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Press & Awards

Check back here often for the latest news on our new product releases, awards, recognitions, and other exciting achievements.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #135: An Industry Q&A With Jeff Brewer

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Jeff Brewer of Sonance, shares ways he and his team are leveraging virtual trainings and meetings to strengthen relationships.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Jeff Brewer. Recorded live on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Jeff Brewer

Since joining Sonance and James Loudspeaker in 2012, Jeff has led their sales directors team and currently coaches over 100 Sonance & James Loudspeaker Representatives. Jeff is also a current board member of the Azione Buying Group.

Jeff graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a degree in Marketing. Before Sonance, Jeff worked for companies including Best Buy for Business as their VP and Sr. Director and even for the late Steven Covey.

Interview Recap

  • Leadership strategies Jeff learned while working for the late Steven Covey where he was Master Certified
  • The James Loudspeaker acquisition and their approach to their rep network
  • Ways Jeff and his team are leveraging virtual trainings and meetings to strengthen relationships 
  • Exclusive announcement regarding the new Sonance Invisible Speaker Series

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #134: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Taylor Whipple




Ron:  Jeff, how are you sir?

Jeff: Good afternoon. How are you?

Ron:  I see you're coming to us from your office.

Jeff: Live from the garage. That is. Yes.

Ron:  You have to tell me more. You're in the garage and why did you get relegated to the garage?

Jeff: Well most of the time when you had trouble , they say you're thrown out and put in the basement. Not in trouble but Sonance in San Clemente is still shut down. We're working from home. And I chose the garage because I'm surrounded by the Scooby Snacks and supplies in the fridge behind me. And actually the two kids and wife are all using Zoom in their own spaces. This is the safest place to go.

Ron:  Is the whole family right now Zooming?

Jeff: Yeah. With the local gyms being shut down. My wife does Zoom classes online and so that's in the hallway room behind me. Both of my sons are in college and those schools are not back in session. They're online so they are Zoom classes in there. Each of their rooms. I could tell you the biggest fight around the home here is bandwidth with the Internet space. We've got really good at turning things off when you need to.

Ron:  I'm curious did with this whole change in lifestyle and demands on the home network. Just personally, was your network already robust enough or did you have to make some amendments or changes here due to the new demands?

Jeff: I definitely made some investments. When Momma's doing a workout online and things freeze up, it's pretty heated. Yes I was a good dad and father and invested in better bandwidth for sure.

Ron:  That's funny. I appreciate that. I feel so lucky, as you and I were commenting some of the neat decisions that Sonance made in 2019 randomly but luckily helped you here in 2020. And I personally made one of those lucky decisions in 2019, I decided for the first time in my life to invest in a real network for my house. Big boy toys real Cisco router switch and all that sort of stuff. Battery backup and little did I know that my wife my son and myself would all be Zooming or streaming at the same time. And I feel so fortunate. We already have some people Jeff saying hi. We've got Wes. He says, "Hey Jeff welcome to Automation Unplugged." He loves your garage, nice garage. I'll just put Kris's comment here he says, "Hey Ron waving from the UK." He actually answers my question about CEDIA. He goes, "I'll wait for the return of the in-person expo." That might be a trend we'll see. And then Tomas from Panama he goes, "Hello. Good morning from Panama. Love the Sonance and James loudspeaker products." There you go you're getting some international love from Jeff.

Jeff: Just drop the mike right now.

Ron:  Drop your mikes. Show's over. All right. Jeff I know that you are well-known and respected throughout our industry but the chance is that there might be some people watching or listening that don't know you. And I always love to just learn about kind of how you landed here at Sonance. Then we'll talk about some Sonance stuff. But do you mind giving us your background and how you landed here?

Jeff: Not at all. It started out from college working for this company called Searsif anybody can remember that.

Ron:  I used to get the Sears catalog.

