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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.

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Home Automation Unplugged Episode #204: An Industry Q&A with Wade Stephens

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Wade Stephens, Vice-president of sales at DeVance Electronic Lifestyles shares techniques to successfully manage projects affected by supply chain issues.

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #204: An Industry Q&A with Wade Stephens

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Wade Stephens. Recorded live on Monday, February 21st, 2022, at 4:00 pm. EST.

About Wade Stephens

Wade Stephens began his career in the AV industry in 1993 with a small company named Best Buy. He remained in that company for over 13 years during the huge growth of the company, including when Best Buy was named Forbes company of the year in 2004. During that time, Wade was a segment manager for Magnolia HiFi in the Dallas area and was then promoted to Sales Manager to one of the largest revenue producing stores in Texas.  Along the way, Wade expanded his skillset to include many industry certifications like Control4, Crestron, Lutron, and Savant. 

Wade is now the Vice President of Sales with DeVance Electronic Lifestyles which has seen an amazing growth over the last three years. DeVance specializes in residential, commercial, automation, lighting, and lighting control, with a focus on luxury two channel HiFi. Wade works very closely with owners Matt and Dana DeVance daily through the EOS operating system which has helped DeVance grow significantly while continuing to live by their vision to treat customers like family.

Interview Recap

  • Techniques to successfully manage projects affected by supply chain issues
  • How the Entrepreneurial Operating System can benefit a team and its development.
  • How marketing helps drive referral sales

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #203 An Industry Q&A with Blake Urmos

 

Transcript

Ron:  Hello, Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today is Monday, February 21. So, yes, it is an unusual day for us and it is 04:00 a little bit after 04:00 p.m.. Normally we're going live around 12:30 on Wednesday. So I hope you have found us, if you want to watch live and if you're watching in replay, doesn't really matter, we're new for you. So I'm looking over here at my team looking at David. David says we are live on both LinkedIn and Facebook. This is awesome. We will see if technology continues to behave. Automation Unplugged, as always, is brought to you by my day job at One Firefly and exciting news this week: As some of you may know, One Firefly formerly joined the group called NSCA. I'm actually going to be heading off to that conference in Dallas. The irony is my guest lives and his business is based in Dallas, but I'm actually not going to see him. So I'm going to be over at the NSCA conference. But my guest, these folks have actually been on the show before. The owner of DeVance Audio Video, Matt DeVance, was on show 119, back in 2020. So today for show 204, I have Wade Stephens. Wade Stephens is the vice-president of sales at DeVance Electronic Lifestyles there in Dallas. Now, we had some technical issues here in prep. We'll see if technology behaves and if we all stay connected. If not, we'll roll with it and we'll figure it out. But without further Ado, let me bring in Wade and we'll get this party started. Wade, how are you, sir?

Wade: Wonderful, Ron. Thank you so much. And the technology issues were definitely on your side, not mine.

Ron:  Definitely. There's no doubt. Well, my audience that tunes in regularly knows that that is a very common occurrence when you're streaming live and you're doing a podcast that includes a video component that is live, you know that you're always living by the edge of your seat.

Wade: I totally get that. Thank you for having me, by the way.

Ron:  You are welcome. Well, why don't we get you introduced maybe who you are, who you're with and where you guys are located.

Wade: Sure. My name is, as you said, is Wade Stephens in Carrollton, Texas. I live just north of here, just outside of Denton, Texas. Like you said, I'm the vice-president of sales, just in charge of making sure that we're driving as much business to the company as we can. So I have many hats, but that's kind of primarily what I do.

Ron:  In terms of DeVance as a business. What type of projects do you guys do? Just to familiarize our audience.

Wade: Yeah, great question. A couple of years back, I would say that we would just primarily do residential. We've really evolved into commercial, large commercial as well as a lot of two channel high five systems. So we've seen a lot of growth in that as well over the last three years or so.

Ron:  Okay. In terms of your role within DeVance, vice-president of sales, maybe help us understand; what does that hat mean and what are some of the hats and roles and responsibilities there in the business?

Wade: Yeah, primarily, it's my job to kind of look at the overall product, excuse me, not product mix, but the overall mix of business that we have coming in, as well as what we're shooting for. So in some cases, we may be very heavy on the residential side and a little light on the commercial side and my job is to kind of even all that out to make sure that we're very consistent in both routes that we try to go and how we grow our business. But I do a lot of things around here. I manage some sales people that work for us. Make sure the builders are good and make sure they're taken care of, and then obviously talking through with the management team on our EOS process just to make sure that we're making sure that our employees are happy, our customers are happy. At the end of the day, we want to have a good, solid company and I think we've done that so far. Matt's got 20 years on me, so he hired me about three years ago, but I think we've got a fantastic team here at DeVance.

Ron:  No, you guys do. You're one of the best for sure. Take us back in time, tell us where you come from.

