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Automation Unplugged

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

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Home Automation Podcast Episode #144: An Industry Q&A With Patrick Hartman

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Patrick Hartman of DSI shares on his focus on work/life balance and his participation in Spartan Races.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #144: An Industry Q&A With Patrick Hartman

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Patrick Hartman. Recorded live on Wednesday, November 11th at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Patrick Hartman

Today's show features Patrick Hartman, General Manager at Diversified Systems International.

With 29 years in the A/V and systems integration industry, Patrick has extensive experience in roles such as project management, business development, System design & engineering, and installation in both residential and commercial verticals.

Patrick joined DSI, a Reno-based integration firm ten years ago, and spearheaded their residential sector. Today, Patrick’s extensive list of repeat customers reflects his trademark level of customer service from smaller projects all the way to projects that span years with budgets over $3M.

Interview Recap

  • Patrick’s experience as a CEDIA volunteer 
  • Recap of the Virtual CEDIA 2020 educational offering
  • What industry events might look like in 2021
  • Patrick’s focus on work/life balance and his participation in Spartan Races.

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #143: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Jeff Goldstein


Ron:  Hello! Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. We are here for show 144 and it is Wednesday , November 11th. It is just a few minutes after 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. It's been an interesting I'll say week here in Florida. I'm in Fort Lauderdale Florida. We just had tropical storm Eta spend the weekend here. I was talking to my guest Patrick just before we went live and looked up the stats. It's rained eighty-six inches here in Fort Lauderdale in 2020. It's rained about a foot and a half, close to two feet of that just in the last week. It was raining about six inches a day here during the storm. There's lots of flooding throughout South Florida. And I think the storm left, went into the Gulf and it's actually on its way back or it's already here up in the northern part the panhandle of Florida. Definitely our thoughts are out there with those that are dealing with all that flooding. I know there's been loss of life in Central and South America from the storm. It's pretty crazy here. Lots of schools are closed and lots of buildings and people are dealing with all the various flooding around the state. But we are here for show 144.

My guest is someone that I've known for a long time big-time volunteer in the world of CEDIA. Many of you folks that are watching or listening, if you've been involved with CEDIA education in any capacity, you'll know this person and that is Patrick Hartman. He is the G.M. the general manager at DSI Diversified Systems International. DSI Reno is now a division of TDA and that stands for Technology Design Associates. And Patrick will tell us all about that but let's go ahead and bring Patrick in and let's get this interview underway. Patrick, Hello sir.

Patrick: How are you doing?

Ron:  I'm super duper. Thanks for joining us.

Patrick: You bet. Good to see you.

Ron:  Where are you coming to us from? Let's start there.

Patrick: Currently I'm in Carson City Nevada the state capital of Nevada. The company is out of Reno about 30 miles north of here.

Ron:  Got it. Are you commuting to the office or are you doing the home office thing or how you guys managing that?

Patrick: A little both. We only have six of us four of us that are in the office at any given time so we're splitting our duties in the office to make sure we cover deliveries and those types of things but everything else is virtual. We run up to the office whatever we need certain things supplies or plotting plans or whatever, having small meetings. But generally speaking, it's been remote.

Ron:  You're there at the home office. And I know because you and I were chatting just before. You actually have a guest that's going to join us for this interview, don't you?

Patrick: That's what I heard.

Ron:  You want to go get the guest?

Patrick: You want to start that now?

Ron:  Yeah let's do it. Bring him on. Bring it over. I think it's fun.

Patrick: Ron are you sure you want to do that?

Ron:  Yeah. Why not? It's fun. There you go. Alright. Who's our special guest?

Patrick: This is my ball python I've had for 14 years doesn't really have a name my dad calls it the Bouchca. We're pretty sure it's a female but three and a half feet long, probably one of the best snakes to have for kids and families. I've been a snake fan since I was a little kid, I used to go out and catch them. I lived in California in the fields and feed them live rats and mice and all kinds of stuff and yeah just a cool little pet to have around.

Ron:  You've had her for 14 years so when you get her is she an egg?

Patrick: Oh no , it was a baby it was from a farm. A little tiny baby and it's grown over the years gone from very small feedings to large rats.

Ron:  Brandy says, "Hello from Las Vegas." Then she gives us the blank stare like Oh my God he's got a snake.

Patrick: Yeah. Some people love them and some people hate them. They hear it's a snake in the cage, "No get me away from it." Some people want to touch it. MacKenzie who's signed in she goes, "Welcome to the show Babushka. Oh yeah. And of course Patrick." Yeah. That's awesome. Thanks guys for tuning in. Babushka can hang out with us and tell the audience Patrick just a little bit about DSI and maybe the relationship with the parent company and then I want to go back like we always do on Automation Unplugged. I want to go back into your origin story.

