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Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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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 #240: An Industry Q&A with Eric Pyle

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Eric Pyle, CEO at Encore Audio Video Designs shares his perspective as a business owner and advice for those looking to start a new company.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Eric Pyle. Recorded live on Wednesday, March 29th, 2023, at 12:30 pm EST.

About Eric Pyle

Eric started in the industry 23 years ago as a car audio salesman. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he assisted with the opening of a new company that specialized in 12V. In this endeavor, he began branching out into the custom integration space both in sales and installation. In 2012 he took a new position as a manufacturers representative with InPro sales and marketing, pitching the likes of KEF, Pioneer Elite and Alpine to the midwest. 

He later returned to the company where he started a decade earlier as a System Designer, Programmer (Savant and Lutron) and a Project Manager. When that company was purchased in the beginning of 2022, Eric founded Encore Audio Video Designs to offer a higher end solution for clients in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City Missouri.

Interview Recap

  • The wealth of experience Eric has gathered over his 23 years in the industry
  • A business owner's perspective and advice for those looking to start a new company
  • Podcasts and resources he uses for personal growth and development

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #239 An Industry Q&A with Matt Grant

Transcript

Ron:  Eric, how are you, sir?

Eric: Doing well, Ron, how are you?

Ron:  Man, another day in Paradise. I was saying that was just in Rome and in Italy for vacation. I was curious, have you ever been?

Eric: I have not. Sounds like a great place to be though.

Ron:  Oh man, if you're like, I'm a History Channel nerd. Like I could sit and watch the History Channel like all day long and just listen to civilizations of the past. And I was a kid in a candy store because you couldn't walk ten paces and not hit some ancient structure that was either many hundreds, like the newer buildings are from the Middle Ages and the older stuff are the Roman ruins that you can see, and then we had some guided tours and you learn that Rome is such a fascinating city because it's layers upon layers upon layers of different civilizations that have been in that territory in Rome. So you have, of course, modern day civilization, then you have the middle age empire and the castles and there were just lots of big fancy castles that like you see on TV and crazy stuff. Then there was the Roman Empire and then there was the Greek empire and then there was the Etruscan empire and all of this is right there. Here we are in America. And if we want to go to see some history, like we go to Philadelphia. And there's like a building that's 200 years old. And like that's our history. That's our old stuff. And it was just, yeah, I highly recommend it. Everyone tuned in, you want to go see some good history, go to Rome. Spectacular.

Eric: I'll have to check that out. You know, I will say, even though we're only a little over 200 years old, even with all the shit that's going on right now, we're still the best country in the world.

Ron:  Amen.

Eric: So Rome can have Rome.

Ron:  Rome can have Rome. All right, I'm all America. I'm all for it, 100%. America is special. And the more I travel around the world, the more I am thankful for what we've built here in this country, and I mean, I do business, I have clients all around the world. And I work with integrators all around the world. And I'm very thankful about living here and doing business here. And I'll tell you one more quick story. I know Eric, I said, you're supposed to do all the talking in this interview, and here I am talking. But when I started this business, 15, 16 years ago, very early on, I went over to Dubai to pursue a client, a prospect, an integrator that was offering to potentially do business with us. And when I was over there, I literally flew 20 hours for a couple hour meeting with this prospect. And then I got back in the car and I went back to the airport and I flew home. It was kind of like a do whatever you got to do to win the business. He said, I only did business with people I meet face to face. I said, great. What day this week do you want to meet? And I flew over there and I met him, but he said, Ron, and we did business, by the way. But he said, Ron, what in the world are you doing here in Dubai? He's like, you live in America. He's like, everybody in the world that does business would die to be doing business in America. And it forced me in my early years of my business to actually rethink what was I doing? Why was I not focusing on my backyard? And if I wasn't earning the business that I wanted to earn in those early days of the company, it just meant I needed to get better. I needed to be good enough to earn the business in my backyard. Which is, which is what I did. I focused on it. So yeah, I agree.

Eric: I love that. Well, hey, first off, happy birthday.

Ron:  Thank you.

Eric: So was Rome a birthday trip?

Ron:  It was.

Eric: Very nice. Very nice. And I have to say thank you for having me on. Long time listener of your podcast, learn a lot from it. Just pleasure to be here. And what you're doing for our industry is really great, so keep it up.

Ron:  I appreciate that, man. I do it for you. I do it for the listeners. I find a lot of value in all the people and the lessons that I've learned over my 23 year career. Actually, I took a note when we were chatting earlier and I see your bio, you've been doing you've been in the business 23 years as well.

Eric: Cheers to that.

Ron:  Cheers to that. Both 23 years in.

Eric: Really good tequila in here. I'm sharing with you.

