A New Business Source For Integrators

By Ted Dieck | Recruiter’s View - Business Climate | Oct 16, 2009

Controls Systems Integrators do a very specific kind of work, so you’d think it would be relatively easy to count the number of people in that industry.

The reality is, no two head counts would agree,   because systems integrators don’t even agree on who’s an integrator and who isn’t.  Programmers will tell you they’re the real deal, because they create the brains of the operation.  All they have to do is hire engineers to design and install the hardware.  Engineers will tell you that they’re the actual integrators, and programmers fill in the blanks along the way.

One of the first steps to becoming an integrator is to handle lots of other people’s automation problems.  After awhile, the mish-mash of unrelated problem solving congeals under the common title:  Integrator.

Is it any wonder that customer’s don’t understand exactly what an integrator’s capabilities are?  (Or should be?)

MINI-COMPANIES – The typical first step on the road to forming a company as an integrator:  Lose your job.  There’s nothing that brings out the entrepreneur in an engineer like unemployment.

As I’ve said before, I believe the primary requirements for founding an integration company are guts and a telephone.

One-man operations are all over the place, and new employees frequently have the same last name as the founder.

A new phenomenon is developing in this ultra-small business category.  I am seeing an increase in one-man companies, as engineers figure, “What the heck, I’ll put up a website and bid my own jobs.”  And I’m seeing an increase in one-man companies that melt down from ten-man companies.  In their case, “right-sizing” means dumping the payroll and sitting alone by the phone, trying to keep a steady voice.

From both directions – startups and shrink downs – I’m getting similar questions:  How’s it look out there?  Some are pointedly ready to pack it in and take a steady paycheck.  Others simply don’t know.

RESCUE WORK:  GET PAID, BE LOVED – Here’s what I’ve been telling callers this week:  You should be able to find something.  SOMETHING that will bring in a check.  In fact, most integrators are mentioning little, tiny fill-in contracts that are pulling in a few dollars and occupying some hours.  This gives them that strange opportunity to either realize that their whole effort is pointless – or to realize that they’ve got a lifeline to make it to the next contract, then the next contract, and finally the big contract they’ve been looking for.

I’ve confirmed that the source for much of this new business is the same Deferred Responsibility effect that I talked about last month.  We all know that totally unqualified people have been low-bidding everything in sight, just to get some business.  Well, now those contracts are being awarded, and companies are staring at obligations they are completely unprepared to complete.

This is a terrific resource for you to get new business.  If you can provide the critical answer to a major project dilemma, some very good things can happen.  I recommend that you maintain a professional level about you, only discuss the work you are qualified to perform, and charge the proper amount for your services.  (No discounting.)

You will see more and more near disasters coming your way, they will present profitable opportunities, and you can develop a powerful reputation as the Go To Professional.

Hang in there.  I continue to predict a shortage of engineers as early as next year.  I am continually discovering highly qualified people leaving the industry (or just fading out) as increasing demands develop on the horizon.  Those engineers won’t be back.

This allows me to remind you of one of my all time favorite marketing strategies:  The Last Man Standing.

No question about it, as your competitors turn to real estate or macrame, your market share ticks up another notch every time.

Keep smiling!