Home Automation Podcast Episode #128: An Industry Q&A With Rusty Deeble
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Rusty Deeble of Digital Installers, shares the positive impact that the ProSource Dream Theater Makeover Contest has had on Digital Installers.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Wim De Vos. Recorded live on Wednesday, July 8th at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Rusty Deeble
We initially spoke with Rusty on May 6th, 2020, where he gave us a tour of their recently renovated Long Beach showroom. To catch the full video tour, visit the One Firefly Facebook page or go to our website, onefirefly.com/au.
We catch up with Rusty 2 months later to get a closer look at how recent world events have affected his business and his thoughts on the overall future of our industry.
Rusty founded Digital Installers in 2001. Since inception, he has worked hard to make his customers happy by providing friendly, professional, and clean custom audio/video installations regardless of project size.
- The positive impact that the ProSource Dream Theater Makeover Contest has had on Digital Installers
- Ways Rusty gives back to his clients and community by offering their showroom as an event space
- Rusty’s recent experiences with homeowners ready to invest into their property such as outdoor spaces and home offices
- Rusty’s love of MMA and Wrestling
Ron: Hello everybody Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged here today with you for show number 128 that today is Wednesday, July 8th. Just a little bit after 12:30 p.m. Eastern time and I'm gonna go ahead and jump on Facebook just to see if the Facebook gods are cooperating. Here in One Firefly land, lots going on. We are a couple of days after the holiday. We're a little bit after the July 4th holiday so I hope all of you had a nice relaxing weekend. I know here in Florida it was officially a million degrees outside. It was pretty hot and unbearable and all the beaches were closed so there was no going to the beach. I guess if you had a pool, I do not have my pool yet so it was a matter of staying indoors. In One Firefly land, we do have a pretty cool event happening this week. If you are watching live or listening live or you watch it this week you could participate. But we do have a webinar happening here at One Firefly tomorrow. It would be Thursday, July 9th and it's going to be around midday and it's going to be discussing and covering our new reporting environment. For all of our clients that are doing content marketing or we built their websites, there's Google Analytics or we're doing SEO work or maybe you're using our Review Champ services or our Lead Concierge services or the plethora of different offerings that we have.
What you know historically is that we have discreet methods of reporting and providing feedback on all of those solutions and we've been working very diligently over the last year on a solution that would actually bring all of that into one hub and in fact that one hub, the output would not only be emailed to our customers but also allow for them to log in and view that content at your wim when it's convenient for you. We're gonna be unveiling that tomorrow. Definitely check out the One Firefly website and specifically we have a section under Learn for webinars and I understand although it's being promoted throughout social platforms and through email, we'll be adding that module to our website. I want to say within the hour. You'll be able to see that and if you want to register you can also of course check out our various social feeds and you'll also see us talking about that reporting, calling it Reporting 2.0. Check that out. Otherwise, let's go ahead and jump into my interview. I'm actually going to put on the screen here. We'll see if I can get technology to behave so bear with me here application and it is ok to share that. So we actually had our guest Rusty on the show just a couple of months ago. And you guys may recall on episode 116 that Rusty actually gave us a tour of his beautiful showroom and it was a lot of fun. He not only showed us the showroom but he also talked to us about how he demos the space and why he did what he did. But I also wanted to bring Rusty in for maybe more of just the classic Q and A. A lot of that show 116 didn't really work in terms of a podcast format because it was a lot of show and tell. And so we asked Rusty if he'd come back for our standard interview format so that those that do want to listen to the podcast could do so and he said absolutely. We also get to talk to him a couple of months after we first talk to him. So we get to see how he's doing and maybe how things are different in his market. On that note, let's go ahead and bring in Rusty and let's see how he's doing. Let me click the software. There you are Rusty how are you, sir?
Rusty: Doing great, Ron. Thanks for having us again.
Ron: Yeah man, thanks for playing ball. I know that my team and the folks that watch this show, really loved touring your facility there. But when we tried to listen to that show as audio-only it didn't really translate because so much of what you are doing. Yeah well everyone wants to see it. They should go on our Facebook page or on our web page and they should click the video so they can see the tour.
Rusty: Oh cool.
Ron: That content stays out there it's still up there for consumption but a lot of our audience also listens to our show. Now we extract the audio from every interview and we also put it out as a podcast and show 116 didn't really translate to podcast. I was hoping to get you back on here and just chat with you.
Rusty: Yeah, I really enjoy that and I like giving back and giving idea. Coming up with why things are working for us, how are we successful. And I like to share that stuff with you. And if you ever get down here, it would be really cool to host a One Firefly marketing wine and cheese night here and just have the best of the best of your West Coast hosted over here. It would be great. I really don't see a conflict with integrators.
Ron: I appreciate that. I love that idea. As soon as it becomes politically correct I guess to jump on airplanes and fly across the country again. I'm down. I appreciate the invite.
Rusty: I love how you say politically correct to fly.
Ron: Well most importantly in my house, politically correct means my wife has to condone it. It would certainly need to be out of necessity. I am getting a few comments here that I'm coming through a little pixilated. I have a comment from a guest on the show, Wim, out of Spain. He says, "Interested to hear thoughts on the importance of demos and selling by creating an experience, the new normal."
