Home Automation Podcast Episode #117: An Industry Q&A With Bryan Naquin
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Bryan Naquin, President of Acadian Home Theater and Automation, shares the importance of relationships with your team and industry peers as well as his approach to paid service plans.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Bryan Naquin. Recorded live on Friday, May 15th, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Bryan Naquin
Bryan got started in the audio-video industry back in 1995 and has since amassed 25 years of industry experience. In 2005, he founded Baton Rouge-based technology integration company, Acadian Home Theater.
Acadian has been awarded the Top 100 Integrator Nationwide by CE Pro for 8 years in a row, making them the only Louisiana company holding that consecutive record.
Acadian is also recognized as the only Diamond Control4 Pinnacle Dealer within the state of Louisiana.
- Steps Bryan is taking to keep his team safe during COVID-19 such as turning down jobs in high-risk areas
- The importance of building relationships with industry peers and your community
- Bryan’s thoughts on whether CEDIA will return this year and the possibility of a virtual venue
- How Acadian approaches paid service plans during their sales cycle and the benefits they’ve experienced with Parasol for 24/7 remote servicing and support
Ron: Hello everyone! Welcome to another episode of Automation Unplugged. We are here for episode number 117. Today, I've got Bryan Naquin. He's President of Acadian Home Theater and Automation. Today is Friday, May 8th. It is about 12:35 p.m. And let's go ahead and bring Brian in. There you are. Alright Brian, how's it going bud?
Bryan: It's going good. How's everyone doing today?
Ron: Super duper. Where are you coming to us from today Bryan? I see theater seats.
Bryan: Yeah. We're here at our showroom our experience center in Baton Rouge Louisiana. And we are in the theater probably because it has the best acoustics in our building and not in my cold boring sad office.
Ron: Yeah, Bryan and I were playing with technology. For those that don't know that are watching or listening, I always get started a little bit earlier with my guests just to make sure we get all the technology behaving. And Bryan and I were dealing with some technology gremlins here but I think we beat them down and it's coming through loud and clear Bryan.
Good job on getting us into a good space for that. Alright. Let us know where you're coming to us from. And as we dig in and have some fun talking to Brian don't be shy. Make sure to pose any of those questions you might have for Brian. Brian, first of all, congratulations. I know the CEO Pro 100 just came out and you made the top 100. I actually should have prepared better. I know you were in the top 100. I think you were maybe in the 60s or 70s but congratulations, this was not your first time.
Bryan: No and I appreciate that. Yeah look being anywhere in the 100, I'm happy with that. Obviously we're nowhere near the top. Save that for the big guys. Some of my peers and my buddies occupy that space. But we're happy to be part of the top 100. And this is our eighth year in a row to be in the top 100. So kudos to our team. They do all the hard work. It was a good team effort for us.
Ron: I do know that you just so happened to beat your buddy Henry from Livewire. Did you not? Is there a little bit of a fun rivalry there where you guys have fun trying to vie for the I know anything in the top 100 is amazing but there has to be a little bit of a little fun rivalry or am I making that up?
Bryan: No, I have some with a couple of guys, one in particular in Arizona. We have a steak dinner bet on it. But he merged with another company. So he was disqualified because now they're twice the size. He got disqualified from that but we had a seven-year running bet and seven of those years I enjoyed a steak dinner. I won't be giving it this year.
Ron: For those that don't know, you and I have known each other for many years, I want to say probably more than 10. I know I met you early in my Firefly career. I started this back in '07 and I want to say you and I met each other pretty early on. But some of those listening maybe do not know you they don't know about your business. Can you take us down memory lane and what got you into this business?
Bryan: Sure. This is 18 years of business for us, for our company. I never thought in a million years I would have a company. I never thought we would be where we are today. I never thought it would be a multi-million dollar company. I didn't have those dreams and those visions at that point in life. I love doing this sort of work. I love installing technology I love pleasing our customers. I love the look on their face whenever they sit down and they hear music and they hear certain music they haven't heard in a while. It takes them back right to that first concert. They sit in the living room they're like wow I can remember this concert vividly. Those experiences are what I love. That's kind of how I got started doing this.
