Home Automation Unplugged Episode #205: An Industry Q&A with Travis Leo
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Travis Leo, Founder of Cinergy Professional Development Group shares how business owners can benefit from listening to the experience of others through a professional alliance.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Travis Leo. Recorded live on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022, at 12:30 pm. EST.
About Travis Leo
Travis is one of the Co-Founders of the Cinergy Professional Development Group which focuses on Professional development, Learning and Investing in Emerging technologies and Leveraging shared services to improve business. He is also the former owner of Residential Systems, Inc., a CE Pro 100 integration company that was acquired by Bravas in May of 2020.
- Cinergy and the professional alliance that it creates for integrators
- Challenges of running a business and how business owners can benefit from listening to the experience of others.
- Benefits of having a team-integrated business consultant and group facilitator
Ron: Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. I am looking at the screen, and I'm noticing my audio and video do not seem perfectly synchronized. Let me see if there's anything I can do about that. No, it looks like I'm a little delayed. I hope it catches up. Today is Wednesday, March 2nd. It is a few minutes afternoon, and I hope you all are having a lovely day. Let me check in with David on my team to see if we are streaming live. Let's see if technology is behaving. All of you that are diligent in watching us live as opposed to listening purely to the podcast, you know that sometimes technology behaves and often it does not behave. But I do see the live stream coming in on Facebook. This is cool. What's going on new here? I was at the NSCA conference with Jessica from my team, and One Firefly attended our very first NSCA Business Leaders Conference. Business Leadership Conference. And it was held at the Four Seasons in Dallas. It was a spectacular event. So we just here in 2022 joined NSCA as a brand new group primarily comprised of commercially focused integrators. I just want to say for all of you out there that might be in that space, that's an interesting group to look at. It was well attended, the whole event was polished and professional from beginning to end. The conference speakers were some of the best speakers I've ever seen at any industry event. They spent real money for professional speakers from all different backgrounds, but all very relevant. Then, of course, the networking with all of the folks, both the manufacturers, the NSCA staff, and the Integrators, it was all just really first class; it was superb. So we couldn't be happier to be a member of that group. We're coming off the high; that was a lot of fun. It was great, by the way, just to be in person with people again. So now that said, we are coming up on show season. So we, One Firefly, are going to be at the upcoming Azione conference, the upcoming HTSA conference. Both of those are in; I want to say they're at the end of this month. I think it's the last week of this month. Then in June, we've got the Infocomm show. So One Firefly is going to be there as well. So Automation Unplugged, as always, is brought to you by my day job at One Firefly, but you are here to listen to our guest. So let me get him introduced. Today for show #205, we have the one and only Travis Leo. He is the founder of Cinergy Professional Development Group. Many of you may know Travis Leo because he was the owner of the, I'll say the powerhouse integration firm known as Residential Systems Inc. They are an Inc Ce Pro 100 integration company. And they were acquired by Bravas back in May of 2020. So he is one of these success stories out there that successfully had his business acquired. I know many of you listening would go, man, one day, I hope to have my business acquired. Maybe we'll talk to him about that subject as well. Then we'll hear about Cinergy and what is he cooking up over there. Let's go ahead and bring in Travis. Hello, Travis. How are you, sir?
Travis: Ron, good morning. I'm very well. How are you today?
Ron: Oh, it's another day in paradise. That's my line. I don't care about rain, sleet or snow or what day of the week or what month of the year. I believe it's a state of mind. So I'm doing great.
Travis: I was talking to somebody this morning who was working on a project out in Bermuda, and he was saying that it was 61 degrees and monsooning out there. And I looked out my window here, and it's 69 and sunny in Denver, Colorado. So we're doing something right here when it's nicer in the middle of an early March in Denver than it is in Bermuda.