Ron:  And I know so many of the awesome lessons I've learned from guys and gals like yourself are really, in my opinion, where the magic is and I wanted to expose more of that out there and kind of let those conversations that I often have in private and I have them every single day because I'm talking to integrators every day of the week and I have for many decades now. I wanted this to be a forum where that could be out in more of the public domain for public consumption. So I'm glad to hear that you're a listener and you've benefited from many of the brilliant minds that I've had on the show and the lessons they've offered up. And you're part of that, by the way, you're part of those brilliant minds and those lessons. So, you know, we're certainly very happy you're here. Tell everyone where you're at. Tell us a little bit about your business. Like what type of stuff do you do and where do you do that stuff?

Eric: So in Columbia, Missouri is where we're based out of. We cover St. Louis, Kansas City, part of the Lake of the Ozarks, but yeah, we do high-end residential. A little bit of commercial as far as conference rooms, but primarily focus on full automation, high-end, the stuff that you don't see behind the scenes is what we really pride ourselves on you know. Just making sure everything's documented, put together really well.

Ron:  Awesome. And by the way, a member of my team, Stephen, over on LinkedIn, says, welcome, Eric. So there you go.

Eric: Stephen, what's up, man? That's my guy.

Ron:  That's your guy. So I do have, it's not a secret, but you and I have been talking and this is in my backyard. So I'd be remiss to not mention this. You have, and maybe you have more siblings, but you have a sibling that's a professional sports guy.

Eric: And arguably not the best athlete in the family.

Ron:  Really? Are you the better athlete or are there?

Eric: No, no, no, no. No, no, no. My sister though.

Ron:  Really? All right, well, let's start with the sister. Tell us the sister story. What is her sport?

Eric: Well, track, softball, basketball. She played a little bit in college, but as far as track goes, we came from a small high school, so take that what you will, but what was she a 9 time state champion? I mean, she was a badass. So I would like to say to my younger brother, our younger brother got all of his athletic talent from her.

Ron:  Ah, what was your sister? What's your sister's name?

Eric: Ashley.

Ron:  Ashley. And what was her 9 time? What was her, what was her story?

Eric: Hundred meter hurdles, 300 hurdles, four by four. And then she's got school records in high jump, long jump. Obviously the hurdles, the relays, but those were her primaries.

Ron:  Were you a sports guy yourself?

Eric: I ran track in college, played basketball in college. So yeah, I guess so. But that was a long time ago.

Ron:  Okay. All right. Well, yeah, I tell stories to my son like my son's now looking at maybe doing cross country next year. He'll be a freshman in high school next year. And he's now asking me about doing wrestling. And in my youth, I was a wrestler. And he's like, dad, you don't look like a wrestler. I was like, hey, I used to look like a wrestler. And those days will come again.

Eric: Let's see those ears. Then we'll know if you're ready.

Ron:  See, I was out of there. I always wore headgear.

Eric: Okay.

Ron:  All right. So here's your brother. Why don't you tell us who your brother is?

Eric: Skylar Thompson. Yeah, man. He's the baby of the family. Of course, he dwarfs me in size now, so he's not really a baby anymore, but yeah, he got picked up by the Dolphins. He was a 7th round draft pick last year. Some of you guys that follow football may have noticed that he got into play when Teddy Bridgewater went out with injuries. So he got to play in the playoff game. Started four games this season as a rookie and really held his own. He, you know, he's just a professional, even at a very young age. He was ready to go. Didn't get a lot of practice snaps. But when he was called, he came out and performed. So really proud of him. It's very surreal to see him in this situation, even though from a very early age at 5 or 6, we all knew that he was going to do something special. And you know his dreams came to fruition. So it's pretty cool.

Ron:  That's awesome. What do you think if you were to kind of put a pin in one or two or three ideas? And I'm going to say mentalities, because at that level, to make it into professional sport, any professional sport. Like you're competing with volumes of people that have nearly infinite what feels like nearly infinite athletic ability. So there has to be something that's extra that actually pushes you over to be selected or drafted or to ultimately play at that level. I mean, do you believe that? And if so...

Eric: Oh, 100%. 100%. And to his own admission at that level, even your teammates are coming after your paycheck. Every week somebody is trying to take your place. So you know for Skylar, don't get me wrong, he's a great athlete. He really is. But is he the best athlete in the NFL? No. But I think what separates him is his discipline above all else. His work ethic and just his undeniable confidence in himself. He won't ever quit. And he's always just preparing constantly to be that consummate professional to be ready to go. Which is really cool because I think that kind of ties into what we do. The discipline, knowing that you do a great job, always looking to get better, always being ready you know. So a lot of that goes hand in hand with what a professional athlete does. We are professionals ourselves. So I think that you know if people maybe wouldn't spend so much time following their sports teams and just saw how they prepared and applied that to their own life, their own business. We'd all collectively be better for it.

Ron:  I'm going to ask you a question now that I don't ask often enough, but you're a successful entrepreneur and have a successful career. It sounds like your sister's pretty amazing and your brother's pretty amazing. What's the story with your mom and dad? Or like, how did they raise such an impressive family?

