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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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President of Future Home Shares Insights Into Doing Business at the Highest End of the Luxury Market

Automation Unplugged 267 feat. Murray Kunis, President of Future Home. Join us for an exciting show that dives into Murray’s insights into how to sell million dollar home cinemas, the value of being HTA certified, the exclusive Bel-Air circuit, and more!

This week's episode of Automation Unplugged features Murray Kunis, President of Future Home.

About Murray Kunis:

Murray graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in music engineering in 1982, and soon found himself working on staff for a major Hollywood recording studio and eventually as a studio designer. In 1989, he founded Future Home, a residential tech firm specializing in home control, entertainment, and world-class private theaters. He’s a co-founder of CEDIA, and the only multi-year best-of-show winner for large home theaters.

Interview Recap

  • How he sells a million-dollar home cinema and how he meets the high expectations that come with operating at the highest end of the market.
  • Why it’s so important to end clients to work with HTA-certified contractors.
  • What the Bel-Air circuit is and why there are only 14 US companies certified to do that work.

SEE ALSO: Show #266: President & CEO of Smart Spaces - OKC Talks About Finding Success Through Selling Experiences, Not Specific Products

Transcript

Ron:

Hello, hello. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. We are here today on Wednesday, June 5th. It is 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time, a couple of minutes after 12:30 p.m.. And we are here for show 267. And I know time is flying. And here in my household, summer has officially hit.

Ron:

And that today was my son, Max. Today was his last day of exam. So he finished up his last exam, he finished his engineering exam and his Spanish exam, and now summer has begun. For many of you that are watching, are listening, summer may have already begun for you some days ago or even weeks ago.

Ron:

I know here in Florida, some of our friends, their kids, depending on the school system, may have ended as long ago as a few weeks ago. So anyway, summer is a time when hopefully you are taking a fresh look at your work-life balance and you're looking at what are you doing in the office and what are you doing to spend time with your family?

Ron:

I know that we're doing that here in our house, although we do have quite a bit of busy travel planned in the very near future. Got some quarterly planning here in a few weeks. And then super excited. In July, we have our all staff event. So once a year, we bring all of our Firefly team members from all over the place and we bring them together. And we're going to have a big event.

Ron:

It's going to be a lot of fun. We try to design those events where they're 50% fun and culture-building and 50% work, air quotes, work, right? So marketing and technique and practice. And that's coming up just around the corner. So that's what's going on here. I will use this opportunity to capture on air a bragging moment, bragging moment for a proud dad.

Ron:

And that my son just came home today and he showed me his score on his pre-engineering exam. So my guest is an engineer and I'm an engineer. And my son brought home his exam and he had an email from his teacher saying that he got a perfect score and it was the first perfect score in school history on his pre-engineering final, which was 600 out of 600.

Ron:

So that was pretty cool. Not gonna lie. Proud dad over here. So anyway, let's go ahead and jump into it. Today is show 267. And today we have Murray Kunis. Now Murray is a returning guest. Murray is the president of Future Home out of Southern California. And he'll tell us all about that. And last had Murray on four years ago.

Ron:

Within a few months, we actually had him on September of 2020. So here we are June of 2024, another political season. And we'll have Murray on and let's see how he's doing. Let me go ahead and bring him into the conversation. Murray, how are you, sir?

Murray:

Good to see you, Ron.

Ron:

So I figured you and I always will connect in this public forum whenever there's politics to discuss and things are heating up in society. I was like, you know what? Murray is one of the more conservative, low tempered people that I know. Very boring. It'll calm things down out there. How have you been?

Murray:

Oh, I'm sorry. Oh.

Ron:

That's right. You were sleeping.

Murray:

Well, you know, inspired by the best. But no, things are, you know, Los Angeles, you know, the weather today is 72 and sunny.

Ron:

Is it 72 and sunny every day or most days?

Murray:

Pretty much. I was in Dallas once and it was about 88 degrees and humid. And I'm at the airport and the woman at the counter is like, "Oh, you're going to LA. What's the weather like in LA?" And I go, "It's LA, it's 72 and sunny." Well, West Los Angeles. I mean, people think of L.A. Often they think of the west side, the Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air, Santa Monica, you know, Brentwood, you know, area. That's the cliche area of LA. And I said, it's 72 and sunny.

Murray:

I swear to God, not paraphrasing, not tweaking. This is word for word, true story. I get on the plane, the plane takes off, flying American from Dallas. The pilot goes on. We'll be landing in Los Angeles in a little while, where the weather is 72 and sunny. And I'm breaking up laughing, and people are looking at me like, "Okay, who's this guy? And why is he near my seat?" So yeah, well it was supposed to rain today in Beverly Hills, but the City Council voted against it. So, yeah, it's, you know. It's a thing. It's a thing. It's a thing.

Ron:

All right, so Murray, for those that aren't, they don't know you, and what I'm gonna do here, I'm gonna put the show art. I'm gonna attempt to see if technology behaves. So there's your headshot, there's your show 138 artwork going back here to September 30, 2020. If I'm not wrong, wasn't this like the day after the Biden-Trump presidential debate?

Murray:

It was, 'cause we spent the first 10 minutes discussing, you know, what had happened and just, you know, literally just what happened. So now, again, you said politically charged climate. As long as my conversation with you is more coherent than either one of our presidential candidates, I'll consider it mission accomplished.

Ron:

I actually think we can do that.

Murray:

Okay, there we go.

Ron:

I can't listen. For anyone that knows me, they know that I'm not terribly political. You know I agree with Democrats on some things and Republicans on some things and independents on some things. I'm a normal person, and maybe a centrist is a way to say it, you know, conservative in these ways, more liberal than those ways.

Murray:

But the reality is, most of the country is like that.

Ron:

Because it's normal.

Murray:

Right, because that doesn't get the press. That doesn't get the.

Ron:

That's not sensational, right? It doesn't get the headlines. Particularly if you look at the internet or social media, what gets the attention is sensational headlines. Whether and what's the easiest sensational headline is like people being mean to each other or saying bad things to each other.

Murray:

Yeah, no, it's true.

Ron:

It's a false narrative.

Murray:

So since you're on the East Coast and I'm on the West Coast, we will need to find ways to annoy each other.

Ron:

Well, we will. I think we can do that even without politics. I follow politics so minimally, and I'll probably offend everyone when I say this. I get personally embarrassed and annoyed at most things that I hear Biden say and at most things that I hear Trump say.

Ron:

And I'm embarrassed for us, you know, as Americans on the global stage, because the world thinks that's who we are. And that's, you know, we have two.

Murray:

We elected, so, you know, I mean.

Ron:

I'm not going to be ageist. I won't be ageist. I know many brilliant 70, 80, 90-year-old friends and people in my life. But these particular individuals, it's like, really, that is the best America can bring to the table.

Murray:

I think it's just getting more and more extreme. But if you go back and listen to people talking about the 1980 election, '84, '85, there's always like, really, this is the best we can do. I mean, every election, you hear those comments. And, you know, I mean, look, I mean, in the classic comment is the people that really could do a great job do not want to get involved in the political process. If they could just have a meeting, do a speech in front of the American public, and get elected, I think you'd get a lot of good, you know, good people.