Rusty: We had Tru Audio, a speaker manufacturing company in Utah, reached out to us and said, "Hey we have a good customer from Denmark and he's coming in. He wants to shadow an AV integrator. When you brought up this guy from Spain every country is a little different. Let's talk about this one awesome experience. Lars, this guy is so cool. He came down and he's as Denmark as it gets. I mean he looks the part and he talks the part with a great accent and he just wanted to shadow because custom audio-video, custom integration is not big in Denmark. And he's like, how do you do it? Why do you do it? He literally came out here for a week just to learn more about audio-video and he brought his wife. He goes, "I'm spending the whole day with you." And I approved all that stuff and I said, "Yeah for sure I'd love to walk you around and show you." I let them shadow me for the whole day. We went to three job sites, I showed them all this custom stuff we're doing. I showed them walkthroughs . I showed him some demos. We were in the remodel. This was back in August of last year and this guy was quiet but he was fascinated. "Wow. You're doing this much in custom integration. I don't know how you do it. Nobody buys that in Denmark." And then at the end of the day when I'm putting up our lighting and our stuff at our shop. I asked, "What do you do? You're shadowing us trying to get better at custom audio video in Denmark." He goes we're really good in lighting. Lighting is really big for us."And I looked at his work and it blew me away. Linear lighting. They are so far advanced and I asked, "Can I come and visit you in Denmark and shadow you?" He said absolutely. I think it's important to see people in Spain are doing it different than the US and different in Denmark and we can all learn from each other. He loved shadowing me and I can't wait to shadow him. His lighting is awesome.
Ron: Yeah, Wim manages a dealer base so Wim and his team represent manufacturers in Europe and he has about 300 dealers that he actively curates as his customers and he actually just commented back. He says that's a great idea to shadow each other. I think that there's a program that could almost be invented within maybe some structure but just the principle of thought leaders or practitioners from different markets. Some sort of environment where people could put their name in the hat that they'd want to go to different markets. Just imagine how much real learning, hands-on learning and experiential learning could happen if that was a regular thing.
Rusty: Yeah, there's a speech this guy gives on positive stuff and he just says if you can't give your talent you can't give what you're good at, you can't receive the fruits of life. And this was just one example of me being unselfish and saying yes I'd love to host. And there's a lot of times I've done it to where people call me and say hey we'd like to do an article on you. And as many marketing calls I get that I don't want to do it. I entertain a lot of people I host a lot of stuff saying yes I'll look into it and I'll give it a try. And I've been burned a few times but there have been so many great opportunities to where great things came of me giving. The example of that guy from Denmark. I can't wait to go. I'll hopefully be able to bring my wife as well and really learn from him and then come back and do it. If anybody is listening out there that wants to see a showroom experience, to come to hang out, that doesn't look at it as a competitive thing. It's more of a learning experience I'm willing to do that. And I would throw my name in the hat too to give what I can give.
Ron: Oh, I love that and you just got an open invite to Europe. Here, I'll put it on the screen. Wim says, "All Welcome to Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal at Genesis." I believe he has showrooms in all those countries. And so I'd say, guys make the most of it here we're an industry and we're a network. Let's leverage each other's experience. Let's bring everyone up to speed. First of all, some may be listening and or watching that don't know you Rusty. Can you give us maybe a quick background on you and your business? And then I want to transition into you know we talked in May. How have things spend the last 60 days? But just if you could tell that back story first that would be great.
Rusty: Yeah, I'm Rusty Deeble. I'm out of Long Beach California in the United States and I started the company at 20 years old when I was going to Long Beach State. It's a four-year college that took me five years I didn't really enjoy school but I enjoyed the social aspect and I had to join a lot of associations such as a business fraternity. I joined Delta Sigma Pi at Long Beach State and I joined ISSA which is an information system student association. Very business and very computer savvy. I used to build computers and do networking when it was BNC's back in the day before ethernet cables at the age of 14-16. We talked about gaming. I was a big gamer back in the day. I'd have to bring my big flat CRT monitor. That was a cool one to different land parties. Fast forward I started just sitting shotgun in someone's truck and learning Direct TV satellite. When I was building computers and doing networks and managing printers and doing this stuff at a younger age, I didn't really feel appreciated or I didn't feel rewarding. The funny thing is the Direct TV commercial of Todd, how he used to hug his customers or customers hugged him because he brought them Direct TV entertainment. I started really feeling that. That commercial was real. When I was doing speakers and we were doing TV shows and this wasn't flat screens yet. That didn't start till 2003. I felt a really nice appreciation and it was a fun industry. I was still doing P.C. convergence which was big. Once flat screens came out, we were hooking up BGAs before HDMI and getting nice resolution of a computer with a mouse. I still like that to this day. Not many people do it anymore but I have a big degree in Information Systems so I have a Bachelors from Long Beach State doing computers and networking and business management and literally, that's what this whole industry turned into.