Eric: Well, my mom and dad, my sister and I have the same mother and father. Skylar has a different father.

Ron:  Yeah.

Eric: Our mom and my dad got divorced when I was in third grade. So my mom really kind of raised us by herself. You know, we saw dad every other weekend and when we could. But that was one thing, I think we learned at a very early age is that she was always gone working. She was always trying to get a little bit better you know. She started off as a secretary, ended up as a general manager of a radio station. Went through the whole sales process as far as a salesperson before she got to that level. So I always got to see her do those things, but then there were times like she wouldn't be able to make it to a basketball game or a track meet. Well, at that point in time, when you're a kid, it's like, we're in the hell's mom, right? But now looking back at it, it's making those sacrifices and staying disciplined because she was trying to provide a life for us that a two parent household would do. Now, unfortunately, she passed away when I was 25, so I guess that was what, 19 years ago, Skylar was 6. But, leading into that, and Skylar coming along, Brad Thompson, my stepfather, he was actually my high school basketball coach.

Ron:  Wow.

Eric: And so in our school, I know some schools are different, but you know the girls would play first, guys would come out second. So as a girl's game is wrapping up, we're all standing in the tunnel, getting ready to walk out. And I always walked out last. Brad, he's standing behind me, and we're kind of surveying the crowd and whatever and just waiting for the game to get over with. And he's like, hey, who is that up there? I'm like, where? And I know where he's pointing, but I'm like, get the fuck out of here. Like, seriously? He goes right there in that red suit jacket. I'm like, coach, that's my mom. So long story short, I introduced them. He lived down the street from us, and, you know, a couple of years later, they got married, then Skylar came along. But then we had the tragedy of her passing away. And at that point in time, Skylar and Brad picked up, moved across state, Kansas City, and then Brad, you know, he invested all of his time in to Skylar. We all saw that, you know, Skylar had that potential, right? You know, Brad took that upon himself to say, hey, I'm going to give this kid every opportunity. And really, you know, we've stayed close over the years, but you know I think as a family, we've just always seen opportunities and how to take advantage of those and be the best that we can possibly be. But it all comes back to the discipline and the hard work.

Ron:  Amen. Amen. Talk us through, and I thank you for sharing that personal story, that background.

Eric: Sure.

Ron:  I think those people, whether they're parents or mentors or coaches or advisers, they're so instrumental. I know they've been so instrumental in my life and those that I've seen that are successful because being successful isn't hard. I mean, some special formula has happened to enable that to happen, whether it's mindset and work ethic and or just got given abilities. So I appreciate you sharing that. What's your professional background? Like what brought you to today? And I'll be specific. I know you started this business officially a year ago, right? So you're one year into this business.

Eric: That's correct.

Ron:  But you've been in the space for 20 plus years. So walk us through that if you don't mind.

Eric: I'm going to take you back even further.

Ron:  There you go. Let's go ahead and go to birth. How far back you want to go?

Eric: I was pulling wire at 6 months.

Ron:  00:18:38.280 Oh, wow. There you go.

Eric: No, actually, you know, I've had that thought process over this 23 year journey of how in the hell did I get into this space? I know for probably the first 5 or ten years, I was trying to figure out a way to get out of it. Because I do have a degree in biochemistry and it was pre-med to start off with and then thought I'd go into pharmaceutical sales because I had a sales background, but I kept getting pulled back into the space. And there's an interesting story. When I was in 6th grade, we had a two level house and I don't know, probably 2500 ft². And there was only one bedroom that was wired for TV, and then the living room. And I was like, well, we need cable TV everywhere in the house. So I went to the local west lakes, race hardware, whatever it was called, and bought some RG 6 cable. Keep in mind, I'm in 6th grade, and wired our whole house. I don't know if you remember back in the day when you had the little 13 inch, barely color TV, and it had the tuner on the top, but you only had like 12 channels. So the cable company would give you the box with 32 channels. I didn't want to have to get up and change that every time on top of the TV. So I wired it back to where I had it back here in my bed and this was my remote control. So that's actually my official installation start in our industry. But then fast forward to 2000, I had no idea what the hell I was doing in any of the space. And you know like I was telling you before you know, back in the day, eclipse car audio CD players had an unlock disk. If it was disconnected from power, it would go into lock. It was a safety mechanism in case it was stolen. There was a local company in Jefferson City, The Entertainer. There was an eclipse dealer. So I took my sister's car in, and they were back doing their work unlocking the CD player. Over that 30, 45 minutes that I was there, the manager, Greg Harris, started a conversation with me you know, and keep in mind, like I just got back from the gym, sweaty. I was not looking for a job by any means. Well, 45 minutes later, I had a job starting off in car audio sales. I think a lot of people in our industry started off in car audio now that I think about it. But that's kind of where I had my training wheels on. Learning about resistance, wiring and series versus parallel. Why you do some of these things? Then kind of took my sales experience from the past and brought those two together. So I was in car audio sales for a few years. Then started branching off into the home space. And then once I graduated college in 2003, a couple of friends of mine wanted to start a car audio company. One of them was an installer, one of them was money guy, but neither of them knew sales or client interaction. So I helped them start that. Did that for several years and then a company called Inpro Sales and Marketing, it was owned by Dixon Smart, Mike Marshall. Mike Marshall has been a huge influence on me in this industry. Learned a lot from him. We've become great friends over the years. We primarily dealt with Kef, Pioneer elite, Alpine on the 12 Volt side. But yeah, fell in love with Kef during that period of time and got to meet David Kroll, who's been a really cool ally across this whole time of me doing what I'm doing. Then I went back to The Entertainer. The stipulation there was, I was going to come in. I was going to buy the company. And this went on for about 8 or 9 years, we're working on a succession plan and then financing came up. And you know like most people trying to find $2, $3 million laying around, just kind of tough.

