Home Automation Podcast Episode #114: An Industry Q&A With Rob Hopper
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Rob Hopper, President of Beacon Audio Video Systems, shares the importance of product trainings made available through vendors as well as marketing strategies for the CI industry.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Rob Hopper. Recorded live on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Rob Hopper
With nearly 25 years of experience in the custom integration industry, Rob got his start in car audio before moving to the residential space.
After the great recession, Rob founded Ohio-based Beacon Audio Video with a mission to bring a higher level of service and experience to custom integration clients.
At Beacon, Rob and his team aim to focus on the client experience, quality of design, and craftsmanship from the first meeting through the project life cycle.
- The rise of consumer interest in solutions such as outdoor entertainment and home networking
- Rob’s opinion on 5G and how it can benefithelp end-users stay connected
- Ways Rob and his team have been taking advantage benefiting from of all the recent educational resources and webinars being offered in our industry
- Rob’s previous experience with marketing and website design and what stood out to him since working with One Firefly
Ron: Hello, everybody! Welcome to another episode of Automation Unplugged. Episode number 114. Today is Wednesday, April 29th. A little bit after 12:30 p.m. EST. Here at One Firefly, we are busy bees. I know that all of us that are listening and watching we all are going through different circumstances with stress and anxiety and all sorts of maybe fears, about how we're all handling COVID-19 and the pandemic and the stresses that is putting on our business. I'm happy to say that at One Firefly we did apply for the PPE and we were awarded. That was a nice win for the team. We've done more webinars and more outreach in the last eight weeks than maybe in the last two or three years combined. At last count, we've done 10 or 12 webinars either directly to our audience from our page and or our customer base and or partnering with different entities, different vendors or groups. Just yesterday, I did a webinar with the Azione group and I did another webinar with the Pro Source group. We have webinars coming up in the coming weeks with Sonnen. They're the battery manufacturer, as well as with Savant systems and all sorts of fun and exciting topics. Trying to really make most of the stuff we're doing not about anything that One Firefly necessarily sells or offers, but really within the theme of what I'm telling you guys to do. If you've watched our marketing in a time of crisis, it's really just finding ways to help. Find ways to reach out to your customers and let them know that you care, that you're here to help them and try to identify things in your community that you can do to bring value in. Right now isn't necessarily a time to be overtly selling or promoting your products or services but really just about being present. That's how One Firefly is doing right now and what I'd love to do is to just go ahead and jump in and bring in our guest. He's a good customer of One Firefly. I'm putting out that notice in advance. But this is Rob Hopper. He's the President at Beacon Audio Video Systems and I want to say Rob is in Dayton, Ohio and he'll confirm that with us. Let's jump into the interview. Rob, how are you, sir?
Rob: I'm good. How are you?
Ron: I'm super. You and I were just riffing before we went live and you said that you went on the hunt on Amazon to try to find a video, a USB camera to kind of up the game a little bit and you couldn't find anything. Everybody was sold out.
Rob: Yeah I was looking for something to make me look like Brad Pitt and failed.
Ron: What? You bought the Rob Hopper model. I think you look just fine. You look good, you look handsome.
Rob: Sounds good. Thank you.
Ron: Awesome. Now, did I get it right? You're coming from Dayton, Ohio.
Rob: Yeah absolutely.
Ron: OK, so some in our audience may not know you. I know you sometimes fly under the radar and you're proud to do so but our audience, they're coming to us from around the country. Our listeners are coming to us from around the world. So tell our team, tell our audience kind of a little bit about yourself personally and maybe about Beacon Audio Video Systems.
Rob: I've personally been in the industry for right at twenty-five years now. Started off in car audio like so many of us did when we were young, dumb, and didn't own homes.
Ron: We liked to dump our money into our cars. I was guilty.
Rob: Some of us still do, I think. But yeah, from there, I moved into the residential stuff. Then as things evolved there, moved up the ladder as we refined and continued to perfect our craft and the way we approach things. And it's been a fun ride and continues to be a fun ride. And looking forward to where it goes from there. And that kind of transitions really to what we do here. If we focus more on the customer experience and the total project as opposed to just say home theater or just this or just that. We want people to have as much fun and make the experience that much better with technology across the board.
