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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 Unplugged Episode #229: An Industry Q&A with Dan Ferrisi

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Dan Ferrisi, Editor-In-Chief at Commercial Integrator shares his background in AV journalism and his trajectory that led him to being Editor-In-Chief at Commercial Integrator.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Dan Ferrisi. Recorded live on Wednesday, November 16th, 2022, at 12:30 pm. EST.

About Dan Ferrisi

Dan is a veteran technology journalist who has been covering commercial AV technologies, applications, trends and business practices since 2004. He started his career at Sound & Communications where he eventually rose through the editorial ranks and became editor in 2017. 

In November 2021, Dan joined Commercial Integrator, the first publication dedicated to address the business needs of professional integrators. At Commercial Integrator, he assumed the role of editor-in-chief. His passion lies in helping integrators run their businesses better by informing them of emerging opportunities, strategic pivots and the need to continually evolve.

Interview Recap

  • Dan´s background in AV journalism and his trajectory that led him to being Editor-In-Chief at Commercial Integrator
  • The differences between residential and commercial integrators 
  • Dan’s input on strategies and actions for integration businesses to be able to face supply chain challenges

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #228 An Industry Q&A with Susan Grossweiler

Transcript

Ron:  Dan, how are you?

Dan: I am very well Ron. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Ron:  Does anyone else call you the Big Cheese? Does anyone do that?

Dan: Nobody else calls me the Big Cheese, although I'll take it on the rare occasion that it's given to me.

Ron:  Awesome. Where are you coming to us from, Dan?

Dan: So I'm in Westchester County, New York, Port Chester, specifically, just north of the Bronx. I've been here for about three years, maybe closer to four, my wife and I and our kids. So, yeah, Westchester, New York.

Ron:  Awesome. I'm down here in sunny Florida, although it is a brisk 75 degrees out right now. It's almost winter coat time. How's the weather up there where you're at right now?

Dan: Well, it was overcast and rainy this morning, but I believe the sun is coming out. And after our podcast, our conversation concludes. I think I'm going to go out for a walk and try to soak in a little bit of that sun because once it starts to get cold up here in the Northeast, it stays that way for quite a while and I don't want to be outside anymore.

Ron:  I don't blame you. I lived in the North, I lived in Minnesota for a little bit, and you almost get the Minnesota accent coming out, but I only lived there for three years, so I didn't pick up too much of it. But I do recall the long winter season. You mentioned walking. Do you walk? Is this like a regular thing for you? Is that how you get your exercise? Do you try to walk regularly?

Dan: Yeah, it is my way of exercising. I'm not a big sports person. Either as a participant or as a spectator. But I do like to walk. I like to power walk, and especially in the spring and the summertime when it's nice, I'll easily go three or three and a half miles during my lunch just to get the blood moving, get myself going a little bit. It's how I keep my weight relatively down and how I keep healthy despite the fact that I'm not a, you know, basketball player, football, anything like that, just not my thing.

Ron:  I'm a walker, too. My listeners know that. So my my jam is walking. I try to walk every morning. In that three to five mile range, kind of depending, usually 5 miles on the weekends, but during the week, it's about three. I have a three mile loop and a four mile loop I can take in my neighborhood here. And when I'm walking, I'm listening to podcasts. That's kind of one of my hobbies. But for you, when you're walking, are you left alone with your own thoughts? Or are you listening to your own interviews of guests on your shows or what are you doing?

Dan: No navel gazing, no listening to myself. I sometimes do listen to music. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, but a lot of times I do just kind of enjoy being alone with my thoughts. I like almost getting so lost in my thoughts that knowing that I have a loop, much like you do, I almost kind of lose track of where I am because I'm just going automatically, and I really like that. I was one of the last people to get a cell phone, and this is kind of an interesting thing about me because I didn't want to have what I called at the time, a leash, the idea that I would be accessible. So I don't think I got my first cell phone until maybe I'm going to say 2009. Until then, I was cell phone free, and that would be, say, I'm on a lunch break or something like that. You're going to have to come and find me if you're going to reach me because I'm out, I'm enjoying myself. And I was a hard convert in order to get back on that digital leash.

Ron:  Now, you didn't have a cell phone, but the magic question is, did you have a beeper?

Dan: I did not have a beeper. I've never in life had a beeper.

Ron:  No. I am old enough. I know I look like I'm in my mid 20s, but I am old enough to when I started my first sales gig with Lutron in 2000, I was issued a beeper.

