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Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
An AV and integration-focused podcast broadcast live weekly
Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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Home Automation Podcast Episode #147: An Industry Q&A With Jon Robbins

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Jon Robbins of HTSA shares on HTSA's sales training approach and membership and growth opportunities.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Jon Robbins. Recorded live on Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Jon Robbins

With 44 years of experience in the custom integration industry, Jon got his start leading Hi-Fidelity House based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania back in 1975, when he took over the family business.

Today, Jon serves as Executive Director at HTSA where he crafts annual strategic business plans to help propel the organization forward. Jon is also responsible for building strong relationships with the finest technology brands and the nation’s top AV specialists –creating a powerful collective whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Interview Recap

  • HTSA's sales training approach
  • Jon's view on how the recent 2020 election turnout will impact the custom integration space
  • How Jon defines leadership
  • HTSA membership growth and opportunities

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #146: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Pat and Phil Mulligan


Ron:  I'm bringing you today Jon Robbins, Executive Director of the buying group HTSA. At One Firefly, we are proud members of HTSA. We joined this summer and we've been having a lot of fun. Maybe a month ago or so we did the virtual conference with HTSA and I was honored to be invited to give a talk on marketing and that was a lot of fun. Let's go ahead and bring John in. Jon, hello sir.

Jon: Hey Ron. How are you? Good to see you.

Ron:  Likewise. You moved recently, didn't you? Are you in a new house?

Jon: We had been living at our beach home for for the last five or six years and we just recently in the last few months kind of came back to Philly and we're back and forth now again. Right now I'm back just outside of Philadelphia. And it's good to be home. This was where our main base was forever. It's really good to be back here.

Ron:  Are you originally from Philly?

Jon: Born and bred, more specifically I'm from Delco which is Delaware County which for those who will understand the Philadelphia area know that Delco is kind of unique in its own right. And that's where I'm from. That's where I've spent all these years.

Ron:  Yes. Got it. And so for those that may not be aware, why don't you tell us what is HTSA? We'll talk a lot about a lot more HTSA things in a bit here but let's get that out of the way. What is HTSA for those that may not be familiar?

Jon: HTSA stands for Home Technology Specialists of America which is a consortium of now 90 AV CI CEDIA type dealers from around the country. We were founded actually in 1995 as a group of consumer electronics dealers primarily retailers at that time of which my company in Philadelphia was one of the original members and there were few of us involved. We decided we wanted to try to create something that would give us some ability to communicate with each other like minded individuals as well as deal with the key vendors at that time and try to make the best possible programs that we were able to do. That evolved into these hybrid CE guys evolved into significant CI events over the years. And that's where each HTSA came from and I was on the board for 20 plus years and I came back as Executive Director in 2005. And it's been a great five years.

Ron:  2005. I'm just tracking here. 2015.

Jon: 2015. My head's still spinning from us trying to get hooked up here.

Ron:  Let's tell our audience what pain and suffering you and I just went through because it was it was harrowing but we made it through the jungle and we landed to the other side and we're now in the river heading to the ocean. What did we just go through?

Jon: With 30 seconds to spare. Right? We made it through the jungle of Facebook and and BeLive and everything else but but we're here. It was 2015 that I came back as Executive Director. Again, we've had a terrific run for the last five years. We've added a lot of members we've added a ton of initiatives. We've brought on some key people to put us in some in some areas of business that we hadn't been in. And we're just even with the challenges of this year, our members have flourished and it's been very gratifying.

Ron:  We're already starting to get some shout outs so I'm going to put a few of those on the screen again. Shawn had said Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you sir. And then Wes says, "Welcome to home automation or Automation Unplugged checking in from Raleigh North Carolina." The one and only Ted Green spells out TSA the acronym. Thank you sir. Appreciate your support and Taylor he says, "Thanks for joining us Jon." Thanks for having Taylor. Appreciate it. Jon, let's go to the wayback machine. You've been in this business in different forms and flavors for a long time. You ran one of the largest integration companies in the country in the form of HiFi House there in Philadelphia. And so I'd love to just go back. I've received plenty of feedback from our audience. They love to hear the stories of how people land where they're at. And you've had quite a journey. Do you mind helping us understand? What does your background look like and how do you ultimately land here?