Ron: Now, Beacon, you started Beacon in 2010. That sounds like you perfectly timed that. Was that like right in the throes of the Great Recession or was the economy actually starting to improve at that point? You did that eyes wide open.
Rob: No, I'm pretty sure there was a whole lot of what the hell were we thinking in that time period. But the situation presented itself to move this direction from our previous employer, in a retail establishment versus which of course was just floundering at that time into this area which really allowed us to focus more on what we wanted to do as opposed to just selling tvs and things like that. So it did work out very well. Obviously, luckily I think if we had been '09 or '08, may not have worked out.
Ron: You could have done what I did and started right perfectly at the end of '07. You got to experience the full bloodbath of '08 and '09. Those are my early years of starting this business.
Rob: Tweaking websites with a bottle of Jack in one hand.
Ron: I know most of this grey hair was earned in those first three or four years of the business. That's funny. So how are you guys? Well before I get into how you're doing right now. What does business look like for you guys? What type of projects do you work on? How many crews do you run? Like what's the size and or scope. I don't need revenue unless you want to share that. But what is the size of your team and or what types of projects do you guys work on?
Rob: There's nine of us total and we've been also we're fortunate enough that we were out in front of the financial aspect of things and did also acquire the PPP funding.
Ron: So, congratulations.
Rob: Thank you very much, it's allowed us to do a lot of things that we wouldn't have obviously number one pay our employees, even if they aren't necessarily here working. Do a lot of training, keep the team together, but also still be able to service our customers. if we had laid everybody off, that would have affected the ability to take care of client. That was very fortunate. We've still got the nine of us here and our projects. We like to say that we don't have a particular type of project. if somebody wants a TV hung then there's absolutely no reason why. I mean if we're too busy, that may be too far out to be logical for them to wait. But saying we won't do it doesn't make a lot of sense. That customer may need a TV hung today, but they may need a lot more over the next 10 to 20 years. So that's the approach. Our projects could be five hundred dollars, our projects could be half a million dollars. We have the skillset to accommodate all of that across the board from not only our discipline but also the ability to work with the other trades in an intelligent manner and understand what they do and how it will affect us and also how what we are going to do will affect them. It works out very well.
Ron: How's Ohio doing and specifically Dayton and then zeroing in on your business. What does the virus look like in Ohio and then locally in your market? And are you guys able right now to go out and do jobs?
Rob: We are considered part of the essential category because of the fact that we service infrastructure and homes and things like that. We are not running out to do a lot of the things that we would normally have done because we are trying to limit the exposure of our employees out in the field. The impact of the viruses, I mean I think it's the same as everywhere else right now. A lot of people don't want people in their homes so the jobs we are doing are a lot of new construction finishes, remodel finishes, pre wires, things where we're the only trades on site and it's open not really compact spaces. Our ability to do work has not been impacted as much in terms of like we could do the work. A lot of what we were very concerned about was being able to take care of the customer. That has been impacted by the fact that people don't want a lot of people in their houses right now. This makes the remote serviceability of systems even more important right now. Luckily that's been our modus operandi for a long time. So the servicing of our clients hasn't really missed a beat except for maybe somebody who has a modem that goes out or something along those lines where you physically have to be in the house.
Ron: Now Rob, how is your family? I mean how's home life dealing with this virus and everyone's probably spending more time at home and watching more Netflix than usual. Are you the prototypical consumer of home entertainment and technology and e-learning and all that or what's going on?
Rob: Well, this is definitely forced a bit of an evolution. And it's interesting. I think the industry as a whole is going to see this. I think a lot of them already have. But my house, we've been talking about forever transitioning away from traditional TV services cable satellite whatever over to more of a streaming TV service and that is something that we did implement because of the fact that now that we've got my wife and two kids both at home currently at any given time wanting to do something where they typically would not have maybe been tripping over each other with a single Roku player or Apple TV in place. Now everybody's got their own Roku that they can pull up anywhere in the house so they're completely content from that perspective. Now there are other perspectives where you just kind of open the door, you throw in a bottle of water and a steak, slam the door real quick and try to avoid it. But I think everybody is seeing that, we're social creatures being cooped up in a house is not the norm. But from a technology perspective, yes, there have been requests. So we've been doing that much the same way we are with our homes as we are doing for the clients.
