Keys to a Successful Family-run Business
Brad and Sheri Griffin of Home Theater Design Group set defined boundaries and rely on remote management to run efficiently.
Defined roles are often the key to success in any custom installation company. From project managers to salespeople to technicians, everybody has their assigned duties to make the company hum like a well-oiled machine. But when someone on the team steps outside of their core competency, it can sometimes lead to problems.
Likewise, knowing boundaries can be the secret to success in a marriage and family, from balancing the checkbook to mowing the lawn. So, it makes sense that a husband and wife team like Brad and Sheri Griffin would know how to run a smooth and successful integration company.
Indeed, there may not be a more perfectly matched couple to run a custom installation company than the Griffins of the Home Theater Design (HTD) Group in Addison, Texas. Sheri is ebullient and bubbly, the type of person who clients consider their close friend five minutes after they’ve met. She focuses on sales. Brad is an erudite, super-intelligent technologist, the type of person that customers trust to design a highly sophisticated integrated home control and A/V system that works. He focuses on design and technology implementation.
Together, the duo has developed a honed service plan that relies on remote management, along with other efficiency tips like using a “virtual assistant” to save time and money.
Growing into Respective Roles
The seeds of HTD Group were sewn way back when Brad was still in middle school. He mowed grass to make enough money to be able to buy a stereo system and was hooked from that point on.
“It has always been in my blood,” he recalls. “I built my own speakers, bought my own crossovers, made the cabinets and everything when I was a young kid. I always had a great car system in high school and set up a surround sound system in my dorm at college.”
Location: Addison, Texas
Revenues (2012): $1.2 million
Years in Business: 16
No. of Employees: 6
Specialty: Whole home integration and automation
Top 5 Brands: Elan, RTI, Integra, SIM2, Panamax (BlueBOLT)
FYI (One Piece of Advice to Another Dealer): People care a lot more about how you treat them and their family than they do what type of vehicle you roll up in front of their house in.
After that Brad went on to install car audio and competed in several International Auto Sound Challenge Association (IASCA) events, winning three times in his division. “In 1997 when I was ‘down-sized’ from my day job, doing this stuff full time was a no-brainer,” he adds. Why? “My passion for what we do and the love of the challenge of the always-evolving technology industry.”
Sheri didn’t join the business officially until later.
“I wasn’t a part of it from the beginning. We were dating and I started out helping him by doing the bookkeeping and accounting on nights and weekends,” she says. “I had another full-time job. I quit that other job and started working for Brad full time. Brad and I actually ran the company together for 13 months before we got married.”
Slowly, Sheri evolved from just doing the bookkeeping to the primary sales role. To show how far Sheri has come in terms of honing her knowledge about technology, years ago she and Brad were dating and she stopped by his house. She had a key and went in. He was out for the evening. When he came home, she was sitting in a chair covered in blankets reading a magazine by the only lamp she could turn on because she could not figure out how to turn on the heater, the rest of the lights, the TV or anything else in the house.
“So I totally have been trained by him. It’s been a slow transition to learn how to make it all work. I sell features. So even now sometimes I have to make sure the features I describe to the client can be achieved. I started out as a really good parrot. I listened to Brad and I wanted to learn. A lot of equipment was integrated into our home so I was living with it,” she adds.
Today, the six-person company consists of the Griffins, an operations manager who is responsible for all product procurement, customer service, scheduling staying within the budget. The other three employees are technicians; however, HTD is experimenting with an additional sales position.
Finding Their Niches
According to CE Pro data, 38 percent of custom integration companies have family members involved. And of those, more than half (52 percent), are husband and wife teams.
Sheri believes having defined roles and patience are the two keys to operating a family-run business.
“My advice to others is to set boundaries, have patience, and never lose your sense of humor. I would never ever walk onto a job and say to Brad, ‘Why don’t you hook it up this way?’ or ‘I think it would have been better if you had done this.’ Sometimes, even if I think that, I trust and respect Brad enough to know that he has made the best decision for the installation. There is a lot of trust and respect.
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]
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