Home Automation Unplugged Episode #212: An Industry Q&A with Paul Bochner
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Paul Bochner, CEO and Founder of Electronic Concepts shares his marketing and video production knowledge for an integration firm to help it stand out.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Paul Bochner. Recorded live on Wednesday, May 4th 2022, at 12:30PM EST
About Paul Bochner
Paul has over 20 years of experience working in the A/V industry. He got his start as a technician in 2000 before founding New York-based integration firm Electronic Concepts in 2004.
Today, Paul and his team focus on delivering the highest performance to clients across all A/V and integration solutions. They use their large social media presence of nearly 20,000 total followers to show off their custom projects and newly renovated luxury design center.
Electronic Concepts is a member of CEDIA, HTSA, HTA and is a Savant Platinum Integrator, ambassador, and advisory council member.
- Paul’s passion for motorcycle racing
- Merger and acquisition trends in the industry
- Marketing and video production for an integration firm to help it stand out
- Why producing video is so hard.
Ron: Ron Callis, again for those that saw me pop up twice before in the last few minutes. I think this time we got it figured out. David will Ping me here on Slack and let me know if in fact, we are streaming. I'm going to refresh Facebook. We'll see if we're streaming there. I think we're live. I see a feed coming into Facebook. David is saying we're good on both. Awesome! Happy Wednesday, May 4, 2022, for my Star Wars fans, "May the fourth be with you." I know my son at least will get a kick out of me sharing that. What are we doing? Today we're going to have show 212. We have an awesome returning guest. We have Paul Bochner, CEO and Founder of Electronic Concepts. But I wanted to share just some exciting news with all of you that might be tuned in, either live or watching this on Replay. That is here on Facebook and here on LinkedIn. In recent weeks, we've been doing lots of live streams leading up to talk about our new product called Video Pioneer. That product is officially launching today. So if you want to learn more about that, head over to the One Firefly site, head over to our blog. We have three fresh articles kind of going through the what and the why and all the product details. We also have a lot of those details up on our social media. So you definitely want to check that out. What else is going on that is interesting? That is most of my household actually has Covid. So we managed to survive all the way from the beginning of this thing till the present. This week we had a family gathering. I even have to give you a cough. But what's interesting is I'm testing negative. But yes, my wife came down and my son came down. My son is pleasantly asymptomatic, but my wife is in bed not feeling well. Some other family members that were at this gathering on Saturday have come down. So wish all of them your best and we'll pull through it. What's interesting is I do feel I got a little thing in my throat and little cough, but I've tested and so far two in a row, and it's coming back negative, which is positive. It's testing negative, which is positive. How many times have you heard that terrible joke over the last two years? All right, so let me go ahead and bring in our returning guest, Paul, and we'll get this started. Paul, how are you, sir?
Paul: How's it going, Ron?
Ron: I see you're sporting the purple lights. You got the purple lights memo.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, if I had an extra green one in here, I could really try and show you up.
Ron: There you go.
Paul: The battle of the Webcams.
Ron: I love it. On one of my restarts here, I lost it. I'll see if I can pull this in quickly. I don't know if the technology will behave. We had you last on the show for show 165. I know we just recently had to reschedule you. You were going to be out a few weeks ago and you had a family matter. But yeah, it's been almost a year, man, since we had you on the show last. What's new?
Paul: Yeah, I think just over a year. Right? Just over a year. If that day would have worked, it would have been almost to the day, I think from show to show, which would have been cool. We could have had a party.
Ron: We could have had a party.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, lots going on over here. First of all, let me say the Pioneer video stuff is awesome and I hope we get to talk more about that because as you and anyone who knows me know, I am a video Hound as well and super into that space.
Ron: I definitely want us to talk about video today. We'll talk about you a lot more than we'll talk about me or us. But I definitely want to pick your brain on all things video and I want you to share what you do and why you do it and also maybe the challenges, but we will get into that. Here we go. We got Tomas from Panama. He was on the show not too long ago. Tomas says "Hello all! Saludos from Panama." Thanks for tuning in, Tomas. But I understand that you have some new foot traffic there in your store.
Paul: Yeah, just a little bit. So those of you who have been to our location know where we are here in North Jersey. We're on a major highway. We also happen to be on like the only stretch of highway in North Jersey that got zoned for medical marijuana quite a few years ago. So when we went under our construction two years ago, there was a medicinal facility here. Well, a week and a half or two weeks ago, it was one of the seven in the state that got recreational license. So we went for normal foot traffic to this building to they have 1200 appointments a day right now scheduled only. They have to all walk past our store and around the side of the parking lot. We're on a corner, so it's windows around the whole building. So it's fantastic; people watching. A little bit chaos here because the parking lot was not designed to have this many people in here. But yeah, and it's 1200 appointment only right now. So you have to purchase online, show up, grab your stuff and leave. Their manager told me they can do 3000 appointments when they go off appointment only a day.
Ron: Is anyone interesting for you, seeing your store and made contact? Is this good or bad for Electronic Concepts?
Paul: It's bad right now because the thing is people are like, "I could get my weed Woohoo," and they're like head down, just walking through the parking lot, run into the store, they're all walking in our door because they think that we're the dispensary for some reason. But I think once it calms down and it normalizes. I mean, listen, I've seen all walks of life going through and going through there. I've seen quite a few supercars' and, some people that are obviously luxury customers. I think once the shock of it wears off and people are not like I said, head down, where am I going? I don't know what's happening and where do I go? I think probably we'll see some at least a little bit more exposure, which would be great. I mean, honestly, I would take no exposure and less chaos around our building because right now we want to have events and like if we want an event right now, but literally you can't get in our parking lot without telling the police where you're going and what you're here for. Then they direct you to different areas of the parking lot. So like, not a cool thing for my customers. They want to come in and now they got to get stopped and talked to somebody. It's not perfect right now.
Ron: I'm mildly concerned for you. That actually probably is a pretty legitimate concern, I would imagine. Do you see this calming down?
Paul: I think it's going to get way worse before it gets better. But I think, listen, we've all been to the CEDIA's and the other events that have been in Denver for years, where it's been legal for so many years. Like the dispensaries aren't overwhelmed with people. Right? It's just right now you have Jersey is the only place within a couple of States that's legal. So people are coming from New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania. It's going to be a little bit crazy, but I think it'll sort itself out. How quickly? I do not know. We'll see. I think it will affect us being able to have events here, which we want to do. We haven't even launched like a grand opening since we rebuilt the store, which we talked about on the last show. Right? It's over a year. It's been two years since we started the construction and three and a half years probably since the last event we did here.
