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Check back here often for the latest news on our new product releases, awards, recognitions, and other exciting achievements.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #41: An Industry Q&A With Sheri Griffin

Being a professional integrator
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Sheri Griffin. Recorded live on Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. EST.  

About Sheri Griffin

Sheri along with her husband Brad founded Home Theater Design Group in May of 1997. Sheri also teaches with the John Maxwell Team and does business coaching and consulting. Sheri and Brad live in Allen Texas. they have 4 grown children 2 grand sons and live with 2 little dogs.

Interview Recap

Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Sheri:

  • Sheri's background in the industry
  • The evolution of integrators' business
  • How to hire the right persons for your team
  • How to build your business
  • And more!

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #40: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Henry Clifford



Ron:  Hello interwebs. Ron Callis here with One Firefly bringing you another episode of Automation Unplugged. Hope you're out there having a great day. Today is Wednesday. It's 1235. It's April 11th. It's a couple of minutes later. Then we generally like to start and I say we, that's me and my multiple personalities. And let's go ahead and jump over to the One Firefly Facebook page just to ensure that we are coming in live so just bear with me as I check that. All right. Come on internet cooperate. Got a really cool guest for you folks today. And I want to bring her in as soon as I can verify that we are streaming into our page. There we are. All right, we got one person watching hello. One person. So we'll let that simmer for a bit as more people find the feed and if you're out there watching live or if you're watching the prerecorded show, please like this as well as comment. Say hi. Let us know you're out there. Do you have any? All right, Brian is saying hello. Hi Ron. Hi Brian. How are you sir and share this as well. That's how we can get this content out to a larger audience. I do have something to celebrate. And I'll get that. I'll tell you guys what that is and then we'll, we'll jump into our, our guest. This is officially the one year anniversary since we started Automation Unplugged. I was just prior to going live here. I was talking to Sheri and I did the little bit of forensic research and discovered that the first Automation Unplugged went live on April 5th of last year. My guest was Paul Starkey. And from that date to the present we have put out, this is our 41st show today. And we've had over 80, 88,000 views of Automation Unplugged episodes, which is, I dunno, it kind of seems like a big number to me. It's pretty cool. So thank you for watching and thank you for being a continued watcher. I don't know if that's the right way to say that, but thank you for viewing. And I'm going to go ahead and jump right in and introduce our guest. We have Sheri Griffin from Home Theater Group out of Dallas, right, Sheri?

Sheri: Yup, absolutely. Dallas, Texas.

Ron:  Awesome. Well, Sheri, thank you very much for being my guest. Actually, you know what, I don't know between when you and I were doing our setup and now, but you've shifted a little bit, so I need you to shift a little bit to your left. Just a hair. There you go. Now you're center of frame. Everybody sees you perfectly. Thank you for doing that.

Sheri: No problem.

Ron:  So Sheri, thank you for agreeing to come on Automation unplugged. [inaudible]

Sheri: You bet. I'm excited to be here. Ron, this sounds like a lot of fun.

Ron:  You were telling me just prior to us going live here that you actually on occasion have watched some of the episodes.

Sheri: I have. I watched Paul's and I watched Gordon Isaac. So I have been known to be maybe a little bit of a stalker and not so much a commenter. So it's a real pleasure to be invited to be on the other side today.

Ron:  Well, you are a very successful, you and your husband are very successful integrators and you've been at that game for a long time and you also run a practice. You personally run a practice where you do business coaching and consulting. And so it makes for a very interesting combination of experiences and skills and I look forward to peeling some of the layers back on that today. But as with all my guests, I'd love for my audience just to get to know you a little bit and kind of where you came from and what brought you into this industry.

