Home Automation Podcast Episode #138: An Industry Q&A With Murray Kunis
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Murray Kunis of Future Home, shares thoughts on the current state of our industry and what 2021 might have in store.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Murray Kunis. Recorded live on Wednesday, September 30th, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Murray Kunis
Murray Kunis got his start in the music industry where he worked with top names including Prince, Van Halen, Barbara Streisand, and Michael Jackson. In 1990, Murray founded Future Home out of the demand from his clients for help with their home technology.
Murray was one of the founding integration firms of the trade organization CEDIA, he installed America’s first home THX system, and is the only Two Time Best-Of-Show winner of the International Home Technology Expo.
- Murray’s thoughts on the first 2020 Presidential Debate
- Murray’s experience with installing America’s first home THX system
- His recommendations for business just getting started in the custom integration industry.
- Murray’s thoughts on the current state of our industry and what 2021 might have in store
Ron: Murray, how are you sir?
Murray: Very well. How are things on the East Coast?
Ron: You're so reserved you were so animated when we were talking before we went live.
Murray: I don't want to shock people right off the bat. Lure them in and then get them.
Ron: Tell our audience where are you coming to us from. It looks like maybe you're in your office.
Murray: I'm in my office in Los Angeles. Right outside of Culver City right next. A few blocks away from MGM studios, actually one of my clients is the chairman of MGM Studios. Gone With The Wind was filmed down the street and we're about 10 minutes south of downtown Beverly Hills. You've mentioned Beverly Hills so we are very close and the majority of our clients are in what some people refer to as the platinum triangle which is Beverly Hills Bel Air Brentwood and some in Malibu. That's about 80 percent of our work. The other 20 percent of our work is national and international. We have active clients right now in Texas Nevada Montana and a few other places. It's wild. We have four active projects in Texas totally unrelated to each other total fluke we don't market to Texas. .
Ron: Do your clients bring you when they own properties in different states or countries? Are they bringing with them is that how that's working?
Murray: Well I mean usually they'll send a representative to interview us here in L.A. And if we get past that hurdle then yeah. Then we fly to wherever they are and meet with them on site. It just depends, we have one client in Texas the house is in Montana. The architecture is Salt Lake City and we're in L.A. which of course makes perfect sense.
Ron: Everything's on Zoom anyway these days.
Murray: That's what I was going to do. Yeah Zoom has certainly made things a little easier. And we can react faster and have more immediate face to face than before. But before all this jumping on a plane really was pretty easy.
Ron: Just out of curiosity are you jumping on planes now or is it all behind?
Murray: I've been to four different cities since March. When I first flew in April, it was interesting I was the only person in first class and they were like 12 people in coach. My wife was all worried and I said, "Are you kidding? The airports are sparkling clean. There are six thousand people in them now versus one hundred and fifty thousand and there are no kids with runny noses. The airports have never been safer.
Ron: Now that's a good point. Now the thing at least over here in Florida that I'm seeing nonstop. If I happened to flip on the news which I admittedly talk about often that I try not to do these days because of all the chaos. But what I do hear about are fires out there in California and are you guys OK is it affecting you? I don't know exactly where they're at I know you can Google and find fire maps of California. But it sounds like it's bad. Is it bad where you are?
Murray: Well, it's not bad where we are we're in Southern California. Remember California is a very large state. California if it was his own country would be the fifth-largest economy in the world. In terms of immediate effect, no it doesn't affect us although there have been a few nights where the sky was orange literally and you could smell the smoke you could taste it in the air. But in terms of thank goodness you know that we live in a concrete jungle anyway and the Valley of Los Angeles the famous valley was a desert before. That's not as much of an issue there. There have been one or two fires east of Los Angeles. In the Great Basin but way on the east side. But the fires that most people are talking about are in the middle and northern California middle and northern California.
Ron: We've got some people stopping in here Murray to say hello. Let's give a few of them a shout. Let's see here. See if I can see them.
Murray: They're probably going, it took 138 to get to me. You know you ran out of people worthy to talk to you. It's like really having to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
Ron: We were scraping the bottom of the barrel here Murray. I appreciate your willingness to participate considering you were down on the totem pole.
Murray: Right. I'm sorry for interrupting you I guess. I mean this interruption mode you know I we really need to have a third person here that can constantly interrupt.
Ron: All right guys. You're calling out the elephant in the room and that obviously was the comedy. I mean presidential debate last night and I don't. This is not a political show and we're not going to be political but I think we all have opinions. And so do you have any take? I mean we have a global audience. People are listening to this around the world and many different countries and maybe some of them think less of us because of certain political parties or certain people in different positions in our government. Well , what's your observation of what happened?
Murray: I thought it was very sad. You got to see the current president United States totally unhinged, totally out of control. I would only assume that his strategy was beat on the opponent keep beating on a beating and hope he would crack that he would either join him in the gutter or he would lose his focus and would start rambling so that he could say the other guy isn't worthy. But you saw that the opponent just stood there straight-faced talk to the camera talk to the American people you know and didn't crack. It just seemed to me that his obvious approach was to just beat on the guy and hope he would succumb and that didn't happen. Because there were no interruptions I don't think he ever got a chance to think wait if my strategy is not working maybe I should try something else. It's unfortunate. The only good thing I can say without belittling confidences is Ron you know my clientele is top of the food chain.
Ron: Put that into perspective. You and I, we're going to dig into it quite a bit here you primarily serve as state level customer people that have large residences large networth. Right. And you have a perspective politically as to where they are leaning and I'm going to. You were telling me before we went live this is actually pretty shocking to me, your perspective with your sphere of influence right.
Murray: Yes, I'm very blessed to serve a market of people in prominent positions of financial power. It's about 90 percent pro Biden you know if you want to just be so blunt about it.
Ron: Why is that? Because people would theorize people with money want to protect their net worth. And I'm going to say theoretically one could surmise that you need to be pro-Trump to do that.
Murray: If you look at the history of the United States, especially the last 50 years the economy always did better under a Democratic president than a Republican one. The Republican platform of let's lower the taxes and give everybody money doesn't work you know. All we've done is dig ourselves in deeper and deeper debt. Wall Street likes stability which is not what you're getting here. This is why right now Wall Street the financial institutions are giving five times more money to the Biden campaign than they are to Trump. They understand that you need somebody stable somebody that this great deal maker as the only deal he made was to make about a 5 percent adjustment to NAFTA. That's it. All he's done is break out of deals he has not made one deal during the course of the four-year presidency. You can't operate a business whether national or national in such a climate and where he's breaking arrangements and relationships with long established allies. The irony is that I'll just say this and we will move on. Is that one of his big talking points during the election as people are laughing at us or laughing as well having the world's laughing at us.
The only time I've ever seen the world laugh at an American president is at him. And it's twice, at the U.N. and at the G7. The only time that people laughed at America is the President of the United States. The people globally have to understand that it's only about 30 percent of the population that really supports them it's very fervent. I actually wrote a paper in college saying not to go down the middle. It's better to attract a base that is good to vote and my professor thought I was wrong. It took 40 years to prove me right.
