Home Automation Podcast Episode #13: An Industry Q&A With Richard Glikes
A Glimpse into the Benefits of Buying Groups
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Richard Glikes. Recorded live on Thursday, August 16th, 2017 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Richard Glikes
Richard Glikes is the President and Founder of Azione Unlimited, a consortium of like-minded dealers, customer retailers, integrators, and vendors. Richard has more than 40 years of experience in the custom integration business, with roles at Wall to Wall Sound, Hi Fi House, Bryn Mawr Stereo, Tops Appliance City, and HTSA..
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Richard:
- Richard's reasoning for starting Azione Unlimited
- What Azione Unlimited has to offer integrators
- The biggest mistakes Richard sees integrators making
- What at CEDIA has Richard excited
- What to expect at the Azione Fall conference
Ron: Hello everyone. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Hope you're having an excellent week. Summer's coming to an end here. What is it? It's August 16th. It's 12:30. Knock on wood so far technology's cooperated and able to bring you the show on time. For those of you that are new to Automation Unplugged, the goal and purpose of this show is interviewing different personalities from our industry. That would be the automation, audio, video, and integration space and I want to share what those leading thinkers are doing what they're seeing in terms of trends and activities in the industry. And we want them to share experiences so that as a whole as an industry we can all grow and get better. So today I'm very excited to bring you. Richard Glikes , 40 year veteran of this space and we're going to go into some of that background. But without further ado let me bring you Richard. Richard how's it going today sir?
Richard: It's a great day. I've had a great week so far actually everything seems to be falling into place. It's one you know we all have ups and downs this is an up week for me for sure.
Ron: What are some of those good things that have been happening this week?
Richard: Well I can't tell you about some of them but..
Ron: Come on you're going to call from me and my audience. We want to know the good stuff.
Richard: You know I had a really great vendor come in who would like to be in the space and you know I've had some speakers for our Fall event sign up and say they'd like to be part of our fall meeting in Austin in October. So you know just things are clicking. That's just one of those you know you can't be happy all the time. But this is a happy week.
Ron: You know I've had conversations with a few of my my friends from the industry and a few people that stick out just in the last 48 hours I've spoken to and they said they've just had some tremendous highs this week. And speaking to you today is one of those highs for me. I'm honored to have you on the show.
Richard: Glad to be here Ron.
Ron: Awesome. So Richard I would like. Well, first of all, let me address our audience. Thank you, everyone, for watching. We've already got an audience that's checking this out. So thank you. Please share this stream so that your friends from the industry or your friends or your neighbor if you want them to check out and hear what Richard has to say please share the feed. And I also would love for all of you watching to post your questions so that we can have Richard answered those questions about Azione Unlimited or about his view of the industry and answer those live for you here on the show. But just to get things started Richard I hope you can give me and my audience a little bit of background on why you started Azione Unlimited and maybe what is Azione Unlimited and why did you start it?
Richard: OK that's a good question. We started about five and a half years ago. I was the Executive Director of a different buying group and I just felt that it was time to move on and I've done that in the past with other jobs I've held in the industry you know there's a certain time we just feel like you know time to go. So it was time to go and I looked at the industry and I thought that somebody would call me up and say why don't you be my VP of Sales because I knew a lot of vendors and I've done business over the years with many of them. I spent 25 years in retail, 15 years running another buying group. And then you know we're five and a half years into Azione Unlimited. So and then I looked at the market and nobody called me up and said hey Richard come be my VP of Sales so I said I think there's a void in buying groups and maybe there's something . I don't really like the moniker buying group. But at any rate I thought there was a void in the void was nobody was addressing integrators. And the other groups really had an adversarial relationship with their vendor partners to some degree it was a one sided arrangement and I felt there was an opportunity to target integrators and we are an integrator and the only integrator based group and we're the only group also where the vendors are members to o, where the vendors are equals. And I think you know if we're all in this together, I think it makes for a much more harmonious relationship between dealers and vendors because you know our number one goal is deliver profits to members and vendors are members and dealers are members and we're trying to make everybody profitable you know that's a good thing. And it's definitely working. We're doing well.