Ron: I remember fondly when I was with Crestron, I called on Bermuda. That was part of my territory. I remember calling on; I'll mention his name, Heath Robinson. Oh, goodness, I can't remember his business name. I think it was Precise, might be the business. He coached the youth rugby, national team. I would go out on the beaches, the pink beaches of Bermuda, and I would practice; this is years ago, maybe almost a couple of decades ago. But I would go out on the beaches of Bermuda and practice with the national rugby team. I just remember how beautiful that whole country is and how beautiful the beaches are.
Travis: Yes, I've never been, but it's somewhere that is on the list of places we'd like to go at some point.
Ron: You got to pack for it, which means you've got to wear your Bermuda shorts, and there's particular dress wear that you got to wear. There's some, what was it called? There's a gin swizzle? I think that's one of the national drinks. I could be remembering that wrong. So if anyone's tuned in or watching, correct me in the comments, but I think the gin swizzle. If you go to Bermuda, you gotta have that particular cocktail. Travis, where are you coming to us from?
Travis: Denver, Littleton, Colorado, just outside of Denver.
Ron: And you have Cinergy. So let's describe what Cinergy is. Then I've got some questions. I want to go back and talk about residential systems. But for all those that are listening to that aren't familiar with Cinergy Professional Development Group, what have you started there?
Travis: Sure. With Cinergy Professional Development Group, what we've started is exactly, as the name implies, a professional development group of integration companies that are really interested in getting better at business and participating in a peer-to-peer network, engaging in advanced training. It's really modeled after organizations like Vistage or YPO or Tab or any of those peer-to-peer advisory groups that are out there. I was fortunate enough, both before my time at residential systems as well as in my ten years of owning RSI, to be a part of a couple of groups like that. It was amazing what a difference it made for my business. When I ultimately exited from RSI and Bravas, a number of people said, "Hey, would you have an interest in facilitating and coordinating things like that?" talked to some folks and decided, yeah, let's give it a shot and put it together. And the response has been very good, and we're off and running with our membership and putting forums together and training sessions and engaging in lots of great business dialogue, which is, quite frankly, very interesting to me personally and professionally. So it all came together very quickly, but it's been a lot of fun over the last 90 days or so.
Ron: Well, I have lots and lots of questions about all that is Cinergy. And what are the pinpoints that integrators that are tuned in and listening that they go through on a regular basis. But help us all understand, where do you come from? What's your background?
Travis: Well, before getting into this industry, I worked in large telecoms, so Quest Communications, Sprint PCS. That's my background; I have a finance degree from the University of Iowa. Go hawks! I'd be remiss if I didn't put a plugin there. That's my background and I sort of stumbled into this industry in 2012 when I was a vice president of product management at Quest, and we got bought by CenturyLink, and they wanted to move my job to Monroe, Louisiana, and nothing against Monroe, Louisiana, but Travis Leo is a Denver, Colorado, person. So I either needed to find a different job in Denver or ultimately be an entrepreneur, and I decided to go down that path. I found a company that was for sale that had been; you use the term powerhouse firm. I wouldn't describe them what we did as a powerhouse. I wouldn't describe the company that we purchased having been a powerhouse. It had really fallen on hard times with 2008 to 2010. Great employees, but really didn't have the leadership that it needed. The previous owner was 63, 64. Just didn't have the gumption and challenge to do it. It was a very good transaction, and we're still friends to this day, but he needed somebody to come in and ultimately run his business. So we put a deal together, and I spent the next eight years really growing that and knowing it. I didn't know the first thing about custom home electronics or CEDIA when I got into the space, and really enjoyed the time as we grew that business and grew that company to when we ultimately sold it in May of 2020.
Ron: If I Zoom into that process, how did the transaction ultimately happen? Did you always have the intention to grow it and sell it, or were you approached, or what can you share? I'm sure there are a lot of people on the edge of their seats, eager to learn how you did that.
