Home Automation Podcast Episode #34: An Industry Q&A With Tim Bigoness
How D-Tools software streamlines project estimation, system design, and project management
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Tim Bigoness. Recorded live on Wednesday, February 15th, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Tim Bigoness
Tim Bigoness brings over 20 years of experience and background from within the television, publishing, multimedia, and internet industries, having been involved in all aspects of sales, marketing, public relations, business development, and product management.
Over the past 15 years, Bigoness has held executive and management positions with companies such as Macromedia, where he managed the Worldwide Developers Program and Made with Macromedia branding initiatives, and drove the creation of Macromedia Press.
Prior to these initiatives, Tim co-founded Morph’s Outpost, a technical trade publication for interactive media developers, and most recently held executive and senior marketing positions at Equilibrium and Scene7, companies that pioneered the dynamic imaging market.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Tim:
- How Tim got involved in the CI industry
- What brought Tim to D-Tools
- D-Tools 20th year in the industry
- Cloud solutions and the next version of the platform
Ron: What's up everybody? Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged it is episode 34 brought to you by One Firefly. Hope you're having an awesome Thursday. I was actually traveling the last few days on business and I was not able to record yesterday. So we are here live on Thursday. It's about 12:32 PM on Thursday, February 15th. So hope this Facebook live presentation finds you guys well you guys and gals, I'm going to come over to our handy Facebook page here on One Firefly and make sure that the interwebs are actually cooperating and this is being streamed out. So bear with me as I check that. Facebook's a little slow. There we go. It looks like we're live. All right, cool. So all right, let me bring in our guest. I've got a super fun guest for you folks. I've got Tim Bigoness with D-Tools. He is CMO, chief marketing officer of that fine company that serves this industry and is in excitingly been serving this industry for 20 years. Isn't that right Tim?
Tim: Yeah. Hey Ron. How's it going?
Ron: I am good. How are you doing today, sir? How's the fine state of California treating you?
Tim: I'm doing very well. The weather. It's been great. I know it's February and we need rain, but it's been really nice and sunny and I really can't complain about that.
Ron: Now you are at the D-Tools California facility. And you said that's an East Bay, is that San Francisco area?
Tim: Yeah, about 30 miles East of San Francisco.
Ron: Okay. And you guys have East coast offices as well?
Tim: Yeah, we have an office in Atlanta, which is a really where our sales and our support teams are and that's growing, yeah. Awesome. Growing like weeds there. I mean we add people. Seems like we're adding people every day.
Ron: Well, awesome. Well, Tim, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule and speak into my audience and taking a few questions here. So I really appreciate you doing that.
Tim: Oh, my pleasure, Ron. I always enjoy our conversations.
Ron: So Tim for our audience, I want to talk about what's exciting and going on with D-Tools, but before we go there, I always like to start off with our audience learning a little bit about you and you know, specifically where you come from, how you landed in this crazy industry we call the CI channel and you've stayed here for 13 years and you've worked with and helped many hundreds of businesses. But how did you get here? What's your background look like?
Tim: Well, my background is kind of varied. It is kind of a long journey. But I really started in television. I started working in television in the late eighties. Mainly cause I didn't want to be a 30 year old out of work drummer. You know, I'm a musician primarily and I've always kinda been into gear, you know whether it's records or got into musical instruments. I play drums, not really into drums. I like guitars. And I played in a number of bands since I was about 16 years old and it was pretty serious for awhile, but I always wanted to get a degree and I knew I didn't want to just get a business degree, so I figured, you know what, television would be cool. I always loved TV. So I started working in television in the 80s in San Francisco. Which was an awesome experience. Made no money, but I was working in broadcast in the number four market. S that was really good.
Ron: What did you do like in television? What does that mean? Like you're the guy behind the camera. You're the guy in front of the camera?
