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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 #235: An Industry Q&A with Darrin Medley

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Darrin Medley, COO at HI Solutions shares more about the Hi Solutions Differentiator - The HIWAY - An autonomous Home Process Culture.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Darrin Medley. Recorded live on Tuesday, January 17th, 2023, at 11:30 am. EST.

About Darrin Medley

Darrin joined HI Solutions as its Chief Operating Officer in 2021 after the acquisition of Unify Smart Home, a California home automation company he co-founded in 2017. Unify, a division of Medley Communications, has developed and commercialized an innovative home automation platform that has shifted the paradigm for smart home automation and has become recognized as an industry leader. Darrin launched his career in the telecommunications industry in 1987 with responsibility for developing a broadband installation department. Darrin ultimately grew Medley Communications, into a national installation partner in the Cable TV Industry with offices spanning the United States with more than 250 employees. 

As Chief Operating Officer at HI Solutions, Darrin is focused on developing and implementing repeatable business and operating processes to enable HI Solutions to efficiently integrate and profitably scale its business as it executes an aggressive acquisition rollup program across the United States.

Interview Recap

  • Growing up as the child of Bill Medley,  the famous singer known for many famous songs including Unchained Melody.
  • The Hi Solutions Differentiator - The HIWAY - An autonomous Home Process Culture.
  • How HI Solutions is scaling culture through public acquisitions.

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #234 An Industry Q&A with Morne Smit and Oliver Tuffney

Transcript

Ron:  Darrin, how are you, sir?

Darrin: Good, good morning, Ron. How are you?

Ron:  I am doing great. Well, you know, you're here and your audio and your video are working and my software is streaming live that every now and again, we get a little hiccup or challenge, but we always try to overcome them. So I'm happy you're here. Where are you coming to us from?

Darrin: I'm actually in Temecula, California. I'm kind of out in out between San Diego, Palm Springs, and Orange County for those who aren't familiar with the California region. Southern California, and it's been raining like crazy out here. We don't get rain like this. So we have blue skies today. So that's great.

Ron:  I was going to say, isn't Southern California? Aren't you guys in drought?

Darrin: Not anymore. We're officially out of drought, as of yesterday, I believe. I heard that. So we're officially out, it has been pouring down here for about two weeks.

Ron:  That's amazing. Now, I think that I know when there's a drought, which it sounds like you're out of, there's normally a fire season. When is fire season?

Darrin: In California, it's all the time.

Ron:  Is it really?

Darrin: It kind of is. Fire season starts. We get what's called the Santa Ana wind and probably around a little after fall before summer and then coming into spring when things get real warm and then the winds blow and they blow really hard and just create havoc with fire. But yeah, typically between that's typically spring and fall.

Ron:  Okay. Hopefully that's reduced for all of our friends out in California.

Darrin: Yeah.

Ron:  So you are the, you're the COO of HI Solutions. Why don't you give us a quick snapshot? What is HI Solutions and what is your role look like there?

Darrin: Yeah, so HI Solutions is a fairly new home automation company. Very excited about working with them. There are roll up. And their vision, our vision, is to go across the nation, providing a home automation platform and solution to not only mid market companies. All the way up to very high end company. I'm sorry to customers and clientele. But we want to be the first company to be able to go nationwide across the United States, have the ability to work with production builders to get out to people that are in need of a nationwide home automation company. We don't want to put our flag solely in a control system, but we're not anti control system. So we're looking to basically to take all the home technology that a customers have and to be able to integrate it into an automation system designed specifically for them to try for them and be that player nationwide. And we're doing it through a public, but being a public company and offering stock to companies that we're acquiring. And we're doing it. We're doing a role through acquisition.

Ron:  Got it. And how many companies at the moment have rolled up or how many locations are you operating in?

Darrin: Right now, we're operating in Southern California, which was a company that HI Solutions acquired, which was mine. Mine and my brother Damien called Unify Smart Homes. And then we've also acquired Media Design Associates in Florida, which is Michael Wallace company, and they're very well known, high end boutique company in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. Then we acquired Ben Marlo's company in Philadelphia where our corporate office is located, and his company is called Booyah. So we've taken the three companies and we're really, we stopped for a minute to take those three companies and create the prototype of who we are working with you to be fabulous, of who we are, what we do you know, our brand story, and really honing in on exactly what we want to do. Then figuring out a way to replicate it completely so that we can scale it because we know we'll talk about it. I think in the future, Michael Gerber says, if you can replicate it once, you can replicate it. My business development guru, Michael Gerber said, if you can replicate it once, you can replicate it a thousand times. So that's where we're at now with Booyah and MDA and Unify. Identifying how do we take what we're doing, take the different companies and the different offerings because we're all offer a little bit of a different product or a different experience and how do we replicate it? And it's been so much fun working with Michael and Ben and Damien to, along with our corporate staff, you know, John Ford, Michael Newell, and JP to create that. It's just been a blast.

Ron:  Now, what I'm sharing on the screen for our listeners, the folks that are only listening is I'm sharing your website and right when I land on hi.solutions.com, the first thing you see to the left is welcome to the autonomous home.

Darrin: It's not dot com, dot solutions is a URL so it's only hi.solutions.

Ron:  Oh my God, I was seeing that, but I said something. Maybe unique to not see a dot com. So you're right. It's hi.solutions. Thank you for that clarification.

Darrin: Yeah.

Ron:  But what I see here to the left is welcome to the autonomous home. What is the autonomous home and how is it different or is it different than home automation?

