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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.
An AV and integration-focused podcast broadcast live weekly
Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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Home Automation Podcast Episode #45: An Industry Q&A With Jeannette Howe

The importance of keeping your customers informed

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Jeannette Howe. Recorded live on Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

About Jeannette Howe

Jeannette Howe is Vice President of Transformative Engineering. Transformative Engineering (T-E) designs, manufactures, and sells a very focused line of audio, video, and data communications devices including HDBaseT extenders, switchers, and baluns that are essential elements in the construction of high-end residential and commercial entertainment systems. 

Previously, Ms. Howe was the founder and Executive Director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN, now HTSN) the specialty home theater and CI buying group. Prior to SEN, she was the National Membership Manager for Home Entertainment Source (now ProSource). Once upon a time she was Director of Membership for the Professional AudioVideo Retailers Association (PARA). 

Early in her career, Ms. Howe was the Audio Buyer at Magnolia Hi-Fi and she worked at Tweeter in a variety of positions including Audio Buyer and ”Swill Master.” Ms. Howe is an avid champion for the specialty independent channel.

Interview Recap

Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Jeannette:

  • Integrating voice assistant products into your home
  • The importance of staying in contact with your clients 
  • Current market strategies of Transformative Engineering
  • Technology suitable for “aging in place”

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #44: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Chris Trojnar


Ron:  Hello everybody. Ron Callis here with episode 45 of Automation Unplugged, brought to you by my day job over at One Firefly. So thank you out there. If you were on a few minutes ago, you saw we had a false start had a few technical difficulties with the feed and we do what we do here when technology fails us is we just roll with it and we are back. Well I've had an excellent week, actually an excellent month here, month of May, today's May 30th, by the way. It's Wednesday approximately 12:45. So we're starting a little bit late and here at One Firefly, I'll just leave it as, you know, business is good. Life is good. We're cranking along, we're growing. I'm working with lots of new companies and nothing but good stuff there. And I'm particularly excited because next week I bring the whole team in. So I've got a team of 25 or 26 now here at One Firefly. And we're actually bringing them into South Florida next week for an all team event. It's going to be a combination of fun and got some festivities and surprises in store for the team as well as lots of learning and workshops. We're going to get some manufacturer training in as well, and generally is going to be a good time. So good things happening here. I hope out there you guys and gals are doing well and let's jump right into things and let's let's meet my guest. I have the one and only Jeanette Howe. How are you Jeanette?

Jeannette: I'm great. How are you Ron?

Ron:  I'm super duper well, minus the technical glitch we just had a few moments ago. That was, could have done without that. Let me, you know what I'm going to do, Jeanette? I'm going to just to make sure everything's cooperating. I'm going to jump into Facebook real quick and let's see if we're actually going out live. Okay. So bear with me. Let's see here. For some reason, whenever I'm streaming, everything's so much slower. There we go. All right, we're live. We've got some people watching us. If you're out there, thank you for watching us. Thank you for listening. If you're watching live or if you're watching after the fact please like this. Please share this content. It helps us this out there to a wider audience to help your brothers and sisters in arms, in the audio video and the CI space. And as we do here, I've got an exciting guest, Jeanette, who comes to us with years of experience and learnings in the CI channel. And I look forward to learning more about her thoughts on the current state of the industry. But Jeanette, can you help my audience understand a little bit about yourself and kind of your background in the industry?

Jeannette: Well, I've been here a long time. I'm not going to say how long. I started at Twetter Et Cetera, back in the 80s. And I think that was one of my favorite jobs ever. It was very entrepreneurial, very exciting to work there. And for the most part we were, you know, I was in the Harvard Square store initially and we were just selling to people exactly like ourselves. It was, you know, young people selling to young people. And it was largely stereos that went into dorm rooms. So it was a lot of fun. So the next job I had actually was at Tweeter as well, which was the audio buyer and I've learned a lot from sorry.

Ron:  No, you had mentioned that you had a, a cough action going on as do I am actually struggling here myself from, recovering from a cold. So do your best.