My background is in residential and commercial security systems. I worked for a couple of local companies and then at Johnson Controls where we managed all of Louisiana state government buildings for fire, alarm, access control, cameras and I was doing this on the side kind of as a hobby. I'm sure you've heard it many times before, the hobbies grow, right? This one started to as well. I was really fortunate to have an amazing wife that had a really good income at the time so I could quit my job and focus on doing this full time. Here we are, all these years later. There are 18 of us. We're in a ten thousand square foot building experience center office, work all over the country. It's an honor to be recognized by our peers certainly. It's been a very fun journey. There's been challenging times as with any business, the ups the downs. But we've enjoyed a lot more ups than downs. It's been really fun.
Ron: What does your business look like today? I'll just say outside of the COVID stuff and maybe nothing's changed there? But you mentioned 18 people. What type of projects do you guys do? You do mostly resi, mostly commercial? And what are typical projects for your firm?
Bryan: We're probably 80/20 residential commercial. What's the new term, resi-commercial, or whatever the new buzzword is out there? I guess that best describes us. We do sports bars, conference rooms, executive suites, restaurants, that sort of stuff. That's about the extent of our commercial work. I have some good friends that kill it in the commercial space and they're nice enough to share information. That's certainly an area we would like to grow the business in the future but that's what we do commercially now. Residentially, we have historically focused on very high-end residential, the luxury market. That's still the bread and butter of our business. The homes that are five thousand living to thirty-five thousand living but we do smaller projects as well. We have a couple of semi-production builders that build 50-60 homes a year and they'll use us to do some pre-wiring. Alarm systems, cameras, that sort of stuff. Primarily it's that luxury residential market and that's been our bread and butter for all the years I've been doing this.
Ron: Got it. Understood. Let's talk about there's some weirdness going on outside. Hopefully, we're on the better side of it. How are you guys dealing with this? I know that I've received a lot of feedback, both phone calls and emails. People have been telling me they've appreciated hearing from their friends and peers and people they look up to and how everyone's coping. What is life like for you guys right now?
Bryan: It's been a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Both emotionally and mentally as well. Whenever this first kicked off or we first started hearing about it, I thought OK it's the flu, right? No big deal. Nothing to see here, move on with your life. Then as we started to progress, especially in Louisiana where the cases were astronomical, we knew it was serious. What we did as an organization first is communicate to all of our staff our employees, just to make sure they were safe, their families were safe, and that they felt safe and secure as well. For our office staff, we said if you're willing to come to work we're still open because we're an essential business but we're going to mandate that you have to work in your office with the door closed. There's no face to face interaction. And my warehouse guy is basically every hour on the hour cleaning every touch surface, doorknobs, the bathrooms, he's mopping the floors. I mean he's basically a very high paid cleaning person at this point. But we just want our people to feel safe.
From our employees that are actually out in the field our technical staff and our service staff. We wanted to make sure that they were safe and felt safe. So any of the PPE equipment that they wanted, mask, gloves, hand sanitizers that they felt comfortable using we provided for them as well. We made a few decisions in the company that I don't know that they were popular or not. But again, our people's safety was the number one goal. And so Orleans Parish which has been the real hotspot of south Louisiana for this, we just said we're not going. We have a lot of customers there. We told them that we will support you remotely as we always do especially using some of our great partners like Parasol. You mentioned Henry earlier, Greg Simmons, those guys, and that's actually worked out pretty well. We've only really had one or two instances where they really need a site visit but we've asked them to wait until the governor lifts to stay at home order May 15th and then we would come on-site to their homes.
Our scheduling coordinator will ask all of our customers before we scheduled to come out. Have you been exposed to COVID-19? Has anyone your family been exposed to COVID-19? We have a lot of health care professionals we do business with. Just to make sure that while they may have been exposed and they may be on the other side of it. We even had one instance where they had COVID-19. They were totally fine now but we still decided not to go to their house because it just again, the employee's safety is important and their peace of mind too. They know that we have their back more than anything.
"We've always told our customers and our people that they are more important than money. People are always going to be more important than money to us."
We've always told our customers and our people that they are more important than money. People are always going to be more important than money to us. That's been the biggest thing. If you go outside you drive around South Louisiana you almost wouldn't know anything's happened. There's a lot of people on the road, a lot of businesses are still open, but there's just this feeling of uncertainty. Everyone is out of rhythm, everyone's routine is completely wrecked with restaurants, health care, and schools. I love my wife. She's watching, I love you. This isn't a knock but she cut my hair. That's why I look like I'm right out of the military.
Ron: It's better than mine, it's better than this. I'm desperately in need of a haircut. I've actually got some comments like Ron do you ever not wear your hat? I was like no, not right now. I need a haircut.