Ron: Trump's proving it, he's got a fervent base and they will vote. They will vote for him.
Murray: All I say is, wherever you're leaning is, vote. I would rather see a 90 percent turnout and Trump win than a 50 percent turnout and the election is contested. All I can say is to people that support him please continue to go to the rallies indoors don't wear masks. It's safe. Go right ahead. Get as close to each other as possible. The President doesn't do it. You don't need to do it. There you go.
Ron: The virus isn't real. Hug the person next to you.
Murray: Bring your friends. That's really the way to go because that's what he says.
Ron: We're just restating what he says. For sure.
Murray: The other thing I was going to say was the only thing that's kept me let me sleep at night is again. The people that I've talked to on a regular basis including people that do literally report directly to the president the United States as they said had Trump tried to do something dramatic and we'll leave it at that. He would be very surprised by the responses like no. Even though he's President of the United States, the people that would be the ones to execute something ridiculous would keep his finger off the button so to speak. Because he doesn't actually press the button. He tells other people to press the button. That's how it works. The President of the United States isn't pressing the button and missiles go off.
Ron: There's not a big red button on his desk?
Murray: Yes it is it brings him more diet cokes or Big Macs. But he is the healthiest president in the history of the United States.
Ron: Yes. Oh and the smartest.
Murray: And the smartest. Yes.
Ron: My son is 11 and my son will randomly start quoting. What was that test? It was like piano telephone woman man tree cat.
Murray: It's a test for early dementia. And it's a very simple test it's meant to be simple. And God bless him. Forget about how many books have already been written, I've yet to see somebody leave the administration write a pro Trump book. But all I'm going to say is what is going to be fascinating is the thousands of books simply written about this period in American history. On either side, the next 20 years it's going to be a fascinating study in American politics and in the American psyche so good better indifferent wherever you lean whichever. The thing is of course you know he's done some very interesting things for that are important to a lot of people. The courts of course will be his big legacy. And just for those that heard him say Obama left him one hundred and forty eight judges to fill.
How could you do that? Well you could do that because the Republican Senate refused to confirm any of his nominations. So yeah there were 148 seats because he kept sending them to the Senate and the Senate kept saying we're going on a lunch break. That's why there were 148 empty seats, it was very simple. It wasn't that Obama wasn't nominating, he was nominating every day and they just kept saying when Obama came into power, the senators literally said on record we will do everything we can to block everything he does. I mean he said that.
"Go vote, if everyone is listening and if you're in America and if you're allowed to vote if legally. Whatever you vote left right center independent. I don't care just get out and vote."
Ron: Go vote, if everyone is listening and if you're in America and if you're allowed to vote if you're legally whatever you vote left right center independent. I don't care just get out and vote. At One Firefly, by the way Murray you might appreciate this. We're actually calling voting day a company holiday and we're giving a half-day off and everyone can go out and vote on the company.
Murray: Well , I grew up in Chicago where Mayor Daley once said Remember to vote early and vote often.
Ron: Vote early and vote often. Yeah well we're not condoning any illegal voting practice. The only people who have voted illegally were Republicans by the way that voted. They voted by mail and they showed up and they were of course turned away. I'll just say this because I think it's really important someone has to just sit back for a second and draw breath and think wait a minute. The President of the United States is saying that our most sacred institution voting has been rigged and he's degrading and throwing doubt in the most important thing in what makes America America. And if that's not a Putin talking point over everything else. You put everything else aside. That's got to be it. Ten years ago I was reading articles about how the Soviets were doing this in Europe. This is not new.
Murray: This is out of a playbook. A fascist playbook.
Ron: This is not something that was made up because they don't like Trump but here you have the President of the United States degrading the presidential vote. And I don't know everything else. The white supremacy thing, the virus thing, and all that put all that aside. But if you were the President of the United States that when they simply say, "Will you listen to the election?" and he won't and will you support people and he doesn't. I think everything else falls apart.
Murray: Whether you lean left or right. I hear the Republicans and I have a lot of friends that are Republicans and a lot of customers, a lot of family members that are Republicans. And when I hear them support Trump when he talks about his unwillingness to leave office and I just like run through the thought experiment. What if Obama had said at this point he would not leave office?
Ron: After two terms still popular.
Murray: And what if he said No I'm not going to leave office I'm going to stay in. Just on that point of his statement. And how undemocratic that is to say that he would not leave. I can just imagine Fox News and how up in arms they're going to be.
Ron: They would have melted.
Murray: They would have had a meltdown.
Ron: But the only way to know these things is to have a really premiere audio-video system in your house. You clearly need a very large expensive impressive home theater to watch these.
Murray: At least 120 inch TV in. I have one client every TV in the house is a 75 inch including the kids rooms. And that's the right way to go.
Ron: OK so let's switch gears. How did you get into this audio video integration business? What's your backstory? I know that you were in the music business. We're going to the wayback machine.
Murray: Things were written down. Back then they were chiseled on tablets. Not going back too far. I graduated from the University of Miami Music Engineering program which still is the top program in United States for professional music recording facilities. That approach of course when I went there in 1982, everybody wanted to produce the next Steely Dan album. That was pretty much the vibe of the program. The program hit about 24 to 25 students a year admitted they were getting over a thousand applications. The 20 bucks I slipped the Dean I guess helped. I got in.
The Head of the Program at the time was actually the gentleman who engineered the Elvis Presley albums back in the 50s and I actually had eight of the top ten albums of records. He had engineered. The program is very prestigious and very well known and now there are other recording engineering programs in the United States. The Spring before I graduated I flew out to L.A. I was in school in Miami and I had a listing of all the major recording studios in L.A. and went in for job interviews. At that point 99.9 percent would say well I helped my buddy with the studio in his garage and I used to carry the guitars to the Roxy where I worked in this little eight-track studio and here I am walking and going I have a university degree in engineering and music. It didn't make it very easy for me to get a job and I'm very blessed especially in the early 80s when there were so much drugs flying around. As I wound up in a studio that was very clean in terms of the staff the musicians other conversation.
But it was a family-run studio and probably not one of the top ten studios in the history of rock and roll it was the studio where the doors were done and Van Halen and Janis Joplin. Here I am I literally walk out of college. Day one I get this job before I even move to L.A. I am in L.A. on Thursday and on a Monday I'm in the studio and a week later I'm working with George Harrison and Toto and Van Halen.
Ron: What was the name of the studio?
Murray: Called Sunset Sound. They are one of the last studios still in business. And it was just amazing. I worked with Prince and Purple Rain in 1999. We are the World. We were one of the studios involved with that. I was very lucky so I got to know these people as friends as well as clients. And I did that for about six- seven years on staff and it was an amazing time. Amazing time for music and so people started coming to me going hey you know I can't get my VCR to turn on my TV. The very beginnings of it being beyond a TV with a clicker and Channel 3. I started going to the homes of very prominent musicians and music executives as a side thing and doing their houses.