Ron:  DSI just turned twenty-five years old this month. Don Huggins founded the company back in '94 or '95. And he was primarily a fire suppression company and about ten years into the business he opened up a pro audio visual division to handle a lot of things like the ballpark here in town which is the Triple-A ballpark for the Diamondbacks. We did Reno ballroom we do very large commercial pro audio visual jobs. And I joined ten years ago. They had been going on 15 years when I joined and I brought in the residential side of the business. We did a lot of work up in Lake Tahoe Truckee area. Large communities doing show rooms and stuff for different corporations conference rooms et cetera.

Patrick: Long story short, residential came into the picture and we've been kicking it for 10 years or since I've been here and then about five years ago we got bought out. Don decided to retire at age 71. We got bought out by a national company that specialized in fire suppression and we were half of the business we were half of the revenue of the business. We became an anomaly in the purchase and they didn't know what to do with us. My Vice President the time just let us continue to run operate the business as usual when we met the numbers and do our thing we're good. And while that was happening it was what I call the two-year speed bump, working for a company that didn't really know what we're doing. I met up with Ron, the owner of the TDA enterprises out of Oregon Bend Oregon. He and I had become pretty good friends over the years and we got to talking and you know here we are three years ago coming up I guess it's March.

We've been part of the TDA team and the family and operating out of Reno as a separate entity. Same company same parent company we have all the same processes same policies and procedures. We're an anomaly to TDA because they've been a home grown local business in the Pacific Northwest. And recently expanded into Arizona.

Ron:  Are other branches or divisions of TDA and other markets?

Patrick: Yeah. Bend Oregon is headquarters. We now have Phoenix Arizona. We have Portland Oregon Ashland Oregon. I'm forgetting one. Oh we have one in Idaho as well and then obviously here in Reno. I think I'm catching all of them there six of them total and we make up about somewhere around four million dollars of business a year. We're a fairly large company. DSI in Reno is six strong and I don't think I have anybody on my team that's been here less than three years.

Ron:  Wow. Very cool and curious, you're now part of TDA. Are all locations run as independent businesses with separate PNLs or do you guys operate as one and just you're operating in all these markets?

Patrick: We all have our own PNL. We obviously all wrap up and report our PNL but we do manage our own PNL. We do run our own entity. We have a central services. What I mean by that is each division has a central purchasing person H.R. person accounting person. We don't have that locally in our branch. That's all done out of Bend or through other parts of the country. But we use that central services to support us and then we just operate our business as usual here.

Ron:  Got it. Okay. Well thank you for that quick overview. Let's go back into your origin story. How did you land in this crazy business and you've currently decided to stay here for a while.

Patrick: Yeah I had a internship option in 1991 coming out of college. I was right in the middle of college actually to leave for the summer and go to the Bay Area and work for a very good friend of mine, a friend of our family. Became one of my mentors. He was in charge of the good guys if you remember the old Circuit City and good guys stores were the West Coast version of Circuit City.

Ron:  I'm from Virginia. Circuit City was born out of I think Richmond Virginia. Yeah. So the Bay Area when I got there there were 22 stores I left when there were seventy nine stores and my role when I first came in was to work in the service department fixing and helping repair and maintain all the products that came in that were broken. So you walk into a store you're saying hey this city plate is broken said it service. Well I worked in that service department and then I got put into what we call tech support. We went out and built stores. I was on the road for four years between Oregon, Washington, Las Vegas, and Reno. Building new stores. And we did all the infrastructure wiring in those stores before they became a store. And then once the store got built we maintained it. We were the support staff for those stores to go and help the old switching systems back in the speaker rooms.

We remember those days. And then I had a great opportunity in '96 '97 to open up one of the very first home installation departments for a big box store so Good Guys is one of the very first in the country to open a home installation at the time. Erik Bodley, if he's not on this thing, everybody knows Eric Bodley. He and I toured most of California teaching sales counselors how to sell home installation and how to sell the service.

Ron:  In '96?

Patrick: Yeah. '96 '97. Started in the Bay Area. I hired four district managers to handle four different regions of the northern Bay Area and they went out and they had a handful of stores that they serviced. They had the one offs go in to do a consultation like we do today which is normal but we relied on the sales counselors for people coming into the store to promote our business. I think we had 25 installers, four district managers, 30 vans. Then we busted into L.A. and we started doing it in L.A.. It didn't take off in the Pacific Northwest. And by the time the good guys fell or broke out they got bought by a big computer store company at the time. I was gone in '01. I was there 10 years and started from the ground up. It was a pretty exciting four years honestly.