Bryan: Yeah. Those are the big things. I think people by and large want people to be safe and comfortable in whatever way they feel that's appropriate. But I think people are just ready to get back to work, get back to normal. We're really fortunate that we have a fantastic client base. Our guys have been busy. We are still working every single day. We haven't had to lay anyone off. We haven't even thought about that. Our guys are still getting their hours, still completing projects. So from that standpoint , we feel blessed. I know the situation is different in other areas.
Ron: There are different parts of the country. I was just on the phone this morning with my friend Ken, he's with Sapphire Marketing. Amongst other things, he's the Crestron rep up in the Northeast, handling New Jersey and New York. He described to me that it is utter devastation, putting it mildly in terms of what the businesses in those markets are dealing with. You know it's sad it's hard he says he spends so much of his time every day just counseling his friends, his customers that he's known for the last 20 years. There are guys talking about the fear of losing their businesses, just the mental anguish of having to lay off their team that they know and they love. If there's no money moving, it's what other options did they have? Especially if they didn't get the PPP, right? If they didn't get the government money and or there's the pressure of well, I think I'm gonna get it. But I have to have it by this date or the money's run out. I can't pay my people and so I'm gonna have to let them go. It's just varying situations going out there in the marketplace so I'm happy to hear that you guys are able to stay busy. Bryan, did you guys apply? Did you guys get any good news or bad news? What happened there?
Bryan: We did. We use one of the big national banks for the bulk of our money. Modernize banking and that sort of stuff. But I have a relationship with a community local, four branch bank. So I was in touch with my person over there who is the Vice President. He's been phenomenal from the very beginning of this. Our application process was seamless and smooth. They had their regulation so it took a few weeks for the PPP to be funded but it was. And he's been great with just, make sure you follow these specific exact guidelines and you're gonna be OK. And so we've been doing that. Again, that was another area where we were really fortunate to have that relationship and that's kind of what I've heard from my peers in the industry. Several guys that I'm really connected to that went to their local community banks got their money and guys that were dealing with some of the bigger banks the national branded banks have struggled and not seen much of anything yet.
"Our leadership team had formed a relationship with our bank. So they knew who we were. They knew who we were in advance and we weren't trying to engage for the first time because it's hard when you really need something. At that point, you're potentially a number, you're not a name."
Ron: We do our banking with a local regional bank and we applied on the 4th and were funded on the 9th of last month and it really proved. Our leadership team had formed a relationship with our bank. So they knew who we were. They knew who we were in advance and we weren't trying to engage for the first time because it's hard when you really need something. At that point, you're potentially a number you're not a name. And it sounds like you did the same. You were buddies with one of the executives or friends and so they knew who you were. Life is unfair. And the fact is that helps.
Bryan: Yeah absolutely. It's all about relationships. What we do is all about relationships. It's like you said, you and I go way back. It was definitely a CEDIA that we met many moons ago in Denver. But it is all about relationships certainly. Maybe that's a strategy that guys will take away from this. When we get back to normal is fostering some of those relationships. When I started my career out early, this is probably gonna sound terrible but I was like I don't really care about my industry peers. I don't care about seeing a rep or going out to dinner.I can buy my own dinner. I'm my own man, I can do my own thing and my wife was really instrumental in helping me see that that was short-sighted and stupid really.
Some of my best friends in the world are now guys in this industry. Guys that I've fostered relationships with, executives at other manufacturers that all of us use and buy their products. And I've gone out of my way to foster relationships not to necessarily get anything out of it but looking back at those decisions, the relationships are what's carrying a lot of this through. Being able to be a part of a group of guys, four or five of us, I'm the smallest guy there as far as revenue. They're 10 times my size. But to listen to some of their advice and things they're going through and financially they're able to really help through this process as well. These are the things that we've cut. These are some things that we're doing these are some strategies that we've taken and it's been awesome to be able to glean from those guys too.
"I can certainly think back to times when I was very much about me and very much about just charging forward and making things happen. Not realizing that I'm enabled to do that because I'm standing on the shoulders of so many that are supporting me, and that's really instrumental."
Ron: Now I think the importance of relationships and people in your life whether they're peers, family, but also the team and your vendors and your staff. Thanking them and making sure that they know they're valued and important to you. I'm going to tell you again, I was young and dumb. I'm not saying I'm smart now but I was dumber when I was younger and I can certainly think back to times when I was very much about me and very much about just charging forward and making things happen. Not realizing that I'm enabled to do that because I'm standing on the shoulders of so many that are supporting me, and that's really instrumental. I think it's just part of maybe getting old? You realize that.
