Emails answered? Check. Schedule reviewed? Check. Truck prepped for projects? Check. Products ordered?
How many times have you been in this predicament?
The daily grind of a typical CEDIA ESC member involves completing the tasks of multiple departments with minimal employees. According to the 2011 CEDIA Benchmarking Survey©, the range of total employees for the majority of CEDIA member ESC companies is 2-8.
We often hear that a typical ESC wears many hats. So when we asked members what challenges they currently faced, we weren’t surprised when one of the most common responses was “finding time.”
So, how do you find the time? We set out to find “words of wisdom” from CEDIA members. Below are 25 tips ESCs can follow to avoid drowning in the daily grind of your to-do list and keep a project on track.
Learn from experience – 10 “Words of Wisdom” from fellow ESCs:
- Be proactive. Make an action plan for your day the evening prior, and stick to it.
- Set goals. Manage the expectations of your client. If there is not a set goal, the job will never end.
- Prioritize. Block time out of your day for each “hat.”
- Communicate. In extremely busy times resulting in deadlines changing, communicate with the entire team and your client ASAP.
- Keep your eye on the prize. Only do the things that actually create results. If it does not benefit your client, your team, yourself, or your bottom line. Just stop doing it!
- Focus. Turn your “push” off on your emails, and only check them at dedicated times through the day.
- Avoid distractions. Don’t allow personal Facebook/Twitter. If you use it for marketing, set the same rules up as email.
- Build relationships. True project management is possible by having honest, practical discussions with clients and employees.
- Use tools. Use schedules, project management software or basic spreadsheets to stay on track.
- Be selfish. Be ruthless with your time. Learn how to say no!
Learn from knowledge – 15 Project Management Tips from CEDIA’s Electronic Systems Project Management Team:
- Set aside plenty of time to schedule all phases of a project, small or large. Improper time allotment toward a project can result in inefficient use of the installer’s time or not meeting completion expectations with your customer.
- Managing the scope of work is one of the most important steps to a successful project.
- A project manager must always be aware that issues will arise on a project. It is important to resolve issues as quickly as possible while keeping all team members on task and not allow the issues to impact their project direction.
- Always continue to monitor the project budget to ensure that your actual spending is in line with the amount originally estimated. As needed, adjust budgets accordingly and ensure all stakeholders are aware of the adjustments.
- Be aware that change orders will occur on all projects. Change orders must be managed properly and executed without severely affecting the rest of the project. Get all team members (installers, designer, project manager and client) involved with defining and executing the completion of change orders.
- Be on the lookout for warning signs and red flags. If you can catch problems early, that is the best time to react to them. Being able to alter the project plan to account for unforeseen problems is much easier to deal with early than at the end of a project.
- Keep a communication log of all meetings and discussions. Some people call it “meeting minutes.” This is a great way to track verbal items that otherwise may have been forgotten.
- Keep in close communication with all project stakeholders, even if it’s just quick status updates. People like to know what’s going on, but even more, they don’t like to be surprised with things at the last minute.
- Ensure you have enough time to get equipment in your hands. Often, back orders and discontinued gear may not be apparent until you go to order it, and if you wait until the last minute, you will be juggling unnecessary time to procure things.
- Track costs during a project, not just at the end.
- Project kickoff meetings are a must, whether it’s just an in-house meeting, or a larger kickoff meeting with all stakeholders on a project. Very good questions get asked during these meetings, and it’s a great time for brainstorming if necessary.
- While this can be difficult, be sure to separate project management duties from installer duties. Try to avoid mixing the roles as much as possible. It’s hard to have a higher-level view when you’re in the trenches doing work.
- Get signatures and approval on change orders. Verbal approvals on something that may have happened a year ago are hard to prove, so follow up with a paper trail. Also, consider zero-sum change orders for internal change tracking. Customers really don’t mind getting invoiced for zero dollars.
- Keep your project staff happy. Institute incentives to perform better on a project. After a particularly successful project, consider having a post-completion party or event. Even invite other stakeholders if applicable.
- Consider project management software. There are companies that work with mobile devices for time tracking, ad-hoc project information, etc. CRM software is great when accessible on the road or in the field, and allows you to keep in touch with people when out and about. Time-tracking software is great in that you can check reports of projects to know how much time has been expended. Plus various others aid more tasks.
For additional advice on how to get it all done, check out the two-part series we did with CEPro, A Day in the Life of a One-Man Shop and A Day in the Life of a High End A/V Company. In addition, gain more knowledge through our project management courses, including ESPM301 Principles of Project Management.
Now get to work!