Tim: So not in front of the camera. Good Lord. No, this is bad enough. Now I did a lot of production jobs. So my first job was in master control, which is, you know, basically putting everything on the air and you're totally multitasking. So you're, you know, on one end you're, you're, you're running the shows and then you have to run the commercials and then you have to get up and queue the programs. And back at TV20 in San Francisco, this was a one person job, whereas every other TV station it was like three people doing it. So you had to run and it really was perfect for my multitasking, kind of, you know, ADD. So you'd be running the board, looking at the clock knowing that you've got like a minute before you have to go to the commercial and then when the commercial runs and you have to get up and cue the show and come back. So I did that and then I did floor directing and I did camera. So I did a lot of production, a lot of live TV, which was really fun. But I got transitioned from there into the Internet startup scene. Well start kind of via a couple of trips. I met a woman that owned a PR firm, so I started in PR and that really started me down the marketing road. So I did PR for awhile for high tech companies and I kind of learned how to very quickly you have to position things, you know, for the editors to get them to pick up your articles. Right. So PR was big. And then I ended up starting a magazine with some editors from these other magazines in the mid nineties which was a magazine for multimedia developers and it was a trade publication and taught me a lot about being in a small business, right. Where before I was kind of working at larger companies and this really kind of, you know, had a two year stint where, it was our magazine, we started this company and I remember going to the post office box, which was right next to our bank. And then looking for advertising checks or subscription checks or anything that we could then take to the bank and ask what would get paid.
Ron: Is it fair to say some of that experience has translated working with our integrators and on occasion some of the cashflow challenges or struggles that they've had over the years?
Tim: Yeah, I think really it made me ultimately a better employee when I did leave the magazine and go work for a real software company. You'd be like, wow, Staples, they've got office supplies and really most importantly, what I think people that have never worked at a smaller company don't really understand that there's not a big magic pile of money that's just there. That it really is the effort and the work of everybody involved to keep the business going. And that really to me, has resonated ever since. And I really do gravitate to a smaller, kind of more startup environment. And I love working with our guys. You know, a lot of our customers are entrepreneurs. They're startup guys. They love what they do. And running the business is just kind of the means for them to keep doing what they do. And that's been really rewarding over the years.
Ron: When you found D-Tools, how back in 2000 2005 when you joined the company?
Ron: Approximately what size was the company at that time?
Tim: Yeah. You know, it was decent size. I mean, we had our office in Atlanta and there was some people there and we had our office here. And I think version four, we were on SI 4 when I first got here, so it was established. You know, it wasn't, it wasn't as big as it is now of course, but you know, we had a good team. It was a small focused team, but it was still very, you know, we were all very hungry. And, and our CTO, Corey Craill and I came about the same time. I think I came about a month before he did. And you know, Corey and I still work together every day. And we've seen the transition from SI4 through SI5, SI6 and all the subsequent releases. And that's been really rewarding for us to kind of just be able to continue products and that, you know, are in response to what our customers asking for. And that's not always easy.
Ron: Tim, on the rare chance that somebody is watching this and does not know what D-Tools is, can you give like a synopsis on the company and the types of solutions that you bring to the CI channel?
Tim: Sure. You know, we provide software that really helps our customers, which are, you know, integrators, AV integrators, low-voltage integrators streamline and optimize operations. So enable them to generate proposals. We tie that to very detailed engineering and system design drawings. We integrate with Vizio and AutoCAD. And what we do is we leverage that same information that goes into let's say a proposal or a project and it's able to be leveraged throughout all client, customer facing documentation through the design phase. And then ultimately through the installation, and we call it a data driven process mainly because everything that we do is tied to actual manufacturer's specifications. We have a library, we work with, hundreds of manufacturers in our space. And everything is driven through product specifications. We're able to calculate labor, we're able to track, install times so that when an integrator is working with our solution, they're able to really focus on designing the system. And as they kind of work with our software and add items to the project, they can sort by locations, they can sort by systems. But what we're doing is we're tracking the model, the SKU, their pricing and what they're charging for labor. And then we have an estimated installed time for each piece of equipment. So as they're building their project and they're designing the system, we're helping them calculate an estimated installed price that accounts for their labor and gives the customer a very accurate estimate of what the system's going to cost. And from that process they can generate all of their client-facing documentation. Then if they want to design the system, we integrate, like I said, with Vizio and AutoCAD. So they can basically take that same information that's in the bill of materials, drag and drop onto the drawing surfaces and then create all of their engineered drawings. And because we are calculating install time and organizing by, let's say location and systems, that same information is able to be leveraged to schedule out installation, installed tasks, work orders, service orders, as well as generate purchase orders. So some of what we can deliver for an integrator is really a process for them to really run their business and really helps them save time, money and helps them not leave things on the table.
Ron: So D-Tools is celebrating this year, 2018 their 20th year anniversary. That's an impressive feat for any company to have been around for 20 years. What are you doing anything to celebrate that, to get that word out? Are you going to have a super duper party at CEDIA? What are your thoughts around that?