Dan: Wow.

Ron:  Isn't that crazy?

Dan: Yeah. I remember when I was a teenager, I wanted one, like, as a status thing. I guess I wanted the idea of being someone's beeping me, but my parents were not enthusiastic about the idea and I never got one. And, yeah, I think I got my first cell phone well, after college, I think it was 2009.

Ron:  Trying to think 2009. The iPhone came out in 2007, I think. My wife and I both were I think we were one of those silly people in line to pick up the very first iPhone in 2007. So was your first phone an iPhone? Was it one of the smart digital phones?

Dan: It was an LG NV3.

Ron:  Wow. You know that whole model number, that's impressive.

Dan: It was the LG NV3. Yeah, because it was such a big milestone for me. I remember when I used to work at Test Communications with Sound and Communications, and when we would go on trade shows and things like that, we would get kind of a pre show briefing of everyone's cell phone numbers, everyone's contacts, and it said, Dan, no cell. I was the only one.

Ron:  That's wild. That's crazy. Well, I'm a pretty active LinkedIn person. I'm on LinkedIn. And so I actually grabbed I'm going to share my screen. I'm going to see if technology behaves here. I'm going to shrink something. I saw a post from you. Let me see here. This was one day ago. This was yesterday. Let me see if I can move it. For those that are watching you're seeing I'm moving it on the screen. And you made a post. You said, today marks one year since I joined Commercial Integrator, and there's no doubt in my mind that I am exactly where I belong. Thank you, AVTweeps, one and all, for lifting me up, supporting me during the gap after Sound and Communication closed. Exciting to continued leading CI's amazing editorial team of Alyssa Borelli and Amala Reddy. And you shared, it looks like, the artwork from when you got hired into that role. And you have crazy engagement. You have 186 people that have liked or and 44 people that have commented. So, man, you're getting some serious love and attention with that post. So, first of all, congratulations on one year and what's it been like?

Dan: I really appreciate that, and I'm really touched by the amount of outreach I got on that post. I wasn't expecting that kind of a response, but it's truly very gratifying. I do really feel like I'm exactly where I belong. Commercial Integrator is a fantastic multimedia property to be part of, and I feel like I'm nurtured. I feel like my skills are respected. I'm also given an opportunity to grow them and build upon them. The last thing I want to do is stagnate and become complacent. So to be in an environment where I'm constantly presented with new challenges, presented with opportunities to stretch beyond my comfort zone, I feel like I'm exactly where I belong. And I'm gratified to be working with Jason Knott, who's my direct boss, our Chief Content Officer. He's the one who kind of shepherded my arrival into Commercial Integrator. And I feel like I'm learning a lot from him and from the entire organization to which he recruited me.

Ron:  What does it mean to I'm going to ask a really silly question. I probably should know the answer to this, but maybe there are listeners that also don't know exactly what it means. So what exactly is an Editor in Chief?

Dan: I don't think it's a silly question. It's somewhat of a nebulous title, I guess. What an Editor in Chief does, at least as I practice it, is we ideate editorial packages and then help the pieces come together. So obviously, Commercial Integrator is much more than a magazine, but a magazine is part of what we do. So you have to decide, well, what is the focus going to be for the December issue? What's going to be the unifying theme? Because we don't want it to just be a mishmash of a whole bunch of different things. One not really amplifying the other, one not really resonant with the other. We want to have some kind of some thought process behind what we're putting out there. So the editor in chief decides what the editorial themes are going to be and then write some of the content, as, of course, I do assign some of the content, for example, to Amala, our associate editor, to Alyssa, our web editor and then our freelancers, our columnists, and then make sure all the pieces come together relatively seamlessly to deliver, hopefully something close to the vision that originally existed in the editor's head.

Ron:  How far out, if you're allowed to or willing to, maybe I'm going to ask you some how do you bake the cake questions about publishing a magazine? How far out are you deciding kind of the editorial direction of an issue?