Jeannette: Okay, cool. So I went from Tweeter to Magnolia HiFi I was their audio buyer as well. I actually feel very fortunate in this industry that I've literally worked with the independent channel the entire time. So I have never hung out a shingle and, you know, hired people myself. I think the people that do that are very brave. So I want to compliment you for that right now. But I worked at Magnolia and then from there I went to PARA, the professional audio video retailers association. And it's funny, when you work for a large pro group type company, you think you know everybody. And that's not true. At PARA I had the fortune of meeting all the independent dealers out there and got to see some of the struggles firsthand with the recession. What I've realized is that the people who have survived do a lot of things very well, but there's still things that we can learn from one another or from, you know, industry luminaries that can help us do our jobs better. So PARA was a real eye-opener. I got to spend a lot of time with people who are very strategic and actually strategy is something that makes me very happy when I'm not allowed to strategize.

Ron:  You're not a happy person. Now help me understand and the audience, PARA has PARA turned into something. Is PARA like still a living group or an operating group that's just changed its name or maybe it's still operating as PARA? Help me understand what that is as it relates to say, all the buying groups and the entities that are out there today.

Jeannette: Well, PARA was the professional audio video retailers association and we differentiated ourselves from CEDIA by kind of saying that we talk to and help the owner, CEO of the company become more professional and run their businesses better. At the time we felt that CEDIA really trained the frontline people, the people who are actually doing the installation. We felt that we were very much about the business. In 2003 I want to say CEA at that time now CTA took over para and it became the retail division of their organization. It has kind of, they still have a retail organization within I believe within CTA, but it doesn't really quite have the vibrancy that it had back in the day. I mean, I think a lot of the buying groups actually tried to imitate the PARA conference, which I'm very flattered that they do. But that is kind of what happened. The buying groups became more popular and I actually have worked for several buying groups. And what I realized is that selling money is a lot easier than selling education. So people getting money through the buying groups was a lot easier than getting them to come to a conference where they might learn how to run their businesses better.

Ron:  I'm in a few buying groups as you know, well, I say I, One Firefly, we're currently in Azione and Pro Source and you know, when I talk to integrators about either joining a group, those two groups or HTSA or something else, you know, I agree with you that talking about simply benefiting from the buying power of that group and getting a couple of dollars back, that's a no brainer. That often pays for itself. But then of course, what they should come for is the education and the comradery, really the interaction and the learning from their peers.

Jeannette: Right. I mean, when I was at Magnolia Hi-Fi, I could go to a PARA conference and sit next to someone who's doing, you know, 1 million bucks a year and I would learn something. PARA was also really integral in helping the retail community move into custom installation cause that was a big transition and those of us who were sort of used to just moving a box across the counter and saying thank you very much, have a nice day. All of a sudden had to really get into project management and figure out how to serve that customer over time. And that was a little challenging. So but I think PARA still kind of needed, I think if PARA had been here during the recession, there would have been courses on like how to be 40% down and still be profitable. But the buying groups are answering those questions for the dealers now. And I really do think the buying groups are very valuable. I've worked for Home Entertainment Source. I started specialty electronics nationwide. You need to be able to talk to your peers. You're not, there's a lot of people out there who have the same problems that you have or maybe have solutions for the problems that you have. So staying informed and being part of the community is really important.

Ron:  Now at one point in your background, you were at a marketing company called Revenue, I think it was based out of Chicago, is that correct?

Jeannette: Yes. I was at Revenue for about a year. I was very excited to go there because having worked at PARA, I knew the power of marketing. PARA was the last time there was actually automated marketing but it was a paper based marketing. So we worked with Fidelity, Molly Gibson and created catalogs and newsletters so that our dealers could stay in touch with their customers. And then there was obviously a big shift from doing paper based marketing to doing internet based marketing. And although we're very technical people it, I think it became challenging for some people in this industry to really understand how to reach out to their customers. I learned a lot at revenue. And I do think it's very important because we do work with the early adopter and they're always early adopting. That's why they keep coming back to us, right? So if you're not staying in touch with them on some level, you're going to lose them. They'll go buy whatever the Tesla is or you know, the newest kayak or whatever. You know, people have a shorter attention span these days, so you really kind of need to message them in a way that answers their questions and keeps them informed.

Ron:  Now today you are at a company called Transformative Engineering and you are their VP of Sales. Can you tell my audience a little bit about that company and your role at the company?