Jeff: There you go. Within Sears, there was a part of that company that was doing research on companies to buy and there were two teams. One that looked at Orchard Supply hardware which Sears later did buy and another one that was looking at Best Buy which was the team that I was connected to and was looking at. Is this a company that they should acquire? A lot of people don't realize that Sears was really close to buying Best Buy a number of years ago. I was on that team and very connected to some of the research and work that was done later left Sears and had an opportunity to work for and with Stephen Covey and teaching a lot of people talent-related classes. Through that time I remember the experience I had with Best Buy and some of the research that Sears had done and later was afforded the opportunity to go to work there. A number of positions learning about the Best Buy and retail culture and eventually the opportunity arose where I got to run the business side of Best Buy which was the Best Buy for Business and it went from several million dollars to a billion dollars in business within four or five years and really had an opportunity to learn and to hire and to integrate a multi-level business that gave me great opportunities.

Best Buy went through some changes when its CEO had stepped down and we were told we had to relocate into Minnesota and that was a cold environment that my wife and I voted not to do. And so we had relocated ourselves to San Clemente California just because it was an environment that we wanted to be a part of and my wife was from California. And that's when I had an opportunity interview with the good folks today at Sonance and I was lucky to land a position there with them.

Ron:  I have a number of questions if you will just about that background. First of all what was it like to be in the Stephen Covey universe? What were you doing there? Did you actually work with him?

Jeff: Yeah. I had to be within the organization I had to learn first of all to be master certified to teach classes. Yes you had to be certified by either Mr Covey or some of his team and I had the opportunity to teach classes like Diversity or Civil Treatment. One that I still use today actually with dealers is called Adventures Based Learning. I've probably done a dozen dealers in the A.V. industry where we go to a park and for a good eight hours, we do some team building classes that are designed for the team to fail and to learn through that failure and then designed to see how people can win. I have done some of those classes and with dealers in New York and Denver and California. But it's something that I still take with me on the road from time to time.

Ron:  I've heard rumors of these events I've heard they are a lot of fun. Can you peel the layers? What happens on an eight hour day? What is an example of one of the tasks you give the team? I'm curious how do you moderate that?

Jeff: Imagine in a park two trees that are 10 feet apart and I tie a rope from one tree to the other. And about a four-foot level and all of the members of the team. Let's just say there's 15 are on one side. And in order to complete the task , they must have everybody get to the other side of that line, that fence line. I call an electric line. They can't break the space that's underneath that rope or that line and can't touch the rope because that would cause everybody to go back for first aid. What the team has to do is to think about how do we get everybody over without disrupting that forcefield that line or touching the rope and a lot of teams are in a hurry to get on to the next task. They'll first look at how do we cheat how can we climb the tree? How do we walk around the tree? How do we just throw somebody over the tree? Who cares how they land? And it's pretty humorous as the facilitator naturally I'm not going to let anybody get hurt. But a lot of teams will just come up with some quick ideas and they'll start shuttling people over the rope not thinking about the end at the beginning and they may have two of the biggest set people left and they have no way possible of getting them over. The moment that team touches the rope or the fence. They all have to go back for first aid and start over again. When one looks at this task they may think oh this is 30 minutes and it could turn out to be three hours because fatigue sets in.

People start going back the team will become dysfunctional or break apart. And it's an interesting experience when some teams will measure themselves on speed. How quick can we get over how fast do we go. I did this for a team in Arizona and they were like hey did we get over the quickest from any other team we've ever had because people are so driven around performance. By the way, when we finish the task, whether they agree that they can't finish because some teams can't or they do succeed we stop and we think about how does this respond or relate back into the real world? When you have a job or you have to install you have to design. How do we communicate? How do we get everybody over that line and successfully to the other side you know to move on to whatever the next tasks things are? What I have found in my travels or teachings is that if those teams can come together and can plan and can talk through problems or even when the job's done. Have a recap meeting to speak about what we could do differently or better next time. The outcomes are pretty good.

Ron:  I look forward to having you moderate one of these sessions for One Firefly when it's socially appropriate to have you fly and have my team fly.

Jeff: Just say when.

Ron:  That sounds like so much fun and I know some of my team are listening and they're probably yeah, next team event, next meeting. Let's do it. Did you do the Stephen Covey effort before or after Best Buy?