Tim: Well, you know, we're, we're kind of kicking it around and it's interesting cause yeah, we know it's a milestone year for us. But we were really all pretty heads down working on the next version of our platform product. So as 2018 we're also working on our cloud solution, which is going to be released this year. So this is this is a big year for us. We are planning, you know, Adam Stone launched this company at CEDIA in 1998 so yeah, we're there. There's talk about doing something big at CEDIA this year.
Ron: That's exciting. Now, what more can you tell our audience about the cloud solution? I know that I've been at several events and I've heard you speak and I've heard Randy speak. I know this has been in the works for a bit. And it sounds like it's going to be a really exciting new release that's going to bring a lot of new capabilities to the table. Can you just talk a little bit more about that in terms of what are some of those capabilities? Why would a user of D-Tools that's currently using your software care about the cloud release? And what does that mean?
Tim: Well, we'd like to say as part of this 20 years you know, one of the things that keeps us kind of motivated and excited every day. It's kind of we're proud of where we're been, where we've been. But we're really excited about what we're working on and what we're bringing to the future. And you know, we've learned a lot over 20 years about what works and what doesn't work and there's capabilities that we're going to be able to provide in the cloud that frankly, we couldn't even apply on the platform. And so a lot of what we're working on is understanding the advantage I think that we have in this transition is we've got 20 years of experience. Which is good and bad, right? And we have a large customer base that depends on us every day on the platform side. And that's going to continue to be case. But as we're building out these new capabilities, we also had the opportunity to look at things in a new way and provide workflow and guidance and just all of the advantages that a cloud platform can provide as far as not being constrained to an operating system as far as not having a windows only being able to operate from any browser, being able to extend capabilities beyond the desktop. And so even though there will still be, you know, sales design procurement, project management, some of the staples that we have in the platform, we have new and innovative ways that we can present those capabilities to both our existing customers as well as a new audience, right? As well as those companies that we may not be working with as of yet, maybe they are starting out and they want to start with sales and then eventually grow into design, procurement and project management. And as we roll out the cloud those capabilities are going to be rolling out with us. So much like when QuickBooks Online first came out there was a set of capabilities but it wasn't as robust as their desktop enterprise product. And we're going to be the same way. I mean, we've got a 20 year platform that's very mature in the market and that doesn't happen overnight. So capabilities will continue on the cloud to be rolled out as we deliver them. And the good thing about that is that you're also not constrained by major deadlines, releases and installs. The great thing about the cloud is that as you create new capabilities and you continue to develop on the platform, they just show up and they exist as they're built. So we're really excited about that piece of it. And initially we're gonna really focus on the sales process, opportunity management, managing your pipeline, being able to very quickly generate a quote, present proposals to customers in new and innovative ways. And build out from there.
Ron: Now for some of our audience, they may or may not know that One Firefly started back in 2007 as Firefly Design Group. That's actually where Tim and I met each other. Yeah. And Firefly Design Group's purpose as a business was to provide design and engineering services for integrators. And we were a digital shop. So for full disclosure, we've been a fan and in fact for many years we were a power user of D-Tools and serving, you know, many with, with great proposals and engineering. So I personally have that perspective. And so from that perspective, Tim, I'm just curious cause I haven't kept up to date with how D-Tools handles a couple of things and I'd be curious if you could bring my audience and bring myself up to speed on this. Before I state with that question though. If you're out there watching and if you are listening please give us a like, give us a share, share this content out. This is how your friends in the industry are gonna hear what's going on with Tim and with D-Tools. And it definitely helps us out as well. And if you have a question for Tim, please type it in and I'll do my best to try to catch it and read it live to Tim. Remember, we are live right now and so you get the benefit. If you give me a question, then we'll get Tim to address it live. So anyway, so Tim, data, how, what's going on in the world of data, data, you know, theoretically for proposal generation and I want to say more importantly, but if you're going to utilize D-Tools with engineering documentation, you need great data. Meaning, you know, that receiver needs to not only have us a price, a cost and a retail value, but you need to have, engineering level details, inputs, outputs, you know, dimensions and such. And how is that handled today? So if someone signed up and started using D-Tools here in the next six months. How would they build out their data library? Does D-Tools provide that? Do they do that on their own? Do they need to hire a third party contractor to do that? What's that landscape look like?