Ron: Now that's a unique take and that is to focus on making both the vendors. I mean we at One Firefly, just for full disclosure, we're happy member of Azione Unlimited but where did that come from? Because I don't think that had been done before in our space.
Richard: No it hasn't. It still hasn't been done. We have 10 board members, five of them are vendors and five of them are dealers. We just recently had three meetings in the last two and a half months. One of them we called Creation Planning and we asked our vendors to come in and we spent two days together trying to plan out what we do well what are our strengths and weaknesses. What are our marketing activities in the future. How can we work together, how can we design the programs to drive more business. So you know, our vendors are intimately involved in the process and being part of the team there. You know it's a 50/50 relationship. We also don't crush them on programs or try to beat them, pummel to death. We want them to to be profitable so we work together. That working together as you know it's a positive result. The third part was we really didn't want to be wide, and we want to be focused. And I think this is an issue for dealers as well as buying groups. You know if you have five speaker lines you'd be better off taking those fives speaker lines business and consolidating it to two and being important to those those two vendors as opposed to spreading it out over five. And we use that same philosophy with Azione Unlimited we have including service providers where we know extended warranty companies et cetera. A total of forty five.
Ron: What's normal?
Richard: I don't know if it's normal but the others are around 80. So I think you know the vendors kind of look at each other and go oh you're ]the fourth receiver vendor in this group. Does that make a lot of sense? So anyway let's not worry about them let's worry about us.
Ron: Well let's talk about I think we're getting a little bit of audio feedback if it becomes a problem if you're out there listening please post a comment and have some audio solutions if feedback becomes an issue. We've had that happen on past episodes but we'll continue, Richard for Azione for 2017, what were your your primary objectives? I know in working with you now for several years I know that you're big on focus and defining objectives for that period of time. What were those objectives and how are you doing so far for 2017?
Richard: So we had we had six initiatives for 2017 and one aim was virtual reality. And we've actually launched a virtual reality house. And you can put on a set of goggles you can put it on a regular television , you can put it on a laptop and you can take the home to the client. We've developed the six thousand square foot home. It's outfitted with gear it has drop downs, when you go up to the TV it'll tell you whether it's a Sony and we have interchangeable sizes and interchangeable brands. So we've taken our vendors brands placed them in a home environment and people don't have to imagine how the gear fits into a home. And that's as inexpensive to make your own, put your own branding in front of the house and take it to the clients for $499. So that was one of them. We also wanted to permeate different layers of our dealers. We think our principals the owners understand Azione Unlimited. But we were concerned that we were getting into the operations people and the VPs. So we had a middle managers meeting , the one layer below the principals in Chicago. That was very successful everybody was excited we had six vendor partners with us and 50 dealers. And that was great. We had planning with our vendors and then the third meeting we had, recently we had the science of selling which may be one of the best. I think it is the best selling program that I've been to in my forty-five plus year career. And Dave Chase did a really fine job of walking you through the subtleties of the sale the subconscious techniques that you can use to get people to like you and to buy from you and it was a really fabulous meeting. So you know we had these meetings we also we got the group on Slack. Ron are you familiar with Slack?
Ron: Absolutely. I actually appreciate that Azione did that, we had done a soft launch of Slack back in December and at One Firefly we weren't very successful. We were still bouncing between Slack and Skype and when Azione went all-in on Slack and I met, you have a couple of captains helping vendors get on board. And so I brought my leadership team into those meetings. The gentleman was from Cloud Nine.
Richard: Correct. Chris Smith is on our board.
Ron: Chris Smith, just a rock star of an individual and very willing to dedicate his time to help me the technophobe and the other members of my team understand it and we sense fully launched our full teams. I have 20 people 22 people now on Slack and I just got an email from Slack last week we sent 5300 internal messages on Slack at One Firefly.
Richard: Wow. Wow.
"People like doing things the way they always do it."
Ron: That's a credit to you and Azione for helping us over the edge.