Jeff: It was before and then I did some during Best Buy because they allowed me to do this within their internal leadership roles and such. .

Ron:  And what was it like at Best Buy to go from a small business to a billion dollars? If you're saying you went from two to five million bucks to a billion dollars that's an extraordinary growth rate that you were there to witness. Thathad to be fun and scary all in one.

Jeff: It was to go from maybe 100 employees to 1500 within a three to five year period was amazing. We actually went from spaces on floors to floors in the headquarters building. Remembering at Best Buy, there are so many stores so many locations and so many people will come in and say I need to buy a thousand TV's, I need a thousand computers for their business. And so what I was able to do was to put together a system where a store would put in a lead and it would come to the business team and the business team would fulfill or take care of the product needs. What was unique was, most the time a store wanted the business. They wouldn't want to give that up to anybody. I was able to recapture whatever sell that went through the dollars so the credit for that sale would actually go to the stores PNL. The store's PNL was a key facet of their labor and if more sales flowed my way but they came back to their PNL, they'd actually get more labor credits because of what my team was able to do. It became a contagious environment of man we've got to give those leads to the business team because it really benefits us and the growth was exponential. It was just amazing.

Ron:  It sounds like a perfect case of making sure you're designing the business process so that it's win-win.

Jeff: And built to last. That's a big thing too is it you just can't put it in for a year. You've got to have vision of what's going to be three and five or so years out.

Ron:  I lived when I was with Lutron in my early career, they actually moved me in 2001 to Minneapolis and so I remember so much that Best Buy was Minneapolis. It must have been, I think headquarters is in Minneapolis for Best Buy is that correct?

Jeff: Yeah it's real close to the big mall.

Ron:  Mall of America.

Jeff: The Mall of America. There you go. And there was a hotel near there that had a waterpark that was inside and outside. That's where I stayed mostly Monday through Friday because I never lived there. I always commute.

Ron:  Yeah. I moved to Florida and I'm still thawing out from my three years in Minneapolis.

Jeff: The frozen tundra and you probably learned to eat walleye everywhere in Minnesota too.

Ron:  I learned why people drink in the winter because it's the only way to keep yourself from freezing cold. It was so cold. You joined Sonance and did you join Sonance in the role that you are currently in as V.P. of Sales? Or how did you join? What was your responsibility?

Jeff: I did. I came on as the lead in sales on the domestic team and then naturally we've made acquisitions and added more product and I would say more responsibility there. But you know I had the opportunity to partner with teams in the field and also a different twist. I never had responsibilities with representatives you know and having reps that they don't directly report to you. There's a lot of influencing behaviors that have to happen.

Ron:  That makes sense. And just to give Robert Keeler a shout out the Minneapolis crew Rob from CTA and Rob by the way I just saw on Facebook that you you and your son made it into the Wall Street Journal or Forbes? He and his son on a vacation piece about a great vacation he took with his son. That was just published with photos and quotes it was a beautiful story. But Rob you are one of the brave up there in the cold frozen tundra. Just joking I love all my friends and Wisconsin and Minnesota North Dakota and all of those cold places. But I have no desire to live there again. What is your day to day look like today Jeff? Like what do you do at Sonance? I know you do a lot. You have a lot of responsibilities but what would if you were describing it to someone in simple terms what what is that?

Jeff: Well, I would say the privilege of leading a team of directors that cover the north south east west. I have a group of field coaches that are really talented individuals that can help with training or I would say troubleshooting things around sophisticated amp projects and such and a group of design folks that are there as well. And then the representatives that I mentioned to you about one hundred and headcount in the U.S. My activities consist of staying real close to direct with dealers so I can understand what's happening in the business but really leading and guiding those directors that I mentioned around getting things out of their way that slow us down but also driving relationship sells. Those relationships that are key to us recently with the acquisition of James Loudspeaker, the tremendous privilege of finding representatives to represent that brand as well just like Sonance. And to also get close to the teams that joined the family I would say of Sonance. And that's one of the greatest privileges I've had is it's not just acquiring product and technology it's the addition of talent that is the most desirable thing that I think Sonance is always looking for great people. And so my day consists of an awful lot of interactions and enabling and also helping people learn and grow as it relates to their customer base as well.