Ron: With your customers, either new folks that are finding you. I know you're actively marketing and I want to talk about some of that stuff. But also your existing book of customers. I'm going to tell you, I am hearing from different pockets around the country, this is not absolute. It's not a 1 or a 0 on or off. But I'm hearing people are in some cases seeing slowdowns with biz dev or signing new projects right now. Let's say the last four to six weeks. Are you seeing that there, in Dayton and or with the requests or inquiries for projects? What type of requests are happening? What is happening on the ground there?
Rob: It's definitely been very interesting. I think anybody that says that they are not seeing a slowdown or a change in one aspect or another is probably not being 100 percent honest. I'm not vain enough to think that we are special in the fact that we're so different in Dayton, Ohio compared to anybody else in the country. And the fact that people don't want a lot of people in their houses is also meaning that they're not calling to have us come out and check out potential new projects. Now that being said, we are still getting new construction still humming along. People have not stopped building a house that they had been building. We are still getting people calling for those types of projects. We are getting people calling for service issues which we oftentimes parlay into additional business. And we're still getting calls from people who want to start projects. Not as large scale projects as we may have seen a year ago, but they're still there and that's for me anyway, that's a very promising sign that as we get further along in this, the dealers that did things right and weren't financially hurting, to begin with, will probably pull through. OK. And odds are, a lot of these people will want you to come out because they're so sick and tired of not doing projects that they're going to be running out the door to try and do something, anything.
"There's going to be pent up demand and particularly around cool toys and tech for the home. I don't think people are going to take vacations this year. I think they're going to spend money on their houses."
Ron: Do you think it's a good assumption that on the other side of this, when it becomes a little more politically correct to go to job sites and for customers to have people in their homes, I'm operating on an assumption, I'd like to think it's an educated assumption? There's going to be pent up demand and particularly around cool toys and tech for the home. I don't think people are going to take vacations this year. I think they're going to spend money on their houses. Do you think that's accurate?
Rob: Absolutely. Yeah, I think that I think that that's spot on. I think a lot of people are not going to take vacations. I think vacations are going to be tough to take even if you wanted to from just a perspective of different people out there that know different resorts and things that aren't going to open or be up to capacity. Or, possibly services associated with those that won't be there making the trip a little less desirable. And yeah, I see people doing a lot of projects to their house, to the exterior of their house. I mean it's been this way for a couple of years. A huge trend and a logical trend for people to try and extend the living space of their house into the outdoors.
Ron: How are they doing that? What are the technologies that they're desiring outside?
Rob: A lot of TV. it's a little more logical now. I think people see that they essentially want all of the amenities that they had or have inside their house outside their house. So go outside. Be able to sit by your pool on a patio or wherever and surf the Internet, be able to watch something on an iPad, meaning Wi-Fi is huge for the exterior of the house. Audio, and better audio, that's going to be a big key. The idea of slap two speakers on the side of your house and let it rip is just not what a lot of people probably would think audio should be. So a lot of different things. I mean and the need for Wi-Fi and networking outside is growing at a faster rate than I probably would have. I had a call the other day from a guy who needed better Wi-Fi because his smoker needed to connect to the Internet.
Ron: No way man.
Rob: I thought that when I had the first call about a sleep number bed getting on the Wi-Fi, I thought that was the limit. There's nothing else. There's nothing else.
Ron: A Sleep Number bed has an IP address? It's a Wi-Fi device?
Rob: We had somebody that called in. This was a couple of years ago.
Ron: I did not know that.
Rob: Yeah. Neither did I. But it was interesting, it's the world we live in. the networks are more important than ever and they're gonna continue to be more important because the stuff that we put on a network in two years doesn't even exist today, which is crazy to imagine.
Ron: I have a few more. A bunch of people are jumping in here into the stream and they're saying hi to you. So I'm gonna give them a shout out. Let's see if I can catch up here. So Ron Watkins.
Rob: A couple of my college fraternity brothers of piping in and a couple of clients in there and whatnot and then Reese.