Ron: Wow. I to want pull a thread there, but we have Jason, Director of sales and business development at Elk and Associates. He says, "Hey, guys" on LinkedIn. What's up, Jason? Thanks for tuning in.
Paul: Yeah, what's up, Jason?
Ron: Appreciate you. So tell me about that. Events previous to Covid, was this a part of your business Dev strategy?
Paul: It was. We did quite a few events here. We didn't do a ton of them, not as many as we should have or that I wanted to do. But our old store was set up very differently. It's more of like a quintessential stereo store. We didn't have a dedicated listening room. We didn't have as much space to work with. Now we're set up for all kinds of events, right? I mean, we could do lunch and learns. We could do little tech summits where the manufacturers use our space to show the local guys and integrators. But we also have the ability to do very ultra High-Fi experiences here now, which is what I really want to do. I want Magico and Dagostino and DCs. We want to do events here now because we're one of the only dealers in a very large area that do these products. There are quite a few products now where we're the only dealer in New Jersey that has them. That's the stuff I want to do first, awareness. What other things are we doing with our brand that we can get people in and give them those experience for. We definitely did it before, but I rebuilt the store with the plan of doing astronomically more events and Covid had other ideas for that and how long it took to get the place done. Now potentially 3000 stoners a day in the parking lot might be an issue. Not judging, just saying. It may be an issue.
Ron: Over on LinkedIn, Mary Ellen Oswald, she goes, "Go speed Racer." For anyone that is not in the loop, Paul is also a motorcycle guy. Why don't you give a quick hand off there on your racing side of your life? What do you do on that side? Why is Mary Ellen calling you speed racer?
Paul: Oh, she just knows I'm always in Mary Ellen's hood because I end up going to LA for the winter and I leave my bikes out there to go race some of the tracks. I mean, I don't race per se anymore, but I live on that experience. Being able to go to tracks and race my bikes. Other than audio, that's my passion. That's the thing that keeps me sane. Audio and automation in this business is obviously what lets me be able to do those things. But it's also the racing and the riding is the thing I do to not walk out onto the highway every day.
Ron: How often are you buying pieces and parts to amend your bike? Do you amend the bike or do you just buy new bikes?
Paul: So my wife, if she's watching this, will probably try and jump in and stab me. But I'll say this; until the bike I have now, my main race bike, the previous two were like homologated machines. Like go to a Yamaha dealership and buy a bike. So three or four years ago, I bought two different Yamaha's 600 and a 300 CC, and I literally ripped them to shreds and built them back for four times the cost of the bikes. All race parts, full race machines, like, built them for spec. Then we talked about it, I think on the last show I actually bought a bike from Kyuno Reeves Company that they imported. And it's just a rare I mean, there's only, I think four left in the country. There's none on the East Coast. I'm the only one on the East Coast. But there is nothing you can do to it. If Dana is watching, I promise you there's nothing I can do to this bike.
Ron: It's already perfect.
Paul: If anyone watches F One or if you know Formula One.
Ron: I watched F One last night with my son.
Paul: Yeah. Not everybody knows MotoGP, right. But MotoGP and F One are like this. And then Moto Two and F Two are here. So I have a Moto Two bike. I mean, it's straight out of world Moto Two a couple of years old. You got to get spare parts for it, which is the equivalent of buying another bike. But it's not something you can upgrade. You wouldn't want to. It's perfect. It is as perfect as it could be.
Ron: How fast do you go? Remind me.
Paul: I mean, it depends. That bike, it's still only a 600 CC motorcycle, so it's not like buying a Dukati.
Ron: Do you think I could get on it as a novice?
Paul: Sure. They say on that by top speed is like 180 something if it's geared right. I did for Thanksgiving this year. I went to Koda in Austin. The back straight of Koda is like 7000 miles long. it feels like. My bike wasn't geared for it, but it was probably like 165, 170. It was like I would have had to gear it differently to get more. But that was probably all it had.
Ron: All right. So I'm going to get into the mechanics and physics of this. At 170 miles an hour, there's a tremendous amount of air friction probably trying to rip you off that bike.
Paul: Yes. I mean, if you've ever raced a bike and part of how; when you're good, if you're at an expert level, when you're racing motorcycles, part of how you stop yourself, the goal is to be on the brakes the shortest amount you can and be on the gas as much as you can. Right. It should be an on off switch. So part of how you slow yourself down in this much space versus this much space at the end of a straightaway is one being on the brakes later and harder, but also popping up. So you'll see guys in MotoGP go from tucked to popping up because now their body is acting as a foil, too to try and slow them down, do 150 miles an hour bike and try and do a parade wave and you'll...
Ron: You'll be ripped off the bike.
Paul: Yeah. They're tiny. It's like if you're not behind the bubble. You are feeling every bit of 150 miles an hour trying to pull you up. But when you're in the group on them, you don't feel anything. You just move. I'm obviously obsessed with motorcycles.
Ron: I love to see people that are passionate about any hobby. We in the industry live vicariously through you and your hobby because you kindly post videos and content out there and people that want to see it, Paul has...
Paul: Our personal YouTube is like all Moto video. There's nothing but Moto on that channel.
Ron: So here's Paul's personal; I'm showing for those that are listening to the podcast. Here we go. I'll try to make it a little bigger. So I'm sharing Paul's personal YouTube. And just for the heck of it, look at that, people running commercials on.
Paul: Putting ads on my damn videos. What the hell?
Ron: What are they doing?
Paul: Yes, this was in Chuck Walla in Desert Center, California, like about a month ago. So this is actually a trail Cam. You're following me.
Ron: Oh, so you're the guy up front here?
Paul: I'm the guy in front, yeah. So that's my Motto Two bike that's out there.
Ron: This is the Kyono bike.
Paul: Yeah. His company, Arch, was the importer for Suitor for a while, which was this bike. They had a few for years. I've just been lucky enough to have met those guys and begged them to sell it to me for a course of five years. I was with them in Spain almost five years ago and we talked about this bike and I was like, no, I can't afford it. I can't afford it. Then I just sold a kidney and some other things and I was like, screw it, I need this thing in my life.