Travis: Yes, the goal obviously, had always been to grow it, but certainly we weren't sitting here saying, well, how do we grow it to sell it, and how do we window dress it to make it look better than it actually is? But we were approached; I guess it was September or October of 2019, by Bravas. They said, "Hey, we're interested in beginning an acquisition path." They had sort of formed the initial group, and they said, yes, acquisition is a big piece of it. They came and met with us. I had known Ryan Anderson, the CEO of Bravas at the time, though many industry connections and the like, that basically took on a life of its own. We started a due diligence process and some negotiation. In the middle of all that was when the world shut down for COVID in March of 2020. That was some sleepless nights, certainly, because we were really close to putting it together, and I didn't know what was ultimately going to happen. I'll give the Bravas and the private equity company behind them a lot of credit. They stuck with it and went through with it, even with everything that was going on. But that made a lot of challenging things involved in that. I shouldn't say a delicate process. It was an interesting process. When you go through a due diligence process, they ask you for a lot of information. And Ron, you're a business owner. If I asked you for where your board of directors' meeting notes from 2017 are, would you know exactly where you could go find those? So if you're looking to sell your company, Ron, I'd suggest you have those because that was one of the things they asked us. I use that as an example to say the more organized the stuff you have ready to go, the easier that process is on you. I was fortunate; I had an employee that I still have a lot of trust in was able to pull all that together, and that process went very smoothly.
Ron: Well, I want to just pull up that thread. What if companies listening don't have board of directors notes, inventory or record from five years ago? What if they don't have those meetings? Do you make it up, or what do you do?
Travis: Yeah, I'm not one to give you legal advice or anything like that, but the first thing I would say is if you don't have it, don't lie, don't make it up.
Ron: That's the legal Disclaimer. We'll start the show. This is not legal advice.
Travis: That's the fraud word, and I don't encourage anybody participating in that. But I've had a number of conversations with people over the last couple of years about that process and about that. I've said spend a little time just gathering that information. I'm happy to share with somebody a generic due diligence list of what was asked for, just if you want to see it. But they're going to look at financial contracts. They're going to look at your contracts with your clients. They're going to look at your financials, your bank records, your legal documentation, your LLC or Scorp formation. Are you a real operating business with a legal shield, or is this just a lifestyle business type of thing? So being able to pull any add-backs out, those types of things are really important. So, yeah, you're not going to have everything, and I don't think they expect you to. But the more stuff you have sort of prepackaged and ready to go, it gives you that aura of professionalism and organization that ultimately, if somebody is going to be buying your business, they want to see that is there. We always ran our business that way, so I'm not the most organized person in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but we try and still try to be professional in everything that we do. So checking those little boxes and making sure that that stuff is there, it goes a long way.
Ron: On that theme of being acquired, any notes for the folks tuned in, any extra or additional piece of advice on that if they hope to one day be acquired, what they should be thinking about today?
Travis: Yeah, I guess I would say don't operate the business as if you're trying to get acquired; operate the business as if you were trying to create a lifelong legacy for you and your employees and your family. Good things will happen that way. I have a number of friends outside of this industry that are very focused on the exit strategy, the private equity, whatever that element is. They always seem very unhappy doing it. They may be very successful doing it, but they always are like, "Yeah, we're doing this because we need to skinny this down and get it ready for sale and flip it and do that." As a small business owner, that's not very rewarding and fulfilling. So if you run your business for the good of your customers, the good of your employees, you make good money doing it, and you have a good ethos and a good aura, good things will happen. So it's when you start doing window dressing when you start pumping sales to make things look good without a back end, people see through that, and it's false. And that will come through in a due diligence process.
Ron: Got it! No, that does make sense. So you did ultimately exit from Bravas, and so you're no longer work with Bravas. You can't speak to where they're at today, so I'm not going to go there. But in terms of Cinergy, I'm understanding just from all the conversations you and I have had over the months that you really have identified that there's a need with the business owners that make up our space. They have a lot of common challenges. I'm a business owner, so challenges, problems. I could flip it and say opportunities to make things better. But we as business owners don't often have a place to go for council. Really, the sharing. It's hard to sometimes go to your spouse. It's hard to sometimes maybe you go to a conference or a CEDIA, and you hope for that magical sit down at a bar at 11:00, and you get hope to open up to a fellow business owner and learn or share and gain a nugget of gold. I know that's a lot of the stories I've heard over the years is a lot of the magic happens outside of conference schedules. But you are really, as I'm understanding it, trying to design a forum where integrators can go and congregate to make this a regular part of their lifestyle. I mean, am I getting that correct?