Ron:  Yeah.

Eric: In the 25th hour, we had an investor come in. And he didn't want me to be a partner. He just wanted me to run it, move into St. Louis and Kansas City as well as the Jeff city location. And at that point in time, all I wanted to do was run a company. So last year, February, March of 2022, I launched Encore Audio Video Designs and I'm glad I did it. I sped through that, but that's the gist.

Ron:  No, that's awesome. So prior to opening the door and saying you're in business, did you, I'm curious, did you write a business plan? What did you document or did you have any formal method of documenting like your approach on how you were going to make this business and make it successful?

Eric: Absolutely. So during that succession period, when I was with The Entertainer and talking with Todd and Jamie Corwin, the former owners, the entire time I'm taking down notes, seeing what had worked, what didn't work, and was really starting to create that overall process. How to be more efficient. How to be a better leader to the employees. So when I came to having to talk to the bank, I had to have a business plan. So basically, all of those things with The Entertainer, I just cut, copy, paste and stuck it over here and said, I've already had this. I've been working on this for 6, 7 years at this point. And it's not fully baked. I don't think that it ever will be. Because as I told you before, each day, I am just trying to move the needle .001%. Just to get this much better every single day. So the software that I use right now, the practices or processes that I have in place right now. They may not still be the same things that I'm using 6 months from now, I hope that they're not the ones that I'm using 6 years from now because there's just got to be a better way.

Ron:  You had mentioned that Kirk over at Portal and some of the content he had, had made an impact on you. Do you mind kind of exploring that a little bit? What was that content?

Eric: Absolutely. And Kirk, again, if you're listening, I told you this at CEDIA, make more of this content. But over 2020 you know, everybody's locked in their house. And there wasn't a whole lot to do. Fortunately, I was already working somewhat remotely as far as creating proposals and whatnot. But instead of doing in person walkthroughs or look overs with a client, I was doing that through FaceTime. But you could wrap that stuff up in an hour or two each day, so you had infinite amount of time. Portal sent out an email and basically I can't remember if it was 6 or 8 different dealers from a two man crew all the way up to a company that's doing a $100 million a year. But they interviewed these folks on their process you know from lead generation to the type of fleet vehicles that they were using, to handing the keys off to the client and everything in between. What software do you use? What's the process? Take me through from start to finish. And from every one of those dealers you've got different input. So it's kind of cherry picked. I like what this guy's doing. I like what this guy is doing. If you took these two things and put them together, this would be really nice. And that's kind of how I started formulating the whole overall process of Encore. Of course, at that point in time, it was still being applied to The Entertainer. And we actually deployed some of those measures down there. But yeah, I think ultimately as an industry, if we could do more of that, I'm not saying go to the competitor down the street and let's go work on a job together. But I'm good friends with the competitors around here. We go play golf with each other and it's okay to talk shop you know. There's enough business out here for all of us. And I don't need them to fail for me to succeed. I think collectively, if we all get better, it presents a better image to the consumers. And allows them to understand that, hey, we're here to give you solutions to help benefit your life. We're not here just to take your money.

Ron:  Are there any lessons over the last 12 months of getting this thing off the ground? During the business and doing good work, anything that, we have listeners, somebody might be listening, that might be thinking about starting up. They may be in their earlier stages of starting their business. Or frankly, maybe they've been at it for 5 or 10 years and they're still wisdom that would benefit them. Is there something that makes sense?

