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This month I’m so happy to feature my good friend, Mark DiPietro. Not only is Mark an exceptional business owner, with an incredible team, he’s an even better individual. Mark and I met while training for the Myrtle Beach Marathon several years ago. Since then I’ve had the privilege to get to know him, his wonderful wife Kristen and their four sons. Although his business does projects of all sizes, I particularly love hearing stories of major theatre systems his team does for the largest houses in the Charlotte/Lake Norman area. Mark is an inspiration to me because he continually finds a way to balance family, work, faith and health. I strive daily to be more like him in my business and in my life. Read below about Mark and his team at SoundVision Audio Video.

 

1) What does your company do?

We do a LOT of things.  We consider ourselves a SERVICE company first and foremost.  This is because, with technology changing all the time, we are vital to keep things working in your environment.  What used to be the audio video guys, we are now more of a technology manager too.  Specifically, we touch most technologies in your home or place of business.  These include, but aren’t limited to, WiFi networks, audio, video, security, camera systems, landscape audio systems, automated lighting and shades, and infrastructure wiring for the future. 

2) How many team members do you have?  

Currently, we have 8 full time team members.

3) You provide a ton of services in a very niche market for the home; what's the best way you have found to market your business/gain exposure in the community? 

That’s a great question and we have tried a lot of different things from SEO to print.  What seems to have worked the best for us is a vigilant, weekly request for new customers to review us on Google.  We are up to 45, 5 star reviews, and this gets us a few phone calls a week.  Additionally, we work with a marketing professional who provides content for blogs and social media on a regular basis to keep us in the customer’s minds eye as they peruse their favorite form of communication, whether that be reading blogs like this one, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  Finally, we also do regular constant contact submissions targeted at specific customers we think might benefit from a specific  product or service.

4) How have you come about organizing your business and who keeps you accountable?

This has been a VERY long process.  We routinely create processes and review them with our team, and specifically with the team members they affect the most.  I have four, long term goals for the company which include getting the company sustainable without my day to day involvement, achieve very specific sales, and more importantly, profitability goals, establish a service mentality and subscription based RMR (recurring monthly revenue) model that is win / win for us and our customers so that we can afford to provide them with outrageous service; AND, establish a process manual that allows any 14 year old to perform all the critical tasks in our company (i.e. written in crayon language) so that we can “wash, rinse, and repeat” again providing our customers and our team members with a repetitive process that works.

5) As is common in owning your own business, what has kept you going through the tough times? 

Having lost a business in the past and making MOST of the mistakes out there, I can say unequivocally, the MOST important thing is to KNOW YOUR NUMBERS, and allocate money for the future.  We have individual bank accounts for profit, emergency funds, customer deposits, sales tax, employee compensation and more.  While that might seem crazy, we ALWAYS have money when we need it and we can see quickly, at a glance, exactly where our money is and where we might be tight.

6) Although you have family working with you, how do you maintain boundaries so there is some separation from home and work? 

Luckily, in our new home, and since we have decided for financial reasons to stay in the home for a while longer, the basement is our separator.  Basically, the guys know they have to come around to the basement office (or IWH (International World Headquarters)).  At the end of the day, when I shut the office door and walk upstairs, it’s just like I’m leaving the office to go home.  It’s mental really, but it works.

7) Where do you hope to see your business in 5 years?  

Corporately, we have talked about this A LOT over the last two years.  To grow or not to grow.  Instead of thinking of some mythical top line revenue, I work from profit first, or bottom up.  My goal in 5 years is to have a sustainable, service oriented business that adheres to my goals listed above, and is 15% net profitable on the bottom line.  If we are making money, keeping our team members well paid and happy, providing great benefits for them, and providing outrageous service to our customers, we will be winning and the rest will take care of itself.  There are some pretty big plans to get there, but I guess that you will need to interview us again down the road to hear about those.

I’ve long said that one of our keys to success has been reviews. Particularly, Google reviews. I’ve made no secret that over the years I have solicited positive reviews from our customers, friends and anyone else who has good things to say about our company. Reviews are the first thing a prospective client sees when looking for someone to do business with. Reviews are our image, our reputation and the lifeblood of our online presence. We have been very fortunate over the years to maintain a stellar online reputation. I believe our great ratings are a combination of taking exceptional care of our customers and doing everything we can to resolve conflicts before they make it to a review. With that being said, bad things still happen. We’ve had situations where I believed that we did everything in our power to remedy a situation but could not come to a resolution with the customer. In my opinion, we were right and they were wrong. It simply wasn’t fair.

Recently, I was watching a documentary about a football team when a player told the coach that something wasn’t fair. The coach’s response was gold: “You’re right. It’s not fair. Life’s not fair. The fair is where you go to kiss a pig and give it a blue ribbon.”  That’s hilarious and a classic piece of advice that I fully intend to use in the future.

There are ton of things to do to market your business. So much so that sometimes it feels overwhelming and, frankly, un-motivating to even start. Maybe try a Facebook post here and a paid advertisement in a newsletter there just so you can check “Did I market my business today?” off the list.

But that’s not how reality works. Marketing requires strategy and consistency: doing something with purpose and doing it for an extended period of time.  And it’s easier than you think to start. Once you get the hang of it, bigger marketing strategies will seem completely doable. Start here:

CTC

When I thought up the “Rock Stars of Business” I knew Lori was the first person I would feature. She and I met a few years ago when she was in Corporate America and was a client of ours. Soon after she decided to take the plunge and create her own organization, Chaos to Calm. I knew it was only a matter of time before she would be “making moves.” I personally believe that her success can not only be attributed to the fact that she’s a great leader, but also incredibly passionate about her work. Lori has been a friend and inspiration to me over the years and I’m so happy that she was willing to take a few moments to answer my questions.

Image is everything in your business. Customers make quick (mostly unconscious) decisions about your business’s appearance. If your employees look sloppy, that could be a sign of their work ethic too. A uniform, clean look sends an important message, but it does more than that...

Although summer is just around the corner, and with that the end of the school year, spiritwear is not going out of style. In an online published essay by a high school student, she discusses the importance of having school spirit at sporting events. This wasn’t just on the field in the form of clean-cut uniforms, but in the stands as well. Wearing her school colors was a source of peer-connection...

If you're like us you probably spend quite a bit of time working hard. I mean really hard. For a lot of us it comes with the territory. However, the goal is always to work smarter, not harder! Although most of our days are started with the best of intentions many times we find ourselves sidetracked with emails, phone calls, social media, impromptu meetings and countless other distractions. Follow these steps to increase your productivity and make the most of your time.

 

Not long ago I spent a little time in one of my favorite places on Earth, Asheville, NC. If you live in North Carolina (and if you’re reading this email, you most likely do) you have probably visited Asheville at one time or another. I’m not sure why I’ve had such a long standing attraction to the city but there’s something magical for me when I’m there. Obviously, the never ending array of local breweries and restaurants help, but I’ve often wondered if it isn’t the people and the mountains that do it for me. If you have been there before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

You see,...

Every organization on Earth loves to find creative ways to promote their brand. Using promotional items, especially custom apparel, is a great way to increase your brand awareness! Over the last 7 years we have seen some incredibly creative ideas. In the next couple of months we are going to show you some of the most innovative ways that our customers have used apparel to grow their brand awareness.

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