Travis: Yeah, you've really hit on it. As I mentioned earlier, modeled after an organization like a Vistage or a YPO, which are based on chapters and forums.
Ron: Let's assume those listening don't know YPO and don't know Vistage. So give us a little more detail. What does it mean to model it after those organizations?
Travis: Yes, a professional development organization is a group of peers who get together on a regular basis to workshop issues, share process things. Those things can be personal; they can be professional, they can really be whatever each sort of forum takes on its own thing. Those forums can bring in a speaker, for example, like if you mentioned that the BLC at the NSCA and I wasn't familiar with NSCA, I saw some of your content out there, and it's a very impressive organization and very focused on professional development is what it appears from the outside. But these groups, they say, here's an issue that is common in the group, and I'll just make up an example, hiring and retaining people. So let's talk about it. What do you do that's successful? It's a peer-to-peer network of "Well, I've tried this, and it's worked." "Well, I've tried this, and it hasn't worked." "Okay, well, what's the difference here? Let's process that issue. Let's talk about that." Then if somebody says, "Yes, I'm going to go do that." Okay, who's going to hold them accountable to ultimately going and making sure they did that? So if I bring a problem and I say, "God, I can't hire anybody, and my life is awful, and my business is going to crash because of it." We workshop it, and somebody gives me a strategy and says, "Go try this." If I don't try it, well, then I'm becoming a victim s that doesn't work in a professional development group. You have to say commit to what you're going to do and then follow through on that commitment. So there's an accountability model that goes along with that to say, "Hey, Ron, you said you were going to go and try this new strategy. How'd it work?" "Well, I didn't do it." Well, that's not cool. That's not okay. That's why you joined a professional development group, to learn from your peers and then hold yourself accountable to going and trying different things. Maybe you do a session on that. Then the next time you bring in a speaker around hiring and retaining people, not necessarily in this industry, but what are strategies that are working and what's new with millennials today? Or, I guess, are we to Gen Z yet? Or what happens? Will we start over at Gen A again at some point?
Ron: It goes Gen AA. We've done the whole alphabet, and now we're going to go back and start doubling the letters, I think.
Travis: So, how do they think? I use that just as an example of an issue to process and talk through and discuss. As I mentioned, I was fortunate enough to be in some groups like this when I was in my career, and I was very hesitant to join them at first. I got asked to be part of an advisory group in the Denver area. I held off on doing it, and finally somebody said, hey, you really should try this; it's worth it. And I never looked back. I kind of kicked myself for a couple of years after saying, "God, why didn't I do this sooner?" I was fortunate enough when I owned RSI to be part of the Guild, which is a very similar type of group, the first one really in the space, and I cherished my time in that group. It was one of the best things that I ever did for my business, and I'm very proud to have been part of that. Those guys are good friends of mine, and I'm really happy that they're doing what they're doing. In fact, I saw yesterday that they're sort of jointly acquiring a company in Jackson Hole, and that's awesome to see because that wouldn't have happened had an organization like that not existed. But at the end of the day, the reason I did that was very selfish. It was good for my business, our business. There are studies that show that people that participate in professional development groups have higher sales growth, higher than those who don't, profitability higher than those who don't, and a higher quality of life because a lot of these discussions turn personal in nature. If things aren't good in your personal life, they're probably not good in your professional life. If you're really going to talk about issues and what's at the root of challenges, you're probably going to get into some personal discussions. So my role is to help facilitate that and help put these groups together and engage and facilitate the conversation. As we've been doing it, it's been really fun. It's been enjoyable for me personally. I think the members have gotten a lot out of it already in the 30 days since we kicked this off and started going with it.