Ron:  How are your reps doing? How are your reps and how are your dealers doing this? We're recording this here on September 2nd. I know our listeners and people watching are probably tired of hearing about COVID and all the good and the bad out there. Maybe they're not tired of hearing it good but there isn't enough good in the news. What's the status for you and for Sonance?

Jeff: It's one of the pillars that Sony has really three. But one of them is authentic partnerships and we really believe that our team is your team and our representatives we are humbly super proud of their family members when it comes to me because they carry the torch of the brands both Sonance and James and I really believe that they're closest to the customer. And if you have the best representatives representing your products and your brands and they're closest to the customer then you should stay either out of their way or enable them with the things that they need in order to be successful. And we've done some innovating with that authentic partnership with our representatives and we really feel proud of the job that they're doing. And I also believe as a manufacturer if you pay them well if you give them the opportunity to be successful then they're going to put a lot of their time into your brands and selfishly if their line card is 20 items and two of those items is Sonance and James. We hope we get a majority of that mindshare if that makes sense and I think we seek to earn that. I'm curious. This just gets into maybe a little bit of the weeds but you mentioned it so I'm going to just take it a little further. You acquired James or Sonance acquired James. When did that transaction fully take place? Well to be honest I think it was two and a half years of conversations that took place for quite some time. The acquisition and the final things took place. I would say November time period last year. A unique thing also was James was moving from California into Nevada. And so some of that transition needed to take place. A unique thing too is there we're about 55 employees with James when they left Napa Valley and when they arrived there was 53 that made it to Nevada. It speaks to the culture and the greatness of that company. And to have that kind of faith to move, there's not much out there. We were extremely lucky to take to be a part of such great talent as it came on board and one thing to know is we really believe that James had better mousetraps when it came to some product.

Ron:  Better than some of the Sonance products?

Jeff: I have to tell you. Absolutely.

Ron:  And would you have said that before that transaction?

Jeff: No way. No honestly they had fantastic products and better mousetrap with some of the small aperture that they did. The reason and rhyme behind the acquisition just made so much sense and more so now that we see the teams and the strength behind its people and what they were able to produce in speed and quick turnaround. It's amazing now what the Sonance family has in its arsenal through the James product lines.

Ron:  That's awesome. I've got some people commenting here and I'm going to give Shawn Schuetz a shout out.

Jeff: He came from Best Buy for business too.

Ron:  He is a Best Buy business alum. Shawn, appreciate you watching. And then Robert did post he said "Sonance equals a world-class organization", which I know I agree with and many do. When you guys brought on James how did you manage the rep relationships? Did you have cases where you had to. Did you deal with the rep relationships they already had in place or did they sell direct or did your current Sonance reps picked up James? How did you manage that?

Jeff: A lot of really good questions in that ball.

Ron:  I know you're like Ron really you're gonna go there? I don't know. I'm curious how do you go about it? How do you tackle that?

Jeff: No. First of all, I was partnered with interviewing every one of the existing James representatives and I also saw that James did a lot of direct business and that was a little different than how Sonance did business meaning we didn't take anybody direct. We really believed in going through a representative so that somebody in that local market was connected to the customer through the interviews of really a lot of talented representatives.

We found out and decided that the last thing that we would need is to have a competing local rep selling James and a competing rep selling Sonance. And so it really behooves us to make sure that we couple everybody together. Whoever we tapped on the shoulder to be the Sonance rep needed to be the James and vice versa. And there were some tough decisions to be made there because there were some competitors of Sonance already on the rep that had the James line so you could understand some of the stuff that kept us up at night is the changes that we needed to make at the end of the day. We made the decision that every Sonance rep or James rep needed to have both product lines and that we weren't gonna separate those because of the competition that it would drive. And so far so good. Knock on wood we feel like the decisions we made were absolutely right and the connection to the James leadership team on those decisions has been an important thing that I've done throughout the way.