Ron:  Yeah. It sounds amazing. What happened in '01?

Patrick: Big box store to multimillion dollar homes with Randy Stearns at Engineered Environments. It was a major culture shock.

Ron:  I did not know you went there. Wow OK.

Patrick: In '01, I got recruited by an ex good guy employee who got recruited by Randy and he brought me in and in '01 I started with him in the Bay Area managing about four or five million dollars worth of business and then he already had a piece of Lake Tahoe area and I had the opportunity to go into Lake Tahoe or potentially go to Hawaii and so I decided to come up to Lake Tahoe and at the time, Randy had a lot more business in Hawaii. He broke off the Lake Tahoe branch and managed that remotely and then I started another whole venture here with numerous companies since then.

Ron:  That's DSI?

Patrick: DSI I have been there for 10 years I've been here 18. I had two other ventures between the time I moved here and the time I came to DSI.

Ron:  Got it. We're here 2020. We're closer to the end of 2020. This is the COVID year. Hopefully one day, we'll look back with this as a distant memory. It certainly has been had its good parts and bad parts. How has 2020 treated your business? What's life been like for you maybe personally and professionally?

Patrick: Thankfully, I think we did a good job as a company seeing this early on. We took it head on really early on. I tell people I probably researched the rules and laws of COVID-19 and operating as a necessity company in Nevada and even through our company more than I've researched anything. We had documents, we had letters approving we could be on the road in case we got pulled over, we had all the PPE early. We made our own PPE, some of the stuff we made ourselves but we got ahead of the curve very quickly and were prepared for the worst. We had a couple of scares on a couple of job sites. People came to the job sites were sick and as it is now, anybody coughs or sneezes, you wonder what's wrong with this person.

We had a couple of scares and we learned our lessons from it. We created questions, five or six questions we had to ask every owner, every client before we approached their house and before we scheduled a job. They had to answer certain questions and if they didn't answer we had to reschedule. We were very upfront, very transparent with our clients and we had a lot of trust. People appreciated that our technicians show up with gloves on masks on, they've got the full blown PPE everything. We to this day get a lot of clients, take that damn mask off. No. This is what we're doing. We are going to protect ourselves and our families and your families. It's just become the normal. I hope it's not the new normal but for now it is.

Ron:  It's the new normal for now.

Patrick: Yeah we've done the best we can. Unfortunately, for TDA we have four states to deal with, four different sets of rules. You've got Nevada, you got Arizona, you got Oregon, and Washington and now Idaho so it's actually five. Every state is a little different, mandates are different, lockdowns are different. Every two weeks the GM's get together we talk about it and what can we do to help each other out. We've worked out real well through it. Believe it or not we're on pace for almost hitting our 2020 goal even with COVID. First quarter second quarter were a little rough but we kicked it into high gear and during the summer were just slammed and we're going to end the year very well. I want to get into some of that business makeup. I'm going to give some shout outs here. Josh signed in and let me just verify that that's showing up on the screen. Josh says, "Patrick good to see you." And then Josh actually comes back in and says he was there at Engineered Environments at the same time that you were. That's Josh Willits from Portal.

Patrick: That's where I first met Josh he was a subcontractor at the time but yes he's correct. 

Ron:  OK I've been working over here Facebook I can see that it is populating I'm just not seeing it on my screen in front of me sometimes technology doesn't behave. You just have to roll with it. We have Monica. I had her husband Harshul on from Mumbai India just a few weeks ago and she says, "Thank you for bringing all of these lovely experiences and awesome companies and their stories to us." They shared one of the pieces of show art for their Automation Unplugged event. And it has literally had hundreds. It's probably the most engaged post for this show we've ever done. They started CEDIA India.

Patrick: That's great.

Ron:  Harshul and Monica and all the integrators there in India. Thank you Monica for checking out the show and then Jason here at One Firefly. He says, "Hey Patrick. Welcome to AU you couldn't be better timing to be on the show with our upcoming partnership. Looking forward to it." Thank you Jason. There are lots of good comments. Let's talk about the makeup, let's focus on DSI Reno. Historically, what has the business and I'm going to speak resi commercial or other verticals if you've served them. What have they been in the past and how has that changed if at all here in 2020?