Dan: Certainly well in advance. I mean, we have an editorial calendar to which we pretty strictly adhere, so that's built out the year before. We have our 2023 editorial calendar already in place, and we finalized that in September, I believe. Maybe it was early October, but that's just kind of the broad strokes. So obviously there's room for interpretation and modification and emendation within that. As far as each individual issue, we work two to three months in advance. Like right now, I'm working on our January issue in terms of getting interviews lined up, making sure that all the pieces are in place for my article, Amala's article, Alyssa's article, and we're going to be going into production on that January issue pretty much right after Thanksgiving, and we'll probably have it wrapped up by early December. That will enable us to launch promptly right around January the first. So there's a whole lot more lead time, I think, than people realize. Occasionally I'll get pitches, and they could be very interesting and attractive pitches, but by the time the pitch comes, we're actually already on the cusp of being in production. So it is worthwhile for people to realize that if you're reaching out to an editor, at least an editor with the same kind of cadence and flow that we have, you're going to want to reach out at least two, probably three months in advance.

Ron:  That makes sense. And out of curiosity, I'm assuming I'm making an assumption here. The business of a publication is the advertising and the publication. It's a broad statement but is that an accurate statement?

Dan: I think it's a broad statement but it probably could benefit from some additional nuance. When I was with Sound and Communications, for example, it was very much focused on print ads, display ads, things of that nature and that obviously is important with Commercial Integrator is much more of an integrated multimedia property. Advertising can take a lot of different forms. It can take those display ads, it can be Facebook campaigns and lead generation, it can be custom content. So as far as the business of organizations like Commercial Integrator and other forward thinking kind of trade organizations, it's not just those display ads of yesteryear, but also being able to dial down, to reach particular segments of the audience and target them very specifically and then generating really high quality custom content that has a journalistic nature to it. But that also happens to drive a sponsor or clients message. That's something that I think I really specialize in the idea that I'll interview you Ron, or someone else who's a partner of Commercial Integrator and I'll approach the interview truly journalistically and get all the information I need. And what I turn around is an article that reads journalistically because it is journalistic but that throughout is suffused with the message that the organization is trying to drive. It gets their key ideas out there but it doesn't read like a press release, it reads like an article and I think that's something you really need a journalist to be able to pull off.

Ron:  I'm going to go tangent a little bit from this but my mind is going there so I'm just going to run with it. I went to CEDIA and the big announcement at CEDIA was that there's now going to be this is going to be, a silly question again, I'm going to say maybe I should know this but you could give me clarity and everyone listening and watching clarity. CEDA owned by Emerald, the CEDIA Expo announced that next year. So 2023 there's going to be a commercial component of CEDIA or there's going to be a commercial show that runs concurrently with CEDIA. And you're involved in that, correct? Or is Emerald involved? What can you tell us about what's happening there?

Dan: Yeah, I'm happy to provide some clarity on that. So the first thing I'll just say, and it's a small nuance but I think it's worth mentioning obviously Emerald Expositions runs and owns CEDIA Expo. CEDIA as the trade organization is a separate self standing organization so they partner as far as education and things of that nature. We own CEDIA Expo and then we also now own this new endeavor Commercial Integrator expo. Those two events will essentially be collocated on one overall show floor in Denver next year. But there will be a designated space for CEDIA expo, a designated space for Commercial Integrator xpo. And the idea is we're trying to respond to a market need to bring together right here in the United States both the commercial side and the custom and consumer side, recognizing that there's a blurring of the lines, especially as we start to see more hybrid workers, where you're going to have people like me who are working from home. But we have to have equitable experiences with people who are working in a communal office and need to make sure the technology suits not only me at home but also those in the office. And everyone is working equitably and democratically. You're going to need not only the skills and trades of commercial integrators but also the skills and trades of maybe customer home integrators for my setup and the same learning and flip classrooms and things of that nature. So we want to lean into that and bring together those communities, the custom integration community, the commercial integration community and it'll be kind of one badge, two shows, one overall floor, although with discrete sections of each so people get that full experience. We think that that's a market need and we're leaning into that market need.

Ron:  I agree that for the resi integrator or the residential integrator that also does commercial or light commercial, I think this is fantastically convenient for them. I can see them loving and maybe even adding a day to the trip to make a day or more, maybe a few days to get both training content and floor content achieved. So I think it's a brilliant idea if I'm a commercial integrator, a pure commercial integrator and as we, One firefly are doing more and more work for these businesses, we're realizing resi guys will often do I don't want to say dabble, that's demeaning, but they're growing into like commercial work, many of them. But it's actually the commercial integrator, the classic commercial integrator rarely will dabble with residential. That's a ten foot stick. They want nothing to do with that type of customer or that type of project. And that's at least the vantage. That's what I think I know, but what's your opinion there? Do you see the commercial integrator that's going to go to this commercial integrator expo poking around the residential CEDIA expo? Do you see there's any blurring of the lines there that might happen or might be happening?