Ron: What's your game plan for the year? What's your goal for 2022 with Cinergy?
Travis: Get the forums going. So just today, I'm emailing out the initial forum groups to the members. So within the groups, we're going to have smaller groups of eight which is kind of the magic number within a forum. Get those setup, get those calendared. We've got a couple of advanced training topics set up, two that we've already constructed around lighting fixtures. But what's really interesting to see as we started to bring the group together and introduce people, the knowledge shared and the information sharing back and forth has led to two or three really good topics. One around RND tax credits that we're going to be doing some experience share on, one around some KPIs that we're going to do workshops on. And none of this is mine per se; it's other people who have experienced this and done this that are willing to be authentic and transparent and trusting with their peers to say, "Here's what I've done, here's what we've looked at, here's what's good, here's what's bad," and that's what a professional development group does. They look and say, "Look, I don't have all the answers, but I might be pretty good at this, and I'm willing to share that with others in hopes that that sort of karmic nature goes around, and I'll get something from somewhere else." So it's been really neat to see.
Ron: In terms of your role or your philosophies, how do you control in a group setting someone that might come in and try to dominate the conversation? I'm just thinking of the business owners, operators out there that might be more quiet, more introverted, less likely to be the first person to speak. If they're in a forum environment, how do they know that someone doesn't come in and just dominate? And it isn't fulfilling?
Travis: Yeah, it's a great question, and that's the role of a good facilitator. There are lots of examples of groups in the world, and the groups that ultimately succeed and do well are ones where there's a commitment, and there's a leader or facilitator. You mentioned the 11:00 conversation at the bar when we were in the Azione buying group for a long time. That was the best part of that group was the relationships I made and the ideas I took away from people that I'm still friends with today and that I still consult with on personal and professional things today. I think all the other buying groups are the same way. But if you don't have somebody sort of facilitating and organizing those, it's just more of an informal thing, and that's great. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you want to take it to that next level and make that part of your sort of day to day operation, your modus operandi, instead of turning to one person or a trusted network of two people or five people, when you can turn to a group, and you can say, "Hey, here's an issue I'm having," and within five minutes you've got four or five responses of, "oh, yeah, how about this? Or what do you think about this?" It just changes the dynamic, and it puts you in a different light, really formalizing that. The relationships you develop out of that are powerful. You really get deep with people when you're sharing your most intimate professional, certainly, but maybe even personal things as well. The group that I was involved in here in Denver, I'm still very good friends with those guys, even though I'm not in the group anymore because I'm not in that industry. But we still go to each other's kids' stuff, and we still get together and talk about challenges and issues and the like. It's those lifelong bonds that you develop through again, being authentic and transparent with other people.
Ron: What are some of the common pinpoints that you think will be topics of discussion or moderated or facilitated discussion within your groups?
Travis: We sent out a survey to the members as we were putting the forums together. One of the questions on the survey was; What's the number one pain point in your business today? And I thought it was very interesting to see the results coming back from the group. They're all over the board, from sticking to a process improving financial results. I would say the two biggest themes that came out of it; the supply chain is a disaster, and it's not getting better. It's beyond just a supply chain issue; it's a profitability issue because companies are having to go back and finish up jobs after the fact and make replacements. Instead of getting AVRs from Sony, they're having to buy them from Crutchfield and losing margin there. And we haven't done this. But I think if you surveyed members and said your business is probably up, I think the industry growth was 10/11 percent last year, I guarantee you that the profitability growth was not 10%, 11%. It's good, don't get me wrong, but the supply chain is having a definite impact on integrator bottom lines. At least my view, a little bit from the outside now, is that 2022 isn't looking any better. In fact, it seems like it's even looking a little bit worse. Now we've got the conflict in Ukraine, and that's certainly not going to help things either. So that was the number one thing that came out. Then probably the second thing that came out is it's lonely at the top. All of these business owners really feel like it's challenging. You've got supply chain issues, you've got employee issues, you've got process issues, you've got financial issues. There's this sort of notion that, wow, this is hard. It absolutely is. I mean, anybody who thinks running a business is easy shouldn't do it.
