Vital Mgmt showed its operational Bi4Ci (Business Intelligence for Custom Integrators) business analytics dashboard service during the 2017 ProSource Summit, debuting it for a group of already highly successful dealers (half of the CE Pro 100 including 2017 CTA TecHome Integrator of the Year Elite Media Solutions are members of the buying group) at the recent conference in Orlando, Fla.
It was a natural introductory venue, as the dealers heard plenty about boosting their bottom line by implementing greater operational efficiencies during Summit sessions. In order to do so, it would behoove integrators to understand the true financial health of their business, which the Bi4Ci business analytics platform aims to help with through a slew of features and metrics.
Industry veterans Paul Starkey and Steve Firszt, the business coach co-founders of Vital Mgmt, walked dealers through the cloud-based service’s dashboard, which offers an initial feature set of 18 color-coded graphics panels that dig into more than 40 key metrics addressing productivity, profitability and financial strength of the integrator’s company.
“More profitability is what people want, but productivity is a huge piece of that,” Firszt explained during the Summit. “We’ve developed a management system that we’ve installed, implemented in hundreds of companies over the years and that we currently have really tightened up with our Bravas group [of elite custom integrators]. That management system has allowed us to identify benchmarks of performance in the most critical areas of a custom integration business that impact profitability.”
Dealers must be users of QuickBooks (desktop versions) to enlist the subscription-based Bi4Ci features, which they can tap into via smartphones, laptops or desktops.
The service requires a $1,000 setup fee, which includes QuickBooks configuration, cloud connector technical support and data validation, and is $300/month with an initial signup minimum term of six months.
Multitude of Metrics for Integrators
Metrics range from common but impactful measures such as revenue growth, gross margin and operating profit, to those Vital says are unique to its management system — gross profit per payroll dollar (GPP), monthly labor revenue per tech (LRPT), coverage ratio and others.
Firszt and Starkey emphasize that many integrators may know their numbers, but really don’t have a comparison basis to see how they’re doing against how they should be doing.
“What do you do with a data point of one,” asks Firszt. “When somebody reports a margin for a CE Pro survey, it’s only in context for that dealer, it’s not in context for the rest of the dealers. Even revenues are in context only for that dealer. Another one is number of employees — we don’t ask these guys the number of employees they have, we calculate the number of employees they have [based on productivity metrics].”
The Bi4Ci metrics are benchmarked against Vital’s established performance thresholds, so integrators can see at-a-glance what is out of range in their business, they note. A dozen trend graphs highlight run rates over the past six months, and the range can be switched with a finger tap or mouse click to drill down into last month, last quarter and last year.
“We’ve developed metrics and thresholds of goodness and for the first time we’re taking it off of spreadsheets and putting it into a graphical in-the-cloud dashboard presentation, designed to convey a lot of very important information in a short time,” Firszt says.
A dozen key metrics are collected in Bi4Ci’s Compare database, so users can measure how their company performs relative to all other companies on the cloud service, with an absolute ranking and quartile rating for each metric. That’s a valuable industry first, according to the Vital Mgmt founders.
Simple to Use, Color-Coded to Help
“This [data] actually all gets pulled directly from their QuickBooks’ file without them having to do anything. It’s automatically updated in the cloud database,” notes Firszt.
The color coding is presented similarly to traffic lights and adds blue to the green, yellow and red indicators — when dashboard metrics reach blue (very good) or green you’re company health for whatever figure you are measuring (and what range the measurement is being compared against) is pretty good to go; yellow is cautionary; and red indeed means you should probably stop and figure out what’s negatively impacting your business. All the numbers help dealers better track what’s truly going on with deposits, inventory, accounts, etc.
The service requires conformance to a standardized chart of accounts, and the consultants think users will become further standardized by adopting other key elements of Bi4Ci such as production-based revenue recognition and customer deposit accounting.
There’s even a monthly “town hall”-style meeting for users to help them better leverage the system to boost their business, notes Vital, which had originally been working with the 25 five-star dealers in its elite Bravas group on business intelligence before originally sharing word of the Bi4Ci service back in September.
“We understand relationships between these numbers that aren’t necessarily well understood by the industry,” says Firszt. “The success with the system is not just because the guys have the data, it’s because we teach them what to do with the data. The industry doesn’t have any averages because everyone uses different numbers. I’ve got hundreds of dealers that I’ve done this with since 2005, so we know what the benchmarks are for our metrics.”
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