Home Automation Podcast Episode #137: An Industry Q&A With Matt Fowler
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Matt Fowler of HomeTroniX, shares his approach to marketing and creating a strong digital presence.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Matt Fowler. Recorded live on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Matt Fowler
In 2014, Matt invested in HomeTroniX with his father while a senior at Tulane University but chose to pursue his career in the Marine Corps and later in the wine industry.
In 2019, with the company at a crossroads between growing at a faster rate or keeping the status quo, Matt agreed to join the family business as an executive with the goal of growing and scaling the integration firm.
- How Matt’s time in the Marine Corps impacted his role as a leader
- How to grow and scale an integration firm
- HomeTroniX’s growth during COVID
- Matt’s approach to marketing and creating a strong digital presence
Ron: Matt how are you sir?
Matt: I'm good. Are you doing Ron?
Ron: I'm doing good man. Matt where are you coming to us from? Where are you located.
Matt: I am in Jonesboro Arkansas in northeast Arkansas. We're about an hour from Memphis. For those of you that need help getting Arkansas on the map it's about two hours from Little Rock.
Ron: OK. And does anyone actually pronounce it R KANSAS or is it always Arkansas?
Matt: It's always Arkansas.
Ron: OK, all right.
Matt: People I think maybe from Kansas might say that people you meet that are trying to be funny say that. It's always Arkansas.
Ron: Yeah. Boo to those people. It's Arkansas. We have some people already jumping into the feed here. We've got Adam. He goes Hello from North Carolina and we have Brandi. She says hello from Las Vegas and we have Wes. He says hello and I had already dropped on the screen earlier but I'll do it again. We have John. Now John is with you. Correct.
Matt: John's with HomeTroniX so I'm sure he'll ask all the hard-hitting questions that he wants to ask me in private.
Ron: I've seen John on some podcasts. What is John's role within HomeTroniX?
Matt: John was one of the first hires that they made at HomeTroniX. Started out in the tech side, quickly moved into sales. Really took off, grew the company and has maintained sales. I like to say he's our industry connection. We let him loose. He's great in developing relationships so me and my dad are very behind the scenes. We don't know not too much our world.
Ron: All right. Well you've heard it John straight from the horse's mouth.You have to ask all the hard hitting questions and I'll just put them right up on screen and we'll watch Matt. Matt Sweat. I'm just kidding Matt. Not gonna do that to you.
Matt: Bring it on.
Ron: Bring it on. All right. So Matt let's go back to the let's go back to the beginning. How did you what's your background look like and how did you ultimately land in the role you are today with HomeTroniX?
Matt: Yes so my background's Marine Corps after college, did my time there ended up in Quantico Virginia training other lieutenants who are about to go out into the fleet. From there, I really going to stay in Northern Virginia for a little bit. I wasn't quite ready to move back to Arkansas. Got into the wine industry, wine's a big passion of mine in the healthiest way possible.
Ron: Wine is a passion of mine but only the consuming part. Were you in the consuming side or the business side?
Matt: Both. Obviously you've got to consume it to know it right. But now I am qualified in wine. I have some certifications Winspear Education Trust. For those of you that I've seen like Som, I'm not quite to that level.
Ron: I've listened to a podcast that talked about Som that I think was a Netflix documentary.
Ron: There are different classifications to ultimately become the highest ranking Somali. Are you one of those classifications?
Matt: It's a different qualification process but I am on the board, I will say. I definitely never will be or do I have a desire to put an effort to be at that level. But I went up to W set level three which is one step below you getting your diploma of wine which is about a two-year process. That's when I got a little burnt down.
Ron: OK so can you wear a blindfold and if you were given various wines could you tell the difference between a ten-dollar twenty dollar fifty dollar and one hundred dollar bottle of wine? Is that even possible?
Matt: I think there are quality wines at every price point and that's one of the first things you realize. You see it in this industry as well a lot of people, they really want to buy luxury. They might buy a speaker worth a thousand dollars I could have bought for a hundred bucks somewhere just because of the name or whatever the case may be. As you try more and more, I've worked for Total Wine in Virginia and they have a portfolio about 8,000 wines. We tried a lot. And you find them all across the board. One of my favorite and my go to white wines is this cheap Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa. I had it next in my favorites there is my 50 dollar tab right next to a six dollar bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and people think that doesn't make sense. But if you find the quality the price point can be anywhere.