Eric: You know, I think everyone listening to this if they are a business owner or even the operator or a manager, the shit's hard you know, business is hard. Anybody that tells you otherwise, like if you go on Instagram and these guys that are posing in front of their Lambos that they rented for the day, like it's not overnight. And you know I think if we were to just step back and realize that it's going to take years of constant discipline of getting better every single day to make this work, that's probably the biggest thing. It's just not understanding how difficult it was going to be. And not from the standpoint of just what we do being difficult. Managing time, managing people, there's just not enough time in the day. So you know we talked a little bit about 75 Hard. That's something that I picked up a couple of years ago. I didn't develop it. It's a guy named Andy Frisella down the road for me in St. Louis, Missouri. He's the owner of 1st Phorm and I adhere to a lot of the things that this guy teaches just because he's been in business for 24 years. Has grown several multi-billion dollar companies, but applying this program 75 Hard. Great podcast to listen to, by the way. But it's a really simple thing. And a lot of people will look at this as a workout program and really it's a mental discipline program. It's two workouts a day, 45 minutes each. One of them has to be outside. So even if it's snowing, raining, whatever, you go do it. The whole point behind that is not everything's going to be ideal. So as long as you can push through that, you know, that outdoor workout. Taking a progress pick every single day for 75 days may seem trivial, but it's telling you that the small things matter to. You have to drink a gallon of water a day, adhere to a diet, whatever that may be you know. Some guys that might be, I'm not going to eat cookies anymore. Somebody like myself that works out every day, like I count my macros to a T, no alcohol, no cheat meals. And you have to read ten pages of a personal development book every day. Now, why is this important to our industry? It's applicable for everyone. It's about becoming the best version of yourself. And anybody listening, I challenge you to do this. But do it exactly how it's written. Well, I'm only going to drink a half a gallon of water. I'm not going to take the progress pick. I'm going to do both of my workouts indoors back to back for an hour and a half. The whole point of this is to follow a program. The reason why people suck is because they start making concessions in their own life, right? It's supposed to be hard. There's two different types of hard. There's hard being broke. That's really difficult. Or you can be really successful. That's hard too. So pick your hard.

Ron:  They're both hard.

Eric: Absolutely. And I can tell you this. I'd rather have this hard over here where I'm working my ass off achieving my dreams. But going back to 75 Hard, do it and do it exactly how it's spelled out and I guarantee you it will change your life. Guaranteed. Now I've done it several times now.

Ron:  Have you recommended it? Have you recommended 75 Hard to anyone in your life and they've done it? And what's the benefit? The other side of it.

Eric: Everybody. And really, it's not even me out there you know being the pied piper walking through the town talking about this. What ended up happening and like we've talked about, like I was an athlete and a former life. But at 44 years old, when you're walking around 200 pounds 8% body fat, people start to ask questions, right? And it's like, what the hell have you been doing? I'm like, 75 Hard. It's like, oh, that's a workout program. I was like, it's much more than that. What you're seeing is a fraction of what you're actually getting. Everything is really in between my ears, of what the change is. This is just an outward example of what came into play because of doing this. It just makes you better. Period.

Ron:  I've found myself on many occasions, maybe, you know, life is all about ups and downs, running a business is all about peaks and valleys. And I've on many occasions talked about being an entrepreneur, being a business owner, being one of the harder things I could imagine someone trying to be successful at. I know there are harder things, right? So there are harder things in the world. I'm not saying it's the most. But to not just be in business, but to have a successful business. And then you say, well, what is success? Success is you as the owner, having the right balance that's right for you, of work life balance. Now, that could be you want to be in it all day long every day, or that could be in it you want to be in some fraction. It's a subjective personal decision. But also having a business that's at a level of I'll go to the bottom line, which is the bottom line, EBITDA profitability that you're proud of, right? There's lots of businesses, I've interacted with many of them. I've worked with thousands and thousands of business owners at this point. They're in business, but they aren't necessarily making money. If they're making money, they actually don't know how much money they're making or losing, right? And that's a problem, if you don't know how much money you're making or losing. And so to actually run a thriving profitable, scalable, you know, growing business that's delivering for you, work life balance, level of happiness that you want, that's actually rare. There's a lots of businesses in America and around the world that people are in business. And, you know, this is the cliché everyone's heard. And they work for a maniac. themselves. And they're not necessarily better off than working for somebody, I would challenge. But to desire to run a scalable, profitable, successful business. I think it's admirable to aspire to that and it's fantastically harder than most people imagine to accomplish.

Eric: 100% you know and to your point, you know, talking about success, it is different for everybody. But I also don't think that that's an end-goal. It's not a finish line per se. Like I think once you achieve this goal, you strive for this next goal. So your level of success or your idea of success changes. Right? You know, to me, and I alluded to this earlier when we were talking before the show started, like, money is not a motivating factor to me. It really isn't. And I mean, a lot of people would say, well, what's the point of being in business? Make money. Well, it's not. It's about providing a solution for a client. And the byproduct of that is you get paid. And if you do a really great job, you get paid really well. But I think as long as we continue to take one customer at a time and give them a solution and making sure that you're staying focused and the follow-up service after the sale, then that word of mouth, it's like a brush fire like it just catches fire and it grows. That's how you become successful, but it's day after day after day, grind, grind, grind, discipline, discipline, discipline, of just never quit, really is what it comes down to, it's just never quit.