This whole industry turned into computers and network and IPs and every device gets online and now we're doing cloud-based remote servicing. My company was just me and then I got a helper and at the age of twenty-three or 2003, I graduated from school and I went full time. When I went full time, I remember getting a taste of a thousand dollars in a day. Now that was doing four or five. I was working 12-13 hours in a day and I made a thousand bucks and I was like wow, ok that's cool. I think the next year I had a lot of my eggs in one basket. I was doing Direct TV mainly. I did learn how to do cameras security cameras I learned how to do speakers and AV hookups when you're doing all the TV and Direct TV stuff. The next year I think I made a thousand dollars a day for seven days out of that year and then the next year turned into 14 days but then I lost a contract because I was a subcontractor of Digital Vision or Metro North America. They were funneling me work. When that went away my business dropped a lot. Then I started just using the skills of custom speaker install and doing things like that. Then once we started selling products, I could get you a TV or I can get you stuff like that. That's when I really started seeing money because that thousand dollars a day turned into three hundred dollars a day when you have to pay a couple employees to start helping you out. And it was getting very tiring. I learned at a young age to delegate and get good people that are socially capable but also technical which is kind of hard to do but it is possible. And you just make sure quality work. We were able to grow. I turned into one truck two trucks three trucks. In the year, 2008, before the crash, we were doing 1.2 million with three trucks. When the market crashed, I was really good at paying things off as in not taking loans not leveraging anything. The market was really good and people were expanding their businesses where I was just kind of riding it out making sure I paid it all off. Thank God because when the market crashed we lost 40 percent of our business. We went down to about eight hundred thousand in total revenues. That was in 2008. So then 2012, we were saving money. We were still doing good. We didn't have any vehicle payments and we were just renting a facility. In 2012, we bought a building. And that is to this day, our showroom. After about six or seven years, we did a big remodel thanks to the Pro Source dream showroom makeover. That was where we were increasing our business and now we're doing 3.8 million with that 19 to 20 techs mainly because we take care of our employees. We have this structure to where you can grow in the company. And I think everybody just really enjoys working here because I think we're all in it together.
"I learned at a young age to delegate and get good people that are socially capable but also technical."
I look at them as co-workers not I'm the owner and you are somebody else. We're all co-workers and we're all out there to make customers happy and when they're happy it makes us happy. And we really like pushing the envelope to make it fun. So we like creative design. We like architecture. We like colors. My mom and my wife come with a design background so I've grown up with that a lot. I really like unique things like Leon. Leon makes some unique one-off deals. I just think that's so fascinating. I like the Samsung Frame TV, on what you can do with it. They just came out with a portrait mode so we're now doing movie posters and theater rooms we just posted that.
Ron: I didn't know that. Is that a new update on the Frame?
Rusty: Only the 32 inch does it. The first thing we did, we put it in our showroom we tested it out and when you put it in a customer's spot. You got to stay up on it, you got to watch your shows like you. You have to stay up on what is out there. There are so many times customers don't know what's out there. And if you can't teach them or you can't bring it across their attention they won't be able to buy it. I have stories on that.
Ron: Yeah. The showroom, when did you win the Pro Source showroom remodel package? When was that?
Rusty: I want to say it was April of 2019.
Ron: About a year and a couple of months ago 14-16 months. Has the enhancement or the upgrading of the showroom, what was done high level and what impact has it had on your business that you know or that you attribute to a nicer space making a difference in your life for your business?
Rusty: Yeah, we did a theater, a JBL Synthesis theater with a Sony projector and star ceilings by Acoustic Innovations, Screen Innovation's big 180-inch screen. There's a couple of things. One people come in and they go oh my gosh the star ceilings I love it I want the star ceilings. We sold two sets of star ceilings. I've never sold star ceilings before. We've never sold a twenty-three thousand dollar Sony projector before. Now I don't have the twenty-three thousand projector. I have a sixty thousand dollar projector. Just because you have it doesn't mean you're gonna sell it. There is a good example right there of their star ceilings. I want those or I'm gonna need a projector. What I do? We just did a JBL Synthesis processor. We have a JBL Synthesis processor. But what it's doing is it's allowing our staff to become comfortable with products, showing that we can do it or something so beautiful in the showroom like human-centric lighting. I just did a walkthrough yesterday. The guy goes, "Yeah I don't think I need it on all my cabinets but I'm really thinking that would be cool here in this one spot it's like 15 feet." It's like great. We'll do that. Not many people have came to our showroom, it was always hard to get people to our showroom. That turns into a whole nother subject because what we did with our showroom hosting and creating this fun vibe here. Hosting events and stuff.
Ron: Did the pattern of hosting events change post remodel or have you always been doing it with the same sort of gusto? And for those listening, you are running quite the impressive business development strategy hosting events.
Ron: So much so that you've even spun it off as a separate business, using your space for events.
Rusty: Absolutely. We're here all the time. There's a huge UFC, you hear about the UFC and fight island coming up this weekend. We will probably be hosting. We sent an invite to our customer base but any kind of hosting of something we can do. But since COVID, we haven't done anything. Since the showroom is so nice and and and very expensive, I'd rather use it for influencers, Lunch and Learns. Let a customer that has spent X amount of dollars with us use it for free where I would normally charge two thousand three thousand dollars for it. We were generating eighty-some thousand dollars before doing birthday parties and baby showers. It was not this nice. We didn't have Bowers and Wilkins. We didn't have Klipsch towers, we didn't have a turntable where you can flick a little needle and break it and cost us eight hundred dollars. We didn't have the level of what we have. Custom leather chairs in the theater room but we have given it back. We're able to give back. There's a lot of things on this and I get so excited and passionate about that.
Ron: Tell me, I'm sure the audience will love it.