Jon: I started in the business actually almost 45 years. I started in this business in 1976 and I stepped into a business called HiFi House which was started by my dad in 1955 as a stereo business actually as a hifi business prior to stereo. And I had an upbringing it was interesting because as a kid I can remember things like a guy pulling up to my parents house with this weird looking speaker that I had never speak seen before and I was a kid running in and out of the house you know playing baseball or doing whatever I did. And this guy by the name of Dr. Bose had a speaker that he brought to my parents house for my dad to audition and it was this weird looking speaker that you had to have up against the wall. It looks like the top of it looks like a home plate. That's all I knew. And it was the first Bose 901 and that was the original Bose speaker. I can remember people like Henry Costs coming through my parents home. Believe it or not, Akio Morita who was the founder of Sony and I was just this kid growing up and my dad was early in the business. My dad in 1976 was not doing great physically. And I was brought into the business, thrown into it.

I was in college at the time and in 1980 or '81 I became fully ensconced and as time went on through the 80s and into the 90s, we evolved. At one time we had as many as 14 stores hifi stores around around the Philadelphia area. And then I saw with Circuit City and Best Buy coming into the markets. I saw that we had to have find a niche. We always did some level of custom whether it was you know mostly commercial but I saw that we need to evolve into something a little bit different for people that wanted to take up our services. And '80s and '90s new construction started to really happen and people building these McMansions and whatnot hooked up with guys like Scott Struthers and Jeff Spencer at Sonance. We were one of the first Sonance dealers in the country and we started seeing the need for this level of custom and HiFi House evolved along those lines and we became pretty significant in the Philadelphia market from a customer standpoint.

We had some of the biggest builders in the market. Some of the most serious architects designers etc. and several years ago, one of the advantages of having a fairly decent size C.I. company was that you had a fairly decent sized C.I. company. One of the disadvantages was to fund that we were upwards of 100 to 125 employees was that it had to be fun. We were involved with with commercial lending institutions and things got a little bumpy during the last slowdown and we were unable to come to agreeable terms with our bank. And and one unfortunate thing led to another and our company was after almost 60 years in business was basically kind of shut them. And so I am, I was with the 100 employees at the time and toughest day of my life when I had to tell them it was over and it came out of nowhere. It came very quickly and here we were and most of these people of the hundred probably better than 50 percent of them had been with me for twenty five years more. I had to tell them it was over and it was a blow to a lot of people.

I do continue to keep in touch with a lot of those people a lot of them have gone on their own which really thrills me and they've done really well in smaller versions and hopefully some of the things that they learned at HiFi House over the years and the attitudes and mentalities that we had. Cultures that we had as a business have carried over. They've used that in their new success.

Ron:  Not to stop you, but I just want a clarifying question I'm sure maybe some people in the audience have had challenges in their lives or their business. Is there anything in hindsight whether in days over days months or years anything that you know now that you would have done differently?

Jon: Probably don't think about just getting big and think about being the best operator you can be and I think we were a pretty good operator. But unfortunately with getting big in a lot of cases requires debt. And I would strongly recommend for people to stay away from that. There's a whole lot of people that are successful in this business without carrying debt. And I think if you get too big debt becomes a natural component. And I would advise against acquiring debt. .

Ron:  I want you to finish the story when that happened that was what around '12 or '13?

Jon: '13 '14.

Ron:  Where did you go from there? I want to come back to HiFi House. I think there's just so much gold there are so many lessons so many experiences so much that you guys did right for so many years. I want to explore that but what happened when that went down? What did you do next?