Murray:

And, you know, a number of them being my clients. I have a number of clients that are, you know, CEOs and chairmans and titans of industry and, you know, and all that. And they would do a great job, but they don't want to get plowed through the whole--.

Ron:

The mudslinging mess.

Murray:

Right. I mean, it's just, you know, I mean, you know, I mean, could somebody in a wheelchair get elected to presidency four times in this climate? I don't think so. You know, you know.

Murray:

And I think we need to be more like in France, where the president of France will show up at events with his mistress, not his wife. And it's like, "Oh, that's like saying that's his daughter, that's his mistress." It's like, "Yeah, okay.".

Ron:

He did that, right? That was a thing.

Murray:

Let him do it to her instead of doing it to the country. You know...

Ron:

It's crazy. Big picture. All right, there's a chance someone tuned in watching or listening doesn't know you. Give us a nickel tour of your business. Where do you guys operate? What type of projects do you do?

Murray:

This is my wet signatured letter to me from Olivia de Havilland. If you don't know who she is, you can look it up. She was the sister in Gone With the Wind. She played Maid Marion in Robin Hood with Errol Flynn.

Murray:

She's a major, major actress of the '30s, '40s, and '50s. And their fan club said, "You will not hear from her. She doesn't respond to fan mail." And I sent her this because the house that that theater was in was built in 1929 for Harold Lloyd. It's a 36,000 square foot house in Beverly Hills. And when we went to have it shot for a magazine, because it's this 1929 house, you know, I wasn't going to put a George Clooney movie on the screen.

Murray:

I put the 1938 Robin Hood with her and Claude Rains. And I sent it to her. I found her address in France, and I sent her a copy of the magazine. And she responded back, you know, "Thank you very much." And, you know, it's typed, but it's with her beautiful, very beautiful, you know, and here's somebody that was probably 92 at the time and, you know, coherent letter and a very beautiful, clean signature.

Murray:

So, yeah, I mean, being ageist, like somebody recently said, like, I'll take advice from a 91-year-old Warren Buffett. You know, it's not age. You know, it's anyway. But, you know, I mean, you've got two candidates, neither one of which can create a cognitive multiple paragraph discussion. You know, I mean, they're both. I mean, if you looked at transcripts of both, you wouldn't know who's who.

Ron:

All right, now that everyone tuned in or that was listening, Future Home...

Murray:

Future Home is a 35-year-old cough, wheeze, gasp, speaking of age. Co-founder of CEDIA, residential technology firm. I have two elevator pitches. One of the elevator pitches is, "For over 35 years, we've been seamlessly blending the benefits of technology into the architecture of America's finest homes." My other elevator pitch is, "For over 35 years, we've been finding new and innovative ways for rich people to spend money."

Ron:

They both sound terribly accurate. Out of curiosity, what is the key? This is, you know, maybe one of those left field questions. Sure. You've successfully been selling really big projects. I mean, not just full, right? So you could sell, I'm not even diminishing it, because it also is equally impressive. And I know you've also done this. Sold, you know, million dollar, multi-million dollar home automation projects.

Ron:

But you've sold consistently multi-million dollar or million dollar plus home cinema projects. And you're one of them in that category of businesses in North America, you're one of a very small subset, a handful of people.

Murray:

Right, yeah, there's 30 or 40 of us, yeah.

Ron:

30 or 40 of you in all of North America that have been doing that consistently. Constantly, versus the guy who gets one-off, right?

Murray:

Yeah. Right.

Ron:

'Cause I mean, there are certainly people that win the random project and good for them. What's different? I'm just curious, what's different about how you're presenting yourself or the way that you're engaging the customer or the architect or the builder that is engaging you? What are you doing differently than the other 10,000 businesses that aren't securing that? And I also want to put out there, they all may not want that type of project.

Murray:

Well, that's the other thing, yeah.

Ron:

You got to want that type of project. So maybe that's a smaller subset.

Murray:

Yeah, it's a different business model. It's a different approach. You know, I mean, you know, years ago, even my mom said, you know, why are you doing that? Why don't you just knock out the $50,000 systems? You know, you can install it, forget it, move on to the next guy and do hundreds of those. But again, you know, you mentioned, maybe this was before we got on the air. You know, I'm a degreed engineer.

Murray:

I'm a, you know, University of Miami Music Engineering Program, top program in the country in that field. And so I think like an engineer. And to me, details are important. And I want to develop a refined product, you know, not, you know, how much can we get done for the least amount of money type project. You know, but I want to do something that I could put my name on. I mean, I've turned down projects where I thought, you know what, you know, I could take your money and throw this in, but my name is going to be attached to this home cinema or home automation package or whatever.

Murray:

And I'm not looking, I mean, there's companies out there that do literally, you know, you know 50, 100-plus projects a year. And, you know, I just, that's not me. And I mean, a perfect example, different business model. So if I have a project and it goes south on me, right, it's going to hurt, both financially and reputation. If I'm knocking out 30 homes a year, I can have four or five that go south and it's very little impact.

Murray:

My parents, the last 15 years of their life, moved to Vegas and they moved into one of these, you know, production homes, you know, very nice one, you know. And three of their friends, their house, because these homes were built so fast, they forgot to put the rebar in the post-tension slab, which means that within six or eight months, the house was settling and everything was starting to crack, you know, because the house isn't settling properly because the foundation wasn't done right.

Murray:

Well, the production company that built these 2,000 or 5,000 homes just showed up one day with an 18-wheeler, took all their stuff out, moved them to another house, and bulldozed those three homes. No questions asked. You know, to them, that was just the cost of doing business.

Murray:

So it's just a different mindset. It's a different, you know, approach. And then, yeah, for our clientele, you have to express and be able to demonstrate through experience or attitude that you understand that for them, details are important.

Murray:

You know, and that service, you know, I like to look at ourselves as a service company that also sells products, you know, secondarily. You know, just like...

Ron:

What do you mean by that? You mean expound on that?

Murray:

Well, you know, first of all, our clients do not generally know they only know two brand names, you know, Crestron and Sony or Samsung. You know, the point is, they know the brand name of the TV. They know the brand name of the remote they have on their hand.

Murray:

But the four racks with the half a million dollars worth of gear, you know, off, you know, in the auxiliary room, they have no idea what's in there. You know. All they know is if there's a problem, we're going to be there, we're not going to wait till Monday morning at nine o'clock to call them back.

Murray:

So I was in a meeting with about 30 home technology firms from around the country. And the vast majority of firms, you know, remember the average house in the United States is 2,900 square feet, which means half the homes in the United States are smaller.

Ron:

I think that's the size of my house.

Murray:

Right, okay. Well, yeah. I mean, you know, the homes that we do, and now I'm not being high and mighty. I don't have a house like this, but the homes that we work on 2,900 square feet might be the size of the auxiliary gym building on the property, right? Right. So you have to understand where these people are coming from. So I'm in a meeting with about 30 home technology firms.

Murray:

And most of the firms around the country, the number of firms, are really primarily alarm companies. And they also throw in the two TVs, mount the five pairs of speakers, put in the ring doorbell, you know, fire it up. Here's your remote. Move on to the next house. Nothing wrong with that.