I'll give you one more. But we love Slack it's really a great tool. And the other one is you know we've got 180 dealers and we've got these 45 vendors you know the big issue is that the vendors would like more adoption from 180 dealers so we came up with a motivational contest we call it a behavioral change you know people like doing things the way they always do it. Well one of the things we wanted to do is to adopt our brands right because we're focused. We'd like them to be focused too. So we have a contest that actually ran from January 1 to July 31st it just ended we're going to do a Facebook Live on the 22nd at 2 o'clock and we're gonna announce the winners of the contest and we're actually going to send 9 couples to Turks and Caicos four nights and five days all expenses paid. So it's a really cool contest. There were different ways to win every time you added a new line you got a ticket in the hat to dealers. And when that way if you your most percentage growth with Azione vendors you were most dollars growth with Azione dealers so nine and then vendors are winning too. So we have five dealer couples and four vendor couples. And Kathleen and I will be the hosts. So again vendors and members and vendors and dealers are equals and we're all gonna go together and have a good time and motivated the dealers we had the final.. We're still getting all the sales analysis done but it looks like we got additional lines adopted by dealers right around 400 movements. So if you weren't a dealer for a future ready solutions and now you are. That's one of the approximately 400 that happened in that seven month period so. Pretty exciting stuff.
Ron: What do you think it is that made that movement happen? Obviously many of these vendors and dealers could afford to go out and take a vacation. So I'm not. My gut is it wasn't the vacation offer but what I mean I'm curious what you're obviously you had this idea to do it. It was successful people made changes. Why do you think that was?
Richard: Well Turks and Caicos isn't cheap and you know the rooms that we booked are at Grace Bay Club. They're seven hundred dollars a night. Now I don't know about you Ron but I don't stay in seven hundred dollar a night hotels.
Ron: Are you sure? I heard you liked nice hotels.
Richard: I like nice hotels I'm two hundred bucks is about where I max out but I don't do seven hundred dollar hotel. So we're on the beach. It's all expenses paid. It's you know this was a n aspire to type trip and I you know and I think the dealer's got excited about it and the vendors got excited about it. The vendors would approach the dealer and say you know you're a loyal Azione dealer you're supportive of the group why don't you buy my brand. I get a ticket in the hat you get a ticket and then you're supporting the group. We have know better programs. It'll be more profitable. You'll be focused you know and there was movement and that's all you can ask for. These people did the right thing.
Ron: Richard, right before we went live. You told me that your building was on fire or something in the neighborhood was on fire and you may lose power. What's that. Has Karen or other members of your team give you an update how's that looking. Are you gonna be ok?
Richard: Yeah we're OK yeah. We don't see any smoke. The smoke is gone. We work, we sit in a old farmhouse that's in front of about eight stores and a little centre and there is like four restaurants and it looks like the dumpster or something or the electrical wires under the ground caught on fire. We had a couple, little excitement, a little fire engines running around pretty cool.
"There's some other buying groups vying for attention of integrators."
Ron: That sounds fun. Real quick Richard there's a lot of say a lot. There's some other buying groups vying for attention of integrators you know. Yeah let's say that you have an audience right now and by the next week or two you should have a couple thousand people that have seen or watched or read this interview. What what's the reason an integrator should consider Azione Unlimited vs. Pro Source vs. HTSA vs. Nationwide or any of the others that I haven't named, who are you looking for and where's the right fit?
"We look for dealers who want to grow their business. If you're somebody doing three million dollars a year in business and you're content to do three million dollars you probably shouldn't join Azione Unlimited."