Jon: It was interesting. We closed the business in June of 2014. I think it was June 2nd and I was called by Netcertive, the principles who was a significant digital marketing company in our space called me and asked me to join them. I was basically out of work for two days since 1976. By mid-June, I was on board with Netcertive, helping them and consulting with them in the A.V. space as well as how to communicate properly with the manufacturers.

Ron:  You and I shared a booth at CEDIA I want to say it was '14 or '15. That was a One Firefly Netcertive booth that the show.

Jon: We did. I was there for about 18 months. I was traveling back and forth from Philadelphia. I wasn't used to getting on a plane every other week. But I had to get used to it. I was going down to Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, North Carolina where Netcertive is located. I was going there basically every other week. And we did some good things there. And after about 18 months or so I was asked by the board that was left at HTSA to come back and perhaps as a hired hand come back as Executive Director to oversee some things and I came back in November of 2015. Right about now five years ago. Right about now. The rest is history.

Ron:  I think I know this but I might be misremembering this. So just clarify for me I want to say that HTSA rebranded in what the acronym stood for. Is that correct or did it always stand for home technology specialists of America. No you've got a great memory and that happened actually prior to my coming back.

Jon: That happened when I was still a member with HiFi House and I was on the board. Originally, the acronym stood for Home Theater Specialist of America. And I would say probably sometime in the early 2000s, the years all blend.

Ron:  I can't remember either but I remember something about that happened at some point.

Jon: And we thought it was far more germane to be home technology as the home theater thing had kind of run its course. We thought that it really made more sense to adjust the acronym to home technology rather than home theater specialists of America.

Ron:  Got it. What's going on right now? What are some of the big action items within HTSA?

Jon: Well obviously, about three years ago we brought in Tom Daugherty. As many people know, Tom was really one of the driving forces behind CEDIA in its early days. In the last 13 years, Tom had really devoted his life to the lighting sector. He was a Lutron diamond guy. He's in Lutron's Hall of Fame and Tom had really worked on not only lighting control but fixture architectural fixturing. How to do design, how to best supply that to clients who had become obsessed with the whole process. Three years ago, we brought Tom in full time to help our members start to understand better not just lighting control. We have a lot of guys and had a lot of guys doing significant Lutron business, control business and now we also do it with Vantage and others. And we wanted them to become more aware of the architectural hardware lighting business.

Tom has done just an incredible job in bringing people up to date on how to make that a significant part of their business. And again we've had great success there. Our people are doing real lighting business and it's been with a lot of education. We weren't going to do it without the education. We didn't feel that you could just go in and say go in and do the lighting business. That has been Tom's baby. Another baby of his has been wellness and we were the first partner in our space with Davos and we have continued to again educate our members. We do have several active projects and these are significant projects in place right now amongst membership. And again, these people have to be educated before we will fully endorse them to go out and do that kind of work. Those are two of the technology initiatives and we've got a few more in the hopper that that will come out in 2020. The other initiative that I think has been significant has been our sales training and we call it relationship science.

Ron:  That's right. Keith runs that, correct?

Jon: Keith does run that. Keith Easterly who had been instrumental in back in the day. We think that one of the finest and I knew from being a competitor that one of the finest training courses that was in our industry was put on by Tweeter. It was developed by Tweeter. They had issues but training was not one of them. Their salespeople were really good at selling Ci, really good. And Keith was a significant part of the training of Tweeter back in the day to get these guys. They had all kinds of great curriculums. Keith was involved in writing some of those and presenting some of those. Then he spent some time actually with Wal-Mart doing this training for a lot of middle managers throughout Wal-Mart's mega-company . And it'll be coming up on two years in January, Keith and I crossed paths and we talked about developing a curriculum for HTSA members. And he had gotten a fantastic start at getting out and we've got a whole he's got a whole curriculum for it and he's gotten to see probably 12 to 15 members in their headquarters and meet with every employee of every member. Talk about relationship science and then we got hit with COVID. We had another 12 to 15 scheduled for 2020. We hit with COVID and we haven't been traveling obviously but we have been doing a lot of virtual things so that that is another initiative. Those three initiatives among others I would say three are the critical ones.