Murray:

So I'm in a meeting with one of these companies, well, 30 companies, one of them is one of those kind of companies. And he goes, you know, we do AV, that's life and death. You know, you just, I'm sorry, we do alarm, forgive me. We do alarm systems. That's life and death. You guys just do AV.

Murray:

And I'm like, "Really? Have you met my clients?" I said, "It's 10 o'clock on a Sunday night. The alarm won't set. The family room TV won't turn on. Who do you think gets the first phone call?

Ron:

And it probably feels like life and death to you when you're getting that at 10 o'clock.

Murray:

Yeah, it's just a matter of, even if I can't resolve it at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night, the fact that they can reach me or one of my primary people and not an 800 number or not a voicemail is really what matters. I mean, my clients, the fact that they can reach me, and even if we can't resolve it, they're just glad that they know that we know about it, we'll take care of it.

Murray:

You know, so, you know, you have to have that kind of approach, you know, versus, you know, more and more companies are hiring like an 800, you know, 24/7 support. And that's fine when 90% of your projects are identical, you know, and/or the level of expectation of the homeowner is appropriate. And, you know, you know, you know, of course my favorite late night phone call was about 10:30 at night and I was actually home because usually I'm so ADD, I don't get work done until the evening when things calm down.

Murray:

And it's Saturday night and the phone rings. And this woman calls me up and says, you know, I'd like to put a media system in my master suite, but I'm leaving for Europe tomorrow. Is there any way we could meet tonight?" And I said, "Well, where do you live?" And the woman says, "I live so-and-so in Beverly Hills." And I go, "Well, that's 10 minutes from me." I live in an area that's blocks away from the Playboy Mansion. It's adjacent to Beverly Hills. And I said, "It's 10 minutes. I could be there in half an hour." Okay, it's 10:30 at night.

Murray:

And the woman says, "Fine." So I hang up the phone. I turn to my wife and I go, "Honey, I've got to go. Sharon Stone wants me to meet her in her bedroom at midnight tonight," you know? And you know my wife's response, of course, was like, "Go for it. Give it your best shot. Have fun. Have fun." And actually, I did have a lovely time. She's a very bright woman at a very lovely time.

Murray:

But I mean, you have to have that kind of flexibility and availability as well as understand that details are important. I mean, you know, I will get messages like, "You got to come over to the house right now. The system doesn't work." And literally, you know, I've sent somebody and it turns out that the Blu-ray player in the guest bedroom is bad in a 15,000 square foot house. But the message was the system doesn't work. I mean, true story.

Ron:

So, yeah. How do you protect your time in that, Murray? I mean, it sounds like you have always delivered a level of experience to your customers. And it sounds like this very white glove, high-end experience. But also, there are probably challenges and limitations with doing that, and being able to do that always and forever, and being able to do that scaled beyond Murray, but through other people that you've brought into your organization that aren't Murray.

Murray:

Yeah. Well, my employees understand when I say who we work for, meaning not that they're necessarily famous, but what our clients expect.

Murray:

So I have a number of employees that I could call at 10 o'clock on a Sunday, you know, when they're home with their family and say, "Hey, we do have something that's really important. Can you go to Mr. Smith's house, which is 45 minutes from where you live?" And nine times out of 10, the guys go, "Yep, I'm on my way." So it's just an understanding, you know, mindset and hiring people. I mean, that's part of our interview process.

Murray:

You know, if you get that phone call, you know, it might happen once every six weeks. You know, are you okay with that? You know, so, you know, people, you know, you talk about, you know, these seven-figure projects, it's a double-edged sword.

Murray:

You know, yes, we get these seven-figure projects, but on the other hand, I get phone calls like, "I'm going to New York for the weekend, move my house three feet to the left?" You know, and then, you know, you work all night, you don't sleep the whole weekend, and it's done. And the client shows up on Monday and goes, "Oh, yeah, great." You know, they just have oblivious.

Murray:

And the person, of course, caught in the middle of all this is the estate manager or the personal assistant. 'Cause they're the first one that gets, "the system doesn't work." And then they have to call me up and say, "The system doesn't work." And I have to go, "What does that mean?" And they're like, "I have no idea." You know?

Murray:

And so when I did a presentation at Azione, how do you deal with, you know, this 0.001%? And I said, "Your first goal should be make the estate manager slash personal assistant's life easier." I said, "If you do that, you'll weather any storm because they'll be an advocate for you." So that's part of, you know, just understanding, you know, the food chain, you know, in these things.

Ron:

What are ways to do that, to pull that thread? What are ways to make the estate manager or the homeowner's, you know, chief property manager, liaison, to empower them or to make their life easier?

Murray:

Well, again, it's to be available, first and foremost, you know, it's to work with them. It's when if there's a problem to be very patient, you know, if like I had this the other day, I didn't realize that the female billionaire was standing behind the estate manager the whole time I'm walking him through something.

Murray:

And she was very impressed that, like, this guy's not technical, and I'm walking him through it, and I'm talking to him like an adult, and we're doing it one step at a time, you know, and I'm not saying you're an idiot for not knowing how to plug in an amplifier and just, you know, work with them and have that objective like, "Okay, what can I do that is going to make your life easier?" 'Cause you're the gatekeeper, you know? I mean, you know, if they don't like you, your proposal's never being seen by the homeowner.

Ron:

Murray, I have to share this with you. I'm going to put it on the screen. This is somebody apparently that you know. This is Mike Swanson.

Murray:

Oh my God.

Ron:

He's saying that he went to school with you at the University of Miami. And he's saying hi.

Murray:

You know, it's so funny. I literally was thinking about him about seven years ago. No, I was literally thinking about him about a month ago. Just like it popped in my head. And I think that's just showing that I'm old, you know, when those endorphins start running your brain and random thoughts start happening. It's usually a bad sign, you know? But that's great. No, Mike, yeah, he's had a great career. Yeah.

Ron:

All right. Well, that's cool. So you, one additional, just to maybe close out this topic of serving this luxury consumer and doing these projects, one thing additionally that you've been able to do over the years is you've won a lot of awards and recognitions.

Ron:

Like you have a whole bunch of them, I see them over your right shoulder, but we see you here and it looks on camera to your left. And the idea, so what I'm, as a marketer, what I'm observing is that you've identified that not only doing good work, but also documenting it and submitting it in different places it can be recognized, that that's a good idea. I would say that's a brilliant idea to allow yourself to be recognized for the work that you're doing.

Ron:

Can you maybe just share with us kind of how do you think about that? Like, do you do that for every project, some projects? And how do you perceive that being valuable to your business to be recognized for the work that you do?

Murray:

Yeah. Now, we do it on some projects. I would say I mean, I'm just trying to random number. A third of our projects, I can't submit, you know, NDA and all that kind of privacy issues, you know.

Murray:

But yeah, I mean, I did it more, and I'll kinda, I did it more in the past. I mean, although we won the 2021, most of our awards are from like 2010 to 2017. And so I've got a bunch. And at that point, it's like, yeah, it takes a lot of time and effort to properly submit an award because these are awards that are really vetted. It isn't just like who's got the prettiest picture. So I've got enough now, it's just another bullet in the gun that when I'm meeting with somebody, I just mention that and move on and just kind of, you know, I don't dwell on it.