Ron: You were their tech guy.
Murray: I was your tech guy. And at the same time that I started working for a company that built and designed some of the major studios around the world and these studios are very complex with miles of wire and so to do the house to me was cake. It was easy. So after about a year and a half transition , I found that I was exclusively working in homes. And interestingly enough, I saw the handwriting on the wall that the big million dollar studios were going to become a dinosaur. That there would be a lot of options for people to record music very well in a less high end environment. And I think we're seeing that played out now in our industry 40 years later that yes there's a time and a place for the big multimillion-dollar recording studio but for the average musician for the average guy obviously you can see that people are doing records they get a half a billion hits and they recorded it in their basement. You couldn't have done that 40 years ago.
Ron: By the way Murray Amanda Wildman posted a question and she says, "Who is your favorite artist to work with?" I guess while you're at the studio.
Murray: I would have to say I was very blessed. I worked with David Foster to Van Halen. Van Halen was very surprising in the studio. These guys were consummate professionals. I mean got the work done focused. I mean that's why they're this major band. But in terms of the artists that I most admired by far was Prince. We had to build a custom room for him in the studio because he would sing play the drums while operating the recording equipment at the same time. He would have a remote console control next to the drums so he literally was a true auteur. He did everything himself. And the tragedy of what happened to him, that was because of an injury.
At the time in the 80s when there was so much coke in the air that you'd walk into recording rooms and you just see white dust in the air in his studio. There was just a huge stack of Perry bottles. That was it. It was a real tragedy what happened to him because I don't want people to think of him you know of how he died. But no he was an amazing artist and an incredible Ping-Pong player.
Ron: Did you play ping pong with him?
Murray: Not only would he beat everybody but he would play ping pong in five-inch heels. And when he hit the ball he would spin around in the time it took for me to get to you and come back and he spun around and he was able to take the ball back to you again.
Ron: He's practicing his dance moves while he was playing with you.
Murray: He was truly amazing. I got to have lunch with George Martin who produced all the Beatles albums. I was very blessed to wind up in the right place at the right time and that studio is still around. Anyway so segway to homes and then I had one client who we did his house for and he was very impressed especially in 1991. The fact that these two speakers weren't sitting on the middle of the living room floor and one remote control his TV and his VCR is that he literally picked up the phone and called Bruce Springsteen and said I'm sending this guy over to your house. Do whatever he says. And then he hung up the phone and he picked up the phone and called Arnold Schwarzenegger and says I'm sending this guy to your house do whatever he says. And that gentleman likes to claim that he invented me and he did.
Ron: He was sending you out to his friends from Hollywood for TV movies and music.
Murray: Yeah. We did Trent Reznor's place in New Orleans because of Jimmy. We did a lot of work and it really spiraled from there. And one of the questions you asked me was how did we wind up doing the first Home THX system in the United States. Well because of my professional music industry context I knew about the THX system prior to someone who had been in the consumer business for 30 years. Because of my crossover into the professional industry.
Ron: For those that are listening, they've heard the name THX. What was the year approximately plus or minus a few years when did that come into reality and what was it?
Murray: I want to say '92. I've got the article here published somewhere because they published the story because it put the very first Home THX system in Alan Thick's house.
Ron: Alan Thick from the TV show Growing Pains.
Murray: Yeah actually I think he made more money. He wrote a lot of theme song music for TV shows both the talk shows and sitcoms. I think he made more money from that than the TV shows.
Ron: How did you get looped in with the people that made THX and how did you become the first guy?
Murray: These people crossed over from my professional industry contacts. I knew people from the professional film side. And one of the studios that I worked at was a dubbing stage. Back in the days when you'd hire a full orchestra. Sorry a scoring stage you'd hire a full orchestra to do the music for a movie. And I worked there for a year. I was talking to people in the professional or theatrical movie sound industry and they said yeah, they're gonna come out with the home version yadda yadda yadda. I got the buzz on that and got to meet the people from Lucasfilm before there was a formal announcement to the general public.
Ron: Was it a big deal when that theater was was done installed? Was there a lot of press and hubbub about it?
Murray: Well I mean there was some press. It was published in Audio Video Interiors which was a magazine that featured quality of quality interiors now blending technology. This was the early 90s was the first time people had really cared about that versus just having a stack of stereos sitting on a shelf. Yeah of course you didn't have the Internet. You didn't have podcasts and all that. It didn't get the splash but THX did. And what THX did back then was established standards for the first time.
It is not now you know the market has moved on but THX was the foundation of where we are today by saying hey all these different companies are all over the place and if you look up Brand A's pre-emptive brand B's amplifier there's a mismatch. One's upbringing two volts one's at five volts, there are no standards you know. If you put volume at zero and one amplifier is a different level than another amplifier. Established standards for the residential entertainment industry which is really crucial and I think because of that, things were allowed to then take off.
Ron: I see here and I'm cheating cause I'm looking over my notes here that my team prepares for me before I do any of these that you were one of the founding companies of CEDIA or in that timeframe. What you're describing to me and the type of stuff you were already doing back in the 90s. How many other companies were doing that type of stuff in the 90s? Say in North America or around the world. Is this still a very small club at that point?
Murray: Yes. At that point it was still a small club and there was only about 30 of us that met. And what was happening is we were all operating in our own little worlds and we're all inventing boxes because there weren't manufacturers like there today that made things that we needed to do. What happened was I would go to Sony and I would say Sony I really need an amplifier that does X and you can charge 500 dollars more. And they would say how many can you sell? And I say maybe 10 a year. Sony is going to say like thank you click. One of the things that CEDIA did was like look there are 40 of us that each one of us can do 10 boxes a year. You can charge more than you're charging in the residential market. You have direct access to us.
You don't have to spend a million dollars on TV ads, just send us a letter and we'll sell your product. I've got it buried somewhere. It was a Time magazine article again around '91 '92 and it talked about how this guy spent twenty five thousand dollars and his home theater and the people from Sony were aghast; they could not believe that people were spending twenty five thousand dollars on home entertainment. They just couldn't conceive of that because their whole thing was like we need to get the ninety-nine dollar unit down unit down to eighty-nine dollars. How do we save 10 bucks? The club got together. We found each other and said hey there is this market of people that want quality that are not so price dependent. We need solutions to make things better for people's lives. And that's how you got formed and got started and. And what was interesting is a CEDIA now gets 20-30 thousand people showing up at the conventions for the first seven or eight years. Everybody was in suits, it was kind of a club.
Ron: No way. CEDIA was a suit event?
Murray: Oh suit and tie. Every year Frank White and I and a couple other guys like who had the nicest ties competition? While it was still a club you know while it was just the elites but obviously CEDIA has mutated which has caused a lot of conversation in CEDIA. Now it has hit the mass market and there's a lot of conversation like Is this the right approach is this the wrong approach? I get it but CEDIA now has become a mass market.
Ron: There's a full spectrum. They're appealing to not just the high-end.