Patrick: The first four years I was with DSI, it was primarily commercial large projects. We do a lot of ski resorts so North Star Vail is now owned by Vail Heavenly. We do a lot of that type work up there because we were in that environment. We got to do the multimillion dollar condos do the remodels for the condos and the rental properties which has been a really good revenue stream for us. Last couple of years and I'd say in the last five years, resi has really picked up. This year it was probably 80/20 resi to commercial because all the government agencies shut down. Everything's work remotely, all the conference rooms don't exist anymore other than emergency operation centers which we do a lot of those have to stay continually running and maintained. But this year was definitely an anomaly.

The resi kicked in. We had a huge influx of networking work obviously and a lot of Lutron work lighting and shading. That's really picked up. I'd say it flips between 60/40 and 40/60 every year it's pretty even generally speaking. But this year, resi really picked up.

Ron:  Is that across the full five state operation for TDA is that the same or different?

Patrick: No TDA generally speaking on the other five regions are primarily residential. They dabble in a little bit of commercial work. I know that our GM up in Portland is coming to visit next week because he wants to expand on Portland on the commercial world. He wants to come see what we do and talk to our engineering project manager that handles the commercial side. I expect that with your company's help at some point in the marketing side, we'll be able to market commercial work in those other areas. But right now they are primarily residential.

Ron:  Got it. Well if you were to pull out your magic 8 ball like what do you think 2021 looks like for the mix at least with what you know today?

Patrick: I think a lot of our clients that we have in Reno and in the Lake Tahoe area. I suspect most of them will come back to full force. Some of have already started coming back like ski resorts or starting its work for them. I would say it's probably closer to 70/30 or 60/40 this year. We had just shy of three quarters of a million dollars in the sales funnel in January for commercial and 80 percent of it dropped off. It was significant but a lot of it's coming back because we have for instance one of our big clients is the Nevada Department Transportation. They're not going away anytime soon. I mean that's just tax money right. We will continue to get work from them all the time no matter what. I think it's where it's going to slow down it's in the conference rooms those types of environments although we're getting very creative with Josh.ai coming out and doing touchless conference rooms so everything's by voice now.

We're right in the middle of doing that in our conference room to be able to demonstrate what you could do when you walk into a conference room never to touch anything. I think that's going to be a really really big part of 2021 to be a big push for us. We'll see what happens. But we're optimistic. We've got a lot a lot of stuff in the funnel lot of interesting jobs coming up and some great relationships which you know all of our business here. The entire life of DSI has been a hundred percent referral.

Ron:  That's fascinating. Appreciate you sharing that. As you mentioned Josh, did you get a chance to do the the event yesterday with Josh?

Patrick: Absolutely.

Ron:  Share with our audience some are watching some or listening that maybe did not get that chance, what did you learn?

Patrick: Well if you get a chance you definitely gotta go walk back and watch it. It's pretty amazing technology natural language within a voice control unit. That's private right. It doesn't go out and it's not out on the on the worldwide web and it's not available, it's private. I think with the type of clientele we deal with in our industry that's very important to them, privacy. I think they have a huge leg up on some of the DIY stuff that's out there and even future items. I'm really excited about it. I'm excited to be able to broadcast it and market it and I think it's gonna be a part of virtually every house in the next five years.

Ron:  No I agree. I think I was certainly amazingly or beautifully produced. The attention to detail from beginning to end of the whole virtual event. It was really first class.

Patrick: We're bench testing it like crazy in two of our own personal homes and in our office. We're trying to get all the details of what it can and can't do so that we can start marketing what we want to offer.

Ron:  Patrick, when I think of CEDIA I see your face because you've been a big time volunteer. Well certainly one of a bunch but one of the biggest volunteers in this land for many years. I mean I've been volunteering for CEDIA or instructing at a much lesser level than you. But I've been involved for about ten or eleven years now. First of all, how did that all happen? You do clearly dedicate and have compartmentalized your time so that you make CEDIA as a trade organization and volunteering. You clearly make it a part of your life. How did that happen?

Patrick: Yeah without faiI. I was volunteering for committees councils back in the day in the early days early 2000s and I got asked to be brought in as a potential instructor. You and I had talked prior to the show we used to go through the CCI class certified CEDIA instructor class. In order to teach at CEDIA, you had to go through the class. You had to pass it.

Ron:  You mentioned Eric Bodley's name that you were running around California. Eric I think instructed my class in 2009.

Patrick: Yeah. When I went to that class, I got invited to go to Indianapolis to be part of this five or six guys that were guys and girls are brought in to become an instructor. And you had to report to your peers. In the room I had Frank White I think I had Mitch Kline, Ken Erdman, Eric Bodley. Heavy hitters that have been around forever. You had to role play and teach and show you how you're going to be taught how to instruct. That was a very eye opening experience to me. And it was I was honored to be able to ask to be do that to do that. But on top of that, I realize that CEDIA really gave a lot to me and to my companies over the years from an education standpoint. Once I got deeply involved 15 or 16 years ago, I wanted to give back.

