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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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Watch Episode #1: an Industry Q&A Session with Paul Starkey

The Expert Perspective on Bi4Ci

Watch Episode #1: 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 Paul Starkey

Paul Starkey has been in the custom installation business for 24 years, and in that time, Paul has raised venture capital twice, acquired two companies, started two others and has in-depth knowledge of the CI business. These acquisitions and mergers exceeded $280M in value. He has business operations, sales and marketing experience.  His keen insights, innovation, and creativity have been recognized by many in our industry. 

Interview Recap

The live interview covers a series of topics surrounding the AV and automation industry, such as: 

  • Starkey's background and expertise in the industry
  • The challenges currently facing integrators today
  • Bi4Ci: what is it and why do CI dealers need it?
  • Characteristics of successful business owners in this channel
  • The three ratios integrators should definitely be watching
  • Which manufacturers are starting to stand out and having staying power in this space
  • Cool new technologies that are just around the corner
  • Whether life exists on other planets
  • And more.

Transcript:


Ron:  Hey everyone, Ron Callis here with One Firefly. This is exciting times. We are doing our first Facebook Live. I'm doing the first Facebook Live for One Firefly using a new wirecast video kodak. And what this is going to enable us to do, is do a live video stream here with my interviewee which is Paul Starkey of Bravas Group and Vital Management. And I'm real excited. I hope you guys enjoy this. And please leave comments share as you guys see fit. And this should be getting streamed live to our Facebook page. I'm actually going to take a look here to see if I see it. Let's see here. Sorry as I delay ladies and gentlemen I just want to make sure that I'm using technology appropriately and it's working. Sometimes there's a little bit of a delay. No. Oh there it is. It is live I've been live for one minute and 15 seconds. I already see some people checking it out. So. I'm live. All right Melissa just messaged me, we are live. All right. So today we're going to have some fun. You know maybe a departure from the normal and that we are going to talk with Paul Starkey. And so I'm actually going to bring up Paul's video now Paul. There you are. You are now live to our Facebook audience. How neat is that? Hey Paul.

Paul: Hey Ron. Hi. Facebook friends. Glad to be here.

Ron:  I appreciate Paul, your willingness to participate on this technology adventure as we try to get this new wirecast technology working for us. I appreciate your patience.

Paul: Glad to be your test monkey Ron.

Ron:  Paul, if you if you go over to our Facebook page One Firefly LLC and you'll actually be able to see yourself live there or at least in theory. That's how this is going to work. So we're going to proceed here. So Paul I have some questions. You've been in the A.V. industry for a number of years actually. How long have you been in the industry?

Paul: Twenty-four years Ron.

Ron:  Twenty four years. OK, I want to go through and ask you some questions about just a number of topics here and these topics range from kind of wild and crazy to kind of rather disciplined but I think a lot of them will be pretty close to your heart and your passions. So if you don't mind I'm going to read. I did a little bit of preparation here just to make sure that I got some good ones for you. To my knowledge, Paul you started off in this A.V. industry on the manufacturing side and your roles have evolved over the years. You know in your current position how has your perspective changed in terms of understanding the challenges that integrators go through everyday?

Paul: Great question Ron. I think the thing that struck me first was the diversity and how the integrator side of the business , how they count and do their accounting. It's a little bit like an amateur golf swing. Everybody's taken or developed their own method without really any instruction. It's evolved. And you know one shocking revelation that I observed very early on, going back you know three and a half years now, was that most of the companies operate at about 30 percent of their real potential. So that was the real eye-opener . You know going from the manufacturing side to the dealer side.

Ron:  I got you. Look at that, see Paul if you're watching it live on Facebook I could bounce back and forth between your face and then the two of us here together isn't this cool?

Paul: Wow.

Ron:  Kid in a candy store. Now one of the challenges that I know I hear about frequently and you hear about frequently we've chatted offline about this, is really the shortage or the challenge for integrators to grow and scale their businesses. And that is due to the lack of salespeople or maybe the difficulty in bringing people in and training them up into a sales routine and making successful salespeople. Do you see that as a problem for this industry and for integrators and what are your thoughts around that?

Paul: Well finding great salespeople in any business is a challenge. But I think it's even somewhat bigger for custom integrators. Most of the successful salespeople are homegrown and many of them are owners or principals in the business. There's a huge need for a sales development training not on product as much as on sales process on adopting more of a servant leadership approach to selling consultative selling if you will. So there really needs to be a fresh training ground for new salespeople. In fact , I've often thought that maybe this is my next venture Ron, rainmaking in CI if you will.

Ron:  Sure. Now within the Bravas Group, and maybe just for a moment we step back and kind of talk about what is Vital Management and what is the Bravas Group just for all of our Facebook followers so they would understand when I speak about those businesses what they are.

Paul: Well, Vital Management was formed to be a dealer owner professional services company to help companies develop golf swing. I was talking about essentially coaching them into doing things consistently the right way. And we have a number of products that we offer from the Vital Management side. We also had a secondary emphasis on creating a cooperative, allowing companies to collaborate in an intimate way , different than anything that's been done in the industry. We formed that group as a cooperative and it's called Bravas Group. There are 24 members today including full members and associates and they meet virtually every month to discuss best practices. They're coached by Vital Management. And what's really interesting about it, we treat them as if they were a virtual company, together they're about a 90 million dollar enterprise. Even though each one is owned independently.

Ron:  OK. Now within, I also know that you are in fact in a couple of days or maybe next week you're doing a webinar on this thing called BI4CI. What is that? How did that evolve? And I think if technology cooperates I might even be able to click over to a website and share that. Yeah. I don't know it might be reaching a bit too far but we'll give it a shot. There's a website for this thing, Bi4Ci, correct?

Paul: Yeah. BI4CI.com.

Ron:  Alright let me attempt to bring up this website here.

Paul: And the acronym, by the way, is business intelligence for custom interpreter. So it's an industry-specific set of quantifiable metric some people would call them key performance indicators or KPI. And this is fundamental to everything that Vital Management does, our coaching practice. Our Bravas Group practice and now an open service to any CI dealer in the industry who seeks to be better and who could use a standardized way of doing thing things as a foundation. BI4CI allows that to happen. It's based on Quickbooks Desktop Pro series and it's an extraction of key profit loss and balance sheet data and it renders these awesome easy to read dashboards that really help owner-operators improve daily weekly monthly quarterly in their business. We think it's a breakthrough technology in this industry and we invite people to investigate and look at it. It does take a little bit of training and a little bit to set up but I think once people are on it the easiest way to understand how to make money.

Ron:  Now Paul you're doing a webinar for this right? So for folks to learn more, where is the link to that or at least where I can direct people that might want to check that out? Is that listed here on your website or is there another way they can learn about it?

Paul: I mean we communicated it through our Tuesday morning coffee it's a weekly communication to about 400 owners in the CI business. We can get it posted on our website. The webinar is April 12th. And I believe I'll talk to it in Pacific time because I'm in San Diego. I believe it's 10:00 o'clock Pacific Time and we'll get that information up on the site just posthaste after this interview Ron.

Ron:  Okay ok. Excellent. Paul you're doing great. I appreciate you being such a great sport here. As we march forward, you know I have the opinion that you know I've been in this AV industry now 18 years not quite as long as you and you know many of the business owners that I know. Knowing the numbers for their business is not typically their first strength and that's not to knock them or diminish their strengths and their skill sets. But you know we all aren't born understanding how to read a balance sheet or a P&L and knowing how to say look at different numbers and ratios and interpret that in terms of its meaning to my business or the success of my business. You know I'm just at a high level what's your perspective? I mean how many of the, I know you as a former CEO of Elan and all of your different roles in the industry. You've known lots of guys probably thousands and what do you see as the need in terms of growing the numbers and what you're doing with BI4CI?

Paul: Well, I agree with your observation Ron, many times the owner-operator is more technical, more sales oriented. And when they get into a small business like most small businesses, you get busy I think the word business came from being busy. We try to get them out of that and get them focused on actions priorities and the business because there's a lot of day to day challenges and we just use numbers and we use the financial data that they have available to them to direct those priorities to direct those actions because numbers without action are fairly meaningless. And so we've taken the approach of how do we really simplify this. Make it visual for them. So the dashboards become very important. The KPI is which there are a number of specific ones to a labor type business become important. And we have one, basic premise is that the more an operator owner knows about how to make money in the CI business, the more money they will make. And of course, you know it's not just all about making money. There's a lot of reducing the chaos, increasing opportunities for employees, basically allowing them to fulfill their business mission a lot better when they have the right information and the right intelligence to do it.

Ron:  So, by the way, we've got some people commenting on Facebook and folks have pointed out that the audio is not very good when I'm doing the screen share probably because I didn't set it up properly and the software would be my bet. So I will refrain from going back to the screen sharing till we get that settled hopefully we'll have that figured out for the next time. But Paul , in terms of knowing the numbers and the importance for the integrators, are there particular characteristics that you would identify for you know what you might call most successful business owners or integrators in this AV channel? You know if you had this if you're able to pinpoint this successful group of companies they have these commonalities or common characteristics?

Paul: It's interesting. I think there's one big one , Ron. And it's to be a fast follower of good advice. That sounds really simple. There's a lot of advice out there, all of it is not good. To be a fast follower of bad advice just gives you another at bat. You hope so. Yeah I think it's when you get good advice and solid wisdom take action on it. We see so many of these conferences and buying groups sharing of great great great ideas. Right? And yet very little action gets done. So I think the difference between the people that really get benefit and maximize the opportunity are the people that put things into action. It's not an intellectual exercise.

Ron:  How do you know if it's good advice? Aren't you asking for something difficult there. Generally, I'll say in the world of consultants you know you don't know if those people are going to be giving you good advice or bad advice and how do they know?

Paul: Well , I think I think if the advice they're getting has been used or shared by other companies that's a good indicator.

Ron:  The reference or that maybe the success stories.

Paul: Yeah I mean we all have great ideas. You and I probably have 10 a day each.

Ron:  You get 9 I'll get one. I'll take that.

Paul: Thank you. But the thing is really seeing when other people are doing with the advice you know there's a lot of information out there. We like to think there's a lot of data there's a lot of information. What really is intelligent? What is intelligence that helps you drive to action and what results can you get out of it? And I think if it's good advice other people have used it. I get back to my golf swing. If the golf swing coach has helped other people has changed their game. We're not all Charles Barkley. Then I think you know that's a good indication that the advice is well-founded, well-directed.

Ron:  What percentage of integrators do you think are living up to their financial potential?

Paul: Oh, a handful. Innovative is that extreme. I said earlier that the average is probably running at 30 percent of their financial and operational potential. I mean that's that's not an indictment. It's just a fact. We've looked at over 300 companies' financial data. Steve has worked on this for 13 years I've been involved for over three now. We see the data and we know what's possible. We know how the top echelon of dealers performs. It's work. I mean it's really work and it's a discipline and it's as important as any cultural item in their business. How they treat their employees, how they make sales, how they make more money, and perform is as culturally important. And it's unfortunately just not part of most CI operators' culture.

Ron:  So let's zoom in on that. Let's try to give a couple of nuggets of a few additional nuggets of gold here. What would be three numbers or ratios that an integrator should be watching and what should those numbers be doing that would indicate positive outcomes in the future?

Paul: Well it's interesting in our Tuesday morning coffee this week we just shared what we consider the three secrets are the three biggies behind being successful financially in the business and there they're pretty straightforward. One is gross profit-making sure you're maximizing the gross profit. We all are in a bid situation for the most part generally the downfall is on labor and parts pricing. There's usually not enough coverage for the parts they use or labor they use. So that's one. The other is more in the compensation field , making sure that the compensation is aligned to those gross profit dollars. We have some very specific metrics I won't get into but labor productivity how much labor billing per tech per month you're yielding is extremely important and we find that many companies perform at the six thousand to eight thousand dollars a month per tech. I can tell you the companies are at 10 or 12 for better are extremely effective and profitable. The third piece is cash and it's the most understood piece of the equation because many of our integrators are getting prepayments or deposits on work.

Ron:  That's automatically profit right? They can go buy their next big boat with that money.

Paul: Oh no Ron, those are gift cards. It's like when you buy a gift card at Best Buy or some place they don't really recognize that as revenue until you come in and purchase goods with it to them it's a liability until you use that gift card and we work with a net cash number, it's net of client deposits. It's net of the inventory assigned to projects. And it gives them a real indication of what their real cash balance is where most of the integrators look at their checkbook and say That's my cash. Many times 80 percent to 100 percent of that case is not theirs. So those are the three things: gross profit , compensation including the labor productivity, and then cash. If you manage those three things in your business you can double or triple the performance so most companies are getting today.

Ron:  I'm assuming those are three of the indicators that are populated in a BI4CI dashboard.

Paul: We actually use six metrics and in those three areas to give really good indication of how you're doing and what can be possible because we can benchmark against proven companies and we now have a profit predictor that takes those six metrics and we can take any company and we can show them what their number is in terms of improving gross profit in terms of improving the compensation and productivity aspects of it and how much cash they could generate. And we typically look at an 18 month period for new clients. So again it's not rocket science but it's a discipline that's been missing.

Ron:  So I'm going to flip things. So we talked about businesses that are most successful and some of their characteristics and the types of numbers and ratios you would look at and you'd monitor. I'm assuming along the way you've also run across some businesses that are just frankly never going to break out and maybe even have the opinion they should throw in the towel now. What are without naming any names. What are some characteristics of some owners that just aren't getting it? What are some of those characteristics they're exhibiting that you would maybe point out and maybe some folks listening or watching might see that in themselves and want to correct that?

Paul: I think that the number one indicator of someone who is not really cut out for this business is if you cannot deliver what you promise and you never finish jobs you should seek employment elsewhere. That has to be number one, you've got to be able to deliver what you promise. You've got to finish jobs. That usually separates. To me that's jacks or better in this industry. If you can't do that you should be doing something else. Beyond that I think there's a number of things that you know are things that should be addressed. If you can't sell, you're not going to be long in this business. You've got to be able to continuously sell the you know keeping your promise and installing finishing. So selling and installing, I guess Ron, is two of the basic requirements and you have to have some sense of scorekeeping if you're going to get better. You've got to know where you're at. And so if you take selling installing and scorekeeping that's a pretty good three sets of testing your staying power in this business.

Ron:  Let's talk manufacturers. You've been on the manufacturing side. I know you and I have talked off line about a lot of the fun you'd have coming up with some of those nine crazy ideas a day and being able to delegate them to members of a larger team. And so just what from your vantage today your vantage point what do you see as some of the manufacturers that are really getting it done and you think are going to have continued staying power in this space?

Paul: Very interesting because we're in an industry right. I mentioned I've been at it for almost 25 years. There's one thing you can count on in this industry which is constant change. You know it's a technology business. So it commonly is seeing new things new ideas new innovations and that I think, makes our business possible for a long time in the future. When you ask about you know excellence with companies out there Lutron comes to mind I think that's a company that's dominating their space and continues to do a great job. Sony of recent, has really seemed to be on a roll in the integration business with the appropriate products and support programs. We see niche companies like Leon, SNAP AV continues to be a major force in the business. And I could go on and name a lot of companies. I think the tough spaces with the control companies you know we will all point to the top four or five control companies and they could get better. They could I think be better at supporting and helping dealers on the business side. I think manufacturers need to take a leadership role and on the business side it's not just about selling product. I think we've moved out of the stack them high selling paradigms that existed before. It is just in time business and I think manufacturers and dealers need to be sensitized to that. So I would like to see more leadership from all the manufacturing side on the business side helping companies get better at what they do it's a win-win . Companies are more profitable and more sustainable. It's great for the supply chain as well.

Ron:  What are some of the cool new technologies that you think are just around the corner for making a big impact in our space?

Paul: Well CES was interesting this year. I had a chance to walk this gigantic you know 3 million square foot floor. I didn't get all of it. And there's a lot of intelligent self-driving car technology coming. There's drones there was a whole haul of drones and those kind of things and those don't really touch maybe our businesses as directly but you know there are things like voice control voice-operated control systems. I think Alexa and Google and others are really breaking through and that area that it's interesting attachment to what we do intelligent cameras that actually can move and function you know based on pretty elaborate algorithms really neat stuff that's in the market. The wallpaper TVs were a big hit at CES.

Ron:  Isn't a power cord still an issue? Don't you still have to it can make it you know?

Paul: It still needs a power cord ,it was white.

Ron:  I guess you could camouflage it maybe.

Paul: I think just the brightness and what that could bring. I mean we may be seeing walls electronic wall glass walls in the homes and high-end homes that you know kind of are part TV part art decorating. I think there's some very cool things that could be happening in that space so yeah. Every year we see a wave of new ideas new products and yeah I think the future strong for consumer electronics and for particularly for installed consumer electronics.

Ron:  So the modern consumer, the customer that is buying from our customer. Right. So the end-user that's buying and consuming technology. They are, there's an adage or a school of thought that says that they're consuming technology and adapting to it quicker than ever. And given that, do you think that trend will continue and do you think that's something that should concern integrators and their ability to keep up?

Paul: Well you know I think that's where our industry has lived for almost 30 years now is assisting consumers deal with technology that they don't want to deal with themselves. And you know this has never been a DIY business to segment that the customer integrator lives in and is a luxury market. It's not even a mainstream market. It's certainly not do it yourself. I mean we tend to want to put this whole continuum together. There's very few things in life or in product segments that work that way. Home theater doesn't work that way. You got theater in the box and you got Theo doing his thing on the high-end theaters and everything in between. And it's no different on the custom installation. I think the more that people get exposed to technology that they can eat if you will or you know you in bite-size the whole app explosion and the whole you know being exposed to different automation facet I don't think it defeats or distracts from the one app controlled the integrated the home the high-end project. I mean most of the people that are targeted on this particular Facebook message are people who make a living on large projects and sometimes people think a five thousand dollar project is large but we work with custom integrators that are doing one hundred two hundred five hundred thousand dollars, million-dollar projects. So you know I think my word of caution is we should attempt to understand the differences in these segments and not try to blend them all together. You know we take the red the blue and the gray ink and we want to throw it in the white water and you know and look at it. That's one thing. Most product and market opportunities don't work like that frankly.

Ron:  That is fair. I wanted to mention back when you mentioned voice as one of the new technologies. I remember when I entered this industry in August of 2000, that was 18 years ago back in the.. what was that?

Paul: I said Butler in the box.

Ron:  That was butler in a box. But I remember I started at Lutron as many of my friends and industry peers know and they hired me out of college. And one of my first I think within the first 30 days on the team at Lutron they sent me down to Florida. So I had moved up to Pennsylvania and they sent me down to Florida to work with Warren Lanza at the time and Warren, he took me to Disney's Epcot to the Home of the Future demo and they had Rick set that up back in I think a year or two prior. So the Disney Lutron partnership and they had a voice automation system running. I don't even know what technology it was. But you know the presenter was quote-unquote talking to their home and turning the lights on. Now this was 18 years ago and the comedy was I think the presenter had to tell the voice system at least nine times before the lights actually turned on. But still, everyone was impressed and I was impressed. And it's funny here 18 years later you know Alexa is everywhere and you know Crestron and Luton and every other brand can't announce fast enough their partnership with Alexa. So I agree I think whether it's Google Voice or Alexa or something else. I think voice is going to be a big big deal for years to come. But let's and I'm cognizant of time Paul and I know we've blocked out approximately an hour here so a couple more questions I wanted to ask you just for our audience and I'm excited to hear your take or your answers. Can you give me a clear and more importantly my audience a clear understanding. You and Steve created Bravas. Why did you create it and what was your thought process behind creating it? Why did you feel there was a need for Bravas?

Paul: Well our industry is made up of a lot of small businesses and it suffers from a couple of core issues. One is finding a custom integrator unless the builder or a modeler you're working with or the architect has a relationship. Most of us and I went through three years of trying to find the biggest and brightest stars out there. Ron and I've been in this industry 20 plus years right. So and it's just very difficult to find custom integrators and then discern which ones are the elite and which ones because you know with all due respect anybody can create a website that looks like they're a 50 person company. And yeah I found many times that the best website was a one or two-man shop and I'm not being critical. I'm just saying it was very hard to discern. You know the large players so we felt there was an opportunity to keep a decentralized model where there is local support local relationship but to build a national and actually continental Group. Because we have clients in Canada whereby all of the entities could benefit by working together standardizing things internally externally and become better together. That was the concept. One of the side effects of that we felt, would be a time when the organization was large enough to provide an exit strategy for many of the owners that are in that 50-60 plus age range and more importantly to provide a succession plan with young people and young managers coming in who had a long term career because we've seen a lot of companies when the owners age and there's nobody to take over, they close the door. Like most small businesses do. So we were looking for you know a couple of things to happen is one, we thought we could help companies immediately to be more profitable more efficient to grow, to create more opportunities but we also felt like we could we could put these companies together. Not force them together but put them together where they would become an entity that could be visible by consumers would attract more high-end luxury customers to them , so that that was the fundamentals of it. We concentrate immediately on helping companies, helping them grow. If we never get to the consolidation I know there's a lot of skeptics out there about it. We will have done something. I think we're all special here. So the thinking was: do the work first, focus on business strength, financial strength, don't focus on the exit persay . Focus on creating value because companies that create value and sustain it over time usually are the ones that are rewarded in the marketplace so that that was our idea.

Ron:  Paul, do you differentiate your strategy from some of the other strategies that have made the attempt over the last 20 years? Most notably and obvious would be the Via experiment.

Paul: Yeah. Exactly because we almost started with a reverse merger. If you think of it, I've been involved in seven or eight acquisitions mergers sometimes you know the buying side sometimes the side that got bought and what you find is immediately after these acquisitions there's all kinds of work to do to change. So change the culture to change the process to change and it's usually painful and it's usually after the fact and there's usually casualties and in that and we felt well why not do that work upfront? Why make it uncertain to these owners and employees what life would be afterward? Why not do the work upfront? And many of the attempts at this point have been you know put the companies together print new business cards without much more than that. And I'm not singling out any given one. I'm just saying get a business system in place first. That's how successful nationwide organizations are built. Franchises are built. They're all built around a business system. And to put that on the backburner and not make that the thing, I think will always cause companies to fail in terms of the consolidation.

Ron:  So let's talk about the exit strategy. So what is the principle around the possible exit strategy with Bravas and as you pointed out. I mean most integrators I know don't have an exit strategy. There isn't a tremendous amount of acquisition of you know 1 to 5 million dollar integration firms happening that you know integrators typically do not have large books of security accounts or something that would have you know a multiple style value. And yet with Bravas, you know one of the cards to play as you grow the group and the revenue in the group is a potential exit strategy. Can you expound on that a little bit?

Paul: Yeah. Our premise has always been the sweet spot for exit would be a mid-cap company a company that would be in the 100 million to 250 million dollar revenue with appropriate profit, with great cash flow and all the things that are needed. Mid-cap companies have fairly high multiples in investment banking where we track this on a quarterly basis through some of our intelligence. And so that was always our purpose. We felt that as a 2 million 5 million 10 million dollar 15 million dollar single location enterprise the only real option you have is to find somebody like you that wants to run that business and will pay something for it or to be handed over if you will to the employees on some kind of leverage buyout. We think those are 20 and 25 cents on the dollar sales dollar potential transitions. There may be an exception here or there to it but there really isn't an exit strategy. An owner might expect to get paid for two, three, four years after he leaves the business. If his employees can keep the business going that kind of thing. So we think you know to get a viable exit you need to have a 9 digit enterprise and it gets back you've got to have a business system it can't just be loose leaf folder of 20 companies or 40 companies. So it's you know it's not easy, I'll be the first to admit that. But you know I've been around acquisitions and venture capital you know all my career and this is not an impossible dream. There's just a lot of work and a lot of things that have to happen. And frankly, most of it lays on the shoulders of owners. Are owners willing to do the things they need to do to be put in a position to make these things happen? But right now Ron, our emphasis is 80-20. It's 80 percent on making these companies better. Getting a business system in place and it's 20 percent you know that twinkle in her eye that there could be an exit for the others.

Ron:  So let's talk about the most important stuff. I understand that you are leading the charge to make a special benefit concert happen in San Diego at CEDIA next September. Can you tell me and I think it's September right?

Paul: September 7.

Ron:  September 7. All right. So that's the day after my brother's birthday.

Paul: And thank you for asking. We have a cause. My wife and I have our cause that is very near and dear to our heart and to our extended family and church family. And it has to do with young girls mostly and boys being trapped in the sex trafficking industry in the US. Eighty-nine percent are U.S. citizens. It's the number two cash crime in America. There are over 300,000 young underage children who are being affected by this. It's an insidious practice. It's controlled by gangs organized crime and just the other evil people if you will. And we felt that we needed to do something for it and we felt that with CEDIA coming to San Diego. San Diego has about ten thousand girls and boys being affected, just in our county out here it's the number seventh or eighth city for this. We felt we need to do something, about a year and a half ago I went down and visited one of the shelter's safe houses if you will, that are helping women who have been in this rebuild their lives. And was so touched with it, that we decide now 20 beds in San Diego County is not enough to serve and get these girls out of this crime industry. So we were doing a concert benefit concert Thursday night the opening show night at CEDIA. It's at Humphries at the Bay which is an incredible small concert venue under the moonlight starlight here in San Diego. Fourteen hundred seats. We have a tribute band Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band out of Chicago. Awesome awesome. Close your eyes and they're the real deal. We have a local trio that's playing we have Noah Kaplan from Leon speakers who will be doing an impromptu painting that will be raffled off. We just have a great night of celebrating women. We're going to be honoring women of influence around the world. Individuals are donating a thousand dollars per woman to donate to recognize women, they're really women of significance. Women that have really made a difference in people's lives. And we're looking for just a fun night. And we're hoping to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding for a safe house in North County here in San Diego. It's really really an important cause and I couldn't be more passionate about it and I'm hoping the industry will come out and support it and people will make this the kind of success that it surely will be.

Ron: What are the details, when do tickets go on sale? What's the website? We'll put this down in the notes on our blog.

Paul: Right now we're under a call for sponsorships and donors. Those are things that happen before we start selling tickets. We're at about fifty thousand dollars in pledges already, we've had some great companies SNAP AV is taking a headline position. Leon is supporting this, course Vital Management, Women in Consumer Technology, Nabco, One Firefly. So there's a number of companies stepping up. We want to continue to do that in the month of April. Also if there are listeners out there who want to recognize a significant woman, those donor opportunities and some VIP seating is available prior to May 7th. May 7 tickets will go on sale to the general CEDIA public. We have companies that are interested in buying blocks of tickets. We think it's going to sell out pretty quickly. Tickets start at sixty dollars. We have one hundred dollar and two hundred dollar seating as well. This is a great event. We hope people will get behind it. And again I couldn't be more pleased to be involved. I've got a great team of people working on this and Carol Campbell, Mary Ellen Oswald, my dear wife. So we're making strides and you know can't wait to see the industry come together for a great cause.

Ron:  I could see us coming to get together again Paul and doing just a Facebook live just around this event to try to really uncover all of the details. I think there's a lot in there and I, we at One Firefly we commend you for leading the charge I think it's a noble cause and these people need someone out there defending them and why not you. So I think that's pretty awesome. And we are happy to participate and be involved. So I'm going to end this interview here we're going to wrap up and we'll have been on approximately an hour minus the you know snafu as if trying to figure out if we were live or not. I am actually watching it here on Facebook down on my phone and I see that we are live. I think so and we do have some people watching and please share and thanks for all of the comments. I will I promise next time I'll try to do a better job of reading the comments as we go it's a little I've got multiple monitors and all this technology and as anyone that knows me I am a technophobe and easily befuddled with technology. So just bear with me. We got this far. So thank you Paul. Serious question. Let me get to it. This is the most important question for last. I hope you got your thinking cap on. All right. Do you think life exists on other planets?

Paul: Yes. Thank you Ron.

Ron:  Give me some more. That's it?

Paul: You know, there's a part of me that it's not about me. It's about others and it's about the God above. So I believe that's very much possible. I think sometimes we give ourselves a little too much of the self-centered credit. So my answer is yes.

Ron:   I'll accept that. Paul, I appreciate you being such a fantastic sport on my very first industry Q and A session. And I hope you'll come back and let me do this again and I promise I'll try to be a little more polished next time. And you were fantastic.

Paul: So Ron thank you. Thank you. And I'm honored to be your first.

Ron:  Fair enough. Fair enough. Well everyone out there on Facebook. Thanks for hanging out with us today and I'm working with my team, working with Rachel, she's my right hand here as we get our digital marketing at One Firefly further ramped up and up to speed with what you guys would want and expect from us as a digital marketing agency. So I appreciate you watching. Going to try to do this every week. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for announcements on guests and times and I think if I click this green button I'm going to be signing off. So take care everybody. Make it a great day have a great week.

Show Notes

Paul Starkey has been in the custom installation business for 24 years, and in that time, Paul has raised venture capital twice, acquired two companies, started two others and has in-depth knowledge of the CI business. These acquisitions and mergers exceeded $280M in value. He has business operations, sales and marketing experience.  His keen insights, innovation, and creativity have been recognized by many in our industry. 

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 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.

Resources and Links from the Interview:

You can also learn more about Vital Management at https://www.vitalmgt.com/.

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