Murray:

'Cause in all candor, at this level, clients really don't care. It's just another vetting step. The thing that we've been using more and more in terms of when we first meet somebody that doesn't know us is HTA.

Ron:

Okay, talk to us about how you do that, because that's Josh Christian. That's his organization that he's birthed a number of years ago. And that's the Home Technology Association Association. How are you using that association to help you close business?

Murray:

Yeah, well, I don't use it so much to close a business as much as an introduction. So if I meet somebody cold, you know they don't know us at all, or they don't know that, you know it's rare that somebody in LA doesn't know the name, but they only know the name, right?

Murray:

Or maybe it's a contractor I haven't worked with in 15 years, you know. And I use it in terms of this is a true vetting process. Mr. Contractor, you're aware that you know three guys a day are walking onto your job site saying, "Oh, I do home theater central vac, alarm phones, and dishwasher automation." And you know, and they're like, "Whatever." And I said, "Here's a vetting, here's a formal vetting process done by all the major manufacturers got together and said, we need to identify who the top companies are because it's in everybody's best interest.

Murray:

It's in the consumer's best interest. It's in the manufacturer's best interest. I mean, how often does a manufacturer get a phone call? Your system doesn't work. And they're like, "That's funny. It works in the White House and runs all the casinos in Vegas. Why doesn't it work in your house?" You know, you know. Oh, oh, it's like, you know, I went to a restaurant and the meal was terrible. Well, was it the fault of the pasta? You know, you know, was it the fault of the prime beef? No, it was the chef.

Murray:

So I say this is a true vetting process to identify the top 5%. And even ethics count, you know, some companies haven't been approved, not because they're a bad company, but because of, you know, ethical behind-the-scenes shenanigans that everybody, and I'll say to a contractor, you know other contractors that get big jobs, but you know they're playing games behind the scenes, you know?

Murray:

So, and they'll go, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." And I said, "Well, this is how you identify the companies that are more the Boy Scouts and do good work and are established and have won awards and have certifications." And I say to them, "This is a bullet in your gun." So when the interior designer says, "Oh, I got a guy," you can just, instead of saying, "Well, I got a better guy," and then you become, you know, this kind of situation, you can just go, "Hey, not a problem. I'll use anybody on this job that's HTA certified." You know, just like you wouldn't let somebody on the job that didn't have Workman's Comp.

Murray:

And then you don't seem like you're coming across as, you know, that maybe you're getting a kickback from the sky, or maybe it's your brother-in-law. No, it sounds like, okay, I just want to only work with vetted people. And that's how we introduce ourselves. And I'll even say, you know, there's the usual suspects of about 12 guys in LA. And you know when I go to, if I meet with somebody, and it turns out they're already signed on, and if they're with one of the 12 guys, I'll say, "Great." I said, "That's good for me, because I don't want you to hire the brother-in-law electrician." And then three years later, the house is done and nothing works.

Murray:

And then the guy talks to a potential client of mine and says, "Don't put that technology in your house, nothing works." And then I got to explain, yeah, it's because he hired the brother-in-law, the electrician, you know, and that conversation goes downhill fast. So I've said that. I met with a contractor the other day. Oh yeah, we're already using, you know, this very famous top-end company that I'm very friendly with. You know, the top guys in LA all know each other. You know, we play nice.

Murray:

And, you know, it's funny. Well, it's almost ironic. Things happen. You know, we got fired from a job from a client. Client called me up crying because, you know, we had done something for the wife, and I said, "I'm sorry, we tried to do you a favor. And it didn't work out." We referred them to somebody. It turned out to not be so good. And she got pissed off that I said, "I tried to do you a favor." Okay, what are you gonna do? So, you know, so they, you know, brought in somebody else.

Murray:

So that happens that, you know, you know, things move around. And, you know, as long as it stays within the family of the 12 or 15 guys, so like, oh, no, my point is, is that, you know, I get a phone call like, "Hey, we need the Crestron code." You know, it's classic phone call. And if we take over or inherit, you know, take over, you know, sometimes things happen to a new estate manager, maybe a new homeowner of the house. You know, and I'll call up XYZ installer that I know these guys.

Murray:

Hey, you know, the new owner of this house, you know, you guys did it for the previous owner. I need the Crestron code. I'll have it the next day. If, however, it was done by Bob and Ray with their white van, it's a problem. They don't want to give it. They want money for it. They don't know where it is. You know, and so, you know, it's interesting how, you know, again, you know, the top guys, 'cause again, you talk about how do we get the big projects?

Murray:

It's because of that mindset, you know, because that karma will come back to you. You know, so it's just, it's just, you know, it's-- And I teach my guys, you know, you have to be the mint on the pillow. You know, very often, we'll meet with a contractor or something and the house is barely out of the ground. Oh, we've got a guy. He came with the homeowner. He did his homeowner's previous house.

Murray:

Now, how often does that contractor go, "Oh, we have a plumber." The guy brought the plumber from his previous house. I mean, not too many plumbers are brought in. Whereas it's very common phenomenon to say, hey, you know, the guy who did my previous house.

Ron:

Well, you, a homeowner can earn a pretty intimate relationship with their integrator.

Murray:

Sometimes for the wrong reasons. You know, but, you know, so when they say, "We have it." I'll say, "Who is it?" you know. And if it's one of the usual suspects, I'll go, "Okay, you know, I respect that. You know I'm a much nicer person and he was convicted of 12 crimes, but not really, it's okay, go with that guy.".

Murray:

But if it's somebody I've never heard of or it's somebody that you just know is like, you know, Automations "R" Us, I'll just bring up HTA and I'll go, you know, make sure, you know, I'll say, "Well, I'm sure you're working with an HTA vetted firm.".

Murray:

And they're like, "What's that?" And that is my entry for saying, "Okay, maybe you need to reexamine this relationship." And it's like, well, he did his 3, 000 square foot house now as he's building the 20,000 square foot house. Really? Like, you know, maybe you need to make sure this guy's got experience doing 20,000 square foot homes.

Ron:

Would you advocate that people tuned in or listening that aren't HTA certified, at least investigate that as a marketing tool in their toolbox?

Murray:

Yeah, I mean, if it's appropriate, I mean, hopefully anybody that takes the time to listen to this is of the quality and ilk. Again, I don't expect Bob and Ray with their white van that says home theater vacuums, you know, lawn remodeling, you know, to be here.

Ron:

Well, everybody starts somewhere. So they may start there and they may be aspiring to be a Murray one day or one of those.

Murray:

Well, I hope not for their sake. But yeah.

Ron:

God help them. God help all of us if they want to be a Murray. But they may aspire to have a business that's prestigious.

Murray:

No, yeah. Next life: aluminum siding.

Ron:

That's where the future is.

Murray:

Plastics, plastics.

Ron:

Plastics, yes. It's all about the plastics.

Murray:

Nobody under 40 is getting that reference, but okay.