Sheri: Well, it's kind of a Cinderella story to be honest with you, Ron. I had a musical background and was raised in a really musical family and always really just loved audio and the way that things sounded had a big stereo system as a kid. Little did I know that I was going to end up meeting a guy who as a middle schooler mowed grass to build his first stereo system. And when he got a little older, he traded that first stereo system for a car. Fast forward a few more years and somebody told my husband one time when car audio was all the rage that you couldn't make a Corvette Stingray sound good. He took the challenge car and he was a three time world champion with the Ayaska group back in the like 1990 to '93 so years ago. Fast forward a few more years and he had lost his job. We'd been downsized from a Fortune 100 company and it wasn't a job he necessarily loved. And I said, what would you love to go do? And he said, I'd love to give this home theater thing a shot. So that was May of 1997 and we are coming up on our 21st anniversary and I've just been really blessed to, you know, survive a few things as well as, you know, do a few things right along the way. So it will be 21 years old next month.

Ron:  That is amazing. So you guys have been integrators in the integrator game for over 20 years.

Sheri: Yes.

Ron:  So in a snapshot, if that's even possible, how would you describe some of the changes in the industry from when you started in the late nineties to what it looks like today?

Sheri: Well, you know, one of the things that I always joke about and you know it's true though, is it used to take five guys to deliver a 55 inch TV and now it takes one. And you know, our warehousing has changed where we used to store one TV, now we can pile six. That and the world of wifi. I mean, just the way that we connect, you know, I remember back in the day, carrying a Pro Logic receiver and, and putting these giant speakers on walls in people's family rooms cause media rooms weren't even really a thing yet. And so you know, to think today that we can just tell Alexa to turn the lights off and there a TV that, you know, you can watch on any mobile device or anything like that. Audio has come so far. So, you know, technology just continues to be an amazing thing. You know, back in the day it was really amazing that satellite could go all the way to space and we could watch TV. So, you know, just over the 21 years that we've been in this business, you know, we've seen it all change and in this business you truly are always on the edge and you change your..

Ron:  Now in addition to running the integration firm, you and your husband run that integration firm. Is that right? Is that the right way to say it?

Sheri: Absolutely.

Ron:  Then you also do consulting and you're with the John Maxwell group. Can you describe that a little bit?

Sheri: Absolutely. So I actually do consulting and John Maxwell team, a lot of their content is stuff that I use a lot of and that was really boring.

Ron:  You know who that is? Like I know that there's a number of books, I probably have a few of my bookshelf here over my shoulder from him, but how would maybe the audience know who that is.

Sheri: John Maxwell has actually been ranked as the number one leadership guru in the world, both by far a way, a number one in sales for books on Amazon as far as events attended. And actually John's son is in this industry. So anyway, John has just spent his life really working towards how to build people and organizations into better things. And as a result he's had some, some killer books. His most popular book is the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and he's spent a lot of time numbering a whole lot more things since then. So John and a lot of his leadership material I'm certified to teach. And he's one of the tools in my toolbox where the consulting business really came from, was kind of my own journey. My background was in healthcare. You know, I had worked in hospitals and everything for years. And so when Brad and I started this business, it quickly became more for me to try and figure out how to run a business and not just balance checkbook. I mean, I could balance a checkbook, but you know, what do we do beyond that? And what I learned over time as I met some of the real, some super cool people in this industry was they were super talented technicians, but they didn't have a clue. So on my own journey and learning how to run a business, I started sharing what I was learning with other people. And that kind of turned into the consulting thing, you know, questions on, you know, how to run a business, how do I hire those types of things in. So it's just been kind of me staying, answering my own questions and wanting to better myself. But as a result of this, I learn, I go ahead and I share that with other people.

Ron:  Now I'm curious on the consulting side, who do you target as a customer? Are you serving the, this industry? Are you providing those services to, you know, companies similar to your audio video business or your home technology business? Or are you going and serving other markets?

Sheri: It started as other technology people, not necessarily in my own backyard, meaning, you know, in the Dallas Fort Worth area. But I had clients just as close as Austin and as far away as California and up into the Northeast. It started there. But along the way, what we found is you can replace just about any widget with another widget. And so I've really learned like the basics of an operation of how to run a business, how to do great hiring and things like that. So one of my newest clients.. They do a sterile stuff in hospitals. So they're actually the people that process the sterile trays that go into surgical suites.

Ron:  So there's a whole industry of sterilization for hospitals?