Ron:  You could see here, Keith is watching. Maybe Keith if you're out there give us another comment so I know if you're still there. But Keith is loving that you and I are wearing our brands on our hats and t-shirts . In your case you're more formal you have the button up, I'm wearing a t-shirt. I appreciate the love Keith.

Jon: By the way, I have sweat pants on down low.

Ron:  There you go, shorts below but all business up above. But I love exactly Keith's comment that says, "I love all the logos and apparel." I appreciate that. Now , how has 2020? the COVID year. Hopefully , we can not call 2021 the COVID year as well. But we'll see what happens. How has your membership made it through 2020? What's going on?

Jon: Well you know it's really interesting. February March when things started to happen I as well as probably everybody had the unknown created serious concerns.

Ron:  Unknown is scary.

Jon: The unknown it's really scary. And I've been through it a quite a few times in my career. And we had to take a look at this and we started talking. The one thing that we always had that we maintained was communication. We were talking to our people constantly whether it be owners whether it be project managers whether it be salespeople whether it be technicians. We were having technician happy hours on Friday evenings throughout March and April that because these techs were freaked, like what's going on? And by the way, we didn't have all the answers at that point. As things began to come into focus we're amazed at the fact that we're in an industry that actually has the possibility to benefit from this crisis. How can we reach out to our customers to tell them we're here for them? We were telling them that what we do could be an important part of them being locked down. We scripted people. We talked about what would be the best way to reach out to clients. And again at that time little did we know that we would become beneficiaries. Unfortunately, I wish there had not been obviously like everybody else you wish that this had never occurred. But as an industry, we were beneficiaries of this very challenging time.

Our members through communication and through fortitude and that kind of thing we've had just we've experienced unbelievable business over this time. The big challenge has been obviously having enough people to do the work and some serious supply chain issues because the vendors didn't know either. They didn't know how the product plan. Here we are now, at Thanksgiving and business has been incredible. And we're pretty bullish about how business is going to be for the next several months. I's an interesting time.

Ron:  Keith with HTSA just gave us a comment. He says, "Quick comment. Members have been really embracing the training effort Jon and I began but the live events and the on new online resources we've been building and all the members have been a pleasure to work with." Kudos to you Keith for pivoting into virtual and just keeping on keeping on.

Jon: One of the resources that Keith is talking about. We have created during these months that we've been kind of stuck on the ground. Keith was tasked with helping to create because Keith's title is Chief Learning Architect and he's about getting people educated in a lot of different areas, not only about the technologies. His main thing has been this relationship science and sales training and that kind of thing. But through this course, where he's been grounded, he has developed something that we call the vault that is a repository in one place that our members can go to get just loads of information. Videos and not only from the vendors but also Keith's relationship science. We've shot videos to give people refreshers or new hires to kind of drive home points and it's one place that they can go to and get just abundant information.

Ron:  Jon, this is not political but it has economic ramifications. We have a newly elected president. There are going to be changes that are going to happen. Any prognostications on 2021 as to what our industry, what HTSA members but the industry at large what you think is going to happen?

Jon: As long as I've been in you know in this CI business, we have always tracked off of real estate right. This time we mostly tracked off of new construction where if new construction was good guys in our space would do really well. Real estate right now is on fire throughout the country. The low interest rates, people are buying things on the East Coast and in vacation areas , people are buying things for over asking. Fighting over properties buying sight unseen. That is very beneficial to us. But what's interesting now is it's not just new construction. It's existing homes. And if we get the messaging out right as an industry for what we do, particularly with technology and all the things streaming and why they need us to come into a new home whether it be again new construction or an existing home to update them on technology. If we get that messaging out as an industry we can have a really nice run here as long as we follow real estate. To answer the question, we're bullish about what's going to happen over the first. Obviously with new administration, we think it's more dependent upon the real estate market. We think things are going to be good for a while.

