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Automation Unplugged

Automation Unplugged is a Facebook Live show recorded weekly with our host Ron Callis, Owner and CEO of the digital marketing agency, One Firefly. In each Automation Unplugged episode, Ron speaks with leading industry personalities and technology professionals to discuss all things business development, technology trends, and more. These interviews are designed to help our clients and members of the custom integration industry keep up-to-date with the latest news as well as learn from experts in the field.

Watch Episode #19: an Industry Q&A with Chris Smith

Exploring Company Communication, Creative RMR, and Employee Retention

Watch Episode #19: an Industry Q&A with Chris Smith

In this Automation Unplugged interview, Ron speaks with Chris Smith, VP of Business Development at Cloud9 Smart. Cloud9 Smart is a high-end integration firm located in New York City. Watch the interview to learn Chris' tips on running a successful technology business through solid employee retention practices, RMR, streamlined operations, and more.

About Chris Smith

Chris Smith got a crash course in Sales at 17, running an inside sales program for a tool company. It was here he learned that if you out-hustled the competition in service and support you could win their business no matter the age. He broke into the AV industry pulling wires and getting certified programming home automation systems. After studying Sociology in Santa Barbara, California he moved to Boston to join Bowers & Willkins as a National Trainer before being promoted to Regional Sales Manager. When McIntosh Labs took interest he managed a sales team for them, and during their merger into World of McIntosh served as advisor, led the merging of sales teams, and oversaw the ambitious build-out of the WOM Townhouse in Soho. Working closely with Cloud9 on this project he decided to relocate to NYC permanently and join the Cloud9 team as VP of Business Development. In his spare time he likes to run, with 3 half and 1 full marathon in the queue this year.


Interview Recap

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

  • Chris' background on the manufacturer side
  • His role in the rollout of Slack for Azione Unlimited
  • His role on Azione Unlimited's Advisory Board
  • How Cloud9 Smart gets creative with transportation in Manhattan
  • Effective employee retention practices
  • The multiple avenues for RMR
  • Marketing strategies
  • And more

Watch Episode #17 and #18: an Industry Q&A with Josh Christian

Forming clear standards for the AV and automation industry

Watch Episode #17 and #18: an Industry Q&A with Josh Christian

In this Automation Unplugged interview, Ron speaks with Josh Christian, Director of Certification at Home Technology Assocation. The HTA is a newly formed certification body for custom integrators, providing clear standards for integrators and helping homeowners and trade professionals find the best technology experts in their area.

About Josh Christian

Josh has been a technology enthusiast since a young boy, working hard to earn straight A's as a 6th grade student so he could get the loudspeakers and turntable he wanted so badly. Straight A's were earned, the new stereo was earned, and he has never looked back!

Josh's first job in the electronics industry was as a salesperson at what was then called Wilshire TV & Stereo, now called Wilshire Media Systems in Thousand Oaks, CA in 1995. Josh joined custom installation company DSI Entertainment Systems in late 1998, where he helped the firm grow into one of the largest custom AV installation, home theater, and home automation companies until it was folded into VIA International in 2013. In May 2015 Josh joined Axiom Design, a low-voltage technology consultant specializing in the design and engineering of home technology systems.

Josh is an experienced educator, teaching at the annual CEDIA Expo from 2002 to 2006 and delivering several dozen industry outreach presentations to some of the top architects, general contractors, and interior designers in the USA. In serving in several different roles, as a technology salesperson, a marketing specialist to the design & build trades, an industry outreach liaison, and as a technology consultant, Josh brings years of experience and perspective to the Home Technology Association. Josh's goal has always been to deliver exceptional technology experiences to clients, and in his role as Director of Certification for the HTA, he gets to expand on that goal as he identifies the top home technology installation firms and brings them the recognition they so badly deserve.


Interview Recap

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

  • Josh's background in the AV industry
  • The response to HTA's public launch
  • The big names on HTA's board of advisors
  • Why HTA formed
  • HTA's goals for the industry
  • The value of HTA to integrators, manufacturers, homeowners, and trade professionals
  • Details on the certification process and requirements
  • And more

Watch Episode #16: an Industry Q&A Session with Ryan Heine

Exploring the Impact of Hurricane Harvey

Watch Episode #16: an Industry Q&A Session with Ryan Heine

In this Automation Unplugged interview, Ron speaks with Ryan Heine, Director of Business Development at Refined Systems, LLC, a Houston, TX based integration firm. They discuss the effects of Hurricane Harvey on the Houston market, active recovery efforts underway, and the recent CEDIA 2017 Expo.