Murray: But then it lost credibility as a vetting organization because for the first 10 years if you were a CEDIA member it meant something when you went to go meet with a prospect. Now it doesn't in and of itself, that has much less impact certainly in a market like a major market like L.A. New York Miami Chicago. About two years ago a bunch of the major manufacturers got together and said hey, our market is getting flooded with people all over the spectrum. We need to find a way that homeowners or contractors are able to identify who the established companies with solid reputations and a solid history are. Right. How do you differentiate that? And so the HTA the Home Technology Association was created and it's in its product agnostic atheist depending on your political leanings. You've got people from Crestron, Savant, Control4, all the major manufacturers represented. So it's not a matter of go to HTA so the guy will sell you box X. It's go to HTA. These are the best restaurants. And it's a very thorough vetting process and it's a 60 point questionnaire typically takes three to four months to get vetted. You cannot join you can apply. Two of the largest companies in L.A. that have done very large projects were denied because it's more than just oh you're a big company doing big projects. It's a matter of what's your reputation? What's your ethics? How do you operate? Do you have 24/7 service? What credentials do you have?
Ron: What status does your business have Murray with HTA? I know there are different classifications you can have and otherwise you can be classification A or classification B.
Murray: Well initially they didn't know how to classify me but that's another conversation. That's a whole different conversation a whole different animal. There are three levels. The middle level is called luxury I forget what the basic level is. Basic is not bad. I'll get to that. Their top-level is called Estate. And what they did is look, we're gonna say who the best companies are in the country but not everybody does the same work. You could be the best tract home builder and I don't mean that in a bad way. You could knock out a thousand homes in six months and they're great and you can do it on budget all that.
Ron: Well and you could get that track home project and fail miserably because your business is not set up to excel at that.
Murray: Yeah you get a custom guy and the two hundred thousand dollar house costs him four hundred thousand dollars to build because he doesn't have the right vendors. He does not do it. He does not know how to schedule that. Whereas the guy building the 35 million dollar house requires different sensibilities to interact with that client and what they're looking for and what their goals are and where their compromises or lack of compromises are. What they did is they broke it up by typical budget of your projects. I believe our category is two hundred thousand dollars and up as your typical. Our budgets typically run about 400-800 thousand is a typical budget but. So then you know it's like look if somebody is looking it's been forty thousand dollars here's company X.
That's their wheelhouse. It's their bread and butter. They're gonna do a good job. Their business model and expenses are appropriate for that. I've had people come to me to say hey my budgets 40 grand but I hear you're a wonderful human being. And I said we can do that. There's gonna be labor that's more. But it's like hiring a Ferrari mechanic to tune up your Honda right. It's still going to be and might be the best Honda ever. But it's still a Honda. The difference between a Honda by the Ferrari mechanic how much difference is it really going to be? And I've said that to people it's like it's up to you and if you want to hire us yes it will be the best Honda ever. If that's your goal if that's your budget. I don't think we're the right fit for what you're looking for you know. That's how HTA divided up.
Ron: For people that are listening that have considered HTA from a minute call it from a marketing strategy. Have you leveraged your HTA membership to help you secure business? And if so how has that worked or have you found that it makes a difference to the consumer or the design team or do you help them see that it should make a difference?
Murray: Well still realize that in the market that we play in, which is a very small sandbox, personal referrals are still the most powerful. We bid on a house that was about a 45 million dollar house and they wound up hiring a guy that had done a 3000 square foot house for his neighbor. But my neighbor said he was great. I trust my neighbor right. OK. That's going to happen. HTA, we're starting to get some traction is contractors and architects are beginning to put in their spec you know vendor must be HTA certified and the great thing about that for any contractors or architects designers listing is that that avoids the whole my guy versus your guy conversation.
I've got contractors that say look we'll work with anybody you want as long as you're each day certified. It's not oh I've got the greatest AV guy but the AV guy that did your last house, you want to use him because he did a great job on your 2500 square foot condo before you hit the lottery. you know. That's been the leverage is that it avoids in a market where it's a lot of personal referral and avoids that my guy versus your guy mentality. It's interesting.
Ron: And just to let you know call it out it's hard and I know we have some CEDIA board members here watching and commenting but we have it's hard for the CEDIA membership or credential to carry that weight and if anyone disagrees put it in the comments. Because it's not by invitation, it's if you're willing to pay the dues and then you remember.
Murray: Yeah. There was no vetting. Well I can say as and I say this not as braggadocio but as a statement of fact as one of the most honored companies in U.S. history and is the only company to have won the Best of Show twice and even won awards that we didn't submit for. And we still won the awards. I can tell you that has minimal traction when talking to a homeowner or a designer or architect. It's unfortunate. I wish industry recognition carried more weight but Trade Association awards I mean there are companies that have hundreds of awards but 98 percent of them are sales. I've met with contractors and I started to go down that road and they just stopped me halfway saying I don't hear about any awards.
Ron: By the way we have controversy Eddie is commenting. He says there is definite vetting, Eddie Shapiro.
Murray: That's true. You have to have it. You have to have a business license and you have to be breathing.
Ron: Oh I see, we can't have an interview with Murray without a little controversy. So Eddie let him have it. Throw it in the comments and I'll read it out loud here. I'm the neutral guy in the middle here. Don't pick on me and then Nathan Holmes. You know Nathan, he's Access Networks, used to work for you.
Murray: Yeah that was one of the things that we will bring up declines because now Wi-Fi and network have finally really reached on people's radars and we were one of the if not the first but like literally one of the first two or three companies in the entire Southern California market that took enterprise-grade networks seriously. This is going back 12-15 years. Here's a bid forty-five thousand dollars for an enterprise-grade network. And the other bid was four grand. But they were using the switches you buy at Best Buy. But my clients have finally realized the importance of a carrier-grade or enterprise-grade network not only in terms of reliability but the reality is of course my clients are targets. My clients are the people that people, if you want to go hack the Sizzler manager down the street to get his credit cards, fine but my average client's net worth, is about seven hundred million dollars. I think you'd rather have his credit card and read his emails to the President the United States.
One of our clients, his company modem was the size of a microwave oven. Literally because of all the encryption. But yeah. Networks one of the things that I've been saying last couple years is where our industry's going is we're becoming I.T. companies that also install speakers.
Ron: I don't imagine Murray you're running into a customer where you put an enterprise-grade network. Let's say it's a five hundred thousand dollar proposal and you have 50k worth of network here and there. I can't imagine you have a customer that goes yes I want all this stuff but that network no, cut that out. I don't want a robust network.
Murray: No no. That's 5-10 years ago yes.
Ron: 5-10 years ago you'd get that but not today.
Murray: No not today. In fact that's one of the first things. That people ask. It's interesting the three biggest questions I get. One is can I reach you after 5:00? Will you be there for me when I have the Prime Minister of Ireland at my house for dinner on Saturday night and watch a movie and I can't get the movie to start? And the second thing is Wi-Fi.
Ron: How they want robust Wi-Fi every square inch of property.