Ron:  It's mindset. What are some of the other content you consume? Videos, podcasts, books that you have found helpful or constructive?

Eric: So you had it posted a second ago, really, that's Andy Frisella's podcast. If you go way back in the time machine, when he started the MFCEO project, I think it was 2015. And in there, I think it's episode 208 where they talk about the 75 Hard live hard. So I watch and listen to that, they just started up on YouTube about 6 months ago, he's getting ready to relaunch the MFCEO project, but it's going to be on his own personal platform. And there's another podcast that I listen to. There's this really, really great one. It's called Automation Unplugged, we really dig that. But then talking about Ed and Andy, they have an entrepreneurial group called Arete Syndicate that I'm a part of. And you pay a nominal fee each month, you have three calls each month. One is from Andy, one is from Ed. They're about an hour long, and it's just talking about business and how to grow business, how to lead people. You know, every single nuance in there, they talk about. And then at the end of the month, they'll have a Q&A where both of them and are on and you can ask questions live. They have a live event. They had one back in October or November in Nashville. There's one coming up on April 22nd in St. Louis, I do think there's still some tickets available. But they have legendary speakers. Tim Grover, Peyton Manning, Bob Green, or Robert Greene that wrote 48 Laws of Power, Wes Watson, I mean, the list goes on and on of the people that come and speak, and they just talk about overcoming adversity. Persevering. And having the discipline and never quitting. So they're all things that are applicable to life, but what I have found is I start to deploy and implement those things into my life. It obviously transcends into our industry and our work. And you know just trying to go around and pass these good words along. You know, I encourage all of you, I think, are today, they only do enrollment two times a year, but I encourage all of you to join. It's like $398 a month. Well worth it. Out of one call, you'll get the value of it. And if you implement these things into your business, it will really help you.

Ron:  You mentioned something recently to me that you amongst the many books you've consumed, which, by the way, kudos to you to be reading. I think not enough people, not enough business owners, are regularly consuming content. And so they're not getting new ideas. And maybe that's the reason they might be stuck. A way to get yourself unstuck is to fill your head with different ideas and opinions and approaches to life and to business and to relationships and everything in between. One of the books I thoroughly enjoyed that I came across and you mentioned you had read it. I read this, I want to say maybe a year or two ago now. Was the book by Tim Grover, who, for those that aren't aware, he was what was he? The athletic trainer for Kobe Bryant amongst.

Eric: And Michael Jordan. So Michael Jordan was one that actually brought him on. He hadn't trained anybody at that point you know. And as his story goes, he's reaching out to the Bulls trainers, just trying to get somebody somebody like he wasn't even asking about Michael because there is no way in hell that Michael is going to use him. And the only guy that called him back was Michael Jordan. So brought him in and obviously did wonderful things there. And then, of course, when Michael retired, Kobe was asking Michael because of their relationship like, hey, what do I need to do? And he's like, get a hold of Tim. That's the dude.

Ron:  You mentioned something that I resonated with as well. And you had this moment. You said, when you were reading that book, that you realized, hey, I'm not the only one that thinks like this. And I just wanted to share with you Eric, that I had the same epiphany. When I read that book, I was like, I'm not crazy. Like the drive, the idea that, and I had it since I was, you know, since I was a kid, that I just, you know, I just didn't believe in walls or barriers. If I wasn't where I wanted to go, it just meant I hadn't worked hard enough for long enough, or gotten enough people around me to support me to help me achieve it. It's just a mindset.

Eric: Yeah.

Ron:  And you've talked to many people you know, well, I'll reference here at One Firefly. I'm 16 years in, but I mean, there's been at least ten good chances where the company could have failed. At least ten, if I think hard, maybe it's 15.

Eric: That's it?

Ron:  It's maybe 50, where we were just like, all right, this is the end of the line. I'm not sure this is going to work out, you know? And I just said, yeah, all right, I'll quit. Just not today. I'll quit tomorrow, and then I wake up tomorrow. All right, I'll quit. Just not today. I'll quit tomorrow. And then, you know, here we are. And I just remember how so many people would look at me like cross eyed, like, where do you come off like being so confident? Why do you deserve to be so confident? I was like, it's a choice. I just choose. And you read that book from Tim Grover, and he's like, he affirms, you're okay. Like, it's okay to believe in yourself and to believe that work ethic matters. You know, did you have a similar belief system or feelings after that?

Eric: You know, I think for most of my life, like you said, even as a kid you know, I didn't know what it was. But I always felt like I was just destined to do something more. You know, more than and not that there's anything wrong with this. But more than a 9 to 5, more than just having a family and raising some kids. Like, I wanted to leave an imprint. But, you know, family, growing up, they were all the ones that were doing the 9 to 5, raising a family. So when I started voicing these ideas and thoughts of supreme confidence and I'm going to set the world on fire, Eric, you're fucking crazy. Like, no, you're not. Like, you just need to go get a 9 to 5 and come back to reality. And, you know, as I started getting out of it. So, I mean, there's probably a 10, 15 year period of my life where I was like, man, maybe they're right. Maybe they're right. But I just knew inherently that I was still destined to do something different. And then when I read that book, I'm like, you're not crazy. Like, there are people that actually think this way. There might be fewer of us.