Ron: It's the hardest thing I could ever imagine. One of the hardest things I don't want to be black and white about it. It's one of the hardest things I could ever imagine taking on.
Travis: I remember before I owned a business, and you met somebody and who owned a business, you're like, "Oh, that's aspirational. And that's really cool." Then you get in that seat, and you're like, "Holy crap, man, this is hard." Every day you're just trying to do everything you can to keep it all together and keep it moving. Having people to be able to talk to and share around that is really powerful and important. I would say the other big theme is that people, they feel alone. They feel like they're just kind of out on an island, and you're not; there are millions, I don't know about millions, hundreds of thousands of small businesses in the United States. There are 14 15,000 integration companies in the United States. So being able to share those experiences, talk about them, that's comforting to people. It's cathartic to people. So those are the two biggest things that came up as we talked about the main pain points that everybody's experiencing right now.
Ron: To advocate for the concept. When I started this business in late '07, perfectly timed to give me six months of runway before the whole economy crashed and burned. I managed to land on the other side of that, some scars, some broken bones and some burns, but I was alive and learned a lot of lessons, which I think have made me a better person and a better business owner and operator. But one of the saving graces I actually had a vendor. It was a print company vendor here in Fort Lauderdale. I learned she was in this thing called E.O. Entrepreneurs Organization. At that time, I was a sub $1 million business in revenue. So I qualified because I was doing more than $250,000 in revenue, so I qualified for what was called E.O. accelerator.
Ron: That was where I was introduced to the concept of the forum, and the forum light and peers and your points are all valid. The people in those forums from 2011 are still some of my great friends and contacts today. I was on the phone with one of them just a couple of days ago, and he, in particular, just had an evaluation on his business done by a P.E. firm at $100 million. I knew him when he was sub 1 million, and he's on his way now to a billion-dollar valuation, probably in the next two to three years. What do you call the unicorn?
Travis: He's got a unicorn.
Ron: He's got a unicorn, and it's skyrocketing. It's awesome. I'm kicking myself because he was selling investment into his business at a $2 million valuation, and I just wasn't quite ready to do it. And oh, my goodness, it was one of those would have, should have, could have stories, but the networks you get and the personal and the professional sharing, it's palpable. So if anyone is listening, whether it's Cinergy or you mentioned a bunch YPO or Vistage or whatever it is, or an Azione Circle or CEDIA, whatever they call their groups. Getting together with peers is priceless. But I think the extra differentiator is moderated discussion. That's really where you have the structure. That strikes me within the channel. And I'm going to say my limited exposure to residential and commercial CI. I don't know of another facilitated or moderated group environment for sharing. So I don't know. Do you know of another one that's like this, Travis, or are you doing this because, you know, it's different?
Travis: I don't know of any I haven't really paid that close of attention to it. We didn't set out to do this because it was different. It was something that was, quite frankly, an authentic needs that was out there. People said, "Hey, would you have an interest in doing this?" And I talked to some other folks and said, "Yeah, this would be fun to do and enjoyable." I've talked to Matt Bernaath from Vital, who's a friend of mine. I think they do some of that sort of round tables within their stuff. I don't want to speak for them specifically, but I think I've heard Matt say that they do some of that, and you mentioned some of the buying groups. I mean, they certainly do that. One thing I will mention that sort of came organically out of this that we didn't see when we originally launched Cinergy. There was the concept of being a buying group, and we sort of pulled away from that because it was creating too much drama and politics out there that, quite frankly, wasn't what we were trying to accomplish. But we had a number of manufacturers that came and said, "Hey, we really like this concept. Would you be willing to do a forum group for manufacturers?" My initial reaction was, well, I don't really have a lot of experience in that, but at the same time, it was, well, we just want somebody to facilitate and help us navigate these waters and do this. Along with the Cinergy Dealer forums, we're going to have a Cinergy partner forum of emerging manufacturers that will be conducted in the same way of monthly forum meetings and authentic sharing and talking about how to do business with each other with the hopes of forming those deeper relationships. So sometimes you stumble upon something, and there's that first derivative off of it. It's really cool as well. So I'm excited to be doing that and see where that goes.