Bryan: Yeah definitely. Amongst other things for sure.
Ron: I'm curious for you Brian. And I'm asking many folks that I talked to on a regular basis. What is biz dev looking like for you? Many integrators stay booked out or they were going into this, say in early March. Many folks were booked out two to six months in advance and there was then a point where we're frozen and not allowed to go to job sites. But there's the concept of filling the funnel with new work. And I'm curious what did March and April look like for you guys? Were you able to take in inquiries and in fact close business? Was it at a lower rate than you had forecasted prior?
"The good thing about an integration business is it's very cyclical in a way that's a positive thing. This time it certainly is."
Bryan: The way that our business here has historically gone, January is awful. February is a little better. March we really start to pick back up. We are tracking along that trend in the first week of March. It was looking really positive. And then the wheels fell off the bus and March was abysmal. April, I can't explain it but April was amazing for us. We had a great April we had new business. Now when I say new business I don't mean it's customers that we've never dealt with before. With any business, any integration business you know 80 percent of your business comes from referrals. Right? And your existing customer base for the most part. It's like that for us as well. So we certainly had some new customers inquire and we were able to close the business but we had a really strong April. The good thing about an integration business is it's very cyclical in a way that's a positive thing. This time it certainly is.
We closed jobs 18 months ago, 24 months ago that we're still working on today. Just due to the nature of the size of the project and the scope with construction and stuff. Even though we weren't closing jobs in March our guys were still busy. Even though it took the cycle of closing those jobs in April we were still busy and we predict that may we'll still be busy. Now the end of the year is gonna be crazy busy for us based on that.
Ron: How's your outlook for the balance of 2020 looking?
Bryan: Yeah we think the end of the year is going to be crazy busy. Just based on the construction cycle of jobs we've already closed. I've been telling people that I'm not worried about March April May not really June. I'm worried about July August September. Those are the months that concern me. Now Louisiana has a double whammy right? Because we have the hurricane season, that's unpredictable. But we have oil in the toilet and we're an energy state, right? When oil isn't good here, a lot of things aren't good here. Baton Rouge is a little insulated from that but not a ton, so we don't really know what that ripple down effect is going to look like for us. I'm optimistic. I'm always optimistic about it. I do think that we're going to be down from where we were last year but I don't think it's going to be more than a couple of percentage points. I don't see how we would maintain that exact number based on the current market conditions, unemployment where it's at, on and on.
Ron: Some of the buzz I've been reading about and again I'm just going to say because this was in the news just yesterday, Crestron announced they were going to be back at CEDIA after five years.
Bryan: It's good timing.
Ron: An immediate question I have is, do you think CEDIA is going to happen? If it is would you go? What's your read on that?
Bryan: I do think CEDIA is going to happen. It's in September, it's enough time. I mean if they have sporting events, they'll have CEDIA. I just don't think they're not going to have football. I really think that they're going to find a way to make that happen. However that looks, maybe we know more about the virus by then than we do today. I go back and forth with CEDIA every year. It's one of those things where I'm like, I'm not going. And then it gets two weeks before and I'm like okay I'm going and I'm always thankful that I did. You do take the time out to go and the travel and from being in Baton Rouge, it's not easy to get anywhere except Dallas and Atlanta. Atlanta was the worst CEDIA in history. So they'll never go back there but depending on where we are with our knowledge and our understanding of the virus. More scientific data will dictate whether or not I go.
Ron: Got it. Alright. So you're holding it out. You're not making the decision one way or another but your feeling is that the events going to happen.
Bryan: I think so and I don't think Creston would have announced that they're going unless they had a very strong feeling about going. Because of the time and the planning it takes to pull it off.
Ron: Think of the cost of a booth if you're a vendor.
Bryan: They spend millions of dollars. You're not just going to forecast that out ninety days.
Ron: Hagi posted a comment, he says large venues will be the last to come back. The jury's still out on CEDIA.
Bryan: I totally agree and it's going to be regionally specific, right? The more you get to the coastal parts of the country, California and New York, they are definitely going to be the last to come back to any sort of large gatherings.
Ron: Are the dealers? What's the show without the customer? Are your peers going to be going to an event and if they're going to an event how many of your teammates your crew are you going to bring with you? Yeah, I don't know? It's complicated.