Ron:

All right. I'm going to jump topics real quick. The economy, what are you feeling? What are you seeing out there? I'll share to kind of lead the witness a little bit, but I'm curious if you're seeing it.

Ron:

I was on with a customer yesterday and he was out of the Midwest, a bigger city in the Midwest. And he said that his quick summary was that he thinks business started to take a little bit of a downturn for him last summer, summer of 2023. And so far, he feels like he's still in it. And he's not predicting, quote, "it," meaning a little bit of a slower run. He doesn't see it changing until the end of this year, maybe early next year.

Ron:

An example, and without naming his name, he said in the first five months of last year, he did $2 million, closed $2 million in business, and he was forecasting to do four to five for the year and ended up doing $1 million, the balance of the year. So it's slowed down significantly, and he's still in that slower run today.

Ron:

I mean, he says, I've seen economy, you know, markets go up, markets go down. And he's like, I know it'll change. He's like, we're patient. We're cool. But that's what he's seeing. And then I've also been hearing from a number of different manufacturers that I'm connected with that things are, you know, flat to down or nominally up, but no one's, very few people are killing it here in 2024. At least on the manufacturing side, which is downstream from dealer orders.

Murray:

That's a fair assessment. I mean, one of my major competitors is much larger than us, and, you know, and, you know, my understanding is they're down 20%. I would take their 20%, but, you know...

Ron:

You're like, I'll take that.

Murray:

I'll take that 20%. But yeah, you know, again, it's difficult for me to judge because, you know, we only do maybe three serious projects a year.

Ron:

Yeah, it's different.

Murray:

You know, for us, a throwaway project's $130,000. So if I get $1.2 million job, I'm like static, you know, and, you know, so it's hard to judge. But no, I am beginning to see overall, right now, even at the ultra high end, you know, there's a $20 million house and up, that things are kind of stalling. You know, they're not some, you know.

Ron:

I'm hearing the word delayed. It's not that they're not going to happen.

Murray:

Yeah, it's delayed. But like right now, like one of my clients built a spec house, this is public knowledge. I don't say who it is, but the story is public knowledge. And between buying the land for about 10 million, the lot was about 10 million, and putting another 20, 25 million into the spec house. They had about 30 plus into the house. They had it listed for 50. And this is in Bel-Air, prime real estate in Bel Air, beautiful, 20,000 square foot house, you know, and everything was done to the nines. It was really beautifully done. You know, and they just sold it for 25, you know.

Murray:

So right now, you know, right now would not be a real good time for unveiling a spec house. You know, unless the house is worth north of 80 million, in which case, then it's just funny money.

Ron:

Right.

Murray:

You know, I mean, there's guys out there, you know, buying the mailbox for $100 million, and then four months later, buying a house inside the city for 125, and then buying, you know, I mean, that's just funny money at that point, you know, those guys.

Murray:

But yeah, definitely, I think the 15 to 30 million market is basically kind of taking a pause, trying to see, you know, if the other shoe's gonna drop and all that. But if we have a project, but on the other hand, if we have a project, we're not negotiating budgets. It's like, you know, this is what I want. What does it cost? It's 180 grand service to do that. Like, okay, great. Let's get it done. How soon can you get it done, you know, or whatever.

Ron:

And I hear you, you're at the upper uber end of luxury, and those clients want what they want, and you score two to four projects a year, you're set. That's unlike probably most of the people that would be watching or listening that, you know, might do some, you know, smaller projects or some volume.

Murray:

And they've probably got a lot less ulcers, and they probably get to bed at 8 o'clock, but yeah.

Ron:

Yeah, you gotta be cut from a certain cloth too. I mean, you're going big game hunting.

Murray:

Right.

Ron:

You're always big. You got your elephant gun and you're always big game hunting.

Murray:

Yeah, I mean, we get phone calls for $50,000 projects. And unless it's Charlize Theron, you know, we'll very politely pass. You know, I've got two clients that want us to do like these $20,000 projects for them. And I'm like, I just can't fit them in, you know, and they're being patient because they want us to do it.

Murray:

You know, I mean, I mean, they're not big clients to begin with. It's sort of like, oh, I got referred by someone and they're the best friend of, you know, so, you know, we'll take care of them. But it's difficult for us because I don't have a staff of, you know, 90, you know, so like, where do I put my manpower? So, yeah, but I mean, that, you know, so yes, it's a matter of the marketplace.

Ron:

For those that are not aware, what is the Bel Air Circuit?

Murray:

Oh, it's a nickname given for 90% people in the movie industry, or let's say entertainment, that have the ability to watch first run movies opening weekend in their house using the hard drive or the actual encrypted files, same as it's sent to an AMC 14, right? And in fact, what's also cool is the drive will even have the trailers on it. So it's kind of cool because you can see trailers just like because they're getting the same content.

Murray:

It requires specialized equipment. Just like there's HDCP encryption for consumer, there's DCI Digital Cinema Initiative equipment for this. So you can't, like I had somebody, another AV installer that's got a project. And he's like, "Hey, this guy's really rich and he wants to like get the opening stuff." And he's got this $50,000 Sony projector. And well, that's great, but it's not going to work.

Murray:

There's only a limited number of projectors, very specialized, that have the encryption software to do that. Plus, you have to be approved by the studios. So if you're some guy, well, you know, some guy in Dallas that owns 100 car washes and you're worth $1.4 billion. Unless you somehow are connected to the industry, you ain't getting that content. It's a courtesy to people in the entertainment community. And even then, you still have to be approved by the heads of each studios.

Ron:

So wealth is not enough, and who you know is not enough? Generally?

Murray:

Well, if you know. Like I do have two clients that are not in the industry, but they're Uber money, no pun intended. You know, and their best friends are, you know, chairmans of studios, you know, you know, yeah, so, so, you know, they'll get it. But short of that, you could just be some super wealthy, I mean, I've got some super wealthy venture cap guys, but they don't get first run.

Ron:

They don't get, and just for clarity, are the videos, not the videos, but the movies, are they arriving on reel or are they arriving on digital hard drives?

Murray:

Well, you know, until what would have been 2007, I'm gonna say, when the first video, DCI video projectors came out. Before that, yeah, it was on 20-minute film reels. I mean, people had to have a large booth and an operator, and you literally had film projectors in homes.

Murray:

So a lot of our clients' homes, the older houses, have these large booths with a bathroom in it. 'Cause, you know, especially if it's in Beverly Hills, in Beverly Hills, it's in the code that if you have a projection room, there must be a bathroom, you know, either in or adjacent to the projection film room. And if you go into really old ones, like the toilet and the sink are right there in the room, right? 'Cause there's no women in these things. So, I mean, not now, but I mean...

Ron:

Back in the '30s, '40s, '50s.

Murray:

Oh, yeah. So they just put the toilet and the sink right there in the room. So yeah, a lot of our rooms have these very large projection booths. I do have some clients that still have the film projectors there and it's kind of an aura, it's kind of a vibe, you know, even though they haven't been used in 13 years, you know.

Murray:

But now with the video projectors, you obviously don't have to have a massive booth and all that. But yeah, so there's only a couple companies, Barco, Christie, NEC. I don't know if Sony still makes a DCI projector or not. So you have to have specialized equipment and you have to have access to the content, obviously.