Darrin: It is not different than home automation and it's completely different than home automation. So the autonomous home was born by myself and my brother here in Southern California. That was the one thing Unify brings to HI Solutions is our approach. What the autonomous home is, is extremely simple. It's all of your home technology; Network, audio, video, lighting, shades, everything you're showing on the screen there and home monitoring. We take all of your home technology and identify how to integrate it into our customer's lifestyle through voice touch, motion, and timing as naturally as we can. So in other words, we are not product driven. We're experienced driven. So we have this process called discovery where we spend time with the customer really identifying the way they live in their home, educating them on what's even available now with technology. And how we can take all the technology and integrated into their life. Then we put it together using different solutions, whether it's Josh.AI, we're big fan of Josh for a big fan. Michael uses a lot of Crestron. We're now using Control4. Another company we're acquiring hopefully soon is a big Savant dealer, but we take all of that and we identify how do we use those products. I'm on the advisory board of Sonos and so we love the Sonos platform along with James Loudspeakers and Sonnance, and invisible speakers. We integrate all of it so that when they leave their home, their home shuts down. When they come home, their home comes alive. Lutron is obviously what our Achilles heel were big, big, big into shading and lighting. And so our goal is with one word or one touch or one movement your home reacts. You don't have to learn how to control everything by drilling down inside of a touch screen or an or an app.

Ron:  Got it! I love it. I want to, as always, as I always do on these interviews, I want to go back into your past DarrIn and kind of find out your origin story. But before I do that, there's an elephant in the room. And that is that your dad is a super cool, famous guy that everyone watching and listening has probably heard or heard of, and so go ahead and tell everyone who was your dad.

Darrin: Yeah, my dad is still. He's 82. He's still alive and still performing. He's in Vegas this week. He is one half of The Righteous Brothers. So The Righteous Brothers were a duo back in 1962. They were formed in 62. Their first big hit was "You Lost that Loving Feeling." It was then featured ten years later. They had another big, huge hit called Unchained Melody that was featured in ghost when Demi Moore is doing the pottery scene. Later on, my dad had a single career as Bill Medley and did and did a song called "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," which also landed in the movie. So my dad has been very lucky with movies. So between "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing, "Unchained Melody," and "You Lost That Loving Feeling" to name a few of the big hits. They've had iconic hits.

Ron:  Some of the most iconic movie songs that have ever existed.

Darrin: Yes.

Ron:  What was that like just watching your dad go through that fame? That had to have been pretty wild.

Darrin: Well, when you grow up in it, you're born into it. It's just all you know. So it's not, you know, it's funny. My dad's keyboard player is Lee Ferrell. And the last name Ferrell, well, Will Ferrell is his son. So I grew up with Will. So Will and I grew up together. When you know someone in the secular world or whatever you want to you know, and he's just Will. He's just my buddy Will. All of a sudden I hear he's auditioning for Saturday Night Live. I'm like, wow, and then he makes it. And then he becomes huge and out. That's bizarre to watch somebody transform from being this guy. who's your buddy to a huge star, it's very weird. With my dad, you're born into it. There's no transition. It's just who he is. And so it's very normal. He was a very normal dad. Really good dad, really raised me well. I had a great values and morals. And my mom passed away, by the way, when I was ten. So he raised me most of my life. So what was unique about my dad is, wow, he has a really cool job. I mean, when we go to work, I get to go to these great places where he's treated very, very well. And when we come home, we live very normal. I mean, we watch football on Sunday. We hang out with his friends. All of his friends are his high school and college friends, even this weekend. Watching football, you know, watching the playoffs with his high school friends. And you know, so it's very normal. And then you go to work and limousines are picking you up and they're taking you backstage and all the people that are coming to see the shows are like, holy mackerel. It's all these famous people. And then that is fun. Then when you go into Hollywood parties with them, which he went to very, very little, but on occasion, I remember going to Kenny Rogers, housewarming party, and you know he bought this big house, up in Beverly Hills, and I mean everybody is when Kenny was at the height of this fame and to be there and to be walking around talking in everybody you're talking to, hey, there's Dustin Hoffman, that was cool. So that's the neatest thing about having Bill Medley as a dad and are the most different thing about what he did is he just said really cool friends in a really cool job.

Ron:  You mentioned you got to meet Elvis. Tell us about needing Elvis.

Darrin: Yeah, my dad was very good friends with Elvis. I believe my dad you know, my dad wrote a book and Elvis was a big part of that book. And Priscilla has contacted my dad a lot because my dad and Elvis were very good friends. If you just saw the movie, they kind of kept him very much away from reality and a lot for their own game you know. But my dad was one of those guys that got to know Elvis when they were both in Vegas a lot. And so Elvis, I believe, said he had 5 really good friends outside in my dad was listed as one of them. So I was pretty neat. My dad was doing a show called Shindig, back in the 60s, which was one of those 60 American kind of rock and roll shows. And every night they would go on, they would say, hey, hey, we want you guys to do this song called Little Ant Loopy Lou. And he's like, my dad's like, why are we doing this every single time we go on? We have all these other songs and you know, but every time, it's we want you to do Loop. He later found out that Elvis would call and say, hey, have them do Loopy Lou. So that became a joke later. It's like, oh, you're the reason we had to do Loopy Lou, 'cause he would call the producer and say, want the boys to do Loopy Loop.

Ron:  Oh, wow.

Darrin: So yeah, so my dad was really close to Elvis. So when Elvis came back and was back at the Hilton, he just saw that, you know, if you saw the movie, you know, it was very real, very real, Elvis's life. And so my dad said, hey, I want to really want Darrin to meet him and spend some time with him. So we went to Vegas for a week. And I was able to be on the side of the stage and watching. You know, when he was in his black leather outfit and coming off, you know, vamping on the side of the incoming off and spending time sitting with you. I just sit and watch him and my dad talk, in the dressing room. Then we did a couple of dinners, you know, our lunches, you know, through the week. We spent a week with him at the Hilton Hotel. And it was pretty special because I think he passed away within that year.