Ron: That's so awesome.
Paul: Yeah, it's an amazing bike. You're into engineering and things like this, right? So I'll give some really quick specs. We don't have to spend all day on this, but if you went into a Honda dealership and bought a CBR 600 motorcycle, that bike is like £420 and maybe 105 HP. This is based off a Honda CBR, but it's built for Moto two, so it's £308 at 130 horse.
Paul: So you're giving up £100 and you have 30 more horsepower in that same machine.
Ron: So from zero to fast is very quick.
Paul: Zero to fast is very quick. But the most important thing about this, the agility of this bike, you feel nothing. Like the bigger the bikes get, the bigger the engines, the more weight, the more like it's trying to pull you out of a turn. This bike is like riding a bicycle with a giant engine. There's no stopping. It actually should be the easiest thing in the ride in the world to ride. But it actually took me really long to start to get you used to something that was so much power with so little resistance. It just goes where you want it to go. We watch these videos and I'm turning in early everywhere because I'm anticipating my older bike where if I turn in too early, it's going to start pushing me out. This you just lean on it and it just goes, okay, I'm happy.
Ron: You're on this cool track. All right. I'm going to ask you a real novice question. How do you get on this track? Is this anybody with a motorcycle can get on this track?
Paul: Yeah. I mean, this was a private event. There was probably only like 35 or 40 people there for this one. But yeah. So Chuck Wallace has events where there's a group in California called Track Days that's like their track. Da Z is their group and they'll rent out and they'll run groups. Anyone who has a bike, sometimes they have guys that will rent bikes to go out and get some coaching, get some coaches to help you if you're novice and work you around it. This is kind of like a free for all. This is like, hey, we know all these 40 people. We're going to put the slower guys and the faster guys and just go out and have fun. No one's trying to set lap records in this kind of event. It's just for fun.
Ron: This is just fun.
Paul: It's just for fun. Yeah.
Ron: It looks pretty awesome. Well, while I have it here and I'm in YouTube, let's switch gears. Let's talk about video. Let me back back up here so my people watching the stream can see what's going on here. So if you folks are looking Paul has some videos here with... Here's a video, 169,000 views on a video. 103,000 views, 3500 views, 10,000 views, 10,000 views. You understand the importance of video in the building of your brand and marketing. Maybe just at a high level. Talk to me about that. When did you realize or discover video and then this video I'm looking at, you were just telling me before we went live, you actually shot some of this stuff.
Paul: Yeah. With what I'm using as my webcam shot this video.
Ron: As you were joking. The two best cameras in the AV automation industry right here, folks. Right here, right now.
Paul: Yeah. It doubles when I'm not using. It doubles as my webcam. Thank you, Ron. You were the one that told me I could do this. I don't even have any clue that this was possible. It's such an awesome setup. I mean, it's so awesome that I could do how to videos with our high Fi gear just by moving it around and setting it up. It really is a great set up.
Ron: You can thank my 13 year old because he and I play Fortnite together and he and I have been; he's in the 7th grade and he and I have been playing Fortnite since the third grade, because if he was going to be in a game where they were shooting guns, dad had to be in to make sure this is a safe environment for my son. Then I got hooked, and he got hooked. So we've been playing Fortnite for four years, and it's kind of neat as I even play with his buddies in class, like, hey, Max, is your dad going to play with us? It's kind of fun. But in that whole video game world, there's a world of streamers, and so there's a whole community, which I am not in. But I've observed that anywhere from teenagers to adults are streaming and they stream all their video gameplay on YouTube or they... What is it? Twitch?
Paul: Twitch, yeah.
Ron: When I started, my son was watching some of that, and I just noticed that their video and their audio was so good and it was so much better than all the day to day video conferences that I've been having for years.
Paul: And they're using what old SLRs?
Ron: Well, there's any number of methods, but let's just say when you dive into the YouTube channels on how to you can jump down the rabbit hole and learn how to do it. You and I have now figured out how to stream good video; live or in video conferences, and it is still rare. I mean, I imagine even you going into meetings with clients or vendors. How often do you see a good video on the other side?
Paul: Zero. The funny part is, I have to throw things in the room usually, like take a pen and go like that because people think the background is fake, that's how good the content is.
Ron: I have an F 1.4 lens, and so it's focusing on me nicely here in the foreground. But if I move off access, everything behind me goes into focus.
Paul: Yeah, I can get the background.
Ron: There you go. We got the center focus probably turned on your camera. So it's focusing on you and I.
Paul: Yeah. This one has auto tracking because it's true video, right? This is a video rig per se, which sometimes it gets wacky. But, yeah, I mean, listen, it's awesome. You got to be into it. You got to be into this kind of stuff. But to answer your core question; Video, one, it's immensely cool. Two, from a marketing standpoint, we have people come in the store, we ask everyone that comes in here or call us, how did you see? How have you heard about us? We just want to know because we're like most AV companies, lots of referrals. But once we did these videos, because we targeted it, we targeted the videos to a different group of people. We have people walking in and saying like, oh, yeah, I saw your videos on Instagram or YouTube, and I wanted to check the place out. Or I saw you had this on a video and they wanted to come in here or I saw that one you showed before, which was a project we did a year or so ago, and it was like, man, that content is just undeniably good content, and it doesn't have to be a house that's that ridiculous. It's just that the video quality is much higher than everything else that people are putting out. There's a few people, right. There's a few companies out there doing some really great video.
Ron: On two hands, how many integrators that you're aware of in North America...
Paul: Not two hands. One hand.
Ron: One hand, right?
Paul: I can only think of like, honestly, one that does it to this level and their homes and the things are that high. I think SAV has got some really awesome content, and they have the right gear. They're the first one that comes to my mind every time they put a video out. I'm like, man, that's being done the right way. But there's more coming up. I'm starting to see more people actually dive in and they're going to Tik Tok with videos and they're doing a better job of it.
Ron: Why do you think more people in our industry don't utilize video? Whether of their people, their projects, their facilities, why is it still a barren wasteland out there of content in our industry? In our industry, we're the tech people.