Murray:

And through no scientific research at all, you know, seat of my pants, I'd say there's probably about 400 such rooms, mostly, of course, in Southern Cal, but scattered throughout the country that have the first run video. And 90% of them, yes, a hard drive is delivered in a case, and you load that onto the server that's built into the projector in most cases. And the movie is encrypted with a time window.

Murray:

So they will then email you a small little digital file, you know, same day, and it will unlock the movie for a window period of time. So you can watch the movie from six o'clock on Thursday to 9:00 a.m. on Monday. And then after 9:00 a.m. you can't watch a movie anymore. It's locked again. So if you had to run to New York that weekend, you can then call up Paramount and say, hey, you know, I had to run to New York, give me a new key, it's what it's called, to unlock the movie for the next weekend.

Murray:

So, yeah, so it does, but I mean, it's, you know, there's stories of people, you know, putting this equipment in for the first time, and it requires its own care and feeding. It's not like hooking up a consumer projector with an HDMI cable, you know, and away you go.

Ron:

Is the quantity of companies authorized to design and install these systems, is that pretty curated?

Murray:

Yeah, well, there are 14 companies that have been certified from Barco. There's probably 50 guys doing it, you know.

Ron:

In the world or in North America?

Murray:

Well, I mean, I'm throwing out a number, but I mean, there's 14 guys that are certified from Barco to do residential DCI.

Ron:

Okay.

Murray:

We are, obviously, I shouldn't say obviously, but we are one of the 14. But there's a lot of companies that do it. And then you've got the guys that do the one-off. You know, we've probably done a dozen.

Murray:

So yeah, I mean, you've got a handful of guys that do a number of them. And then there's a couple of companies that are primarily commercial, but they also do residential. And they've done a whole bunch because they're tied in with the studio. So they've done probably 40 or 50 rooms. You know. Their rooms tend to have a different vibe to them because they're commercial guys. You know It's like having the guys that build the best 18-wheelers, you know doing S 600 Mercedes.

Murray:

So I'll go there and I'll go, yeah, this is a solid job, but you know your audio could be a lot better. I should say outside of the guys that are in the right place at the right time and wind up doing it. And it's a challenge. And they finally get it working because they have to call the studio and say, how do I do this? Yeah, I mean, again, there's the usual suspects of companies that routinely do that because it's a niche of a niche, you know.

Ron:

Got it. Makes sense. Another topic, Murray, for years now, there's been an explosion out in the, I'll just call it maybe pop culture about the use of do-it-yourself technology, IoT tech. I'm curious. All right, well, so I'll back up. So I think that generally that's good for society, you know, technology and access to automation and technologies moving downstream.

Ron:

You know, you can buy little this-es and thats and smart light bulbs off Amazon and, you know, your friends and your neighbors and they can add cool capabilities to their house. I'm curious at the uber end of luxury that you're serving, is that affecting you? Are you seeing that? Is the house manager saying, "Hey, I bought this bag of tricks off Amazon. Can you plug that in and make that work?" Or is that not happening with that type of customer?

Murray:

I mean, it'll come up once in a while if we're doing something from scratch or a major remodel or something. And if it even starts to get approached, you know I'll nip it in the bud and I'll explain like, no, we're not putting an IoT you know consumer-grade IoT products in your house, you know just not happening and they'll look at me and I'll just be very adamant about it. And then you know I've got about 10 bullet points like why you don't want to do this.

Murray:

Whether it's, okay, fine, when you have a problem, here's an 800 number, go sit on the phone for half an hour and tell me what that experience is like, you know? Or the other thing is like, look, average house United States is 2,900 square feet, right? So let's say you put in 10 light bulbs and one fails. Ah, okay, one fails. That's a 10% failure rate. The homes we do have 300, 400, 500 light loads in their house. That's 30 failures.

Murray:

That's not going to be a very happy homeowner. And the other thing is, this just happened a couple of weeks ago. There was a burglary ring that got arrested and they'd come up from South America and they were on visas, whatever. And amongst the hacksaws and the drills and the pry bars, they found a box that is designed to jam Wi-Fi signals so they could override the Wi-Fi-based IoT alarm systems in people's homes, right?

Murray:

So yeah, we don't, you know, this is chaos. We don't do that here. You know And again, if you're under 40, you won't get that reference. But yeah, so it's just not an appropriate product for a 15, 20, 30,000 square foot house. However, I do sincerely think it's wonderful. If you have 29 square, you know, I live in a, you know, a 2000 plus square foot condo.

Murray:

I mean, if, you know, of course people go to my wife, you must have an amazing system. She goes, "no, no, no, no, no. I only get something if it falls off the truck on the way to Bruce Springsteen's house." I had Arnold Schwarzenegger's old remote for six months, you know, you know, so if I wanted to automate our 2100 square foot condo, I just never bothered. Yeah, those products are great. They're not expensive. They're fine. You know, the range is 20 feet. Wonderful.

Murray:

So I sincerely think it's great that someone can have a lot of fun for five, ten, fifteen thousand dollars. You know, it's just a matter of, you know, you can build a really nice house with two by fours and two by sixes. You can't build a 15 or 18,000 square foot house with just more two by sixes. You've got to have steel beams and glue lamps and footings. It's just a different animal. So yes, it is wonderful that these products exist and properly applied, they're amazing. But, you know, they're not appropriate.

Murray:

So, yeah. And I don't even have to talk this long with a client. They'll get it in the first 20 seconds. And also, my clients are targets. They don't want to have somebody drill into their network via the, you know, IoT thermostat.

Ron:

I want to close out with maybe an observation that, at the moment, our industry is maturing and there's a lot of activity going on. There's a lot of change happening right now, or at least the perception of change.

Ron:

One is there's a lot of M&A activity, right? There's a lot of these aggregate/aggregation groups, whether that be Bravas or Hi Solutions or Saavi or Daisy or Level Up, right? So there's these various aggregations of locations and businesses happening. I'm going to give you a couple of two or three topics and then you tell me what resonates with you to comment on.

Ron:

There's also change happening with Snap One was just sold or acquired by I think ADI. And so that's eminently or theoretically gonna happen by this summer. And so Control4 and kind of that whole ecosystem is just some uncertainty if nothing else. And then what else? You and I are both in Azione and Richard Glikes's just retired. And he's, I say retired, you know, in Richard's language. He took a day off and he's back to work and now he's doing some other things.

Ron:

But yeah, so there's change happening in the Azione nationwide organization. You've been at this game a long time. How do you sit back and watch and observe all of this change happening? Do you think it's anything out of the ordinary?

Murray:

Well, no, I think some of it's long overdue. Not Richard, the other stuff. Sorry, Richard.

Murray:

Yeah, no, yeah, it only makes sense for some of the manufacturers to merge and to pool the resources. A lot of that doesn't really affect my company directly. You know, we're exclusively Crestron since 1993. You know Crestron's not going anywhere. They're not merging with anybody. The family is sitting on enough money that they don't need to do anything.