Sheri: There is indeed. And so I was hired to come in and work with their leadership team and so, you know, the things that I had to go out and figure out on how to run a business, cause I didn't have a background, I don't have a business degree, but there are a lot of people that are passionate about fill in the blank, whether it's audio, video or you know, cars and how to sell or work on cars. Just any of those things, you know, in these sterile processing folks, you find something that you're passionate about and you know, it still takes the same skills to figure out how to do things and do things well.

Ron:  So if you don't mind that, I'm going to try to take some of those experiences and that knowledge base you have and see if we can uncover some tips or tricks or ideas for the integrators that might be watching this show. And can you maybe talk about some of the ideas or topics that you think come top of mind in terms of an integration firm and some of the areas that they might be able to focus on to improve their business?

Sheri: Oh yeah, for sure. The number one thing that comes to mind, and it's probably one of the pain points I hear the most often from folks is hiring, you know, how do you find the right person to fulfill a role? How do you find the right person to meet, you know, and blend with your company culture. Those are questions that are hard to answer. And sometimes even if you go through a process you may still miss. But I know for us, when we first started our business, it was Brad and I and we were working ourselves silly and we figured out we needed help. And so we looked around and somebody said, okay, I'll help you. And I say, can you fog this mirror? And they said, yes, I can. And you know, we all three went forward. And you know, before we knew it, you know, he wasn't really doing things the way that we thought they should be done. And you know, we started to have this cultural riff. And so along the way, and in the last 20 years we've had some, you know, stellar hits and some horrible misses as far as hiring goes. But some things that I've learned along the way, number one, I don't just do one interview. I do several interviews and I put people in situations. As a matter of fact, when it's a technician, you're going to do a working interview, we're going to hand you a Pollo Steph and say, figure this out. You know, I also look at people's personalities. You know, if you have somebody that's the life of the party and wanting to be out in, interacting with people all the time, don't lock them in a room and put them behind a computer all day because they may be able to do that okay for a little bit. But in the long run, they're going to be unhappy and you're going to have an unhappy client because they're not going to do what they're supposed to. Or even worse, you're going to have somebody that ends up walking away. So, you know, hiring it's a multifaceted thing. We have a minimum of five interviews we go through along with some personality testing and things like that. So, you know, we really dig into that.

Ron:  What type of personality testing are you a fan of?

Sheri: I'm a huge fan and I'm certified to administer the DISC assessment. There's quite a few out there. Probably my second favorite one is Strength Finders. And so, but I really liked the DISC assessment just because it's four quadrants, it's broken down into 16. I've been trained and certified how to do that. So I start to look at what I need in a position. So for example, I mean we all have technicians that we work with and so you have to really go through and say, what personality traits does a technician need to have? Well, you know, they need to be thorough, you know, so what does that look like? Are they more people oriented or task oriented? So that determines where they land in the plot. So I kind of make a list of what I'm looking for. And we go forward with the testing from there because once in a great while you may get an outlier, but you certainly, and you know, here's another one. You don't want a salesperson who's a total introvert and is uncomfortable talking to people.

Ron:  Now, do you incorporate the DISC profile testing up front as a filter prior to safe interviews? Or do you do the interviews and then conduct the DISC profiling as a filter, you know, based on finalists or candidates, how do you, what step in the process do you feel is best?

Sheri: So like I said, we have a five step minimum and DISC is usually number two or number three. And that is because I want to get to know a person, but I mean like step one for us, and it may not seem like a step to a lot of people, but you know, a lot of times we're like, Hey, give us a call. We're going to do a quick just five minute phone set up. You know, can they call you on time? Can they reply to an email with an attachment? You would be amazed the people that I've gotten that, you know, can't follow instructions and I mean, if that's the thing, I mean, you know, they're eliminated very early on. You know, if it says, Hey, can you reply to this email and attach your resume in PDF format and you get a Word Document, I'm like, what are you really, who are you really interested in this job? Or are you, what are you really capable of? And so, you know especially with technicians, again, we want those details. We want this perfectionist. And those people that can write 100,000 lines of code and it be correct. So the DISC assessment is a little later in the process for us. The other thing that I have to say is with that, a lot of times, you know, when you, when you look at someone and say, can you fog a mirror? That's great, but what else is going on? We hire 360 degree people. And so our last part before we hire someone and give them a job is we have a spousal interview. We go hang out with them and their spouse at dinner because you can, I've not heard that one before. This is new. So, well, I'll tell you, you can have some of the coolest guys in the industry, but if his wife is crazy, crazy is going to come to your office because she's going to be on the phone and bugging him and calling him. I literally, I had a guy one time who, you know, if his wife could go three hours without calling him, it was a big deal.

