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We’ve seen it happen a hundred times: a great technician, programmer, or engineer has a bright idea for a product or service for the custom electronics industry, develops a business plan, secures some financing and backing from a bunch of friends and family…er, I mean supporters. Maybe he or she puts together a few co-conspirators, fine-tunes his prototype to perfection – and then crashes and burns, taking the dream and a whole bunch of investors’ money with him.

The takeaway: There’s a huge difference between being a fantastic engineer and running a successful, profitable and sustainable business.

Although every business is a little different, we do find a few common threads in many of these business failures:

Neglect of business systems

The most successful business is much more than just a warehouse full of good products. A great business, large or small, is a system. It is a set of specific, repeatable, scalable procedures and subsystems, designed to make money for the owner, with minimal direct supervision on a day-to-day basis. The key: In order to become a great entrepreneur, the great technician and the great engineer must eventually give up control of the day-to-day operations of the business. The idea is to work ON your business rather than IN it.

Massive diffusion

In some cases, the great technician and budding entrepreneur vastly underestimates the immense demands on his or her time involved in actually starting a business from scratch. Yes, they start their day with the most noble of intentions – planning on working on finding new markets, developing sales opportunities, and moving the product forward through the rollout process. In short, playing offense instead of defense. Instead, though, the new business manager winds up spending the entire day putting out small fires, attending to mundane tasks like bookkeeping, HR, IT, and just trying to make the trains run on time. Each of these tasks is frequently better delegated to someone else. The result: massive diffusion of focus, and little attention paid to the core tasks that make a business profitable and which cannot be delegated away: Strategic vision, business development, R&D, and overall management.

That’s why we’re big fans – and proud members – of CEDIA’s Professional Services group and its initatives.. CEDIA has consolidated a list of professionals in a wide variety of disciplines who committed to the custom installation industry. If you’re in business, and you find yourself falling into the system neglect trap or the diffusion trap, please do yourself a favor, open the CEDIA Professional Services page at www.cedia.net/psat and find someone who is ready to assist you getting it back on track. Remember, those little tasks that are distractions for you are someone else’s core competencies! Let them bring their A-game to the table – so you can bring yours!

Coleen Sterns Leith is president and chief techno-geek at Marketing Matters, a communications and design firm specializing in technology, consumer and custom electronics, audio-video, and related industries. As a 20-plus year consumer electronics industry veteran, she is a recognized expert in public relations, business development, and marketing. Coleen and her firm are headquartered in Hollywood, Florida. She can be reached at coleen@marketingmatters.net.