Tim: Well, there's a number of ways to work with data within the platform. And one of the first and foremost features of what we offer is the ability for our customers to work with data in any number of capacities. So kind of what you said all of the above apply. We do have a data library. It's in the cloud. We've had this for years since almost the inception of the company where we work with manufacturers directly, many of them in the industry, in what we call our MVP program. And what that does is we work directly with these manufacturers to get the data into our cloud library. And we take really a different tactic than just trying to get the information just as the companies can do a proposal that's very important because if you can't sell the job, then there's probably not a lot of use to designing the job and then installing the job. But because our differentiator is really in those engineering drawings our data library really is focused on beyond the sale to really capture different information. So information such as dimensions, weight, BTU, and then for many of our products we are tracking inputs and outputs. And this really comes into play because if you're going to do a very detailed schematic drawing, which is a point to point connection drawing we provide that detailed input and output information so that in Vizio or AutoCAD they really can connect the system within the drawing. So each wire is an entity. So we can say from this receiver to this speaker, these are connections. What we're doing there is we're tracking connections. We can then generate from the drawing installation reports. So wire checklists, wire schedules, we can even generate wire labels for the entire job and it's all based on that data. So it's a manual process to get that level of detail. And we do, I think a good job of it. We have a team of people that are just dedicated to building the library. But what we like to say is we provide a very good headstart. But there's always going to be some management of the data in terms of the customer. We provide MSRP. We don't necessarily provide dealer cost. However, we have very, very great tools to manage pricing, to create price rules, to do mass updates to apply percentages and to work with the data. But we provide a very robust library that has that detailed engineering information along with the sales needed information that gets an integrator well down the road, but there's always going to be management of that. Catalog. Prices change, models change, SKUs change. So there's always a little bit of work there. Conversely, the integrators can, and our customers can add their own data. They can import spreadsheets, they can import price lists, they can add them on their own or they could work with third parties. If they want to outsource that data management. We have a partner in blue dog data services that is a full service data management. They'll manage the catalog, they'll host it, they'll do the pricing, they'll add customized accessories and really curate that data for them. But we try and make it as seamless as possible for our customers to get started and start working.
"For those that have followed me over the years, you know, I'm a big advocate of designing your processes to incorporate not only proposal generation, but proposals that are engineered proposals tied to some level of shop drawings."
Ron: Understood. For those that have followed me over the years, you know, I'm a big advocate of designing your processes to incorporate not only proposal generation, but proposals that are engineered proposals tied to some level of shop drawings. I think there's some point, and I'll say arbitrarily, maybe it's a $50,000 job. Maybe it's $100,000 job. Maybe it's a $10,000 job. Depending on what your normal is, where, you know, my opinion is that every integrator should be selling a component of time that covers them, in fact dotting their I's and crossing their T's to make sure that everything actually works preemptively prior to showing up to the job site..
Tim: For the checks and balances.
"Designing processes and utilizing software to help you implement it from beginning to end of a project. I personally think D-Tools is one of the best tools out there to do that."
Ron: Yeah. It's a, I think it's a better way to operate. I get it. It is hard, you know, there's no around it. The data, you know, can be hard. The getting people on your staff to do the drawings can be hard. But it's not hard if you simply plan to operate that way from day one. And I've at least espoused that opinion for many years. For those that want to hear me do it on a big stage, there'll be at CEDIA last four or five years I've been teaching a class called the wash, rinse, repeat, standardizing your design and engineering process. And a lot of what I'm espousing in that public course is just that, just designing processes and utilizing software to help you implement it from beginning to end of a project. And you know, I personally think D-Tools is one of the best tools out there to do that. That's a free commercial for you there, Tim.
Tim: Thanks Ron.
Ron: The Home Technology Alliance, what Josh and his team are doing over there, what are your thoughts about that idea of some accreditation for dealers and what that means for the CI space?
"I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday. I was just kind of. You know one of my goals is to constantly be improving. And I think that being able to align and help our customers, communicate that as part of their day to day business is good for everybody."
Tim: Well, I think it's a good thing and one of the, it shows a level of commitment. It shows a level of wanting to learn and wanting to be at a certain quality level. And I think that's great for everybody. I think it's great for the industry. I think it's ultimately great for our end clients and to know that the people that they're working with continually you know, learning about new technologies and are investing in their business. And so we support that. In fact, Randy Stearns, our CEO, is a real firm believer in helping the industry as a whole, helping better the industry. And this really follows that philosophy where, you know, what we do is we have some report templates that are available for members so that if they're D-Tools users and they're HTA members, their certification can show up on their documentation, so on their proposals, on their drawings. And I think what this really does is it just helps communicate to their clients their commitment to deliver a quality project to that. The customer has that extra level of confidence that the people they're working with are passionate, they're invested and they're committed to delivering quality. And I think that's good for everybody. I think, you know, constantly learning. You know, I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday. I was just kind of. You know one of my goals is to constantly be improving. And I think that being able to align and help our customers, communicate that as part of their day to day business is good for everybody.