Ron:  Holy cow. Yeah, watching the movie, so my mom and dad actually saw Vegas saw Elvis in Vegas in those last years when he was performing. And I had heard of that story and those stories that lore of how important and meaningful it was to my mom and dad watching Elvis perform in Vegas. And then to watch that show, I just watched it a couple of weeks ago, the Elvis, the Baz Luhrmann version of the Elvis story. And I did not realize kind of how it feels like or at least the story there was manipulated he was there in his last years of life. And maybe in some ways, torn between being super happy and satisfied in front of the crowd, but at the same time, heavily on, you know, drugs and alcohol. It was pretty crazy.

Darrin: It was very sad. It was very sad for my dad. 'cause it really was. He loved what he did. He loved performing, but he was kind of trapped. At least that's my dad's.

Ron:  That was your dad's observations and yeah. That's super fascinating. One other character and maybe you'll tell this story in the kind of your origin story, but something I know that you've done, you've spent a lot of time with is a gentleman named Michael Gerber. And I'm just going to share in my entrepreneurial journey here you know. I started One Firefly. I just put in the book up on the screen. I remember when I started this business in 2007, somebody in my life, one of the first books they recommended to me was this book called the E-Myth. E-Myth for those listeners stands for the entrepreneurial myth. And I thought it was such a weird name of a book, the E-Myth, what is that? And then I read it. It easily is one of the most recommended books that I've recommended out to others when they're trying to learn how to frankly run a better business and maybe observe what they are doing right and what they could improve upon. You've spent a lot of time with Michael Gerber. Do you mind just kind of sharing what that was and what impact that's had on you? There you go.

Darrin: I have the book here on my desk. I really did. Michael's from Michael is from Southern California. So I started working with the consulting firm when I started a business called Medley Communications. Gosh, it was 30 plus years ago. And I should know the year I started, I went to the university of Redlands, studied business development, actually was actually studying to be a speech pathologist. I majored in speech pathology minored in business administration. I knew I thought I wanted to run a business, but didn't know what it was. My junior year of college, I took a job doing cable TV. And I became a cable TV contractor. So, you know, the cable TV companies had so much work at the time were so busy that they had different companies that would do their overflow work. After doing that for about a year, I actually got my contractor's license in Southern California, my low voltage license. Went into business as Medley Communications. And here I am coming out of college with ten guys working in Redlands, California, and I was introduced to a gentleman named Dan Nevitt who was my business consultant who was an employee in a consultant for Michael Gerber. And so we went and saw some did some seminars with Michael. When I read the E-Myth, it just, it just transformed what I was about to do because the whole E-Myth is about not doing business, but building a business. You know, how do you build a so your product is not what you think your product is. Your product is the business. So we are doing cable TV. We are a cable contractor, but your product you want to think of your business as the product. And building processes and developing systems for how that business operates. Michael's whole goal is to be able to sell your business and to build a business that you can sell and entrepreneurial myth is everybody thinks they're an entrepreneur. But Michael says most people are technicians having an entrepreneurial seizure. That's why it's the entrepreneurial myth. Businesses fail radically in our country because they're started for the wrong reason. They're started to get rid of the boss. They're started by technicians who don't want a boss. So they're going to do it themselves and they build a business where they enslave themselves to that business. If they go away, the business goes away. What I love about what you've done Ron and what we're doing at HI Solutions is we're building a business that will sustain without. So all the people that were acquiring with Michael, myself, Damien, Ben, eventually you know, hopefully, they sold their business, they're going to want to retire. Well we want to be able to set their business up to be able to run without them and you can't do that when you're people dependent, so that was the whole thing about the entrepreneurial myth and Michael Gerber. Then I got to know Michael, he was a sax player in Orange County as a kid. So he would tell me all these stories about, oh my gosh, I used to play at this club and I used to go see your dad. So he, so that was our connection. He was really, he was very touched that one of Bill Medley's kids was really following him. So we created this fantastic relationship. So everyone he would do seminars, he would invite me in to be a guest speaker to talk about what I'm doing in my business and Michael and I would riff on each other. And then 30 years later, I just connected with Michael again right before I started my home automation company. We thought about writing a book together called the E myth, the E-Myth Employ. And it was my idea and I contacted him and we worked through it, I called my old consultant, Dan, and we went down and met. And I rekindled my relationship with Michael as a matter of fact, he gave me a bunch of his original book city wrote and. It just really cool stuff. He decided I just want you to have this because so now it's been kind of a neat story for me. And that hence, that's how I ended up with HI Solutions because I have a really, really profound, very unique relationship to process and building a bit and building business.

Ron:  What do you think happens when as a business owner and operator, you think of working on building a business that can operate without you versus you having a job within the business? And I know you use the word technician. That's from the book. That doesn't mean necessarily a technician. It means an employee. It means you could have you could be the sales person. You could be the project manager. I'm speaking terms from the integrator space. You could have any job function within the business and the question is, are you in fact doing that job in a people dependent role where you're necessary to perform that function? Or are you building a business that can perform that function? And you aren't a necessary cog in that. And that's fantastically hard, but it only, that pivot or change can only happen if you become aware. I don't know. Do you have that perspective?