Jeannette: It's very interesting. Jay Trevor is the gentleman who founded the company. He's President of the company. He's a serial entrepreneur, which is really exciting. His first company was the Service Bench and he was the national servicer for Harman, Luxury Pioneer, Pioneer Elite. He's also an engineer. And he told me once that when he was like five years old, he was repairing everybody's bicycle in the neighborhood. So he likes to make things work. His latest company, which I'm at his last company, but his second company was Home Theater Concepts, which evolved out of the service bench cause he found that not everybody wanted to have their goods repaired. They sometimes wanted to replace them. So Home Theater Concepts started in 1980. And it's still a flourishing CI, you know, they do commercial and residential, which means he's also very close to the installation. So he sees what goes on on a daily basis. He started Transformative Engineering eight, nine or 10 years ago. Out of his frustration with products that just didn't work. Our first product was an Omni bail-in, which really took care of the fact that when you went to the job site, you went, evidently had the bailing on the truck, which meant you had to drive back to whatever or, and get another one. So he created a bail-in. What's worked for every application. Then he really got into it when HDMI came to the forefront. And if HDMI really worked, we wouldn't have a company.

Ron:  So Transformative Engineering is primarily today focused on HDMI products or distribution or what's the nature of the company?

Jeannette: We are very focused on HDMI. We are also still focused on balance and switchers. We are about making things work the way I kind of put it is, we compete against your labor. If you have the right tool fixer or whatever it is in your truck, you can get out of there earlier. If you call our company, every single person there, with the exception of me has been an installer is an installer or is an engineer. So it's a very technically based company. But also if you call, you're talking to another installer. So our technical support lines are answered by people who had been in the field and who understand what it's like to be, you know, 4:30 Friday afternoon looking at the wheel of death on the screen that you're trying to get operational.

Ron:  So does the do dealers or resellers that you set up, do they buy directly from Transformative or do they buy through distribution or what's the go to market strategy?

Jeannette: We have a little of both. We're trying to navigate that right now. Initially we were in some larger distributors and we have a story and when we're in a larger distributor, we kind of get lost. I mean, it's like the independent channel. You have a story and the story needs to be told. And you know, one of the pieces that we have going on to some degree is that we are shadowed by the Amazons and by the Best Buys. So getting that individual message out is critical.

Ron:  So in the world of HDMI and I'm going to just show my audience how dumb or ignorant I am on the subject. I sat through one at the tech and business summit where you and I saw each other, Jeanette, just recently down in Fort Lauderdale. I sat through Jeff Picacho yeah. Am I saying his name right? Yeah, I sat through his HDMI class and it was like maybe a 90 minute class. I swear he had way surpassed my knowledge of HDMI within the maybe the first five minutes. And it was scary for me, it just seemed the way he presented and it seems like it's the wild Wild West out there in terms of protocols and who's doing what and standards. I mean how is that the case that I read that wrong and if so, how do you guys handle that?

Jeannette: No, you're absolutely right. I too sat in that class and I was wildly taking notes and finally Jeff said, Jeanette, you don't have to take notes. I'll send you the PowerPoint, which was a little embarrassing.

Ron:  My highlight was I actually stood next to him and I got a good selfie with Jeff and I posted on the One Firefly page. So if you guys scroll down this page, you'll see a picture of me and Jeff hanging out. I actually walked out of the class 30 minutes in cause it was way beyond my technical aptitude.

Jeannette: Well he's a great guy. His company is DPL, which is Digital Projection Labs. And what he does is he tests equipment and if it gets his approval, you know, it's bulletproof. We actually just got the DPL approval for our 4K HDMI HD based T extenders. He ran our product for 36 hours and had no errors. We're really excited about that. Evidently four errors in one given second will break the handshake, the HDMI handshake. So having it bulletproof for 36 hours says a lot about our technology. Because we are a custom installation company, we do our big testing in Massachusetts. We don't make you our beta test site. So we're really thrilled that Jeff gave us that or we earned that accolade. And there's only like five companies right now that have that seal of approval for full 4K, 18 gigabytes, 60 Hertz, four four four. I can go on and on and on and I don't even know that much.

Ron:  I'm assuming some of those listening or their interest is peaked on this subject. How could they specifically learn what the product lineup is from Transformative Engineering? Do they go to the website? Do they go to a sales rep? What's the right procedure there? Do they go to you?

Jeannette: They can call me. I'm very happy to talk about it. Jonathan, who is our technical support in Massachusetts is brilliant and he's almost like Jeff. I mean, I don't understand 30% of what he says. And really, when I got there last August, I didn't understand anything he said. I just took notes and took notes and took notes. And the other thing I found, which was kind of interesting, I tried not to burden Jonathan too much with my learning curve. So I went online to try to learn. And every time I went back to him was something that I learned online. It was wrong. So the information out there about HDMI is, it's iffy. It really is. So unless you listened to a Jeff Picacho or Jonathan Ralston, you're probably not getting good information and it changes. I mean, we've already announced 8K and you know, a higher bandwidth that we're going to need for the next round of, next generation of TVs and the stuff isn't even here yet. So we shoot ourselves in the foot a lot because we bring up technologies that don't exist yet. Preventing our existing customers from buying the stuff that we actually have in stock.

"All the big players seem to now be involved in voice and they're coming at the consumer hard with advertising and promotion around the idea of controlling your home with voice and integrators."

Ron:  And folks that are out there listening, Jeanette did just offer up her to have to call her if you have questions about their products. When I finish, when we wrap up the show here and we'll make sure to have Jeanette go through all of the ways to reach out to her, her email, website, phone number, and then I'll also put that down in the comment section on the show. By the way, if you are out there and you're live with us please again, like the content here that helps us get the organic algorithm working there with Mr Zuckerberg's Facebook machine and in the interwebs. And if you have any questions for Jeanette, by the way, please post those questions as well and I'll do my best to catch them and read them off to Jeanette. So, Jeanette, I wanna change course here just for a minute or maybe a few minutes. And just kind of get your read on some actions that I'm seeing happen in the industry. One is kind of the big boom, the big activity around voice. So you have, you know, everybody, all the big players seem to now be involved in voice and they're coming at the consumer hard with advertising and promotion around, you know, the idea of controlling your home with voice and integrators. I've sat through some panel discussions you know quite a bit this Spring where integrators are trying to figure out how to deal with it because the customer is demanding it, but yet they're not often making money and, or they're having to service it and it's kind of creating some hairy situations. So what's your read on the climate? What's happening out there in terms of voice and do you think there's a winner yet in terms of who has the best stuff?

Jeannette: I can't really say who has the best stuff cause I think the landscape changes all the time. You know, when you see Amazon right now, I would say they are the most popular. I mean my 83-year-old mother has Alexa in her house and she just loves it. So it's here to stay. It's not going away, which means we need to figure out ways to work with it. We're actually coming out with a new product that should be around in about 60 days. It's the PSB1, which is Powered Stereo Bail-In One. And it is available that allows you to hook the output of a echo or dot headphone output to the stereo that may be down in the basement. It's an extender which allows that signal, including the electrical signal run to the Dot and therefore integrate the Dot into your system. So that's a very powerful way to control what's going on in your house. It will also control your..

Ron:  So help me understand how that works. If you do that configuration you just described, what's my experience now in that room? What, what do I, how do I use it?

Jeannette: Okay. So what you have is your dot and it's sitting on your kitchen counter or whatever. Right now you have this hideous wallboard that is attached to it, which is somehow, you know put into an outlet in your kitchen. What we do now is we have the very elegant stereo bail-in and it has an output, which is the same output of the wall work connection. And then it also has an output from the Echo Dot, which is a mini plug. It goes into the bail in, and then you can run cat five to wherever the system is residing. At the end of that cat five is another bail in, which goes to the amplifier or a system that's down in the basement or in your rack or whatever. And that one is now plugged into the wall wart that was so hideous up in the kitchen that's now very down in the basement. The cat five also will carry the five 5.2 5.3 whatever voltage to the Echo Dot. So now you're not having to deal with that.

Ron:  So you've removed the dot down into a closet and now you've got an attractive piece of hardware.

Jeannette: No, the DOT's still up there. So you're still using your Dot, you're still talking to Alexa. But what you've done now is you've moved the power down to the basement and you've now connected the Dot to your Hi-Fi system, home theater system. So you can command your Dot through your system. So it's now integrated. So if you want the Dot to play Pandora, it'll play Pandora through your system.

Ron:  I got it. And the microphone is still the Dot microphone.

Jeannette: Absolutely.

Ron:  Okay. And is that, the Alexa is the Dot. So does that also work with Google's thing or Google Home?

Jeannette: There has to be a stereo output from the device. I do not believe Google Home has that. Alexa does have that. So there does have to be a stair, there has to be some kind of headphone out that would attach itself to the system.

Ron:  Okay. Understood. So the Dot, I don't have, I know many, maybe some of our audience would go, Oh no, he doesn't have one. I've been slow to that game of putting an active microphone in my house, although I know I shouldn't resist and I should comply. But I haven't done that yet, but maybe, I know most of my staff, I've given most of my staff gifts of Echo or of Alexas and, or Dots over the last few years. But I don't have one yet. Do you have one in your house?

Jeannette: I do not have one in my house, but we have many of them back in Norwood, Massachusetts that we are testing our products with. So it's here to stay. I feel a little bit the way you do. I own privacy and I don't need something listening to me 24/7, although I do know that, you know, my phone tells everybody where I am anyway, but I'm not ready to like have my everything listened to.

"It's a generational thing too. Some people are the early adopters and they want the newest thing and it is pretty amazing.. the younger generation, that's going to be their normal."

Ron:  Yeah, I know. I don't want to say I'm a skeptic. I'm just, you know, I think it's a generational thing too. Some people are the early adopters and they want the newest thing and it is pretty amazing. The technology and or there's maybe the younger generation that that's going to be their normal.

"Aging in place is a big market for all of us. And having your Alexa Dot turn off your lights or whatever is going to be important just to be able to say, turn off the lights."

Jeannette: Right? The millennials, I can't talk this morning. The millennials are obviously, they don't really care much about privacy. They have everything out on Facebook and Instagram and you know, that they are very liberal about what they're willing to share with the general population. I come from a different generation where we tend to keep things a little more private, but each to their own, it's not going away. And as like my 83-year-old mother loves hers. And I think as we get older, the Boomer generation anyway, we're going to want these devices cause it'll help us stay in our homes. And you know, the aging in place is a big, big market for all of us. And having your Alexa Dot turn off your lights or whatever is going to be important just to be able to say, turn off the lights.

Ron:  Yeah. No, I agree 100%. I want to switch gears again. You've been in sales and marketing for much of your career. What observations do you have about some of the listeners that are listening to us banter back and forth in terms of business owners or people in management of these integration firms as it relates to the topic of marketing? And, you know, I'd be curious on your vantage, are they doing it right now or what could or should they be doing differently that would perhaps make them better?

"Messaging your customer is very important. Consistency is as well."

Jeannette: I think messaging your customer is very important. Consistency is as well. I mean, Ron, I'm really proud of you that you pull this off every week and RC you're on Calamus out in front of people every week. It's a hard thing to do to that, maintain that kind of consistency. But as I said earlier, we do sell to the early adopter and if you're not messaging them, they're going to go buy somewhere else. We also sell really cool shit, excuse my language, really cool stuff. And people want to know, you know, what is going on with the next generation of HDMI. How do you integrate that Echo Dot? The technology is not going to get easier. It actually still gets more confusing. I don't even know how someone buys a TV in Costco and goes home and hooks it up. And I think studies have shown, actually, in many cases, they aren't looking it up properly. So we're very important in that food chain and keeping your customers informed, messaging them, having the right website. I mean, the website right now actually is your business card, you know, and actually I'm funny that no one carries their business cards anymore anyway, but that's another story, right? I know you go to these tech summits, which I've been going to as well, Ron, and you ask people for their business card and I just ended up taking pictures of their badges.

Ron:  I know it's almost comedic how often we're there when we're there as vendors, as in a lead generation capacity and they don't have business cards. I'm like, how do you come to a show and not have the ability to hand out your damn business card? That's crazy. So if you're listening to this and you go to a show, make sure you bring your business cards please. Us vendors, we appreciate it. We spend hard-earned money and time to be there to meet you. So, right.

Jeannette: I couldn't agree more. No business cards I think are still important, although I mean you can transfer it via electronics as well. So we live in a digital world, but there's still, I still like paper, so but no, I really do think messaging your consumers and having the right content is critical.

Ron:  What does it mean to you messaging your consumers? Like can you break that down a little bit more? You know, if you're a CI, I've got an eight or a ten man CI business listening to us talk and you're telling him to, you know, message his customer, what are you advising that he should or could be doing?

Jeannette: Email is very powerful. I learned that at Revenue. There's a couple of things I would say if you're going to send email, you should send it from the CEO, President of the company. The open rate is significantly higher. So if your name is John Doe and you have a HiFi company called Audio Concepts, sending it from John Doe at Audio Concepts will get you much higher open rate than sending it as you know, service from Audio Concepts or info from Audio Concepts. People still want the personal touch. And that's why I think blogs are also really important because that needs to reflect some of your personality. You know, I'm on a lot of newsletters for people in this industry, for companies in this industry like you and a lot of the blogs are really great and it's content and it's sounding like yourself. It's sounding authentic. It's an overview.

Ron:  You were with Revenue, you were actually doing Revenue, had an email product to the industry. I've heard many good things about that product. And when you ended that product, I actually picked up a lot of business. But you were very good and you had a great voice. Can you give some tips or recommendations on kinda when you were writing that content and then I believe the way that product worked, integrators could, you know, put their name on it and it would be sent out similar maybe to Frank White's product that he does today. He writes a piece of content and then you know, dealers can white label that content, send that out to their lists. His business, if you're out there listening is called Weld. It'W called weld. I mentioned it here, so I'll put it down in the comment section. So if you're looking for it, but what was your take when you were going to write and you knew that you'd have hundreds of integrators that were going to be representing this as their message to their customer. How would you go about tackling that?

Jeannette: Well, the first thing I would do is not buy an email list. The open rate on purchased email lists is very, very low. Just because someone bought a Tesla, for example, it doesn't mean that they actually want to buy something from you. So the wealthy is not, buying zip codes I don't think is really a profit.

Ron:  Well let's make the assumption they have a list. It's their customer base. Right? Specifically, you Jeanette were writing content that went out on behalf of the integrator. How should someone draft content that their customer would want to read?

Jeannette: Well, it was kind of challenging and I don't want to say bad things about Revenue, but when I got there, a lot of the content was like, you know pick up your Bluetooth from our company. We don't sell Bluetooth headphones or anything for the most part anyway. It was very retail-oriented, you know, dads and grads. What do you buy them? What do you put in your Christmas stocking? So I really had to kind of reshape the messaging to talk more about, you know, why you would want outdoor lighting, why you would want whole-house music. You know, why you want 7.1 7.2 channels. So the content changed. Revenue was a little bit bizarre in that when I was there, they would either only let me talk to installers or let me talk to manufacturers. They didn't realize that this was a community. It's an ecosystem and we all need to work together. You know, people don't know our brands. I mean if you say, you know, Kaleidsescape to someone, they have no idea of what that is. So the manufacturing community needs you to get their name out as well and you're the front line. You're the one that's actually touching these people. So relying on your manufacturers for content and for you know, monetary assistance is a good thing. The difficulty in many cases with digital marketing is finding the ROI, being able to prove the ROI. But when I was working at Revenue, we had dealers who had organic email lists, which means it was their own customer and their open rates were 35 to 40%. No matter what they sent, they didn't matter. People just wanted to hear that gentleman's voice or woman's voice.

Ron:  What are you seeing in your current role as you guys look forward into the crystal ball of the economy? How many? And right now our industry is at an all time high, or at least for the last several decades we're at an all time high and you know, the industry is very happy. Many integrators are doing very well. Many manufacturers are doing very well. How many more months or years do you see that we have that in front of us?

Jeannette: Well, I'm not an economist, so it's kind of hard to say. Things are very good right now. And I always say make hay when the sun shines. I talked to some integrators who tell me that their biggest barrier to success right now is they don't have enough people. You know, when the recession hit, we let a lot of good people go and some of them haven't come back. So I was talking to one integrator on southeast and he said if he had one or two more installers, he could actually double his business. But he couldn't find anyone. So our biggest obstacle right now is finding qualified people to work in our companies. So that said you know, who knows, the stock market is an all time high and often that's a bubble. So I don't know if we're on a bubble right now, but I would say make hay while the sun shines. If you can't go hire someone.

"It's this catch 22 because they don't, these businesses often don't want to grow too fast if the economy isn't booming. Cause now you're carrying a lot of overhead. But at the same time when the economy starts booming, it's hard to grow quality staff."