Ron: Want to go back to the idea that someone attends a show. I know we have like the Pro Source show coming up around the corner in Nashville and are you guys at that show? I haven't asked you yet. Preemptively. You'll be in the show?
Tim: We're members of Pro Source and yes, we'll be there at the show.
Ron: And so you know, if someone comes to a show, an integrator, and they see the D-Tools demonstration and the software is awesome and they get excited about it and they purchase it, what do you do today Tim? What resources or trainings or webinars or support is in place to help a new user get onboarded? What does that process look like? Cause it's, I'll just tell you from my personal experience, just onboarding any software into an organization, it's a lift and you always underestimate how much time and energy it's going to take. And even when you have it implemented from a technology standpoint, you then still got to get your people onboarded and using it. So how do you help your customers do that?
"We have a professional services group as well as an outstanding support team that are really committed to helping our customers be successful. Right out of the gate we've got a number of resources from no cost to fully embedded trainings that help our customers."
Tim: Well, first and foremost, we try and really set expectations upfront that this is a commitment and it's going to help your business. But that there's a bit of a curve now, not a huge learning curve, but you have to be committed to the process. So we've gotten much better at it over the years and a couple of years ago we really put this focus on really helping our customers get onboarded and working with the software. We have a professional services group as well as an outstanding support team that are really committed to helping our customers be successful. Right out of the gate we've got a number of resources from no cost to, you know, fully embedded trainings that help our customers. Get started, start building their catalog, start working all the way from our Tuesday and Thursday gold support webinars, which are basically free training webinars for our software assurance customers through our onboarding training through e-learning, through personal web trainings, through on online trainings that are two or three days as well as regional trainings. And our professional services team, you know, will even come onsite and train our customers for two or three days at a time. And there's various levels of costs associated with those. But, you know, really we are committed that if someone makes a decision that bring D-Tools into their business, that we're going to help them get started and we're going to ultimately help them be successful.
Ron: That's cool. I'll share with everyone watching from my personal experience implementing new software, you know, it has to be driven from the top down in the organization and it then it meaning you. You need to believe it at an ownership or management level and then you need to get buy in from all members of your team. And only after you do that, are you going to successfully have an efficient deployment of software. Because if you do it because you think it's gonna save you money or maybe make you look better, operate better, but everyone isn't on board, you're not gonna really fully benefit from that investment. And you know, any software is an investment both in terms of hard costs and then people cost time cost. So that's my 2 cents on that. Now I want to go back, and this is part of my ignorance, Tim, so I apologize for my ignorance, but you know, educate me and by educating me, you'll be educating, you know, a few thousand people that might be watching this. In terms of the front end of a sales process. Okay. So this is the idea that an integrator, a salesperson and owner is out, you know, meeting with a prospect or maybe someone that's been referred to them and they're trying to do some of that discovery dialogue, you know, gathering what the client thinks they might want. They're trying to establish some of the budgets the client might be comfortable spending and do that in a delicate, non-offensive way. And so that whole front end thing at least in a lot of the trainings I've taught, I call it the discovery process, kind of the presales process and I have not used or been familiar with D-Tools solutions in that space. And so I use some other third party pieces of software way back when I was doing that sort of stuff. And I believe that D-Tools has some answers around that and or some opinions and techniques for dealers to follow. I don't know. Can you enlighten me and kind of fill me in on what I've missed over the last several years?