That was really my motivation was to give back the experiences, to give back the ideas and suggestions to improve our industry in certain applications. Mine just happened to be in project management. We created, well project management track was there for years. But we really expanded on that. And I was heavily involved with the PM track early on. Since then, I got involved with the business working group and the instructor working group which are two separate entities that basically look at all the content that comes in from people that want to teach and it's vetted out and that's what makes up the registration brochure every year that we all go to at Expo.

I was heavily involved with those committees and now I'm dedicating a lot of my time to the instructor side of the pool to elevate all of our instructors at CEDIA so that when you pay $129-$200 a class you're getting good quality education and that's just not somebody that's trying to sell their services or just speak to you about a PowerPoint. We have a huge initiative this year to set that bar up high and come up with some kind of a plan on how future instructors are going to instruct virtually at events.

Ron:  Is the goal to bring back that certification that I think you and I did back in the 2000s? Has that been happening lately or did that get retired at some point and you're going to rebirth it or resurrect it?

Patrick: There is a small version of that that's floating around the EMEAU over in Europe and England they did a great job doing it with a program called the CAP program and we're trying to bring that to the US and in some fashion, create that culture of what you need to go through to become a CEDIA instructor and come up with that before ISC is what is our hope.

Ron:  Today you are the head of or you are involved in what level of volunteering at CEDIA?

Patrick: Still an instructor. It's the first year in all the years I've been there that you've done instruct virtually which I was ok with. But primarily on the instructor working group. I'm the chairperson for that group and I'm also a conduit to the the bigger group called the Professional Development Advisory Council which is the head counsel for all of CEDIA as far as education is concerned. I get to hear and see and talk through with some brilliant people from all over the world on ideas on what the future education of CEDIA looks like. That's changing literally every every day.

Ron:  What is your read on the success or lack of success. And I don't mean that with any I'm not saying that either way. How did virtual CEDIA go how did the education component of virtual CEDIA go?

Patrick: Surprisingly very well. We had a lot of tough road ahead of us when we got the announcement that it was going virtual. You can imagine, right? You are used to go to a trade show across the country. You have a whole set of rules and things you do in the way you do things and now you've got to produce it virtually. And a lot of amazing staff members and volunteers came to the table. I was part of that group to recruit volunteers to go out and find the instructors to fill the holes to figure out who could become. There were a lot of people that are have been teaching forever that didn't want to teach virtually. Well it's either you're comfortable or you're uncomfortable right. There's no in-between. It was interesting on how that all played out. But in the end education I thought went very well.

We definitely learned some lessons, we definitely learned some ideas from people like yourself giving feedback from your classes and all in all it's great. A lot of people don't know all the classes that were offered there are still available to the end of the year. If you buy the education pass, for $199, you have access to all of those classes till the end of this year.

Ron:  I don't know those numbers but the numbers were pretty good right?

Patrick: They were really good. I haven't seen the final numbers either but generally speaking we had a lot of a lot of interest in a lot of engagement. On the vendor side, I'm not so sure how that went because that was handled by Emerald who owns CEDIA now. We're diving into the logistics of that and figuring out how we can make it better for the vendors and the rep firms. I know there's some heavy engagement on that coming up soon but all in all, we pulled it off it was there were a lot of tears a lot of stress a lot of yelling a lot of challenges.

Ron:  Maybe a few tears.

Patrick: We all pulled through. There were some people that put in just ungodly amounts of hours to make it happen and to work through it and it was a huge effort.

Ron:  Knowing what you know and the conversations you've been in the meetings you've been in, what is the forecast or your prediction. Not any formal CEDIA position but Patrick Hartman's position on what 2021 is going to look like for industry events?

Patrick: We're obviously planning for a hybrid without fail. It's scheduled to be in Indianapolis this year. We have to be prepared for full virtual. The same thing goes with ISE. It's moving this year. Right.

Ron:  June or July?

Patrick: I think it got moved to June. June or July you're correct. That whole logistics I can't even imagine what they're dealing with right now over there. And it's a whole nother world over there locked down right now. I suspect my gut is that I think it's going to be a hybrid and we were prepared to do that in 2020 and it didn't happen. But I suspect some formality of that will happen. It would be my guess unless something crazy happens. I also expect that CEDIA is going to look at doing maybe a little regional events. I don't know that for a fact that's just my own opinion. I think it would be a wise decision to do that. People don't have to travel as far. That whole logistic, that's my prediction. We're also going to increase the amount of online education that's increasing every day more and more classes going online. I think you'll see a huge influx of online training. We've got the new certifications coming out the new C.I.T. certification.