Dan: I do think that there's some blurring of the lines insofar as again, like using corporate enterprise as an example, a commercial integrator may be outfitting all of their huddle spaces. Their boardrooms may be providing a sound system, either background music or sound masking. But then maybe the CEO lives in Montecito and she wants to make sure that her system is set up to collaborate seamlessly with the boardroom. You may end up having that commercial integrator going into her home and making sure that her home set up is going to facilitate the kind of collaboration that she expects with her board members who are going to be in the communal office. But beyond that, even if the commercial integrator doesn't want to go into those spaces themselves, we think Commercial Integrator expo combined with and next to collocated with CEDIA expo is going to create an opportunity for connections to be made between commercial and custom integration practitioners. So I was talking to Luke Jordan, for example, very well known commercial business leader, and he said he doesn't necessarily view himself as ever going into anyone's home office or home education set up, but he has a go to custom integration partner and he'll recommend them. And they'll recommend him, and they stand shoulder to shoulder so that if the client comes to either one of them and says, well, I need both of these environments set up, I need my residential area set up, I need my commercial area set up, they are a unified force that provides that complete solution. I think Commercial Integrator Expo co located with CEDIA expo is going to create opportunities for those kinds of connections to be forged and those kind of partnerships to be forged so that integration business owners can provide that holistic solution whether they're doing pulling the wires themselves or not.

Ron:  That's interesting. I'm wondering if there's any and maybe this is something you can't disclose, but just as a vendor that spends money to attend events now I'm going to be at CEDIA anyway and so it's a win for One Firefly. But I'm wondering if vendors that would normally do the ISE show in Europe and do the AVIXA show or the Infocomm show, if this is a burden or a benefit to them. What sort of feedback are you getting?

Dan: The feedback that we've gotten from a whole host of different vendors and I don't want to go into specific names because I'm not sure where they stand in terms of signing on for exhibit space. But the conversations I've had with some of the leading tentpole vendors in the industry are that they're excited about this. They do see a market opportunity the same way that we see a market opportunity. Some of them may be looking to enlarge their booth footprint to have one large space catering both to consumer and to commercial. Others might want to have a smaller booth in the commercial area and then another smaller booth in the custom area to actually segment out their solutions based upon the audience to whom they're speaking. I have a lot of respect for all the other shows in the industry. I don't have anything bad to say about any of them. What we want to do is explore an opportunity that we see and explore an opportunity that we think we can provide value to the integration community both on the custom side with CEDIA and the commercial side with Commercial Integration expo. And that's really what I'm focused on, trying to provide value. I think that's what the entire team is focused on.

Ron:  When I was picking my booth and for those that are integrators and you want to know again how the cakes baked at the show, every CEDIA or probably any trade show, there's a process where you go and you pick your booth location for the next year. And so I did get a look at the booth or all the booth layouts and I saw that some of those big tentpole vendors will let them name themselves or everyone can figure out who they are. But I saw many of them interestingly straddling their booth locations in the resi side of the floor and then half of their booth on the commercial because there's like a dotted line on the floor plan of where the commercial integrator show is going to take place. But some of those manufacturers that clearly serve both markets, they're going to be at that show. At least the way it looks on the drawing is they're going to serve their resi integrators on the right side of the booth and the commercial integrators on the left side of the booth. I'm imagining that's going to translate to the way they do their designs of their content and what's in the booth as well.

Dan: That may well be the case. I think some of the larger ten pole companies might take an approach very similar to that or exactly like that. But the idea is again, that the custom integrators are going to be there, the commercial integrators are going to be there. Technologies for both the custom channel and the commercial channel are going to be there and we're going to see not only opportunities to build relationships and forge bonds and find ways to leverage synergies with other organizations, but also break down the walls to some extent that have been separating the two channels and recognizing the rise of whether you want to call it prosumer or resumercial or light commercial, that that is a real market opportunity. And I think integrators in the US deserve to have them under one roof, in one area where people can indulge in both opportunities and see where it fits for their business.

Ron:  No, I think it's brilliant on your behalf, you and team, and it's innovating and I love to see people innovating in the space. It's probably going to be a success. It might not be, but you never know unless you try. So the fact that you're trying and innovating, kudos to you guys. That's pretty cool. So Dan, let's take a step back. Tell us about where you come from, man. How did you, I know you've been in this editor in chief role for the last twelve months. What were you doing before that? And if you don't mind, go back. How did you start? How did you even find out about this space?