Murray: We use non-cloud based company operations that we use management that's in the house. It's not going up to the cloud. I have one client that is using a voice control system in the house. None of my other clients have any Alexa or anything that's voice control that goes off to the Internet. Literally one. And the third question is do you remember what the question is?
Ron: Well I'm going to interrupt you Murray because we've got a comment from Amanda and all right. Wait a second here. I got Eddie he's giving me a comment. He says, "Ron can you mentioned all the CEDIA board of directors voting is happening now? And there was a CEDIA podcast that dropped on Monday where all of the candidates speak and discuss their position and reason for running for CEDIA." If you're out there listening, definitely check that out. And then I'm also going to say Amanda. She's also on the board. She says, "There is a Member of Excellence program now with CEDIA.".
Murray: Yes I'm familiar with that. It's a start.
Ron: She says that there should be a focus on standards and certifications that you'd get from CEDIA. Definitely not hating on CEDIA. I love CEDIA and been a member of CEDIA since 2007 when I started my company.
Murray: Yeah , I'm a CEDIA One certified designer. I took the exams as soon as that was available.
Ron: Look at us Murray, we're getting in trouble here. I knew it was going to happen if you and I went live on air I was like This is only a matter of time before we dig ourselves in a hole.
Murray: Well if you'd rather we can sit here and talk about who makes the best Blu ray player. You know I'm game for that.
Ron: I am going to jump topics here because I saw the comments a little bit ago Ted asked a question and he asked you about. I'm trying to find it here. It was kind of a nice softball pitch. There it is, You've done a lot of interesting projects. What project are you most proud of?" What can you talk to us about?
Murray: Well, you've got to actually put things in context.This is our 31st year I started when I was 12 obviously. There were projects fifteen years ago that at the time were really amazing. Dual stack CRT projectors. We did some of the very early touch screen controls to control a music library. In our industry you're only as good as your last service call. And you know that expression. So we just recently finished a private theater. It's two thousand square feet.
Ron: The theater or the house?
Murray: The theater. Include the whole show including the booth there's a full booth the audience area and the wall behind the screen was about another four or five feet. The whole show we had to work with about 2000 square feet. The audience area is around fourteen hundred square feet. There are forty-eight recliners 48 Fortress full size recliners. The screen is eleven feet tall by twenty six feet wide. There are forty one speakers and seventy two channels of amplification.
And it's a commercial Barco DCI projector so the person if he wants to watch a James Bond movie opening weekend you can get the drive from the studio and watch the movie opening week in that room. As great as we figured the room would be having done a lot of high-end screening rooms and a lot of very well-known people's homes that again budget was not a consideration. The room was spectacular. We were just stunned by having that kind of space in and the room just was beyond anything I've experienced in a commercial theater. It was a true theatrical experience. It's a Dolby at most room but it's a professional Dolby Atmos room which requires at least 30 speakers. It's a different standard. And I think there are standards that don't exist for consumer and Dolby Drum turned out so great that Dolby has asked us to make it a case study for how to do a DCI Atmos room properly. We're very proud of that room which we can't photograph because of COVID. We're sitting on this three million dollar theater that we can't show anybody. But trust me it's there. Right. OK. Right. Trust me it's, did I say three million? It's a 35 million dollar room and I did it in a week.
Ron: You did it in a week, it was done before you thought about it.
Murray: There you go. You know it. When we do theaters and I turn down one out of three theaters that comes to us. My approach of a home theater is not a room with chairs and the big screen. Our approach is it has to be an experience. There has to be a theatrical experience in the room. If it's just a comfortable room with a big screen, it's just a bigger TV.
Ron: All right we got some people dropping vendor and product names here Murray. I'm going to rapid fire. Mario. Of course is saying how many DBox are in that theater?
Murray: Sadly none. DBox is a wonderful product in a particular application. I'll leave it at that. They make a great product. I'll leave it to other people to decide if it's right for them.
Ron: Jason is actually with One Firefly but he was formerly with the Stewart Group and so he's saying a Stewart Film is Stewart Films tied to that Barco?
Murray: Yes. I try to be agnostic about brands you know so I really haven't talked about brands but that particular room is Barco professional with home theater sorry Pro Audio technology speakers and a Steward screen and all three of them totally intentionally in my part are all represented by the same manufacturer's rep. Basically he's naming his next to children after me because that room was just a dream for him.
Ron: Is that Wakeem?
Murray: Yeah it was Wakeem. Yeah. That Stewart screen had a list price of seventy-seven thousand dollars and it wasn't even a director's choice, the masking only came from the sides. No top and bottom.
Ron: No top and bottom. Right. Amanda is asking a great question. And she says What's one thing you've learned through the school of hard knocks about owning an AV business that others can learn from so that you can help them perhaps avoid that pitfall? Great question.
Murray: Now leave it to a woman to ask a substantial important question.
Ron: I think he just trashed me ladies and gentlemen with every other question. But that question Amanda. Ten points. That was excellent.
Murray: Yeah. Get her. We want to hire her.
Ron: She's hired.
Murray: All right. There you go. And the ten dollars I gave her it ask the question.
Ron: Yeah. Let me read you probably forgotten the question.
Murray: I haven't forgotten my question. I think that in our industry you know it depends on your marketplace. But I can tell you that if you're dealing with an absolute marketplace and it doesn't have to be the people we speak with. But even the doctor lawyer small business owner making six figures a year that has a nice house, wants a nice media room and all that is first and foremost don't think with your own wallet. No. Think about what it is that you're providing the service and what the value is to that homeowner. Right. And put it in perspective. And if you're dealing with a market where the guy says my budget's twenty-five thousand dollars and you know from your own experience to do what he needs is going to cost thirty thousand dollars I'm just using this as an example.
You don't have to make a thirty thousand dollar sale. You have to make a five thousand dollar sale right. You've just got to convince him, explain to him where the value is and that extra five thousand dollars. Don't focus on 30. Focus on five. It's much easier to understand and then they get it. I would say that's a major thing. Also one of the things I learned early on in the custom residential.
Ron: For those that are listening on podcast. He is putting air quotes in the air as he says custom residential.
Murray: Right. You know Austin Powers which was produced by one of my favorite clients was. See he interrupted me.
Ron: I knew you were going to forget. at that and we're now about go ahead. Come on you can do it. Amanda is routing you on. She said she was loving your answer until you forgot what you were going to say.
Murray: We were talking about don't think with your own wallet.
Ron: Michael Restrepo is restating for you he says don't sell create value.
Murray: Create value. And remember the third question. Watching Murray squirm, he usually has all the answers and but no I mean focus on what service you're going to provide because you're really in the service business.
Ron: Stay away from talking about brands and models just don't even.
Murray: Customers don't care do they? Customers don't care about that right. If there's 40 guys selling Sony right. I don't even talk about brands. I just have a client because we're doing this. We're putting our budget first it is about two hundred eighty thousand dollars and he just and we're underway and it'll be finished in about three weeks. And he just e-mailed me and said what's the model of the projector? One hundred thousand dollar projector. And he didn't even know the model number. And he wants to do it so you can refer it to a buddy of his. He wants me to refer him a model number something that he's buying that he doesn't even know what it is. Right. He doesn't care it's like what is this product do? What is it you're providing? That's what's important.