Ron:  What can you tell us about that?

Patrick: Well they were announced so the CEDIA's infrastructure technician, the C.I.T. training is out on a beta test right now for $50 instead of either $150 or $200 till the end of the month. As a CEDIA member if you want to take it for a huge discount right now it's available. I know that they're going to be doing a new designer course and a few others I'm not privy to and I haven't been involved with. But the certification side is coming back pretty heavy and it's going to be ANSI accredited too. When you go to do your test it's proctored. It's a real certification.

"One of the things I'm just so darn impressed by is your ability to get so many different things done. Running your business, but also the volunteering side of the equation and also just your general counsel around work life balance."

Ron:  Got it. Alright. I'm mindful of time and how much time I have access to use I want to take us a different direction. And that is a couple of things that I again when I when I think of you and I've known you for many years, one of the things I'm just so darn impressed by is your ability to get so many different things done. Running your business, but also the volunteering side of the equation and also just your general counsel around work life balance. That's the softball pitch I gave you. What does that mean to you? Have you always been so good at it or has there been changes that have happened in your life so this is more of a recent occurrence?

Patrick: Yes. The short answer is No it's not been part of my normal career I mean anybody in this industry knows we spend ungodly amounts hours doing what we do because we love it. Right. It's not because we want to. We want to but doing a 50 hour week was foreign to me up until five years ago. Even under 60 hours for that matter. But I realized about five years ago I would say I took a turn a bad health turn. I saw some people that had some health scares and I saw some similarities and things I had they had that they went through and I didn't want to be part of that. I changed my diet, changed my exercise routine, I basically to this day two to three days a week one hour every day of those three days is dedicated on my calendar for hell or high water to go to the gym or to work out in some capacity. It's just something I've got my body in the regimen to do to stay in shape in some fashion and to eat healthy.

My wife's always been a healthy eater and we are very healthy at home generally speaking. That changed tremendously I lost some weight I got in better shape. I'm not a spring chicken anymore right. I had to adapt to my age and to what I wanted to do and what my body will allow me to do and I'm going to do it. Five years ago, I was challenged to do a what people know as a Tough mudder race or a mud run whatever you want to call it.

Ron:  I just put it up on the screen. For those that are listening to the podcast.

Patrick: Where did you get that picture from?

Ron:  I stole it from your Facebook.

Patrick: I got addicted. I did a Tough Mudder for the first three years I did probably seven or eight of them. One of which is one of the toughest the country in Lake Tahoe and then I got sick of it because there's no penalties and it's like a fun run. Just jumping around in mud, doing obstacles but there's no goal other than finishing the course. Then I was introduced to Spartan and Spartan penalizes you.

Ron:  Spartan has a TV show. They put some of their races on TV don't they?

Patrick: Yes they do.

Ron:  My son and I have watched some of these races.

Patrick: Yeah. Some of the big boys that that's all they do for a living is that's how they get paid is run and do this for a living all over the country and have a point system. But the deal with Spartan is, depending on the size of the race you maybe have between 15 and 30 obstacles. Every single obstacle if you don't get through them, you have to do 30 burpees or you can't continue. Anybody that has done a burpee do the math. I think my worst race was my first one. It was only a five mile race and I did 150 burpees. Needless to say I crossed the finish line I was worthless.

Ron:  Yeah you were probably worthless for some days or weeks afterward.

Patrick: Yeah. Now I do my training and my my exercise around obstacle course racing and trail running. It's my decompress now and so I've done nine or ten Spartan races all over the country. That one was from Utah last year.

Ron:  How much does that thing you're carrying that stone ball is that?

Patrick: They tell me around 110 pounds and you carry it for about ten yards. You drop it. You do three burpees you pick it back up, you take it back another three yards and you do five burpees then you go on to your next obstacle. That was in 100 degree heat at about 8000 feet elevation and I didn't know that this guy was there taking pictures. It's one of these cameramen that was there but I thought it was a cool picture that I got taken from me but I'm racing with guys that are 15 to 20 years younger than I am. It's hard to keep up with the young ones. But my body is allowing me to do it so why not? It's just a lot of fun. It's a challenge. I love challenges. Anybody that knows me as a human being knows there's not a challenge I won't take on if I don't think I can accomplish it. What I do a lot now on the weekends is I do a lot of hiking. Lot of running up to Alpine Lakes up in the mountains. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world so that's my decompress. That's what I do. I schedule between three and six races a year. That is the first year I did not get to do any. I was pretty bummed.