Darrin: Totally. It's called a paradigm shift. And I love, I love creating paradigm shifts because I don't like educating and training people. I like creating paradigm shifts. The paradigm shift is, so for example, you and I were just at Azione together and Richard was talking a lot about process and how important process is. And you can educate people on process, but what Michael has been able to do with the E myth is create a paradigm shift where your whole reality changes. You're looking at the same thing, but the reality shifts. So yeah, so to take a manager, you know, and in the E myth, there's another book called the E myth manager, and it really distinguishes the technician, the manager and the entrepreneur, entrepreneurs, visionary, the manager of the guide trying to get it all done, you know, trying to create the structure and the technicians like the work is the most important thing. The work, the entrepreneurs, the vision is the most important thing. The managers of the structuring of his most important thing in the worker is like, boy, if everybody thought like me, we would get so much more done. And so when you take a technician, how do you take a technician, especially with what HI is about to do, which is hopefully to have you know a couple hundred integrators nationwide and managers and regional vice presidents and area managers. How do you scale that? How do you create a unified vision? And the way you do it is by shifting the paradigm so you're a 100% right to have that technician and manager understand why business development? Why building a business is critical? Why a process is critical to be able to scale? And when you especially, especially with high because we're a public company and everybody's got everybody in the company, a stock. So to have that stock value go up, we've got to be able to scale it. In order to be able to scale it, we got to build a business that we can sell and replicate. So the training that we do at HI Solutions, we have three pills, we have a triangle. And one, you already talked about the autonomous home. And then the second part of that triangle is process and the third is culture. And we call that the highway. So the highway or the HI-Way is our differentiator and processes is one of those legs. And it is all about a paradigm shift when a manager realizes the frustrations he's having can be eliminated by his identifying what the frustration is and then creating, sorry about the gardener, of course. We knew we knew something would happen on the call, right?

Ron:  Yeah, of course.

Darrin: Be short lived. So when a frustration happens, and Michael Gerber calls it the key frustration process, most processes are built out of a frustration that people think are it's his fault, man, if I could only get rid of that guy or if he could do it differently or every time Michael and I met with new businesses and like we can't even my business because it's very people dependent. Michael had always laughed because that's the first thing anybody says. Oh, this makes so much sense. But in my business, it's very much about me and what I do. And it's hard for people to have that paradigm shift that any business can be built in the process. So the key frustration process Michael would rule out is identifying a process that's people related, you know, that we're seeing as a person problem, he is not doing this or they're not doing this. And shifting it to a process solution. They could be then replicated. And there's a whole process for that called the key frustration process. So that's the paradigm shift. It's not teaching people how to do processes. It's shifting the paradigm of what's available when you build a business rather than doing business. And everybody can get behind that.

Ron:  Do you think this belief system around process and really system systemizing how to run an integration firm, is this the key or one of the keys for the scale of HI Solutions or the plans to scale HI Solutions nationwide?

Darrin: It's absolutely part of our key differentiator. Our plan to scale, we already know that we need a nationwide integrator. Everybody knows that. And in different companies are playing their part, trying to figure out how to do that. Our whole objective for doing that being able to scale is to create a really, really good product. And that's called the autonomous home experience. Then to scale it, building a replica table system around that product is absolutely our strategy for being able to scale that, then on top of a culture. And so process, it's really truly is my background, working with Michael Gerber, the one thing I didn't say is I built Medley Communications, my little cable operation into a nationwide company working for the top executives in cable, you know, we worked for Time Warner. We went through the Adelphia change. We went through in 30 years. We worked for everybody. When we finally closed the doors to our broadband company, 5 years ago, we were working for Cox Communications and Spectrum and they're pretty much the top two players besides Comcast and we were told, I just got off the phone with a couple of executives of Time Warner and now Spectrum that said, you told me 30 years ago you were going to transform how contractors did business for the cable companies and you did. You set the standard nationwide for how every cable company works and integrates with their contractors. And we did. We set the industry standard by creating processes and systems we could replicate in our higher to about 300 employees, 15 different offices all the way from Clearwater, Florida to Maryland to Las Vegas, California, to Oklahoma. So I already have a lot of history. Being able to run regional offices, systematically. I know what works. And so yeah, so that's the answer to your question is, yes, our process driven approach is one of the main pillars to our what we believe is going to allow us to replicate and when a new integrator puts their faith in us and joins our company, it's like, what's going to be different with you guys? And we want to say, hey, we've got a phenomenal phenomenal team, leadership team who's done this, they've built and built businesses, our chairman Michael Moe and our CEO John Parker, JP, they've built a lot of businesses. And they've done this. And John Ford, he's our Chief Strategy Officer, his word for top top companies and sales. So they know how to do it. And I know how to replicate it. So I think it's a really, really good, I think we really have a good strategy for success.

Ron:  You just mentioned some folks I'm sharing on the screen now from your website. Michael Moe, John Parker. Now, those two fellows, they're not from the integration space, right? They come from a different world?

Darrin: That was very unique because when I met with Mike Moe, he sat me down and he talked about his background, you know, with Merrill Lynch and what he's done and being in building and selling businesses. Yeah, they come from, they come from a background of how to build business, how to do acquisitions, how to create a public company. So they do not come from the integration business. And they put a lot of faith in Michael, myself and Ben Marlow and then along with John Ford and Michael Newell to strategize, we've built something from scratch, which is really beautiful because we're not just adopting someone's philosophy. We've built a whole new philosophy about how to approach this industry. I wouldn't have joined a company that had an integration background. If that's all they had. Now, if they built businesses and bought and sold businesses for years, yeah. But I don't want to partner with the company that's never bought and sold a business. I want to know how to do it.

Ron:  I agree. And we went over a bit of your background here. I'm just sharing some of the other senior leadership. Is there anything else Darrin from your background that you want to share kind of just, you know, interesting, maybe details that led to you ultimately moving into the COO role with HI Solutions?

Darrin: I'll tell you one thing, it's just kind of fun. I just happen to look up when you're talking about my dad. When I built Medley Communications, I left Medley for ten years to pursue a singing career with a group called Paul Revere and the Raiders, another very famous 60s group. And I'm going to hold this up. Here's a picture of my dad and I singing together.

Ron:  Oh, wow.