I mean if you go into a fine restaurant you know and they're serving you veal parmesan. They're not sitting there and telling you what spices they put in it. They talk about this is the experience you're going to have eating this meal. So stay away from things that are not under your control, stay away from things that don't differentiate you from others in the marketplace. Every company is something that makes them unique good or bad right. You could have a company that you're available 24/7 or you could have a company of like well I'm a highly trained musician, I know which sound. Or, we sell more you know product than anybody else in our marketplace we can get it for less money we've got a deal. Everybody's got something that's unique to them. Emphasize that and stay away from talking about boxes. Right. Some care about boxes. And I'll tell you something the clients that do care about boxes are what we refer to as hobbyists. And we don't take them on as clients because you're never going to satisfy them. There's always going to be a new box coming out and they're going to second guess everything you do. Right. One of the things that we've had to train our techs is don't talk to the clients. Why we go in and we say you know the best solution is for speakers for this room.
We put in four speakers clients and tech goes yeah. Mr. Smith's house we put in six speakers right. Now the client comes back to me and says well how come Mr. Smith has six speakers? I've got to backtrack and spend half an hour explaining why he's different than Mr. Smith right. Don't let your techs talk to the clients because you know there are three ways of doing something. There's my way or somebody else's way. And then there's wrong. OK. You know you want to keep a single message to your homeowners. Right. Make sure there's only a single voice talking to them. And it only helps because if you've got techs in the field like we do they can only get themselves into trouble. It's a lose-lose situation. They've been trained. Hey what do you think of the speaker over here? You really need to ask Murray. Yeah , but what do you think about the speaker over here? Murray is really the one to talk. Then what happens is after the fifth time they just stop asking the techs stuff, you train your clients. It keeps the techs out of the loop and allows them to focus on what they're doing. You don't get mixed messages like certain administrations.
I would say those are some of the key things where you can get yourself into trouble but focus on what's good about you deliver you know don't think with your own wallet. We lost a million-dollar client because they needed about 50 grand worth of stuff to fix and I'm thinking Oh my God you know we really should really fix that. Fifty thousand dollars they eventually fired us about 15 years ago and spent like one and a half-million dollars for the next guy in the next six months. Focus on what's different about you know when you have to make a sale you're only making a difference between what their budget is and what they need to spend. Right. And stay away from boxes.
Ron: Lots of great comments here. We have by the way Amanda is saying thank you. She loves it. Great advice. Nathan of course states I think we're gonna put this on all of our web pages for Automation Unplugged. We put your picture we put a quote I think I'm gonna use this one he says "don't sell the spice sell the meal.".
Murray: Oh I remember the third thing.
Ron: Yeah. What do you got? What you got. You did it Murray came back to you.
Murray: And the third thing was television. No. You said in case you can't see this. Ron is now laughing hysterically at my incredibly witty approach.
Ron: Incredibly witty.
Murray: 9 out of 16 people revolve around the sun. How many people get that joke. We had a client come to us and say here's the theater my estate property. But doesn't matter. They said my budget for my home theater is one hundred fifty five thousand dollars. What do you suggest? For the gear only the gear. And I said I suggest you buy a pool table. I said it's not going to be good enough. I said you're gonna go down to a room in the basement with no windows sealed off. Right. It's got to be an experience. Trust me I've seen this a hundred times that I'm going to their arms. Six months after the honeymoon period is over. You're just gonna watch the seventy five-inch TV in the breakfast room where the food is. I mean that's what people do. You have to have an experience that theater in the corner your basement your property where you have to walk down the hallway to get to better be special. And the analogy I came up with on the spot and I haven't thought of a better one yet. Somebody does please send it to me.
Ron: Mark Kunis. Is this your brother?
Murray: Oh my God. The third thing is plastics. Yes.
Ron: Third thing is plastics. Again you've got to be at least 50 to get that joke.
Murray: Yeah. Yeah about it. That's the graduate. At least I know that one.
Ron: Twenty-five year olds you can Google that and know why he's talking about that.
Murray: I said imagine I put three Lexus in your garage right. Three TV's around the house and imagine down the street block away. I parked the Mercedes. There's 150 dollar vehicle. Are you going to walk a block to go drive the Mercedes? Yeah maybe once in a while. But if I put a Bugatti in that garage you'd walk there in a snowstorm. Well probably not a Bugatti. You'd walk there in the rain. OK so you've got to have something that pulls you to use that room. When you're talking to somebody who wants to do a home theater not a media room completely different animal just because it has a big TV that doesn't make a home theater.
"A theater needs to create a sense of suspension of disbelief."
A theater needs to create a sense of suspension of disbelief. OK. And needs to create that you're really in the jungle with Arnold or you're really in the deli restaurant watching the girl have the fake orgasm and then watch the director's mother say I'll have what she have.
Ron: Harry Met Sally.
Murray: That is Rob Reiner's mom who says that.
Ron: You've got to be able to do these quick movie references when you talk to Murray. Pop pop pop.
Murray: If you're talking to somebody who's going to have a dedicated home theater, people have the money or we've had clients I have a client that just finished a seventeen thousand square foot house. That's magnificent property. And the theater is still two by fours. This house is completely finished because you want to do theater right. He didn't want to dilute it like well here's my construction budget and all that. And this year we'll finally do the theater and I've actually had a couple of clients I've encouraged them and I said look let's not throw 90 grand at this theater that you're gonna throw in here. Don't do anything. Wait until you're in a situation where you can focus on the theater both in terms of time energy and finances especially if you're not worth 700 million dollars like Ron is for example.
Murray: This is a hobby for Ron.
Ron: You're letting go out of the bag here. Murray you're letting people in on the secrets.
"If you say to somebody don't give me money for your own theater right now. That usually gets people a pause like wait a minute maybe he really is interested in doing the right thing for me. That should give you a lot of street cred. And it has for me."
Murray: That's a very powerful argument. If you say to somebody don't give me money for your own theater right now. That usually gets people a pause like wait a minute maybe he really is interested in doing the right thing for me. That should give you a lot of street cred. And it has for me. They may then immediately up their budget when they realize yeah, I see what you're saying. You need to get the job first. Don't misunderstand me. You need to get the house project. But in terms of the theater that's going to be for us , the theater is the glamour shot of what we do. If we do our job right the entire rest of the house you shouldn't be able to see anything that we've done. There shouldn't be wall acne with a bunch of controls. There shouldn't be 14 remotes on the coffee table. The speaker shouldn't be sitting on stands on the floor unless again you get an audiophile guy. But those are the people that most AV companies don't want.
"A customer will refer a similar type of customer."
Ron: Do you agree Murray that like refers like? There's a concept that I've I think I've been baking and maybe I probably read it and have heard it. A customer will refer a similar type of customer.