Ron:  Sure.

Eric: But I still think that as a whole, everybody's destined to be great in their own life. It's just, do you have the tenacity and the belief in yourself to try? You know, and I think that's the biggest thing is just try. It definitely won't achieve whatever that thing is if you don't try.

Ron:  And so many people you know suffer from the idea of impostor syndrome that they don't deserve to do that thing or achieve that thing because they aren't qualified and you know my message and it sounds like yours is too. It's just you have to you have to start day one, you have to start and then figure it out along the way.

Eric: Well, that's right. I mean, you know, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. So get up off your ass, believe in yourself, and just go do it. And never quit. You know, it's that old cartoon where you see the guys digging. And then one guy quits and the other guy follows in and he digs two more times and he struck gold. It's like we're always just this close to achieving what we sought after. But we give up. So I don't know. That's just the way that I believe just never quit no matter what.

Ron:  So this is totally random, but you had to have and I won't even know the name of it, but you'll probably know it. You had to have loved on Netflix, the documentary on Jordan.

Eric: Oh, Last Dance?

Ron:  Last Dance, is that fantastic?

Eric: I watched it 5 or 6 times. It's kind of like, I don't know if I'm going to date myself here, but there used to be a VHS tape called Come Fly with Me. And it was his first video release. And I wore that damn thing. Actually Skylar has it. I don't know if he still has it, but I don't know how it's not worn out all the times that I watched it all the time so he watched it. But The Last Dance was so well done. And of course, now you see all of these other folks coming out with you know the history of the Lakers. Wilt Chamberlain's got one. Tiger had one. It obviously made some traction in the market, otherwise you wouldn't see all these sports documentaries now. But that was amazing.

Ron:  It was amazing. I was late. It came out. I want to say I watched it a year or two after it was released. Maybe one year. And then I had my whole leadership team at One Firefly. I was like, I don't even care if you like basketball, but if you want to know my mindset, go watch that documentary. You'll understand me if you go watch that documentary.

Eric: Yeah.

Ron:  I won't seem as crazy as maybe sometimes you think I am. Just go watch that documentary. It's a mindset. That's awesome. All right. Well, let's talk a little bit about the industry stuff. I got people tuned in here. They're going to be like, all right, when are they going to talk about any integration stuff? No, no, not really. But we are both in that business. So people might be curious. Right now it's March 29th, 2023. And what's business like for you right now in your market there in Kansas City and the Missouri marketplace?

Eric: Yeah, I mean, it's been pretty steady you know. I'm not getting a lot of the hanging bang require inquiries. It's more full blown automation, lighting, shade control. And that segment of it, that vertical lighting and shades, I really think even though it's been around for such a long period, that's really the trend that I'm starting to see, lead the pace of everything in our industry. You're not seeing as many home theaters per se, it's more distributed audio, outdoor entertainment. I think a lot of that came after COVID. People were forced to be home. And now they're like, well, hell if we're going to be here, let's make this pleasurable. So you're starting to see a lot more people spend money in those spaces where they can entertain. But yeah, I definitely think that lighting and shades is probably the forefront in our market right now.

Ron:  When you look out the year in front of us, 2023, let's call it the balance of the year 9 months, what are you predicting practicing your predictive skills, what are you predicting for your business and the viability of securing the sales that have you, you know, growing in the way that you want to grow?

Eric: Well, you know, I think for one, you know, being in the Midwest, trends start to hit a couple of years after the fact. So even though they say the economy is in decline right now, we are technically in a recession, whether they want to try to reframe that or not. We are, but again, I think it goes back to what we talked about for most of the show is just not quitting and having a belief, right? Like I think you're seeing a lot of people in multiple industries that are getting conservative. They're pulling back. And my philosophy is mash the gas. Let's go. This is the time to create that gap between you and your competitors because everybody's being so reserved. So I think as long as you stay consistent with your presentation to the clients, the people that are going to buy what we buy, they're going to continue to buy it. I mean, but let's face it, most of our clients are very, very wealthy, right? If you're doing a full blown automation that's going to cost upwards of $300,000 over a $1 million, that's not your 9 to 5 guy, right? The economy is not going to hurt those folks as much. So again, I think it's really just about being consistent in the presentation and just not letting up.

Ron:  What are you doing to go out and secure business? And I'll just state the obvious for the audience. You know, there's businesses that are a couple of people and their level of the new business they need to secure to grow is different than a business that's you know a hundred person staff and the level of business they need to secure to grow. What are you currently doing to go out and a improve the brand recognition of your one year old company? And what are you doing to secure new opportunities so that you have people to talk to to obviously sell your products and services to?

