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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 #152: An Industry Q&A With Angela Larson and Blair Piersall

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Angela Larson and Blair Piersall of Savant share ways Savant pivoted their focus to provide dealers more education and training during COVID-19.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #152: An Industry Q&A With Angela Larson and Blair Piersall

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Angela Larson and Blair Piersall. Recorded live on Wednesday, December 30th, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Angela Larson and Blair Piersall

Angela uses her 21 years of experience in the lighting control and home automation space to oversee Inside Sales, Marketing, Training, and the development of all web platform business tools, including the Savant Store.

With over 20 years in the custom electronic industry, Blair leads the field sales effort as Vice President of Sales for the pro channel of Savant's domestic and international business.

Interview Recap

  • Angela and Blair's backstory and how they transitioned into a career with Savant
  • Ways Savant pivoted their focus to provide dealers more education and training during COVID-19
  • The idea behind creating a virtual showroom experience
  • The process for dealers and the design community to schedule a virtual demo.

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #151: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Marc Fulker


Ron:  We've got Angela Larson, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations at Savant, and Blair Piersall, he's VP of Sales at Savant. Angie, how are you? I almost called you, sir.

Angela: Hey, Ron, thanks for having us.

Ron:  My pleasure. And Blair, how are you, sir?

Blair: Doing all right. Thank you.

Ron:  I love the blue yeti microphone right there in the foreground. You have your own studio set up.

Blair: You've got to have a good sound.

Ron: You've got to have a good sound. Well, we have a bunch of shout outs. Before I jump into everything, let's get some of these people acknowledged. Allison says, "Excited to have you on the show, Angie and Blair. Jordan says, "Excited to listen in." Wes says, "Tuning in from Raleigh. Welcome to Automation Unplugged." Pete Baker says, "Hi, Ron, Angie, and Blair." What's up, Pete? Let's jump in, Angie, first of all, do you prefer Angie or Angela? What's the right way?

Angela: Hey, Ron, if you know me, you call me Angie. That's perfect.

Ron:  Angie, where are you coming to us from?

Angela: I'm coming to you from Salt Lake City. It's nice fresh snow and winter fun.

Ron:  Have you managed to get out and do any skiing yet?

Angela: We spent last weekend just after Christmas snowmobiling. A little less work than skiing, but it was a lot of fun.

Ron:  Do you own a snowmobile?

Angela: No, but we went up to a resort and had a great time.

Ron:  That sounds so fun. Is it dangerous, or is it just mostly fun?

Angela: I guess it depends on how you do it. I've got a couple of teenage boys, so it was a little dangerous.

Ron:  I love it. And Blair, where are you coming to us from?

Blair: Just outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Ron:  Boston. And what's the weather like right now in Boston?

Blair: It is gritty and cold. That's what you get in Boston in the wintertime.

Ron:  I should probably not tell you about the weather in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, right now.

Blair: Well, I would prefer not. Actually, I have a sister in Florida. She reminds me every day anyway. What part of Florida? She's in West Palm Beach.

Ron:  Oh, she's like forty-five minutes just up the road. And you've heard a weather update recently then.

Blair: First thing this morning. Yeah.

Ron:  That is funny, man. We've got some love flowing in here. We have Ellie. She goes, "Welcome, Angie and Blair tuning in from Lynchburg, Virginia." We've got Tomas, "Saludos from Panama. And happy holidays to you, Ron, and to all of our guests." Thank you, Tomas. Chris Pruitt from Stealth Acoustics and Patio Theater. What's up, Chris? Thanks for tuning in. We have one more. Joe says, "Hello from Lebanon." Is that the city or the country?

Angela: The country, that's one of our international.

Ron:  Wow, we have our first-person tuning in from Lebanon.

Blair: Savant draws the crowd.

Ron:  You guys are kind of a big deal. This is a big deal. Happy to have you guys on. Angie, let's jump into it. First of all, as all of our listeners have been happy listeners of Automation Unplugged for many years, this show is about the people that make our industry work, that makes up our industry. And so I'd love to hear just a little bit about your background. Have you always been at Savant? Always been one of the leaders there making it happen, or was there life before Savant?