Darrin: And I was able to go spend that time with my dad and pursue something a music career because I was a drummer forever, but what allowed me to go do that was this. I was able to leave. I was able to delegate my business to my brother Damien and my team, and so I just, you know, that's exciting that you can actually sell your business if we can help you replicate it. So the last thing for me is I started Unify. I closed the cable operation down because it just became nonprofitable. You know, with all the streaming and all the technology, it's getting harder and harder and harder for the cable companies. Back in the day, they dominated. They were a monopoly, right?

Ron:  Yeah. The world changed though, right?

Darrin: The world changed on them. I mean, the cable got cut and we as the contracting company felt it more than anybody because they kept reducing our pay and reducing our pay and reducing our pay and expecting more and more and more and more because the pressure was so on them to perform because they couldn't afford to lose, you know, headcount, they couldn't afford to have the cable cut so they relied on every single technician that was on that customer's property to deliver a really high that really high expectations, which was great. That's what taught me how to be good at what I do. But we got to the point where it just wasn't lucrative and profitable. And because I loved my business, I drove it into the ground and started selling it ten years ago. I was able to sell it. I sold my last of the operations to a really great company in Arizona called End to End, and they're fantastic. They took over the last of what we were doing. And I kind of wrote off into the sunset with my top ten guys. We said, what do you want to do? And you know started working with Lutron and Sonos. Man, this is really cool. So we went to work on how do we build an automation system without a control system? Everybody we heard is, oh, don't do that. They don't work. They break down. I want to kill my AV guy. So we're like, what if we could do this? What if we could take everything we learned in the cable industry and build something so unique, something that worked? Something that was easy. All the new technology coming out instead of being afraid of it, embracing it. And I'm going to tell you a quick story. I remember going to CEDIA. Gosh, in San Diego, I think it was 7 years ago. The last time they were in San Diego right before they went to Denver, and I remember going to that city. My brother and I were standing on the corner and someone said, what's Unify? He said, you know, we're a local company. What control system do you use? And my brother and I looked at each other like, I don't even know what you mean. I mean, we use Alexa. We use Apple HomeKit, and I remember people just looking at me like, you're not a real pro. You don't even belong here. You're not a pro. That's do it yourself stuff and it was confronting. It was like, wow, do we need to rethink what we're doing? Should we jump up real quick into Control4? Should we change our philosophy? And we said, no, let's dive in. So years later, fast forward two years. And we're killing it. We're, you know, got a relationship with Sonnance and we figured out how to integrate this stuff. We took the time to figure it out and embrace Lutron and how it integrates with Sonos and how we can utilize things like Apple home getting even the dreaded word Alexa and so here I am at a shades training for Lutron. And I do a lot of shade sales. I mean, I sell shades to everybody because it integrates into their autonomous home experience. I don't sell shades, I sell the autonomous home and they're like, yeah, when you say this, imagine you're lighting happens and the shades happen. So I'm at this training and I'm at a table with all these top integrators. And they're talking about programming and programming and I program for this and I program this and how do you program and talking about? And I'm silent. I'm just eating. And they look at me and they say, what do you do? I said, well, we use a lot of the APIs of Lutron and Sonos and integrate it using things like Alexa and now we use a lot of Josh, by the way, Crestron. But at the time, I was really embracing this. And I said, we use a lot of Apple home kit. And everybody at the table stopped and said, how do you do that? How do you do that? And I was shocked. And I said, before I tell you how I do it, I need to ask you a question. Why do you care? Because four years ago, three years ago, I mentioned it, and people were like, and now you guys are looking at me and you're like the best at what you do. And you're like, how do you do that?

Ron:  They're curious.

Darrin: Yeah, why? And here's what they said, more and more and more of my clients and builders are telling me, hey, we're just going to go with Lutron and Sonos. We don't need you now. Or hey, we want you to put in a system that has Google cameras or Ring cameras. And it's a demand from my multi-million dollar because the wife is over it. The wife is not putting in another one of your control systems. She's asking me just to put in Sonos and Lutron and some and they're like, how do we monetize that? I'm like, and that's when I knew we were onto something. That's what I knew we were on something.

Ron:  You have to go deeper. Apple HomeKit, what's an example of an autonomous function or automation interaction, a consumer would have in a typical project you would deploy?

Darrin: So cool you say that. So inside of the process, we've created ten routines standard routines all the way from good morning to let's cook to movie time. So those are the routines. And then we do three home kits. Three HomeKit scenes, which are leaving the house during the day. Leaving the house at night and coming home at night. The beautiful thing about HomeKit is if you're a Lutron user, and most of my customers are, and if you're an iPhone user. So if you happen to be both of those, an iPhone user or getting some Lutron products with an iPhone, we absolutely go into the processor and we scan the HomeKit labeled, bring everything in HomeKit. So immediately immediately, all of our customers, whether they have Crestron or not or whether no matter what system they have, I add this on as an add on. So here they have all they have all the rooms.

Ron:  You're controlling your Lutron. Sorry I'm asking dumb questions. So you're scanning something that's bringing all of your devices into the HomeKit environment?

Darrin: All the way from Caseta to HomeWorks is a HomeKit label on the processor or the bridge, you literally just scan it in all of the program you did on Lutron comes right into your Apple phone.

Ron:  A moment ago, now I may be jumping ahead here. But the way I saw you reaching for your phone and you're saying, if you're an iPhone user and you're doing this, I'm betting that you now can your phone knows proximity if you're getting close to your house or you're at home.

Darrin: There you go.

Ron:  Now things are happening because you have your phone on you.