Ron:  Got it. Well, for those of you that are listening out there that's got to be music to your ears and maybe it matches what you're already feeling inside. That's exciting. Jon , you've been a leader for many decades. You were leading your company for many years and now you're leading this group called HTSA. To give you a high level question here, what does leadership mean and how does one become or act like a good leader or an effective leader?

"To be a good leader, you have to be a good listener."

Jon: Wow. I think that to be a good leader you have to be a really good listener. And I think along with that is there has to be a level of humility. And I can think back on times where I wasn't very humble. I have that's the saying about, "One day your ass is on the throne and the next day you're thrown on your ass."

Ron:  I like that.

Jon: I am living proof of that.

Ron:  It sounds very Game of Thrones.

Jon: We thought we'd talk a lot amongst membership about humility. And I think to be a good leader you have to be open to suggestions. You have to be open to what other people have to offer. Tom Keith and I meet regularly and compare ideas, compare notes. The more people that are thinking about things and I think the better chance you have to come up with great strategies and concepts and I think good leaders listen to the people around them. And don't have such an ego that they don't want to take the information that's available. I think a huge part of leadership is listening and learning every day and then sharing that information finding good avenues to share what you've learned. I don't think it's very complicated. I think it's it's more about being open to ideas and concepts.

Ron:  Keith a member of your staff posted he said, "Jon hires not only for skill set but also for attitude and then lets his team do their thing with 100 percent trust." Does that sound right?

Jon: That sounds exactly what I'm a big believer in. And I don't know if there are any ex or old high firehouse people on there but I'm a big believer in allowing people to do their jobs. And you know hopefully you've got the right people in the right seats. There are platforms for making sure you have the right people in the right seats. I was a big proponent of EOS entrepreneurial operating system. And we've used it in many of our members are now using it. We brought it in almost five years ago we probably have 25 members that are regularly using it. And it's a great platform. And I think part of that is allowing people to do what they're supposed to do and making them be accountable. I've got a tremendous team as I've stated. Our back office is amazing. Jordan's an incredible talent. Amanda is a great business agent. I think that you've got to have faith that the right people were in the right seats.

Ron:  I'm a big advocate and believer in everything you just said. At One Firefly, we brought in EOS in the late summer of '19 so we're about a year and a half into using EOS and the Traction system and it was so right for us. I'm willing to say it's not right for everyone. Everyone has to choose. But for my team and I, it was absolutely right stuff at the right time. I'm a total believer and you mentioned tools and within people. There is a tool within EOS called the people analyzer. Do you want to describe that? Is that the tool you are referring to people analyzer and matching people against core values? What was top of mind for you?

Jon: The biggest top of mind I think for E OS was actually getting to the level 10 meetings.

Ron:  What's a level 10 meeting Jon?

Jon: A level 10 meeting is when you're able to conduct and basically the platform teaches organizations how to conduct efficient and compelling meetings amongst staff and gives people initiatives that they need to work on and they need to address. They are held accountable and revisits these. There's a lot of people that have meetings in business and I would say that the majority of them don't lead anything. You sit there and you meet with all these people for hours on end and you talk about all these ideas and then nobody does. Right. That's not how it works with the EOS. Lvel 10 opens you up to understanding how a meeting should be conducted and how the people should be held responsible. I think that the biggest thing that our people have gotten is how to properly conduct level 10 meetings. The people analyzer is all part of the whole program. Additionally, we're a big proponent. HTSA has actually personality and analysis online that we have available to our members. And it's part of what we offer. The members have the ability that if they have a new hire they have existing hours they can actually have a personality analyzed to see if that would be a good fit for their company. It's been interesting because there have been occasions where my members have come back to me and said, "I really wanted to use the quake but I needed somebody desperately." I use them and they came back and they said this wouldn't be a good fit and I needed somebody so I went and hired that person anyway. And two months later what they had predicted was dead spot. We tell people just because you need somebody may not be the right reason for that.