Angela: There was life before Savant. My background is really in the lighting control space. For all that know me, that's my passion. I spent years in the lighting control space with a company based in Salt Lake City called Light Touch. And in 2012, Savant acquired them, and I started this great adventure with Savant, where they really wanted to focus more on the lighting space, knowing that's a key driver for the automation industry at large. And you can see the investment of Savant in the lighting space with the acquisition of GE lighting this year.

Ron:  Is it going bigger than that?

Angela: Yes, I had a great ride, being part of the Savant team. I focus mostly on customer interactions, whether tech support or customer service, marketing, or sales. But my hobby and love is is the product side of lighting. I really love to see how we can change the industry with all kinds of new lighting opportunities, dealers being able to sell fixtures. What a wild couple of years that's been. What's happening in the energy space, that's going to be another really wild opportunity for integrators to grow revenue. Those are some of the areas that blur. Those are my personal pet projects inside the company.

Ron:  At a high level, if someone said, Angie, what's your role or responsibility today, 2020, soon to be in a couple of days 2021. How would you describe what you're involved with? And then I'm going to get to Blair and try to figure out what he is involved with. But how would you describe that?

Angela: Yes. Simply put, I touch everything that touches our clients and their customers. Dealer interactions in every way, whether that's a personal interaction with our sales team or whether it's online education or some kind of tool development. We are known to our customers to have a lot of online tools. We have a full online store format that you can even order custom products through. We like to give our customers lots of different ways to interact with us. And you'll even see a little bit from us today some virtual selling models. Those are the things that I focus on.

Ron:  Awesome. Mr. Blair, let's learn about your background, sir, and then we'll get to kind of what areas of responsibility you have these days at Savant.

Blair: Yes, so I've been in this industry for 20 years, which I think you reminded me of before the discussion here started. I'm feeling a little old right now. Actually, a job in this industry is the very first job I had out of college. If anyone is wondering what you do after you major in Latin and ancient Greek in college, it's this.

Ron:  We have just to stop you there. What was your plan with a degree in Latin and Greek, like what was the trajectory?

Blair: Does that sound like a person with a plan, really? No, it doesn't sound like a person with a plan.

Ron:  OK, a Latin and Greek degree. And then you landed in this industry. Where did you land? What were you doing?

Blair: I went to work basically right out of college at a manufacturer's rep firm in New England. And I was there for a long time, 12, 13 years. Which one was that, do you mind mentioning? Yeah, it's the Jarnac group, which I think has been renamed at this point. And I butchered the pronouncing of the name so that I won't do it. But we were actually one of the first, if not the first manufacturer's reps in the country to bring Savant into space. And so then an opportunity came about for me to come work directly for Savant, and here I am.

Ron:  And today, what are your areas of responsibility? How would the world out there know you? What parts of the business do you touch?

Blair: I run the field sales effort for Savant. We have a direct sales team in the field working with our integrators and then users on a technical and sales level. We have manufacturer's reps. I work with all of the reps in the field, and we have international we call them VADs value-added distributors and all of that fun stuff. I work with Angie and run that field facing effort for Savant.

Ron:  Got it. And is your area of responsibility global? Are you just North America, or how does that split?

Blair: It is global, but we do have awesome folks internationally to help out with that.

Ron:  But yeah. Got it. I love it. And guys, this is quite an active chat channel over here, so I've got to give some people some more shout outs. It doesn't work if you don't let people know that you're paying attention. I'm going to do a few more. I got Kotek Smart Home, who says he was the light touch distributor in Egypt. I'm betting they know you. And then we have Harshul, my good friend from Mumbai, India. He says, "Wishing you a happy new year to the family at One Firefly and all the others in the industry from Crescent, India." Harshul, you've got to tell Monica that Danielle says hello. She can't wait to do that virtual cocktail hour. We've got to get that scheduled. And we have Tina; she says, "Very excited to have you on Automation Unplugged. Thanks for joining Angie and Blair." She's joining us from Austin, Texas.

Here we'll do two more. We have Becca. She says, "Too funny. I was originally a medieval history major." I think she's relating to the plan right there. That's pretty funny. Angie, we're at the tail end of 2020, and obviously, it threw all of us into a whirlwind. But I want to say generally it's been good, it's been very bad to many people in society, both in North America and around the world. It's been very hard and challenging. But residential construction and people tied to residential construction have fared by a lucky roll of the dice. We fared pretty well. How has it looked for Savant?