Darrin: 100%, that's the whole purpose for me doing HomeKit and it's conditional. Lutron talking to Lutron about how they program can say to versus how we program HomeWorks and Palladium, you know, so with Palladium, or I'm sorry, with HomeWorks, everyone's like, gosh, there's so much, it's so much better because there's such all the conditional programming that that has a Caseta doesn't. The minute I bring it into HomeKit, I can do Apple, Apple, who's phenomenal, has phenomenal conditional programming in HomeKit, first to leave. Last to leave, first home. When my daughter leaves the house, I've programmed in my HomeKit, when her phone leaves her shades close in her bedroom, her lights go off. So my daughter's room shuts down when she leaves. And that's something my daughter then can then go into her apple HomeKit and make the changes. When I come home, I want my lights on. I want my fan on. So it's not only, like you said, proximity. In conditional, I now can tell my customer, and this is a pro and con. You know, some people are like, I want them to call me and I want to be able to make a $150, $200 to make a change to the AC unit or to a lighting scene.

Ron:  You're saying an integrator may have that position that they want to get called for every little this and that.

Darrin: And it is. Because some integrators see that as a revenue generator like, okay, the ongoing changing of scenes and.

Ron:  The customers reliance on them for any change.

Darrin: And that's not wrong. That's just one point of view. What we love at Unify, and now HI Solutions is the customer can make those changes easily. It's funny, I did a Control4 and I got to be careful because I don't ever want to alienate anybody on having these conversations because one thing.

Ron:  I know your projects and your guys are installing Crestron systems, Savant systems, Control4 systems, Apple Home Systems

Darrin: Of course, and we believe in them. And we love them.

Ron:  You're doing this whole spectrum across the country across all your locations.

Darrin: Yeah. And I did a Control4 job for a customer that she moved into a home in Newport Beach. It was already had Control4 lighting all throughout. And the first thing we had to do is get her on the app. And this was a long time ago. And it was like, okay, that's going to be a charge. And it's going to be a monthly charge for her to have the Control4. I was like, okay, there's the first downside. Next downside is she's like, at night, I want my patio lights to be not as bright. I had to call the integrator that I was working with with Control4 and said, can you go in and remotely make this change and she had to get billed. It was like, oh my gosh, if we had done this in Lutron, all that would have come into home kit, and I met with Lutron yesterday on R&D project. I explained, I don't do much programming in the Lutron app. I do a lot more of it in the HomeKit app. Because it's more conditional. So I'm not dependent on Lutron's conditional programming at that lower level with the lower level lighting systems. I actually get to by putting it into Apple HomeKit, and I'm not using Apple HomeKit as my as my single source. I'm using it as another way for that customer to be able to use their system naturally because they use an iPhone. They have an iPhone. They do everything with their iPhone. So to be able to control their phone with Siri, because here's the other thing, the minute we bring home kit, minute we bring all of their devices in home kit, they can voice control with Siri. So they immediately get Siri control, I can say, I won't say the name, turn on, you know, my routine and build the routines. Then when I leave, it automatically turns off when I come home and automatically turns on to give you an example yesterday. I don't even want to here's a glitch. I had a customer call my brother to fix this. What do I do? My wife left. With the girls last night, first time and I've had this in my home for 7 years. She left. And next thing I know I'm sitting in the dark because the minute she drove a quarter mile away, all my lights went off. I had gotten a new iPhone and I was using my iPad as my location and my iPad was in her car.

Ron:  The house thought that he was gone and meanwhile he was left with a dark house.

Darrin: Yeah, so the way we programmed it is all of the devices that trigger and so what I got to see is how great it worked. All of a sudden I'm sitting there all of a sudden my shades are going down. My lights are going off. I'm like, wow, this works. But why?

Ron:  Now I'm in the dark.

Darrin: But why?

Ron:  Curious, can Apple HomeKit, you said Sonos. Would that base proximity concept with your phone? Can it turn your music on? Certain songs are onto some channel. Can it do all that through HomeKit?

Darrin: It can. Because Sonos integrates with Lutron. And so that's my go to. So the minute I build everything into, I build scenes. We're not trying to control devices. We're trying to control your life. So by interviewing you and our consultative approach, I want to know what happens when you leave. I want to know what happens when you watch a movie. I want to know what happens when you entertain. And then we build that and build the music in. And even in my meeting with Sonos yesterday, I said I'm not so interested in saying turn this on, turn that off, turn this light on. That's what anybody can do that. But to build it so that things happen. So yes, so I have a scene that when I leave, it runs my Lutron scene in Lutron, it turns off all my Sonos. Now, Sonos does integrate with HomeKit, but through AirPlay. It's not a direct API. It's all done through AirPlay. So there's some downside to that. Hence why we're not relying totally on HomeKit as our controller. HomeKit for us is one more tool to be able to build your home to do what you want to do naturally. And you talk to Siri naturally already. You're already using your iPhone. So there's no more nothing more natural than using HomeKit is just one of our triggers. It's not the system. We're not building a home kit home we're using it as a product or a tool to trigger your house naturally.

Ron:  When you and I saw you in Vegas at the Azione conference a few months ago, you showed off to me what I know to be an LMS, a learning management system. But there's really ties into this concept of process and how do you in fact define and document the HI-Solutions way. And then how do you codify that and you use a piece of software? Can you just speak at a high level like why do you do that? And then I don't know how much of that you actually is proprietary. You want to share or not. But can you just speak about that?

Darrin: I have a philosophy that maybe my CEO and my chairman will hang me

Ron:  They're not watching. Don't worry. Just tell us all the secrets.

Darrin: But my philosophy is I do tell my secrets. I've always told my secrets forever because if you don't have the paradigm shift and you don't know the point of view, you can't use them anyway. And so I've never been afraid to give away my secrets and the people that do take my secrets to help make our industry better. So the software we're using, the software we use, and again, it's a company that they worked with Michael Gerber themselves. It's called Touchstone. In the touchstone software, it's very simple. It's basically an orb chart. And based on the E-Myth, you put in all the positions of the company and you build the or chart. Then inside of the software, you build processes that are categorized by four different functions, whether it's leadership function or client fulfillment, which is all the installation or client acquisition, all your sales processes, or business administration, am I giving the long way?