"Hire slow, fire fast."

Ron:  Amen hire slow. I know it's an old adage hire slow fire fast. But when people especially in our industry and your members, they are bottlenecked right now. There's gold on the beach and they can't scoop it up fast enough because they're limited with manpower so it's so tempting to just bring people on. But it's so dangerous to bring the wrong people on.

Jon: Correct.

Ron:  Do you feel that the companies that you work with. Do they hear you? It's words and it sounds good. But do you think they hear you or do you think it just depends on maybe their tenure in business?

Jon: No, I think that I think the vast majority does hear. The more important thing is not hearing from me from hearing from their fellow members. We're really good at that. We're really good at communicating amongst each other and sharing successes and just as importantly failures among membership to try to have everybody understand where things are going. We're very intent on sharing that kind of information. We have a couple different communication tools that we use to make sure everybody's understanding what other people are going through.

Ron:  I'll high level say that for many years I've been a part of many different groups. And when I say groups, it could be an association like CEDIA, could be various buying groups or entities out there. One of the challenges and I say I'm an observer. I'm also a participant but I'm going to put my observer hat on is that I think there often are engaged companies or participants and they're often unengaged participants or companies. And one thing I've observed about HTSA is your membership appears to me to be very engaged and very high levels of participation. I'm just going to ask you is that the case? And if so why is that the case? What's happening at HTSA maybe that isn't happening at other places?

Jon: I would say it is the case Ron, but I think we still have improvement. I think there's room for improvement. There are still instances where people don't get the communication. Everybody's busy. I get it. But we have a couple of very unique ways of getting out to our members. I think you have to. I tell my staff that we have to be very sensitive to the fact that all these folks are busy and their main thing. And I knew this was being a C.I. guy is to get projects done for customers.

Ron:  Especially right before the holidays.

Jon: Thanksgiving was bigger than Christmas. This one may have been a little different because Thanksgiving it was people coming home for the first time since the summer I don't know how much that's happened.

Ron: Keith help us out. Drop a comment down here Keith and help move us along here Keith out there. I'm putting Keith on the spot.

Jon: It's hard to get him quiet.

Ron:  Now he already said OK I'll shut up for now. I think he thought that he had already said too much. He's even telling you and I that he wasn't going to say anything else. No Keith we need you. Huh.

Jon: I'm sorry I lost my train of thought.

Ron:  No that's OK. I do it all the time. But I have something else that's top of mind for me and that is you just had the virtual event. Normally and historically you have live events. I have not had the pleasure of attending a live. He says he stepped away. See we knew we'd call him out. He was there. It's all right Keith, "Remind me." That's what we wanted you for Keith! That's funny but you just had this virtual event and were you satisfied with the level of participation. I know I got to sit through some of the sessions, they were really impressive. Well done. What's going on in the world of virtual? What do you is going to happen next year Jon? Is it gonna be virtual again or is it going to be in person? What's your read? What's your read on what just happened and what's your read on maybe what's going to happen next year?

Jon: We got great reviews on our virtual event from members and vendors alike. If anything it was interesting. Asking for reviews. A lot of people said we had too much content.

Ron:  You have too little you have too much.

Jon: A lot of people said our schedule was too active because we would have one session after another for a couple of days which you kind of have to do because of the time shifts across the country. But we had some very compelling speakers including Ron Cllis. We tried to hit information that was germane to both members and vendors. It's tough to do but we wanted to improve everybody's businesses. We had an E.O.S session which was great. We had Richard Milton talking about standardization which is apropos. Again not only to dealers but to vendors. I don't want to do another virtual. That said I think my staff was incredible, the work they put in. And I think we pulled off a really good virtual event.

We regularly had 150 to 200 people at almost every session. That said again I don't want to do it again. Unfortunately, I have been bullish when we finish that in April will be fine. As time rolls on as we get into 2021 we're scheduled for early April in Fort Lauderdale.

Ron:  I want it to happen because it's like five miles from my house.

Jon: I'm a little more bearish than I was a few weeks ago. I'm a little bit concerned.

Ron:  Maybe the break out of COVID across the US at an accelerated exponential rate is the reason.

Jon: That could have something to do with it. Well, I think if we do get vaccines in a lot of people quickly maybe it's up for discussion. I am extremely. At this point I'll say I'm damn near positive that we're going to meet in the Fall. I would love to meet in the Spring. We're going to do everything in our power to do that because three conferences in a row to miss is tough. If we have to come back to virtual we will we've got a platform for it. We understand how it works. This last one was really nerve-wracking because we were in uncharted waters. But it came off really well and we got a lot of good information to a lot of people.

Ron:  Yeah, I can tell you as a participant it was it was easy. I commend you guys I can only imagine the stress of trying to figure out a software platform and then figure out how to run it. You had guys had to invent so much as you and CEDIA and Azione and all the other entities that make up our industry. Everyone's had to figure out how to fly in fly by the seat of their pants but keep us connected.

Jon: New World. We were really pleased with that.

Ron:  I agree. I want to close around dealers members and I'm just curious I'm assuming some people are interested in what we're gonna put up your website here in just a little bit. Where is your membership locked? What is a HTSA member what makes an HSA member different or special or stand out in your eyes? And are you guys looking to add anyone or is it locked and your group is your group.

"We're looking for members that understand the CI business that want to grow their businesses because that's what we're all about is growth."

Jon: We're looking for members that understand the CI business that want to grow their businesses because that's what we're all about is growth. Look there's a lot of people out there and say now I don't want to get any bigger. That's fine. Not necessarily what we're looking for. We actually are kind of unique run in that as a membership in that we evaluate markets. We'll take a standard metropolitan statistical area and we will look at the exact population versus the purchasing HTSA purchasing that we're getting in that s MSA and we will actually put a figure to in. And we're able to look that in certain you know decent-sized essay essays. We've got enough purchases we'll actually do the data to make sure that we have the purchases. We do have a few we're underserved and some significant markets. And we're constantly looking at that. But we won't add people just to add people. They have to be the right candidate and they have to be willing. We tell our members we expect you to come to our conferences.

Ron:  That's the answer to the question when you and I both lost our track train of thought right. That's right there you mandate participation. In other words , don't join if you don't plan to be a part of this group.

Jon: Yeah we said it won't work out for us. We need you to be active. We need you to be involved. We do have some holes around the country.

Ron:  Do you want to mention where those are are? Are they top of mind for you?

Jon: I've got a hole in it in areas like Las Vegas I've got a hole in in New Orleans I've got a hole in Orlando Pittsburgh. Those are metropolitan areas that we've been unable to find the right partner in those in those markets. And there's some other we do expect our members for them for. We don't want to have members just to pay dues that that to us this is really counterproductive. We want to make sure that the members get enough benefits out of an HTSA membership that the dues they don't even think about. To do so we want to make sure that they're doing enough business that they will have a positive experience of dues vs ROI he are away are always right for them. What they invest in dues and time to be active HTSA. We're fairly particular about who we invite into our are unique or unique group.

"It's very hard as a vendor to engage with those companies to try to ultimately earn their business. That's a one-sided relationship and I know what your vendor partners want is a two-sided relationship. It's OK to say no but at least give the person the opportunity to have the conversation."

Ron:  I love that and I can tell you when you're a vendor. I'm a vendor service company but I'm called a vendor when I join these different entities. Nothing burns me up more than someone that I'm offering a discount to because they're a member of a group but yet that company doesn't participate in the activities or the meetings. In other words it's very hard to actually as a vendor to engage with those companies to try to ultimately earn their business. That's a one-sided relationship and I know what your vendor partners want is a two-sided relationship. It's OK to say no but at least give the person the opportunity to have the conversation correct. That's all we're looking for is to be open to it and have the conversation. I agree. Well Jon it's Thanksgiving week. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? It's tomorrow.