Angela: It's been an interesting year, Ron. I would say that if we just use kind of that second-quarter starting in March and April.

Ron:  We call it the COVID quarter here at One Firefly.

Angela: We hunkered down and spent almost all of our energy, figuring out how to deliver, stay at home education plans for our dealers. We were churning and burning many different topics where we felt folks had the appetite for education. And we even went so far as we took our entire tech support team, which was now working from home. We've distributed all tech support, and we let dealers schedule one on one appointments with our technicians. Savant took a very interesting approach. We kept all of our staff, and we just turned them on into all kinds of different activities. And we had hundreds of dealers just schedule our long sessions with someone from tech support and open conversations, open dialogue, show me how to do this or whatever kind of the open education platform was.

Lots of recorded sessions, lots of webinars, lots of one on ones. And then I'd say that we quickly turned in that Q3 turning point and said, "OK, I think the education has been really valuable. But we also think dealers need a way to keep their pipes full of business, and how can we help them keep their pipelines full? We did two interesting things, Ron. We introduced a new remote that you could ship directly to the customer and then implement without ever going on-site. In fact, One Firefly helped us create a whole marketing campaign to say you can upgrade your house remotely. Right. And it was one of those no-touch scenarios. But to keep the dealers able to keep upgrade business alive and keep in contact with their clients and then we moved, the next piece is asking us, "Help me with my selling scenario. How do I keep my selling alive?

I've invested so much money in my showroom, and yet I can't use it to its full extent, getting people here the way that we used to. We don't have people in the office to demand it." Blair and I and our teams kind of put our heads together and said, how can we help our dealers with kind of a virtual sales model? I think that was our next evolution. In fact, if you ask Blair what we did, Blair in Q4 here has completely banned all PowerPoints and keynotes. We've gone completely the other direction and said people are so tired now of being educated this way. How can we give them immersive experiences even though we're virtual? That's a bit of our evolution. And it really was an evolution as the dealers were evolving as the news was evolving, as people's careers were changing. This is a little bit of the path that we took.

Blair: Well, it's interesting, though, Angie, because, as I reflect on the year and what we've done, it's sort of weird to be like, wow, what an opportunity has been presented by all of this horribleness that's going on. But we wouldn't have landed where we are now had we not gone through that experience. And as I think about Savant, I think about 2020. We didn't run away and hide in Q2. We got really aggressive and out there. It's that sort of nature that we have that I think led us to build out the toolset we have for our integrators. It's pretty awesome.

"We have got to show the world this is pretty gnarly. I think it's one of the more innovative approaches I've seen to tackle this new world. I don't think we're going to go back to the old world, the old normal. I think there's going to be a new normal."

Ron:  I want to pull a thread on that. I was actually in a meeting just a few weeks ago with you, Angie, and you showed me this thing, and I said, well, I got it. We have got to show the world this is pretty gnarly. I think it's one of the more innovative approaches I've seen to tackle this new world. I don't think we're going to go back to the old world, the old normal. I think there's going to be a new normal. Blair, what is the approach? How are you guys prepared preparing yourselves and your dealers and the community at large to learn about Savant automation in a world where people, if they can help, it may not want to be face to face? This is not a political statement. I'm just going to call it a reality. Some people don't, if they have a choice, don't want to be at the same time and space with other humans just while there's still a risk out there.

Blair: And I think it transcends even what we're currently going through and hopefully exciting. I think that's great. Some folks, 2022 or whatever, may not also have the time for that face to face interaction. And I think we need to be mindful of that as well. And that's a pretty important thing to think about. But what we visualized and any good idea really comes from our integrators. I always like to think about it that way. Early on in the year, I got requests from integrators who said, hey, I still need to sell some stuff. I always love hearing that. I was like, OK, cool, what can we do? How can you help me demonstrate Savant? So that we can close some of these jobs for our end users. And I thought pretty small at first. I would do a screen share with people, and I would do a live demonstration of the support system at my house, which my wife loves. She just thinks that's the greatest thing ever.

Ron:  She hopes you could do it all day long.