Rusty: One of our customers has spent over half a million dollars in his commercial residential this and that. And right when we finished he was just blown away. He's a tech guru. He goes, "Rusty could we use your place for my daughter's birthday?" I know. I trust them. Yes absolutely. I pretty much said hey you know to control everything I don't need to be here. He ran the place for eight hours. They watched two theater movies. They were outside barbecuing they had a great time. This place is very secure. I mean it is so updated with access control I could give someone a code or I can have someone one time pen come in. Very rarely would I do that but if it's family or friends or somebody I know. But now we can give back to somebody who spent whatever money and it doesn't matter but a customer who can use it for a fundraiser. They can generate one hundred thousand dollars. If you've just got a job for half a million dollars or two hundred thousand dollars and you're saying hey look this other company is bidding and they're going to give you this quarter-million dollar bid and we're going to come up with another design and whatever it is. Two hundred fifty thousand, Hundred thousand whatever. But we're going to give you an opportunity to host a great event at our studio that is brand agnostic pretty much and you can just create one hundred thousand dollars for your favorite charity. What are you talking about? Then they come and see they're like oh my gosh this is so cool.
We did a pet pic contest and the winner got a free theater night here and they were able to bring their immediate family and friends. Back in the day, I used to bring theaters to people because I feel like when you're in a movie and obviously I have some attention deficit. I'm really quick and my mind jumps to a lot of things. But when I'm in a movie, I can zone in and everything else tunes out. And I feel like that's so important. And as I went through high school as a mobility trainer for mentally disabled and handicapped kids, I loved that. They were happy, they weren't about what clothes I'm wearing. They weren't about I'm hanging with a cool crowd. I was a big-time wrestler. I just didn't like bullies. I didn't like the cool crowds and I just didn't associate with some of them. I really found a warm heart and it rewarded me by helping them. We used to go around and do movie nights for foster kids who didn't have enough staffing to take the kids to a movie and there was no TV doesn't do it. And I've rewatched movies in my theater and it's 10 times better to rewatch a movie which I never thought would be fun because of the theater experience. I just talked to somebody who fostered 16 kids over his life and I said Hey you're perfect. I want to talk to you about how can we have them come to us. It got tiring bringing a movie theater setting up a screen setting up speakers. It was taxing. Now with this space we will be able to host up to 14 kids for a fun private movie night to get the candy bar. They get a little barbeque or pizza and then they get. I mean for me that's going to be using the space. The space is going to expire in 10 to 15 years. How much can we use the space? If we can find charities or causes to raise money and to host and have a One Firefly party, we all get to use it. And guess what? That .01 percent customer who needs a theater for a half-million dollars. We're here to help them. We're here if someone wants a framed TV because they think that's cool. Whatever they might want or when they experience and live a fun night here with great sound and great visuals and great lighting. It's not set up like a showroom it's set up like a house party.
Ron: It sounds amazing but I didn't know you were a wrestler. I was a wrestler many moons ago. Did you wrestling high school or college or what was that career?
Rusty: My career in wrestling. I love it. I actually retired from jujitsu at 36 but high school I did four years. I got second in CIF. I was a top eight in Masters and I qualified for state. I never played in-state but I absolutely love wrestling. And then in college I applied for Fullerton which is NCAA top 10. And I didn't get on. When I went to Long Beach State they didn't have a wrestling team. So I got into MMA. I actually sponsor some MMA fighters I wrestled with a lot of the pros.
Ron: I'm thinking I'm a big MMA guy too. I've been following the UFC since the early 90s. I'm trying to think who's the Long Beach boys? Was it '04 or '05? In your area there's a couple of big MMA fighters.
Rusty: Yeah. There's Huntington Beach Ultimate Training Center you have Tiki Goshn. You have Razor Rob McCullough which was WBC champ. I sponsored him and we trained with him and then Dana White's good buddies with Tiki and Tiki is a fighting manager for quite a few top like Dillon Shaw and other people. Huntington Beach has more Tito Ortez.
Ron: Yeah. Early days in the UFC.
Rusty: Yeah. I've been to Dan Henderson's spot out in Riverside area not Riverside. Farther, Elsinore. That that was great Marietta area. I used to travel.
Ron: I didn't know Dan Dan Henderson lives near you? He lives in that area?
Rusty: He lives about an hour and a half in Temecula area, yeah.
Ron: Dan Henderson used to be a big wrestler before he went to mixed martial arts.
Rusty: That guy is great I love the whole wrestling vibe. Then after MMA, I got into jujitsu because my body was getting hurt and then I got up to blue belt in jujitsu and I did some tournament's from 33 to 36.
Ron: Wes here is asking where you trained your Brazilian Jujitsu. I think you mentioned it but where was that?
Rusty: Jujitsu was the Jujitsu League with Kevin Howell. And that's an Autos affiliate.
Ron: Wes is asking about the Diaz brothers.
Rusty: Diaz brothers I know the name but no. That's probably who he trains with.
Ron: I've tried to remember their names. My goodness, I've watched so many fights of theirs. Help me out Wes.
Rusty: Nate and Nick Diaz.
Ron: Yeah. Nate and Nick. Yeah. They're Sacramento. I think Northern California. Yeah. He's saying here Stockton. Yeah so that might be a different market. Oh there you go. You got James Holland. He's saying that's 209, my hood.
Rusty: Yeah. What's up. That's Sonic. How you doing James?
Ron: Oh he's got a super great comment. Here he goes. "Damn Rusty is sexy. Just sayin paired with industry expertise does it get any better?".
Rusty: Am I sexy and you're industry expertise?