Ron: We've got a couple of comments here. First of all, I want to acknowledge Paul, our buddy Paul, the motorcycle rider. "Running a business sucks makes it really hard to have friends that aren't small business owners." I agree. What was that like for you, Travis? When you were running Residential Systems, did you find that your closest confidants were other business owners?
Travis: I couldn't agree more with Paul. I never really thought about it that way. But I came from a big corporate background and moved into small business ownership. The people ten years later, the people that I'm closest to in my professional life, are other small business owners. I look kind of with disdain. That probably sounds awful, but corporate jobs are easy. All my friends that are still in big corporations that have been working from home, from the pandemic while we've been fighting supply chain and the like, and I've walked them out on their shoes. I'm not disparaging that. I'm more making a point of, yeah, you associate with people that understand the struggle and the struggle is real. It absolutely is real.
Ron: At 05:00 on Friday, are you checking out and checking into your family and friends, or are you still carrying all the weight of the responsibility of the business on your shoulders. And if you're not that person, it's hard to understand. It doesn't make anyone bad that doesn't understand. It's just hard to understand. It's hard to relate to the gravity of that.
Travis: Until you've walked a mile in those shoes. It's really hard. But I had a friend in my peer group here; Dave Levine is his name. He runs an I.T. company here in town in the Denver area. We became very close personal friends through the peer group that we were in. We still get together on a regular basis and just talk about things. But it's people like that that I find myself associating with more because I understand the struggles and the challenges that they're going through. Being part of Cinergy now and having people like that to share those experiences with is engaging and fun. People say, why don't you just go do some consulting? I'm like, "Well, I don't, particularly like consulting," because consultants are really good at telling you; "Here's the problem you've got. Ron, here's what's wrong with your business. And if you want to do this, change this and do this," "Great, how do I do it?" "Oh, I don't know. That's not my job." And I was a consultant. I worked for Deloitte before I ever got into Telecom, so I've seen that. That's not that interesting, helping others by saying, "Hey, talk to this person, share this, feel this." That's a lot more fun, engaging, and rewarding for people.
Ron: Yeah, I feel like I hit the jackpot. I have a consultant that I work with here at One Firefly, but he's not the consultant you described. He's the consultant that actually has joined our leadership team and does the projects and works with all of our team members and does the work oftentimes. But I know that that's very rare. And I've hired other consultants, and it's so easy for someone to come into your business and tell you all the things wrong with it and then leave and then cash their check.
Ron: And it's like, well, identifying the problem is the easy part. I need help fixing the problems, and that's hard. So I completely agree. I do want to acknowledge a couple of other folks that have tuned in on LinkedIn. We have Melanie; she's the owner of Integral Systems. She says on LinkedIn, "I tune in every week while I'm sitting here at my desk. Love the topics, and the guests always informative." Thank you, Melanie. I hope we didn't let you down here. I'm pretty confident that Travis is bringing the goods. So I think we'll hit that target again. Then Juan, CEO over at All Digital, he says, "Hello." Then Jason, director of sales and business development at L.K. and Associates, he said, "Hi, Ron and Travis," I appreciate all of you that have tuned in and also appreciate the comments because A, I want to hear from you, and that also helps our friendly algorithms push this out to more of your friends out there. So thank you for doing that. Travis, for those that want to find out how to get involved with Cinergy, I guess, first of all, just what are the criteria? What are the requirements for people that want to participate, and kind of what are the rules of engagement to inquire?