Ron: Reese says hello. Hey Rob. Got Matt, a good friend and customer down in Dallas. He's actually going to be coming on the show soon. I think Matt we got you booked. I don't know the date. So Stephanie if you're following this maybe type in the date. When is Matt going to be on the show? Help me out there and then who else do we have? Well, I got to keep up. We got Joe Flynn, Rob Hopper you're my hero. Well, drop the mic.
Rob: It's a little known fact, I have a fan club.
Ron: Clearly. Rob, you're the best man. You've got some. I know you must've slipped somebody some 20s before we went live here. Oh, you got Josh. Josh Strempko. He's your guy, one of your guys here from One Firefly. Happy to have you on and then oh there it is Matt answered us. He says he's coming on the show on May 15th. So everyone stay tuned. We want to hear from the one and only Matt DeVance. Speaking of connectivity and I am going to show some of my ignorance here so educate me. And by doing so you'll educate at least a few of the people watching that may not be in the know. What are you seeing around the 5G? I'm not even going down the path of the 5G towers causing COVID-19 so I'm not going down that path at all. But I know that is coming and what does it mean for you as an integrator and for those that are maybe you have some of your customers that are listening. What should they know about 5G and how it's going to affect their home?
Rob: Well 5G. And I'm not gonna say that I have really gotten my hands around every aspect of it. But as with any service, it's wireless service. It's still going to no matter how you slice it and dice it, it's still wireless. It's still going to be at the end of the day, a second-tier to connectivity. But, looking at it just right now the current technological environment and professional work environment is showing that our infrastructure really needs help. just the amount of wireless, not wireless excuse me, internet slowdowns that people are experiencing that they never have before. The draw and the demand on the network on the infrastructure is so high, that we're seeing a lot of that and it's made us up our game on the kind of diagnostics end of things. But if you have a better secondary service, or even if it's a primary service for some people or who knows how this could evolve. That's just going to at the end of the day give a better experience for bandwidth and capabilities as the demand on the networks increases. if you're in the middle of a Zoom meeting and you need to use your phone for a hotspot. That's not what I would call an ideal situation to you right now. But if you've got cellular on steroids and crack, it's a solution. So there's a lot of potential. I think it's misconstrued on how it should be used. The same way five gigahertz of bandwidth in a house on Wi-Fi is you know. We created our industry as a whole. Mostly the manufacturers have created a just throw it on the Wi-Fi. It's wireless, it's got Wi-Fi built-in and just throw it on the Wi-Fi and then people wonder two weeks later why they can't get Facebook to load. We're very cautious about how to spin that.
Ron: Speaking of manufacturers, every manufacturer that I know in our industry has been spinning up webinars and or unlocking and making their vendor or their dealer training portals more widely available and or trying to help our industry take advantage of some of this downtime. If you are in an area of the country where in fact you do have downtime. How have you guys been playing that? Have you guys been doing more product education? Has it been helpful to you? Help our audience here understand how you and your team have been spending some of the last eight weeks.
Rob: Oh yeah, I think it's fantastic the way the vendors have really stepped up to the plate. Not from a perspective of hey here's a deal, buy a bunch of our stuff. I'm not saying that we wouldn't take advantage of that.
Ron: Vendors if you're listening, call Rob he's ready to buy some stuff.
Rob: But the continuing education if you will. We've always been big on that aspect of things. But the amount of information that's out there right now is fantastic. I think we have at least two different people doing things today in addition to the miscellaneous other projects that we had going on around here. So whether it be from speaker manufacturers, control manufacturers, whatever. I think they're doing a fantastic job of helping people get better at what they do. As an integrator, I think that's something that everybody should continuously be working on. Otherwise, you're not really giving the best to your client. So what they're doing is fantastic. We're also doing our own internal training, working on better and best practices if that makes sense.
Ron: Better and best practices or just best practices. But yeah I know what you mean.
Rob: It's got to be more better gooder.
Ron: More better gooder. Yeah, I would say so.
Rob: I think it's great. I think some of those manufacturers probably have a little too much time. Because I know I tuned into a Control4 webinar a couple of weeks ago and I got a call an hour in I think I was on the call for half an hour. I look over and it's still going.
Ron: The webinar is still going.