Ron:  If I'm understanding you correctly in some cases you may have stuck with the Sonance rep and they picked up James and in some case, you stuck with the James rep and they picked up Sonance and is that accurate?

Jeff: Well in most cases we actually went with this Sonance rep picked up the James line and that was through interviewing and partnerships and actually good James leadership played a big role into that as well. And you make decisions over time and one of the things that I think Sonance had in its favor was a strong heritage with representatives and the representatives that we thought were the best in that region in the area. There were some tough decisions that were made. But also remember I mentioned to you some of the competition that rep may have had that was competing with Sonance. At the end of the day, a majority of our Sonance reps picked up the James got it.

Ron:  How's business out there on the street? What are you seeing and hearing and feeling right now is September 2020. What's the word on the street?

Jeff: Yeah. I will tell you that we're busy in a good way. When you think about March April May and the slowdown that we all experienced June July August has really been on a nice sharp increase for us. Busy equates for me and the sales are good. But we're also still on standby because a lot of states continuing to shut down and open back up. But having what I again humbly say are some of the best representatives in the industry they have really done a hell of a job to figure out how do we virtually connect to dealers or how do we get out and using their correct spacing and masks etc. still continue to see those relationships that are near and dear to our business as well. The other thing is the timing of the virus and when all these things hit is outdoor season. And so having the luxury of everybody being home and discovering that it would be nice if we could entertain or have some fun in the backyard has really helped with our outdoor lines this year and our representatives have done an admirable job of being able to set up and do demonstrations in one's backyard and not even being near the client or the homeowner. That's been very successful for us. And we're still warm right now and so we're looking at September being a really solid month for outdoor audio sales as well. I also believe that since so many folks have been home they've discovered what they don't have or what they wish they could have. And so we're excited about the upcoming season I would call it of home theater and things that we and James do so well when it comes to inside audio as well.

Ron:  We have a very serious question that's been posed to the channel and so I'm gonna have to go there first of all when our friend from Spain he has an interesting conversation on channel management choices. Wim represents a number of great lines and products in Europe but he goes, "Very personal question, what is in both of those fridges behind you? Booze or food?".

Jeff: This is an important question. I chose to work out of the garage so I could also guard within those refrigerators because I have two young boys that if you don't guard it it's gone. The white one is frozen goods so that's food, I don't freeze my booze. The silver one, if I were to open it, it has a mixture of lots of non-alcoholic beverages but then there are some few choice beers and wines that are chilling as we speak.

Ron:  There you go. Any choice beers or beverages that you want to give any particular shout out? Have a favorite beer or craft brew that is your go-to?

Jeff: I hate to say my 21-year-old son probably has more designer beers in there than I do but I go back to the Coors. When I lived in Denver, I like the Coors cold beers.

Ron:  Coors cold beer. Jeff more seriously you and your team. It sounds like all of your team but maybe you could clarify are working from home offices or from outside of headquarters. How are you guys accommodating to that and what does the future look like if you pulled out your Magic Eight Ball and you asked it a question of when we go back to the office? What will that be like? A lot of people listening and watching are handling these very different work environments and I'm curious how you're approaching it.

Jeff: Uniquely, our representatives are all out in the field. My team of the four directors that I mentioned they live in the field. For example, the leader in the south lives in the south and hence the north or the west. We're already in the field. If we were to go back to the office I'm the only one that would go back to the office and I would miss dearly my refrigerator behind me for sure. But we're already there.

Ron:  You might have to put a camera on those fridges There is motion that triggers it. You get a thing on your phone.

Jeff: Just gotta put a lock on them. I think that might help. We're already out there. I think as a company we made the decision that you need to be close to the customer. We're there. The only thing that I think changes is we're probably going to be flying more to markets, we're probably going to be more connected training and CEDIA events or other things like that once the doors start opening back up. But we've adopted to what we had to fairly quick and also quickly putting together with our marketing teams and such virtual content. Things that we can do like we are right now online whether it's a James introduction training or some of the things around new invisible speakers we have coming around the corner that kind of stuff.