Ron:  No, John Ford just messaged us. He says, I'm watching guys.

Darrin: So that's our chief strategy officer. He's like, don't give away the strategy. So inside a touchstone, it breaks it down into, like I said, into these four functions, the last one being business administration, and finance. And then it's just a process builder. You build every single process, and then it has a great, all the process tools, you can attach files, you can do documents. You can do checklists. And so you build all the processes we've we're building all of our processes inside of that. Then we take the processes and we assign them to the positions and the or chart. So for example, with bringing on a new acquisition, I was just talking to some of the executives that touched on. They're like, how are you using touchstone for acquisitions? So, well, I created a position on the or chart called acquisition under our EVP of acquisitions, and they created all these transition processes that I assigned and then gave them access to those. So when they get in there and they're like looking at and we're asking for stuff or we're asking them to follow our SOPs for the transition, they can go right into right into what we're now labeled HI-Academy. So it is called it's touchstone that drives it. That's the engine. We've labeled it HI-Academy. And then all the proprietary stuff is how we use it. And even meeting with touchstone, they're like, that's phenomenal. And then we're like, but how do we do this? And they give us new ideas. So it's our single it's our single source of truth for everything we do. And it literally is the Achilles heel of our of our company. So when we bring on a new integrator, we just assign them positions, and then as they become a vice president and a regional vice president, we assign that position in all the processes that we've attached to our assigned to that position, flow in, then as they go in and they go through these processes and we train the processes, there's another then the ultimate goal is to have them certified and there's a place in HI-Academy to mark off every process that they've been certified on. So it's a way to track their learning. And what they've learned.

Ron:  Did you use this tool or something similar when you were scaling Medley Communications?

Darrin: Oh my gosh, I did it all by it was all paper. It was all paper and it was all word documents and it was all kept in shared document and every time I changed the process, I would email it out to all my regional. We had yes, but it was all manual. So that's what I love about Shannon over at Touchstone said, we're going to take Michael Gerber keeps talking about building processes, but nobody has a process for doing it and that's why it's a lot like I point. So I point in detours in our industry. It's Touchstone's a lot like I point D tools for the business development people working with Michael Gerber.

Ron:  That's awesome. And I want to focus here and I appreciate you sharing that and John, I don't think John Ford, I don't think he gave away too much of the secret sauce.

Darrin: And by the way, sharing that is to our advantage because I want integrators. We want to partner with the integrators. We want to acquire companies this year. We've got, we've got a goal that acquired 12 to 20 companies, and I want companies to know, well, how is it going to work? And I want to reassure them. We've got a strategy that nobody else has ever. We have a strategy. Nobody else has ever had in our industry.

Ron:  Yeah, no, I think that's exciting. Well, I'll just go there. You mentioned you want to acquire 12 plus businesses. Where are you guys looking to do that geographically? Or what's your mandate? How do you know where you're going to go and do those acquisitions?

Darrin: Yeah, very good. So no secret. We have a process for how we're doing that. Our goal is to put an integrator or a HI Solutions regional office in every NFL city. And we're identifying the regions that we believe are have the most opportunity. Texas is a big one for us right now. And then there's some cities that we know we want to be in that don't have an NFL team, so then we moved to NBA. But we're looking at basically going out to every NFL region, having integrators. So that's kind of our strategy. And John Ford and Michael. Michael Newell specifically is working through that with JP in their strategy and their strategizing that with John Ford, our chief strategy officer.

Ron:  Got it. Any big acquisitions that you can announce here while we're live or is the world just going to have to wait to hear what's coming.

Darrin: I think the world is going to have to wait because I'd be scared to, but we do. We have two to three that are very excited. I've got one. I've got one company in New York that we're so close with. And we're just literally crossing our T's and dotting our eyes. He calls me all the time and we jump into HI-Academy. And we're looking at the autonomous home. And he's like, he goes, I love what I do, but I want to be a part of something bigger. I want to be part of something bigger. And I've taken this as far as I can. So we're having a lot of fun. So yeah, you can I think maybe Salt Lake City. You can look for us soon, New York, you can look for us soon. We're big time looking at Chicago right now. Talking to some integrators out there. But yeah, this year, hopefully, soon we'll be going to four and five. And again, we're not yet in a position where we're like, let's just bring on that because we're still quantifying and testing the replication of what we've done in the three markets. This will be the first. Because I'm the third company to come on and build this. So when we bring on the fourth, it will be the first company that we're bringing in to integrate into our process because I built it with Michael and Ben and myself. So this will be the first one that's can we take what we built and how do we roll it out and transition it? And I've been ruthless with Michael Newell, who's phenomenal. And he's our executive vice president of acquisitions. I've been ruthless with him about how we got to build everything in HI-Academy. So that when these guys get to that point, it's seamless. So yeah, that should be exciting.

Ron:  At a high level, you mentioned a bunch of brands. And so I imagine everyone that is already part of the group or part of the company and or will be a future acquisition is coming with their own portfolio of product mix. How are you guys thinking about the future state? Do the companies that join you need to adapt to your preferred vendor mix? Or are you going to carry or continue to carry a diversity of lines? I imagine a lot of people listening are curious how you're going to handle that.

Darrin: This is one of the, I think most spectacular things we're doing and one of the neatest things for the integrator because that's the fear is like joining and then all of a sudden everything changes. We don't want to change a thing with what the integrator is doing because remember our philosophy is taking all your home tech and integrating it naturally through voice, touch motion, and timing into the way you live. So when we're bringing on a new integrator, we want to make sure that they believe in that mission that, you know, like Richard even talking, you just can't sell products anymore. You just can't tell you just can't sell touch screens anymore. We've got to find out more about the customer. There's got to be, it's got to be you and I to the really neat, you know, breakfast with Lutron and talked about product versus experience. So the answer like, there you go.

