Where the true mettle is made is not just the listing of important values (that’s the easy part!), but defining the priority. Corporate leadership must make it clear what is more important if indeed the company can navigate through the market, choosing one path over another.
There are two particular values that seemingly compete with each other, and choosing the more important is a source of struggle for many, and not just in the audiovisual industry. Yet leadership must decide, and this decision has a profound impact on customers, employees, vendors, and even the community with which it resides.
One priority is Growth. Indeed, it is important, even crucial. The AV trade organization focuses on ways its members can increase revenues and associated market share. It invites sales gurus to advise and counsel company leaders on how to attain growth…and why not? The assumption is that with increased revenue come higher profits that can increase individual income, investment in production capabilities, and marketing resources to grow more. Every company needs growth, and this value indeed a critical one to all companies.
Some companies value this so much that it effectively overwhelms all other priorities. The industry recognizes gross revenue. Industry awards focus on total sales, and competition is fierce the higher you get to the top. Employees feel the pressure of high volume as well as the excitement. They also often demand higher salaries, and not too much attention is spent on one individual.
The other critical value is Quality, something much more difficult to measure in our business than gross revenue. By quality, I mean simply, “Conformance to requirements”, not expensive, luxurious, or covered with glitter. Described in this way, the only one who can arguably define it is the customer. In the customer’s perspective, the quality is good if all the deliverables were received on time, the AV system perform as as intended, and there are no defects. If there were any issues, they were responded to in a timely fashion. That’s what I mean about “quality”, something that is quite misunderstood in our industry.
Because audiovisual technology is so complicated and changing so rapidly, maintaining quality is a daunting task. Individual skills and certifications are woefully insufficient. A well-organized, clearly defined system of procedures called a “Quality Management System” is needed, one that completely pervades the organization. Leadership must clearly define Quality as the overarching value above all others, and create a culture for which it flourishes. Quality must live and breath everywhere in the company. It becomes a habit more than an act.
The effects on employees in a company with a Quality Management System are quite different from a company without one. The culture is completely different. The Team feels more relaxed, knowing exactly what to do; they also understand what everyone else does. There is pride in knowing the customer will be satisfied. Profits are higher in these companies, since there is less waste and re-work. When errors are made, the focus is on correcting the Quality Management System, making it better so as to prevent errors from happening in the future. Innovation flourishes in these error-tolerant cultures. Cash flow is better, since customers will pay better. Growth occurs more from word of mouth from satisfied customers. Recognition comes not from other AV companies, but from the market itself.
The AV9000 Standard provides the metrics and the structure for a Quality Management System for the audiovisual industry. It resembles those adopted in other industries, such as automotive and aerospace.
For decades, the Toyota brand meant quality. In 2009, Toyota headquarters issues an emergency recall of 9 million cars due to a problematic floor mat and a defective brake leading to unexpected acceleration. Quality had always been Toyota’s Number One Goal, and the company lived continual improvement. But in the 1990’s they decided to be the world’s biggest car company. Quality became second to growth, and they paid for it. There was less employee involvement and share of best practices. Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda took responsibility, and halted production on 8 models, but by then 52 people’s lives were lost, and another 38 were injured. Financial losses were $5.5 billion, and Toyota’s loss in reputation was inestimable.
Growth versus Quality Management: they’re both important values in any company. When defined, they really are not “competing” with each other at all – they actually support one another. But the Company Leadership must decide which comes first. Which one would the customer prefer the company to choose? Which would the employees prefer the company to choose?
Visit www.aqav.org. Learn about how the AV9000 Standard can be used as the core of an AV company’s quality management system. Get your people trained to be “AV Auditors”.
Quality is the indisputable cure for poor profits, dissatisfied clients, and poor morale.
LEAD WITH QUALITY!