Ron: Do you have an opinion on the Josh wines like we're particular fans of the 10 to 12 dollar Josh wines the cabernet.
Matt: Yeah. Most of that range their key is to produce consistency year in year out. They're not coming in for that blockbuster hundred point rated wines. They want to get as many people to buy as many bottles as possible and to do that they have to make the same. 2016 2017 2018 should taste the same. Good quality wine good price point.
Ron: All right. That's good to know.
Matt: I won't call you a bum.
Ron: Well I don't know, it wouldn't be the worst I've been called but I love a number of 10 to 20 dollar bottles of wine and I've struggled to consistently and I'm admitting my ignorance here on air that I have. I've always struggled to really understand the regular 40 to 50 dollar bottle of wine or greater. Do you have to have a particular flavor palette to get that?
Matt: No, that's kind of the business side of it right. If you look at Josh, ten dollars they're going to have a huge vineyard. They're sourcing a lot of grapes and blending it all together to give you consistency. You go to that 40-50 dollars. They're buying it from a maybe not a single vineyard but just a couple vineyards a lot more room for error. Especially like those finicky grapes that a lot can go wrong in winemaking.
You're gonna see a higher price point on that just because a lot more risk goes into it. Just like anything else in business by putting more risk, I need a higher price. Or if I don't have enough quantity and I can't sell the volume I need. That's just how it gets priced and then some get a little outrageous because their names get out there and they get some name recognition and then also they start slapping 3 figures on a bottle of wine and it just gets the name alone.
Ron: It's very little different than maybe a 50 dollar bottle. The hundred and twenty dollar bottle is just branding and marketing at that point.
Matt: Yeah it's all marketing and branding.
Ron: Gotta love marketing.
Matt: There's your plug.
Ron: There you go. Sometimes it led to charge more money. That's that's not a bad thing. That's not a bad thing. So Marine Corps. What was your role in the Marine Corps? How did that happen?
Matt: Yeah. So it's something I always wanted to do. I almost joined out of high school. Kind of that classic like I would've done it but whatever. I wanted to go to college the recruiters here are only interested in getting kids out of high school no one ever told me about ROTC that that was even the thing. I went down to Tulane in New Orleans and it just happened to have one of the larger Naval ROTC units. I had some friends that I made in that. I never actually joined ROTC which was great because they walked around with their nice haircuts and I walked around with the beard all day and during the summer would go do all my training for Marine Corps. Afterwards, became an artillery officer. Never deployed or anything fun. No fun stories there. Ended my time there training future liutenants in the academics department at what is called the Basic School which is six months of training for all Marine Corps officers to teach them basic infantry tactics.
Ron: You were in Quantico. Correct?
Ron: I'm from Virginia so I only vaguely remember Quantico. Isn't there some type of special forces or something is based out of Quantico?
Matt: Probably thinking FBI.
Ron: There you go.
Matt: The FBI training facility is in Quantico.
Ron: OK but that was separate from the military.
Matt: That is separate yes. They're just located on a Marine Corps base.
Ron: I see. OK. Well we'll get into it but I certainly want to circle back to the military. I'm curious in your role in leadership and operations what some of those takeaways from that strong military upbringing how that's affected how you look at this industry and leading others in this industry. Let's make sure we come back to that topic. But I do want to get the full snapshot of how you landed at HomeTroniX. What was approximately the year when you left the Marines?
Matt: Left the Marines in April of 2018. Somewhat recently about two and a half years ago. Went and worked at a winery for a couple months before settling down a Total Wine which is headquartered out of Bethesda Maryland. And for those who don't know, natural national retailer and wine beer and spirits so glorified liquor store. Yeah. You wear a tie every day you know. It's professional and I do very good education and that is kind of key there. About a year a couple months into that , I was in Northern Virginia and ultimately was ready to make the move back home. I'd always intended to come back to Arkansas I didn't know when it was going to be. I actually didn't intend to come back to HomeTroniZ but I was kind of looking to see what I should do next with my life. Twenty-five. Everyone at that age is kind of looking to make that next career jump or get a promotion or whatever the case may be. I was applying to law school's MBA, got a couple full rides and ultimately was like I'll get the real-life MBA by just going working for the family. He's always done very well in business. Ultimately decided to come back work with HomeTroniX and my dad as a learning opportunity something to really learn so that someday I can then go off on my own and start whatever I find to start.
"I believe working in a business in a leadership or executive role or whatever role is is a much my opinion much better education than a business school. It's gonna teach you."
Ron: I believe working in a business in a leadership or executive role or whatever role is is a much my opinion much better education than a business school. It's gonna teach you.
Matt: And of course, everything you read now is like MBAs are worthless. I was like that doesn't sound fun and I don't want to be a lawyer I just want a law degree for some reason. You can have a bucket list law degree check.
Ron: That's three years of school that I don't want to waste three years. I can take three years make money and learn a lot more about business. Even with the headaches.
Matt: Yeah for sure. You joined the business but I've learned this over the past year and getting to know you. You had a condition under which you wanted to join the family business HomeTroniX. It wasn't obvious that you would come back. What was that condition?
Ron: Yeah. I was looking at it. I'd told my dad I was wanting to looking at moving back to Arkansas and looking at jobs and whatever. And he asked if I wanted to come join HomeTroniX. I started looking into it really heavily and looking at where we were. I thought we were at a crossroads in the sense that we'd hit scale. We were making money but I thought there was a ton of room to grow. I thought we had a ton. We had the right amount of market share in our region. But if we wanted to get any bigger, we were going gonna have to branch out and start looking up those opportunities making more hires opening a new office whatever the case may be. My condition was I basically just point-blank asked are we settling from where we're at now and just going to fight year after year to get this number or we can keep going to the next level and keep improving? And I was only interested in coming back if we were going to keep growing because no one wants to join a company that's settling and is happy where they're at. I just don't believe in that.
Matt: I think some do. It's all about those life choices and what works and us all being brave enough to know what we want and it sounds like you knew what you wanted. You wanted a growth opportunity.
Matt: And did you confront dad and have that conversation and he said Yeah let's do it or how?
Ron: Yeah. My family we've always worked together. I guess I'll be the newest addition to that the family business. But since my dad and uncle were old enough they started working on KFC stores at 14 because back then you could. That's how long they've all been together. So. I was raised in a there's a very good separation between personal and professional. I don't mind having that like hey I think we're settling let's grow. I'm only coming back if we grow.
Matt: You joined the business. Am I doing the math? You did join the business in '18?
Ron: No it was in October last year 2019. OK so we're later. We're about 10 months in. I just say one look at the calendar.
Matt: This looks like eleven months in. Yes something around there. We struck a time. But I don't know you remember I think the first time we ever talked was actually my second day at HomeTroniX.
Ron: I don't think I remembered. Idea. I knew you were greenish please don't be offended but I didn't know that was two days green.
Matt: Yeah. You were asking me like what brands y'all carry. No idea. Are y'all more residential commercial? No clue. But obviously know those things now. Eleven months in now. But my main priority back then was to create an online presence something professional that when people find us they've already been sold and start driving in those leads. That's why I contacted you so early.
Ron: I'm going to circle back to the military. How many years were you in the military? Four years or three and a half years.
Matt: Three years and you were teaching in Quantico. You were teaching lieutenants second lieutenants.
Ron: Correct. You were teaching leaders. Your military background is fresh. What are you able to apply or what really resonates with you that you're able to apply to your taking on a leadership role within HomeTroniX. Yeah.
Matt: I think a lot about leadership gets applied every day just how to leading by example. I mean I can always say it's going to be a lot of key words here but like leading by example not being complacent I pay attention to detail, the things that I think get tossed aside especially when you get busy. Keeping your van clean what's our appearance to the outside world that professionalism. Let's not show up in a t shirt and look like garbage. Small things like that. That's very military-like very especially Marine Corps. That's something I bring to the table every day. And I'll go out there and say we need to clean these vans because there are bugs all over them and that looks bad.
It seems simple it almost seems like a no brainer but once you start getting busy and that complacency sets in. It's going to affect everything we do when you get to a job site are you going to clean that up because your van is dirty. I try to stay away day to day with HomeTroniX by using some of the terms that we would use like attacking the point of friction. Right. The biggest job I have is one of first things I did was I laid out our entire process from lead generation marketing all the way to billing and then service and I looked at each step of that process and said where are the inefficiencies? And I placed myself wherever the greatest inefficiencies are in order to fix those. I'm sure that's what John wants to ask all the questions about because he was one of the first people focused on. But that's what we were doing the billing was inefficient. When I first came on board our payment we weren't getting paid quick enough. What I saw we've now cut that by almost a hundred percent in terms of how fast we get paid. Obviously there was almost no marketing lead generation besides referrals and word of mouth to speak of which is why I called you day two and now on focusing more and more on the project management side of things. The warehouse operations.
When the guys show up in the morning get them out the door as fast as possible. If you wake up first thing in the morning and all of a sudden you can't find your toothbrush you can't find your razor you can't find the eggs to cook your breakfast your days in disarray to start off. If you can implement someone in the back and put them in there and put them in the guys lives so they show up they're ready to go. Go to the bathroom, grab some coffee whatever you need to do or get out the door we're getting billable hours right on the gate. That's the things I focus on that's really what the Marine Corps helped me and allowed me to bring to the table here.
Ron: Are you still affiliated with the military?
Matt: I'm not. No I am out and free.
Ron: You're out and a free man and for all of those veterans that are listening and or people in their active reserves we thank you for your service and Matt certainly thank you for your service. It's very impressive that so many are willing to volunteer and do that to protect us all. How is business man? How are you guys handling COVID? Obviously it was scary there for a bit and a lot of people hurt pretty badly for a bit and now things at least in some markets seem to have flipped the other extreme. What's your reality what are you seeing? You're in northeast Arkansas?
Matt: Arkansas as a whole we were blessed. We were watching some of our friends in New York New Jersey and some of these other states have just completely shut down. I think we all about declared from this part essential workers but our job is to go into people's houses and a lot of the stuff I'm sure they weren't allowed to do that never happened for us. I think we had a two week period where we shut down but didn't really shut down. We were essential workers. Nothing ever really slowed down here.
Ron: Did sales slow down? Did customers stopped calling?
Matt: We had one customer reach out and say can I get my deposit back? We want to wait to see how everything plays out. And ultimately they ended up asking us to come. They wanted their deposit back. But then they wanted us to fix something small like go to an Apple TV or something. We'll send our guy out. Our guy wore full PPE very just professional. Sanitized the entire area he worked at. They called us and said never mind. Keep the deposit. Let's do the project. That was the only thing that we even got close to getting hit by. I think for a second there people hesitated.
There may have been a few weeks there where people were hesitating. We heard from a couple of customers like let's wait to see how things play out. It didn't last long. We are now having the greatest quarter that we've ever had in terms of sales. I know it's kind of late in 2020 so a lot of that's looking to shape out in 2021. We're looking to have a huge next year.
Ron: That matches last week I interviewed Josh from Portal and between he and then Kirk the CEO they were he was e-mailing me live during the show and he messaged me a graph that I was allowed to talk about on-ai and it's mirroring what you're saying now. He stated that June and then July and then August were their highest rate of converted proposals on the Portal platform in company history which is matching what you're saying. Which is Q3 is going to be your best close sale.
Matt: Yes and hopefully Q4 follows suit and keeps going from there. We added a sales guy. We opened up in northwest Arkansas also with a new market new sales. We're looking polished. hired new techs always hard to come by. But we have a few green guys who were training to get up there. But we're growing and growing and it's not slowing down. It's all positivity from here. And of course I think at this point we're all burnt out from coding. I don't foresee anything really throwing a wrench in our plans now.
Ron: Amen well now is the time to get this very critical John Campbell question out of the way. It's a good time to do this because I want to transition to a different line of kind of chatting here in conversation. But John is asking you if hypothetically we're going to put a pair of Focal Sopras 2s in your showroom. What color would you choose? Is this a joke of a question or is this really a debate?
Matt: It's a joke but it's somewhat serious. He knows my opinion. We're completely gutting out our showroom and then redoing it and creating a living room setup with I don't even know what type of stone that is on the wall. But it's colorless it's like white stone.
Matt: Something limestone.
Ron: Channel your inner interior designer Matt.
Matt: Well, my opinion was we needed color in that area. They make these orange sneakers while one HomeTroniX is orange. Right. That's just kind of our color. That would look awesome. I would want those orange speakers. Our worry is that the wives will come in with their husbands and not want orange speakers in their house.
Ron: You might hear a shriek.
Matt: There's also a wood panel. Yeah. Like those are ugly and they're not supposed to be, they are supposed to be architectural. They make it look nice.
Ron: They make wood paneled ones as well so he wants the wood-paneled, I want the orange. We'll see. I think from a branding standpoint I agree I think if you did not plan on the necessity to move those because it also cost you money to put stuff on display. It's not free. If you don't plan to have to move them I do think they would look cool to have orange. But I do see John's got a point. Many in interior design or you know spouse in that family unit is probably one half going to love orange and the other half's probably going to hate with a capital.
Matt: We price them more with the wood paneled so we should probably go with that. Let him win this one every now and then have to let him win a battle to keep him happy.
Ron: He says he's willing to go with white. I just saw the comment.
Matt: We're not going with white.
Ron: Just stick with wood John. Take the win take the win stick with wood. It's funny Wim, our friend out of Spain. He says Portal did orange pants and it worked out for them. Go with orange.
Matt: We'll open it up to the community. We'll put a little pole on Facebook and see what everyone wants.
Ron: There you go. You heard it here guys. It's going to be a Facebook poll and the winner takes all. Matt, back to operations and kind of that core. One of the things that excited you about joining the company was this concept of growth. How do you think about that and how did you start to map out a strategy of growth? What does that mean growing within your current market taking on new markets. What did that mean to you?
Matt: Well both of those. I don't like to attack one front at once I want to go after as many as I can. Within our own market , it was definitely how can we get more leads in the door? Not necessarily in the door but online was the main platform I was going after but you know John had built this very large network of people that referred us. That was where everything was word of mouth. We are getting some major jobs around the country because they had heard about us and. We were getting some major jobs within the community because they'd heard about us and that's great.
My goal was to then how do we keep growing that network? How do we keep bringing in new leads? That was one aspect of that growth strategy was just to get organic growth off the website. Someone Googling home theater control for outdoor whatever will l find us and click on our website and I know I'm kind of giving you a plug here and you told me not to but it is it was a major part of my growth strategy.
Ron: You've done it. Now I'm going to share it. We'll see if I can get technology to behave. There's your website. You keep talking I'll navigate and I'll poke around.
Matt: They click on that and they're like wow these guys are legit without having ever even talked to us. And that was my idea and that's part of what I told you that second day I'll say I have no idea what we do. I don't know our brands. I don't know if we're more residential more commercial but I want someone to clicks on our website to be like these guys are professional and they go to our social media. That was another aspect of it. It's a very millennial mindset. It's very 2020 but that's how I look at every business. I go to their Instagram I go to their Facebook page and I go to their website and then I call so that's where my mind was on the growth within the market. And then each of those customers we do a good job for, now we'll go right back to a word of mouth with them. And that's where John shines. And then on the side of actual new markets, it was mostly looking at where the jobs coming from outside of northeast Arkansas.
Of course, we consider Memphis within our market. That's only an hour away. Little Rock's right there on the threshold but Northwest Arkansas Fayetteville Bentonville Rogers area wasn't really the area I saw ripe for the picking. If you just look at the development going on there, Wal-Mart has recently announced their new campus that they're building. Development has taken off prices in the area has skyrocketed. There are a lot of Wal-Mart executives is headquartered there. JB Hunt, Tysons, there's a lot of really large companies headquartered in that area with executives and they want this stuff that we sell. It was almost like a no brainer. There's almost not much thought going into the process because you look at you know you look at the competition there's really great integrators up there. But there's more than enough jobs to go around. And I think I can really name three maybe four integrators in that area. We have three in Jonesboro which is a significantly smaller size. The competition, it's greener pastures. It was a no brainer to get up there. We got ourselves a guy who's one of our techs, starting to really shine and do some great things. He's up there now just hustling and closing jobs for us and it's going really really well.
Ron: Had your family business in the past, would they choose to not do projects in different markets? Were they mindful of saying no to other geographies or is it just that today because of that you just mentioned that construction that's happening in that market it's booming? And so you're going where the jobs are and you're just you're following that? What was the decision in the past?
Matt: Everything was based out of northeast Arkansas. You're talking in terms of Home TroniX right?
Ron: Yes HomeTroniX.
Matt: I don't think, there wasn't necessarily the staff to expand. I don't think there was really the desire to put that extra effort and investment into either, looking at buying a company or hiring and getting the right people there and then to a man and there's a lot going into that maybe the job. There weren't as many jobs. We have a lot of connections in that area and they've been very nice to us. We're grateful for them and because of that and just kind of the timing , everything it was just the right time to make that move that I don't think I was right wasn't the right time in the past. We're too focused on just growing our market share here in the Northeast part of the state.
Ron: I think I know this to be the case but if not correct me you guys are looking at growing not only organically but also if and when the opportunity strikes through acquisition and at least I know you think that way. I don't know if you guys have done that or acted on that.
Matt: We haven't. We've got into some conversations with a couple of companies and I just could not convince myself that it was the right move. Obviously you need the staff and that's what they would bring to the table is something that works. But I was listening to your podcast with Bravas CEO, Brian Anderson. Yeah. He kind of said the same thing. How they did Bravas was everyone got into alignment before they made it happen. And that's just a whole nother battle to fight if you buy a company you've got to bring them into your way of doing things. You got to pick and choose.
The problem I see in our industry with that kind of acquisition mindset is a lot of companies are owner-operator and if you take away the ownership part of that, does that person really want to stay? And is it almost a cult of personality where they're now do their employees want to stay? That was my fear. And really what's the what? How do you put a price on that? And it just didn't seem like it seemed like the risk was too much for how much you would have to pay to buy a company.
Ron: You certainly could buy the company someone would accept a paycheck.
Matt: Yeah someone wants the money.
Ron: What you don't know with confidence is will all that is that company which frankly is the people, would the people stick.
Matt: Right. Yeah. Personally if you came to me and tried in the way that I would be thinking this only way with non competes and everything, I would be like I'm out. Especially if I was the owner. Most owners have that same mindset. You don't wanna work for someone else. That's just the way it is. I didn't think it was worth it. I thought for a lot less money I can grow organically and if I take an extra year or two to get to scale or the right size. But that's just the way it's going to have to be.
Ron: How are you guys handling getting people? Actually this is virtual CEDIA week. I taught a course with my Manager of People Operations. I taught the course yesterday morning and I actually taught it around H.R. and hiring practices. I think it's going to be available on. Well, I've got it saved. I'll send that over. But I'm curious how you guys are currently thinking about staffing and finding people and just kind of how you manage the whole hiring process. Any secrets you have.
Matt: I don't, if anyone has secrets please send them my way. I think one of the largest hinderance to any company in this industry is the ability to hired experienced and talented technicians. And it's something we struggle with. And we just kind of started opening that door to new hires. We plussed up our staff earlier in the year but at the time I saw it as an investment so I took people, younger guys who I could train and that's who I was looking for was barring some experienced guy walking through the door. I knew I had to take someone who was smart interested and willing to put in the effort to learn. Now we're kind of we are looking for experienced people we need experienced people. Any secrets on how to find those people, let me know.
Ron: I thought you were going to drop anyone interested here's my email.
Matt: If I did have that secret, I would not be telling it to the public. I would be keeping it to myself. even at the mercy. Now so true man. You mentioned that you are.
"What makes an integrator so different than a retailer is that when business pops, a retailer can sell more boxes and they can make up for a bad month or a bad quarter. But an integrator, so much of what you do there's a bottleneck which is your ability to put people on the project and pull the wire and install the stuff and program the stuff. You can only do so much even if it's raining your bucket is fixed."
Ron: You had your best sales quarter in history and what makes an integrator so different than a retailer is that when business pops, a retailer can sell more boxes and they can make up for a bad month or a bad quarter. But an integrator, so much of what you do there's a bottleneck which is your ability to put people on the project and pull the wire and install the stuff and program the stuff. You can only do so much even if it's raining your bucket is fixed right.
Matt: That's something that was hard for me when I first got back to come to that realization that is coming from retail. I saw that you get your numbers that day and you know what you did. You have your goal for the next day.
"The cash flow in this industry it's most similar to construction right. You sell a job you get a deposit you order the product you schedule it and then you have multiple stages of the project and you progressive bill and keep that cash flowing."
The cash flow in this industry it's most similar to construction right. You sell a job you get a deposit you order the product you schedule it and then you have multiple stages of the project and you progressive bill and keep that cash flowing but we might have. Well , we did have the largest quarter and we're only halfway through the last month of the quarter half that could come in next month. Half that come in the next month and a half of that come in midway through 2021. Really projecting out and having to stay on top of that. But that is the issue is you do get bottlenecked in especially in times like right now where production and shipping is just atrocious. It's making that decision do you want to keep a lot of product on hand and have a huge inventory or do you want to continue with what we've always done in order for the job? It's just daily decisions and I'm sure one company will do it one way or another company will do it another way.
Ron: I'm not sure there's a best way but what you choose to do any vendors you want to give a shout out to because maybe they're handling inventory in a particularly positive way or they're making product available to you. I didn't tell you that in advance I would ask and I wasn't prepared for that and I certainly don't want you to call anyone out negatively.
Matt: Yeah. I won't do that. I'm smart enough not to do that. Well I'm smart enough. Because you really want some stuff in squeaky wheel gets no you know TruAudio has done really well they still get us our product our speakers line they get us our product very quickly. We can pretty much contact them any time and get what we need from them. We go through AVI to get a lot of our cameras and stuff from High Vision or many other products because they're just a wholesale distribution and they have a place in Little Rock. When we're down there for business we can pick up stuff, they've done a good job. So I'll give a shout out to those two.
Ron: Big picture for access to hardware and inventories, what's the word on the street. What's the scuttlebutt? When do you think this gets better for everyone? Yourself and the industry.
Matt: Soon. I don't know. I'm not going to pick a date but I think it will be soon. I'm starting to see more and more product come in. People seem to things seem to be opening back up and they seem to be getting their products and putting them together and getting it to us. A big one was Sonos, I'm not calling them out for being bad.
Ron: I'll call them out. I've been waiting for my portals for my house for weeks.
Matt: I've been waiting for Sonos archs for months.
Ron: Oh no. OK.
Matt: I'm not calling them out for being bad, I think they released a product right at the beginning of a shutdown and right at the time where you look at Home Depot and Lowe's and they're posting 150 percent increase in earnings because everyone's doing home improvement. Of course , everyone's now trying to buy this new speaker that's coming out. I don't blame them. It's just terrible timing.
Ron: Speaking of that, my internet went out yesterday and I was preparing that I might me be out for weeks maybe longer. I didn't know how long it would take the developer to re-run my fiber line and I started calling around to AT&T stores to get their access point their hotspot. All the stores are sold out. I was almost panicking. So I was like Oh my God if I'm without internet. Oh my God what do I do? And I don't even get an access point to get on the Internet.
Matt: Well I mean it's access points, TVs. We also got hit by a double whammy. We had a tornado here in Jonesboro about I guess back in March took out Best Buy. Luckily no one was injured in this tornado.
Ron: It knocked down the store?
Matt: Gone completely gone.
Ron: What happened to all the electronics? They blew around in someone's yard?
Matt: I guess but luckily no one was hurt. That's something we've now been hit by. You're not really competitive competing with Best Buy directly. .
Ron: They're in the electronics business.
Matt: Someone might go to Best Buy Wal-Mart Sam's Club to buy TV. Well they can't go to Best Buy anymore and they know we install TVs as part of our project. They'll start contacting us. Well then all the backup. I mean you can't find TV anywhere. And that's been a huge issue. Best Buy was kind of a blessing since no one got hurt. I can say that. But also you know that's also been a huge part of the increase in the small sales, more retail sales that we will do.
Ron: Question this week is CEDIA. This is CEDIA virtual week. Not to call you out just out of curiosity are you guys participating? And is that even on your map or radar? Or are you guys too busy?
Matt: I would imagine John will find time. I honestly had not even put it on my schedule. I get the emails all the time and they kind of just get straight to the trash. If something piques my curiosity I would definitely participate. But as far as I know I will not be. But that's not going against anyone.