Rob: I think that these guys have so much time and so they're bored to the point where they're just happy to be able to reach an audience. So, it's fantastic, because the information that they're giving by having that extra time is so much more in-depth and helpful. As opposed to trying to cram it into a 30 to 60 minute time period.
Ron: Yeah, I know something we're doing actually here at One Firefly is CEDIA has opened up their education. I think the last I heard is it's going to be through May. And so I don't remember the exact economics. If you're from CEDIA and if you're listening to this live, type into the notes and inform me because I'm uninformed. But I know generally, it cost us nothing. So we are a CEDIA member, we've been since our founding. And so my staff, I have a staff of 40. We can take all of the CEDIA courses and there's no additional cost for us. I think that's for all CEDIA members. It's really spectacular. And so we're gamifying it at One Firefly and so we're actually going to have a scoreboard and who takes the most classes and there's gonna be a drawing for it. If you take a class, your name goes into a hat and there's gonna be some prizes at the end of it. Just to try to have fun with it. But it really is a tremendous time to up all of us, us included, all of us up our game during this strange period.
Rob: Yeah. And if nothing else you could always make it a drinking game every time somebody says webinar.
Ron: Ah, I'm not sure either of us would be standing right now if that game was in play as of today.
Rob: No I don't think you make it to the shop.
"I can say that sincerely there's a lot of effort and focus on how to make sure that no one is trying to be that company going to their dealers and saying, 'You've got to buy this stuff and I've got this great deal.' Generally, the consensus is how to bring value, how to help all of these small businesses through this rough period."
Ron: I can say on behalf of a lot of the vendors and there's a lot of meetups happening right now, vendor meetups dealer meetups. I'm in probably at least one or two meetups every week just on the vendor side. we're service providers. I'm there with the speaker companies and the TV companies and the control brands and there's a lot of brainstorming what's going on in the marketplace and what are folks doing to bring value. And so I can say that sincerely there's a lot of effort and focus on how to make sure that no one is trying to be that company going to their dealers and saying you've got to buy this stuff and I've got this great deal. Generally, the consensus is how to bring value, how to help all of these small businesses through this rough period this rough time which is unprecedented in our country, in the world really.
Rob: Yeah, it really is and it'll revolutionize the way a lot of companies do business across the board. And I think that while there will be some attrition, unfortunately.
Ron: We'll lose some companies through this. There's no way, you can't have such a rough period and not lose some.
Rob: No and it's unfortunate. I think the ones that make it through as long as they, I don't want to say play the game right or play their cards right. But basically that's what it is. they are probably going to come through much stronger than they would have if they just took eight weeks off and sat at home and ignored their calls and watched Netflix.
Ron: Tiger King three times.
Rob: Yeah sorry. Tiger King. I've not watched that yet.
Ron: I haven't either I've refused to do it. I'm not gonna participate.
Rob: Yeah. I'm very much in the same camp. My guys love it though and I do love the memes.
Ron: The memes are in fact they've started to show as background, cause we Zoom a lot right? As we all do. So now I'm getting Tiger King, my staff showing up with Tiger King backgrounds for the video conferences and they're all sorts of outrageous. But it's fun.
Rob: That could go real bad real quick.
Ron: Well, my team's mostly P.G. so they've kept it maybe even G rated.
Rob: Well, you've got people like Jordan over there, they're Hoosiers fans I mean you can't really expect much out of them.
Ron: Wow. Exactly so I do gotta give Jordan a shout out, there he is excited. Except minus the Hoosiers dig. Excited to be listening in Rob always great insight. And I know actually Jordan and Josh got together and they're the ones that said hey we need to have you on the show. It's actually Jordan and Josh collaborating which is how you got the invite because I a lot of my guests I know and I've known for a long time but I haven't known you for a long time. But my team has, which is so darn exciting because that means I've got people and they're loving on our customers.
Rob: They're actually doing their job and talking to people, huh?
Ron: They're doing their job. I'd have it no other way.
Rob: Really great job too.
Ron: Well, let's spin I normally would never do this if you're a listener. If you watch the show or you listen to the podcast. I generally never make these things about marketing. I think I've been pretty good about that. But you did have some it just in the chit-chatting with you before going live. You had some interesting perspectives about what you went through as a small business working with lots of different vendors and companies before you ultimately because you had known of One Firefly but you had some preconceptions or some ideas about maybe why you weren't engaging. Do you mind just kind of sharing what you were going through before and then kind of what it looks like on the other side?