Paul: Yeah, right. It shouldn't be such a thing. So I'll tell you one, ignorance would be just number one, right? Just ignorance of what can be done, what you could be done, how you could do it. Two are the people that aren't ignorant and just know how much work it is. You now know you've created a division to do video for us. I'll give you an example. That shoot that house that we keep showing, the one, the Electronic Concepts home. So that was me and one of my guys shooting that project for 15 hours. So 15 hours of setups, multiple setups, moving the camera, setting up the slide, setting up the gimbal, and like 15 straight hours of just getting content. Then I probably spent four or five days trying to edit it, went back to it, spent another four or five days working on editing it. Then finally I was like, Johnny Fraterzi, which is who helped me and put together the video you're watching now, our main videos. Johnny does a lot of industry stuff, shout out to Johnny if you guys don't know him, he's the guy. All the big companies are using him to work on some of these videos as well. But I went to Johnny and I was like, can you just edit this content for me, please? I suck. I can make a few quick videos, but I wanted it to be better than that. Then I have to reach out to someone else and say, hey, come on, let's put this together. It is a lot of stuff to do. When it's done, it's worth every Penny and it's worth the effort. But I think people are just scared of the time investment for it and they should be; For me, I'm into video, I love shooting it. You and I have spoken about this. I love photography. Like, I've been shooting photography and stuff forever. So to get into video is just like the next logical step for me with my business. Honestly, the videos you have up now, the store videos we did with Johnny and his team, I want to say, like two or three months after it was right before Christmas, I kept coming home and telling my wife how awesome this was. The guy, Noah, who was the guy actually working the camera, and he's got a $35,000 red thin camera that he's using and he's just a Ninja with it. He is incredible. I went home and I'm telling my wife, like, man, this is so cool. And that Christmas, she gave me a big gift card for B and H and was like, go get a video camera. Like, just get one. You know, you'll love it. And she was right. I absolutely love doing this stuff. It's just a matter of finding the time to get into it, which is really hard. The other thing that people don't realize is a video like we have on now, which is our high-Fi experience video. This probably costs $15,000 to put out; this video. But vendors are willing to help with these kinds of things. There are co Ops and MDFS, and if you can put a plan together to a vendor and explain to them or show them how, hey, we have these followers, hey, we have this website or we have this ability to make this content and then put it out and tag you in it and put more exposure. A lot of them are going to work with you. They are willing to work with you. There are MDF dollars in companies that you don't even realize have MDF to this stuff. All you guys are Lutron dealers. You can use your MDF for something like this and they will approve it all day long. As long as you can show them a concept for the video and their products are in it, they want to know what it's about. But we have one that's strictly Lutron that we made. It's really just about getting with the right people to put these things together and utilizing I don't want to say it, but beating up your relationships with vendors and partners to get this stuff together, if I was paying for all this myself, it would be a lot. We've made a lot of videos. The house video that costs nothing other than me begging Johnny and owing him a favor because it was half edited when I gave it to him.
Ron: I'm going to reframe your answer. Not to put words in your mouth, but in your business, I would challenge you, Paul, are probably your most expensive employee.
Paul: Yeah. Or least expensive employee.
Ron: Let's just say your value to your business.
Paul: I do the most jobs in the company, for sure.
Ron: Okay. So if you then looked at how much of your time spent producing that video and if you had paid someone else to spend that time producing that video, there is a significant cost to it.
Paul: Oh, yeah.
Ron: I think it's common in our industry. By the way, owners and operators will go, well, I work for free and I'm not picking on you. But you said it. So I get to pick.
Paul: Yeah, go for it.
Ron: I challenge that thinking because that owner, operator, the roles that they're playing in their business should be very strategic in terms of where to spend their time. By the way, I think the video you shot, if this whole audio video integration thing doesn't work out, you could go into video because the quality of the work is excellent.
Paul: Yeah. I'm not horrible with the camera.
Ron: No, you're good.
Paul: Although that was 50 seconds of 15 hours. So you can imagine how much of it I threw in the garbage.
Ron: Well, so at a high level and you have no idea. Our product just launched. Video Pioneer just launched. You and I have not talked for 1 second about our product or our prices. Is that accurate?
Paul: That is completely accurate.
Ron: Okay. So what should an integrator if you're sitting at the bar at CEDIA and you're talking to your buddies and you tell them what they should be investing in video, now you're not telling them, but let's say they ask you and you offer a recommendation on what they should invest annually in video. What's your answer?
Paul: That's a two part question. Like, if you're saying investing in video for, like, there's two ways to look about there's video. Like, hey, we're going to put video on our website and it's like what you're doing. Which is here's, the company, here's, the teams, and then there's project or product videos. I think you got to split those into categories.
Ron: I think we can put it into types of videos. I'm on board, but I'm going to still call the bucket above.
Paul: Yeah. Let's say marketing video.
Ron: There you go. Marketing video stuff.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, I would spend more on making and releasing videos than I spend on almost anything else I do. The reason I would answer that, and this is not me loving Ron, because I do love Ron. But you can all see I've been putting videos out for a long time now.
Ron: We've done none of that work.
Ron: Johnny is your guy doing it. The team between you and him. I mean, you guys are a dynamic duo. Your quality is amazing.
Paul: Yeah. He's got amazing vision and the right people for that kind of thing. You have a project or you have some specific things that you need to get done. Yes. Great. But I will say this. I spend more money a year on doing video projects than I probably spend on any other of my marketing and you know what I spend on my marketing because we do it with you. We do a good chunk with you, and then we're posting things and we're boosting things on YouTube and Instagram and Facebook. I don't know. My marketing budget is probably I mean, I'm not afraid to say these things. I'm probably spending on a normal month.
Ron: You could do it as a percentage.
Paul: A percentage of what? The total marketing?
Ron: Yeah. Percentage of your revenue without disclosing your spend.
Paul: I mean, I don't care. Unless you care. I don't care. It's real info. If people want to know it's real info. We probably spend five to $6,000 a month on marketing one way or another. That could be putting out a video, blogs, stuff on Instagram, stuff on Facebook, which I can't do any of because we've been hacked, which we'll talk about.
Ron: We're going to get to that. Yeah.
Paul: We're going to roast Facebook for fun anyway. Yeah. It's a big number. But I look at our industry and say if I spent 15 grand to make two videos. Which is somewhere around the range of what it costs to make the two original videos we did, one project comes in from either of those two videos, which I'm sure if we didn't get projects just because of them, customers qualified us based on those projects. The average project we're doing is astronomically more than that. So it's not throwing money in the garbage. We have this thing that just lives on.