Ron: No, I think you're both. I think he's putting all of that into one package there. That's funny. Rusty talk to me. How's business? There's a couple of things that could have been affecting you. Of course, you have COVID and what's going on with business there. And then you have the Black Lives Matter resurgence or really the rebirth of the civil rights movement. There's been a lot of very positive things happening but there have also been some challenges with riots and I believe some of that was near you. I think they were happening at the same time and I don't want to get political about the method of expressing your political views and what the right way to do that. But I believe that I think I saw on social media that was having some effects on your business, it was happening pretty close to you I believe. But you set the record straight. Again we haven't spoken in a few months.
Rusty: Yeah. The riots were yards away. We had someone staying here overnight security 24/7 for three nights. The riots ruined businesses. They were professionals who came in and took A.T.M. machines. I don't know how to open an A.T.M. machine. If somebody just wanted to break in and break the glass and create destruction. But there was a lot of professionals. There was a hundred businesses hit in one night, they created a rapid response group just for trying to get these cockroaches and then they scatter and they go to the next one. And it was a car with four people, a car with two people when they would hit it. One liquor store, 100 yards from my house got hit 14 times in one night. Different cars would pull up. It wasn't mobs and groups of parades that you see on national TV. It was sporadic.
Ron: It was really people infiltrating the people that were protesting many of them peacefully. And then there were other people coming in did simply take advantage of the situation and really harming or destroying businesses.
Rusty: Yeah I agree. Somehow someway, someone has communication saying look we're protesting in here. That's going to create all the police are locked up and tied up and then literally people came from Arizona to Long Beach. People were coming from all over. It doesn't make sense. But besides that our business is booming. People are improving their houses and I did a couple live things with different groups talking about people are going to make their homes nicer. I'm hearing about garages being outfitted with local speakeasy bars and their own unique space. What could we do with our garage and people are making an indoor-outdoor or putting indoors making it into the backyard? One-upping their neighbors like the Joneses say hey come to my bar. And they create this vibe because there are no restaurants to go to. And not just are restaurants reopening but if you look at it they're skeletons, you can sit outside right now only. Which means that I went to a restaurant last night with my family. It's probably the second restaurant I've been to in four months and we've got reservations and we sat outside and they're literally setting up Rubbermaid tables and basic chairs it's not a really good experience. I knew that home experiences are going to be better and you're going to go to the friend's house and we hop to another friend's house and we do this potluck style and we've had a great time. But it's sad and you have to wear masks. I don't care about wearing a mask but sometimes it's really hard for my staff to work and wear masks. It's hard to exercise and try and wear mask. Obviously, we're doing it for a good cause and I think it will help.
I don't know. People turn things into a political one. You're one way or the other way and I don't think that's the case. If you are a Republican you have to believe this or you have to love Trump. That's not the case or the Democrats. You have to do this and that's not it. Our business though in its entirety is cranking. We are as busy as it gets. We've lined ourselves up for things like this. We invested into marketing, we invested into our community. We love the backyard experience. We always have been shouting the backyard is as good as your family room. And people who didn't do outdoor systems and were not educated and aware they probably aren't informing their customers. And here's a really good example. There's a house down the street from our shop. He's a member at a golf club that I'm a member at. And he had me come over for the Sonos upgrade with 30 percent discount because their product from 2015 before expired. We upgraded their Sonos. Oh gosh, I'm in this beautiful nice house and all they want is a two thousand dollar upgrade. I said no problem, we're not a company that does theaters at one hundred thousand dollars and up only. There are a lot of companies out here in Beverly Hills that are like that. We take on any job. Next thing you know is the customer and I talk and have a little glass of wine. I said man your backyard is an award-winning backyard. He goes Yeah I know I spent a half a million dollars on it. I said yeah, it's great. I love your backyard, it is absolutely my favorite space of a home. He goes Well what do you think about it? What would you do if you would do anything different? I said well you don't have any Wow. I said there's no TV there's no sound there's no dining area. Because in California we have an indoor-outdoor you got to live and love it. And he was just quiet and he was very prideful of his backyard and he goes You know Rusty that's funny you say that because when I got the blueprints I said there's no Wow. And he goes, "That's all I kept saying was I need wow." And he finally got the design and he does, now that's wow. He goes, "Wow me." I went to the drawing board and I came up with a really awesome system I did a clipped design. I did three subwoofers 16 speakers and thirty-seven thousand dollars with a SunBrite TV, all this cool stuff and he goes, "You wowed me with your proposal."
We photoshopped his backyard with the state speakers. We really did a good job implementing what it would look like almost virtual reality but still pictures and all different angles. We photoshop the TV we photoshop all that stuff because I believe when you give a presentation and you just e-mail it or you hand it to him and this guy's too busy to want to come to our shop to see our legitimacy. He goes you wowed me on your proposal on the price and you wowed me on your presentation. But you wowed me too much. I want to drop it down to like twenty-five thousand dollars. What can we do? I said not a problem, we'll go down to eight speakers here, one subwoofer here, four speakers here, one subwoofer there. We'll go from 12 inch to 10 inch, we'll do this. We got the job it was twenty-six thousand dollars and he was so excited and happy but he was frustrated. He goes "I've had this backyard for four years and I've been missing out on amazing sound. Why didn't anyone tell me about this? Why didn't my pool contractor show me?" And I have a beef with some pool contractors because I feel contractors and pool contractors anybody doesn't want to get some of the audio-video people involved because we might be taking from their budget.
"We've lined ourselves for things like this. We invested into marketing. We invested into our community."
Ron: Fighting for the dollars.
Rusty: They're fighting for the dollars and they don't want to get digital installers involved because we might take away from their budget. Now customers like this one, they might not have a budget or if you show them what two speakers in a backyard can do is what he had versus what 12 speakers can do. Our showroom has that demo. And for the guy in Europe was talking about. I do a two speaker demo and then I do a 10 speaker demo. And the two speakers are just as important as the 10, because it completes the surround of that environment. You need to be full circle. And when I show customers that and I also have that same set up at my house so I can actually show them my house. They get it and they go, "Gosh I can't believe you can do this outside with subwoofers and things like that to get that richness there." If they didn't want to buy, they're going to buy because now they see the importance of it. They see my passion and excitement about it and if I'm passionate. And I can prove a product is worth it. They go, "Damn I wasn't going to buy. I told myself." But now I've even had a cop purchase the outdoor pool system instead of security cameras.
Passion sells. If you have great solutions and you know that you have a lot of fun toys and technologies that most people on the planet would enjoy if they knew they existed. It's just a matter of how to breakthrough and communicate that and it sounds like you have weaponized your passion and excitement for this tech and your customers appreciate that. How do you teach that or train that? Those that are listening that go man. I'd like to be better at that. What would you have them think about? I like to go to vendors warehouses or vendors showrooms. I like to go to my Pro Source events. I think my buying group gets me in touch with the right products, the right marketing teams. It's proven. We take about seven hundred fifty companies. We filter out really good ones. And there's a really good board that creates the product that we should have. If you want a new speaker line to come in, it has to pass all tests so it's proven products. Go to the shows, meet with the vendors. I don't really like it when the reps come in and they try and bring a briefcase and they try and show you something. You don't get the emotion. You don't get the feel. You've got to love it. You've got to find something you love that that you really like. You'll sell more of it. You got to try new products. You have to hook it up yourself. You have to. I'm not saying I program. I programmed back in the day some RTI, some Pronto, some universals. But I've never programmed Control4 and we're a top dealer in our area. We're now doing Savant and we're getting big in that as well. Just because you don't know or do some of it doesn't mean you can't have a passion for it. I put the product in at my house. For example, I try some Bowers and Wilkins. I learned about it, I did the education and I really was amazed on the brand. Then I tried a pair my house and every single speaker I ever put in a nice listening room I have to have a subwoofer but I put this these eight inch in, I got the new Bowers subwoofer. I was like oh my gosh these speakers are so good it sounds better without the subwoofer and it just muted it out and I'm shocked but anyways it gets you. That's the only way you can experience this stuff, that's the only way you can understand it. I'm a big bass guy. But I had to take that subwoofer out. Main thing is just being ingrained in your process. I know the passion of the way my vehicles look the stickers make me excited. When I first started the company business cards and little flyers and hats with logos, that inspired me. Creating that buzz, I just felt the accomplishment. Making sure customers are happy is the biggest things I hear integrators not wanting to go back in service. Service is the number one thing you have to make them happy and offer the 24/7 support from Parasol.
Ron: Let's talk about service and maintenance just for a moment because when we do marketing for companies and we build their websites or whatnot. I find that service and maintenance there's so much curiosity from so many companies that we engage with regularly and that's not our business right. We're just helping present the integrator to the world through various channels. How do you guys approach service and maintenance? Do you have official plans that clients sign up for? You mentioned Parasol. You're a reseller of Parasol. What does that look like for your business?
Rusty: We have a few aspects. One, we're in-house with our own warranties and we've seen success with that. We charge a certain percent very similar to Best Buy from 18.9 to 23 percent. And we're seeing success in warranting product for five years. Typically if something failed it fails in the first year which is under warranty anyways, customers aren't happy if something broke. But it's probably under warranty especially other company of two years three years five years even 10 year warranty. Hunter Douglas has lifetime on their shades and products and motors. There's wiggle room with that stuff. Plus the product cost declines when it goes, especially with TV so you get a good portion. I would recommend warranties. I would recommend a service plan. There's all different kinds of service plans that we charge from fifty bucks, hundred bucks, two hundred bucks and sometimes it can go up. That's all RMR. And then we use Parasol as a 24/7 tech support. They call them first. They handle most of the issues. A lot of the time you just gotta have the right product in line. You have to have the right power surge protections that is IP enabled like Wattbox or the OvrC hubs and portals for them to log in. If you don't know what to use, talk to Parasol they'll tell you what products work best with their system. I know that they work with a lot of different products but that's the first step for some of our customers who are I would say maybe 50 thousand dollars jobs and up. That deal with video matrix, audio matrix, a rack. Customers don't want to get behind that stuff. There are certain products that deem necessary. We give certain clients like the quarter-million dollars and up. We give them the Parasol for one year. It's very affordable for us to do it but it is part of our package and after the first year, they're going to want to keep doing it. It saves them, they come home at 11:30 at night working late coming back from out of town and their Apple TV doesn't work. They call that 800 number and within three minutes it's reset and fixed. When a product's not used like these vacation home, it gets locked up somehow some way. IP conflict or something. Whatever the reason things freeze or you can't do updates. Most of this stuff is all remote in these days and that's what I love the most. Besides that from warranties to maintenance contracts to alarm. Does that answer it?
Ron: Yeah. That's very helpful. Do you have that information on your website? People can check out or is that always just shared with customers on a case by case basis?