Ron:  Wow.

Sheri: You know. So are you at the office or are you at home? Because I don't want you dealing with the office when you're at home. But I also don't want you dragging home to the office all the time. So we do a spousal interview. It's one of the last things we do. I know all of my guys' wives, they all have my cell phone number. I'm on a first name basis. We see them. It's important. We want to know what's going on with them.

Ron:  That, that's a very interesting tip. I honestly had never heard that before, so that, but it makes sense. I think the partner, you're marrying or you're going to be interacting or getting the end result of that couple at home. You know, so it's interesting that you meet both of them now in this market that is so challenged. I mean, I hear, you know, people come to us at One Firefly quite often and they ask for any number of types of help and some of them we can help them with and some of them just aren't in our wheelhouse and hiring and HR and things like that often are asked. We don't provide those services. But one of the questions that I know I hear quite often is, you know, where do I find people when everyone is busy, when every integrator is, you know, really bottlenecked at most of them are bottlenecked just at capacity right now and ability to perform work. Where do you go find or how do you grow or what, what is the right thing to do? Is the right thing to do is just accept your ability to produce work and just go for the best quality work or do you go try to bring in more people and and if so, where do you, where do you get those people?

Sheri: Well, you know, it's interesting the number one place that we've gotten people and our team is created on it. Is I look at the people that I currently have that I love working with and I'm like, if you had someone that you had to hang out with all of the time, you know, and be your partner and the buddy in the van all day, who would that be? And we go after those people. I'm so sorry. Springtime allergies.

Ron:  No, I'm on my allergy meds as well. I get it.

Sheri: So anyway, you know, so the first thing we do is, you know, we ask the guys that are working for us, who do you know, you know, who do you know that may not be happy where they're at, who do you know that has a set of talents? Who do you know that you would want to hang out with and be buddies in an attic with if, you know, somebody's fishing a line down the wall or something.

Ron:  No, that's, that's a good point. I want to go a different direction if you'll allow.

Sheri: Okay.

Ron:  So you had made a comment when you were, you and I were we had dinner. I we were at the same dinner at the Pro Source event in Nashville last month. That's you and Brad. And you got to hang out with some of my team as well. And you had made a comment to me that you felt integrators would benefit just as you have benefited from trying to make our focus on growing your business and building a business and not just building a job for themselves. Can you expand or expound on that a little bit of kind of what that means? I guess it goes back maybe to the myth from what Michael Gerber and you know, are you a technician or are you a business owner? But can you expand on that and what that means to you?

Sheri: Absolutely. you know, first of all, I have to tell you that I had a chance to spend a entire day in a conference with Michael Gerber at CEDIA way back in the day. So it was years ago and we paid extra and we did this whole one day conference and the information that he provided. And that just really challenged me to think, I think so often as business owners, you know, we're worried about working in our business, you know, are we contacting our clients? Are we doing scheduling, are we getting deposits, you know, all of those types of things. Are we getting things ordered on time and it's really easy to get down in our business and not work on our business. One of the things that I'm at the point now with our business that I kind of have the luxury of doing is I kind of fly at the 30,000 foot level, I have an operations guy that handles whether something's ordered or not, and it allows me to plan. And in that planning, it allows me to look at, you know, what are we missing that we should be selling? You know, I mean, it wasn't so long ago that we weren't selling automated shades and now they go into almost every job that we do. Same thing with lighting control a few years ago. So it allows me the opportunity to work on my business instead of in my business on a daily basis. And so I think that, it was probably 10 years ago when I started doing some consulting for some other AV businesses. I said, I feel like a lot of technicians are like little gophers, you know, they get a job and they go underground and they do this whole underground thing the whole time. And when that job's done, then they pop their head back up and go, okay, what's next? And you know, they're not learning to where they have a process to where, you know, if each person is doing their thing, you constantly have the business rolling along. And that's been a massive thing for us in realizing how that worked in allowing us to expand into other markets and grow.

