Integrator Instinct has incorporated ‘positive psychology’ into its business strategy and undertaken a number of changes that focus on employees and clients, as well as the technical side of the business. Adelle King explains how these changes have increased productivity and profits.
Instinct, which specialises in custom installation solutions for lighting, home automation, AV, security and home networking, is run by Kirt Duryea and was a fairly typical integrator business until recently.
However, Instinct has made some significant changes to its systems and staff over the past three years after bringing in coaching psychologist Sarah-Jayne Whiston to help the company become more productive.
Sarah-Jayne, who started her career as a forensic psychologist before moving into coaching psychology, brought in a ‘positive psychology’ approach to make changes within the business, focusing on what would encourage employees to perform well.
Applying a positive psychology lens to business coaching brings a strengths-based approach to the workplace, increasing employee satisfacti on and engagement, to help companies drive productivity.
Studies have shown that when employees feel happy, valued and have purposeful work they will perform better, leading to an increase in productivity and accuracy in tasks. In fact, research conducted by international consultancy firm iOpener found happy employees were a big advantage in the modern economy and were 50% more productive and 50% more motivated.
Instinct recognised this opportunity for improvement and brought in Sarah-Jayne to make changes to the business based on positive psychology principles.
“Effectively what I did at Instinct was look at what was working and how we could enhance that by focusing on the strengths in the team. Making sure the right people are in the right job lends itself to productivity so the first practical change I made was re-structuring the staff ,” says Sarah-Jayne.
“The culture of the business wasn’t one of positivity and productivity so I knew those were the two cornerstones that I needed to turn around. It’s still a work in progress and now we’ve started looking at the systems to ensure there are good, positive processes in place that allow us to spend less time on paperwork and red tape and more time on relationships.”
Sarah-Jayne says Instinct has now built a culture of positivity and learning where employees at the company are open to change.
“Business needs change so rapidly, especially in this industry, so it’s important to be flexible and have people who are open to this. When people are open to change it allows the business to be reflexive and take action.”
The re-structure had a positive impact on the business and was so successful that Sarah-Jayne’s role at Instinct has evolved and she is now a director, responsible for the overarching management and strategy of the company.
Since most integrators get into business because they like being on the tools, there is generally a technical focus rather than a business and industry development approach. However, at Instinct, having Sarah-Jayne on the team enables the company to focus on the technical side of the business while also strategising and thinking three to five years ahead of where it needs to be.
“This has created rapid growth because it’s not just one person trying to be everything to everybody. There is support to grow the business without taking away from what we do,” says Sarah-Jayne.
“My role in the company is about bringing it back to people because at the end of the day you’re selling to people, you’re building your business around people and its people who are going to use the technology.”
This emphasis on the human element of the business means Instinct isn’t just concentrating on what it does but ‘why’ and ‘who for’.
“Today, customers are looking for technology that helps them live a better and more convenient life or that has an intelligent benefit for them. As integrators we need to make sure we’re giving this to our clients,” says Sarah-Jayne.
“Technology now isn’t just cool, it helps us live a life we really want to be living and it’s important to remember this when we put a solution in for a client. Our solutions need to make the client’s life better in some way, add to their world and practically work for them rather than being complicated and showy.”
By separating the company into areas that focus on the technology and areas that focus on industry development, Sarah-Jayne says Instinct has become more solution – rather than problem – oriented.
“We’ve been able to be much more creative in how we solve problems and people flourish in that type of environment. Everyone from technicians to admin staff feel like they’re using their strengths and are getting traction in the work they do every day, which allows for more thinking outside the box,” says Sarah-Jayne.
“This has translated to an increase in revenue, profits and referrals. We also have clarity in where we’re going and who we are.”
Now, Sarah-Jayne spends her time investigating technologies that are on the horizon to get an idea of how they will affect the business before they arrive. Where most integrators tend to focus on what’s in front of them, Sarah-Jayne is very much looking at what is coming next.
“We’re in such an exciting time so as a business we need to make sure we stay ahead of the game. In an industry full of disruptive ideas, where new technology can hit the market and completely disrupt the way things were done before, we need to have a business that’s open to change,” says Sarah-Jayne.
“I think voice technology and voice control are going to be the next things to disrupt the market and will fundamentally shift the way we interact with our technology. This is very exciting but it also means we need to be working and planning in advance to be ready for that.”
Integrators that do not adapt to the changing business climate risk being left behind, especially as the line between the systems integration market and industries such as electrical, IT and security blur.
Similarly, as consumer awareness of the home automation industry grows thanks to products such as Nest thermostats and Amazon Alexa, re-focusing on clients and being adaptable to their changing needs can help integrators stay ahead of the market.
“Having someone in the company who is people-focused is no longer a soft -skill, it’s actually something that can really help the business grow,” says Sarah-Jayne.
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