

With reduced management, there is an increased need for good performance monitoring. So, for fixed price projects, it is important to track all engineering hours and material costs – both estimates and actual. It is critical that your engineering staff are completing projects to the specifications and not just filling the available time.

Performance Management

June 17, 2009

Since hiring doesn’t seem to be the biggest issue right now, I thought I’d jump to managing the performance of your existing employees.

Setting goals

In First Break all the Rules, the authors challenge some of the conventional wisdom with respect to management. General philosophy is that people don’t change much. So, don’t waste time trying to put in what is not present. Instead, try to leverage what is already in. That is hard enough

For instance, when selecting the ‘right person’ for a job, you might think that finding someone with the prior experience, the right level of intelligence, and the necessary willpower would be most important. But, the book asserts that talent is more important.

Based on this philosophy of hiring people for their talents then drives how you set their goals and objectives. You should focus on the right outcomes and let your talented people define their own path. But, this does not mean let them do anything that they want, still follow required steps.

Motivating people

Also based on the revelation that people don’t fundamentally change, you are better off finding out what motivates an employee rather than pestering them about their shortcomings. Position them to use their strength to their advantage and adjust, as necessary, to compensate for their weaknesses. This defies the ‘golden rule’ of treating everyone as you would have them treat you. The manager is challenges to customize their style to elicit the maximum performance from the individual employees. Also, a bit counter-intuitive is the strategy of spending time with your top performers rather than fixating your attention and time on others.

Climbing the ladderThis perspective also then shapes how you develop your organization. You can’t simply assume that it is best to promote people to the next rung of management. You’ll end up putting employees into roles that they don’t want and in which they won’t succeed. Instead, find positions in which individuals can be successful and ‘create heroes’ by recognizing them for excelling at what they are good at. Also, create ‘safety nets’ that allow people to try new responsibilities without fear of failure.