Bryan: It very much is. I guess you could do some sort of a virtual something maybe. I don't know. I think it's too early to tell from our speculation standpoint but again the vendors, the manufacturers have to be planning. If Crestron made this announcement, then you would think that they are confident it's going to happen. Yeah, but who knows.
Ron: Who knows, that is fair. Now you had mentioned a minute ago about Parasol and I'm. I'm good friends personally with Joey over at One Vision and the whole crew of Ted, Gregg, and Henry over at Parasol. I just had Henry on the show although our audio unfortunately abruptly got cut off at the end of the show. We were forty 45 minutes in. For those listening, what did finding a service solution like that or a customer support solution like that mean to your business and how does it work for you? I'm curious.
Bryan: Joey with One Vision was the Christopher Columbus of this. He was the first to kind of forge the trail. That probably did not work in his favor because he had a lot of change pivot change. It's the nature of being first, right? I think that benefited the guys at Parasol a little bit. They saw what worked and they're dealers as well. Simmons was a dealer. Henry still owns his integration firm and Ted ran one as well. They had the benefit of that knowledge. Not to say Joey didn't but not on the scale of those guys with the length of tenure of those guys as well. Gregg Simmons and I have been good friends for a long time. He's one of the finest people in this industry. Being who he is and with his trust in the industry, it's easy to get behind what he's doing.
For us, what made sense with Parasol more than any other solution or platform out there was twofold. One, it was to a lesser degree the relationship I had with Greg and with Henry and those guys. But the biggest determining factor for us was their tight partnership with Snap AV and the OvrC Platform. We've been deploying OvrC products since they started. That's our preferred power, networking, surveillance, kind of everything. We wanted everything to be built into OvrC, not even knowing there was Parasol coming, but it just made sense for our business model to be able to remotely and instantly service our customers. We were doing that in-house, painstakingly so. But, when they brought their platform to the market it made a lot of sense for us. So we tried it out with a couple of really good customers and it was a very high success for us. Our customers loved it. And our ultimate goal with it is that they are our service department. If Joe Smith has a problem on Tuesday at 9 a.m. He doesn't call our office. He's obviously welcome to but the idea is that they would call the Parasol number and that they would be their first point of instant triage to work on the system for all of our customers. We don't sell a system today that's new and we don't upgrade a system today that doesn't include at least one year of Parasol.
It is mandatory to do business with us. In reality, they have two options we do the six hundred dollars a year. When we bill it annually, it's $600 a year. It's not a lot of money especially for what you're getting in my opinion. And so our guys have been really happy. Our on-call time has gone down by 80% and that was a big thing. We rotate our technicians and our service guys being on call and there are two problems with that. The first problem is that they've worked most of them, an 8, 9, 10, 12 hour day. They go home have dinner and then they've got to answer calls. I wanted to eliminate that because family time is important. The second thing is most of my guys are older and I go to bed really early. So if you try and call me at 10:30 at night, I turn my phone off.
Ron: I'm in bed by 9:00, when are you in bed by?
Bryan: 9:30. I'm up at 5:30. You're not gonna get me on the phone that late and that was a problem with our guys. And so we marketed it as 24/7 support, it was really not true though because if you call us at 1 o'clock in the morning, you're getting voicemail no matter who you call. But with Parasol that isn't the case.
Ron: Somebody will answer at 1 a.m?
Bryan: One hundred percent yeah. And that's a big selling feature so we can tell someone look if you're coming in from a late night of traveling and it's midnight and you want to put on Netflix and you have an issue. There's someone that's gonna be there to instantly support you. Our on-call techs are now just a backup. So if it's a Saturday and there's a family function or a ball game and something doesn't work and the remote service doesn't fix it then we have someone that can go out on that Saturday or Sunday and we offer that service as well.
Ron: I was just admiring your beautiful new website. So this is where I'm tooting the One Firefly Horn. Thank you for trusting us to build your new site.
Bryan: I am very happy with it.
Ron: Thank you. It is cool. I was actually noticing and I should have looked at this in advance, you do not have your service plans on your site yet. You made the comment that every one of your customers signs up for some plan. What is that? Do you mind going through what that sales cycle is like? When do you let clients know you have plans and when do you actually convert and get them signed up? Is it always a paid plan or is there a zero dollar plan where they maybe get less service after hours or is it always a paid plan?