Blair: If we could do that all the time, she would love that. I started doing these personal Zoom sessions with our integrators and their customers and a live demonstration of my home. And as most things happened and I had conversations about it, our Director of Education, Ian Roberts, who deserves a huge shout out for this, and one of our team members, Tony Fred's really worked with us to build out the experience that you saw, which is taking the very best of that that live app demonstration experience, which is, I think, one of the most compelling aspects to what we do when we try to sell or talk about what it's like to have a Savant home. And added this visual component of our experience center in New York City, which is mind-blowingly awesome.

Ron:  I'm going to pause you there. And I'm going to share something on the screen so my listeners won't see this, but my viewers will. This is Ian that Blair was just referencing. This is actually the One Firefly team because you guys very graciously pre COVID hosted the entire One Firefly team at your facility in New York City. And so here you see the One Fireflies buzzing about. Seth is your regional up there in the Northeast, was giving a demo. The New York City Experience Center that you're going to tell us what you've done and how you've made that virtual. My team got to see that live. And we had the half-day experience there. And it is compelling.

I think it's one of the more beautiful spaces I've seen in North America, demoing technology in the home and really getting to that lifestyle aspect of it. My team was buzzing about it. There's still talk about all that they learned and the attention that your team really gave. Angie, I see that Blair just buzzed off. And this is one of those glitches in The Matrix. I'm going to let you continue. What was the idea of converting that into a virtual environment, and what is that, and who gets to use it or benefit from it?

Angela: Awesome. The idea is, as Blair said, we started small. We thought, how can we help our dealers do virtual self sales process when their clients are no longer traveling. As Blair said, it's not just that they're not traveling. Many of them no longer have time for the kinds of life experiences and that kind of stuff. How could we make this something that could fit into anyone's schedule and be available in a virtual way, so we actually took our entire space that you just showed on that eight thousand square foot space, and we created a whole 3D virtual environment.

We took a whole software platform used in the building industry, real estate, building, and construction industry and turned the entire space into a 3D experience. You can walk the whole space with us and actually key into certain home automation technology experiences. If I want to see something about energy or lighting or audio-video or Zoom integration or whatever, I can key into those experiences right from this 3D demo. And then we thought a little bigger. It took us a little bit of an evolution, and we thought, hey, how can we actually change the space in real-time and let a client almost play with the system? Because that's really one of the most important things, I think that happens in the showroom experience, whether using a vendor showroom like ours and our experience center or for a dealer's local showroom is to touch, to feel, to play with.

Ron:  That wow moment when they press the button and the room dances.

Angela: Yeah, I did that. And it was so easy to do that with most customers are afraid of this technology. They don't want it to be hard. They don't want it to be complicated. The actual interaction with the equipment, oh, I just pressed this thing called Welcome Home, and it does all the stuff. How simple is that? And so one of the things we said is how then can we make sure that they still have that interaction with the Savant experience. It's not just three days walk around but truly have that experience. We actually have the ability to pop our app up on the screen and let the homeowners show me what happens when we do this. And so it really keeps that immersive experience alive. Those are some of the things we felt were real challenges to solve.

Plus, Ron, I'll speak selfishly, also moving our entire experience center virtually. We quadrupled our capacity, speaking selfishly as a manufacturer. What do they say? Necessity is the mother of all invention. Right. We look back and say, "Man, why didn't we think of this sooner ?" Because he came out of necessity. But we think, as you said, this is going to be a tool the last of the long term year, and it is a real benefit. Blair, you're back. I was just giving some background.

Blair: Yeah. As we've gone through and put these and put these tours together, I think we've done 70 or 80 of these things, you know, for end-users and since we started. It's been pretty brisk. What has struck me the most is how dynamic and how new and exciting almost every single one of them is. We set out to have a reasonably scripted experience, but something that could be dynamic. And what I've learned through this entire thing is you have no idea what will happen when somebody pops on to your Zoom room, and you go through this. There was a tour a month or so back where it was not this client's first rodeo with any kind of home control. And this dude had a yellow legal pad in his hand with a list of questions for the Savant guy. And it was like, OK, let's do this.

Ron:  For those watching Blair, and we'll see if technology behaves my audience, you know that sometimes it behaves and sometimes Brother Murphy shows up, and it crashes. I hope that doesn't happen. Can we attempt to do a screen share here from your side? Is that up and running?