"It's often that folks will be busy and they go and they score a job and then they go get super busy doing that job and meanwhile are forgetting to build their brand or build their pipeline of work."

Ron:  I agree 100%, you know, now that we are entirely and purely a marketing agency, I see it as it relates to marketing. You know, I'll have a marketing and sales, you know I'm talking to integrators owners and leaders in integration firms all over North America every day of the week. And it's almost comedic. First of all, most integrators don't pay a lot of attention to marketing. They would tell me to my face that it's not needed or not important. And I smile and you know, sometimes part of what they're saying is correct and usually, you know, part of what they're saying is not correct. But it's often that folks will be busy and they go and they score a job and then they go get super busy doing that job and meanwhile are forgetting to build their brand or build their pipeline of work. And you know, I call them bipolar. They may not be psychologically bipolar, but they're running their life through highs and lows. They're super high when they get the project and they're doing it and then they're super low when the job is done and they realize they have no work.

Sheri: Right. Absolutely. And, and to me that just, I mean, that's insanity. And it really comes down to are you building a business or are you building a lifestyle? Because honestly, in this industry, we can build a lifestyle. You know, we can make enough money and we can cash enough checks. There was a guy I came across, I wouldn't say that I really mentored or saw him as a coaching client so much, but I came across him a few years ago and he was a kid in college that was kind of doing this on the side, had some vendor distribution accounts set up, you know, and he was, you know, basically going and installing for beer money on the weekend and if that's what you want to be, if you're looking to just, you know, install it and put some extra money in your pocket, you have a lifestyle business. But if you're truly into running a business and being a professional integrator, I think that there's a whole different set of rules that go with that. Number one, it's going to, what kind of employees are you going to attract? What type of clientele are you going to attract? You know, my employees are with us for the long run. They're professional integrators. You know, we have paid time off. We have retirement accounts and those type of things because we want to be able to offer things that are going to allow good people to stay with this.

"The Dallas market is just spectacular. It seems to be recession-proof."

Ron:  No, I agree. I think those are all very smart strategies. I'm going to ask you to look into your crystal ball and I know you talked to a lot of people and you see a lot of things. You are in one of the best markets in my opinion, in the country. They're in North Texas. I agree with you. The Dallas market is just spectacular. It seems to be recession proof. It's pretty amazing. But what are you seeing in the market place in the months and years ahead? You know, the stock market's kind of wobbling you know, it's uncertain, but earnings still look good for most of the top companies in the US, what do you think's in store for us in the AV space? The CEDIA space in the next year or two?

"One of the next big things that's coming for integrators is starting to take over low voltage lighting. We don't necessarily need an electrician in place anymore."

Sheri: You know, I think that I've written a few of these. It's definitely always a roller coaster and we're either going up or we're coming down and you know, there's always the intro of the new product and that new product, somebody's gonna pay $40,000 for a screen that they can hang on a wall, back in the day. Right. and now anybody can go to Sam's Club and buy a screen that hangs on the wall. And so, you know, I would say one of the next big thing that's coming for integrators is starting to take over low voltage lighting. You know, we don't necessarily need an electrician in place anymore. And for the longest time it wasn't that way or we're starting to partner with those people to where we're able to provide more of that for clients. And so I think it's cutting edge. Last week I was at the Total Tech Summit. Got to see some of your ladies there as well, Ron from your team. And, you know, I was sitting in the lighting class first thing in the morning and you know, we've been selling lighting control for few years now. And the first question after these guys were finished, you know, with their presentations was, well, if I'm in a customer's home and I'm installing a universal remote control for them, how do I pierce the veil of asking them how they're controlling their lighting? And I literally, I did not get up and walk out of there, but I really wanted to, I about fell out of my chair. I was like, how do you not tell your clients you're offering? And so I think that, you know, we're going to start to see more, you know, security monitoring in the cloud. So that's going to change the way that some of us do business. And so we're going to have to find the next new thing that, you know, some of the old technology and tweaks and stuff, you know, are becoming DIY. So if we're going to stay relevant to our industry, then we're going to have to pick up the new things that we're going to have to introduce to people.