Ron:  We got lots of comments flowing in here Patrick so if you guys were out there watching or listening and you have a question for Patrick around this, drop that into the comments and I'll pose it to him. But I'm going to put on the screen here from Wes, this is actually a member of Team One Firefly and Wes is actually an ultra runner. The people that run the 150 and 100 mile races. He says he loves it. Love it Patrick. He ran a Tough Mudder back in 2013 and a Spartan race two years back. Fun times. And then Jason he posted, "If I can't work out at least every two days I try to go on longer walks with the pup to get some exercise if not anything else a great way to clear my mind." Is that a fair statement now Patrick? You don't feel right if you don't get out and exercise to clear your mind?

Patrick: Without fail. There's a lot of other things I do to clear my mind. But that's definitely one that's always on my calendar at least two to three days a week in some fashion whether it's on my own or with my trainer or with somebody that I work out with. A lot of it this summer was obviously outdoors for obvious reasons but it's just something that I do to help with my health and my general exercise routine to be able to let my body do what it wants to do instead of watching TV and doing whatever. My work life has gone down from a 60 hour or 70 hour week to 50 possibly on some given weeks.

Ron:  Are you less productive?

Patrick: No. I have great people. See that's the other part of the work life balance is that I've learned early on from my mentors. Surround yourself with great people so that you don't have to do all the heavy lifting. You don't have to know everything. Let the experts and the guys and gals you surround yourself with, let them help you. Don't be a micromanager. I was that for many years early on in my career and I wanted to do everything I didn't want to hand anything off. I've learned over the years I've got some incredible staff working for me and they take a lot of load off me. I can now enjoy some of the things I didn't enjoy and still be very productive in the less time that I have and know that they've got my back. And I've got their back when I need it.

Ron:  I love that. This year has been very stressful for us. You, me, society, our families, our teams. Anything come to mind in terms of the way that you interact with your team where you've tried to help them or aid them and dealing with some of the stresses related to COVID. Whether it's the fact that they're locked in their houses and they can't really go about their life as we did pre COVID or maybe the stresses of going into job sites knowing they're all PPE'ed up and that's how they now have to work. That has to carry some burden.

Patrick: Yes. I am a very big proponent of making sure I check in with staff every day or two no matter what we're doing where we're out at. To make sure especially this year that everybody's comfortable, everybody is good. I always ask whenever a new mandate comes out for the state or it opens up or talking about schedules in the office. Are you sure you're comfortable? I do not want you to be put in a position you're not comfortable with. One of my staff members, his father lives with them and he's concerned about his health and well-being so my parents and my wife who's got underlying conditions that I'm concerned about. We're very aware of that and we're very transparent about it. I've always been a proponent of that just generally speaking because I had early on managers that didn't give a crap what my life was.

I think that's important and that's why we've kept people as long as we've kept them is because we take care of them. We actually ask about their personal lives and are you OK? It's little things like that. You can attest you guys are 100 percent virtual right and 40-50 people? There has to be a culture around that. And so we've had to shift that culture and do more meetings virtually instead of in-person but we're always in communication. We always know where each other's out. I think that's what sets us apart from the general.

"Here in 2020, we're all, myself included realizing that more now than ever that taking care of our people and making sure they're good in a good state of mind is frankly you're nothing without your team."

Ron:  That's sage advice. I think that's generally a good rule and it just so happens here in 2020 that we're all myself included realizing that more now than ever that taking care of our people and making sure they're good in a good state of mind is frankly you're nothing without your team.

Patrick: Right.

Ron:  There's no company without your team.

Patrick: Hundred percent right. And it took me I mean those who have been with me for a while especially my project managers know, I just don't look at an application to say yeah you breathe and you have a little skill come on board. You have to fit the right culture, the right environment, the same values that we have as a company. It took about two years to find our most recent tech because we weren't just going to pick anybody. We're glad we did because he melded very well with us. We're family right. It's like CEDIA, you're family. I've got people all over the world that are friends of mine. I never would have met if I had never volunteered. That same culture comes into the company as well.

Ron:  What has you most excited as you look forward?

"I'm going to go back to my roots of interacting with architects, interior designers, builders, recreating those relationships that got me started."

Patrick: Some of the new technologies coming out. Voice after yesterday's thing with Josh, two of my guys have been talking about it and they've been bench testing and put in their own house and talked about the challenges and the cool things and the things they don't like. But after seeing what Josh is doing and what it can do for this industry, I think it's a game changer that's really exciting to me. The other thing that's exciting to me is that now that I have staff that can take a lot of heavy load off of me I'm going to go back to my roots of interacting with architects, interior designers, builders, recreating those relationships that got me started. I mean back in the day I was a hundred percent commission. I had to idea hustle to make money and all that hustling paid off because it's just recurring revenue and referral revenue lost 15 years. But I want to get back to the roots of going back and educating people outside of our industry and what we do and how we can expand their ideas or their environments.