Ron: That's another thing for any business owner to think about. And that is you're investing in content that you own. You own the Copyright to this content and asset. It likely is a balance sheet item for your business. If you were to sell your business, that would be listed on the balance sheet as an asset, which is these videos you've produced for your business.
Paul: Yeah. And I could go even further into that. So two things to piggyback on that that I think are super important that people probably don't think about. One, my two main videos, the Hi Fi Experience and the Showroom Tour, both of those videos are copyrighted. So if any manufacturer who wasn't a part of it or any other person steals any piece of that video or augment any of it, we're getting paid for it. Because we worked with manufacturers. Manufacturers put money in. I put money in. Johnny and his team put time in. We wanted to protect it because it's that good of a quality that people would take snippets of it and use it on their social, which is not cool. A lot of people put time and effort.
Ron: Have you seen that happen? By the way.
Paul: I found one company taking stills of it in Canada. And like me and a bunch of my UK buddies, they just onslaught their Instagram. I tried to stay away from it, but they were using our photos. They were passing off a lot of industry guys, a lot of my friends in the industry, they were just taking photos of all of our stuff and putting it on their pages like it was their work.
Ron: I'll do a show one day on this. We at One Firefly. We use a piece of software called Pixie, and it allows us to protect our imagery because we do video shoots. We take stills from those video shoots, and we deploy those on websites we build. And so that's our content. We own that content. We produced it just as any integrator out there listening takes pictures of their projects. Either you own that or the photographer or the interior designer. I'll just let you work out those details in terms of who owns it. Someone owns that image. There are software to track the Internet and illegal usage of those images. There's some neat technology out there. In fact, I will put a blog post together. I'll work with my digital media team, and we'll put out a blog post.
Paul: Just about that. Yeah, that'd be great. I mean, listen, something as simple as we trademarked our logo. And our logo is at the end of all of those videos. So even if somebody removed our logo from that video, they have violated the trademark and Copyright of the entire thing. You're not even allowed to do that to it without being in trouble. I'm not looking to sue people. I'm just looking to protect the content we created because it's our concept.
Paul: So that was one I'll tell you one more. On a full day shoot with some of those videos, we have terabytes of video that didn't make it in the video. I mean, terabytes of content. And I actually posted on Instagram like a week ago some slow Magico Speaker driver moving. That was content that I pulled from the raw footage that I own, from all of that that was shot, I could spend the next two and a half years just creating more content from the Broll stuff that we had. So again, when we're talking about investments in some of these things, you could plan a video shoot in your store, in your company, in your showroom, a Pioneer video where you're doing your team and say to Ron and be like, hey, can we have the raw content? And now you didn't just get the video you wanted, but you have all this other material that you can play with later. I mean, it's the gift that keeps on giving if you get a lot of video shot.
Ron: Amen, man, I feel super confident, at least to the best of my knowledge. This thing called the Internet is not going away, and content is King on the Internet. And how often? Well, I'll say it declaratively often every day. Maybe I'm talking to someone about how they could stand out and be different in their marketplace, particularly. It's a competitive business climate right now. Clients are spending a lot of money, and it's really a matter of why do they hire you versus someone else?
Ron: Photography and videography that you own is an awesome, powerful way to differentiate your business. It's not just deploying it on the website, as you say. You're doing such a great job. You're putting it on YouTube, you're putting it on Instagram, you're putting it on Facebook, you're putting it on LinkedIn, you're putting it across all these channels where you have different audiences that are finding you.
Paul: Yeah. Next, we're putting it on Netsertive has that CTV thing. So we're going to put those videos into Hulu. So when you're watching Hulu and you get an ad, we're going to have videos like that. That, to me, is going to be the next level of video marketing for companies. Now, we all see it on cable TV. It's like the local tire shop or the local tile guy is on cable, but people are getting rid of cable every day. I want to be on, like, in between episodes of some big show on Hulu or one of the other apps and see it in there. There are products out there to do that. It's probably really expensive. But again, what's really expensive? If you spend 20 grand on marketing dollars for a year and you get one $200,000 project from it, you paid for it, and that's one, you'll likely get more other exposure that comes over the years. So I don't know. I think you and I have had many conversations about, like, people are afraid to spend marketing dollars because they just haven't been able to see what it does. And this is next level.
Ron: It's next level. You, Lee Travis over at Wipliance in Seattle and SAV. There's a handful of you guys on the front edge figuring this out, and we at One Firefly, and everyone else owes it to you guys because you're carving your way. We're the pioneers. But you were out there in front of us figuring this out.
Paul: Yeah. I remember having a conversation with you a year or so ago, and we were like, how can we get people to do more video content? And it's a scary place. It's overwhelming until someone's like, okay, here's the bare minimum of what it takes to get this done. Get an iPhone with a gimbal and do video versus like, hey, I'm on the job site, and here's this $20 million house I did, and the plumber's ass is hanging out in the picture. It's like just think about the content. We as an industry should be putting out better content. We are the tech guys. And if we all put out better content, then we're just upping the industry. We're all up in our games. That's what I would love to see.
Ron: So let's talk about something else that's scary. And that is you are in the process, not scary, but maybe hard and scary. You're in the process of buying a business. I'd love for you to just walk us through. How did you come to the decision that you were going to buy a business? How did you end up connecting with that enterprise? And then what's the process been like?