Ron:  And that's a good rule of thumb. You know, when I, well first of all, let me address, if you're out there watching, please like this comment, tell me you're out there. If you have a question for Sheri, please type it in and I'll read that off to her. By the way, System Design and Integration gave us I agree 100% with what you guys are saying. So I think we're on the right track, Sheri. Yeah, yeah, for sure. But I go back and I've mentioned this before on some of the shows, you know, I learned in my, when I started my career at Lutron, they always made a point or leadership made a point to talk about that a good percentage. I don't remember the exact percentages for Lutron, but a good percentage of their revenue for the year. A lot of their growth would come from products that had actually been designed and released to the market in the previous 18 months. And here at One Firefly a lot of our growth comes from products. That's, you know, why is one Firefly always innovating and bringing out new services? It's because we're number one talking to our customers, we're finding out, you know, what they need and what they want or what they think they need or want. And we're going back in R and Ding it and developing it and releasing it. And magically we're growing. We're growing at a nice pace and a lot when we track that revenue, a lot of that comes from products or services that we release in the last 18 months. And so we follow that same dictum from what I learned at Lutron and to hear you mention that you really focus, Sheri on finding what are the new technologies and knowing and embracing, you know, what was it Michael Johnson that wrote who moved my cheese?

Sheri: Yeah, absolutely.

Ron:  The cheese moves. You've got to fit. What's the new thing where you're going to find the wins and put the wins on the board?

Sheri: Well, and like I said, you know, it was five guys carrying a big screen. And when we first started this business, and now I literally had a customer call me yesterday and say, you know, what's your philosophy? We just moved into this house and everything and we sat there, I never talked about TV, the TV's just part of what we do now. We talked about his network and what we're going to do to make sure his network is stable because everything else is going to layer on over that. And so how are we making the foundation of his house stable so that we can build these other things, whether it's streaming or controlling lights or talking to Alexa, I mean streaming music, having all of these things going on in a house. And you know, I mean my company name, I'm so well-branded is this Home Theater Design Group. But if you asked me, Sheri, what do you guys do today? The number one thing that we do is networking. Because if we don't build a solid network, the rest of it doesn't matter. You can push a button all day long and your shades aren't going to go down or your lights aren't going to turn on or off or your doorbell's not going to tell you when somebody's there. It's funny cause even with us, our company name is Home Theater Design Group and while we still do design home theaters, it's certainly not the bulk of what we do now. And it's certainly not the focus of what we start with all of our clients.

Ron:  I am curious and I didn't prep or prepare you for this question. Any of the questions. But certainly this question before we got going. I'm curious cause I'm giving a talk next week and this is one of the pieces of my talk at the Pro Source Power CI event. What is your strategy or do you guys have a strategy in terms of you've been in business now for 20 years, do you guys go back to your customer base? And if so, in what ways do you go back to offer them upgrade paths or replacement paths? And what triggered that question for me is, you talked about you guys focus on networking and networking technology and security of the network, those technologies are advancing so fast that even what maybe you provided the customer, you know, four to five years ago is now in many cases irrelevant or there's much better technology that can be brought to them. So do you guys do that? And in what ways do you go back to your customers to do that?

"I always tell people we're the last ones when you build a house that are in with you and we're moving in with you for a little while."