Dan: Sure. So I've always been interested in writing. I've always been strong in English classes essentially whether it was in middle school, high school, that's kind of what I leaned into. So I majored in journalism at Hofstra and I minored in English. So again, all focused on the written word and conveying information in a persuasive and an interesting way. I didn't have any background in AV whatsoever. So when I interviewed with Sound and Communications, which is where I started my career, I interviewed, I believe on October 11 of 2004. I remember that because it's my birthday.

Ron:  Oh, wow, happy birthday there.

Dan: Yeah. I met David Silverman, who was the editor of Sound and Communications at the time who would be my professional mentor. And he said, I can teach you the technology or you can learn the technology. You can learn by immersion, you can learn by going to the shows but we can't teach you how to be a journalist, we can't teach you how to be an editor. So what he was focused on were those editorial skills, being a strong proofreader, being able to interview well, being able to write fluidly and coherently. And he saw in me the potential to be a very good editor. So I joined Sound and Communications officially November 1 of 2004 in an assistant editor role. I became Associate Editor about two years later and I moved on to the Music and Sound Retailer which was another trade publication, a sister of Sound and Communications. That was around 2011. During that time I was covering the music products industry. So guitars, drums, keyboards, things of that nature. I was going to the Nam shows every year. So I headed up the Music and Sound Retailer as its editor for about six years. And then when David decided it was time for him to retire and he was ready to, you know, enjoy his his grandkids and enjoy going out in the sun. His son loves being outside in the summertime. When he decided to retire, he said he really wanted me to step into his shoes which was a great honor for me. Again, for someone who had been a mentor and taught me so much over so many years to say, I see in you someone who potentially could fill my shoes, I was touched by that. And I was very happy to take on the role of editor of Sound of Communications. That was right after Infocomm 2017. Infocomm 2017 was David's last Infocomm. He had a kind of a going away party there. Dozens of industry luminaries came to wish him well and as soon as we landed back in New York I took the chair and started on my way.

Ron:  That was 2017. And first of all, how was that taking that role on?

Dan: It was a big challenge. Leading the Music and Sound Retailer was a challenge into itself. That was the first magazine I ever led as far as being at the top of the masthead. But Sound and Communications really was kind of the flagship of Tesla Communications, which had been its publisher. So to take that level of responsibility, the leading revenue generator in the company publication, that had been around since 1955, so it had that legacy going around as well. I felt a substantial weight on my shoulders to be a good steward of the brand. I feel like I was successful. I feel like we did really good things in the time that I was there, but it was a stressful time insofar as I'd never had so much responsibility on my shoulders. And I have a real feeling inside professionally especially, where I want to do the very dynamic best that I can. I'm not someone who wants to phone it in. I'm not someone who wants to clock in at nine and clock out at five and forget about it after that. I take a lot of pride in what I do. I take a lot of pride in the properties I lead. So it's very hard for me to be nonchalant or lackadaisical about the work that I do.

Ron:  How did the transition into Commercial Integrator happen?

Dan: Sure. So Vinnie Testa, who was the publisher and president of Tesla Communications, sadly passed away in either March or April of 2021, and that shortly led to the closing of Tesla Communications and the retiring of those brands. So I became available in late September of 2021. And it just so happened, purely by happenstance, that the former editor editorial director, I believe was his title of Commercial Integrator, Jonathan Blackwood, was leaving the title at that point of exploring a new opportunity. So I got a call from Jason Knott, who again is my boss, our chief content officer. He expressed interest in potentially considering me for the role of editor in chief of Commercial Integrator. And naturally, I left on that opportunity, not only because I have a lot of respect for CI as a brand, but also because I wanted to stay part of the AV community for a very long time. And I've said this to a lot of people I'm close to. I held, to some extent, my professional acquaintances at a distance. I wanted to have that Walter Cronkite journalistic objectivity where we're not having drinks together, we're not breaking bread together. I'm here as a journalist to interview you and it's all very business like and it's all very professional. But I found that that was handicapping me, in a sense, because the way that I can do my job best is by foraging real human connections with my sources, with our clients, with our partners, building those relationships. So that when there's news breaking or there's thought leadership to be shared or some idea that's kind of buzzing around the water cooler, they come to me. They want to talk to me about it. I get the story first, and I don't want to think about it in a transactional way because it's not. The relationships I have in the industry are absolutely true and real, and some of my best friends in the world are in this industry. Alicia Henley, I would say, is one of my best friends in this world and she's part of this industry. So I feel like I've opened myself up, opened my heart to be poetic about it, to not thinking about my peers and colleagues just as peers and colleagues, but making real human connections. I think that's facilitated me being a better editor for Commercial Integrator even than I tried to be for Sound and Communications.