Wade: Well, originally I was born in Plano, Texas. I was born in 1975, so that makes me old. And then I remember real quick, Ron, I remember taking a monovcr and discovering that there was an audio output that would allow me to hook it up to a techniques receiver to get audio to come through speakers. Right then and there I was hooked, I kind of grew up playing with toys and really just as a button pusher, as my mom would say. But essentially I moved off to Oklahoma City. I started at Best Buy, back in 93. I remember the first TV that I ever sold was a console TV with a VCR. The consoles, they would put them up so high that I would have to get what they call Big Joe. Those are the people that are listening, know what that is that worked at Best Buy, but the thing was so heavy that I never sold one ever again. I swore to myself, I was just never going to sell it ever again. I've proceeded through Best Buy for the next 13 years, kind of got into the Magnolia realm, started managing stores, and I eventually ended up in the Plano Best Buy, which is, I think it was the third largest revenue generating Best Buy in the nation, where we would have a million dollars sitting on the actual counter of the day after Thanksgiving in cash. After I did that, I kind of got my fill of that, and then I went to the custom side of things where I really started to grow with Crestron and Control4 for Lutron. So I continue to learn every single day. I'm blessed to be working for a company that has that as their core values. We're just having a good time selling stuff that people really don't need.

Ron:  Now in 1993, Best Buy. What was the Best Buy like in 1993? I'm trying to remember.

Wade: Great question.

Ron:  I didn't even know Best Buy was around in 93.

Wade: Yeah, they sure were. They were really struggling, but I got promoted to a supervisor position, and it was the video and photo department. So not only did I have to learn to learn TVs, but I had to learn VCRs, the introduction of DVD players, but also cameras and camcorders. So photography is kind of a hobby of mine, my sister is actually a photographer as well. We like just kind of learning a whole bunch of stuff, but there was no, ¨Hey, you're running a department that does two and a half million dollars and you're 21. Go at it, go for it." But we had a lot of CDs back then, a lot of VDHs tapes. So it was a different world.

Ron:  I remember when I was a kid and I want to say it was in the early 90s, I would go with my dad and my brother. I'm from Virginia, and so the store was called Best. I don't know if that was a national franchise or if that was just a local Southeast Virginia thing.

Wade: I don't think it was affiliated, but it got me through kind of some times in my life where I really kind of didn't know what I wanted to do. But I was like, this is actually kind of fun, so I'll stick with it. Sure enough, I did.

Ron:  At Best Buy, when did the Magnolia division, when did that happen? And did that originate in your market or did it ultimately move to your market?

Wade: It did, I was one of, I think it was three or four stores that rolled out Magnolia. Magnolia Hi Fi was a very successful company out of Seattle, and they sold their business to Best Buy, and Best Buy, in turn, tried to replicate their successes in their stores. That was the first time that I have ever been introduced to training by the actual manufacturers at the time. They were very high-end products, manufacturers that would come in and they would teach you what they knew. It was just a very valuable time. We got to learn just more specific things than you can ever imagine. So it was fantastic.

Ron:  Did you transition from Best Buy to DeVance or was there an intermediary?

Wade: Yeah, it's a good question. I worked for a couple of other AV Integrators, and we all work well together. 2008 kind of hurt a little bit where we took a little step back, but I've always just really gone with companies that were family oriented and really ethically honest. Matt and I have known each other probably about six years now. He and I kind of knew that we would be working together at one time. I'll never forget just having a meeting with him and Dana, his wife, also the owner and my wife. We just kind of knew that Matt and Dana, DeVance was the place that I was going to retire. So we made that transition and really haven't looked back since.

Ron:  So a couple of years ago, I want to say maybe in 2018 or 19, my team and I, a couple of members of my team were in Dallas and we were doing one of our video shoots for our new website product. We stopped by your showroom. You guys were gracious to actually lent us some gear for that video shoot. I remember my team sitting in your theater and, Matt, you had these ginormous, I think they were Macintosh tower speakers.

Wade: That is correct.

Ron:  Are they still there?

Wade: No, they were sold. We have something bigger now.

Ron:  Of course you do. That's why I need to get over there and check them out. But I remember that it was late. It was the end of the day, but Matt still took us in and started playing demo songs. And they were just smiles from ear to ear with my team sitting in that theater for that demo. But that was your old facility. You guys have since designed and moved into something new. Tell us about that. Why did you guys do that?

Wade: Absolutely. Matt, he's really the visionary of our company. Visionary guy, he's the one that kind of comes up with these ideas and then just kind of passes it down to his leadership team to go ahead and execute those. So back then, he introduced us to the idea of actually buying a building, which we did. Two stop signs up the street, so it made moving easy. But we did that primarily to kind of just make sure that we were able to put on the DeVance Lifestyle experience the way it needs to. So as you walk into our showroom, everything is really just first class. We have a fully functioning conference room with Crestron. We have every frame TV kind of in an art pattern. If you want to see it, check out the website. We have a dedicated two channel listening room that's acoustically accurate, so that's kind of a key point. Then we have two bars, which we laugh at all the time. We have a garage door that opens up, so if somebody wants to bring in a vehicle during a Ferrari event or a Bentley event, they're able to do that. Offices upstairs, everything is just a-plus and really we wanted to show the client as they came in what we were all about. We want to make sure that we're able to demonstrate products that are going to work, literally in their home as they go home and have it set up. But not only that, we just needed more space, too. We were just totally out of space with the growth that we've had over the last couple of years. So the team has primarily grown, I think, probably quadrupled in the last three years. So we're very blessed and took for that, obviously. But Matt\s vision really kind of drove that. We love doing what we do here, and it's just really fun. You come to work and have a good time every single day.