Ron:  All right, you mentioned it. I didn't want to mention anything I wasn't supposed to mention but you said it. You guys have some new hot tech coming. I think it's pseudo known now in that I know I think you disclosed it to your reps. I have ears everywhere. I've heard that you've disclosed something to your reps. What are you allowed to talk about?

Jeff: I don't know what you're talking about. I will tell you that we've had hundreds if not thousands of dealers visit our facility in San Clemente and I want to let each and everyone know that we have completely redesigned and gutted and changed out that facility. The reason behind that is the new addition of James to the Sonance family. What a great opportunity we have to show and tell that. And again that that whole authentic partnership we really aim to define that partnership through the ability of folks to come see us and visit us one day. That'll happen soon. To answer the question that you just brought up Todd Ryan has been working for the last two years with team around our invisible speakers. There are a lot of folks and competitors out there who specialize in that product and Sonance decided we are going to be a leader in that technology and I'm happy to announce that later this year, we will be shipping game-changing industry-changing invisible speaker and invisible subwoofer products.

And I say that because when we do demos of that product today, one struggles to tell whether it's an invisible product or it's an in-ceiling in-wall speaker. The depth and breadth of what we're going to be bringing out we really think it's gonna change the invisible industry. But it's also going to allow many dealers who just didn't think that technology was up to par, to start to think wow, this might be one heck of a good solution.

Ron:  I had gotten my hands on the video that you guys put on Vimeo and I just asked Stephanie from my team to drop that into the comment section. For those that are looking at the comments whether you're or you're listening maybe you're listening to the podcast go over to the Facebook page and find the video episode 135 and you can look down in the comments and you can see the video. Jeff what makes the technology revolutionary? What is innovative about this invisible speaker tech? Invisible speakers as a type of speaker have been out for a long time now. I don't know exactly how long but I know I think I've seen them. I remember one of the earliest jokes someone pulled on me at CEDIA is they pointed out I was fairly green and they pointed at a wall and go Ron, "Do you like the speakers?" And I'm like, "What speaker?" It was a blank wall. And they go, "the invisible speakers!" and let's just say they had me going for a long time and there actually were not any speakers there but I was the dummy like touching all over the wall to find the speakers. I'm just admitting my ignorance there but what makes yours new stuff super neat?

Jeff: I think the teaser video I would ask everybody to take a look at that really does a good job with Todd Ryan. Chief Engineer around all things audio he will take the time to explain what he did and the approach that the team did which was to separate the speaker and really make sure we design both parts to be the best that they can be. The teaser video will help you with that. I think the other thing too is that design and passion that Sonance has around a heritage of innovation. We seek to build things and technology that are our culture of our company can give to the dealer to let them be innovative for their customers. We are tired of not leading in that category. And that really drove us to this couple of things that you'll see on that sneak video. We have a 15 inch woofer that's invisible.

We can now take this product and build. I would say 5.1s 5.2s 7.2s above your head and this is has not been heard of. The ability to take sound where it doesn't sound like this now has the capability as being clear as you and I have is what one will hear from this. We're gonna be out and about and very proud to let folks hear it before they buy it as well.

Ron:  What you just did with your hands and you did that. That is what I think of what I think of an invisible speaker. You guys have found a way for it not to sound like that.

Jeff: Absolutely. And what I say will be demonstrated in the field and proof is in the pudding. And so we're really excited to empower those representatives that I mentioned to you earlier and they're excited too. We actually had a virtual national sales meeting last week where we did all of the introductions and rollouts to that team. And I could tell you they can't wait to get out in the field and hit play and that stuff.

Ron: What's it called? Is it just called the Sonance invisible speaker or does it have a name or how do you refer to it?

Jeff: It'll be an invisible speaker and before we had an IS2 an IS4. Now you'll see and I have IS6 IS8 and IS10 and some of that nomenclature will tie into the size of the woofer and the drivers that are there. The video will do you well and there'll be more to come and we will be talking about that at virtual CEDIA too. I know you brought that up earlier.