Rusty: No we have it on our website. Ron, check this out. We contact DTools and that's our proposal software company, right? We say hey we would really like a quick easy on the bottom of our proposal to have what the warranty or what the service contract can be. Those are two different things. It is $450 for us to create it. We think it'd be really good for all your customers to have, it'd be so simple to do. Sorry. I'm speaking for engineers and programmers that I don't even know how to do. And they said no this is a one-off custom for you. And next thing you know we pay the $450. We get it. DTools comes out and releases it to all their clients. That was frustrating.
Ron: That's where most things in this industry come from is from needs.
Rusty: Absolutely and integrators are the best ones to represent certain products and integrators know the down and dirty of all these things. They gave us a credit back saying hey we'll give you a credit but we've been working on this for over a year and it just happens to be right after our engineers and our office staff was a little burned by that.
Ron: Well a couple of quick thoughts. I'm mindful of the time here and I think we've been we've been chatting here with each other for approaching an hour now believe it or not. What is your prognosis for the rest of this year? What does 2020 look like for your business?
Rusty: Some of our staff is scheduling their little vacations and going on their family trips or doing something local in the United States because we really can't travel much but we're busy. We are. We're swamped. We've never been a few weeks out. We have great projects in the works. We have a lot of new construction jobs having us walk. We are experiencing some flip projects that had one hundred thousand budget reduced to forty thousand. We are seeing some investment companies reduced but we're seeing some homeowners invest in their backyards and their custom garages or their remodels or whatnot. We're having people that were on the fence of finishing their theater in their house because it's the basement and actually want to finish it now because they could have used it that much more and now they see the home values even increasing. We're seeing people do upgrades however they get their money but they're still in business and my heart goes out to everybody who's not working or not doing this stuff. We were a luxury industry thinking like oh the luxury market when the stock market crashes. But we're almost in the luxury part where people don't need it but they want it and that takes you to that Zig Ziglar conversation of pots and pans and china. They can't afford the pots and pans and the china is ten times more but once you introduced the china it's like oh my gosh I have to have it. And they find a way or when people start writing checks they'll keep writing checks more because they want to get it to a certain point. I just think that our industry is stable. We're going to keep growing, we're having growing pains right now. We're finishing a second showroom warehouse facility that specializes in something different, mainly for training and another automation company so we can have two completely separate things. But I think we're only going to be getting stronger and bigger in the whole home industry is going to get better. I think the commercial industry is going to be worse and if anybody's listening that wants some really good advice. I think that if you can create a flawless home office design with acoustics, with acoustic paneling, with ergonomic tables and chairs, with the right full design, with good backdrops for marketing for companies. I think corporations will be able to hire your company to create a fifty thousand dollar room that is going to block out the noise from kids and everyone else because corporations are gonna be reducing.
Google and everybody already announced they will not be going back because it is successful for these people to work. They're saving four hours of drive time out here in Southern California. Why drive two hours to L.A. and two hours back when you can successfully work at home? But how can you work at home? You're going to need better Wi-Fi, you're gonna need acoustic panels, you're gonna need better Salamander huddle stations, you're going to need a really dialed in professional with a good backdrop and everything flawless. Human-centric lighting, you're gonna have to have lighting that goes just right for the cameras. You have to have all the stuff and there's no better company than your audio-video integration of smart home stuff to do that. If you want fifty thousand dollars small offices hundred thousand dollars small offices or even a ten thousand dollar set up to allow someone to work efficiently and probably be paid by these Googles by these Facebook by these big corporations that don't have to pay for the employee to pay for their parking. Parking is $400 a month they don't have to pay for their parking lot, to pay for all the different expenses. I'm seeing people move out of state even and they're buying a house with one extra room to create these home offices. I think us as integrators can create a perfect room with no distractions.
Ron: I completely agree. I did it. I bought my new home and had a dedicated room for this office that was purchased pre-COVID . You can see there I put up one of my little acoustical panels and slowing down to really think through the space and having a robust Internet. Knowing that I would have been working more from my home office I put more time and attention into my own home network than I had in any previous home. And it resulted in COVID happened and I didn't and my team didn't miss a beat. We were fully functioning and operational and I think integrators are going to see a resurgence of these spaces. I see it already in web site orders in marketing material and collateral. For years the home office was nowhere to be seen in any marketing materials. In the last three months four months all of a sudden , it's back. Home theater, all of a sudden it's back. Everybody wants to promote these dedicated spaces because the consumer wants them, they need them. Who better to do that than an integrator?
Rusty: Specialize, get your lighting. You gotta practice. You got to play with it. You have to hook it up. There's a two wire three wire to wire a four wire five or six wire. There's all different ones for different types of lights. Get your lighting down get your acoustic panels ordered. I just ordered some, I got two areas done I'm going to need another area but that's a lot more money. I just got to save up for that or I might do a different design.
Ron: Gotta pace yourself.
Rusty: Yeah. You have to delegate too, you can't just do it all on your own. You have to delegate you've got to get someone specialized in shades and maybe lighting or you have to get someone else specialized in different stuff and bring the right people in and say Look all I want you to do is really know this really well and understand it. Or I've had people come into my company that don't know certain things and I'm like OK what do you like. What do you like for last four years? I really like cameras. OK, you are going to be our best camera person ever just get your training on that. We can talk for hours on training and other things to do but you have to get what people are excited about and you have to divide it up. You can't just do one. I got a call for window treatments. We sent out some marketing a 50 dollar discount. I said let me get you in contact with the right person. That's going to be Randall. And it's gonna be Jenny and they're gonna come out there. Okay great. It is off my plate. I'm off to doing something else now. You have to be able to focus just on that. You should have a service department to focus on services because that drains you down. There's lots of fun.