Ron:  I've got your website pulled up on the screen. Do you see that? I think you see it.

Wade: I do, yeah.

Ron:  Okay. Chrome does not have permission to capture your screen. Okay. I don't know if I close this if that's going to go away. If you see the screen and you're watching live chat into the comments, let me know that you can see that. But I've got your beautiful website here. Are there pictures of the new space on the site?

Wade: There are, I think if you go to image gallery, there's going to be a link about halfway down. Our friend Kendall out of your team has just updated this so you can kind of see some of the things that we have. One of the ideas around this is for basically for us to be able to really demo things that we sell. Lighting, as you know, has been a huge driver for a lot of business for folks out there. So we introduced the dim to warm lighting where the client has the ability to see a blue light and then a warmer light towards the evening. But again, it just kind of tells people that we're for real. We're not working out at the back of our garage. Not that there's anything wrong with that, because I kind of started in that, but just a place where people can come and just kind of experience some of the best technology in the world.

Ron:  Yeah, this is great. Are these multiple frames?

Wade: They are, yes. And they're all controlled right now by Savant. We also have Control4 and Crestron here. So we really do almost anything when it comes to that.

Ron:  What's your favorite part of the new showroom?

Wade: No doubt about it, it's the Grand Utopia Speakers. These are speakers that sell for $268,000 a pair, and they're driven by a name statement, which you can see right there in the middle. The name statement sells for about $90,000 and has the ability to do about 1800 Watts of consistent power. The reason I like it so much is when I demo it for a client, even though they may not buy it, but it's kind of cool to be able to say, "Hey, you want to listen to some of the best speakers in the world?" We'll sit down, not expecting a lot, and then you turn on their favorite song and immediately there's a smile from here to here. It doesn't really matter if I sell those clients, those speakers, or some other types of speakers. You just kind of reintroduce the love that we should have for audio and good quality audio. So that right there and then just being able to hang out with the team in kind of a cool place to work. When we have our meetings, it's not in a stuffy boardroom. We're sitting around the frame just kind of talking and talking about life, talking about how we can be better. But yeah, so it's a really cool place to work.

Ron:  Now what's the level of completion? It looks done. These pictures look done. Are you guys ready to call it done?

Wade: Yeah. I would say in Matt and Dana's mind it will never be done, but I'm going to say that we are done. We have kind of a reference type theater that we're kind of still messing around with. The theater itself, I believe, if I counted correctly, has 20 subwoofers.

Ron:  20 subwoofers in a single room in the theater?

Wade: Yeah. We have a great relationship with Focal. Focal, the Utopia line. They've got the line array that goes in the wall. So every line array that we did, we did two subwoofers and those are all kind of flushed in the wall. You'll be seeing some pictures here shortly of that space. I think we need to do a movie demo, it's something that the clients never heard and probably never will again. It's just a fantastic system.

Ron:  Big picture Wade, I'm going to ask a sales market question here, okay? Big picture, our industry and I'm going to be specific because I don't know other markets. I'll just say North America, US and Canada are fairly similar. The last two years have been peak levels of demand for what we do on the residential side, commercial has suffered a bit, but on the residential side, peak levels of demand. Certainly having a beautiful venue like this has got to be conducive to bringing in those people that want to see and touch and feel and experience the technology. When you look forward, you and Matt and Dana and team look forward to 22, and I'll call it the early 20s here. What are you guys forecasting in terms of demand as it relates to the Dallas Fort Worth market?

Wade: Oh, wow. That's such a hard question to answer.

Ron:  You can go grab your magic eight ball and give it a shake.

Wade: Yeah, we have a good idea what's coming over the next, at least three quarters. Really the mentality that I have is, it's important to let a client know what's going on because there's some folks out there that think that you can go to the Best Buy and pick up the little AV receiver. That may be true, but getting it all put together has really been a hassle. So I would forecast that it gets worse before it gets better. I do understand that there's some new chip plans opening up here in Texas from TI over the next year or so, so hopefully that will help. But really for my partners out there, just make sure that you're managing expectations when it comes to what you can do, because these days, typically what we would have done back in the day where you wait for all the product to get in and then start the job, now you're having to start the job and then going back to try to finish the job. So it takes a really good team to be able to manage that. I would say that managing a project now is harder than ever, and I think our team does it really well. There's other companies out there that are doing it very well.

Ron:  If you're hit with a price increase from your manufacturers. And I know there's been two or three rounds in the last two years and there's probably going to be more this year. That's what I'm hearing.

Wade: Sure.

Ron:  How do you guys handle that? Is it written into your contracts or do you go back to your clients? And I know a lot of people are leaning in right now eager to hear what you say. Like what's the technique that you guys practice?