"We're in a land now as an industry where we don't get to get together in the same space and same time as each other. And it's so odd for me and I've been in this space for 20 years and all I've ever known is every few months flying to an industry event and seeing you and seeing all my friends and doing that for decades now. And we don't get to do that this year and don't know if we'll be able to do that next year."

Ron:  Yeah. Let's talk about virtual CEDIA, virtual buying group stuff. We're in a land now as an industry where we don't, it doesn't seem in 2020 you get to get together in the same space and same time as each other. And it's so odd for me and I've been in this space for 20 years and all I've ever known is every few months flying to an industry event and seeing you and seeing all my friends and doing that for decades now. And we don't get to do that this year and don't know if we'll be able to do that next year. How are you guys thinking about that kind of the love and the nurturing of those relationships reps and dealers. Jeff, counsel us. How do we as an industry evolve to this new normal?

Jeff: Well I think we keep our eyes wide open. We don't limit what we think we're now limited within this virtual world so to speak. I'll give you an example, a good friend of mine Dennis Jakes from Mavericks which is now a part of APDG has been an avid James dealer for a long time. And when the acquisition of James took place and now it's a part of Sonance family. We looked at OK, how do we roll out training how do we let everybody know all of the things that James can do? And again my good friend Dennis who was an avid James fan we did a virtual training like what we're doing here. Not training but a virtual class where we went through all things James. And at the end of that training, Dennis said to me as I was doing two or three James products but there's probably seven or eight more that I never even knew about or I didn't know it could all be weatherized and used out outdoors.

Everything that James does was exposed to this virtual training and he actually found opportunities for some of his customers that he did know existed before. I don't know if one can do that when you come out to meet and see somebody for a half an hour or an hour. What we actually found was that Dennis and team and I think was about 15 other employees, comfortably sat down and they went through what we're doing here today and were able to ask questions and to be a lot more connected than has been in the past. Our reaction as a company is we've got to adapt to this new way of doing business. We don't think it's just temporary. We think that there are some big benefits to what you and I are doing now virtually. And then how do we follow up when we're allowed to? How do we come out and do a demo? What can we do that might be different? The other thing I think we've done is we've been able to virtually connect with a dealer who's connecting to an architect or designer or maybe an end-user. And now there's an authority in the room that's backing what they're selling. Meaning this job wasn't so important Ron, that I actually brought the manufacturer here so they could also talk to you about what we plan on putting in your home.

You couldn't do that before in a live presentation. Virtual happens and I think a customer is able to make a more informed decision based on some of the things that we can do now virtually. I think it's a very blue sky. I think there's a lot of opportunity for us to do more business but different.

"I think you need to embrace this virtual environment getting comfortable behind the camera. Getting comfortable interacting with the people on the other side of that camera and being authentic."

Ron:  I concur. I think you need to embrace this virtual environment getting comfortable behind the camera. Getting comfortable interacting with the people on the other side of that camera and being authentic. I am completely on the same page as you and I also agree I don't think this is changing anytime soon. It's adapt or die. And I don't like dying so I prefer adapting. I want to close with this concept of company culture and I want to hit it from a perspective when I think of best in class company cultures. Sonance is for me personally and I've been an observer. Of your company for many years and always put you guys on a pedestal in terms of really a strong vibrant company culture. And I'd like to know how do you think about that? How does your leadership team think about that? And if you're willing I'd love you to transition that to the integrators or those that are listening, how they could perhaps frame the importance of company culture?

"It's one of the most important things a company can have and cultivate is the DNA of their company through their culture."

Jeff: In my opinion, it's one of the most important things a company can have and cultivate is the DNA of their company through their culture.

Ron:  What does that mean to Sonance?

Jeff: Wow that's a good six-part answer coming your way. First of all, you have to have a world-class team. You have to have people that you surround yourself with that are passionate they believe in what it is they do and they love what it is they do. That's not easy to find. And sometimes as a leader, I have to cull through some of the parts and pieces that don't make sense on the team. Turnover isn't always a good thing but it should be the right thing when it happens. I will tell you that I've surrounded myself with fantastic individuals who have a love and a passion for what they do. And it gives me the opportunity to do more of I would say coaching and more leaders shaping so that I can be somebody who either empowers or takes things off their plate than gets in the way.