Rob: Yeah absolutely. And I think a lot of people are in this boat. I mean we're geeks at heart essentially. No matter how you spin it but you really can't be good at everything. I think that should be self-explanatory. So marketing obviously was a huge downfall of mine. I relied on a lot of other entities to do any number of different things that I just frankly kind of understand but don't have the knowledge or skill or time or desire to deal with. Whether it be Google AdWords SEO configuration, website design, content for the website, the copy was always huge and directory optimization making sure Yelp and Google and all those different things are set right. And as things get busy, you kind of just put it on autopilot and coast through and sometimes not getting what you think you're getting out of it.
What I really enjoy about the One Firefly experience is that being targeted as a digital marketing company dealing with just our industry, you take that wealth of knowledge that they've got of making content, whether it be copy or photography, or whatever graphic design across so many different clients to make the experience as a whole better for everybody. And being able to have that one-stop-shop allows us to also have that experience transition to Google AdWords from our website to social media marketing and creating blogs and things like that that we would love to do ourselves. But honestly, people would probably close the web page two or three sentences in. I don't know that I could create an interesting or captivating story in that manner. It's just been great. And then having that one point of contact that we have with Jordan to then disperse the needed items to parts of the team has really been great in terms of just anything if it's something that needs to be done.
Ron: What if Jordan doesn't know the answer, what happens?
Rob: Jordan knows everything.
Ron: Haha! Jordan you hear that? I think you owe him 20 bucks.
Rob: Just ask him. And that's actually another aspect of it is that being a great account manager, whatever we bring up, he doesn't necessarily have the answer to all the time because that's not necessarily his job but he knows who needs to answer it. And he gets them involved whether it be from the website design aspect or the account sales and different things that go along with the site. That would normally go to Josh or somebody else. Delegating if that's the right term those different aspects have made it great because then we also get great turnaround time on top of that. It's not an OK, well let me get you the answer to that and then hear back from a week or two or six later or we have to ask about it. It's usually kicked over to another member of the team and the other member of the team then actually gets in touch with us directly almost immediately most of the time. Again, giving everybody their thing to do is so much more efficient than just having one person trying to do everything.
Ron: No, I appreciate that positive feedback and more importantly, I know that those that are listening or watching find a lot of value. I don't want to say what I say or Josh says in the sales side of the equation doesn't matter, but it matters a lot less than what an actual customer tells their friend or their peer. On the other side of the country regarding your experience. I'm noticing you are in our new website thing called Mercury Pro. How is that and I know you told me some war stories from maybe some other efforts to build websites in the past. Some of them went well, some of them didn't go well. How was this experience? What was good and what was bad? What could we have done better? Let's put it all out there.
Rob: There was never any beer at any meetings. That was disappointing. Other than that, honestly, the whole thing was really very positive. I don't think I think it may have been a little bit of information that didn't I don't know. Let's say it didn't get communicated. I think I interpreted differently on some things. Nothing earth-shattering or anything like that. I was extremely thrilled with how we were able to get online on with on a call with the designers and everybody else go through things and kind of be like OK well here look at this, we don't like that. Do you like this et cetera et cetera and not just write down to try and communicate those ideas through a text media like email. That was really great. Probably the best part of it for me was alleviating the pain points that I always had in website design and development. there are a lot of really great web developers out there. That's not really the issue. The issue is that most of them are not copy and content people either. While they can make the site look great and function great and has some really cool features. The problem we always ran into and we had websites that looked great, never got launched because they waited on us for content and copy specifically. I don't have time and I am not that talented to do that. Having those people on your staff along with the development side was just I mean you can't really put into words the value that has for a company like mine. In terms of where I don't want to put a lot of time into that because I'm not going to do the job that anybody else would.