Bryan: Our existing customers, they've been doing business with us forever. And there's not an upgrade or something like that. They'll call in and we'll try to convert them to our paid service plan and if not, that's an option they don't have to. We're still going to service and support them and there's an hourly fee we let them know those charges upfront and what that will be for that for us to go and take care of it. But our sales cycle works like this. If you call us to do this with us and we're going to give you a proposal, we're gonna do the network in the house. That's a non-negotiable for us to take care of and manage that. We use SNAP AV's Araknis router. It's got the OvrC Pro hub built into it. In our proposal software as an accessory to that, we put one year of the Parasol 24/7 support and then we give them a cut sheet of what all that entails as well. And then they have a form that they have to sign agreeing to do that support as well. So that's in the proposal stage. We let them know as we're going through the proposal, we're going to be putting in X Y Z for you. The router part of your networking also includes this component of it as well and they get some other things. We put the OvrC home app on their device and they're able to do some rebooting as well. And I did see something from a European dealer on LinkedIn that we're going to copy. I can't remember what his name is. But on their Control4 touchscreens, they have a service page that allows them to reboot things as well. I thought that was genius. We just have the people used the OvrC home app but it's already inside of the Control4 app. Shout out to whoever that was.
Ron: Yeah if you can find who that was, we'll make sure to put them down on the show notes, when we grab this video and put it on our site. We'll give those folks in Europe an appropriate shout out.
Bryan: That's how we do it. I didn't want to make it like an optional thing because we believe in it so strongly. It's not something that should be optional again. It's six hundred dollars a year. It's appropriate for every single job that happens. Even if you just install a wireless network in your home.
The fact that we can monitor and maintain that. I'll give you a quick story. So we have a customer we just put a system in for. It was a Thursday afternoon and he sent me a text message saying I think the dining room speakers aren't working can you check it? Immediately I got an email from Parasol saying that the audio matrix switcher was offline. He then called me a minute later and said hey I just got a phone call from Parasol saying that my audio matrix is offline. Could that be related to the dining room speakers? I said it could. Let's reboot it and see. Parasol had already rebooted it and it came back up. I said let's just take a look at it and see. I had my office alerted to be on standby. About an hour or so later we got another alert the audio matrix was offline. We didn't even roll a truck out there, we immediately called the manufacturer.
The next morning we had a brand new one. So by 9:00 a.m. the next morning we had replaced that product in his house. Now that process would have been much longer without something like Parasol because they're letting us know the information we would have to roll a truck we had to do some diagnostics we might not have got him a replacement part before the weekend based on shipping times and cut-offs and that sort of stuff. But because of the monitoring part of what they do it really helped us to be Johnny on the spot and he was blown away. He said six hundred dollars a year. I would pay six thousand dollars for the service, just at how responsive it was.
I know guys do charge more for it. There are case by case instances like super large estates and multimillion-dollar systems out there that they should frankly be paying a lot more than the six hundred a year and we have those plans as well and they get other things. But ninety-nine percent we just stick at the $600 a year. It's fair to the customer. I think the money that you'll make by being a great service partner to them anyways is astronomically more than whatever you could charge them for the service plans.
Ron: Have you ever had a customer go, "No I don't want that service stuff. No, I don't want support nights and weekends."
Bryan: We've had a few. Let's say we presented to one hundred people maybe three or four have blown back and so we tell them after the first year you can opt-out but it is included in the first year. There is no opt-out.
Ron: It's priced in.
Bryan: It's priced in. After the first year, you can opt-out of it if you so choose to. And to my knowledge, no one's opt-out yet. Once they're used to the service and they're using it, I don't think they want to give up having that instant service where they can literally pick up their phone no matter when it is, they're going to get somebody on the phone right away.
Ron: Bryan, I've got one more question for you here because in about 10 minutes here I'm in South Florida. The Blue Angels jet fighter stunt team is about to fly over our house and my eleven-year-old is very excited. We're gonna go outside and watch that.
Bryan: I would be excited too and I'm much older than eleven.
Ron: I'm not lying, I'm pretty excited as well. They're supposed to hit Miami at 1:15 and between 1:15 and 1:25 they're going to be flying over our neighborhood. But I have one more quick question for you just for the gang that are listening.
You've grown a very successful business, well-respected business over the last 18 years. As you said, there's been ups and downs and I don't know of a business that doesn't have that happen. I don't think you're running a business if there isn't some drama every now and then. For those that are listening or watching, what's a piece of advice or two that you wouldn't mind sharing with them? Something that you'd recommend, either how to deal with this time right now or something just bigger picture just in general.