About Ryan Heine

Ryan Heine is the Director of Business Development at Refined Systems, LLC. Refined Systems, LLC is a premium provider of residential and commercial audio/video and automation systems including audio and video distribution, home theater, lighting fixtures and control, motorized shade and drapery treatments and control, video conferencing solutions, acoustics, and sound masking, among many others. We work closely with the customer, architect, builder and designer to integrate technology that is functional, sophisticated and effortless. 


Interview Recap

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

  • How Hurricane Harvey affected clients and AV businesses throughout the Houston area
  • How AV businesses could better prepare for natural disasters
  • How to get involved with relief efforts
  • Refined Systems' take on CEDIA 2017
  • Ryan's favorite hobby: improv!
  • And more

Watch Episode #13: an Industry Q&A Session with Richard Glikes

A Glimpse into the Benefits of Buying Groups

Watch Episode #13: an Industry Q&A Session with Richard Glikes

In this Automation Unplugged episode, Ron Callis interviewed Richard Glikes, president of Azione Unlimited. Azione Unlimited is one of the top buying groups for CE and CI professionals. Richard and Ron talked about the advantages of joining a buying group and what's coming up at CEDIA and the Azione Fall conference.

About Richard Glikes

Richard Glikes is the President and Founder of Azione Unlimited, a consortium of like-minded dealers, customer retailers, integrators, and vendors. Richard has more than 40 years of experience in the custom integration business, with roles at Wall to Wall Sound, Hi Fi House, Bryn Mawr Stereo, Tops Appliance City, and HTSA..


Interview Recap

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

  • Richard's reasoning for starting Azione Unlimited
  • What Azione Unlimited has to offer integrators
  • The biggest mistakes Richard sees integrators making
  • What at CEDIA has Richard excited
  • What to expect at the Azione Fall conference

Watch Episode #12: an Industry Q&A Session with Greg Simmons

Buyouts, Builder Programs, and Security RMR

Watch Episode #12: an Industry Q&A Session with Greg Simmons

In this Automation Unplugged episode, Ron Callis interviewed Greg Simmons, Co-Owner and Vice President at Eagle Sentry. Eagle Sentry is the 27th largest integrator in the CEPro 100. During the interview, Ron and Greg discussed best practices regarding RMR through security monitoring, reaching out to builders, Eagle Sentry's role in the smart home design for Indy racecar driver Alex Tagliani, and the process of doing a leveraged buyout.

About Greg Simmons

Greg Simmons started in the security industry as a central station operator for Eagle Sentry in 1989. He managed the central station for two years before being promoted to sales. While attending college full time, Greg sold security systems for 5 years before performing a leveraged buyout with his business partner of Eagle Sentry in 1996. He helped build the company as business development and sales director into a full systems integration company doing over 14 million in annual sales. He still holds the same position today, as well as presiding as the Nevada Security Association President. Greg is an active member of CEDIA. Eagle Sentry is currently listed as the 27th largest integrator in the CEPro 100.

Follow Greg: Twitter | LinkedIn


Interview Recap

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

  • How Greg got started in the AV industry
  • His role at Eagle Sentry
  • The process of doing a leveraged buyout of Eagle Sentry's existing ownership
  • Security RMR
  • Builder programs
  • The smart home design for Indy racecar driver Alex Tagliani
  • What's coming up at CEDIA

Watch Episode #11: an Industry Q&A Session with Paul Starkey

A Sneak Peak at CEDIA 2017's Top Event

Watch Episode #11: an Industry Q&A Session with Paul Starkey

In this Automation Unplugged episode, Ron Callis interviewed Paul Starkey, CEO of Vital Management and Bravas Group, about the upcoming Queen of Hearts benefit concert at CEDIA 2017. The benefit concert promises to "combine big fun, big surprises and industry support for the major cause of female victims of trafficking through GenerateHope."

The benefit will feature the Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band from Chicago, Creedence Forever; a painting exhibition by Leon Speakers’ president Noah Kaplan; a video experience by GoVision; the honoring of influential women, and other surprises. Proceeds go to GenerateHope, a San Diego 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a safe place for female survivors of sex-trafficking.

The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 7, at Humphries Concerts By The Bay, San Diego. Committed sponsors include Origin Acoustics, SnapAV, Leon Speakers, Women in CT, SurgeX, One Firefly, Cat Toomey and CATalyzing Communications along with numerous industry donors. The event is organized by Vital Management.


To get your tickets to this event, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit https://www.queenofhearts.rocks/