Even going back to when I know I first started seeing you guys pop up at CEDIA. I will compare it to Snap AV. I don't know if you remember it, but way back in the day I remember when Snap AV's first CEDIA was a couple of card tables, a mouse that looks like you could crumple it up and throw it in the trash can and a screen. Look where they're at now. They still get knocked a little bit I think in our industry and for being cookie-cutter I guess you can use that term. But there's some merit in knowing what X is, knowing what the variables are and eliminating the stuff that can go sideways. Well the website's not cookie-cutter it looks great. It flows great. You guys obviously put a lot of time and effort into the platform itself and then being able to then put the customization on there for the designer or the client, I think it's a win. I mean maybe not for everybody but anybody that's in my personal position with our company. There's no downside.
Ron: Now I promise world, I did not slip Rob 20 bucks but I might have to after that or at least Jordan I think you have to send some beer Rob's way, have to find out your favorite beer. In terms of ongoing marketing efforts. Rob, how much time invest do you invest monthly into the stuff that's happening for you?
Rob: For the most part, whatever time we spend on the phone we are on the Zoom or whatever with Jordan. I rely on you guys very much to kind of point us in the right direction, get ideas, maybe make some changes depending on season. Although you know, we're still fairly new into everything that we haven't gotten a full set of seasons in there to play with that. And of course, the first season that we would has now gotten kind of cut off at the knees. But we spend an hour or so on the phone with Jordan then maybe another hour or two a month kind of reviewing the different things that Jordan talks about and deciding whether or not I think we need to tweak that for the next time. It's probably about it.
Ron: Somewhere around 1 to three hours a month.
Rob: Yeah. I mean ultimately it may sound like not much or it should be more but we see great results. So if it's not broke don't fix it.
Ron: It's funny Rob when I was building this agency and I gathered smarter and more talented people than me which is how we make it look easy-ish and I think we can I think we mess up plenty but I think we deliver a pretty consistently good product and I'm very proud of who and what we are for our customers. I didn't look at any agency, I didn't know any. I'm an engineer and I was providing system engineering for integrators. That was this business before we fully pivoted to marketing. What's funny is we simply said well we want to build websites. Well I know my integrators will not have time to give me copy so I have to be able to write their copy and I know even though they know they should, I know they will not consistently photograph their projects. We have to have an amazing content library and I know that we have to be able to manage their paid marketing their social advertising. Google ads display ads. I have to have that capability under one roof. And so when you look at that company, web and SEO and SEM and copywriting and content, and design and corporate I.D. and branding all under one roof. What I didn't know, is that if you look out to that local agency in Dayton or anywhere in the country, those agencies are very few and far between.
Ron: Not just for this industry. Just the idea that all of those skills would be under one roof without having to pull in agency ABC or contractors or people. And it was just, it's funny because we didn't build this looking at anybody. We built this around you our customer like what is going to enable us to deliver the best possible experience for our customers that do not always fully understand marketing or what it's capable of and or how hard it is to do it and or how much time it takes to get it done.
"The key is the time and letting the people that can do it best do it. This is a global concept. Large companies do not have one place to do everything."
Rob: And that's the key is the time and letting the people that can do it best do it. And this is a global concept. I mean large companies do not have one place to do everything. your large scale corporations do not have the same company developing their website that does their marketing and everything else. Well so looking at that and scaling down you can never do that effectively as a small business. So you need that asset in play that you guys really have helped provide for. For me, I think it's huge and it takes a lot of the time away that I would have spent on that to focus on other aspects of the business, servicing customers which of course is huge right now with our current limitations and whatnot. So I think everybody can choose more time.
Ron: So it's one thing we can't make more of right? It's finite.
Rob: I keep trying.
Ron: Keep trying. Rob, what piece of advice, you've been at this game for twenty-five years. You've been at this particular business for 10 years and there and you're doing you're making it through this storm and you're going to make it on the other side and you're going to thrive. There are folks that are listening, that are in that storm and they need some guidance or some help. Do you have any insight or just words of wisdom from your years of experience that you wouldn't mind sharing?
"The stuff that you do can always be improved upon, trying to learn from your mistakes and everybody else's mistakes and figuring out how to deliver a better-finished product to the customer."
Rob: I think the concept that has always driven what we try to do here. at the core and I think you can be scaled in any direction, is just be better. The stuff that you do can always be improved upon, trying to learn from your mistakes and everybody else's mistakes and figuring out how to deliver a better-finished product to the customer. How to deliver better service to the customer, etc . is going to always pay huge dividends people are going to call you back. whether it be this week next week or in six months or a year or whatever.