Murray: Absolutely. It's a great point. I've had prospects come to me and go one of two things you know cut me a deal. I'll only paid 10 percent over. Then the kicker is like oh I can refer you to a lot of people. Right. So you're right. What I found is the client that like here's a 300 thousand dollar proposal. First of all what I think is hysterical. Mr. Smith, here's your 14 page twenty thousand dollar proposal. They flip to the last page. We don't itemize the pricing on our bids at all by the way to get you again to get people away from focusing on the boxes. The budgets are in the back page. Your theater is one hundred ten thousand your IT is 50 grand your house music is 80 grand. That's all the numbers are in there in a 14 page proposal right.
They flipped through that and they go hey did you put any speakers by the pool? True story. No. All right. Throw in some speakers by the pool. Throw it in. We've got a deal done. Close the book moved on. Right. But the same client you go to a fifteen thousand dollar upgrade for the sitting room. They want an itemized proposal. I've always found that very curious. I see that all the time that you know. Why are you charging me $499 for this VCR I can buy for $479 somewhere else but the three hundred thousand dollar I'll say this. Then I want to get back to your like meets like and my point there. I have never forgotten this, I was twelve years old. Mad Magazine which again got to be older remember.
Ron: People need to Google that. If you're under.
Murray: There's a cartoon strip and you see this business executive running to the office waving a piece of paper over his hand and said Who made this two dollar ninety five cent phone call back when phone calls were itemized and the secretary goes Mr. Smith you write checks for tens of thousands of dollars every day. Why are you upset about a two ninety five phone call? Mr. Smith says Well frankly I don't understand tens of thousands of dollars but to ninety five I understand that. But the other thing is if somebody says to you talk about pitfalls you know. Oh you know cut me this great deal. I can refer you a lot of people I found that somebody that I don't say pays retail but somebody that says OK just throw in a pair of speakers.
His buddies are the same mindset same approach same how they do business. The guy who says cut me a deal is going to introduce you to his buddies who also say cut me a deal. Right. And discounting is the surest way to spiral down you can never. You start discounting. I guarantee you it's better does not do the jobs. It does a lot of books and white papers written on this that discounting just spirals you down. I had one client that was really obnoxious about this because they really wanted us to do the job but they're really obnoxious about you know they wanted a deal. And I said you know what. You're right. I know you're going to refer us a lot of business here. Great guy. So I'm going to tell you what you know we're going to do this job at the price that we've set but for every person you refer us I'm going to cut you a thirty thousand dollar check. That was the end of the conversation. All of a sudden now, OK I'll pay your price. Put up or shut up. You call somebody, you don't have to be as blunt as I was. He was just coming off really annoying.
Ron: What really jumped out to me or resonated with me was the idea that you're willing to tell a customer let's not spend the money now and let's do it right at a later date when you can afford to do it right. Well that now is potentially a three or four hundred thousand dollar job in the future that will refer three or four hundred thousand dollar jobs. Think about the lifetime value of that relationship. And do you take the ninety thousand dollar job today because you want to score the quick win? Or do you wait a year or two score the three hundred thousand dollar job and then score three more from their friends and it's a million dollars. It's 10x right.
Murray: Well one of our smallest home budgets was years ago and it was like 60 grand but it was a very simple there's no automation was just some background music and a den. But it was Charlize Theron and I wound up getting kissed by her. I'll do a 60 grand job then Charlize gets to kiss me.
Ron: She gets to kiss you or that's her payment? That sounds like maybe a penalty.
Murray: But she is a fabulous woman. But yeah. Now we've got a number of interesting adventures with clients. But you're right. Like attracts like. So again another word advice is itt's OK to take on a small job as long as it's still profitable. And more importantly whatever you do deliver is going to be of quality and will work and we'll deliver an experience. I want a Lexus but my budget is only 25 grand. You don't deliver half a car with one of the wheels missing. You've got to say well 25 grand we can deliver you a very nice...
Ron: Ford Festiva. I don't know if they still make those.
Murray: I live in West Side of L.A. there are no American cars. I think there's a there's a rule. I joke that my mom my mother in law's rolls if she gets Mulholland the engine stops and rolls back to Beverly Hills because they won't be allowed to go into the valley. But yeah exactly. It's like a Ford Festiva done well will be reliable. It'll work. It's great. Don't try to deliver the Lexus for the price of a Ford Festiva. It's never gonna work. They're going to be unhappy. It's going to just explode in your face.
Ron: It's great. Great advice. I want to pick your brain here before we let you go we've been on a little bit over an hour. How is business now for you? I mean I know you don't have a crystal ball and I know you serve a certain segment of the marketplace, that premier estate state level of the marketplace. How do you see 2020 playing out and and how do you see 2021 if there's any. Remember a lot of our audience both live and podcast are your peers around the world and they just they love hearing these forecast whether they're accurate or not. Well , obviously this will pass. I mean this is not something that is going to destroy the planet. You know there's no pandemic weakness in the economy.
Murray: Like what happened in 2008 there was a systematic issue, things were highly leveraged right. That doesn't exist now. The problem of course you're having is that you're going to see a shift in the economy you know a lot of small businesses are going out of business. And will stay out of business. They're not going to come back. You're going to see business travel change, things will change right. But in terms of positive or negative yes it might take a year might take 18 months. But especially America. I was at a dinner party during the bottom of the recession 2009 and Warren Buffet was there my dear friend Warren just kidding. But no he was there at this dinner party and he goes, "Never bet against America." America came roaring back in like three-four years. It wasn't in the grand scheme of things. Now look if you're broke and you don't have food on the table, three years is a lifetime. I get that. I'm very blessed. My family is very blessed there's no question of that. But we can get through this we will get through this. I'm not saying we can, we will get through this. People are gonna have to look and adjust to the times that things will be different. You have to look at what your business is. How do you make a living?
One of my favorite things that was said in the last four years. Back to the politics was Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about Trump trying to support the coal industry. And he says, "What is he going to do? Bring back Blockbuster?" There's four times more jobs now in green energy than there are in the oil industry. Things are changing. But you know what? If you're working in a coal mine or if your dad did and now you're 18 you need to get a job in technology right. Things are changing. But there will be opportunities. This country has got real strong roots even if you don't believe with people politically even those people are still solid people on both sides on both sides right. This country has got great natural resources and it's got great people resources. I'm not concerned about that as long as we keep our eye on the ball and get past this blip. In politics I think that I think I know that we will do fine as long as it doesn't get blown up from inside which is something that I don't think anyone could have ever imagined. 10 years ago it's inconceivable that you would have a President of the United States trying to undermine the election. Right. Just to have a full circle. But yeah I think I did especially in our industry if you are dealing with major market segment you really need to look at what you do as a service that you happen to also install boxes.