Sheri: You know we are constantly reaching out to our customers. That can be something as simple as a newsletter. So, you know, Hey, look what's new. You know, a few years ago that was, Sonos was coming in and totally upsetting, you know, the streaming services. And so it was featuring that and, or revisiting a client, you know, a vendor may have an upgrade, you know, a couple of years ago, Elan won best human inter interface because they were the first ones to market with an Alexa integration. So, you know, we have lists that we keep and we reached out to the people that either already have the product in place and we said, Hey, we can cut them out and run a service call to add this. Or people that were maybe a generation or two behind saying, Hey, if you upgrade this, these are the features that you would get. So we have a newsletter that goes out fairly regularly to our clients. And it also talks about, you know I mean the big cloud hack was the big thing earlier this year with network and security and every time you have a mobile device, and there was some fear around that. And so, you know, for our clients, for us to, you know, Hey, we're working with our vendors and these are the things that we can offer you. Hey, let's make sure that your last upgrade your last firmware upgrade is in place so that we are protecting you. The way that we really work with all of our clients is it's a partnership. We're the managers of your electronic lifestyle, and so it automatically starts that conversation with them. So our company, you know, I always tell people we're the last ones when you build a house that are in with you and we're moving in with you for a little while. And it's true. They're like, wow, you weren't kidding. And I'm like, no, I really wasn't. And so, you know, it's just that constant conversation with our clients and letting them know, notifying them, you know, if we're running a special or something like that, making sure that they're aware of it.

Ron:  Jumping back to your question or your comment that you guys were focusing on lighting, do you guys feel that it's, or how do you address the concept around lighting design coupled with fixture sales? Right. Or, you know, I'm assuming, when you say low voltage lighting, you're referring to getting into the sales of led lighting fixtures. Do you guys offer lighting design or do you partner with local lighting designers? How do you address that?

Sheri: So we partner with local lighting designers. Just fortunately for me, and this is certainly not something that would be industry-wide, one of my very good friends is actually a lighting importer. So he actually imports fixtures and things like that. So we've been doing some of that a little longer than most. But we partner with lighting designers that they can spec what we need or how it's going to look. Several of our rep groups the guys that are at Texas Lighting that do Lutron for us, they have lighting designers that they provide to us at no charge so that we can get things in place. So that's super important. Also, we've just started to really talk to Color Beam and I know I'm throwing like a vendor name out there. We're Pro Source members. And so we were introduced to them at the summit just like last month. So they're starting to..

Ron:  You were a couple booths down from me.

Sheri: Yeah, absolutely. In Nashville. Yeah. So we're starting to look and see more of that. I'm also thinking about the guys at Coastal Source that are doing the audio, but also the low voltage lighting. This weatherproof, we have a whole part of our business that takes place in San Lucas, Mexico. And so being able to bring weatherproof fixtures to a place where the sun and the salt and all of that are a factor is a big deal. So, you know, it's just allowing us more touchpoints with our clients. I always tell clients, you know, I'm going to give you more information than you probably want. And if you say, I'm not interested in that, you're not gonna hurt my feelings, but the last thing I want you to do is go to a cocktail party at someone's house and call me back and say, why didn't you tell me about this?

Ron:  So what is your big goal? Or do you have a big goal for the next 12 months for your business?

Sheri: So big goal for the next 12 months. We are definitely looking at integrating a couple of new of the cost centers as far as the low voltage lighting and things like that. And then on the coaching side we are actually getting ready to do some renovations so that we have a little more room for some meeting rooms and things like that. The ability to give people a place to meet and do a couple huddle rooms with some cool technology there. So that'll be awesome as well. And I'm going to totally just hijack you for a second here Ron and say, you know what, you asked me about my crystal ball earlier. And the other thing that I would say is if you're an independent guy, I'm looking at, how am I going to make more money or do some of those types of things. Cause obviously profit margins important, but it's not all about sales. I would definitely say, look at the buying groups. We're Pro Source members and have been for 14 years, maybe? A long time. And the value that I get from that, you know, in being able to talk with other people in our industry, just some of the programs that they put together with certain vendors that have really been beneficial to our company. And so I wanted to kind of put a shout out there for that.