If you take care of them, they're not going to call you back if you don't and the ability to take care of that customer has to constantly evolve and get better. If it doesn't, somebody else will and you will find yourself incrementally working your way down. Everybody that's been in this business a long time should always be stacking new clientele onto their list. So going out of business, if you're smart about things and you really work on undoing every aspect of the business better, you honestly should be. yes you might lose some people, you might have to scale down. That's the name of the game. But you should always be able to get to where you need to be to make it through just about anything. So you know, whether it be changing up your product to use stuff that works better. That may not be as flashy or may not be the stuff that you think is the coolest out there or whatnot. cool only gets you so far if it doesn't work. So I would tell people, don't get caught up in the glitz the glam this that or another thing. look at it from a business perspective and say does it work and can it be better?
Ron: Love it, better is better, more is not better. Better is better.
Rob: Sometimes more is quite the opposite of better. So that can go sideways pretty quick.
Ron: Amen. Rob, I want to say we've been on for almost an hour my friend. How about that. How about them apples? So Rob how can those watching or listening get in touch with you?
Rob: Go through our Facebook page, obviously website's got our number on it.
Ron: Verbally state that URL.
Rob: www.beaconavs.com or beaconaudiovideosystems.com either one will get you there. You'll find this lovely auto-attendant provided by One Firefly down in the corner ready to give you information and our phone numbers. So if anybody's got questions about anything, we're always happy to help in any capacity whether it be professionally or from a client-side or peer-side.
Ron: Awesome. Rob, it was a pleasure to have you on episode 114 of Automation Unplugged.
Rob: My lucky number I don't know how you guys figured that out.
Ron: It's funny.
Rob: Yeah, that's what I always bet on.
Ron: 114 is your number.
Rob: That is it. I've never lost on it.
Ron: Pick three lotto, wins every week.
Ron: Awesome. Rob thank you, sir.
Rob: Absolutely. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Ron: All right folks there you have it. Episode 114. I did go a little bit down the rabbit hole. I talked about marketing just because I thought it was just a really neat story to hear from Rob. I don't know Rob. I mean you guys know I've been doing this thing for 20 years and so I have a lot of relationships and sometimes I pick up business and customers because of that relationship and I thought this was really fun for me to dig in with Rob because I don't know Rob and Rob does not know me. There's no Ron story here. There is he found One Firefly and he found our team and he found our solutions and he's easily found some positive experiences that are helping him personally and helping his business. So I thought that was fun to explore and then I frequently get this question. I've been working starting earlier most days are starting around 6:00 these days and they're going later, I'm often on the phone or in conferences till 8 o'clock or later most nights. And you know, people are saying should I be marketing? How should I be marketing? There's a Chinese proverb, I'm trying to restate it. So I'll probably goof it up but it's when was the best time to plant a tree? It was 20 years ago and when's the second-best time to plant a tree? It's right now. So if you haven't been actively marketing your business, now's the time to start. And so don't be afraid find that local agency, contact us if you want to brainstorm. But do something or bring in someone onto your team and have them manage efforts but don't stand by. Business and the climate out there is different and you need to be proactive and proactively focusing on growing your business. So on that note, I do want to remind you that if you have not already done so, please subscribe to this podcast. It's really fun looking at those numbers every week. We see the numbers go up every week since we launched the show and that's because you guys are listening and you're participating, you're subscribing. If you feel so compelled, I know this is like one of those really tough things in life but actually go and leave a review in your favorite platform. What makes podcasting unique, is that there are so many different platforms where the show content lives and so whatever your cup of tea is, go on that platform and leave a review and it will ultimately help more folks from the industry see the content and listen to the content because it's a podcast. And lastly, thank you, everyone, for watching and listening and I will see you. I think we're doing another show this week and I'll have Stephanie. She'll drop in the comments so let who that is. I don't have it top of mind but I know we're doing another show or two this week so stay tuned and I'll see you next time.
With nearly 25 years of experience in the custom integration industry, Rob got his start in car audio before moving to the residential space, where he is currently President of Beacon Audio Video Systems. Rob focuses on bringing a higher level of service and experience to custom integration clients.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.
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