During the recent Installed Sales Summit in Cincinnati, I discovered something that blew my mind. There, at a conference with an attendee list that read like a who's who of the PROSALES 100, I discovered that there are still a number of dealers around the country running installed sales operations without a set of dedicated financials—P&L, labor budget, etc. I still find this problem difficult to get my mind around. Operating this way is like trying to fly an airplane without knowing which airport you left or where you really want to land—but you seem to be having a good time and seeing some beautiful country while you fly around!
In all seriousness, I do realize the issues surrounding why many installed sales programs are operating this way. In many cases, the program was started in reaction to a builder's request or the request of a homeowner who needed/wanted assistance. And before you knew it, you were knee-deep in installed sales and now you're seemingly too far in to step back and prepare a budget, labor cost analysis, or a separate P&L for the operation.
But it's not too late to get on track. It just takes the right tools and the time to analyze the operation. The time invested will be more than worth the effort because doing so will allow you to better analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your organization, help you determine where and how to grow your program, and—perhaps most important—help protect the assets of your main company in the event your installed sales operation is faced with a lawsuit or other liability issue.
Analyzing your IS operation isn't as difficult as you may think. I am currently working with two national clients that approached me about helping them develop a foundation for a corporate installed sales initiative. One of the first issues discussed in both cases was the necessity for financial management and accounting. Tracking true operational costs, net sales, and margins is crucial to the success of an operation. I provided them with spreadsheets that will help them conduct a Critical Profit Variable analysis (CPV), which compares the operation month-to-month. For example, the CPV compares monthly net sales to the previous year and calculates gross margin dollars and percentage, total payroll and percentage, “controllable” or variable expense percentage, net dollars and percentage, total salary and wage as a percent of net sales, and the amount of salary and wage dollars reallocated to the cost of goods sold (COGS). By looking at these figures carefully, you can spot potential problems before they actually become real problems.
Tracking true labor cost is another issue. Several months ago I wrote in this space about tracking and allocating labor cost for your installers—hourly or by piece-work. Though this issue has confounded many installed sales managers in the past, once again spreadsheets can be useful in helping you get ahold of the situation and determine the best workable solution for paying your installers. Whether you pay them a straight hourly wage, salary, or hourly/piece rate, tracking it in spreadsheets can help control costs, measure efficiency, and determine true profitability.
Labor issues are perhaps one of the core problems with most installed sales operations that I consult on. Labor costs get out of hand, efficiencies drop, and profits go down the drain. Without the tools to properly track these points, you can't tell exactly where you are; like our pilot earlier, you'll end up a wandering generality—enjoying the scenery, but not sure where you're likely to end up.