"Winners keep score. Yeah absolutely we'll talk about the highs and the lows and then what do we need to do differently to move on."

I've done a number of things over the years and I've learned a lot of what not to do but I personally do monthly one on ones with everybody on my team and they hold me accountable for. We schedule it and we talk about what's getting in your way. And I look at what I need to do to help there whether it's a limitation in a budget or it's a sample that's needed. I asked my team to push back and create an environment where it's safe to do that. Talk about results. Winners keep score. Yeah absolutely we'll talk about the highs and the lows and then what do we need to do differently to move on. Nobody could have predicted what happened with the virus. During I would say some very slow months. It gave me the opportunity to say hey you're working on incredibly hard. You're doing incredibly uniquely different things not only to keep our business moving but to stay connected to the dealers who need us. Thank you. And I think a thank you goes a long way if it's genuine and it's connected to the outcome.

I purposely make sure that I have an opportunity to really hear from my team monthly and then I help guide on what we probably do different later. It's not if somebody had a bad month or was off I have an opportunity to understand okay Why what did we do and if you understand or seek to solve that why. First I really believe that you can improve later because of what you've learned. And there are a number of things that leadership at Sonance has enabled me to do which is the empowerment to run the business. But also the rhythms that I have back with my boss Jason Sloan or a Ari Supran. I have an opportunity to have an audience and to push back. If something's off or not right. And because of what they've created it's very easy for me too.

Ron: I would say transcend that through my teams as well I just connected the dots and I realized Jason Sloan is your boss today in the org chart.

Jeff: Yes, he is.

Ron:  He was my boss at Lutron.

Jeff: Wow. We have this thing if you're taller you're in charge.

Ron:  Well, clearly Ari must stand on a soapbox or something to get above Jason. That's a tall man right there. He's a caring and compassionate leader and I will tell you there's nobody more passionate about the brands than Jason and Ari for sure and it's something that inspires me to come to work every day as well. Now I love that I'm going to give a few more shout outs here Jeff and I'm going to ask people how they can get in touch with you. But Capono from Hawaii goes, "I happen to know that he's from Hawaii. He goes looking forward to checking out the new product. Aloha guys. And then we have Wim is going to close us out with a nice comment. He goes, "Ari Supran, Rob Roland and I'm sure Jeff Brewer to have built a truly great team culture and company. Companies like Sonance push us all forward to be better." I agree Jeff it's been a pleasure having you on Automation Unplugged. How can folks that are watching or listening that want to get in touch with you directly what would you recommend?

Jeff: I would go This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. That's the best way to find me. And if I don't get back to you I'll hit you up there. That would be the spot. And I also would say give me a call 9492124704. Our team is your team. And even if it's not anything Sonance or James and if it's leadership or some things that Ron talked about with me on the Covey classes, more than happy to help you and your team get better.

Ron:  And I'm going to put it on the screen. Tell me if I did it right. Did I get that right?

Jeff: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ron:  You did it.

Ron:  Five Points Ron. I made my tech work for me not against me Jeff. It was a blast having you on man. I know I've wanted to have you on the show for a long time and our schedules finally aligned so thank you for making that happen.

Jeff: Thank you Ron. And thanks to all the fabulous folks that listened and were connected here on Facebook today. Thank you all.


Jeff Brewer is Vice President of Sales at Sonance & James Loudspeaker. His background includes working for companies including Best Buy for Business as their VP and Sr. Director and even for the late Steven Covey. Since joining Sonance and James Loudspeaker in 2012, Jeff has led their sales directors team and currently coaches over 100 Sonance & James Loudspeaker Representatives.

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 became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work 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:

To keep up with Jeff and their team at Sonance, visit their website at sonance. Jeff can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 9492124704. Be sure to follow them on Facebook.

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