Paul: The process is overwhelming. I will start with that. We are 99% down the road hoping to close in the next 30 days or so with a great person and a great company in Jersey called Professional Audio Consultants. And they've been around 40 years in the industry. Similar set up to us. They are not just an integrator, but also have had a showroom for many years and have sold high-end speakers and theaters and brands. Synergy there was great. We're about 40 minutes away from each other in a completely different part of Jersey. We do do some work there, but as most people know, we're closer to New York City. So we do a lot in New York City and Westchester. This company is more Short Hill, Summit, Essex County, beautiful area, big homes, very affluent, great clients. We've known each other for years and also we had hired a bunch of years ago, one of the project managers who was there for 17 years. So the Synergy, again, I hate using that word, but the owner has been doing it for a long time. He wants to get away from the day to day and go back to just selling and doing the fun part of the business and we can offer that for him. What he can offer us is an already great company that just needs a little tweaks to run on our systems and us to come in with a little different products and we're a little more tech forward than it's been. But what a great relationship, too. Like I said, Matt, who works for us, worked there for 17 years as a PM. So, like, the clients are comfortable, the existing owner is comfortable. We can all just kind of meld together, help both teams. I'm really excited about it. I really am. It's a great guy, right, Ralph, who is the owner in the industry, I don't like all that many people. And he is one of the people I really like and is straight and honest. I use the term all the time sales hole. He is the farthest thing from a sales hole. He is just an honest guy. So, yeah, super excited. I think we're barring any disaster, which I can't foresee any at this point. Like, we'll have formally announced this in some way, shape or form. Actually, you will be working and your team will be working on how we start announcing this stuff across both sides of the field. But, yeah, it's been a lot of work. I will say there are some people in the industry that have helped me with this. Like just by being good people and just looking at what I was doing and me mentioning something. I had jumped into HTSA right before Covid happened. Some of the relationships I've made there, like these guys are just how can I help? How can I help? Like, we did this a few years ago. We set up our business this way. We acquired an electrical firm and just willing to jump into my world. And I claim ignorance. I have never done this. I'm like the business owner that shouldn't have owned a business because I'm a get it done guy. I put out fires and I find ways to be efficient. But I don't want to do the like, I don't want to do the real business stuff. I want somebody else to help me or guide me and say, here's what you should do and me to trust them. And there's a bunch of guys that have already been there. I'll even say I'm shouting them out like Eric Joy from Georgia Home Theater dude is there for me anytime. George Harrison, Harrison Home Systems, Navot Shoresh from Spire, who, if you've never had Navot on like, you got to get him.
Ron: So far, everyone you've named has been a guest on Automation. They're all amazing people.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, everyone knows my BFF, Gilmore. I'm always talking to Gilmore every day. I don't know if you've had Gilmore on.
Ron: I haven't. You got to get me set up there.
Paul: Oh, yeah. There's not a person like some people like, it's Paul, but like Gilmore, everyone will be like, man.
Ron: He's in New York City, right?
Paul: Yeah, 25 minutes that way.
Ron: I've been at his showroom. I could be getting this wrong. But a couple of years ago, HTA at an event in New York, and I want to say it was at his showroom.
Paul: Yes. One of the greatest spaces.
Ron: There you go. I've been there, but I don't know him and he doesn't know me.
Paul: Yeah. Set that up. But people would be so happy to hear from him because he's just a great personality. But my point being, I thought a lot of people would be weird about this. We're all in the same not all those guys, but a lot of the guys I spoke to in the same market. And I've just got so much help and support even trying to figure out how to do this. I got to say it's been really incredible and I'm really happy for those relationships and the people that have reached out and been like, because people saw me putting on LinkedIn, that I started another company, and that company is eventually what will make the acquisition, right? There's no secret thing there. We created Elkontech. Elkontech is just an entity.
Ron: A holding company.
Paul: Correct! So, like, people kind of were like, hey, what's going on? What are you doing? What happened to Electronic Concepts? And the answer is nothing. Electronic Concepts is Electronic Concepts.
Ron: That was one of the things you learned in this process of talking to people is maybe you need a company to do that.
Paul: I had no idea. In my head, I thought, okay, we're going to make a parent company, and they're going to own both. And then somebody way smarter than me was like, no, don't do that. Leave the perfect business alone. Make this other one. You can always merge them together. One of the biggest things I was working on is buying power. Like, how do we maximize buying power? And some vendors want to do it one way and some want to do it another way. And I had a few conversations. I spoke to John Robbins about it from HTSA. And then Eric Joy and I had a combo about it. There's so many different ways to do this. I'm the guy that if I don't know something, I'm going to be like, I do not know this. Tell me, tell me what you've done or tell me how to do it. That's the only saving grace here is that I don't have an ego when it comes to any of this. So I'm just like a sponge. So many people have given me info, and I've been working through it, but it's a lot, man.
Ron: How long has the process been underway?
Paul: I would say from starting a contract, like building a contract, we probably had several meetings before, over the course of four months or so, and then we've probably been six months working out the contracts and those kinds of things and what's included, what's not included, like, where everything is, how the deal would be. It's been a while. I mean, it's been the better part of a year, I would say at this point. We probably still have a month or two to go.
Ron: Anything stand out to you as something you've learned that you wish you had known twelve months ago before you started.
Paul: You know, the biggest thing was talking to my accountant first, right? That's the big thing. They're the ones that are going to make it, so it somewhat makes sense. I wouldn't say there was anything that was like, holy shit, if someone didn't tell me this. Actually, I shouldn't say that. The attorney that's working on the contracts is like, oh, hey, you need to start another entity. Oh, hey, you need to do this. There's like 50 things I would have never thought to do. We need to be set up for the day this closes so that we can operate this business. So I'll give you the AHA moment. The AHA moment for me being completely ignorant was I buy this company and I just take it over and I have the tax ID, and it runs the way it runs. That's not how any of this works. It has to all be transferred. I have to create a new entity. I have to acquire that entity. They dissolve it eventually, but then all the accounts have to be moved, right? So I had to call every vendor and every partner we work with and say, hey, by the way, this is coming down the pike. Day one, you guys need to be ready to say, okay, what this was now needs to be this account, right? And make it seamless because they have orders. They already have projects working. I wish there was a checklist to do this. I think people like I talked briefly with Paul Starkey about some of the stuff, and I think there are guys that do this for bigger companies where this is a lot more complicated than it was for us. I would highly suggest getting someone like that to look at this before even getting into it.
Ron: How did you land at evaluation? I don't need to know the evaluation, but what was the process to land at evaluation?
Paul: So he had had one done independently, and we reviewed it. I looked at it, and it was very in depth. What was really great about it is it was like looking at my own books. So it was transparent enough that I could see, wow, this looks so similar to my business, minus this little piece here, plus this little piece here. So I got a really clean look at their QuickBooks. We do a little bit more business, and we do some things a little bit differently. But that was one. The other part of the evaluation is, like, all the fixed assets, all the other salaries and the other pieces to it. So I had one from them, and then I have a financial advisor that I've worked with since I was in my early 20s, and he also has a team that does big business acquisition. So lucky for me because I told him what I was thinking, he was like, hey, we have a whole division that just does this. I contracted them. And then they went and had their own valuation done. And at the end of the day, the two valuations were like $150,000 apart. In the grand scheme of things, it was nothing, right? It was enough to be like, this is what they put out. Now we got our own. Obviously it was honest and it was done above board. And then it was like, now we're in due diligence. So now I kind of have to go through it there and go through there and say, is this all really accurate? But we know the business. We know it's there. I've been there a million times. I know it's in the store.