Ron:  Are you a practitioner of the CEDIA ROI or COI content? Is that a hook that you've used? And if so can you explain that to the audience?

"Getting COI certification is huge because then you're accredited to be able to teach content that already exists to architects, to designers, to builders to encourage business to come your way."

Patrick: Absolutely. Samantha has been here almost three years now. She's heading that up and doing a lot of the COI classes now. But for any any integrator out there that's trying to hit the design community, getting COI certification is huge because then you're accredited to be able to teach content that already exists to architects, to designers, to builders to encourage business to come your way. Yes I'm going to get back to those roots. I had that certification years ago and it's lapsed. I definitely want to get back to it. I also partner up with vendors like Lutron and Crestron and Josh to come in and help with those presentations and those demonstrations.

Ron:  Absolutely it's great advice. Patrick, for anyone out there that's listening and or watching live or on replay. Yep, I'm going to ask how can people either get in touch with you or Babushka the snake? I love it if anyone wants to get in touch with you or Babushka or learn about DSI and learn about TDA. Where would we send them?

Patrick: Our parent company Technology Design Associates, it's techdesignassociates.com. My email specifically is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Probably the best way to get old to me is that way. I am on Facebook, LinkedIn, and I'm attempting Instagram. I'm not a big social media guy but I've been told that's the deal. We are trying it out but you can definitely find me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Ron:  Awesome. I'm going to attempt to put this on the screen. I want to make sure I got the @ correct. That is different than your web domain?

Patrick: Yeah that's being rebuilt and restructured as we speak.

Ron:  Got it. OK. Tell me if I got that right. I just put it on the screen.

Patrick: Yes sir.

Ron:  Alright. There you go folks. DSI Reno is a division of TDA Technology Design Associates. Patrick, it was a pleasure having you on show 144.

Patrick: That was awesome to see you man. Long time.

Ron:  It's been too long man. Normally I could have said I saw you last month at CEDIA. But not this year.

Patrick: Yeah well hopefully if you guys come to the west coast you and your wife come on buy and look us up.

Ron:  We definitely will. We are of that ilk that have been taking the quarantine pretty seriously. I have not been on an airplane personally since March. I did a January event for Savant. And then I did a March event for Pro Source and I haven't been back on an airplane. God willing we'll get a vaccine and we'll be back out there soon.

Patrick: Absolutely.

Ron:  I'll definitely look you up. By the way I see Ron the fearless leader. He says, Hello, great show guys." Thanks Ron.

Patrick:  His busy schedule, I'm surprised he got on.

Ron:  I'm super impressed that he was able to get on as well. So Ron thanks for taking the time to do that. And on that note Patrick we will see you soon sir. Thanks for coming on the show.

Patrick: Thanks Ron.

Ron:  Alright folks. Show 144 with Patrick Hartman, GM over at DSI Reno. Tremendous amount of sage advice. And I always appreciate my guests coming on the show and kind of fearlessly sharing what they're going through and the ups and downs of their business. This has been a trying year for everyone. Yourself included or myself included and all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and know that lots of people are having lots of challenges and we just have to lean on those around us and just keep pressing forward because there's no other option. Know that tomorrow will be brighter because I believe that. If you have not already done so, please subscribe to the podcast. There is the name Automation Unplugged. All you do is you go to your app you type, go to Spotify or go to your Apple iPod doodad and type that in and you can subscribe and that way you can get all the latest shows.

I'm seeing the comments flowing in here. If you want to get in touch with the team here at One Firefly we have a great sales team a great account management team if you want to reach out just to visit our website. You can chat with us. We have a chat agent on the site or give us a call and we will we'll talk to you guys soon. I will see you. I think we've got a schedule built out through the end of the year so I think this is show 144 so we've got laser focus on at minimum getting to show 150 just because that would be a cool number and it'd be cool to have gotten at least 50 plus shows in here in 2020. On that note, I'm signing off. We'll see you guys soon and be well and be safe.


Patrick is the General Manager of DSI, a Reno-based integration firm ten years ago, and spearheaded their residential sector. Today, Patrick’s extensive list of repeat customers reflects his trademark level of customer service from smaller projects all the way to projects that span years with budgets over $3M.

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:

To keep up with Patrick and their team at DSI, visit their website at dsi. Patrick can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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