Ron:  You mentioned a few moments ago, being a steward of the brand, how do you see being the steward of the brand with Commercial Integrator? What's your role? What do you want Commercial Integrator to be and for it to mean to the industry?

Dan: That's a very good question. So Commercial Integrator has a well defined brand identity, and I feel like if I'm going to steward that brand identity well, I need to hold that identity at the forefront of everything we do and just continue to sharpen it and lean into it. And that essentially is the commercial integrator as an entire multimedia property is kind of a business handbook for AV professionals. We want to help integrators run their businesses better. There are other sources to read every case study under the sun. Although we do publish case studies. There are other sources where you can get product information, although, of course, we do publish product information. But there aren't a whole lot of other sources where you can get information about how to pivot your business to recurring revenue and selling services. How to optimize your labor utilization risk mitigation strategies in light of supply chain issues. How to deal with proposals that end up putting you underwater because prices have changed 60 days of proposal was released, and now that your client has just signed it and now you're stuck to prices you can no longer profitably adhere to. What we try to do is give integrators the tools, the playbooks, the resources that they need to run their businesses as well as possible. We want people to spend time working on their business, not just working at their business, doing their nine to five and doing their job, but spending time working on their business to optimize it. And we want to be a cheerleader and an advisor and a partner and a trusted resource to be able to help integrators work on their business.

Ron:  We are all in planning, and I was impressed to hear that you've already done your editorial calendar for 23 and you had that done in September. That's very impressive, but we're all planning for 23. What are the big objectives or projects or plans that you're excited about for 23?

Dan: Well, Commercial Integrator obviously covers a whole host of vertical markets. We cover a whole host of technologies and solution areas. What I'm really excited about is leaning even more into commercial audio and performance audio. I think we're very well known for covering the video aspects of the commercial AV industry, covering control systems, covering software and everything that goes along with it. But I think if there's one area that we can lean into even more than we have, it's performance audio. Commercial audio, thinking about line arrays, things of that nature. Broadway theaters. So, as you probably know, around we do these deep dives where we do a really in depth, like, 8, 9, 10 page exploration of categories of interest to commercially the integrators for the first time ever, to my knowledge at least. We're going to be doing a performance audio deep dive next year, and that's going to give our audience an opportunity to really understand the nuts and bolts of how to capitalize on the latest performance audio opportunities. Again, everything from line arrays to beam steering, speakers, et cetera.

Ron:  That sounds awesome. So is that going to be an editorial sprinkled throughout the year or is that targeted for some particular quarter or how do you think about that?

Dan: Sure. So we have deep dives that are dedicated to specific months. In April, for example, we're going to be doing our large format display deep dive. So that's going to be everything from direct view LED to tiled LCD video walls to projection mapping. And then in May we'll be doing our commercial audio or Performance Audio deep dive. So we only do four deep dives a year. We don't want to do them every single month and kind of play them out. We try to do them strategically. But you can look forward certainly in the first half of the year to the large format display deep dive in April and then the Performance Audio deep dive in May.

Ron:  Got it. That's great. Thank you for sharing. I'm going to put on the screen here so my podcast listeners are not going to see this unless they jump over to the One Firefly website and find the show on the Automation Unplugged page. But what I'm sharing with the audience is some of the pictures from the Pivot to Profit event, the NSCA Pivot to Profit event in September. So I've got you with taking a selfie with Jessica Weiss from my team and myself. And then here's our little booth at the Pivot to Profit. And there was also a charity event. There you are in the background at that charity event, which is pretty awesome. We were building computer kits for kids in the Chicago market and we were dedicating that towards a charity group, towards STEM education. And here you can see Chuck with the Alliant group giving a donation here to that same charity. What were your takeaways from the Pivot to Profit event?

Dan: I thought the Pivot to Profit event was exceptional really. And NSCA and Commercial Integrator have had a long standing partnership, a long standing relationship, because both of us are built to serve the Integrator channel and make sure that the Integrator channel is optimized for maximum success. So when you go to a place like or go to an event like Pivot to Profit, what you get are essentially a series of playbooks that you can put into effect to optimize your business. During the Pivot to Profit, we talked about supply chain risk mitigation. We talked about the possibility of becoming a master systems Integrator, which is the idea of not just focusing on the AV system, but thinking about everything from energy management to access control, etc. The idea that you've sometimes heard one hand to shake one throat to choke. The idea that the client wants one point of contact for technology systems and integrated systems. So being a Master Systems Integrator is a potential for you to be that provider. Also, the idea of budgeting better. So many Integrators, again, are absolute experts. They have their CTSD, CTSI, CTS. They can wire a system. They can make every kind of a system work. But what about budgeting? What about accounting? What about labor force utilization? What about being a good business person? So much of pivot to profit and so much of what NSCA does is just giving people the tools that they need to run their business in a way that at a very challenging time. When prices are unpredictable, when price books can be updated every month, in some cases, when inflation is a problem, when supply chain is resulting in some integrators having to warehouse products for indeterminate lengths of time, they're waiting for two or three core components. And until those core components come in, those systems are not deliverable. And potentially those systems are not billable. At a time like that, Pivot to Profit, Business and Leadership Conference, NSCA, working in partnership in some cases with CI, give you the tools you need to mitigate your risk, optimize your chances for success, keep your cash flow positive and keep your business going.

Ron:  I have a client in Los Angeles, commercial integrator, and his business is significantly harmed due to the product shortages from some of the vendors that he does business with. I won't name names, but certain companies can't ship, and that means he can't finish projects. It means his cash can't move through his business. And a business without cash flow dies and he's in a bad spot. And I know that's one example of many businesses around the country that are in all sorts of difficult spots. What are you seeing, if anything? I mean, I'm imagining you have the ear to the tracks. You probably know, I dare say, more than anyone maybe, what kind of is the temperature out there around supply chain stuff? What are you hearing?

Dan: Yeah, what I would say is, to quote Tom LeBlanc, the executive director of NSCA and a strong organizational partner of ours. It is a great time to be an Integrator, but it's also a very difficult time to be an Integrator. I would say that some of what I'm hearing when I put my ear to the ground as far as strategies that integrators are implementing, at least the most forward thinking ones are a I was talking about the idea of unpredictable pricing and price books changing very quickly, dramatically decreasing the length of proposals. So for example, rather than having a 90 day proposal window or a 60 day proposal window, having a 30 day proposal window, I've even heard people say as low as 14 or 15 days for their proposals because they can't necessarily adhere to what was a profitable project in may not be a profitable project in July. So people are thinking about that proactively. As far as other strategies, I think people are paying a whole lot more attention to their T's and C's, their terms and conditions, the contract language, than they ever have before. Because a lot of times the profitability or unprofitability of a project is really determined by what the terms in the contract are. Whether you have forced major language or anything that's going to cover you in the event that something that is beyond your control inhibits your ability to get a project online at the time that's agreed upon. If you don't have that protective language in your contracts, you're opening yourself up to being held to something that you really have no control over, but yet you can end up upside down on a project very easily. So those are the kinds of things or some of the kinds of things that I'm hearing about. Also the idea of maybe weaning on outsourced labor, whether that might make sense. And also the idea of working with financing companies and the as a service approach to AV to take some of the risk off your company's back and then share it with the financing company. If you're providing AV systems as a service or as a subscription, as opposed to as a capital expense, less of your money is tied up, in a sense because you have that financing partner who is facilitating that as a service and taking some of that risk, some of that acquisition risk, some of that product warehousing risk off your back.

Ron:  For those that are now replaying this section of the audio to write down everything you just said. I'm assuming they need to be subscribers to Commercial Integrator to get more thorough coverage of these subjects and hear examples, because you just went down a first class list of actions that businesses can take right now to try to protect themselves due to the supply chain issues. Do they replay this and listen to it five times, or where's the place they go to go deeper into all of these recommendations you just made?

Dan: Well, certainly I would encourage people to go to commercialintegrator.com. We do webinars and webcasts and have obviously print articles and video Q and A's about topics exactly like these. In fact, just yesterday, I'm not sure when this will be heard, but on the 15 November we did a webinar focused specifically on risk mitigation strategies in light of the supply chain. So we had Dale Bocher, we had Tina Peters, we had Mike Abernathy, all sharing their best advice, their best wisdom on how to mitigate those supply chain risks to keep your business from going under. So that's the kind of thing that we offer. I also encourage you to go to NSCA's website because they have a lot of business continuity resources and general resources that are going to enable you to optimize your chances for success. And none of us want to be Pollyanna ish, none of us want to say, oh, we can just snap our fingers and this is all you have to do and then you're never going to have to worry about supply chain again, never going to have to worry about talent acquisition again or labor rates again. That's not the case and we don't want to pretend that it is. But there are strategies you can use, there are tactics you can utilize that are going to optimize your chances of success. And that's not being a Pollyanna, that's not putting our head in the sand. It's simply saying you don't need to be adrift in the tide, letting it carry you wherever it will. You can have an or you can have a boat and you can force your way to the result you want as long as you're equipped with the tools that you need.

Ron:  Amen I'm always a big advocate of sitting in the driver's seat? Not the passenger seat? Particularly for these business owners and operators that are tuned in, it's a choice and you can sit back and take it or you can do something about it. Doing something about it does not guarantee success, but doing nothing about it increases the probability of failure. And so it's just a good idea to try to take control. And you've listed off some wonderful ideas and resources, Dan, I think we're going to call it. There my friend. I want to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and I want to say thank you for joining me on our little podcast here on Automation Unplugged. It's an honor to have you on.

Dan: I'm very happy to have been here, Ron. Thank you for hanging in with me. As you probably could tell, I'm recovering from a cold so my voice is probably an octave or two deeper than it should be. I'm a little bit sniffly, but I appreciate the fact that everyone is interested in learning about technology journalism. I take the title of technology journalists very seriously. I oftentimes tag things on Facebook or on Twitter or on LinkedIn with #technologyjournalism because I think it's an important thing to do. It's an important trade and I don't want to be like, puffing myself up because it's not about me. It's about the idea of covering an industry well, giving its practitioners the tools they need, the information they need, sharing thought, leadership. It's not something that is trivial, it's something that's important. I really believe in technology journalism. I believe in journalism, full stop, and it's a privilege to be able to do that job. And I'm excited and happy that you were interested, Ron, and having me on the show, sniffles notwithstanding just some of my observations from 18 years doing it.

Ron:  No, I think your professionalism, Dan, your integrity around what you do and how serious you take your role of being a communicator and a facilitator of communication for our space, it's absolutely necessary and you are doing a superb job. So kudos to you and your team. I know there's a team around you making you look good, so kudos to you and your team for really taking the role that you have in our industry so seriously and we're all better for it. So great job.

Dan: Absolutely. I thank you for that. I thank you for the kind words and I especially thank you for calling out the team. As I had mentioned, Amala Oretti our associate editor, Alyssa Burrelli, our web editor, they are absolutely indispensable and I hope that if you don't follow them on Twitter and on LinkedIn that you start following them because they are just as big of a contributor as I am to Commercial Integrator's continuing success.

Ron:  Awesome. Dan, people that want to follow you, what hand offs or what handles do you want to list off? If people want to either get in touch with you or follow you.

Dan: Sure, you can always look for me on LinkedIn by searching my name. If you want to find me on Twitter, it's at @danferrisiedit. And you can also email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Again, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. I'm interested in your feedback. I'm interested in your guidance. I'm interested in learning from you and sharing any wisdom I might be able to have. Never hesitate to reach out because I want this, as I said earlier, Ron, I want this to be about human relationships and personal relationships. So I'm always happy to widen my aperture, learn more and share anything that I have that might be of use to others.

Ron:  Awesome, Dan. Appreciate you, sir. Thanks for joining me on the show.

Dan: Thank you so much for having me. I'm honored and grateful.

SHOW NOTES:

Dan is a veteran technology journalist who has been covering commercial AV technologies, applications, trends and business practices since 2004. He started his career at Sound & Communications where he eventually rose through the editorial ranks and became editor in 2017. 

In November 2021, Dan joined Commercial Integrator, the first publication dedicated to address the business needs of professional integrators. At Commercial Integrator, he assumed the role of editor-in-chief. His passion lies in helping integrators run their businesses better by informing them of emerging opportunities, strategic pivots and the need to continually evolve.

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:

Dan can be reached directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.