Murray:

The only thing that we really buy from the Snap One, Volutone, Avid worlds are television sets. I mean, I would say less than 3% of our purchase orders go to you know that distribution world, as it were. You know I mean, Crestron's our largest vendor.

Murray:

The necessary TVs and then you know the Kaleidoscapes and the Middle Atlantics and the Harmon, you know, Synthesis or Pro Audio or Barco, and that's all direct, and those are all independent companies. And they're all large. I mean, Harmon, of course, is a conglomerate. So yeah, I mean, but I think it's good for the industry.

Ron:

What about the consolidation that's happening or the effort around consolidation, kind of making these super integrators? I mean, some of these models are to make the super integrator and some of them are, there's a new flavor of franchise model that's now.

Murray:

Yeah, I mean, it depends on your market. I mean, you could do that if you're doing production homes. I mean, I knew Via was going to fail before it started. About 10 years before Via started, there was a CEDIA management weekend and some venture cap guy was there and he goes, "I'm looking at your guys' business models" and I'm not interested.

Murray:

You can't franchise it. You can't, you know, co-op them together and get any benefits, you know, by merging the companies. 'Cause you're all still just going to be local. You're all still going to have local people. You're all still going to have local resources. You're all still going to have local inventory. You know, it would make sense for four or five companies that are in the same physical marketplace to merge. That's a different story. I think that would be a great benefit.

Murray:

It depends on the world. In commercial, there are really like only four big commercial technology companies. But that's because their client base is national and you know it's a different mindset and a different approach and their projects are different that you can you know buy up other companies and merge them together. But it's very hard in a white glove high-end environment.

Ron:

Do you have an opinion that it's possible? Or do you have an opinion that it's good or bad?

Murray:

I don't see the benefit other than networking and sharing knowledge. But in terms of a financial merging, it's now, I mean, you know, you've got a couple companies that will have an office in LA and New York because their client has a place in LA in New York.

Murray:

But, you know, there's very little financial benefit to, you know, but yeah, there's like four or five companies that are doing this and we'll see how long that model lasts because also in different marketplaces, there's different sensibilities. You know, there's a company coming from a different market that's trying, you know, there is a history of companies from other markets opening up an LA office. A couple of them is successful, most of them have not because the marketplace here is different.

Murray:

You know, they expect you to take the phone call at 10 o'clock on the Sunday night, you know.

Ron:

I've been here in Florida for almost 25 years, and I've seen that. I'll name two of the obvious contenders. There's Miami and there's Naples, Florida. I've been watching integrators pop up a shingle in one of those two people from around New York, Chicago, you name it, West Coast, the Rockies putting up a shingle down here. And you know, I think maybe one in 20 I see last.

Murray:

Yeah.

Ron:

And I'm not passing judgment.

Murray:

No, no, it's a different-- Yeah, I mean, it depends on the nature of what you're doing. If you're doing production homes, you can. I mean, there's a very successful company that, you know, has a deal and they're doing production homes in, you know, Vegas, Hawaii, you know, the desert, whatever, that's fine, you know, but, you know, but now their mindset's in that.

Ron:

And so, you know, I wouldn't hire them to do a custom project, you know, but then again, nobody's going to hire me to do 50 track homes. I don't mean derogatory, but, you know, 50 production spec houses, whatever the size is. Yeah. So, no, it's still a very, you know, you have to know your market, and you have to address your marketplace. You know, you can't. There is no phrase I use all the time, there is no one-size-fits-all.

Ron:

Yeah, that makes sense. You're heading out to InfoComm what, next week?

Murray:

Next week.

Ron:

What are you looking forward to seeing or who are you looking forward to talking to?

Murray:

Well, you know, it's interesting, you know, Infocom music, for people who don't know, is a commercial... It's sort of the commercial CEDIA, if you're a CEDIA person, but more and more traditional CEDIA-oriented manufacturers will actually be at InfoComm this year. Yeah. So whether, and it's not for me to speculate, maybe the residential market is soft and they're looking for new markets, maybe they realize their products have applications that there's more and more of a crossover.

Murray:

We'll see what's there. But yeah, so it's the commercial. But yeah, I know I've gotten emails from at least 12 manufacturers that we do business with that will be at InfoComm. Like, "Oh, okay." So we'll go there. And of course, any excuse to go to Vegas, you know.

Ron:

It's always fun. One Firefly will be there.

Murray:

Well, there you go. There you go. I'll see how much trouble I can get Ron into.

Ron:

Well, yeah, it's always dangerous when we get together.

Murray:

I mean, I'm surprised you haven't brought up AI though.

Ron:

I haven't. Do you want to go there? I don't know. I had someone recently tell me and they're like, "Ron, all you ever talk about is AI." I was like, "All right, man. I'm gonna tone it down a little bit.".

Murray:

Well, I mean, you know it's not the future. AI is here. Now the question is, how do we use it? And what benefits are there? I think you're going to see a lot of the people that we work with will be affected more so than the residential home installer.

Murray:

You know, architectural firms will be able to cut off half their staff. I think CPAs will cut half their staff, the financial planner manager in your life, the lawyers, I mean, I'm not saying it's not going to eliminate architects. It's not going to eliminate lawyers. But just like 60 years ago, you had steno pools, right? The personal computer came out, that was the end of the steno pool, okay?

Ron:

What's a steno pool, for those uninformed?

Murray:

Oh, well, I mean, when you had a big company, I mean, I mean, a big company, you know, you would literally have a giant auditorium room with rows of people at typewriters, you know, generating reports or writing letters, you know, 'cause it's all being done on typewriters. So you would literally have, so a stenographer was a short, you know, and there'd be a pool. So also, if you needed a secretary, you would go down to this room with literally sometimes 50 or 100 people on typewriters and grab one to work for you as a secretary.

Murray:

You know, that's what people do. They would get a job in the steno pool and hope they could get promoted to being a secretary or then eventually, a junior executive. And, you know, if you want to watch what big business is like, check out the movie "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning play turned into a movie with Robert Morris. And it just talks about a guy starting there. And by the end of the movie, he's chairman of the board, you know, a week later.

Ron:

Oh, I'm gonna check that movie out.

Murray:

Oh, it's a musical and it's brilliant. And it's so politically incorrect. You know I mean, I mean one of the musical numbers is "A Secretary Is Not a Toy." You know.

Ron:

That would not fly in movie or...

Murray:

Oh, yeah. The guy gets this super hot voluptuous secretary and he sends her to other executives above him so that they'll make a pass at her. But she's really the girlfriend of the chairman of the board. So the chairman of the board finds out this executive has made a pass at her. He fires that guy so it allows our hero to move up, okay?

Ron:

Yeah, I don't see that flying today.

Murray:

I think I did... Yes, I think I did it with you guys. So people are now using, but you can have fun with AI, right? You can have fun with anything.

Murray:

So I did a meeting with one of your people and I said, "Is this being transcripted?".

Ron:

Oh, I know what you did. And then you said a bunch of super inappropriate things.

Murray:

Every other sentence, I'd say something. So the AI was going to grab that. So when the AI did a summary, right? It would be utter chaos. About residential technology systems, it was going to talk about these super inappropriate. I just would throw the words or phrase out like every fourth or fifth sentence.

