BLC 2017: Key Takeaways from Day One

The first full day of the 19th annual NSCA Business Leadership Conference was full of great insights into what is required of today’s tech integration leadership. From the labor shortage to customer loyalty, we learned a little bit about it all. Here are our biggest takeaways from each of the five sessions we attended.

Takeaway 1: The Labor Shortage is Real

Dr Chris Kuehl, Managing Director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, kicked off the conference with a general discussion of the economy. Since business is mostly good (the tech industry is growing, but we’re not in a boom) talk turned to the other side of the economic coin: the labor force. Not enough qualified students are graduating college to enter the industry in the numbers we’ll need to keep up with growth.

In order to compete as we move deeper into this labor shortage, integrators are going to need to employ all resources available to attract and retain talent, and to partner with organizations that can supplement in-house staff with third-party support. Especially from our vantage point managing a nationwide network of field services technicians, we can appreciate not only the need for enough labor in this market to meet demand, but also for qualified labor. That’s something we’re thinking a lot about throughout this conference.

Takeaway 2: Don’t let the “whirlwind” knock off your “WIG”

In the opening keynote, Wall Street Journal Bestselling co-author Chris McChesney spoke to the hardest thing a business leader ever has to do: drive a behavioral change in the organization. The execution of this goal (and all others) is far more difficult than strategizing. Execution is a challenge because it demands simplicity, but life is complex. McChesney pointed out that within an organization and in our personal lives, it’s important not to let your “whirlwind” (Daily Activities/Job) keep you from pursuing you Wildly Important Goals (WIG)/New Activities.

We know this is a message we can relate to. Some months, with tickets piling up and phones ringing all day, it can be difficult to focus on anything but the job at hand. In our case, that means getting the best technicians out on site and following through on every job. At the same time, we know we have to constantly be thinking about how we better support and educate our technicians so we don’t ever become stagnant. Developing new programs and initiatives is certainly something we’d call a Wildly Important Goal, but it’s also all part of the daily whirlwind.

Whatever your day-to-day looks like, what are you doing to keep your bigger goals front of mind?

Takeaway 3: Loyalty asks “Do you make my life safer, easier and better?”

Nationally-known researcher and author James Kane talked about the difference between satisfaction and loyalty in his pre-lunch general session talk. Satisfaction is a mood that you once put a customer or client into. Loyalty is a behavior they carry out in the future. He highlighted that we are satisfied overall by a good process, not just the ultimate outcome. Kane called out five things people need to feel loyalty:

  • Recognition– Do you know who they are, not just what they do?
  • Insight– Do you know what is important to them?
  • Proactivity– Make their life easier
  • Inclusion– People want to feel more included and have their say
  • Identity– We follow people because we believe and want what they want. Are you a good proxy for those who follow you?

We think these concepts can apply equally well to clients and also internal members of our team. In either case, the people we count on every day to do our jobs to the best of our ability depend on us to give them the recognition, insight, proactive energy, and inclusion they need to feel connected. It’s tough to build a good client relationship, or a good team, without a meaningful focus on how those relationships are built. Great insights!

Takeaway 4: Labor Cost Goes Beyond Hourly Rate

For the breakout session, we headed to get some insight from the Brads, Brad Dempsey of Solutions 360 and Brad Malone of navigate Management Consulting. We learned about five of the different costs that need to be taken into account when calculating the true cost of your labor force:

  • Direct– Hourly labor directly tied to project
  • Burden– Cost to put your employee in the field
  • Indirect– Functions that support the business
  • Overhead– All cost outside of those costs attributable to direct labor
  • Productivity– This can be calculated by dividing the chargeability by the amount of revenue generated or productive time achieved by direct labor

You may have four of these five costs locked down and under control, but can you reliably predict your growth accurately if any one point remains a mystery? Indirect costs, overhead, and productivity while on-site are three key factors of field services we work hard to structure on every job we do, because we understand how those more fluid aspects of a job can make the biggest impact, not only on the job’s cost, but on the end-users perception of how a job went. It’s not enough anymore to simply send a technician out to a site and hope they do a good job; it’s critical to set them up with low-cost supplies to reduce overhead, with training and certifications to make sure they’re authoritative and helpful, and with those soft skills that are necessary to win a client’s loyalty.

Takeaway 5: Nothing about it is getting easier. There is more competition and customers are in control.

The final session of the day, led by international speaker and author Scott Klososky, centered on innovation and trends. The trend in technology is toward more devices and connectivity, and the demands of the customer are driving not only deliverables, but research and innovation itself.

It makes sense to us that as technology gets more and more specialized, and gets adopted by greater portions of the workforce, management of that technology can only get more complicated. It’s mission critical in today’s market that every part of technology management—especially the field services end of the equation we think about so much—is focused on the end user and making their lives easier.

“Does it work?” isn’t a good enough question to judge the success of a deployment. Better is “Can they use it?”

We can’t wait to finish out the conference today and see what else we learn! We’ll send out the final recap and our big-picture thoughts tomorrow—don’t forget to sign up below to be on the email, and keep up with us and the rest of the conference today on Twitter at #blc2017.

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