Wade: Well, I think it's transparency, making sure that the client knows exactly what's going on. I think a lot of clients are okay with going ahead and making that purchase, knowing that a price increase is coming. If you've been honest and transparent with them, which we have, which also brings, a "where do you store the stuff as it comes in" kind of problem. It's something that we all talk about as a group. There's not really a good answer that I can give you other than tell the client and tell them that, ¨Look, I just got this email, I'm not trying to sell you anything, but you need to know this because we've been talking about you doing this system", and most of them have been "okay, I get it, because my lettuce at the store just went up" or whatever product has been up. So being open and honest with folks is something that I think we're really good at.

Ron:  I did hear in the news. I won't be able to point to an exact source. Maybe David on my team can Google this and drop something into the chat. But I understand that the US government has approved, I think, $50 billion in development towards bringing silicone and chip manufacturing back to the US. Is that the reference to TI, Texas Instruments there in Texas probably being on the receiving side of some of that funding?

Wade: Yeah, that's correct. I've got a couple of folks that I talk to directly with Crestron, and it almost seems, what I'm hearing is that the chips they were selling for $6 a piece and now they're selling for six to eight, and then in some cases 600, which is why cars are having so much problem. But the people that are selling the chips, these are distributors, are holding Crestron and other folks accountable.

Ron:  Hostage.

Wade: Hostage, if you will. So it's a weird time, it really is, because I would say that the client would come to me today for a full conference room, and I would basically tell them it would be three to six months. On the other side, the manufacturers, sometimes they communicate well and sometimes they don't communicate well on what's actually going on. To their credit, they don't know. So we're in a very strange time. So I think if we were to take that money, absolutely it would help. And I look forward to that.

Ron:  Yeah. I think that the good news is we're going to fix it. The bad news, it's going to take years to fix it. Spinning up a chip manufacturing plant is not easy.

Wade: Yeah. You don't just do that overnight, that's for sure.

Ron:  It's not a quick endeavor. All right. Well, to switch gears here, I know that you guys and I even talked to Matt about this back in 2020 when I interviewed him again for those that are tuned in here, I had Matt on the show back on show 119. So anyone that wants to go back and find that. But I know that you guys were implementing EOS, and EOS is the same system that we've been implementing since '19 here at One Firefly, the Entrepreneurs Operating System for those that are not familiar, a system and a methodology kind of really coined by, I think it's Geno Wickman in his book Traction. How are you guys doing with that? And there you go; "What the heck is EOS?" Every member of my team gets that book, by the way. How are you guys doing with that? What's working? What are you excited to tell everyone listening or tuned in about maybe methods or processes that you think are really making a difference in your business?

Wade: Yeah, as a leader, we typically try to develop our associates, and a lot of times what happens is the employee will start off going on a track like this, and they kind of veer off, right? So they veer off and then we got to bring them back in, they veer off. It's a never ending cycle, and EOS helps us not do that. So one of the things that we typically do, just as a religious type thing is literally we follow the rule of the law when it comes to, let's just say, a meeting, like just a traction meeting. So it's very simple to go into a room and then you try to identify what's going on, or you try to talk about performance numbers, and that conversation goes into so many different ways, and it's just like by the time you're done, you're exhausted in a lot of cases. EOS has really helped us to identify what problems that are going on in our business. We discuss them openly and honestly, so there's no punches pulled or anything like that, it's respectful, but we just kind of just throw it out on the table. As you know, I think one of the benefits is that before you kind of leave the meeting, you try to come up with a solution that fixes the problem where you think it's going to fix the problem long term. Now, that's not always the case, and that's okay. But if you have your leadership team on the same page when it comes to the solve, it makes it a lot easier for us as a team to move forward. That's probably the biggest and most impactful thing that we've seen.

Ron:  So it sounds like you're referencing the concept of IDS'ing, and that is Identify, Discuss and Solve. Within that discuss, there often can be disagreement. But I think a part of the EOS belief system, and I'm wondering if you guys have found this to be the case, is that in that discussion, disagreement is healthy, and in fact, it's encouraged because it allows the best ideas to ultimately rise to the top. The concept of a meritocracy can win. Meritocracy is where good ideas win.

Wade: Sure.

Ron:  00:25:33.370 Many people in many businesses, though, aren't comfortable with disagreement, or they aren't used to a culture where disagreement, again, professional courteous disagreement, but where discussion and disagreement happens, how have you guys gone or what have you done to encourage that or really facilitate that?

Wade: Yeah, I think that's a great point. I think in the society we live in today, I think sometimes we just avoid conflict, right? But conflict and debate are two different things. So it's important to note that when you have a debate on something, you've got to be able to take constructive criticism and feedback, and if you can't, then that's just going to be tough on you, you know what I mean? It's important to note that everybody, like our team has incredible passion in what they do, but they also need help just being another set of eyes, just saying, "Hey, here's what I see, what's going on. Let me try to tell you about it. Let me try to discuss it with you." I would say probably 95% of the time our folks here have been honest, but there's 5% of the time, sometimes somebody gets a little hurt and that's okay. We're all people, but the important thing, too, is to take that ideology and roll it down to your team. So what we don't realize a lot of times is our line level folks are people that are in the field or closest to our customer. It's important to flip that pyramid to be able to say, "hey, what's going on out there that you see that might help us?" and that's truly leadership, but I think once you really establish that as a core value for your companies, I think that really will go a long way once you're doing it.