Eric: Well, there's this company that I use. You may have heard of it. It's called One Firefly.

Ron:  Oh, there you go. I've heard of them. Yeah. I shop at their clothing store.

Eric: Is that right?

Ron:  Yeah, that's right.

Eric: No, so obviously I have you guys do my web page and some marketing through Facebook ads and whatnot. And I've been talking with Stephen about ramping up that there. But really around town, it's just guerrilla marketing, right? It's just going out, meeting people, hand to hand, old school, like pre Internet sales. You know, and I didn't mention this before I got into this industry. I had a two year endeavor of selling vacuums door to door. So cold calling is not a big thing. It's just walking up, having a conversation with people. And I think that in this world that we live in now where you have instant gratification, if you don't have a hundred clients knocking on your door, you're like, what the hell is going on? I need something right now. But again, it goes back to one client at a time. So if that means going over and talking to Sally across the street, maybe she knows somebody that needs something done. That's probably been the biggest thing other than just having signage you know around town. Or pulling a trailer with the big Encore logo. I mean, I think you know that's just normal stuff, but really just getting out and beating the streets and having conversations with builders, designers, architects, people that are going to be client facing, and maybe that client didn't even think about an audio video project. Typically, we're the last ones brought into the conversation. Most of the time, even on a new build, you still might be doing a retrofit because they just forgot about putting speakers in places, right? So I think it's just really taking the time when we do have time or making it a priority with that time to go be in front of the people that are in that space. That's going to be doing any type of home construction or remodel. So that you're always at the top of mind with them.

Ron:  Looking at the year ahead, what sort of industry activities are you planning to participate in? And I'm referencing like shows or events or is there anything on your current calendar for the year?

Eric: We will definitely do CEDIA. We'll definitely do CEDIA. I like that show. Probably won't attend CES. I think there's just too much confusion there to really get any value out of it. But aside from shows, that's probably at least right now, the only one that will go to, we're going to go out and see the KEF Music Lounge.

Ron:  Where is that? What is that?

Eric: It's in New Jersey.

Ron:  It is?

Eric: Yeah, it's supposed to just be a spectacular listening and viewing experience. They created a THX ultra two certified theater. They've got the new blade Meta's on display amongst all of their CI product, but you just walk into a space and get to experience you know the offerings from KEF. I was able to go to the Savant experience center in Vegas last year. I'd like to go out and see the one in Soho. You know, aside from that, you know, not that it's necessarily industry based, but if people could get into our day and go to some of those live events, that would be hugely beneficial.

Ron:  I think the idea of networking with other entrepreneurs and business owners, whether they're in the industry and or out of the industry, I think there's probably gold in both.

Eric: Oh, say less.

Ron:  You had mentioned a lot of value in networking. It sounds like you're friendly with the local competitors.

Eric: Yeah.

Ron:  The frenemies there in town. Do you guys have, out of curiosity, do you have any like regular get togethers where you go golfing once a quarter or something like that?

Eric: Not anything really set. It's kind of organic you know when we cross paths, we get together and have a conversation and we'll talk about going to playing golf. But yeah, nothing set in stone. It's not like we're on the phone once a week or anything like that, but it's just those polite interactions like, hey, I know you, you know me, we're in the same space. Let's have a conversation, that type of deal.

Ron:  Eric, for the folks that are tuned in, or have been tuning in and they want to contact you directly. How would you recommend that they do that?

Eric: Call me. Do not try to send me a DM or anything like that. I stay as far away from social media as possible. But yeah, they can give me a call on my cell phone.

Ron:  All right, I've got it. Let's check my team prepped this here in the software. Does this number look correct? (573) 514 2302

Eric: That is correct. I welcome those phone calls because, again, I think collectively you know, is bouncing ideas off of each other about what has worked, what doesn't work. As an industry, we can get better. So I welcome those conversations. Please call if you have any questions or have any insight that may help me.

Ron:  Awesome. And I'm sharing your website. It's encoreav.co. Definitely can check you out there. It's been a pleasure, man. Having you on show 240 of Automation Unplugged.

Eric: Yeah, thank you so much, Ron. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Ron:  Awesome. Appreciate you Eric. Thank you, sir.

Eric: Thank you.

SHOW NOTES:

Eric started in the industry 23 years ago as a car audio salesman. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he assisted with the opening of a new company that specialized in 12V. In this endeavor, he began branching out into the custom integration space both in sales and installation. In 2012 he took a new position as a manufacturers representative with InPro sales and marketing, pitching the likes of KEF, Pioneer Elite and Alpine to the midwest.

He later returned to the company where he started a decade earlier as a System Designer, Programmer (Savant and Lutron) and a Project Manager. When that company was purchased in the beginning of 2022, Eric founded Encore Audio Video Designs to offer a higher end solution for clients in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City Missouri.

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: