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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 #68: An Industry Q&A With Michael Buckner

Be happy. Love what you do.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Michael Buckner. Recorded live on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Michael Buckner

Michael got his start in the electronics industry 15 years ago selling TV’s at the local Walmart while attending Cherokee High School. Soon after, he moved up to commission sales at Circuit City and Hifi Buys. 

After graduating college, he became a regional trainer for Pioneer Electronics, traveling the country to share his knowledge of consumer electronics. 

After a few years of traveling, in 2006, Audio Intersection was created to bring the knowledge back home, and help local clients make better electronics purchasing decisions. He hasn’t slowed down since. Michael is a certified Control4 programmer.

Interview Recap

Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Michael Buckner

  • The importance of good customer service for integration companies
  • State of the industry in 2019
  • The difficulty in providing simple solutions vs complex solutions
  • How mero CONCEPTS uses color branding and digital marketing to grow their business

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #67: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Joseph Kolchinsky


Ron:  Hello everybody. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. I hope this live feed or recording finds you well been dealing with some super interesting technical challenges last couple of days. So much so that my guest, you can see here with the artwork, Michael Buckner was scheduled to get alive with me on Wednesday, March 13th. And for some of you that were paying attention to the interwebs in the news Facebook had a global outage, right as we were, hopefully Michael and I didn't cause that, but right as we were going live Facebook broke worldwide. I can hear many of you now probably saying that it's our fault and anyway, we weren't able to go live. So we're, we're coming to you live today. And I hope you're having a great Friday. Let me go ahead and there's my name and today is Friday, March 15th. It is about 12:45 PM on this beautiful afternoon here in sunny Florida. And what is going on? Business is great here at One Firefly life is good, super busy, lots going on. I may have caught some of you or maybe you had had a chance to watch the Sonen webinar yesterday where I was a moderator and here in a few days. Actually at the end of this month is going to be the Azione conference out in Florida. And hopefully I'll be able to see some of you there. I am going to just splash up on the screen real quick upcoming lineup here for guests. So here you can see rather than on the 13th, today is the 15th. We have Michael Buckner with Audio Intersection. And we also have integrators really the balance of this month. So we've got Mark from Mero Concepts out of Austin, Texas. And we have Eric Thies out of DSI and another fella joining us here at the end of the month. So an exciting lineup of guests. And without further ado, let me bring in the one and only Mr. Michael Buckner. There we are. There's Michael. Michael, how are you?

Michael: Hey Ron. I'm great. How about yourself?

Ron:  We are persistent, aren't we? We're going to make this interview happen no matter what. That's right. I appreciate your patience as we've been fighting these technology gremlins.

Michael: Yeah, good times.

Ron:  Good times. Do you ever run into technology gremlins out on your projects or does that ever happen to you? Never. Never. Never. Only in my house. Oh yeah. I imagine. And you hear from your, your better half when those happen. Right, right. A mechanic drives a smoking car. I understand. All right. Let me take a look over here. Michael. Let me make sure we are in fact live on Facebook and it looks like we are. And for those of you listening to the recording or the, you're listening to us after the fact on the podcast are you are watching us after the fact. Thanks for watching. You know, if you are listening out there, here, I see Sean is signed in or Sean is watching. He gave us a thumbs up. If you're out there, don't be shy about asking questions or providing comments as we go along here. Those are always super valuable. And at least on the video side, I'll splash those up on the screen and I will also do my best to moderate and read those out as we go. So, Michael some of our audience may not know you. They may have heard of you, but maybe they don't know you personally or know you know, you, your business and your role within Bravas and all sorts of exciting things. So can you give our audience a little bit of your background? I put it in the bios so they're reading it on Facebook. They can read that, but can you kind of give your your own version in your words?

Michael: Yeah. So you know, I think the, probably the first thing that comes out of my mouth when people ask me about my history is that I started taking apart TVs at about nine years old. And it's just like a lot of us as integrators. I was just, I say that I was born into this. Worked since I was 15 years, 16 years old in the electronics industry. Starting with Walmart up in, up and down in the trenches, I've worked at the flea market, putting in car audio. Finally made it through college, worked for a manufacturer, worked for Pioneer, traveled the country work, the CES booths SEMA car show, all kinds of fun stuff in that industry. And as mobile electronics began to dwindle and also working for Pioneer, being the leading manufacturer of plasma panels, the home industry really grabbed hold of me stronger than ever. And I made that transition about 13 years ago. Started Audio Intersection back in Oh six seemed like a great time to start a business, but right before the great recession and we weathered the storm and came out the backside with a process in place. Probably my most proud achievement thus far is that I have a team of men and women that are happy to come to work every day. And that was the most difficult, you know not that making money is not also incredibly difficult, but making money and staying happy, not killing yourselves to get there. And that's where we reside now. Like I say, I'm really happy with my team that I have at audio intersection. Couldn't be more thrilled with daily operations that everybody knows their part and they love coming to work every day. And the greater conversation that has led me to think about working, you know, the old adage, working on your business instead of in your business. And that led me to Steve First and Paul Starkey with Vital Management and subsequently with the broadest group, which we are a network of dealers across the country dedicated to improving ourselves through better business practices. Information sharing. Paul Starkey calls it the open kimono, meaning that there are no secrets. We talk about our business without any reservation whatsoever. It's a very humbling experience because no matter how well any one person thinks that they're doing, there's another category of their business that someone else is doing better at that you can learn from. So it's been a fantastic experience. I am part of their corporate initiative, which is just a group of guys getting together additionally rather than just being business owners within our own local area. But also we formed sort of an umbrella structure to try to eliminate some redundancies across the country, help each other with certain efforts. And I being the marketing director and trying to standardize marketing practices between our members and you know, organize our spend a little bit better. And that's been a great challenge for the past year or so.

Ron:  Question. So you started Audio Intersection in 2006. I see. And I started, you know, what is One Firefly in 2007, you know, so even closer to that Great Recession launch in 2008. I timed it perfectly. And what lessons did you learn having, you know, birthed your business, right? Maybe you had about a good 12 month runway before the crash, you maybe a year, a year and a half, but you, you were able to survive through that. What were some of your takeaways or what were some of the factors maybe that in you being the business you were, that were a result of you starting during that recession?

Michael: So my favorite saying that actually came from a client of mine right in the middle of that time when we were talking about all this. He's a lot older than me. He was in his or is I think 70 ish and he's a business owner, have been very successful over the years. And he looked at me nice and calm and soft in the middle of all the storm. And he said, hey man, this should remind you to always be one man and one van short. And I said, okay. He said, never hire before the business is there. Hire in reaction to the business and you not being able to keep up. And so who cares if you're going through a recession or not, as long as you've got the amount of people that's appropriate to the level of volume that you have. I mean, that's it. And it's all summed up and that sweet little sentence.

"I think it's a testament of fortitude when a business can be created in a hard time ."

Ron:  No, I love that. That's, that is simple and sweet. Yeah. I think it's a testament of fortitude when a business can be created in a hard time like that. And I think those are resilient businesses and business people and business leaders that are able to, you know, survive and then they're well prepared to thrive when markets get better.

Michael: We were so brand new, we had nothing to lose. So it's not, you know, I'm new, you know, on a serious note, there were a lot of good contractors that that had crumbled because they had all these builder relationships that were great. And then one day in 2007, 2008, these guys put their tools down, walked off the job and stopped paying their bills. And you know, I was lucky because I didn't have that huge accounts receivable list that a lot of our fellow integrators did. So you know, that was the other, I'll call it a secret sauce, but it was the secret of being broke.

Ron:  Sure. Now, you also just did dive a little bit deeper. So you, prior to starting your integration from Euro with Pioneer Electronics, was that like on the car audio side of the equation?

Michael: Yeah, so it was, they call it mobile electronics division. So there's M E A G, there's DJ there, there were all these different divisions within Pioneer, but we all got together as a one large company, Pioneer in North America and we'd get together and talk technology. So it was really the best of both worlds. I got to talk about what I was extremely familiar with, which was the car stuff and then got introduced to the plasma technology and boy hated to see those pioneer plasmas go like a lot of people watching this.

Ron:  Those were the 15K a pop and 50 points or they were super profitable. Right?

Michael: And that's it. I thought I was getting such a deal as an employee. I paid like 3,500 bucks for a 50 inch plasma and I look back on that like wow. It's still a beautiful panel though. I bet it's still in the house that I sold it with.

"When I started in the industry as I've said many times on the podcast back in 2000, so I was a young buck out there traveling the country, visiting integrators and visiting their showrooms and just wowed and awed by these, you know, this new plasma television technology that were $15,000, $20,000 to hang on your wall."

Ron:  Oh yeah, for sure. When I was, you know, I started in the industry as I've said many times on the podcast back in 2000 and so I was a young buck out there traveling the country, visiting integrators and visiting their showrooms and just wowed and awed by these, you know, this new plasma television technology that were, you know, $15,000, $20,000 to hang on your wall and now look, you look what you can get for $600. I'm not going to lie. Downstairs in my living room,  I'm a little shy to say this, but I bought a 65 inch beautiful display. I don't think it's, I think, I don't think it's 4K, but it's beautiful image and it was $600 at Costco. It was crazy.

Michael: Yeah. We say, you know, the, the funny, the funny analogy to me is that the command of cars did this, you know, if all of a sudden you could have a four door sedan for $1,000, just because the price erosion was the same as television. I mean, it's just wild.

Ron:  Innovation would be much different than that is for sure. Now, in terms of, and I meant to have this up, but I'll at least well, you know what, I'll throw up your website and maybe you linked to it from your website. Let me put this up on the screen here. One of the things I wanted to mention is that you did just recently have a nice cover story on CE Pro. You had a beautiful project and is there a chance that I can access that through your website here? I was just going to share that with their audience. They may get a kick out of that.

Michael: Boy, isn't that bad marketing being the marketing director and I don't have a link to your wonderful story.

Ron:  Oh no, I'm not trying to call you out. That Audio Intersection, Facebook. I believe I go to Google and, and if I type something in while I get that story, what, what could I type into Google? Let's do it live here.

Michael: Yeah. CE Pro. Michael Buckner. No. Romex.

Ron:  Alright. See this was on purpose Michael, cause we wanted to actually show the world the power of search engine optimization and the power of the Googles. There you go. You got this pretty, I remember reading this and I wanted to make sure I brought this up here. And this from a marketing angle. One is how did you come to have CE Pro actually feature this story? And then can you tell the audience a little bit about that project?

Michael: Sure. So Luma stream was sort of on my radar the very first time they showed up at CEDIA. We're talking about low voltage lighting and I just at the time had a house. So if I were to have done any of it for myself, which I try my best to always be the science laboratory, not my customer's houses. And so it wasn't a fit at the time for me to give it a shot, but I remembered it in the back of my mind that hey, this is a pretty cool category. And basically I'm sorry, I'm watching you scroll to your, I'll try to.

Ron:  Yeah, you can't watch, I'm doing that for the audience. I'm giving them some visuals while you described this project.

Michael: I built this house that you see here and in doing so contacted Luma Streams. Hey look, I am still in the design phases of my home, but I am very interested in doing a low voltage lighting system throughout. I had been hearing on the Pro Source meetings and basically any collaborative meeting with a bunch of integrators, how low voltage lighting was the next big way, but we need to figure it out as soon as possible. So they flew me down. And by the way, I mean a little plug here for Luma Streams paid for the hotel, the training hung out and did their you know, step by step guide on how to put this in your house. It was incredibly simple by the way, instead of pulling Romex to all your can lights you pull at the time it was 18, two with a drain. Now they have this new tuneable system that I didn't properly pre-wire for apparently because you need 18 four with a drain so you can actually change the color temperature. That's right. So now I'm the victim of being an early adopter, but you know, Hey, I think we talked about that Pioneer TV earlier, so not the first time that's happened. But Hey, in all honesty, it doesn't matter because the way that this looks is absolutely completely different than the way it would've looked had I put in high voltage cans with led bulbs. I would still argue a little bit better, even still as there are plenty of high voltage fixtures still that we can buy as like, I don't want to throw names of brands out there, but there are other brands that you can go Romex straight into the fixture and you don't pull the low voltage wiring. I'm not really sure that they can pull off how fancy this really does look.

Ron:  I mean are these lights dimmable?

"What everyone has been saying about these fixtures where the better your lighting is in the home, the better you can sleep."

Michael: They are and they call it logarithmic dimming, which I think is a fancy way of saying that as you walk over to a Lutron keypad, which I have Lutron hallmark system, very normal panel with a handful of high volt fixtures. In fact, kind of funny. They say, Oh, only low voltage. And then right there in that pretty photo is two high voltage fixtures have over my kitchen island. It's almost impossible to do 100% low voltage system. You're going to wind up with a couple of high voltage pieces here and there. Floodlights are another good example of high voltage fixtures that I needed. But the dimming from the Lutron keypad is so smooth and so without any feature loss whatsoever. And the fact that it goes to the 0.1%, it gets as dim as you need instead of no flicker. Like you see, we need to stick a twist and led ball into a high voltage fixture. As you start to go down and dimming the lights start to flicker like, almost like a strobe light, none of that. I have had, I've been in the home now for about eight months and I've had zero issues. Not 99% of the time, but 100% of the time. I mean, they've been absolutely perfect. And as, what's wild is that as the sun goes down and I turned my lights on, I start with sort of a medium-light load. The way that the lights, even though they're not tuneable, as they bright and dim, you notice that they warm up in color as they go down in dimming level. And it's, it absolutely is true. What everyone has been saying about these fixtures where the better your lighting is in the home, the better you can sleep. The more your body is not staying up because of that blue light that LEDs tend to give off. I moved from a house, we made a couple of hops. I moved into a rental before we moved into this one as I was building and that rental was full of the led bulbs and there was such a huge difference in how quickly I go to sleep. It was a night and day difference when we moved in. It's absolutely true.

Ron:  Now, do you, just, so for everyone watching here, do you use your home as a laboratory where you're bringing new technologies and regularly disrupting your normal method of interacting with tech in your house?

Michael: Absolutely.

Ron:  And if so, kind of how does that dynamic work and how does your spouse appreciate that or not?

Michael: I don't recommend it to anyone, but it's a love. It's a labor of love. Some of the stuff I've been testing lately is really exciting. I guess, yeah, I can say it cause they had it at their booth. There's some stuff coming out soon from Elan with some facial recognition related to their touch screens where now you're going to be able to create a different interface based on who walks up to the touch screen. And that's pretty cool. So I'm hoping to get into that soon. Again, I'm sure my wife's just going to love it.

Ron:  I'm sure just for that, my knowledge is that touch panel from Elan or that UI update is that gonna when it recognizes you, is it delivering you a different UI with your own presets and your own favorites and things like that because it knows who you are?

Michael: So, yeah. So my wife tends to walk up to the screen to see the cameras. Okay. I walk up to the screen to play music. So two totally different things. So now or not now, I mean, I'm getting there but very soon I'll be able to walk up to it and it'll go straight to my Pandora channels. And you know, she'll go straight up to her camera in her face and the same thing's about to be true and I am getting ready. The cameras are going to have intelligence built in them as well, so that when you walk up to the house, it recognizes you and it can go ahead and create scenes, make lights and whatever it is. Like I'm a heavy metal fan, my wife just loves that. So it'll come on to my hard rock and if she comes in it'll come on to her other stuff.

Ron:  So speaking of facial recognition with Elan and I'm hearing it first from you. So I guess it's public knowledge, but maybe I wasn't tapped into that or maybe it's not. And you're breaking the news.

Michael: I don't know. I don't think so.

Ron:  If Elan has any issues with this getting out, go to Michael Buckner at, give him your email address.

Michael: This is stuff they had at their booths, so I'm not, I'm not saying anything new and I haven't, I don't have it in my house. I haven't tested it yet, but I'm getting ready to get pretty excited about it.

Ron:  So what if we look at 2019 right? So it's, you know, we're already at nine weeks in 10 weeks into the new year. What are some of the technologies or product categories that have you really excited that you're either, you're already starting to make money selling and promoting or just generally have you excited?

Michael: So the continuation of the fixtures, like the chemistry of stuff we were just talking about. My guys, my sales people are talking about them, they're putting them in houses. I'm really excited about the opportunities, not only in the home but outside the home. I think what I heard stated in a way that I'd never really thought about before. At the lab, one of the several trade shows this past year was low voltage guys are in a unique situation because if we do shades and we do indoor low-voltage fixtures and we do outdoor low-voltage fixtures, we are 100% in control of the way a person is home looks and feels. So we can now tell designers that we are in complete control of the ceiling. For example, the way that everything looks so that we don't have a bunch of ceiling warts everywhere. Or if the cans and the speakers aren't symmetrical with each other because the electrician and the low voltage guy weren't talking to each other. Another example that actually came up that was an opportunity for us is if you sell shades and the customer looks through the shades, they hang them to the window and they say 1% that that light looks great for me. And then we install the shades and then they turn on the light to their bedroom at night and someone else is outside looking in and go, Oh my God, I can see you perfectly fine because it's dark outside and then you're on the inside lit up. It doesn't matter that you have 1% shades. I can still see inside. Well, what's awesome about us as low voltage integrators is we can solve that problem by simply sticking an outdoor light firing up at the window and it will wash the image of you being inside and fix that problem. So to me what's exciting is the fact that low voltage has now gotten around the whole home in a way that gives us more ability to create a custom experience more than we've ever been able to. And if you take that farther, I mean you've got the low voltage fixtures, then you also have us being the only guys really that know how to fix voice recognition for the home, make it work the way it's supposed to. And not just, I'm telling you the weather, but actually, you know, controlling your home with it in a way that's useful and not just to novelty. That's pretty exciting stuff. Facial recognition. It was pretty exciting to me. But in both of those categories, both voice and facial recognition, I'm anxious to start doing this for our customers in a private way instead of using an Amazon Alexa to do it where they're stealing your data or whatever. Recording your conversations, which, and if you don't know, man, holy crap.

Ron:  Before you tell these secrets. Let me just ask you, are you currently selling voice and or are your customers demanding it or requesting it?

Michael: Yeah, I don't think my sales guys and me also, I will include in this, we're not anxious to introduce someone to voice that isn't asking about it so much unless I see a need, like I don't know. Hard to, it's hard to think of something right off the fly, but, but we've had some clients say, what do you think about voice? And we say, well, okay, here's the deal. I mean we can make it do absolutely anything you want to do, but you may want to have to write some things down. Only recently, by the way, and with my house being that science lab, again, I figured out, and if you don't know, go into the routines button of the Amazon Alexa and you can fix one at a time. So it's tedious, but fix the thing where you have to say turn on and turn off to certain things because if you, no matter if you're Control4, Elan, whoever, most of the control systems when you tie it to Alexa require you to say turn on good night, which means, okay, shut down the house. If you go into the routine section of the Amazon Alexa app, you can edit what you say and you can just say, Alexa, good night. And that'll actually shut the whole house down and do what it needs to. Or Alexa, I'm home is the other one that I have now that will turn all the system on and make it, make it do things. So that's nice. But I mean the other thing about the Alexa app is if you dig through the settings, you can actually go in and see your own recordings and what Amazon is recording of you and it will record you if you thought or if it thought, if it is a thing, if the system thinks that you said Alexa maybe. And so it just might be you and your wife talking in the kitchen about this guy who had a Rolex watch and that thing will come up thinking, Oh, did he say Alexa? Maybe. Maybe. And so you get to hear this whole conversation that you and your wife have about some guy you met at work today.

Ron:  And you can replay it?

Michael: Yeah. And delete them luckily. But you have to one at a time. And it's creating these little, these little snippets that are tiny and it's doing hundreds of them and it takes forever to delete them. So it's not something that I think you, me customers, none of us are going to just go in and do that.

Ron:  I'm going to jump to a couple more topics here. 5G when does it impact you as an integrator and when does it impact your customer?

Michael: So we've got a lot of, so we're in North Georgia as much as we're in Atlanta.

Ron:  And by the way, I've got Maggie, she's just posted a comment. She said she's currently right down the street from nice. Hey Maggie. Michael also has a coffee shop. So Maggie, you should stop in and have a coffee at his store.

Michael: So the 5G is gonna make the biggest difference for us, I hope in the rural areas because T-Mobile and Sprint have already, you know, in their attempt to merge have been making it obvious to Congress that what they want to do is use the opportunity of the merger and of the 5G transition at the same time to provide low cost, high speed internet to people that otherwise were outside the fiber loop or whatever. North Georgia speaks to that highly. But because we've got tons of clients that are still getting six to 10 mgs, it's just almost unusable. Internet speeds. And I think 5G getting everybody. I mean that's just like step one. All of a sudden everybody's got a gigabit connection in their home. From there, I mean, oh my God, all the things we can now do in their home because of that connection is limitless. But more so I think what we're going to see with 5G, is all the ancillary devices. Before that we had too much latency to really be relevant, cars talking to each other. I mean, we know that's going to be a big one with autonomy. 5G is going to help with that. Medical treatment. I mean, again, there's so many things we even that's outside of our scope.

Ron:  But when do you see the 5G radio being embedded and or products, and when do you think it works into the lexicon of a normal sales interaction with your customer base? Or is it going to, is there going to be like a point where that happens? Or is it just going to be a slow transition and really no milestone on the calendar?

Michael: So I think it's going to be up to the customer in some respects because some people are fine with their iPhone seven and some people jump and stand in line for the iPhone 10 or 10S whatever. However, I think because there's already going to be so many billions of dollars in infrastructure invested by T-Mobile and everybody else, I mean, every cell company and Dish. By the way, if you didn't know, Charlie the owner or CEO of Dish made it a point to purchase something like 60% of the 5G spectrum. And it's a large, large majority of the spectrum that he has and it's completely unused. But as these guys jump in and offer amazing products, I think the adoption rate is going to be incredible. I mean, we see every new technology, the adoption rate being faster and faster. So whether that was, I mean, it goes all the way back. I mean, when everybody went from CDs to MP3s, the adoption rate was faster than everybody went from tapes to CDs and then from MP3 I'm updating myself right now.

Ron:  Hey man, I remember all my college campus hiking across campus and paying the one kid with a CD burner, 50 bucks to burn a CD of MP3s. And he had this little racket going.

Michael: When MP3 CDs came out and you can stick a hundred songs on one disc. I was like, Oh my God, this is, this is the wave of the future. And then the iPod hit like two months later and I sounded like an idiot. So but hey, iPhones. So satellite radio was another huge example of the cable television took something like 10 years to get into every home. Satellite radio all of a sudden hit 30% penetration within a matter of two, three years iPhones was, everybody had a smartphone within a first year of adoption of blackberries and iPhones. I would see 5G following that kind of pattern. I bet you this time next year we'll be holding a 5G device having this conversation hopefully.

Ron:  So a lot of our listeners are business owners or managers at varying stages from, you know, large sophisticated businesses to, you know, smaller end or you can be small and been in business for 30 years and you can be small and you can be starting up. What's some advice you have for businesses? What's two or three things that you think you've figured out at this point that's really you wish you knew when you started, but you know now what would be a couple of those topics?