Ron:  I agree. I think if you look at, you know, depending on who you talk to and what magazine you read, though, they'll talk about, you know, approximately, a 10,000 contractor base for the home technology market in North America. And yet if you look at the buying groups, I'll name the ones we're part of, Azione and Pro Source. There's also HTSA. Yeah, I think Nationwide. Yeah. Say again.

Sheri: I said, I think Nationwide's another one. Yeah.

Ron:  Yeah. Nationwide. But if you put all those together, I mean there's only, you know, 1000 or 1500 companies that are a part of these, I think it's silly. You know, why would you, if you're a business owner, not want to be around other business owners that are tackling problems, that they've solved problems that you're trying to solve. And likewise, you can share problems you've solved and help others, help your peers. And then on top of that, save some money on all the crap you're buying. Why would you not want to do that?

Sheri: Well, that's profit that goes to your bottom line. The last, that's not a four letter word. And you know, it does become a partnership. There was a part that somebody was out of not long ago and I called my rep and said, Hey, I really need this part. And they said, well, let us call somebody that might have it. And the next thing I know, I had a phone call from one of the guys that's in Pro Source with me and he goes, Oh gosh, it's for you. Let me just get it in the mail to you today. You know, so you start to, you know, I couldn't get it from the vendor, but this guy had it and it was a day away.

Ron:  Yeah. That's amazing.

Sheri: Yeah. So, you know, it takes small, independent companies and gives them the ability and the resources to act like bigger while keeping our autonomy.

Ron:  No, for sure. Well, Sheri, believe it or not, we're at 40 minutes.

Sheri: You said it would go fast.

Ron:  I said it'll go by in a blink. It was awesome to have you on Sheri. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy day.

Sheri: Thank you so much. It's always a blast to hang out with you and get to chat with you.

Ron:  Well, likewise, and you're running a very successful business and I always appreciate your wisdom and the advice that you're able to give. So I really appreciate it.

Sheri: Well and happy anniversary to you. Congratulations on keeping this up for a year. That's hard to do.

Ron:  You know what I had mentioned, I think I had told you before we went on, I was going to explain. So if people are still watching, they're hanging out, I'll, I'll describe that. You know, so Facebook and well Facebook and then now Twitter and YouTube and Instagram and all the Periscope and all these platforms have the ability to stream live. So unlike many, we're live. This is right now it's 1:15 PM East coast time. We're live. So if, if our throats dry, we can't speak or if we make a funny face, it's live out there on the interwebs. And so as a marketing agency, we knew that we wanted to embrace that and to learn how to leverage that both for ourselves and our customers, which meant doing it. And so back a year and a half ago we said, we're going to do it. And then we realized it's really hard to do. It's really hard to go on live and find something to talk about. And so that whole or at least I thought it was hard. I now can tell you, I don't think it's that hard. But that creative brainstorming session with my team led to the concept of an interview show where I'm interviewing, you know, you and Paul Starkey and Gordon Isaac and David Weinstein and all these industry rockstars, and take the pressure off me and let me get the wisdom from you guys and just keep the conversation going so that my audience can benefit from all of that sharing and learning. And and here we are a year later, 41 shows later and it's been a blast. And now we're building a nice library of content that is going to hopefully help people that choose to listen and watch. We're actually about or eminently going to be transcribing the entirety of the show and putting that also on our website. So if people would prefer to read and not listen or watch, they'll have that option and you know, cheers to another year of content.

Sheri: That's so cool.

Ron:  Well. Thank you, dear. I appreciate that. All right folks, I'm going to sign off here, so thank you again, episode 41 we'll see you again. I think we'll see you next week. Stay tuned our Facebook page and you'll see who our guest is and hopefully we'll be bringing you more exciting content that's helpful and engaging. And on that note, have an awesome rest of your Wednesday. Have an awesome rest of your week and I will see you folks on the flip side. Thanks so much.

Show Notes

Sheri's career in the integration industry spans over 20 years. Along with her husband Brad , Sheri founded Home Theater Design Group in the Dallas area in May of 1997. She also teaches with the John Maxwell Team and does business coaching and consulting.

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.

Resources and Links from the Interview:

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