Bryan: I think the big thing is, you have to number one, be focused on your people. Your people are your most valuable asset. I remember again, not super proud of these thought processes or statements. But I remember very early on in the business, I'm not someone that needs a lot of atta boys or pats on the back. I know that that's not everyone though. People need it and they deserve it frankly as well and they should get it. I was always like hey, you know you're gonna get a paycheck. Thank you. But that's just very short-sighted and kind of egotistical as well. You are where you are because of your people. That's it. Plain and simple. There's no way that this business would be where it is without our people. Not even close.
We have some of the finest most dedicated most honest humble hardworking people on this planet. We are beyond blessed to have them. So I would say first and foremost, appreciate your people. And it's not just with money. Money only goes so far. It's not with title. That doesn't mean a lot to people but it's about really caring. It's about being part of their world. I'll tell our new potential clients sometimes in sales meetings, we are like a family here. I know things about our guys that sometimes I wish I didn't know. I know pet's names, certainly know all their kid's names. I've been to their kid's weddings and seen babies being born and you know all sorts of stuff. And it's just part of having a small business that has been fantastic. I would say honor your people, appreciate your people. Tell them that you love them. Tell them that you're proud of them, tell them that they're doing a good job. Put your arm around them. There's no substitute for that sort of stuff. That's kind of first and foremost. The second thing is to be obsessed with customer service. I often tell people that if you're not obsessed with customers, today you're probably out of the business soon.
Too many times in our industry, we rely on new business. There's nothing like the taste of a new kill. You've been chasing the big fish and you finally get it. But that victory is very short-lived. It really is. But if you're obsessed with customer service and servicing your existing customer base like you just won their job the very first time, like they're a brand new customer, that's what's going to carry you through the hard times. We've been really blessed and really fortunate that our customers, our long term customers are the ones that helped carry us through. Even in these times as well because we've treated them with respect. We've treated their home with respect. The big thing is just to do what you say you're gonna do. People understand we're people, we're human. We're gonna make mistakes, we're gonna fall short. When we do a sales presentation, we usually talk about some of the bad stuff. It is gonna break, it is electronics. You do deal with the cable service provider. Anyone that tells you that they're gonna come in, you're never gonna have an issue, and you're never gonna have problems just run, because that's just not reality. And people, I think they respect honesty. If you call them and say look, I dropped the ball. We made a mistake here. It's not really in our DNA to do such a thing but we did. Mistakes happen.
Ron: We're human we're not perfect.
Bryan: That is where when you're honest and you look at you know you look at baseball players and the whole steroid thing and all that. The guys that came clean and said look I did it like Andy Petitte. I don't mean to shout him out on here but I mean he really he owned it. Hey, I did it. This is the reason I did it. It helped me prolong my career. People love him still. But the ones that were defiant and drew a line in the sand, not me. No one wants anything to do with them.
Ron: Honesty and authenticity.
Bryan: That's it. Just be honest and open. That's a big thing. You know love your people. Be honest with your customers. Do what you say you're going to do. Treat your customer from 10 years ago like the one that you've been trying to win for 3 years and you finally got a meeting with him. Those are some big things.
Ron: Love it. Bryan, it was a pleasure having you on episode 117 of Automation Unplugged, my friend. Thank you for being here.
Bryan: Thank you so much I appreciate it. Everybody that watched. Thank you so much. We'll get through this. Remember, we're better together than we are apart.
Ron: Amen. Thank you, Bryan.
Bryan: Thank you.
Ron: Alright, gang. There you have it. I appreciate you hanging out with us for another episode of Automation Unplugged. I've got an 11-year-old standing right here and we're gonna go look at jets. So on that note, I will see you guys and gals next time. Stay safe. And as Bryan said, love those close to you. Definitely let them know that that you care. So we'll see you guys next time. Be well.
Bryan founded Baton Rouge-based technology integration company, Acadian Home Theater. With 25 years of experience, Bryan got his start in the industry in 25 years and is a key reason for Acadian being named Top 100 Integrator Nationwide by CE Pro as well as being recognized as the only Diamond Control4 Pinnacle Dealer within the state of Louisiana.
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:
- CEDIA 2020
- Snap AV
- Art of Smart: European Dealer with Service Page Integrated in Control4 Touchscreen Panel
More Automation Unplugged:
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