Blair: It should be. Let me get it up and running again. Everything just imploded on me a little while ago. It was pretty awesome. Let's give that a shot.

Ron:  Alright. I see it. Can I go ahead and share?

Blair: Go for it. Yeah.

Ron:  Alright. Let's do this. Let's see what happens. It's going to have a countdown there it is. Alright, I believe we are live watching your screen. What are we seeing? This is as we walk through the tour. There's a preamble and getting to know you stuff, which is great. But the main thrust of what we do is really focused on what we call the residential loft at the experience center here in New York. The space itself, as Angie said, it's eight thousand square feet. It's the entire third floor of the old singer sewing machine manufacturing building in New York, which is pretty cool. And it's located in Soho, right at Prince and Broadway Street. It's a great address. Not a terrible place to be if you have an opportunity to be there. And I always love starting and taking some time on this. Just do with folks as we go through the tour because I always like to say right around this spot at the dining room table is where most end users will turn to me and say, "Hey, Blair, I'm not looking to buy anything fancy here." I'd say so they've gone through, and they've scheduled a tour of an experience center.

They're engaging with a Savant integrator, but they don't want anything fancy. And I always take that to mean please don't tell me something I cannot figure out how to use. I have enough of that stuff in my life. I don't want to deal with it. And I think the entire focus of the tour, from my perspective, what I always like to make very present. Everything we do is how approachable technology can be when you have a Savant home, how easy it can be to use, and how a Savant home can flex to any user, a power user. A complete neophyte to control and automation and everybody in between. It's really about just disarming folks and saying, look, your home will have a level of technology integrated into it, but it doesn't mean you have to be afraid of it. That's what it's all about, and if I may, what I'll actually do is I'll turn here, and we'll look back at the entranceway at one of our touch screens, and I start every tour the way I start every day at the experience center, I usually would walk into this space. We have a touch screen that's located right at the entranceway here, a Savant touch screen. And I leverage a feature that we have built into our app experience, which we call Savant scenes.

It's really the ability for an end-user right inside of the app to create a system-wide event that can be triggered with a button push if they want to turn the lights on, open the shades, do all of that fun stuff. They can really engage that with the scene. But most importantly, they can create that scene, edit it, change it, do whatever they want with it themselves. They don't need an integrator to do this. And so I always love showing people one of the little embedded videos that we have in the virtual tour with these technology spotlights. You can see we've started with a dark space here. And by hitting the welcome scene, what we've done is set the lighting up just the way it needs to be. The drapes open, the shades go up. All of the televisions are turning on to the appropriate setting. We're getting some audio up and running.

Basically, what we've done is we've gotten the space all set up to give the tour experience that you see right here. And I think right at the very beginning showing folks, hey, this is how easy this can be is is pretty engaging.

Ron:  Yeah, it's gorgeous, and I'm assuming this software, you're able to then walk around the space and really look at the apartment from every different angle.

Blair: You can. As many of these tours as I've given Ron, I'm terrible at first-person video games, so I'm pretty bad at that navigating experience. I won't put you through it. I tend to use these big buttons across the bottom of the screen to maneuver my way around, so end users don't have to see that. But it is all about really showing folks the space and showing them different concepts in the different spaces that they'll probably see in their own home. I know it's really hard to show off the virtual tour aspect for the folks that are just listening on audio. But I think one of the other key stops for Angie and me; this is one of my favorite aspects of the virtual tour is showing off this view of the experience center and how much we were able to do, completely retrofit in the space with a full-color lighting experience. All of the coves where you see the exposed brick here on all of the decorative fixtures, you see those awesome pendants down at the end here.

This chrome lamp, these Alice in Wonderland looking lamps at the ends of the sofa here. All of those have our smart bulbs in them. And what we've built out in this space is a full-color lighting experience on a budget, if you will. But because we had to, we had to retrofit it in. And we use another scene to show end users just how impactful that is, which is this video we have of the Savant chill scene at the experience center. Looking at the same view that we just saw inside of the virtual tour, we can activate the scene and show everyone how you can use these LEDs strips and these smart bulbs to completely transform the space and build a really impactful lighting experience for not a ton of money when we really think about what we were able to do there, it's pretty impressive.

Ron:  Yeah, you guys were so kind. You gave our team when we visited, you gave them your smart bulbs, and everyone was able to take that home as a token of thanks from you guys. And I can tell you that our team absolutely loves them. The ability to take that home and control the lighting with their phone. They got lots of wows from their family and friends that show that technology. Very kind of you guys.

Blair: Those are always popular. I have a funny story about that. One Christmas was the Christmas of smart bulbs for my entire extended family. And I gave a smart bulb or two to my in-laws. And Lauren's mother used it in a really innovative way. She has this chandelier right at the entrance to the house. And I don't know if I told you this story or not.

Angela: I'm riveted.

Blair: She plugged the smart bulb into the chandelier, and she created two Savant scenes, one that glows the light red and one that glows green. When Tom was coming home from work, he quickly knew what kind of mood he was walking into the red or walking into green? And one of the best uses of Savant scene I've ever seen. Stephanie could activate that right from upstairs. She didn't even need to go downstairs. And Tom knew whether it was time just to turn back around and head back or something or whether it was OK to come into the house.

"I've been trying to talk about technology in our home and offices for my twenty-year career as well, certainly at One Firefly as a marketer for the industry. But so much about it is really that personal experience, those personal use cases, those personal stories."

Ron:  I think what your space does so much about technology, and I've been trying to talk about technology in our home and offices for my twenty-year career as well, certainly at One Firefly as a marketer for the industry. But so much about it is really that personal experience, those personal use cases, those personal stories, and that's the power of space like yours. Many manufacturers have shown spaces that are really very technical in nature. There are many products, lots of keypads, and lots of doodads on the wall, but they're not built into a lifestyle environment. And you guys took, and I remember I had heard about your space for years, I didn't get to go until this past January, but I had heard that your space was different even before.

I don't know if you're in the same space, but you did a space a long time ago, and then you remodeled the whole thing. And maybe this is that remodel. But I remember when it launched, I heard dealers just tell me, like, Ron, you got to go. It's different. It's different than what everybody else with their approach. And I'm just curious, where does that come from? Because you guys at your origin from day one, you just took a different way, a different approach of telling the story. And maybe many companies that take a very engineering approach, a very black-box approach. I don't know which one of you wants to take that, but I'm just curious why Savant is, in fact, you think about it differently. I'll call names, Angie, you go.

Angela: Why don't you think about it differently? Ron, I think the biggest kind of evolution in the 20-year industry, right, is making this technology easier to implement and more profitable for the integrator. And as we look at integrator profitability, this is an area where we are very focused on and can do something like this, where you can set up a whole system, you can create this entire experience for your client. And then they just want to make a quick change to a timer or a quick change to a different level. When I started in the industry all those 20 years ago, that meant you had to drive a truck to the job to make that change. And I know that many of the folks on this call, they've experienced that just to make a tweak or just to make these changes was an entire experience. It cost money. They had to send, in many cases, a high-level technician, not even a junior technician, to do that. As you said, you know, we came into the industry as Savant with the benefit of being able to change all of that and really showcases, Blair said that technology could be easy and friendly and intuitive to use. We like our sales models and our stores and everything to follow, that being where dealers can do things quickly.

Taking a little tangent, when we entered the lighting space, when you used to have to order a lighting fixture, you used to have these spec sheets with all kinds of different circles and 27 character part numbers. And you hope you got that right to place the order. We've tried to do things to make all of that easier, not only for the end-user but for our dealers, and focus on that. That's core to us and our culture to try to do that. And I know it is to our field sales team.

Blair: Yeah. And I think when we think about the end-user and somebody who's leaning in and looking at a solution like this for their home or something like that, this is pretty personal stuff. We're talking with people about how you live your life, how you would like to live, all of those types of things. And Ron, I think you said it best. That black box approach just doesn't really work when we're getting down to brass tax here and saying, "Do you like to watch TV before you go to sleep?" All of those types of personal questions that people really need to answer. And I think the space does a really great job. And even the virtual tour does a really great job of disarming everyone, so we can really get down and learn a little bit about this. I've learned through the virtual tour experience that the virtual tours are almost more personal than the live tours I've given up the experience center.