Ron: For sure, just I like taking the pulse and we just so happy to be doing it in a very public way. That's all. What does the future hold for buying groups? I know you're in Azione and I have customers in all the major buying groups and all the major buying groups have either canceled their events and or moved to virtual events. As an integration firm that is at a peak of business that you haven't seen in some time. How does that affect you guys? Or is that on your radar as an issue? I know it's an issue for vendors that are trying to get the attention of business right. I'm curious if it's on the radar of the small business integration firm as mattering.
Matt: It's on my radar. I am paying attention to it. And main reason being we joined Azione I guess back in December. We are new and they cancelled the first convention of the year so I haven't had a chance to really go down there really get involved and meet anybody. I want to go for that purpose. Is it on my radar is like an issue like do I really care one way or another?
Ron: You benefit though from the programs. Financially you're immediately benefiting.
Matt: Yes I am curious that I want to get involved. Part of the selfish reason I think the Fall convention was in D.C. and of course I want to go back to D.C. and see all my friends. There is a little bit of selfishness there but I hope it's supposed to be in October. I might have been ignoring those e-mails as well.
Ron: No it's been canceled.
Matt: I will say no I actually am still going to be in DC.
Ron: I think to my knowledge and if anyone knows differently please post a message. I think all buying group events this fall had been canceled they've been moved I think mostly to some sort of a virtual media. That's what I'm believing I'd seen but I know.
Matt: But no I'm excited for that to get started again.
Ron: Awesome. Matt a lot of our audience are watching now or they're watching and replay and or they're listening at some point where they're here in the fall of 2020 or maybe they're listening down the road. You bring a wealth of operations and leadership experience into this role within HomeTroniX and I always love it if you've had an observation or an epiphany or you've been able to effect change in your business in a positive way. If there's some nugget of gold or just thing that you would have others be mindful of. Anything that jumps to the front of your mind to share with our audience?
"The motto I go by is stagnation kills. You can also say complacency kills."
Matt: Well, I hope I've made changes in a positive way. They seem to be positive from all the numbers but the one thing I just try to live by every day when I'm looking at what I want to do to improve. The motto I go by is stagnation kills. You can also say complacency kills. But it goes back to just you know not getting complacent always looking searching out those inefficiencies and finding ways to make them better. If I had to define my role. That's pretty much what I do as I seek out and try to get better every single day in order to grow and build a stronger foundation so stagnation kills don't get complacent.
Ron: Love it. Do you still see your role , Matt, into the year ahead as plugging yourself into areas of inefficiency within the business? .
Matt: I think that I'm kind of right there at the end of my last big changes I want to make and I'm starting to kind of get more involved in the warehouse and I kind of actually enjoy being back there with the guys and I'm on the ground with them. I feel like that's where I'm going to be for a little bit. But yeah I don't think I'll ever really stop. You know there always be somewhere that we can get better. I don't want to cause chaos. I don't enjoy that. I like chaos personally but I don't want our guys to feel my chaos. I will do what I feel is right and put myself where I think is the best spot to be.
Ron: Awesome. Matt for those that are watching or listening and they want to get directly in touch with you what do you recommend what's best for you?
Ron: I'm going to put that on the screen. Tell me if I did it right. Maybe makes reading hard.
Matt: Yep that's right.
Matt: Yeah. Check that out too. I know a guy if you need a website.
Ron: There you go, he knows guy. Matt, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and I know you were set up at your home office and you very politely offered to drive into the office to make sure the internet was gonna be robust enough for this show so thank you for doing that.
Matt: No , it's no problem it's two minutes away.
Ron: Awesome. Thank you Matt. Thanks for being on.
Matt: I appreciate you having me on.
Matt Fowler is Co-Owner and Director of Operations with HomeTroniX of Arkansas LLC. In 2019, with the company at a crossroads between growing at a faster rate or keeping the status quo, Matt agreed to join the family business as an executive with the goal of growing and scaling the integration firm.
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.
Resources and links from the interview:
More Automation Unplugged:
Want to stay up to date with the latest Automation Unplugged interviews? Head over to the One Firefly Facebook page and subscribe to receive a notification whenever Ron is live!