Ron:

You know I think I had that reported back to me. Like I had a meeting with Murray, but I'm not sure he was on his meds. I don't know what was going on. And I was like, no, he's messing... Did you have an AI recorder there? Yeah, he's messing with you.

Murray:

Yeah, I was just messing with it. You know, so yeah. But no, I mean, it's definitely going to be another generational change. Just like I said, we went to typewriters to person. One of my clients is very wealthy. His company processes something like 70% of all the mortgage paperwork in the country.

Ron:

Wow.

Murray:

So when you go to a, you know, if you go to Chase, they have an in-house, but if you go to a mortgage broker or a smaller regional bank, they fill out the form, it gets sent to his servers here in Southern California. It turns it around and says, "Oh, you're in Clark County in Wisconsin. You need forms 87, 94, 63, and 22," and it fills it out and sends it back in seven seconds, right? They charge $8 for that, to which the bank charges you 200, but that's another conversation. So, you know, he's doing literally tens of thousands of these things a day.

Murray:

Well, he worked for a company that was just 30 years ago that had a big mainframe to do this, right? And he goes to his boss and he goes, "Hey, there's these new things called PCs. You know, we should just be doing this on a PC." "Oh, no, you can't do it on PC." So he got $100,000 in seed money, left the company, did it on PCs, and in six months, he put his old boss out of business. And now he's got, you know, his and her Ferraris and his and her Bentleys and a 17,000 square foot house with a very nice theater.

Murray:

So yeah, so now, so, you know, AI will just be the next generational change. And it's, you know, you just have to adapt and know how to use it, just like this guy should have known how to use a PC, but, you know, refused to. So it'll just be interesting to see, you know, where the employee shift occurs.

Ron:

Yeah. There's going to be societal changes for sure.

Murray:

Then what? Yeah. The United States is mostly a service-oriented country. I mean, which is not a good thing. We should have more manufacturing.

Ron:

There was a time where we did, right?

Murray:

We did. And the current president...

Ron:

Pre-NAFTA.

Murray:

Got some laws passed to build some factories here now instead of being reliant on overseas and all the nightmare that caused.

Murray:

But yeah, but still this country has really been a mindset of being service oriented overall. So that's going to have to change. And we're going to have to bring manufacturing back to this country from other places. And maybe with AI, we can do it more efficiently so that we can compete manpower per hour per dollar.

Ron:

There's a point where, and again, I know we got to wrap here, but there's a concept for those still tuned in listening to this AI piece where the AI worker in the very near future allows society to tap into, quote, a "near unlimited workforce." And if you tap into an unlimited workforce, and if you're the best at it, then this country has a real opportunity to prosper and to grow GDP and to really do some really amazing things.

Ron:

But there'll be a point of turbulence from our current state to that future state. And that's where there'll be a lot of, you know, there'll be a lot of hard times for some.

Murray:

No, it is. You know, but you know, leadership comes from the top and you have to have people at the top that don't think climate change is a hoax from China. You know, so, you know, otherwise you're going to wind up being a day late and a dollar short and behind the curve. And by the time you realize everybody will have passed you by and you'll be playing catch up.

Ron:

I agree. Murray, I'm going to put, I've got on the screen here just for our folks tuned in your website, which is Future Home home theater.com. Or you can also just do FHTLA, Future Home Technology Los Angeles. It's a lot less typing. So F as in Frank, FHTLA.com, you know, you know, we've got a special tonight theaters, 5% off, you know, by tonight.

Ron:

Is that tonight only?

Murray:

Tonight only.

Ron:

Million dollar theaters, 5% off but only if you act now. But Murray, for those that want to get in touch with you directly, how would you have them reach out to you?

Murray:

Well, our office number obviously is 310-559-6100. My private email address that I generally only give out to clients and contractors, I'll give it out here. And it's Murray, M-U-R-R-A-Y at FHTLA.com.

Murray:

You know, Future Home Technology, Los Angeles, FHTLA.com. And yeah, I'm happy. My mindset has always been to elevate the industry. So, you know, I've been more than happy to assist other companies just like I've had other vendors, competitors that I've sat down with lunch and they've given me advice and made my company better. And when you do that, you only raise the game for everybody. There is a gentleman, a very polarizing gentleman, and I want to end in this by the name of Brian Barr.

Murray:

Brian Barr owns a company called CAT, C-A-T, and they make these extremely expensive speakers. Now there's a debate on the speakers themselves. But more importantly, and I really think he deserves a CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award, no matter what you think about the product, was his approach.

Murray:

You know, 10, 15 years ago, he came to manufacturers when $25,000 for a projector was, "Oh my God." And he's going, "Guys, stop thinking with your own wallet. You need to have a $100,000 video projector. You need to have $150,000 video projector." And initially, everybody's like, "What are you talking about?" You know?

Murray:

And he went to everybody and said, "Hey guys, the money's there. It's waiting for you to get it." And he really raised the bar from everybody. And the average projector that we put in our homes is $105,000. You know I can't remember selling a projector under 45, 50 grand.

Ron:

I was going to say, I appreciate your offer to have people reach out and engage you. And I agree. A rising tide raises all ships.

Murray:

Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah 'Cause we want to eliminate the riff raff in our industry because nobody wins. It just dilutes it. It makes the better companies weaker because they're not getting projects they should get. And it delivers a subpar product to homeowners, which again, they tell all their friends, like forget all this stuff.

Murray:

You know, how many times you know if I walked into a project like, "We're not putting any Crestron in the house. I just want light switches.".

Ron:

Yeah, that bridge was burned by somebody in the past.

Murray:

Who's no longer there, thank God.

Ron:

Potentially no longer even in business, but yet they've harmed that client and all the people they've told those bad stories to along the way. So I agree. Murray, you and I could riff for hours.

Murray:

Well, you know the old adage. If somebody has a good experience, they'll tell a friend. If somebody has a bad experience, they'll tell 10 people. I mean, that's a general business axiom.

Ron:

Murray, thank you for joining me on Show 267, man. And it's always a blast. You and I talk a lot more often than every four years, just in case anyone's curious. But I do appreciate you joining me here on the show.

Murray:

I'll see you next week. You know, we'll go somewhere really nice. I think Steak and Shake has a special.

Ron:

Steak and Shake. That's the best place to eat in Vegas, actually. All right, my friend, I appreciate you.

Murray:

Anytime.

Ron:

All right folks, there you have it. Show 267. The one and only Murray Kunis with Future Home. They're in Los Angeles. They're doing some of the really the most beautiful, stunning theater projects out there. And he's an active participant in the industry, actively engaged in the Azione community and CEDIA community, and always a hoot to talk to.

Ron:

And as many fun stories as he has. He also has tremendous volumes of sound advice. If you're ever trying to just understand a situation or how to think about something, odds are he's been there, done that, and he's happy to share. So appreciate you all tuning in. I'm going to sign off for now, but we've got guests scheduled now through September. And we've moved some people around on our teams.

Ron:

So we have Dan and Allison and some others and we're reaching out and getting guests scheduled even now into the fall. So keep staying tuned. Appreciate you all. And I will see you next time on the next show.

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: