Home Automation Podcast Episode #151: An Industry Q&A With Marc Fulker
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Marc Fulker of Greenstar Technologies shares how they were able to use their showroom to change the customer experience dynamic.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Marc Fulker. Recorded live on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. EST.
About Marc Fulker
Based out of Melbourne, Australia, Marc started Greenstar Technologies in 2011 after spending 10 years working as an electrician in the residential and industrial sectors.
Today, Greenstar Technologies consists of a team of nine staff members, has been a Control4 dealer since 2016, and just recently opened a beautiful new showroom and office space in their central Melbourne location.
- The state of COVID-19 in the country of Australia
- How Marc was able to use his showroom to change the customer experience dynamic
- Marc's transition from an electrician to the home automation space
- We even got a video tour of his new showroom which is featured on our One Firefly Facebook page
Ron: Marc, how are you, sir?
Marc: I'm alright Ron, thank you. It's Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. here in Melbourne, Australia, and we're getting closer to Christmas than you are.
Ron: I was going to say tomorrow for you is Christmas Eve.
Marc: Yes, we're pretty much wrapped up for the year. Did a little service call today and ready for a couple of weeks off and then back to a better 2021.
Ron: Amen. Let's start off and tell the audience that is not familiar. They're not like me. And I'm not ashamed to admit I pulled up a map of Australia so that I could figure out where Australia is and not where it is. I think I know where Australia is, but like where is Melbourne? This is for my American audience that does not know where Melbourne or Perth or Brisbane. I'm actually going to share the screen here so that we can all be educated by Marc together. You're down here, I'll let you use your words. How would you describe it? Where is Melbourne located when we look at the continent of Australia?
Marc: Melbourne is in the bottom right-hand area of Australia in the green, lush green tree grass area.
Ron: Lots of green.
Marc: Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia, Sydney and then Melbourne. We checked before. There are about five million people that live here in Melbourne, in the city. And I guess it's a pretty busy part of the world. It's just like every other country, we think that we're the only place that exists.
Ron: I thought that was only Americans that thought they were the only ones that existed. Do you think Australians feel that way sometimes, too?
Marc: Well, I guess I'm feeling pretty lucky at the moment with the situation where we're a pretty big island away from everywhere else. And at the moment we've done really well to keep out the COVID sort of thing out of Australia.
Ron: What is the status right now in Melbourne and in the country?
Marc: In Melbourne, we got up to 700 cases a day and then our state leader basically locked down our state. We weren't allowed to go out, everyone had to work from home. You couldn't go to work unless it was essential. All the bars, restaurants, cafes have been closed. You couldn't have somebody at your house. And basically, it wasn't very pleasant.
Ron: You and I talked quite a bit during that time. It was pretty damn stressful, wasn't it?
Marc: It's stressful because I've got a team of 10 people and we're trying to find work for them, but we could only do new construction. And on those new construction residential sites, the foreman or the builder could only have five people on that site. It's quite a logistical struggle for them having to see who was essential, who they really needed to get on the job, and the state of play of the job. Some weeks we did three days a week. Sometimes we did four. Sometimes we did five for a 10, 12 week period. But here we are, sort of come out of it.
Ron: Congratulations. I'm happy for you. The lockdown is over for you. You said about three weeks ago the lockdown was eased up.
Marc: Yes, I think we only had one case in Melbourne today. That's it. We had been at something like 40 or 50 days COVID free. There was an outbreak in Sydney just this week. And a few of those people have managed to get on a plane or drive to Melbourne. That's how we've got it again here. There is only one isolated case that is sensational. Everyone is still quite scared. If you go into a supermarket, you still have to wear a mask. Everyone wore a mask and everyone pretty much toed the line. We had a curfew.
Ron: Do you have the anti maskers there, Mark, like here in America? The people that are expressing their personal right to not wear a mask. Is that a thing in Australia?
Marc: Yeah, it is. We had had some marches and stuff here about we're not going to wear a mask and whatever. The police and the army were pretty onto it and they pretty much just went and arrested them all, gave them all fines. There was more police than there were people who were anti maskers because they just went and put a big ring of steel around them, basically held hands, came in together and picked them off one after one, and gave them fines for not wearing a mask or causing anti-social behavior or whatever. I'm not sure if the fines will stick. It's been fairly good.
Ron: Tell us a little bit about Greenstar. High level, you said you had ten people on the team. What type of jobs do you do? Do you do resi commercial, what type of product mix, what are common solutions? And then I want to make sure that the audience here knows a little bit more about your business. And I always love to go back into your past. I know you started as an electrician and progressed into full integration with a balance of still electrical work. But yeah, give us an overview of Greenstar.
Marc: Yes. Greenstar Technology has been going for seven years now. And basically, we're solely focused on the residential end of the market, delivering home automation solutions to new builds and renovations generally in the two to ten million construction in Melbourne. We offer that whole solution from lighting control to security to cameras to wifi. We're the Diamond Dealer for Control4 in Melbourne. We have been for three years. We've really focused on that as our go-to control system. I guess we don't really have five that we choose from. We're stuck with Control4 and then we do multiroom audio, theaters, all that other stuff everyone else does, I guess.
We have projects that range from twenty thousand into the four hundred thousand dollar range for those sorts of solutions and everywhere in between. You build trust for a two-year project. By the time I dig a hole for a basement, they've built a three-story house, they're generally not the jobs that you really make lots of money on because the labor kills you. Generally, we haven't done the electrical on any of these jobs. We've just signed a few for the New Year where we're going to do the electric vehicle as well.
Ron: I know you also do energy, right? You do battery storage. Is that a part of your mix now or in the future?
Marc: It is now. We've invested heavily into a twenty-kilowatt solar system on our roof here. We've also gone down the path of Sonnen as our battery provider. We've got three Sonnen with twenty-four kilowatts of battery storage that can be rolled up to another twenty-four to have forty-eight. And we've also got three battery backup boxes, which means we can run with three ten amp single five solutions for our battery solution here in our showroom. It's a discussion that we have where we talk to customers about the final piece of the puzzle now for us. From our energy awareness, energy consumption, and we're starting to now design systems where we're getting paid for that design. On top of that, we're charging for the design of the energy solution because I guess we feel that people don't really understand what the battery.
How can we use that to their advantage? And rather than the architect saying, "We think you should do that or this", we sort of know what should be on that backup circuit. Then we can do the drawings and the cable summaries for the electricians to make sure that the circuits that we backed up, back up and other things.
Ron: There's a question posted here by Sean. He says, "What's your product mix?" I think he's asking for brands, maybe.
Marc: In Australia, C4 is our control system of choice. We're fairly architecturally savvy that so we do the packaged wifi with the Triad multiroom audio. Amplifiers will do anything from Integra to Denon to Anthem. At the moment, can't get anything just like the rest of the world. We've got a few, if you're really desperate we will sell it to you. And then our lighting control system in Australia is fairly different to the US. We have a product called Clipsal Sibos, which is being marketed crazy in Australia. We also do Philips Dynalite. We do a bit of Klanex, we've got a Lutron display. We're fairly agnostic when it comes to lighting control. I guess our customers and interior designers based that on the aesthetic of the switch as opposed to what it's actually going to be able to do for them. I guess what I tend to tell people is that they do 95 percent of what the others can do. It's just about picking a switch that you're happy and comfortable with. The next six months, we're doing a lot of Philipps Dynalite as our lightning control system and we're doing a lot of daily solutions in our residential homes where we've got six universes of daily gateways to do the lighting control in the home.
Ron: You just mentioned a bunch of brands and I want everyone knowing that's watching or listening on the podcast because we are live right now. There is a video version of this interview on our Facebook page and on our website. But the audio, I'm going to tease you that if you do tune into the video at the end of this interview, Mark is going to give us a tour of his new showroom. We are going to get a front to back tour from the front door all the way to the back, and we're going to see what's going on. It's a pretty incredible space and the niche subject I want to jump into now, Marc, is that you built the space because you wanted to perhaps change the dynamic of the transaction or the interaction with the customer. It's enabling you to now start to charge design fees, can you just talk us through that decision-making process you went through?
Marc: Yes, we had a certified Control4 showroom for three years in another location that the showroom itself was only five meters by five meters. We've invested here. We've got one location of five hundred and thirty square meters. And about 200 of that is showroom space. I guess some people don't need a showroom to sell things. We've found it's quite educational. And when people are coming to us, wanting to know what they can do, we can easily show it to them. Because the way we've set up a show with an alfresco area, a bedroom, a lounge room, a kitchen, it's quite an easy experience for people to come through and get a good feeling about how their home will work. From an automation system, from the intercom, entry to alarms, turning on and off, air conditioning control, and all those things that happen in these automated homes.
The design stuff for us, I guess we've really found that we've tried to set ourselves apart a bit and not spend time just creating jobs because we spent way too long in the last years and even last year of just pricing jobs because people wanted a price. I've learned some of this from some of the podcasts from previous people talking about it's just about being engaged. Engaging with people and explaining to them that your time's valuable and that you do know what you're doing. We showed them some demonstrations of previous plans and lighting control layouts or daily setups or audio, how it's played throughout the home and wi-fi, and show them a sample Skype work as well. And then I guess we're trying to stick to that maybe five percent of where we think that whole-house project will be. If it's one hundred grand, it will be five grand. If it's 200, it'll be ten, etc. And really we're taking three to four hours to come up with that number internally.
We'll go away after our initial meeting, talk to them about design that we charge a percentage, and then we'll send them a 10-page document that we've done just as a template that takes us probably two to four hours. By the way, we think the lighting control is going to go where we think the security is going to go. Based on that hour, catch up with that customer. I think we can get that within 10 to 15 percent of that initial stage. It's really trying to engage with them and trying to get paid for your time you're spending because once it's gone, it's gone. And unless we're charging for it, it's hard to give that client the time and the detail it needs to actually do it quite properly. And I guess our experience has been that if it's just a quote, there's no perceived value in that quote. They'll just take that in an email to your competitor or the guy down the road. And this doesn't seem to be value in the effort and time put into that information.
Ron: What has been the success? I know that you've just been able to open the showroom in recent months. What has been the take rate with you taking clients through space and then ultimately trying to get them to buy step one, which is a design fee?
Marc: It's been a pretty slow, slow year here. I didn't get the key to the 20th of December last year and it started the renovation on January 2nd, finished in April. We got hit with the first round of COVID. And then shortly after that, we got the second hit. We've really only had probably a dozen people through our new showroom that was finished in early May. As you can see, the numbers haven't been great.
Ron: But what are they? If 12 people walk through space, there's still a ratio.
Marc: Yeah, there's a ratio. We've signed eight of those people up and four of them.
Ron: That's a pretty good ratio.
Marc: No, it is a good ratio, but I guess some of them have been existing customers. I think that what we've found is that our website, our social media, all these platforms that we're on, we tend to be engaging with the right sort of client. We're engaging with people who want to invest in technology, want to invest in a professional company that can help them understand that and deliver that solution. We tend to put a line in the sand and just stick to the automation solution. Don't get involved in the electrical with most jobs because the builders generally go to Buddy, who's the electrician who he's worked with for 20 years. And we don't really want to go and step on his toes and upset that relationship. But it's also an educational step for those electricians.
We've got to help them understand lighting control and what that means for them. I've got an electrical background and all my guys are electricians, all my installers are electricians. It just means we've got that rapport with them and they don't see us as the enemy. But they see us as a collective or helping them to get the solution across to the client. It's a more collaborative approach to helping them as opposed to no, you're the you're the integrated guy. We don't want to talk to you
Ron: That makes sense. I'm going to give you a few more shout-outs here. People that have stepped in and said hello. Brandi says, "Hi, Mark. Welcome to the show.".
Marc: Thanks, Brandi. She's been working on my marketing stuff for us at Greenstar, so we're looking forward to the new year and what that's going to bring.
Ron: That's it. Yeah. Brandi has been hard at work and then you might recognize this name, Bekah says, "You're in the future. How's it looking in the future? It's already tomorrow."
Marc: Yeah, that's right.
Ron: I'm going to bed and you're waking up. It's funny how that and I'll give one more. Tina says, "Very excited to see the showroom." Tina, we're going to do that at the end of the interview. But yeah, definitely tune in. I do want to do a little bit of a cheat code here and we're going to start. Mark, you and I know that this podcast, this component here is audio. It needs to work in audio, but there's something you've done in your showroom, which I think is really neat. We're going to do the full tour later. But I want to attempt if we could just go over to that section where you have all the pull-out doors. And that is particularly innovative. And I'd love for us to talk through what you've done there and why you've done what you've done because it's I think a lot of people would get a lot of value in this. I'm just going to describe what I'm seeing, imagine that you're walking into a closet, but on the left-hand side is five or six doors on that can be slid in on tracks. And on the right-hand side are five doors that can be slid in on tracks. And then I'll let you take it from there, Marc.
Marc: Yes, look, I guess the discussion we have with people about this whole doorstop is that when you to a supermarket to buy milk, what do you see? My comment to me is just lots of choices. For here, we have a product called Dinolite in Australia. This is quite good. You can see that engraving on the labels and the light switches so you get statuses on the things. This is the LCD screen.
Ron: The listening audience, what he's done is he's pulled out one of the doors on the left. And on that one door or a wall, it's got a beautiful set of keypads from this brand, in this case, Dynalite.
Marc: Yeah, I can see that that's a good one. Basically, I did on a track system. That's the top layer is the orange cable that feeds the door. I don't give away all my secrets, but I'm happy to share. And then I'll just set it on a track system and then every door pulls out. That's a basalt range. We talk to people that connect and the opportunities that have in the market. This is a big product here called Sibos. It's been marketed really well. You can see there that you can do different things.
Ron: Yeah, what's impressive about all of these keypads and all of these devices is they're all powered. They're all powered and what seems like programmed, like every one of them.
Marc: Yeah, they're working. You guys probably know what this one is. Lutron.
Ron: It looks like Palladium and See Touch and very nice.
Marc: And then another one with access control. They can put in a code. Just to show people different types of keypads, they can have access.
Ron: Do you find that these many options are helpful or hurtful? You've done 12 demos. It sounds like 12 people have been through the space. Do you zero in on what you want to show them or do you show them everything?
Marc: I'll show them everything. I guess for me it's about them making the choice that they want to make. For me, it doesn't matter to me. For me, it's about letting them just see that there are choices because we're a big C4 dealer. In our showroom, we've got configurable keypads that are white and black and whatever, because we had to choose something. You can't really have a showroom where you've got ten different ones. It's a lot of work to try and get six different vendors in your showroom that all function. I've actually got a test bench area as well that maybe another time will show you that. But all those lighting systems go back to their own power suppliers, dimmers, et cetera. We can actually bench test any of those brands on that test bench. We've got a face dimmer. We've got Dolly working so we can put it into Lutron, for your sake, tested the dimming phases. Okay. You know, that ramps up and down. Okay, wait, a Dolly set up there. We've got Canik set up there. That means we're able to get light fittings from a vendor, for instance, or a lighting supplier if we're unsure about it and just put it on the bench and just check it goes up and down, doesn't flash, doesn't carry on.
Ron: Even today, the dimmer compatibility with the LED per vendor per fixture. It's still rather uncertain, isn't it? Doesn't it require bench testing? I'm a bit uninformed, I know 20 years ago when I was selling Lutron, that was the thing. But I honestly don't know today what the state of compatibility is.
Marc: Yeah, I think it's getting better, but the problem now is that there are too many choices on that whole control thing. We're trying to get people more down the Dolly control path because there's less hardware involved in that from our point of view, which means you can hopefully sell them more from other areas of the job. Instead of your lighting control being thirty- fifty thousand dollars to do a Philips Dynolitte solution, you could get it down to maybe twenty thousand because you don't have all those phase dimmers and realizing the switchboard. And then it means that if that price is down, maybe they can spend more money on audio or security or things like that. It's a bit of a game-changer in the market to be focused on that as a solution and maybe a point of difference in our market, because not everyone is still on board with it. They're still trying to sell phase dimming lights. Then you've got to go back to all those suppliers and tell them, it's a Dolly system and do you have a Dolly driver? Most of them you can get a Dolly, but it's about awareness and about making sure they order the right component.
Ron: For my audience, which admittedly is probably mostly in North America, the US and Canada certainly spectrum around the world. Listen, like yourself, you listen to some of the shows. What do you think would surprise our audience or maybe is unique in your eyes about what the way technology and home integration is seen or maybe the state of the market in Australia versus what you know to be the state in other places around the world? What's a unique characteristic of the Australian home integration space? The answer could be nothing. Maybe it's all the same.
Marc: I think it is the same. I guess Australia as a market is fairly up to date with technology and want to do things better and want to do things, whatever. I think the only thing that I've got out of the podcast from a different point of view is that the scale of the jobs and the money that people have. We don't have an MBA competition here or a baseball competition or a gridiron competition. We have football, cricket. Those guys might earn a million dollars a year or two million dollars a year if they're good. They're not earning 50 or 100 million dollars. The size of the jobs or what happens within the home is quite the same. But it's just about that the technical side of how we do things and things like that I think are quite similar. The things we put in in places are quite similar. We can do invisible speakers, we can great acoustics.
Ron: What's home construction like there? How do they build their homes?
Marc: Most of the homes are just plaster. The big homes we do are generally suspended slabs, so the concrete basement, concrete suspended first floor, sometimes concrete, suspended second floor. It's unusual that stuff gets put into those suspended concrete slabs. Generally, we can just run a continuous wire under the slab. They get plastered. Some jobs have a bit of exposed concrete for certain areas. The bigger houses that sort of construction rended walls, security and tracing, and stuff. At the other end of the market, the two million dollar market is really more timber frame, two-story, three-story home, what we call Pozzi Strata. It's fairly easy to work on. We don't get snowed in here. There are a few things that I guess are a bit different here.
Ron: Yeah. Do you have hurricanes? I'm in Florida and so there are certain building codes tied to the hurricane threat that always is looming here in the Caribbean and in the Gulf of Mexico and certainly here in Florida. Switching gears, Marc, how did you land here in the integration space ? Meaning, I know that your start was as an electrician. How did you transition or do you mind walking us through that ?
Marc: Yes, I started as an electrician just doing general electrical work with a one guy contractor. I had all the great experience of crawling in grooves and on the floors and all those things you do as an apprentice when there's only one other person and you're the go for the lucky. It was a great experience. And I learned a lot from Trevor, my boss back then. Then from there, I started my own little thing. I did one day a week and then two days a week doing mainly electrical work. In the late 90s, early 2000s, I did some homes where we were prewiring for cable TV data to multiple points in the house before we sort of had the Internet. But we knew it was coming doing alarms, doing intercoms and the usual 100 downlights.
But none of those homes were actually automated back then. They were just basic light switches. In the early 2000s, I did a home that had my first automated home that had a product called Consignors, the lighting control system. It's like a contact closure's sort of bell press mech that goes back to a switchboard headend. And then that was all component video. That was all pretty tricky to do back then. And I didn't really have a good understanding of that whole audio video distribution. I was an electrician and really had to rely on other people to help me understand that. 2005, I went to a partnership with someone who came out of that TV repair business industry. I had electrical knowledge. He had the understanding of where that TV video stuff was back then. It was a bit of a science deal.
From that, we sort of grew and we won some awards for the best-automated home through Clipsal Sibos, which is one of the lighting control systems just within our first couple of years. Learned a lot about systems and what not to do. I'm fairly reactive on the floor sort of guy, so I probably still am. I need other people to do the work and focus on the systems and the outcomes. And I just like to talk to people and share with them what I think I know. 2010, Greenstar and here we are and we're a team of 10 and we're doing what we do best and just trying to focus on. I've still got my first staff member, Matt, who's been with me that whole period of time, and a couple of guys who've been here for six years now. You can't do anything in business without a great team. That's what we've got here and everyone knows their role and still go and give them a chopper. If it's super, super urgent, they go, no, Marc. Go back to the office. We don't want you.
Ron: Get out of here, get back to the office. We got this.
Ron: What do you think, Marc, the biggest bottleneck to you continuing to grow or scale the business? What's the biggest challenge you face right now?
Marc: I think our growth can be exponential, we could probably go close to doubling in the next two years because we've got better infrastructure and really cool people in the business that are experienced. We're putting on two new apprentices at the start of next year. And I put on a project manager just six weeks ago and I said to Shane when he came on board, "I don't need you to do anything this year other than get your head around what's going to happen next year because come the fourth of January, it's all up to you." I'm not going anywhere, but I need you to focus on the jobs, getting the gear ready for the boys, liaising with the architects and the builders about scheduling and doing stuff. And I really just want to focus on being a business owner, sales, talking to people, engaging with people, show them what they can do, let them make informed choices about the choices that they want to make in their homes.
Ron: What is your biz dev strategy or sales strategy? How do you find customers? How do you plan to find customers? Let's say, for example, you succeed in doubling the business in the next 24 months. Let's say that we walk into the future. We're there in the future. And now you've done twice the revenue, hopefully not twice the people, but twice the revenue. How do you that?
Marc: We've invested heavily in SEO in the last five years. For us, in a local market, home automation, Melbourne, we are number one or two consistently. The reason I know Ron is we reached out to him about six months ago. I wanted to have the best company that I could find to do my website marketing, anything to do with that sort of stuff. I just needed to get it done and I'd found someone and they let us down. I really lost 12 months. With One Firefly, I've been in the background. We've developed a new website that will go live in the first week of January, they're doing all my you guys color scheme. All my social stuff, my Facebook, I'm actually going to go to Google Ads in the New Year, blog posts, all that stuff I've just outsourced to you guys because I'm not good at it. I just want to focus on where I'm a salesman. The phone rings and I'll talk to people. I don't make calls to people saying, "Hey, it's Marc from Greenstar. I hear you're a really good builder really good interior designer. I want to come work with you." We've got a product download guide on our website that we encourage people to download. And really, it's just a brochure we put together over a period of time. The first one was pretty rough, we're up to about number four or five now. It's just information they can put in their email address, I only give them one follow up. Email, we're not interested in spamming people about. It's just about, "Hey, thanks for downloading the brochure. We've got a showroom here in Melbourne, if you want to come to see it, reach out to us, get in touch, we'll be happy to get you through.
"So many business owners, it doesn't have to be just integrators, but so many business owners underestimate the value of the Internet. Whether through providing a place for referrals to go do research on you or potentially eliciting or soliciting new business."
Ron: Certainly. Well, let me give a shout out. Chad says, "A live show. Glad I caught one. Been listening for over a year." Chad, I'm glad you caught us live, too. We got a guest here from Australia. It's a different day at a different time. But thanks for tuning in. At a high level, I have a question for you, Marc. You said even five years ago you started thinking about SEO. And I'll just say the Internet being friendly and you leveraging the Internet. I always make a joke that the Internet's probably not going away. And it sounds like you also maybe believe it's not going away. Where did that come from? So many business owners, it doesn't have to be just integrators, but so many business owners underestimate the value of the Internet. Whether through providing a place for referrals to go do research on you or potentially eliciting or soliciting new business. Was it a friend? Was it a mentor? Was it a coach? Was it a book? How did you know to think that way?
Marc: I don't know. I guess that I just wanted to invest in the business and reinvest into something that I thought would be that is the future. I've invested quite a bit if I think about it because it's been going for probably five years. But I guess now for us, we are reaping that reward from a number one ranking for keywords that we've worked on and other things that we're adding to now with One Firefly. One Firefly's case right now is to keep us at number one, which I'm sure you'll do great.
Ron: Bring it on. I accept it. I believe in my team. If you were left with me, then I'd be worried about you. But I've got a good team. They make me look good and they help our customers.
Marc: I'm not sure if you call it a bit of an entrepreneurial sort of a flatter, but I just had had a sense that the Internet's not going to go away. And although people can SEO the web and, you know, just go pay AdWords or whatever. I haven't done anything paid for probably two years now. It's really now about I guess the name is out there in the Internet. I guess the plethora of the Internet. It's about trying to get some leverage off that. One Firefly created some landing pages. When we do do these paid Google Ads, they're going to be coming to a design page about energy, about home automation, what is it, etc. One of the things I've learned is that you've just got to keep reinvesting in your business. You've got to keep doing things. Not just take the money and put it all in the Bahamas, is that where they put it?
Ron: They put it in the Caymans or Bermuda or, a number of the other tax shelters around the world.
Marc: I don't have any extras. I've never seen any there.
Ron: Me neither, I'm still working on building that slush fund where I need to worry about where to send it. I'm maybe a few years away from that. But it's a goal and you've got to have those goals.
"I like to think that we are second to none at returning a phone call, picking up the phone, sending back an email to someone and just doing what you say you're going to do. I think business is pretty basic."
Marc: Probably one of the things I've noticed in the last six months and not because of COVID just because of people's laxness in customer service, I like to think that we are second to none at returning a phone call, picking up the phone, sending back an email to someone and just doing what you say you're going to do. I think business is pretty basic. You just got to do that. If someone's got a problem, you just engage with them on what the problem is.
We're getting more and more calls from people who are dissatisfied with their existing Control4 person or existing dealer. And they're not the best jobs to go to. But when you go there and you can see that there's money to be made, this is actually easy to do. Let's just get this done and commit to doing it over a couple of days and taking it off. And then you've got the customer for life and you've just made 30 grand in the meantime. There's not much to regret that you've done a job with 30 grand. I think there's definitely some companies in Melbourne that have been really slack with that. And I'm sure some around the world. For some reason, they don't see the value in service and about going back and upselling these people.
"In business, it's the fundamentals. Say what you're going to do and do what you're going to say."
Ron: Having customers to buy more stuff. It's really simple. You just have to make sure they're happy before you move on. And the fundamentals, I used to wrestle in my youth and wrestling is an Olympic sport. And when you watch the Olympics and the matches and a match in Olympic wrestling will be two, three, four points to zero. It'll be very low points. And if you watch the moves that win, they're the basic moves. There's nothing and rarely anything exotic. It's single legs and double legs. And it's the basics. It's the fundamentals. And in business, to your point, I totally agree. It's the fundamentals. Say what you're going to do and do what you're going to say.
Follow through. Finish the job. Don't bring it to 90 percent, bring it to 100 percent. And then when you think you're at 100 percent, make sure the customer thinks you're at 100 percent. Are you happy? Did we finish it? I think that is universal across all of business. I don't think it's just our integration world. But if you believe that, you're already set up to win. I believe that firmly. What has you most excited about, 2021?
Marc: I think we're quite fortunate here in the whole COVID thing is settled down now, so hopefully, we can actually in the new year, build this amazing showroom. And we really just need people to make appointments and come in so we can talk to them about our design process and how we want to engage with them about being the automation consultant on their job and charging them for the opportunity of us doing it. That's, I think, where we've got so much work to come back to now, January already chock-a-block, back on the Fourth of January already. It's just another thing that is really exciting. We've got so much work to come back to. We've got so many great jobs to start in the new year that because of COVID, they want to finish quickly, too. We're going in late January and they want to be out in September. We got these jobs in the two, three, four hundred thousand dollars mix of the revenue that we want to be done in six months. Because we're really trying to control that whole process of not doing things twice.
We've got a job at the moment where we're being engaged as the electrician as well as the automation guy for this job that we're really going to do it. But there's so many answers to get answered, so many questions that need answering from the architect, from the lighting types, the dimming types, the blind guys, the exact locations. I'll just add to my project manager, we're not going to run anything on this job until all these answers are done. We don't need practice running wires and doing things twice. If you do that, there goes your money.
Ron: Measure twice. Cut once.
Marc: Yeah. We can hit it hard for two to three weeks, will knock it on the head, get all this stuff done, get out of there, move on to another one and then do a cut out to whatever the order gives. And yes, I think it's just really focused on our processes for the next year and getting all that stuff sorted.
Ron: Well, I'm excited for you to do that. I know that you're like a race car. The way I think about Greenstar is a race car that's been revving its engine and turning its engine and then the blocks and it's ready to start running. I know so many businesses around the world are in similar positions that, we're ready to start getting COVID behind us. But you're actually there, man. There's one case in your whole state and fingers crossed for you that it stays that way. That's exciting. Marc, how can folks that are listening get in touch with you? Because I want to get the contact information out of the way because then I'm going to ask you to maybe spend the last ten to fifteen minutes giving us a tour of your showroom. Anyone listening that wants to follow you, learn more about you. How do they do that?
Marc: On Instagram our handle is GreenStarTech. Our website is greenstar.com.au Because you're in Australia, that's the local domain here.
Ron: We'll give a sneak peek right now while you're going through this of what will be launched in January. But I'm only going to show the home page.
Ron: I'm going to ask my team to grab the website, URL and Marc's email that he kindly gave out to drop that down into the comment section so that anybody of course, if you're listening on the podcast, just rewind. But if you want to jump over to the One Firefly website or to Facebook, and you can see that in the comments section for the show. Marc, let's go ahead and jump into it. Sir, if you're game, let's maybe start at the front door. And this is where this part of the show, we're going to be cutting this out of the podcast just because walk-throughs are a little difficult audio-only. But anyone watching the video live or in the replay, you're going to get to see Marc's space here in Melbourne.
Marc: Look, we're on a business district. We've got a tramline out the front, so we get a bit of pass in traffic. The doors are locked. We don't really want people coming in. And this is by appointment. You've seen these around the world that this is a COVID testing station. As people come into the office, we get them to smile and it tells you that you're looking good, which is always encouraging.
Ron: It's doing a thermal camera scan of your face, correct?
Marc: Yeah. There is a screenshot, I guess, in the software. If you ever have to go back to see who was in your office or whatever, you can go. This is a section we did at the front of our showroom and on the street, a bit of fake grass on the ground. We did a satellite array system through there just to show an alfresco area. We've got these heaters up here and some cans there, pool area just to talk about that whole outdoor area here. We've got a picture of our foyer area, so that's a three-meter by two-meter picture on the wall. Basically just a nice seating area so the little chairs are actually inside the showroom, the rest of it's just a picture.
Ron: Optical illusion there.
Marc: Optical illusion. And then that's sort of the rest of the show in there. But as we walk down, I'll give you a bit of a walkthrough. We've got an intercom station here that we talk about, access control, and things like that. I'm going to be carried away but I'll show you what that is.
Ron: OK, so you're turning the lights off. Really neat lighting sequence there, is that that led strip lighting? This is a product that you design and install into projects?
Marc: Look, it is an led strip product. In our showroom, we just did zero to 10-volt control because in Control4 world, it's easy to do. In this room here, we've got some curtains that you can see them there with some lights on the side, et cetera, that we did just to light up that area. We're back in that bedroom again. Opposite the bed, hopefully, we're not getting dizzy.
Ron: I'm just a little dizzy. Not a lot dizzy.
Marc: You stay still I'll try and slow down. Opposite the bed here, we've done a play bar and stuff in this credenza down here with a sub underneath it. And we talk about to people just with the controls on the other remotes about what they can do. Watch, listen shows, etc.
Ron: Is the Neo remote your go-to remote? That might be a silly question.
Marc: Yeah, that's it. That is our control. That is our control system is Control4 so the Neo remote is pretty much it. Yep.
Ron: Got it.
Marc: Next room is our living room. That's just the Sony seventy-seven inch LED TV. We did these speakers back up in here hidden behind the fabric there just to try and make the room a bit cleaner for the interior designers.
Ron: Is that Triad's speakers behind the cloth?
Marc: Yes, we did Triad silvers and I got a gold sub down in the corner there. The other end of the room is the couch and some acoustic paneling on the back wall there, and then we've got our raise and effects on the ceiling up there. We've got our meeting room table and then we've got a bit of a kitchen bar set up there with that blue light and then we've got a fireplace there and a fireplace that's just for aesthetics, and the Frame TV. We also did the Stealth Invisible on that wall as well. It's a bit hard to see because it's invisible, so we are able to show that as well. I'll show you this. We did this yesterday, so it's a bit new. Doesn't actually work yet. That's our four by four-picture set up that we're doing.
Ron: Got it. What do you plan to show on that display or what do you plan to model there?
Marc: Yes, that's 4 55 inch Phillips commercial TV's. We're trying to discuss more on the whole home office environment now and the opportunities in our market for people who are going to stay home more. We want to be able to show someone's email at one screen and Zoom call another. Maybe the Nasdaq, if you go to the shares, I don't know, or Romper Room in the corner and then possibly swap it out to a sports bar set up so we can have different sports on the different TVs and then also just have it as a picture out of our own projects. We'll have pictures that will come across. That is just beautiful pictures that you'll see on a new site when it launches. We've been able to get back into jobs and have them photographed, which is great.
Ron: That's great. That's helpful. Are you seeing an increased demand for the home office?
Marc: Not as yet, but I think it's just one of those things that as we come out of this whole thing, it's going to be more prevalent or people will consider it, I guess. For us it's just about sharing with people what you can do. This is a staircase that was already here, someone just painted and did some under lights. We've got an office upstairs as well. There are four people that work up there full time. That's our display wall thing we showed you before. Around the corner, go to our rack, and our lightning patrol switchboard. I'll show you this just quickly too. This is our energy monitoring thing called A-Gauge that we're showing here to show our solar panel production. We've got a 20-kilowatt system on the roof. Today is a bit of a crappy day. It's not producing much. Actually, nothing turned it off. It was a bit noisy, actually. But that's our production.
Ron: Is the solar on your roof able to fully power the showroom, or do you just slowly drip into the batteries and then you could run fully off the batteries?
Marc: If I put the rest of the batteries in, I could. This is our Dynalite Lutron Grandes Seabass, KNX Control4. There is a test bench of power points down there that you can see that got phase dimming, universal dimming, power points. You get the idea that. And then I'll get a little bit carried away with this, this is my battery set up. On the top there, are the backup boxes and then each of these Sonnen. I've only got eight kilowatts of batteries in each of them, so in one box, he has eight kilowatts and then on the roof I've got I think it's fifty-two of these guys on the roof to give me my 20 kilowatts. Obviously, when the sun's out, it's great. They charge the batteries and stuff.
Ron: I love the illusion from those lights on the right-hand side because those lights are LEDs. That's not windows.
Marc: Yeah, I just put that together to try and I guess illuminate this area and trying to keep it a bit tidy so it looks a bit smart. The discussion we have with customers about this is that when you have an electricity bill that's two thousand dollars a month, which most of our customers do, the quick math, is twenty-four thousand a year, ninety-six thousand every four years. And they all look at you as if you're talking rubbish and then they think about it, go, oh, my God, I'm spending ninety-four thousand dollars a year on electricity and don't get any return on that or anything. This is probably a fifty thousand dollar set up, I guess, is what we've shown here. So, you know, it's a decent investment, but if they do a payback over that period of time, you can see that that's where it happens. Just a rack and networking stuff. We've got the Pakedge and WIK1, twenty-four point switch, we run the CA10 controller here with an A5. I have some video matrix stuff, there are cameras that the audio stuff. And then the credit and for the satellite, speaker is out in the garden there.
Ron: Spectacular Marc, I'm so excited for your marketing engine to get turned on and for COVID to be fully settled so you can start getting that traffic driven into your show space. It was really impressive. Marc, you've been very generous with your time, sir, and generous with really showing us all that you've done. It's neat. It's really impressive. I'm going to ask a closing question and I may cut this into the podcast. We'll see how the audio works. But if there was a closing piece of advice that you would listen or that you would give to that entrepreneur out there, whether that's a new startup or someone that's been at it for a while, but something that you've learned along the way, the school of Hard Knocks, that is called entrepreneurship in this crazy industry of custom integration. What would that piece of advice be?
"Be focused on what you want to do. For us, we just want to do this home automation stuff. We want to grow our business as a home automation dealer and not get sidetracked in doing bits and pieces of other things that come up that you get inquiries about."
Marc: I think it would be to be focused on what do you want to do. For us, we just want to do this home automation stuff. We want to grow our business as a home automation dealer and not get sidetracked in doing bits and pieces of other things that come up that you get inquiries about. For us, it's not being the answer to all people. There are some customers that bring us that we don't do that product. I'm happy to share with them how I think they could use to do that product. But I don't want to engage in being another person who's got five control systems under their belt to be able to get the technicians to learn how to program and do stuff. I think having focus and having a belief in your team, belief in your ability to deliver things.
Then it comes with time, like I didn't do anything special from the early days. Your jobs evolve, you do one room with a pair of speakers and then you do another room with four pairs and you do another room with whatever, then you do security. And it's just an evolving process. You've just got to believe in yourself, believe in the products that you sell, and believe in the ability of your vendors. As a Control4 diamond dealer, we just focused on that as a product where guys have done their training, all my guys have done their online training course, which is a four-day course. You've got to commit to sending your guys into doing it. If you don't do that, it means that you've got guys out on the road who, if it's something easy, they can just grab their laptop and fix it or one of the other boys can log in and help them. Yeah, just being razor-sharp focused on the market that you want to deal with too. I guess we are getting a bit fussy now about the suburbs and the customers that we deal with. We really just want to focus on home automation.
What I want to do with one company to do everything. And I think we've got the runs on the board now to be able to offer that as a service. People can see now through a showroom and just our jobs that we've done, that I witnessed people who want to do the right thing. We've still got customers who love to have people at their homes, which is great. We've got a couple of really good referral customers who are happy to have people in their home. And we do a bit of a tour with the customer and the client. And it's that whole trusting. They get that if we've done that job, that customer's still talking to us and they're referring us, that there's a level of comfortability within that.
Ron: Awesome, and I'm going to put a quick comment here on the screen that says, "Wow, so awesome to see the showroom. Thanks, Marc." And I'm going to second that. I know everyone that watches this video will put a little bit of energy behind this on our social media. We should have some nice numbers on this, Marc. I know this is going to be helpful to many out there around the world. Thank you for coming on the show. Thank you for coming on episode 151 of Automation Unplugged.
Marc: Thanks for having me. I really enjoy listening to them when I walk my dogs that I don't really see the video as much myself. But yeah, it's a great thing and I enjoy listening to it and get value out of other people's ideas and comments and processes and what they've been and done and what they've learned. Thanks for the show.
Ron: Alright, folks, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it, show number 151 Automation Unplugged today is at least here in Florida where I'm at. It's Tuesday, December 22nd. It's about six o'clock. It is a couple of days away from Christmas Eve. I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And I want you all to stay safe. I want you to socially distance until you get your vaccine. You need to keep your friends and your family and your co-workers safe so we can get through this craziness. 2021, we're going to make 2021 better than 2020. And this year, with Automation Unplugged, it's been nothing short of amazing.
I want to thank my team, Stephanie, Allison, Elizabeth, Carlos, Carlee, Miguel. There's an army. I say this every time, or at least as often as I can, that it takes an army to put this show out there and bring this to you every week. And this was a great year and 2021 is going to be even better. Again, we may or may not get a show in next week. We're trying we're just trying to get a lock-in on our guest. Obviously, the holidays bring a lot of craziness, but if you have not done so already, please go over, subscribe to the podcast. That way you can listen to the audio and you just search Automation Unplugged and your favorite podcast software and you can listen to us that way. And here's our website. Actually, let me hide that.
Here's our website, onefirefly.com. Don't forget every show here for Automation Unplugged gets fully transcribed onto the website. If you want to read the interview versus just listening to the interview or watching it, it's going to be on our site. It's usually about a one week delay from the show getting recorded to all of that content ending up on the site. On that note, I wish you all a great holiday and I will see you on the flip side. Thanks, everyone.
Marc started Greenstar Technologies in 2011 after spending 10 years working as an electrician in the residential and industrial sectors. Today, Greenstar Technologies consists of a team of nine staff members, has been a Control4 dealer since 2016, and just recently opened a beautiful new showroom and office space in their central Melbourne location.
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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