Michael: That's a good question. You know, I have a, I have perspective in a couple of different ways. The fact that we're in Bravas group and I get to talk to so many of these guys that are absolutely crushing it with numbers that are way bigger than mine and then guys smaller. You know, be happy, number one. Love what you do. That sounds so cliche, but and I thought it was cliche for years and years. It really wasn't until, I think it was 2014 yeah, five years ago that I really placed a priority on it. Strangely it's a long story, but a tiny little advice, check out this country called Bhutan, B-H-U-T-A-N , fantastic little bitty corner of the world there between Afghanistan, India and China and Tibet. It's a little bitty spot in the Himalayan mountains. They don't pay attention to gross national product which every other country in the world that's, we practically just measure ourselves on how much business we generate as a country. And they don't. They have GNH gross national happiness and they survey their people every year and they try to do better every year on how happy they are in general with life. And on the one hand I'm a libertarian I guess when it comes to government and I think that's kind of crazy to think government's gonna make you happier. But back to your question of what can you do to your business? Profitability comes from happiness as much as it comes from managing your bottom line and looking at all your numbers. I can tout a small strength in comparison when I've been compared to others. One of the strengths of my company is a net operating profit. So we make the most out of the money that comes in. And I think a lot of that is based around the fact that people don't just want a good paycheck. They want to be happy when they get there every day. And so I started focusing on what can I do to make your experience here better? More than just giving you a raise and thinking that well, you need to be happy based on the fact that I just paid you more money than you made last year. And it has made the biggest difference in our culture. I think the guys, your mentality, the way you think about life, the way you think about your people is going to trickle down if you're a business owner. And if you're in a bad mood a lot, your guys are going to be in the bad mood. And when you're happy and you're happy to see your guys, you make basic conversation for a second before they head out for the day. Those little incremental things make such a huge difference. And I'm just thankful I went to that little bitty country. I highly recommend it.

Ron:  So you went there yourself?

Michael: I did. And I mean, it looks just like something out of ACE Ventura, the big long staircase. He walks up and then sits at the top with the Buddhist monks is very much that. It's very, very cool. And I mean, there's not a lot of takeaways. There's not a lot of universal back and forth, but you come back to the US and you're right back in the bubble of being absolutely nothing like Butan except that the takeaway is slow down for a second. Think about your happiness, think about who you are and not just be so focused on the revenue and the revenue will come second. I mean, that's, that's the great benefit is that it's, you still, you're not abandoning, wanting to make money. You're just looking at it from a different angle.

Ron:  No, that's perfect. I appreciate that perspective. One last point that I'd love for you to touch on, and that is just at a high level, I know you're a member of a buying group. I think you're in pro source. There's a bunch of buying groups out there. I think there's nationwide HTSA, ProSource, Azione Unlimited. There might even be some more that I'm not thinking of. You are a member of one. Why are you a member of one and should those that are listening that are not currently in a buying group, should they be in one?

Michael: Well that answer, I'll answer the last question first. Yes, you should be in a buying group. You should be trying to watch your equipment margins as tightly as possible. Hopefully your mixed margins are in the 60s. I don't want to go too deep into the numbers.

Ron:  But as you just said, mixed margins, you might've just lost a bunch of people there.

Michael: Point being hopefully you're selling products that are very profitable level. You're not selling products that are not profitable and or products that are marketing to your customers. Some products out there do, both of those things have crappy margins and they sell to your clientele. After you plug in there, your customers email into their registration. I'm sure most of you know who we're talking about, but you know, I chose ProSource as a sole business decision. It was purely based on my product mix. I wrote down everything that I, every brand that I saw as a priority within my company. Everybody's got a different product mix in their own companies. Mine was a throw a few out there, like Sony television. This was a big deal for us. At the time Control4, we still are, we still sell a good bit of Control4 it and they're in ProSource, Yamaha. I mean, there's a few of them that I just really like ProSource seem to grab most of those. But after being in ProSource, I have to say that I haven't seen the others. I've heard very great things about all of them. They all help you sit down at a round table, talk to other business owners sideways. Think about the business as a game of golf where your competitors don't affect you as much as yourself. You know, it's your own internal struggle that you've got to focus on and not what your competition is doing. I think in this industry and I think no matter which buying group you're in, they're going to do that. ProSource probably some of their strengths is that their member owned. We've actually gotten refunded our membership dues before because we said, hey with everybody's dues in Q1, 2, and 3 that paid the bills. And so there's no dues for Q4. I believe that was last year Q4, for that. So pretty cool. So I really liked ProSource, but I'm also speaking ignorant of the other buying groups. So I would just suggest to anyone that, that the buying group is definitely the answer and you definitely have a great testimonial about ProSource from me, but you know, educate yourself as to which one's right for you based on your product mix.