Ron:  Let's just jump on that point, core values. You guys have defined core values. Many listening do not have defined core values. So why do you have them and what do they mean to your business?

Wade: Yeah, that's absolutely critical, I would say. One in particular I bring up is treating our clients like family. When we make these decisions, let's just say you've got a client that may just be a rude, rude person. Well, they may be rude, but if you treat them like your family, are you really going to just tell them just to go away? What I've found is that because Matt and Dana's passion for people and making sure that they're caring about folks just as family, that's really trickled down to everybody, and you'll see it with our staff. You'll see it with the relationships that we have with our clients, where a client will call me and just talk about F One Racing, the final race that was on last couple of months ago. Really, my point is if you have that core value built into your company and you really believe in it, and talk about it. And Matt and Dana have one on one's with all the employees at least once a month just to kind of say, "hey, what's going on? How's your life?" And I think that's extremely addictive. I mean, literally it's like this guy and girl actually care about me as a boss, and it just changes everything. I never worked for a place that had that like we do here.

Ron:  No, it's palpable. It's powerful. By the way, are you guys self implemented? Do you run EOS yourself or do you use an outside facilitator to guide quarterly meetings?

Wade: That's a great question. We've done it ourselves, for those of you that don't do it, I would say having a trainer or a teacher initially might be a good idea just to be able to sit in your meetings, just to be able to kind of give you some feedback on how you're doing. There's been some times that we've kind of gotten off kind of the train, if you will and we've been steered back very quickly when we've all realized, "hey, we're not really on the process we need to be on." But for folks out there that are just starting. I would definitely recommend maybe a couple of training sessions. There are so many trainers out there that are fantastic just to walk you through this process.

Ron:  Wade, I want to talk about your philosophy around sales and what does it mean to be an effective salesperson in this industry?

Wade: Great questions. I had a person a long time ago who told me, "Be a doctor and not a tour guide." And some of you might have heard that before. But I think these days when you go to the doctor, the doctor just sits in front of you. He or she will sit in front of me and they'll ask you a series of questions. Those questions are to try to find a solution to the problem or to try to find long term benefits to you. Our philosophy specifically with sales is really try to understand what that client is looking for. Now, that doesn't just mean sell them a Mac amp and just be done with it. Right? It's selling the entire experience. A tour guide will do the complete opposite will just say, "Here's a Macintosh receiver, here's a Rotel amplifier, and here's the price." Kind of similar to what you get when you go on a tour. So we typically try to make doctors out of our employees. We want to really, truly understand what they like, what they don't like, what they've had problems with in the past, and try to avoid all that, which is kind of the primary reason that we will not send a proposal unless the client has the opportunity to go over a scope of work with us. That scope of work is somewhat long, but we're trying to prove that we listened accurately to what their needs are. So if you want to buy something from DeVance, just expect that you're going to get a scope of work before you get pricing, because it's not fair for me to just throw out a bunch of pricing without just really, truly understanding what you're looking for.

Ron:  I want to ask you a question about that, but I've got to acknowledge a few people. First of all, Vanessa here at One Firefly, she's actually your account manager. She says, your showroom is amazing. I know she's a big fan. Paul Bochner, he says, "listen and react. Don't be a sales hole.".

Wade: I love that.

Ron:  I love that term. And then he says, "this guy gets it." That's a nice compliment. So when you talk about giving your client a scope, if you allow it, I want to go a little deeper.

Wade: Sure.

Ron:  You have a meeting or meetings, plural, with your client where you're discovering and learning about them. You're asking probably lots of questions, I'm assuming.

Wade: That's correct, yes.

Ron:  And you are going to draft the scope. Is that scope delivered in that same meeting, or is it something you step away from that meeting, you'd craft and then you present to the client?

Wade: Good question, we will not do it right then there. We want to make it professional. So our goal is to turn the scope around within 48 hours of talking to the client simply because it's fresh in our minds. We typically block off the next hour after a meeting just to be able to generate a scope of work. That way, we haven't missed anything and really, when you send it to the client, the client has a kind of a wow factor of, "okay, this guy just got back to me immediately after" it's just like if you go to a meeting, you kind of email them and say, "hey, thank you for meeting with me. I appreciate it." But that's generated kind of usually within the first 48 hours and sent back to the client.

Ron:  And when you're delivering that scope, are you delivering it with a range of price of what approximately this description might cost or are you not doing that?

Wade: No, price usually doesn't come up too often. That could be debated, but during the process, when we're interviewing the client, if they're asking me about price a lot, then I'm going to start mentioning price a lot more often as I'm talking. So you kind of end with, "listen, they make 500 different types of speakers, they sell from $50 to $50,000. Where do you think that you are in your budget? Do you want to give me a number to try to shoot for?" And you're doing that in a respectful way because if you come back with something way too high, you got caught speeding and they're never going to call you back. But you want to be respectful to that.

Ron:  That makes sense. I'm going to go off topic here, you're shooting this on your iPad, correct?

Wade: Yeah. It's horrible, thank you.

Ron:  No, it's okay. It looks great. It looks fine. It's better than the computer that wasn't cooperating. How's your battery? I just want to check with you.

Wade: Battery is good. I'm plugged in.

Ron:  You are plugged in. Okay. I forgot to ask before we went live, so I wanted to make sure of that.

Wade: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Ron:  So after you get the buy in on scope, what happens next in your process?

Wade: Immediately, we will tell the client that there's another follow up meeting that will come because we just don't email proposals. There's no reason for me to email you a proposal on a model number that you're not going to understand what it does. So with that expectation set, we then generate the proposal. Our process is a little bit different. The sales people actually generate the scope as well as the actual proposal. But then it goes to another set of bias to make sure that it will work. That could take upwards of a week. That's kind of what we're averaging right now, that's communicated to the client, then a reminder is set on our calendars to, "hey, this proposal is due this day." And if you're not going to meet that deadline, you need to reach out to the client, say, "hey, I'm not going to meet your deadline." Usually what we'll do is we'll have a video call right after that when everything is done. Then we'll again walk through the scope again. It's another reminder. I know it's a little bit more than what you should do, but we'll again say, "hey, these are our bullet points. This is what we're going after." Then we'll go through individual pricing. There's no reason for me to hide anything as far as pricing. You can find this stuff on the Internet, most of it. So I'm very transparent when it comes to letting them know that this is the price, this is what we charge for labor, this is what we charge for our support memberships in case it does break, this is what to expect after the fact. Usually right then and there, we'll just ask for the sale. Just be like, "look, have I covered all your needs? Yes or no?" If it's a yes, then let's go ahead and get this thing started and get your product in order to get it next year.

Ron:  Exactly. We'll deliver it sometime, 23, 24. Just joking, for all DeVance customers listening. That's fun, that's interesting. So once the client has committed, at what point, I know there's going to be some folks that are going to nerd out on this answer, what level of project labor I'll call it, and it could be your designers, could be your salespeople, could be dedicated engineers, are actually doing project level engineering? Do you do wiring plans, CAD, that sort of stuff. You guys only do that level of thing once the clients actually committed or do you do it prior to the sale?

Wade: We'll do it prior to the sale. It just overall confirms that you put the time in to think about what you're actually doing on the connection side. Plus, whenever you pass it over to design, design has that scope of work document, that has a line drawing to be able to confirm what input goes where, and then it makes it easy to transition into the sale where the technicians can see it before they even leave our space to go to the job site. So it's a little bit more work, but we found that it's just truly beneficial. Now, I had a note on that, anything over $20,000, we'll do a line drawing, and that's required by the team before we actually can even present the solution.

Ron:  Got it. Makes sense. Now, Wade, I know that you have been a big advocate of marketing, and for all my listeners, we don't make these marketing discussions or podcasts, but you guys in particular have really stepped up the game in terms of the way you've presented your brand and your showroom is a part of that equation. I mean, the new building, the new façade, the new beautiful space, as well as new website, new social media presence, active through many different channels. How do you think about the role of marketing and being the assistant to sales or to growing the business?

Wade: Well, I think about it, as you being dead, just being completely honest. I'll just tell the story, I'm telling the world, which is fine. So we turned off Facebook and we turned off Facebook ad marketing, probably October of last year. We decided to take that budget and put it in other things. The reason that we did that, there's not really a reason, but we did it. But more importantly, the ownership was able to come back and reconvene and look at the data to actually see if it worked. What we found is it didn't work. In fact, it was very significantly damaging. We were blessed to be able to have other revenues coming in that really still kept us doing very well. We're never in danger by any stretch of the imagination, but what I saw was so impactful that it literally changed me forever. You have to tell people what you're doing and you've got to let people know that you got a new showroom. So we're in the all in kind of thing when it comes to the marketing. We just started Google Ads and we have seen a little bit of growth there, but that was only like 15 days ago. But again, it's one of those things that we don't spend a lot in marketing compared to our revenues. It's one of the things that's opening our eyes, are eyes are being open just almost every day on well, wow, I used to have this many number of people going to my site, which then I transitioned this many people into an actual sale and once you don't have that, it's like, "oh, where did that go?" So it's absolutely critical.

Ron:  Yeah. I have many folks over the years, as recent as weekly that I'll talk to, and they go, we get all our business through referral. And I go, "I know that's the way our channel works. We get business through referral or at least a large percentage." And they're like, "we don't need to do these types of branding and marketing activities because I've been able to be fine without it." I usually just challenge them to think about, I know you're fine without it, but imagine if it was actually assisting you and aiding you. Could things be different and would they be better? And I think it certainly sounds like you guys are on the side of the equation where it makes an observable difference, and it does matter.

Wade: Yeah, 1uick comment, Matt and Dana, they built this business based on referrals, and again, just treating people very well, and they've lived off of that for 20 years. So there's nothing wrong with that, but if you add the two together, how much better could you be?

Ron:  Yeah, fair. Now Wade, you guys partner with builders regularly. You do business with builders, and you guys are very successful, and you have very successful, rewarding relationships that are generating a significant piece of your business. What tips or ideas do you have for those that are listening as to how did you guys establish those relationships? What do you do to make those partners happy? What can you tell us?

Wade: Well, I think the first thing is don't take no for an answer. No, maybe not yet. No, maybe call me in a couple of months. So we've got a list of folks that we've identified as being kind of really folks that we feel that we could work very well with. They build a quality product. We have a quality product. It's a matter of just kind of simply just treating them as they should be treated. That's an important relationship. My builders, I typically talk to them multiple times, if not a day, every week, just touching base with them. "Hey, how are we doing? What things do you see on this project that we could have done better? Any feedback that you have for me?" and just shut up and listen. That's kind of one thing I think people don't do sometimes. It's just ask a question and listen for the feedback and then take that feedback back to your group and say, "here's what we've got going on here. We may need to identify a different solution here," but I would say target your builders, find the builders that you really want to work for and really just make an introduction, ask for a lunch, take them to happy hour, you name it. There's got to be something there because right now trades are kind of tough, right? So builder will grab onto an electrician and hold onto them for dear life. Well, AV is basically the same thing because I have some builders that don't know anything about lighting and lighting control, but they get a client that wants that. They just need a good, educated individual to be able to help them with that.

Ron:  Makes sense. By the way, over on LinkedIn, our Livestream, Kendall just dropped you a note and said, "Hey, Wade."

Wade: "Hi, Kendall, you're the best."

Ron:  Kendall said, Hi.

Wade: I was mad at her that she left us. Then she told me why. She's like, "I had a baby." I was like, "Oh, I'm a jerk.".

Ron:  Yeah, but she's back and she's got her hands full. I think, let's just say the Web business at One Firefly is brisk. So our team puts out a great product, and our clients appreciate it.

Wade: Absolutely. I talked to her this morning and put in another order. She's doing great, whole team is doing great!

Ron:  I appreciate that greatly. In terms of technology, Wade, what technologies are you guys excited about looking to the year ahead or years, plural? What's buzzworthy?

Wade: There are two major things. It's the comeback of audio is what I call it, and then lighting. So I'll talk about the comeback of audio. So we went through a phase there for a little while our audio just became kind of simple where we would add Sonos and a wireless speaker, or we would add a soundbar and then really we've seen a lot of vinyl come back, therefore bringing people back to real good quality amplifiers as well as good quality speakers. So we've seen a lot of just walk in business, and again, we've only been open in this showroom maybe about five months, but literally people will find us on Macintosh's website or whoever, just come on in for a listing. And it's kind of funny. We had a client that bought some stuff and it was taking forever to get here. So he brought a stack of vinyl and he jammed out pretty much the entire day. Everybody in my office had to leave because it was so loud. Anyway, he hung out, he's a great guy and he's probably watching right now. But the other side of things is obviously the lighting. We've seen a lot of electricians don't want to get on board with some of the new lighting. They want to sell their Nora cans and be done with it. But there's so much more to the world in lighting than there ever has been. If you think about it, it's a 75 year old industry. At the very least, that hasn't changed, ever. So we're seeing a lot more lighting projects. we're seeing a lot more specific dimmable lighting loads, not necessarily dimmable, but color changing and things of that nature where people actually have the ability to say, I want a warm light at night. So that's super exciting for us because we've got a full time electrician on staff and he does a fantastic job of helping us with everything. So those are the two things that I really think that are coming tech wise.

Ron:  So you mentioned lighting. I just want to dissect that for a moment. So you're seeing an increase in the demand for lighting control systems. That's when you say panel based, local switch or panel based. Then you also mentioned fixtures and warm dimmable or circadian rhythm based lighting. Are you seeing both of those categories grow, or is one surging more than the other?

Wade: We are. Lighting control has been around for a little while for all of us. You as well, when you were back doing it, but the ability to have multiple things happen in a scene is now a lot easier to do. So one of the coolest things that my clients love is just that good night button at the bedside table. It turns everything off, it arms your security system, it turns on the lights outside, if the garage is open it shuts the garage door, things of that nature. When you introduce people to that, they're like "Oh, I didn't know you could do that." That in a smart do it yourself kind of world is really kind of bringing people back to the full automation system versus doing the Home Depot way. But the fixtures themselves, they're still a little slow to come on board. We've seen a lot more art lighting being sold and the dint warm as well, so we're starting to see that. Then Savant has a great lighting solution with Circadian Rhythm. I think they're probably leading the industry when it comes to that, besides Ketra, obviously. But those two Ketra and Lutron when it comes to Circadian Rhythm are really exciting for us.

Ron:  Wild card question and I do not know where you stand, but you say you're with Savant. They have their battery storage product and I want to say it was Race Point energy. I think it's now Savant Energy. Does that sound familiar?