Jon: We're following guidelines. My wife and our youngest is home she's in law school and she's back home and we're here in P.A. And it's just gonna be the three of us for Thanksgiving where my wife is used to cooking for 20 or 25 or 30. We're trying to be mindful of the directives and trying to be careful so that we can all have that same kind of Thanksgiving next year that we've always had. We're being careful.

Ron:  Amen. My parents and my family are all up in Virginia and so normally I would be traveling for Thanksgiving. Typically we go there versus a bunch of people coming here to Florida. We're gonna do a Zoom Thanksgiving and probably a Zoom Christmas this year. We'll have laptops and Zooming from different households as we're all eating our Thanksgiving meal.

Jon: Ron, I can attest to the fact that you're really good at all these technological communication getting down to the last 30 seconds you walk me through it. You're the right guy to be setting up all kinds of Zoom Thanksgiving.

Ron:  Why I appreciate that Jon very kind words. Jon, how can the folks that are watching or listening and if they want to get in touch with you personally or they want to learn more about HTSA, how would you have them do that?

Jon:  Our convention is our first name followed by I am This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. But even if you want to reach out to Keith or Tom it's their names We're happy to talk that anybody and everybody and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can. We're happy to talk to anybody you don't necessarily have to be a member. Obviously, we take that very seriously our membership. But I want to make clear we want to improve. We want to help improve this whole channel. If our members get better at what they do the whole channel gets better and we think we've done that through our lighting initiatives and now through wellness and through some of our sales training. We just want to bring up the level of the whole channel. It's gratifying to see that.

Ron:  Hey man, I appreciate that. I appreciate that goal. We're very aligned in our desire to lift others up and knowing that if the tide raises we'll be lifted up as well. It all works out in the end. Jon, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule sir to join myself and to join our listening audience for this interview. I really appreciate it.

Jon: I really appreciate it. Hey everybody please be safe out there and have a great Thanksgiving and let's all be thankful for what we've got. It's a good life. Thanks.

Ron:  Amen. Folks there you have it. The one only Jon Robbins Executive Director of HTSA here for show 147 on Automation Unplugged. Brought to you by One Firefly that would be my day job. Thank you guys and gals for listening and I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. And you know as John said Stay safe. This thing is real. Don't underestimate the veracity of this virus. Stay safe even if you're tempted with the holidays. This is not a political statement. This is just about your health and the health of those around you that you care about. If you have not already done so make sure you subscribe to the podcast.

I tell you this every week I sound like a broken record and I look at these numbers every week so I know who is subscribing and I know the quantities and I know where you're at. Please subscribe. We'd love you to be able to consume the show in audio format. Maybe you're out working in the yard or setting up those Christmas lights and you want to listen to folks like Jon and all the other brilliant people that make up our industry. And I'll close with our website, There's our phone number. We are going to be doing webinar here in the coming days. It will be coming weeks. We're going to do a webinar and we're going to unveil all of our new media gallery content. If you were not aware you can follow One Firefly on Facebook and Instagram and you can see some pictures. I just posted a gallery this morning on Facebook and you can see the behind the scenes of some of the new video shoots we did. And we'll be unveiling all of that content to the world. Sorry, I'm losing my voice. We'll be unveiling all that content to the world here in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned. On that note, everyone Happy Thanksgiving and I will see you soon. Thanks.


Jon serves as Executive Director at HTSA where he crafts annual strategic business plans to help propel the organization forward. Jon is also responsible for building strong relationships with the finest technology brands and the nation’s top AV specialists. He got his start leading Hi-Fidelity House based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania back in 1975.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview:

To keep up with Jon and their team at HTSA, visit their website at htsa. You can find HTSA on social media on Facebook and Instagram. Jon can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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