Richard: First of all I think everybody who does more than a million dollars a year in business should be in a group period. Whether you choose Azione or or any of the others that's entirely up to you. You know I think what you have to look at is you know where does where's the group want to go? Where do you fit the best? I mean are you retail oriented? You're probably not a good fit for Azione. Are you an integrator? We look for dealers who want to grow their business. Know most of our programs are based on growth. So growth is very important to us. If you're somebody doing three million dollars a year in business and you're content to do three million dollars you probably shouldn't join Azione Unlimited. If you're doing three million dollars a year and you want to do seven million dollars a year and you want to buy better and it's automatic once you're in a group, the discounts come automatically. You don't have to change who you buy for or how you buy who you buy from or how you buy. People think there's pressure there's not pressure ; what we do is we show you the opportunity and you can take advantage of it or not. Now I think every group has you know pros and cons and we think if you're an integrator you want to grow and you want to be around other people who share. I mean we put on you get free. First of all our dues are the least expensive. We're $750 a quarter. We include in that two free conferences. We have a Spring conference and a Fall conference there two nights and three days. We pay for your meals and your lodging you pay for transportation. They are very interactive. There are guest speakers. There's one on ones with vendors. They're small group discussions. There are usually fun activities. The one in Austin we have I think four speakers lined up. We have a series of 20 small group sessions you'll be in there with 10, 15, 20 people all talking about a topic. We're going to have the Go Game. We're all going to get a little crazy and walk through Austin and explore the city and be part of a scavenger hunt-esque activity. I mean you know we we like to have fun. We do buyouts at restaurants. We own the Iron Cactus. So we'll be drinking margaritas and having great Mexican food and the next night we're at Parkside. We have a lot of fun. We're very engaging. You know we think you know life is short, make money and have fun at the same time. We don't like dividing the pie. We talked about this earlier where we're more focused than our competitors. One charges $3600 dollars a year another charges $7500 a year. You know we're all equals vendors and dealers. We don't come with a lot of ego. We come with a lot of ideas and we think you know we have a great group we have great dealers and great vendors. So that's my pitch.
Ron: And we have, guys if you're out there watching please ask Richard any questions. Richard thank you for that thoughtful answer on our pitch as you called it. In terms of why integrators should consider Azione, now I know where it ..
"Join a buying group . It's free money, you pay your dues you'll get better benefits and rebates that will outweigh your dues and it's free money."
Richard: You should be in a group. The important thing is everybody if you're doing a million dollars, join a buying group . It's free money, you pay your dues you'll get better benefits and rebates that will outweigh your dues and it's free money. So join a group.
Ron: Money on the table don't leave it on the table.
Richard: Free money.
Ron: Richard I understand here in 10 minutes there's something in regards to Villanova tickets that's happening. What's going down in 10 minutes?
Richard: In 10 minutes, I have to go get my season tickets. The Villanova is redoing their field house. I went to Villanova. And I have had season basketball tickets for I guess 35, 40 years and they're going to start using a different pavilion they're gonna use the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and they actually slot you depending on how long you've been a ticket holder. You get a certain window to pick tickets and my time is in nine minutes. I have my ticket.
Ron: Do you do it online?
Richard: Yeah it's the first time they've ever done it. I've always had the same seats. I sat right behind the bench of the players bench about 10 rows up, great seats because I've had them for so long. But now because they're redoing the stadium the facility you know they're doing an online thing and everybody gets a time slot. So I need to make my time slot.
Ron: So Taylor just posted a comment he said. Is there an Azione March Madness challenge?
Richard: We do a pool. Yes and we will do one again this year. Absolutely. And Villanova will be strong again this year. wWe lost two good players but we'll have Chris Jenkins. Ryan. We'll be good again this year.
Ron: OK. Very cool. Question Richard. You've been in this space for 40 years. Is that approximately correct?
Richard: You're a little light but go ahead. Yes.
Ron: A little light. OK. 40 plus years and so you've seen a lot of successful businesses you've run a lot of successful businesses. And what are a couple of pieces of advice? I'll leave it. You know one two three four however many kind of nuggets that would give any integrator listening that you would advise they at least look at or consider. And that would affect the profitability or the success or growth of their company.