Tim: Yeah. And, and you know, D-Tools was always in the process when it was time to generate a proposal. That was traditionally where we started that, you know, some presales has been done and opportunity has been identified. And then we come into play when it's time to do a proposal. And it's usually a very detailed proposal and engineered proposal. So a few years back, we looked at the beginning of the sales process and we looked at our own processes and we need to as salespeople understand if there's going to be a fit, understand what the customer ultimately is looking for and have that conversation about scope and budget. So we came up with an app called mobile quote, which was an iOS only iPad app. Now this was designed specifically to address those conversations around scope and budget in the field. We have recently updated that. And so we've just come out with Mobile Quote 2.0, which is an updated version of that application in it. It's very powerful in that it makes it easier to have that conversation with the customer upfront, understand what types of systems, locations, allocations, and get to those questions around scope and budget. And the great thing about Mobile Quote is that it's very interactive. You can sit there onsite with a customer on your iPad. Talk about what types of systems they may want in a job, where types of typical locations rooms, whether it's a retrofit or new construction. And it really just helps capture that discovery in terms of not only what type of project, what type of budget. But you could go very detailed in doing a full initial quote. If it's a smaller job or it could be a scope and budget agreement or it could be something to go get a design retainer to go do some further work. But what this allows our customers to do is really get an idea of when the customer the types of systems you know, whether they're going to have specific equipment or packages. If you use packages in D-Tools it works very well to come up with an exact number. And what happens is you can sit there with a customer and you can discuss the type of equipment that's going to go in this room. Or if you're doing a multi-room audio system or, you know, lighting control. And as you're going in you're kind of really just kind of taking notes and understanding the customer needs. We're building a budget and you can share that with your customer, could actually get them to sign off on it. So the goal from that meeting is to try and get a commitment from the customer to take the project off the street, maybe get a deposit or a down payment and go do some further work. Or if it's a smaller project. If you're using D-Tools packages you can say, in wall speaker system or in ceiling speaker system that has the exact speakers, the brackets, wires, labor, you can get exact pricing, build the project, get the customer to sign off on it. And then anything that happens in Mobile Quote can then be sent to D-Tools and you can generate all further project documentation. You can bring the systems in, you can then do your drawings and then you can schedule out the job and the data remains consistent throughout. So if you're just doing a scope and budget, you can use allowances, which basically means you can say, okay, I'm going to do a 55 inch flat panel in this room. I know within my D-Tools catalog, I've got TVs ranging from $799 to $3,500. So you could set kind of a good, better, best scenario price-wise. And then when you bring that into D-Tools as a project, you can then choose the exact model you want to use, which is different than the way D-Tools normally operates. Cause D-Tools is very exact to the exact product. SKU. Mobile Quote basically allows you to go from general scope and budget, but 90% of the work is done. So when you do bring that into D-Tools, then you're just choosing the exact models that you want to work with. So we really feel that it helps our customers a have that conversation around scope and budget, which isn't always an easy conversation. So it kinda helps bring that to the forefront and allows them to do a lot of discovery capturing information so that if they do, then go back into D-Tools and do a more detailed proposal, all of that information is captured and in many cases they can get sign off for quote and move forward that same day.
Ron: Okay. I want to try to touch on two more topics before we're already at almost 38 minutes here and I try to cap these around 45 minutes max, right. Just to be cognizant of our audience in their time and cognizant of your time, Tim. But I just want to touch on a topic back from our prior conversations back around 2011 you transitioned or you took on some additional responsibilities of managing some sales responsibilities and doing a lot of not only executive level manage marketing direction for the company, but it was sales and marketing and you were working one on one and giving presentations. And I just have to imagine there were a lot of takeaways, a lot of learnings that happened through those experiences. You know, I've been doing those one on one sales interactions for the last 18 years and I really value them and I think it's made my company who we are and it's made me who I am. So I'm curious what that was like for you and if there are some observations you have from that experience that's maybe made you more effective at being the CMO of D-Tools?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. So in 2011, one of our long time sales people left and while I was running, my responsibility was for sales and marketing and I kind of owned the number. I didn't have a territory and I wasn't, you know, carrying a bag and doing end-users sales myself. So this sales person left and we always know that it takes a while to ramp up a new sales person. So I said, okay, well I'll just take over the territory for awhile, which was a learning experience. But I really found that I really enjoyed working with our customers and our sales process is, you know, to do a discovery to learn about our customers, to then, you know, demonstrate the capabilities of our solution, how it can help them. And when you're working one on one every day with our customers that, you know, to me ultimately made me a much better marketer now that I'm out of that role. But I really found that I really enjoyed the interactions, the process, working with our customers, helping them solve problems. Seeing if there was a fit for our solution. And it was very satisfying to me to be able to demonstrate how we can help kind of demystify the complexity maybe. Cause I think sometimes if you look at our solution, it looks really, really complex. And so what I would try and do is say it's really, it's not that hard. You just have to kind of know where to click and here's this. And I'd show them where to do. And oftentimes they might try our trial. Do a demo with me and there's many times I'd get a call the next week or the next day or two or whatever and say, Hey, I put this proposal together, I gave it to my client and I got the job and the excitement that they would have, I would feel really good about. And I would feel that, okay, so see, it wasn't that hard. Now, you know, wringing that into your company six months down the road. Because I was also wearing the marketing hat, I would say, well, I really want to be able to six months down the road, give you a call and do a case study on how software is helping your business. So we have a vested interest in making sure that you're successful. And to me, I learned so much more about what was great about our software where it needs work or where we might've been lacking in features. And I was able to bring that information directly from the customer back to our product teams and product management teams. I think it helped shape my perspective of what our solution needs to do in the market. And ultimately I do believe it made me a much better marketer.