Get your mind away from the boxes because the boxes are going to get smaller and cheaper and more unified. Wim from Spain made a comment Murray about 15 minutes ago he says be a service company with a product offering. Right. Right. I mean yeah you've got to be a service. I mean look. TV sets now have so much built into them that you know you don't need 10000 hours of boxes to support it anymore. You know it's going to change you're going to have to look at your business model how you make money what services you offer and how you execute them because it's definitely especially if you're dealing with the vast majority of the United States. You put a TV on the wall. Bingo. They now have Internet. They come streaming services. You didn't need to install a rack of gear you know. I mean I'm old enough to remember when we could sell twenty thousand dollar boxes that have one button on it and record is five minutes to set up and we made six grand. Those days are going away especially again, like I said we're very blessed. But that's a reality for 98 percent of the marketplace as the days of being able to sell tons and tons of boxes are going away you're gonna have to shift the money. I think certain opportunities you can shift the money into speakers to something where there is a differentiation where you can say hey you know because sometimes I'll say my budget 15 grand without realizing they don't need 8 grand of that stuff anymore. You can say yeah I'll pay 15 grand. Then you deliver them at 10 thousand dollar speaker. They go, "Wow this sounds great!" Because you didn't need to spend six thousand dollars in support boxes.
Ron: Tomas from Panama says "Thanks Murray for sharing your experiences definitely all markets around the world go through some of these issues you've mentioned. Great interview."
Murray: Tom the check is on the way.
Ron: You sent him 20 bucks as well?
Murray: Yeah yeah well you know PayPal.
Ron: You're not sending Bitcoin, you're sending Paypal?
Murray: Oh no. One of my holdings is in PayPal which obviously has done very well.
Ron: Murray, how can folks that are listening or watching that want to get in touch with you or learn more about your business. How do you recommend they do that?
Murray: Say it again. Anyone listening or watching that would like to learn more about future home or perhaps get in touch with you. What would you recommend? Do you want to give an e-mail do you want to give a website?
Ron: Sure. Our website which by the way nice plug to Ron. Ron has been bugging me for about since 1963 to redo our Web site. Right. And I was very resistant because the reality is whether he likes it or not is that most people just go to our website immediately want to go to the pictures and just the pictures say a thousand words. Ron said no that the presentation of the pictures the presentation of our information is just as important as the content itself. We are in the middle of having One Firefly redo our website and give it a more polished look so that it will actually segway right into theaters. You know I got into a big discussion with the homeowner the wife wanted the walls of the theater to be off white. And I was like No. And she's like I'll give you your opinion when you're ready for it. When a billionaire's wife says that you've got the case that back. But you have to explain that the room is just as important as the technology in creating the entire experience. In the same way our website needs to have a presentation that is appropriate for us. Yes our website is. I'll say it first it's fhtala which stands for Future Home Technology Los Angeles fhtla.com. You can see our old site and then a month from now look at our new site and you can say to Ron you made it better you made it worse. I can't believe you'd charge Murray eight hundred dollars to do all that work. All those things you can also e-mail me at
Ron: There we go. Let me add the @ symbol I'm doing this live here. Guys I am my own producer here. You're slumming it here with me Murray. Take what you get.
Murray: Eventually we'll be going to Azione again.We're in a networking group of 150 of the top companies. It's a buyers group 150 top companies got together and again kind of a CEDIA has done which was how do we network the end-user slash installers with the manufacturers. There's a group called Azione that does that it's a specific group that interacts face to face. I don't say elite group but a group.
Ron: Richard just announced the virtual conference it's going to be in October.
Murray: It allows about 150 members to network with manufacturers to communicate what the marketplace really needs. I'll be in South Florida for that. And now I have a reputation. I rented that when I was there I rented this convertible Mercedes which shall I guess to think of a different car to rent for next time. I should have made 20 bucks, we were standing there at the front door of the hotel and they bring the car around with the top down there. Here's this convertible coupe. And one of the dealers standing next to me says I'll give you 50 bucks if you jump in that car. Now what I should have done was just jump in the car and drive around and say Give me my 50 bucks. But I opened up my mouth I got no. That's my car idiot. My wife goes. How could you blow that opportunity to make 50 bucks? I had to give her 50 dollars.
Ron: The Azione Conference brings out the best in all of us yeah.
Murray: It's a cool group. I really like what Richard has done in terms of getting 150 dealers of all different markets which is really cool. It isn't just you know guys it to 100 houses a year on the house at the time it's not just guys that do three houses a time. It's everybody. You get a real which Segway as to what makes America great is that we're not monolithic. Which I think is the real strength of America because you know look what happened in Wolrd War 2, we fought monolithic organizations defeated them very quickly. By fact that the Americans are not monolithic that we have such a variety of approaches and backgrounds and mindsets that I think makes us stronger. And I know that we will be fine. It will be very tough for a lot of people for the next 12 to 18 months. It's unfortunate we're here. We can look back and throw blame and talk about how we got here and all that but we'll just have we'll get through it here.
Ron: That's your message. It's not if, it's we will.
Murray: Yeah I mean you know I've got friends that live in Vegas. Vegas was destroyed worse than any other city United States for a number of reasons and now I've got friends that had to move in with their friends they had to leave their apartments they couldn't afford it anymore. They're doing what they need to do to get through it. But I do know that we will come back stronger because things have changed. You know if anything it's accelerated you know eventually Zoom would have taken off but it would have taken five to 10 years. Now it's happening in five or 10 months. I know we're gonna be fine.
Ron: Murray, thank you for joining me and our audience on episode 138. It was a blast having you on.
Murray: My pleasure. Honored to be here.
Ron: Awesome. All right. Hang out for me I'm going to pull you off and then you and I'll wrap when I close down here.
Murray: All right take everyone. Thanks for watching.
Ron: Thanks everyone. All right gang. There you had it the one and only Murray Kunis and actually just before we went live I was asking Murray what type of phone he had because I was trying to make sure that he knew how to actually find the Automation Unplugged podcast on his phone and he has an Android device and I have an apple device. It's actually different and so be sure if you have not already done so that you subscribe to the podcast so Automation Unplugged. Yes we're live and we've had a great audience here today. You also if you're out and about or maybe you do your morning walks like I do and or you're tinkering in the garage or you're out on a job site you want to listen to these various interviews. Definitely. Be sure to find the app in Kate Murray's case. We actually went and found a gig it was called Google Play which he said was soon being replaced by a YouTube play or something. But anyway we found the podcast app on his android device and he was able to subscribe and and and subscribe to the show. And so if you haven't already done so that would make me happy if you would do that and that way you could listen to all your friends from the industry.
On that note folks, this is how to get in touch with me and my team. Thank you for listening. And a little bit of a longer show here than normal. But I hope you enjoyed it. And I'll see you next week. Thanks everyone.
Murray is currently President of Future Home, which he founded in 1990 out of the demand from his clients for help with their home technology. Murray Kunis got his start in the music industry where he worked with top names. He was also one of the founding integration firms of the trade organization CEDIA.
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:
More Automation Unplugged:
Want to stay up to date with the latest Automation Unplugged interviews? Head over to the One Firefly Facebook page and subscribe to receive a notification whenever Ron is live!