Richard: Well the first thing I think is it's all about picking your partners. So my advice to anybody in this industry is pick the right partners. Think about who's going to be here 10 years from now. Who's the leader who's the strongest who has the best support and marry up with that partner. So and then I would not and I again I don't believe in width. I believe in focus. So you know pick two good speaker companies, try to focus your business on one control system and maybe have a second for a backup pick. You could sell mostly the same televisions, don't hop around with two or three brands. And it's easier for you because you can cookie cutter to some degree or you've been through the pain of trying to make these these items that are disparate that don't work together, work together and that's what we seem to do. That's what integrators do. People have an idea and we have to make it work. And it wasn't necessarily designed to work. So the first thing I think it's all about picking your partners. Then I think the next thing is to surround yourself with smart people. I think you know the smart I always say smart people can solve problems and so surround yourself with smart people. And then I think pay your bills on time. You know I don't think people realize that a lot of your profit can be made just in the cash discounts that are available out there. So those would be three things I would tell people. Pick your partners. Surround yourself with smart people. Pay your bills on time. So vendors will love you. They'll take care of you when you have a problem. And then I think real and I think there's a fourth thing and realizing that business is a two way street. It's all about relationships. You know when I started Azione, I had no dealers I had no vendors and I went to the dealers and I said Will you join my buying group? And they said what vendors do you have? And I went to the vendors I said Will you join my buying group and they said what dealers do you have? And I said uh oh I have a problem. So what did I do I went and I focused on the vendors. I said they've known me for 35 plus years. They trust me. And I had twenty-seven vendors say yes. I'll be part of your buying group. I didn't have any dealers. I had zero dealers and I had twenty-seven vendors say yes to me. And then I took the programs with the vendors and then I went out to dealers. And now here we are five and five-plus years later we have 180 dealers and forty-five great vendors so you know all good. All good.
Ron: I have two more minutes with you.
Ron: What are you most excited for at CEDIA three weeks away?
Richard: I love CEDIA. I think everybody should go to CEDIA. I think it's our show. It's for our industry. We should. They need the attendants to make it happen. You know I think there's a lot going on with voice recognition and artificial intelligence virtual reality and the big guys are getting into our industry. You know you see Google paying attention Amazon paying attention IBM to some degree is paying attention. You know I think I've been through a number of these leads like waves of technology and I think we're at the cusp of a new wave where things are going to get easier. The good news is that you know rich people still want somebody to hold their hand and do it for them. So I think it's a very interesting time in our industry bigger players, labor shortages, less vendors, there's a lot of consolidation. You know it's a very interesting time to be in the electronics industry.
Ron: Richard will you be taking meetings at CEDIA for integrators that may want to talk to you about Azione? Or is that how you conduct business or what would be the way for people to do that?
Richard: I mean if somebody wants, you know we're open 24/7 . You know normally what we do is go to a meeting and we review our goals and our vision and who we are and how we go to business , our philosophies and our vendor programs. When you take we have a cocktail party at CEDIA for our dealers and our vendors and I'm there for two of the remaining three days you know talking to vendors and talking to dealers if they're around so you know. But typically what we do is we set up a go-to meeting and take about 45 minutes to review things and interact but face time there's nothing like meeting somebody's face to face so sure. You know I have a pretty cramped schedule but you know somebody wants to talk. We can always make it happen.
Ron: Awesome. Richard I'll let you go. I see two minutes remaining. Thank you very much for joining my audience and I here on Automation Unplugged and wish you continued success. Thank you for being on the show.
Richard: Thank you very much Ron, talk to you. Alright.
Ron: Very awesome. All right gang. That's it. Another episode of Automation Unplugged. It is 12:58. Getting you out of here a little bit earlier today and I appreciate you you showing up watching the content if you're watching this on replay or you're reading it on Facebook again. Thanks for checking it out. If you want to learn more about One Firefly you can just jump over to our website at onefirefly.com. And we also have all of our previous shows, 12 shows, there on one Firefly dot com. So thanks again gang and we'll see you next time.
Richard Glikes' background spans over forty years in the custom integration space with companies such as HiFi House, Wall to Wall Sound, HTSA and more. He is the President and Founder of Azione Unlimited, a consortium of like-minded dealers, customer retailers, integrators, and vendors.
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 in 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.