Travis: Yeah, we're pretty close to being filled out of where we want to be from a membership standpoint, just from a bandwidth standpoint, we can't take more than a certain number, and 50 is kind of a cap that we've put on that. So this isn't designed to be some massive organization that's going to have 200 people and the like. So we do have a couple of spots left within the forum groups. So if anybody had any interest in discussing that, you can certainly reach out to me. You can do so on LinkedIn. My email address is
Ron: Yeah. Now so many thoughts are running through my head as you're talking because I'm thinking of all these other groups you've mentioned. They're extremely valuable because you get other business owners and leaders. But what makes your group extra different and special is that the members are your peers, so their pain points are probably very similar. Not 80% similar. They're probably 100% similar to your pain points. So the solves and the problem solved. You said the forms are made up of eight members. Those discussions, even if somebody, God forbid, didn't mention a word in that discussion, they're probably a sponge writing everything down that's being discussed because there's probably a lot of likelihood it's applicable to them either right now, or it will be in the future.
Travis: The dialogue that we've had within the organization, we use Slack as a communications tool, has exceeded my expectations in the first 30 days. The level of engagement and people sharing success stories. There was somebody that posted a picture that they had done in their showroom and how they had basically previously had an 85 inch T.V. and they had gone to an ultra-short throw with 120 inch and instead of it being a $4,000 sale, it was now a $15,000 sale. I'm making a number up because I don't know it. And that spawned well, here, how about this? What about this? And I was like, this is great. And some people will participate and get something out of that. Others will be like, no, I'm not that interested. But then the next thing, you switch over to a topic over here that is more interesting and engaging to this person or relevant to that. And that's where a professional development group is great.
Ron: Awesome. You have given your email; you have given your handle. Any closing thoughts? I'll let you sign off, Travis, so thank you for joining us on Show 205. But closing thoughts from you to our audience.
Travis: Thanks. I enjoyed the conversation. I get asked a lot to talk to people just about, "Hey, what was your process of selling a business or doing this?" And I genuinely enjoy those types of conversations. I got into this business sort of accidentally, and I genuinely enjoyed engaging and talking with people and sharing ideas and challenging and the like. That's one of the reasons I've always enjoyed talking to you, Ron. So I'd welcome the chance, even if it's not to be part of a group or something like that, I would welcome the chance to just engage or talk with anybody.
Ron: Awesome. Travis, we wish you, everyone here at One Firefly, wishes you the sincere best with Cinergy. I know you're going to change the lives and help lots of people. I will sneak in one extra question, do you think there's a future where you guys have more than 50 members or is that to be determined later?
Travis: Yeah, the membership will determine that. I don't foresee that. I mean, physically, it would be impossible to facilitate that many groups of engaging people and do that. Never say never, obviously, but the focus is on making sure that the members that are involved get the best experience that they can out of it. So this is not a quantity of numbers, right? The power is not in the size of the group. The power is in the authenticity, the engagement, the transparency, the trusting. So the larger you get, the less that you get out of that. So I don't see it, but I never say never.
Ron: Never say never. All right, buddy, thank you for coming on. I really appreciate it.
Travis: Yeah. Thanks, Ron. I enjoyed the conversation.
Ron: All right, folks, there you have it, the one and only Travis Leo here for show 205 on Automation Unplugged we have a stacked offering of guests coming up on the show. So you want to make sure to stay tuned either whether you watch live or whether you, like Travis was telling me before we went live, "He's like Ron. I listen to the shows when they come out, in the morning when I'm on the treadmill" because he's in Colorado and I guess maybe on occasion it is cold out, and so he's not out walking the streets or the trails. He's enjoying the treadmill. So if that's how you listen, tune into the show, don't forget to subscribe, and I will see you guys on an upcoming show very soon and hope you enjoy the balance of your week. Thank you so much, everyone.
Travis is one of the Co-Founders of the Cinergy Professional Development Group which focuses on Professional development, Learning and Investing in Emerging technologies and Leveraging shared services to improve business. He is also the former owner of Residential Systems, Inc., a CE Pro 100 integration company that was acquired by Bravas in May of 2020.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.
Resources and links from the interview:
Travis can be reached directly by email at