Ron:  I just shared a picture for our listeners. This is Darrin animated here. Shaking his hands or waving his hands and talking to the audience. It was a big audience, by the way. There was a lot of people in the room at that event.

Darrin: I was so focused on you and Rhett and what we were talking about. I didn't even realize it was that many people. It was fun. It was a lot of fun.

Ron:  There's a lot of guns. I see the picture of the lumb guns out.

Darrin: I do that a lot.

Ron:  Your brother pointed that out. You're like, yeah, he always does it, whatever he's talking.

Darrin: And I didn't even know that until he said that. And now I'm self conscious. But the neat thing is, so if what we're doing is taking the way you live in using technology to integrate it in your lifestyle, I don't care if it's Crestron. I don't care if it's Savant. I don't care if it's HomeKit. What would you call product agnostic? That doesn't mean we don't care. But it means it's not about the product. It's about the experience. So if you're good at what you do and you're using like the company we're bringing on in New York, they're a Savant dealer. And none of us are using Savant right now in the three markets we have. I'm excited about the Savant opportunity and learning more because if we can get with him and say, okay, how do you use Savant to really naturally and organically work into that customer's lifestyle? Now, if they said, no, they've got to use it for everything. And if they want to use Sonos, they got to go into the Savant app and they got it drilled down. Yeah, we figured that out early on in our what we call we have a whole phase where we get to know you and understand our culture and our brand versus theirs. And if they are absolutely, we are going to put a Crestron system in everything has to be inside the Crestron system and nothing can be outside of it and that's it. Probably not a match because we wanted to integrate into their life naturally organically easily. And that will include all the hopefully it will include all the product you're using. And if it doesn't, and we got better products, hopefully you're smart enough to go, wow, this works better and this makes the customer happier, and more people will buy it. If more people will buy it because it's easier and works better and integrates into their life naturally, and that's what I found at that Lutron table when people said, how do you do that? Because I got to know how to do that and how to monetize it because I got all my clients are asking for it now. And I don't know what to tell them. I keep telling them, no, no, no, that stuff's do it yourself. And they're adamant. No. No, we want Lutron, Sonos. We do want Crestron, Control4 for our home theaters, but I don't want to control my house anymore through a remote. That's archaic and that's where Josh.AI is phenomenal with their home intelligence platform is making it really easy to take really high end stuff and integrate it into their life. And I think Josh is on fire for how they're on the same page and we're doing a lot of talking with Josh about, how do we work together with companies like Sonos and Lutron and Josh and Hi and create something everybody can have and figuring out how to price it.

Ron:  Darrin, it's been a lot of fun for myself and my team working with you and your leadership team. There's lots of different projects and initiatives that are actively underway. And your website actually is approaching completion. I know that's been underway for a while.

Darrin: The biggest accomplishment we've had is taking what we do and who we are and all this, all this vision that John and JP and Michael Nolan I have in putting it into print and putting it into a format that says who we are. You've done, I will tell you what. I believe in obviously you know I believe in what I believe in. I believe in Michael Gerber, I believe in the E myth. And I believe in One Firefly. You guys have been absolutely phenomenal in taking our vision from a vision to being able to communicate it and being on paper, One Firefly has been phenomenal Ron. And you've been fantastic work with, your team has been fantastic to work with. It's been nothing but an absolute pleasure. And we're very excited about our relationship moving forward to.

Ron:  Well, I appreciate that. And likewise, I'm glowing. My cheeks are turning pink with happiness. I appreciate that. How can the folks that are listening or watching? How can they get in touch with you, Darrin? Where would you send them? Email, phone, website, any social handles.

Darrin: Send them directly to hi.solutions. On our website, there's about four or 5 different ways to get in touch with any of us. But for sure email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is great. But if they go to the website, that's the single easiest source to get in touch with. Go to the website. Go to the location you want to go into. And send us an email. If you want to contact me directly, it's simple. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And I can direct you to whoever, you know, if it's about acquisitions and you want to learn more about the opportunity of selling your business, merging and exit strategy. Listen, everybody, if you're in business and you're not thinking exit strategy, you are a technician that's created a job for yourself. Don't create a job for yourself, create a business, and let's build and if you don't know how to build it, let's build it together. And we can help you do that where you still have equity and so that's our vision. But yeah, contact us, contact me and I'll get you in touch with Mike Newell or JP or whoever we need to get in touch with. Again, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or go to the website. It just hi.solutions.

Ron:  Awesome. Darrin, thank you for joining me here on show 235.

Darrin: Ron, thank you so much again. It's a pleasure. I look forward to the next time we get to tell our story.

Ron:  Awesome. All right, I'm going to pull you off screen here, but don't go away. You and I will do a quick catch up when we're offline here.

Darrin: Awesome. Thanks for having us.

SHOW NOTES:

Darrin joined HI Solutions as its Chief Operating Officer in 2021 after the acquisition of Unify Smart Home, a California home automation company he co-founded in 2017. Unify, a division of Medley Communications, has developed and commercialized an innovative home automation platform that has shifted the paradigm for smart home automation and has become recognized as an industry leader. Darrin launched his career in the telecommunications industry in 1987 with responsibility for developing a broadband installation department. Darrin ultimately grew Medley Communications, into a national installation partner in the Cable TV Industry with offices spanning the United States with more than 250 employees. 

As Chief Operating Officer at HI Solutions, Darrin is focused on developing and implementing repeatable business and operating processes to enable HI Solutions to efficiently integrate and profitably scale its business as it executes an aggressive acquisition rollup program across the United States.

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:

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