Ron: Rusty you've learned a tremendous amount over the last 20 years of running and growing your business in the space and I think what makes you very special is you're willing to share and you go out of your way to share. And I think there are givers in this world and there are takers. And I think givers will always win. And you're clearly a giver so thank you for all of the sharing of your knowledge and expertise. We have a comment here from Thomas. He says, "This has been one of the best interviews. Thanks to Rusty for sharing his expertise." He said the best. Thomas listens to some Automation Unplugged so he's comparing you to a lot of previous guests. That's a pretty cool statement.
Rusty: That makes me feel good. Give your gift man just give give your gift the way and you will get paid. You will work it out your value is your value. But if you feel good everyday you wake up. Sometimes it's hard and trust me. I have tough times but it makes me feel good to help others and or create. I don't like customers that drain you and that's a whole nother story. But we make it right. Get the job done and move on to the next one and fill your bucket where you can, right? Take your vacation and keep learning about cool products and enjoy.
Ron: I'm going to touch on that vacation topic here in one second but I do see Michael says, "In Rusty we trust."
Rusty: Michael's awesome. That guy is super knowledgeable and he's fun too and he always has good spirits and every time we connect he's just a joy to be around.
Ron: I completely agree. I was just on his show a few weeks ago and he and his wife are special people. Vacation. It is curious. I was just feeling I just had a conversation with my wife at the end of last week. The fact is, business is good. We're busy. I've never been busier in fact. At the end of the day though, all of the weight of COVID and the news. God forbid if you watch the news and just the fact that so many people in all of our lives are suffering from anxiety and just the weight of the world right now. The comment I want to share and I'd love your two cents is I totally agree that we all have to make space in our day to take breaks and space that's greater than just a few minutes, days to just step away and to get away from the business and spend time with our friends or family. And even if we can't go travel and jump on an airplane or I guess you can but maybe you don't want to do that while the virus is still out there. I was actually talking to my son and wife and we're gonna schedule here in the coming days a Star Wars Day. Ron's not working. I'll be in the house but we're going to watch we're going to cram Star Wars all day and just veg out and do that just to disconnect. What are you doing to stay sane?
I've booked quite a few trips on airplanes and I've had to cancel every single one so I have to reuse the points and stuff like that later on. I have a boat partner so me my buddy share a boat every other week so I get to go out and do that. I really like scuba diving and spearfishing. It actually feels like I'm in a tropical island somewhere going underwater. I have a golf course that I'm a member of but I hurt my elbow so I haven't played in the last four or five weeks so I've been able to golf a little bit earlier on during COVID and then I've actually had to take a Friday off here and there. Work is good enough to where things are running smoothly. My staff is getting some days scheduled in which they normally do around this time. I support the vacations and then I also support the guys having a little slower morning. They come in I'm normally on them say Hey we got to go. If they need that 20 minutes to get a coffee and get some snacks and get whatever. I've been more susceptible because these guys are pouring it all out there around the COVID, the nightmare of everything that's going on in the world is frustrating. I just eased up a little bit until someone takes advantage. The team is in it for the right reason. But on vacation besides the boat and golf , not much. We've been hanging out with friends. We did 4th of July 3rd of July staying local and. I'm not sure of any vacations that will actually happen. I had my birthday in April. I'm now 40. And then we got my anniversary this weekend on the 11th and then I got my wife's birthday 40th on the 31st and we can't really plan far away stuff. To answer, what you're doing with Star Wars. This Friday we're gonna be having a movie night with my parents and with my kids. Friday is gonna be definitely movie night at the shop and then Saturday. We have UFC fights and normally we would do it at the shop but if we're not going to be able to get a big group here, I'm just going to probably watch it at home with my wife and hang out.
Ron: Love it. Rusty thank you for spending time with me and our audience here. We had a pretty lively chat feed going here during the show. For those that are listening that want to see that chat feed. Don't forget to check out our Facebook page and or our website and you can see the show page. This is show 128. If you're searching or just search for Rusty's name, Rusty Deeble and you'll find the show. Rusty, how can folks get in touch with you?
Ron: Awesome Rusty I think I put a crawler on the screen did I get it right?
Rusty: You got it right.
Rusty: I appreciate you having me.
Ron: Awesome. Thank you Rusty. All right gang. There you have it the one and only Rusty Deeble, President of Digital Installers and this has been Show #128. Again as a reminder, One Firefly is going to do a fun very quick 30-minute webinar tomorrow so be sure to check out those details on either our social feeds Facebook Instagram or LinkedIn and or just by going to our web page and you'll see under our webinar section, we'll have the information and you can register. If you're out there and you want to see what we're doing to help our clients with our new reporting upgrades and the online access and mobile access and all kind of the neat stuff we're innovating there. Be sure to check us out on that webinar and otherwise I will see you on the next show. We'll see you next week for show 129. Thanks, everyone. See you guys soon.
Rusty is President of Digital Installers which he founded in 2001. Since inception, he has worked hard to make his customers happy by providing friendly, professional, and clean custom audio/video installations regardless of project size.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.
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