Ron: That's awesome. That's a neat story of kind of learning from one's experiences and getting better, getting a little bit better every day. And I know that's one of your philosophies there at D-Tools.
Tim: Yeah. We try and you know, we do that with all our teams and it's called Kaizen, which is like constant improvement and we don't always succeed, of course. But the one thing I'll say that again, you know, I look back and say, Oh, I've been here 13 years. That seems like a long time. But you know, we're all still really excited to come to work every day. We're always working on new initiatives. Like I said, we're building out our cloud solution, we're working on the next version of the software. There's always something new and that really has been very very rewarding and it doesn't even seem like it's been 13 years.
Ron: That's a good sign. You're in the right place when your work doesn't feel like work.
Tim: Well, I didn't say it didn't feel like work. It feels like work, but it's joyful and challenging work. But it's work.
Ron: Question for you. Actually we'll close on this. When you're not being Mr D-Tools and and helping people and designing master marketing strategies. What are you doing for fun, if you don't mind sharing?
Tim: Well, I have two lovely daughters and a beautiful wife and my daughters are grown up now and my youngest is finishing up her senior year of college. So she'll be a graduate. And my oldest daughter actually works with us here at D-Tools in the marketing department. So I'm a family man in that, that's really important to me. But I love playing. I'm in a rock band still and I play drums and we have gigs and we have a really good time.
Ron: What's the name of the rock band?
Tim: Jam Daddy.
Ron: Jam Daddy. What type of music do you play?
Tim: You know, classic rock everything, you know, from sixties and seventies to now, you know, we'll throw in, you know, the occasional new one where the kids play, but yeah, pretty much. Yeah. Classic rock and blues, you know, basic stuff. But it's fun and we're all pro, we're all, you know, professionals as far as not musicians but professionals in our work. So but we've all been playing instruments for a very long time, so it's kind of fun. From the perspective of we might say, Oh, Hey, let's try this song. We'll chart it up and play it. And if it works we're like, Oh, okay, great. We'll just add that one. And so we get together a couple of times a month and you usually have a gig once every month or so, or once every other month. And so it's fun. It keeps me young
Ron: I'm envious of those that have learned how to play an instrument. That was something that I never, just never happened for me. I guess maybe I was exposed to it in my youth, but it never stuck.
Tim: You've got the robots and the planes and the rockets and all the smart, you know smart things.
Ron: No, I'm not saying I don't stay busy, I just don't know how to play an instrument. But yeah. Well, Tim, thank you sir. Again, I know you're a very busy individual and you guys are doing pretty exciting things there at D-Tools. Congratulations on your 20th year anniversary to you and Randy and Adam and the whole team. It's a really fun demonstration of hard work and perseverance and listening to your customer and getting better. And I think that's what you guys embody. At least that's my observation from the outside. So thank you very much for joining me today.
Tim: Easy and fun year. So thanks for having me. This was great.
Ron: Awesome. And I'll see you in a few weeks out in Nashville.
Tim: You bet.
Ron: Awesome. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me for another episode of Automation Unplugged. Ran a little bit longer today, just over 45 minutes. Again, it's Thursday, February 15th. So I hope you have a great rest of your day and you wrap up your week strong and you have a fun and relaxing weekend and I will see you next week. Another fun guest. We'll leave it a surprise until then, but we will see everyone very soon. So I will be talking to you soon. See you soon. And be well, thanks everyone.
Bigoness is the current CMO of D-Tools. He brings over 20 years experience and background from within the television, publishing, multimedia and internet industries, having been involved in all aspects of sales, marketing, public relations, business development, and product management.
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.