I was doing a tour on Tuesday, where I talked to a couple seated on their sofa in their living room. They've got an iPad pointed at the two of them, and they're pretty relaxed. And they've never had a smart home before. They're asking me questions about, "What do you like to do? How do you like to use your home and the ability to flip over really quickly and show them my own home?" To be able to talk about the space with them, it's really been pretty awesome. And I think it's been great.

Ron:  Can you demo here for us to see how you said that the person you're giving the tour to has the ability to actively make commands happen and see a change in that New York facility? Can you demo that?

Blair: Let me try and make that happen. You see, if I have the magic, hopefully, we don't force smoke out of your computer. I got to tell you, the fan is going nuts right now. It was built for this. After we show off space, I open up a screen share of the app that drives that experience center. And so usually you open it up, and folks are like, "Hey, it's the dining room!" because they've seen the dining room. They've been there, and they've walked to space. They can see the piano in the background and all of that fun stuff. And we spend a lot of time talking about various concepts. I won't bore you or the audience here, giving a detailed description of what distributed audio and video are. It is always interesting to be able to describe that to people. But what I really love focusing on is that lighting experience.

We'll actually do that by hanging out in the dining area here. As we dive into the dining area, you can see on the screen that the same image that we walked into the experience center with, and we'll actually tap on the lighting icon here. And this is where we show folks our true image lighting interface, which is the ability to not only control the lights in the space, which is awesome unto itself but to actually see the fixture you're controlling and see the impact of what you're doing real-time. For those enjoying this through audio, we have an image of the dining room here with some LED lights on an exposed brick wall. We have them in this really hideous green color that I made earlier that we can all say so. And you can see in the app as I'm raising and lowering the light level here, the effect that it has on the space and the impact we can change that green color if we want to grab our little light tray here.

We can take that to a much more appealing, awesome purple color if we want to. And I think for Angie and me, I think you'd agree this really makes it kind of come alive for poor folks when they see us do this and get to experience that real-time.

Ron:  Yeah, I think that's pretty amazing. By the way, we've got a comment from Harshul, again, one of the bigger integrators in India. His comment is, "Brilliant." I think I think he's a fan of what you have going here.

Blair: We will take brilliant all day.

Ron:  Joe gives us a comment. He says, "Everything at Savant is different, not like any other. Very cool. The component, this true image capability, are you driving that in the demo, Blair, or is the person receiving the demo, are they driving that or how exactly is that happening?

Blair: I'm driving that in the demo and really talking to them about how to how to use it, how to leverage it, and what I think are some of the best ways. For me, that's been really awesome as part of the virtual tour aspect is the tips and tricks you may not get from somebody about how to how to use a Savant home, things you like the most, things you could take or leave, those types of things. I always like to take people inside a little bit and really, really dive into it.

Angela: I think you had a great story for me a couple of weeks ago where the dealers can really lean in here depending on their relationship with their clients and what they want to do. Blair, you had a really unique story. Not only were you driving and giving this experience, but the dealer actually pre-shipped the homeowner one of Savant's remote controls, and all of our equipment has demo mode inside of it. You can use the remote as if it's really functional. It has pictures on the screen. It has preloaded services. It has all the bells and whistles. Now, you're not actually activating anything in your home, but you're able to see what it would be like to use the remote. Blair, I thought it was super interesting that while you talked to the people on their couch, they also had some of our hardware. And so that was kind of a fun way for a dealer to lean in.

Blair: Yeah, it was. They were super excited to show me they had a remote that they had been playing with for a couple of days. And I think it all made a hell of a lot more sense after they saw the virtual tour and some of the aspects of the app. We always talk about that Savant remote is an extension of our app experience, which is unique.

Ron:  Blair, if you will allow, sir, I'm going to pull that graphic off the screen here, and I want to jump into it. And if you can help our audience understand how do they use this? Let's say you have dealers' throughout the world, throughout North America. OK, clearly this is hot shit. Pardon my French. Clearly, it's very cool. How do they use it to give demos? What's the process like?

Blair: Right now, there is an email address that you can pop an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you're interested in getting a tour scheduled, we will get back to you immediately and schedule up with a tour. We break them out, so we have a handful of specially trained tour guides who provide this awesome experience for our integrators or customers. And that's the best way to get it kicked off. And I'm super stoked. I think we're achingly close to our integrators being able to schedule this themselves right on the website. There are Savant log in sections.