Ron: Was there any accounting work that has been required? I don't know whether you're self financing or bank financing, but was their cleanup work in your own accounting that again, if you have known what was required, you could have started it earlier, could have been operating it.
Paul: So I'll say this, no matter how good your books are and no matter how much information you have from you or the company you want to acquire, they're going to ask you for it and then ask you for it six different ways. The same thing. No, just be prepared. I'll give you an example. I think Ron and I were talking about this earlier. I had to scan 296 documents the other day because some of this stuff is sensitive and we didn't want to put it through on an email and things like that. So I was like, fine, hand it to me and I'll deal with it. So I spent two days scanning all these documents because obviously you can imagine I have a job other than this. And it all went in, then the lender came back to me and was like, cool, thanks. We need these 700 other things now. And it was like the same stuff, just worded slightly differently or with different dates and like, stuff I couldn't pull from those documents. I have to get them to pull reports again. And I'm not in their books. So every time I need something from them, I have to talk to their accountant and they have to put the information together. So it's a lot I don't think I could have been prepared for it. I don't think there's like, I'm sure somebody has some checklist, like normal stuff, right? Pnl's, balance sheets, W2's. The more of that stuff that's clean and ready for the last couple of years. The same thing you'd need when you do your taxes.
Ron: I think we're going to continue to see more of these mergers, acquisitions in our industry.
Paul: There was a big one that just happened in New York. I'm not going to talk about it because it's not my place to say and I know it's done, but I don't know if they put it out there yet. But there is a big one out there.
Ron: Breaking news right here on Automation Unplugged.
Paul: Yeah. No, I know it's common knowledge to a lot of people. It's been around the industry, but guys in New York will know anyway. People outside New York aren't going to really care. But it was a big one. I mean, it was a very well known company, and it was acquired by another pretty big company that out of left field, I never would have seen this coming. As you may or may not know, this doesn't happen in the Tristate area very often. It's not a common occurrence to see companies buying up other companies. We're all egomaniacs over here for the most part. Like people just aren't selling their companies. They're getting successors or they're stepping back a little bit. But all the guys that have been doing it since I started are still doing it. Like Franklin Carp is one of the biggest ones. That I just saw. He's now got a consulting company, which is awesome. But these guys are all here. They're all still here for I've been in this industry since 99. How many acquisitions have you seen in that amount of time in this area? Maybe I just don't know about them, but I haven't seen very, very many at all.
Ron: I have an impression that it's increasing, but it's not a fact. I just have an observation. I was on with a customer yesterday and he just bought another. The story sounds very similar. Bought another firm 100 miles away. That person was looking to retire, looking for an exit, and through some connections in life, they met and it seemed like a really good fit. I feel like I'm hearing stories like that almost weekly right now.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, the only thing about it is AV companies. I can tell you one thing about this that I learned many years ago. It's a sad truth, but it's good for guys that are out there, especially the smaller companies. They'll call it the $4 million and less. And again, I'm talking geographically at least. Because a guy can work out of his house and do $2 to $3 million in this area worth of business, is the good faith value of your business is almost nonexistent. Know that if you have a company that's $2 million and you got a warehouse in a small space and no showroom and no reoccurring revenue, when you get evaluation done in your business, it's going to be the assets which are going to be most of it, the fixed assets. Then it's just going to be like, how much did the formula applied to the good faith estimate of you own this business and you created it and you have some clients that may stay because there's no guarantee that those clients are going to stay. Now, a company where someone's been in business 40 years, the good faith estimate is much bigger than someone that's been in business for ten years. So having a sense of like, man, is my company actually worth what I think it's worth? Do that homework and make sure you do it with more than one company, because some guys will come at you and be like, oh, yeah, this company is worth $2 million. But it's not. If you have 800 grand worth of fixed assets, great. Like I ran for many years, we don't have any inventory. We're doing jobs as the jobs come in. I mean, now we have huge assets because we have a big showroom and there's a lot of fixed pieces to it and that has value. But without that, let's see, Electronic Concepts has been in business for 20 years, right? Formerly 20 years. But the good faith on estimated business wouldn't be all that much if I was leaving, if I was walking away from it. They're going to be like, this company is worth the assets and then plus a little bit for good faith. So know that before you start going out there, ask telling people you want to sell your company because what you think it's worth and what it's actually worth is going to be eye opening if you haven't done it. I know a guy in Jersey who wants to sell his business. He's like a one and a half to $2 million company. He had evaluation done. The evaluation was $350,000. That's not what he wants. That's not enough for him to walk away from it. At that point, he'd be better off selling the jobs to somebody and just being a sales consultant that he would be selling that business for that amount of money. So it is an interesting world, mind you, companies that have big service contracts, reoccurring revenue, that's an easier sell, but it's an easier sell to a big conglomerate, not to a person like me. That's not what I'm looking to do.
Ron: I think it's worthwhile it's certainly what I'm hearing from you a worthwhile exercise to maybe even have your business evaluated.
Paul: It's scary.
Ron: Because you're going to get what it's really worth. And there are a lot of folks in our industry that are aging out or are going to be aging out. I mean, I still feel young, but I've been here 22 years now, and a lot of the people I knew 20 years ago, a lot of them are still here right now. But how much longer are they going to be around? And if you haven't, outside of the business, appropriately saved or put the retirement strategy into place, which ideally should have been worked on for decades.
Paul: For decades.
Ron: Not just the last few years. It's a rude awakening when you look at your baby called your business and you realize often it's not worth that much.
