The Integrator's Voice

Systems integrators find success going it alone

Some business owners start their company by themselves, some take over from a previous owner and others work with a business partner. From time to time, and for different reasons, integrators need to restart their business. One common reason for restarting a business is the separation of two partners. This month's "Dealer Spotlight" examines how Jeff Harrington, of Statesville, N.C.-based Integrated Home Solutions, successfully restarted his company in a new location after separating from his former partner.

Q. How did you get started in the business, and what was the nature of the business you were in?

A. Being that I have always tinkered with electronics since I was a kid, I'd have to say that I've always been involved. Officially, I started as a satellite technician. The company I worked for ventured into sub-contract work for Circuit City, installing home theaters for its customers. The rest is the start of my history.

Q. Finding a business partner isn't always easy. How did you and your business partner hook up?

A. Oddly enough, he worked for the same satellite company, and we became very good friends at the time. When I ventured out on my own, I asked him to join me after I put things in place.

Q. What business challenges did you face when parting ways, and how were they resolved?

A. It's basically the same as a divorce, with the biggest issuing being money. I basically kept the name of the company that I created and two commercial contracts -- Bose and Festiva. The bank account was in the negative, but we had a well-respected company name, and we were recognized as a quality electronics integrator. I leveraged our good name by calling on former customers and upgrading them. With that success, I restarted a positive cash flow and immediately gave my Web site a facelift. My former partner kept the old site, but under a new name.

Q. What were the critical elements in restarting your business?

A. Re-branding my company's name and status in the community was an important element. We needed a new Web presence and traffic to the site. I also needed a new functional showroom to engage customers. Finally, we wanted to qualify for ConnectHome, which we are proudly a part of now.

Q. What challenges did you face when starting your new company, and how did you address them?

A. Generating funds without having to borrow money or take on an investor was one of the biggest challenges. I accomplished this with perseverance and an undying will to succeed. My strategy was to generate new customers, which I did by getting contracts with two premier custom home builders in our area. We are now their premier supplier of low-voltage solutions.

Q. In the midst of all this, how did you go about rebuilding brand awareness?

A.The better of our employees decided to come with me and have themselves make sacrifices in order for Integrated Home Solutions to bounce back. Our combined knowledge of the products we carry and expert services we offer have allowed us to not just rebuild but exceed our customers' expectations. We can offer them solutions for both their home and business. We are now traveling overseas for one of our commercial customers and supplying them with our products and services there, as well as here in the United States.

Q.Did you need to re-establish your line of credit with suppliers?

A. Not really. The company's name has always been in good standing with our suppliers. When I informed them of our split, they were very willing to extend terms to help us rebuild our company.

Q. You've been successful thus far. What is your feeling going forward?

A. I feel that commitment from the start is exceptionally important. This applies to everything<\m>from your company, customers, suppliers, employees and your industry to yourself. I also believe that integrators in this industry should work within their means. If a job is too big or over their heads, I believe that they should respect the customer and let the customer know. Do what you're good at, and your success will follow.

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