Ron:  Yeah, I hear the concern around hiring you know, within the industry and it's this catch 22 because they don't, these businesses often don't want to grow too fast if the economy isn't booming. Cause now you're carrying a lot of overhead. But at the same time when the economy starts booming, you know, it's hard to grow quality staff. So you know, your bottleneck is that that staffing level, and I have heard that issue now for several years and I frankly don't see a solution. I think you can only get so much business done based on your ability to perform the work unless you're maybe acquiring other businesses. I mean, I don't know. I think it's a big challenge.

Jeannette: Well, I have seen people acquire, for example, small electrical companies and small security companies and they've done very well. There may be a one or two man security company out there that knows something about installation that would be a viable solution for your company. But I do see, I agree with you. Finding the right people is very challenging, but we can train them. I always say, look for the sparkle in the eye. If the person has that sparkle in the eye, you can train them. You cannot train the sparkle in the eye. You know, Babe Ruth is Babe Ruth. You can't train someone to be Babe Ruth.

Ron:  That's right. That's very good wisdom. Jeanette in terms of your business and if folks are listening and they want to learn more about Transformative Engineering or they just want to chat with you further about any of the topics that we've raised here, what's the best way for our audience to get in touch with you?

Jeannette: Well, I work out of a home office. I'm virtual, like I'm really not even here right now. My home office number is (949) 369-7670. Our company is based in Norwood, Massachusetts. And the phone number there is (781), I can't see anything.

Ron:  No, that's okay. What is the website for transformative? I'm going to put it into the show notes here.

Jeannette: It's transformative and our phone number is, since nobody needs to remember phone numbers anymore because it just hit a button on your phone. It's seven (781) 769-6410 that's (781) 769-6410. And as I said, if you call there you'll get another installer, a fellow installer who knows what you're doing and they want nothing more than to help you get through that installation so that you are successful at the end of the day.

Ron:  Awesome. And where will you be next? Jeanette are you going to, I know there are more of these tech and business summits coming up. Are you going to be attending some of those other events?

Jeannette: We've attended all so far. I believe we're going to Michigan, which is the next one. I plan to be at InfoComm next week and I'm assuming a lot of you will be there as well. For me, it's a drive to Las Vegas, which is okay. Little bit of get the cobwebs out time in the car, which is good. But we're busy. You know, we travel, we'll be at CEDIA obviously. So you know, keep in touch, call us. We love to talk to installers. There's nothing I enjoy more actually than talking to dealers and I've been very fortunate to be having done that for most of my life. I mean, at PARA I would call everybody four or five times a year and talk. You know, we're all people doing business with people. We all have personalities. It's fun. We're all in this crazy business for one reason or another.

Ron:  I know it's funny. People get in and then they never get out. They just don't know..

Jeannette: The passion I think

Ron:  It's a passion for helping people. I know that's what keeps me here. Well Jeanette, thank you very much for carving out. Can you believe it? We've been on here for 40 minutes?

Jeannette: Wow. You're right.

Ron:  You blink and you know there's almost an hour. So thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule and spending it with my audience and I.

Jeannette: Okay. Well thank you very much Ron. And good work everybody go out there and get it. Just do it in the words of Nike. Just do it.

Ron:  Yeah, let's do it. Alright gang, that was episode 45. We had Jeanette Howe from Transformative Engineering. She's a rock star in the industry. She's been around, she knows people, she knows stuff. And I was honored to have her on the show and spend a little bit of time with us. And thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show. We've got lots of fun, exciting guests coming and you know, to stay tuned on our Facebook page for those announcements. And I will see you on the flip side. Thanks so much.

Show Notes

Jeannette Howe is Vice President of Transformative Engineering, which designs, manufactures and sells a very focused line of audio, video and data communications devices including HDBaseT extenders, switchers and baluns that are essential elements in the construction of high-end residential and commercial entertainment systems. Previously, Ms. Howe held positions with Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN, now HTSN), Home Entertainment Source, and the Professional AudioVideo Retailers Association (PARA). Early in her career Ms. Howe was the Audio Buyer at Magnolia Hi-Fi and she worked at Tweeter in a variety of positions including Audio Buyer and ”Swill Master.” Jeannette brings a wealth of industry and marketing knowledge from her time in these roles.

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.

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