Paul: Which happens a lot. Yeah. I'm always transparent. I'm an open book about my business. I have no intention of even though we're now acquiring another business. So we'll look like a bigger company overall. We might be more attractive to some bigger company, but I have no plans, it has never been my business plan to say, hey, I'm going to get swallowed up and I'm building my company. So that a Bravas or something like that would want to acquire it. I'm not set up for that. We're not systematically set up for that. And I don't want to be. What I want to do is create a workplace for people where the culture is good, where we continue having fun, we can continue selling unicorns and unicorn projects. And hopefully somebody wants to run it from in the company at some point. And if they do, amazing, I'll be the first person to give them money to keep it going. But if it doesn't, like you said, you got to be putting away, especially the smaller businesses that are doing this. If you're not putting away and you've been a 1 million to a 2 million to a 3 million, but you've been a $3 million in sales company for the last ten years, there might be a root awakening when you look at evaluation and see what it's worth. Probably not enough to retire on. I can't imagine. I mean, I could be wrong, but from what I've seen.
Ron: Paul, you mentioned Paul, so I'm going to give him a shameless plug. He and I were literally brainstorming this issue a couple of weeks ago about how many of our customers and our friends in this industry are ill prepared for retirement. And I know that Paul, he's cooking up something. Paul's always cooking up something. So he's coming up with a strategy or at least education and conversations to help people open their eyes and look ahead and start to think about that point where you want to do less or you want to do this thing called retire. Not too many people in our space know how to retire. Because they haven't prepared for it. Well, if someone was coaching you or advising you on how to prepare, what are the things you should do?
Paul: That'd be amazing, because like you said, the guys that have been doing it, I've been in the industry as long as you have, same time frame, basically. Some of these guys are my friends and they're still looking for that exit. And for me, I hate seeing that. I hate seeing that these guys are still working their ass twice as hard as they need to, even though they build amazing businesses to figure out how do they get out now in their 60s.
Ron: Well, and if their only money is their IRA or their 401K and we're heading into an inflationary decade and Fed rates are going to increase and equities are probably going to be challenged. Those little pot of gold they had called their retirement accounts might, and I'm not a predictor, I don't wish this, but it's possible those retirement accounts might not be worth as much as they thought they would be. So diversification, planning, strategizing. Sounds like you've done an excellent job of surrounding yourself with advisors and people that are the experts in these fields. And it sounds like you're not afraid to go and ask for help.
Paul: No. And like you just said, I've had a financial guy and some advisors since I was in my early 20s. And I'm 43 now, and they forced me to do some things and my wife in our 20s, that like, yeah, there could be a point in the next couple of years where we could say, this is great, it's running, run away, let's run away. Let's disappear. We've worked. Let's do this or that. I wouldn't be in that position without the right people pushing me to. I'm not saying I could retire today, don't get me wrong. But we have certainly been putting our money in places even before I was running this business full-time to prepare for that day, to try and be in a position for that day, to be like, I don't have to sell this. What if I just want to sell the assets? I could just sell the assets and say, okay, nobody wants to run it. Nobody wants to buy it. Great. We'll sell the assets and we'll go do something else. At this point, if you're young and you're doing there's a lot of young guys, I know a lot of them that I've met over the years that have really great companies that are coming up, like get a financial adviser, financial adviser and accountant are the two most important people in your company. At least they have been for me.
Ron: George's ears must be ringing. George Harrison just dropped in and he goes, "What's up, fellas?".
Paul: George is a smart man. I gave you a shout out earlier.
Ron: George, you're going to have to go and watch the whole interview now to find out where you were being talked about live on the air. Well, I think that is a good place, Paul, for us to wrap up. We've actually exceeded the hour, so this is officially the time. If people want to follow you, Paul, or get in touch with you, where do you want to send them?
Paul: Instagram is always good. We have Electronic Concepts on Instagram. If you can't get to our Facebook page now because it's been hacked and we didn't get to get into that one, but we did the story for another time. I'll put my post on One Firefly. I'll post in the channel for this. I'll post my email in there, and if anybody wants to get in touch with me. If you go to our website, you can get to me, too, which is just ECNY.Net. If you go into the contact there, it'll get right to me. I'll see it if anybody has any questions. As I said, I'm an open book. And if I can help anyone in this industry, I am always open to do it. So please don't hesitate.
Ron: Awesome. Paul, you have that reputation for helping others and always being there if people need help or advice. So that's commendable.
Paul: Same to you, Ron.
Ron: You know what? Life is too short to not do that. That's my advice.
Paul: I agree.
Ron: And we have Tomas given one last shout out here. Tomas says great interview, Paul. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your advice. Be safe.
Ron: Be safe on that bike. Yeah, I'm channeling that for Tomas.
Paul: Well, there'll be some videos coming September. We go to Spain and Portugal so we'll see how that goes.
Ron: That sounds awesome. Paul, thanks for joining me on Show #212.
Paul: Thank you, Ron.
Ron: Awesome. So there we have it. The one only Paul Bochner, CEO and Founder of Electronic Concepts and soon to be the new owner of Professional Audio Consultants. I know that we're actually going to be spinning up conversations with Paul here in the coming weeks and months to talk about from a branding perspective. What are we going to do there? Are we going to run the Electronic Concepts brand? Are we going to keep this other brand alive? Here at One Firefly, I'm having conversations around these acquisitions and merger type deals almost weekly. So there's a lot of things to consider. Not only in all of the things that Paul said but also from a branding standpoint is that brand that's being acquired, what is its value in the marketplace and what's the transition process to get your brand inserted over a period of time? Or like some of my clients, they keep that alternative or that acquired brand. They keep that brand alive for strategic reasons. A lot of things to be considered and a lot of things to figure out. But anyway, I'm going to let you all get back to your regularly scheduled programming. Thank you for tuning in today. I will give you an update next time on how my family is doing with COVID. If you missed the beginning of the show, the family is down and out. I'm the only one that so far is still testing negative although I do feel like I have a frog in my throat so maybe I'm just a delayed response but I'm triple vaccine so I'm feeling okay. That will be okay but wish us luck through as we go through this. I will see you all next time and I'm going to sign off. Paul down here on my screen. Hang out for a minute and you and I will connect but I'm going to sign off for all my people out there. See you next time.
Paul has over 20 years of experience working in the A/V industry. He got his start as a technician in 2000 before founding New York-based integration firm Electronic Concepts in 2004.
Today, Paul and his team focus on delivering the highest performance to clients across all A/V and integration solutions. They use their large social media presence of nearly 20,000 total followers to show off their custom projects and newly renovated luxury design center.
Electronic Concepts is a member of CEDIA, HTSA, HTA and is a Savant Platinum Integrator, ambassador, and advisory council member.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.
Resources and links from the interview:
Paul can be reached directly by email at