Ron:  Now you had mentioned, Michael, that you are on the executive team at Bravas and is there any message you want for the audience that's listening just about Bravas? Is that something they should look into? Is that even still in the cards or what would be the ways or what message would you have for those listening as it relates to Bravas?

Michael: Absolutely. You should definitely find out more about Bravas. Simple will give you the basics, but we are a whole lot more than what you can describe in a brochure. You know, you asked the question about, you know, what's the message I have for folks? And I talked about being happy, but secondary to that was definitely Bravas. Steve First and Paul Starkey are visionaries, but they were, they were at two totally different paths of life. Paul was a manufacturer's side of things. Steve was a business consultant. Steve was my business consultant and made a huge difference with the Vital management program. They put in place on all of my numbers helping me figure out what to micromanage cause I'm not really big on micromanaging. I don't want to, but he helps you figure out. Okay, he has this thing, labor revenues per tech. Any, if anybody watching gets these emails from Vital management, they've probably heard that term before. But it's just a quick measure, a quick take of if your sales guys selling enough labor and if your techs are making efficient use of that labor. And little things like that we get to pay attention to and Bravas make hundreds of thousands of dollars of difference in net operating profit for individual companies. I mean, individuals are making hundreds of thousands of dollars more. And as a group I think the latest, I mean, it's in the millions of dollars that us as a group of 15 and there's a larger associate group of 25 or so dealers. We have proven track record of creating millions of more dollars in revenue as a group by sitting down together and going over these metrics that Steve and Paul talk about. And I mean, I just, I can't rave enough about what a difference it's made in my life. I mean Bravas has definitely, definitely changed my life.

Ron:  Well, I think that is a perfect point to end our chat today. Michael I appreciate your perseverance despite Facebook outages on Wednesday and then my streaming softwares outage 10 minutes actually at the moment we were scheduled to go live and you hung in there and you said, Ron, I'll hang out. And so I appreciate your patience and I appreciate you coming on the show.

Michael: Yeah, man, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it as well.

Ron:  Awesome. Michael, if those want those listening or watching want to get in touch with you personally, what is the best way to do that?

Michael: Man, it's easy as can be This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Just like the shirt says.

Ron:  I'm going to stream that across. Let's see if I did this right. Let's see here, Michael. Well, it looks like my keyboard has, there aren't enough technical challenges. My keyboard just died. Wow. There's like this electronic vortex rolling around me here, so I will leave it at that. Guys, you took the audio This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can reach out to Michael directly. And Michael, it was really a pleasure to have you on the show, but I'll be talking to you soon.

Michael: Thank you. Have a good one.

Ron:  All right. But all right folks so there you have it. That was show number 68. We had Michael Buckner on from Audio Intersection. Let me just tell a few pieces of artwork here. Just to let's see if my computer will cooperate. Well, it looks like it will not, so we're going to call it a show then ladies and gentlemen. And thanks so much for listening. All of my devices are going to hell right now. So I hope you're well and I'll see you on the next show. Be well.

Show Notes

Michael kicked off his career in the electronics industry 15 years ago , selling TV’s at the local Walmart while enrolled in high school. Other positions Michael held in the industry included commission sales at Circuit City and Hifi Buys. After graduating college, he became a regional trainer for Pioneer Electronics, traveling the country to share his knowledge of consumer electronics. After a few years of traveling, in 2006, Audio Intersection was created to bring the knowledge back home, and help local clients make better electronics purchasing decisions.

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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