Wade: Absolutely.

Ron:  Then there's other products like Sonnen and others in the marketplace. Are you seeing any demand or anything happening there with battery storage or is that still early?

Wade: No, that's a great point. We are seeing that. So I would say that that's probably next on the agenda to try to tackle. But when we implement kind of a plan to say, "Hey, we want to do X, Y and Z," we won't do it until everybody's certified and trained. The perfect example where the sales team and the leadership team took our certifications first, but we wouldn't sell it unless the technicians were certified and trained by the manufacturer. You can wing it and have a job go in and everything is good, but why not do it perfectly? As perfect as possible, I should say, every single time. So that's kind of one of the things that we've implemented again through EOS, through consistent learning, constant and never ending learning to be able to get everybody up to speed with what we're doing.

Ron:  Got it. Well, sir, you have been delivering value in gold here for the last 50 minutes, but I'm going to tee you up. Is there any additional idea that is top of mind for you, that other business owners, operators, leaders in our industry, something that you know has helped you or made a difference in your life, personally or professionally, that you'd be game to share with those that are listening?

Wade: Yeah, absolutely. As a leadership team, let's say this happened on Wednesday. On Wednesday, I have sales meetings to where the majority of folks are here, except for some of the technicians. For some weird, crazy reason, it popped into my head to talk about mental health. So I'm very passionate about mental health and making sure that people are doing okay. We sat around as a leadership group and it was a very open and honest conversation about the things going on in the world when it comes to just everything. You're so overwhelmed all the time. We're looking at our phones every minute of the day. We're talking, we're depressed, we're anxious. I would just stress that what I've learned most from Matt and Dana is to take care of people like your family and to actually go ahead and do it. Once they did that to me, when they first started doing that to me, I thought they were fools. I was like, "Why are you asking me about me? You should be asking me about what I do." Then my guard kind of slowly lower because after 25 years in the industry, that's kind of what we're used to. So I would say that every person that you meet is probably going through something and to treat it as that. That way you can have open and honest conversations with folks, and your retention will go through the roof, the happiness of your life will go through the roof, and you'll have a successful business. So that's probably my big takeaway for some of the folks out there is just treating people like family.

Ron:  Love it. Well, there's no topping that. That was brilliant. Wade, for those that want to stay in touch or get in touch with you and DeVance, where can we send everyone?

Wade: Just go to my website. We're on all the forums. Friendly to kind of help in any way, shape or form. I've been through the rough times, and I'm blessed to go through the good times now. But you can go to our website created by One Firefly; devance.tv

Ron:  Do you want to share a cell phone or an email? Are you on Twitter? Are you an active Twitterer?

Wade: I'm not a Twitterer. I'm weird, I'm old. Just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is my email. Feel free to reach out and maybe we'll connect. Any advice I can help you with, I'm more than happy to do it.

Ron:  Awesome. Well, Wade, thank you so much for joining me on show 204. It was awesome having you on the show.

Wade: Thank you, Ron. I appreciate everything you do and all of your team. Your team is amazing. If you guys aren't doing business with Ron and One Firefly, you need to be, it will change your life.

Ron:  Well, very kind words. Don't know what to say about that. Thank you very much, that was very kind. Did not know you were going to drop that. Thank you, Wade, hang out with me. Wade, by the way, I'm going to pull you off screen here, but don't leave. All right, thanks, everyone. And actually let me go ahead and I'm going to bring him off screen. There you go. He flustered me, he said such nice things. I'm not often at a loss for words, but there I was. I was at a loss for words. That was very kind. Folks, where am I off to? Why are we doing this on Monday? We're doing it on Monday because I'm actually going to be heading off to that conference so I'll be traveling tomorrow through Friday but I do believe we are going to be back next week with another show so next week will be show 205 so definitely tune in as always subscribe to the show if you're watching this video you can subscribe to the actual audio podcast just go to your favorite platform and search up Automation Unplugged and on that note I'm going to sign off you all have an amazing week and know that I appreciate you. Per Wade, make sure you take care of yourself and you take care of those around you. The best thing that you could do.

SHOW NOTES:

Wade Stephens began his career in the AV industry in 1993 with a small company named Best Buy. He remained in that company for over 13 years during the huge growth of the company, including when Best Buy was named Forbes company of the year in 2004. During that time, Wade was a segment manager for Magnolia HiFi in the Dallas area and was then promoted to Sales Manager to one of the largest revenue producing stores in Texas.  Along the way, Wade expanded his skillset to include many industry certifications like Control4, Crestron, Lutron, and Savant. 

Wade is now the Vice President of Sales with DeVance Electronic Lifestyles which has seen an amazing growth over the last three years. DeVance specializes in residential, commercial, automation, lighting, and lighting control, with a focus on luxury two channel HiFi. Wade works very closely with owners Matt and Dana DeVance daily through the EOS operating system which has helped DeVance grow significantly while continuing to live by their vision to treat customers like family.

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 become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview:

Wade can be reached directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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