Ron:  What is the ETA on that? For the dealers watching or listening to go somewhere on the Internet or maybe find out the best place to go, is there a link that we would want to share or are allowed to share? I know that I have a link, but I don't know if that's a publicly available link. Is that a link we're allowed to drop into comments?

Angela: Absolutely. You can totally drop the registration link in, and we're also working in January for our dealers. Each of our dealers has a back in portal or community, we call it. And when they log in, they'll actually be able to see real-time availability and schedule. That's the goal that we're moving towards. Yeah, we love you guys to post the registration link and, you know, really not only bring dealers and their clients, but I think the second piece of that is this entire smart home experience has been certified by the AIA as a way to get continuing education credits. As integrators, if you're looking for an entertaining, unique way to give your local specifiers some continuing education credits. This is an awesome way. They have been PowerPointed to death this year, and this is something different, something unique. And we're really so excited that the AIA was able to think outside the box with us and think about this as a great, smart home learning tool for architects and lighting designers. That's another good option for integrators.

Ron:  Blair, this apartment, by the way, my team dropped the link down into the comments. If you are listening to the podcast, I'm not going to read the URL, but it's a long URL, so it's dropped into the comments. If you go to Facebook or go to the One Firefly Automation Unplugged show page, you'll find the link in the notes on where to register for that virtual demo. But Blair, is it in the plans or the cards? Do you guys envision different spaces? Because I know that Savant has different facilities worldwide, what's the longer-term play here for these virtual experiences? Well, there's a couple of things at play. Angie mentioned earlier that I had banned all education over keynote, starting in November.

Blair: One of the things that are in motion right now is using this virtual experience as our primary means of integrator education, educating on our lighting solution, shading solution, educating on our audio and video, and speaker solutions in a virtual space. We have the forum to be able to do it. It's a hell of a lot more engaging than 770 keynote slides. We've started doing that. We're also hard at work. This is a New York City experience center. We at Savant aren't content with just one experience center. We're actually putting the finishing touches on a West Coast experience center in Las Vegas. That is going to be a pretty dazzling experience, to be sure. It's an entire residence just outside of Las Vegas. There'll be a West Coast virtual tour coming up shortly. And I think so we're excited about that, too.

Ron:  Two quick questions. I got one for each of you. Blair, I want to talk about energy and the world of energy solutions, and that's a growing category for our industry. And you guys have a pretty novel solution. And I believe the terminology is called race point. If that's not, please correct me. This is the forum of my audience knows I'm wrong often. What is the Savant approach to energy? And when I'm talking about energy, it's really the integrating battery storage with energy, automation, and technology in the home. I know you're going there and so I'd love you to tell our audience just high level what that is. Then I'd also love to know, what's the word on the street? What's the buzz on the street? Are the consumers demanding it? Are you guys pushing it? Is the is there a pull for it yet? And if so, where's that coming from?

"End-users, clients, civilians, non-industry folk have been interested in energy independence for decades."

Blair: I'll actually start by answering the second question first because we get this question a lot. Hey, are people interested in this? And what I'll tell you is that end-users, clients, civilians, non-industry folk have been interested in energy independence for decades. Anybody that has put a generator to power their home when the power goes out is interested in energy independence. Anybody who's put solar panels on their home, standalone solar, is interested in energy independence. As we start to think about what the market is and if there is a client interest for an energy-independent strategy for residential applications, it is. It's not even funny, people are totally interested in this, and I think things that are happening now make it even more temporal and more interesting to folks.

Our solution takes these types of applications, standalone solar, which is very cool but has some missing pieces. A small generator that powers a very large house is another energy-independent strategy. And our solution, in conjunction with Savant and race point energy, really provides what I like to call comprehensive energy management. The ability to take that small generator and have it work for you in a meaningful way that you as the end-user have control over, take that standalone solar and not only understand how much solar energy you're producing, but how much is the home consuming at the same time? And can you then make good decisions to really maximize the benefit?

We've now got this concept of local battery storage in the home, which I think is becoming more and more common for people to begin to understand. Let's make smart decisions to maximize our solar production, our generator production, and our battery storage all in the same sort of thought process. I think that a lot of folks say it's the next big thing. I'm not trying to be dramatic here, but I think it's been here for a while. And we're just we're making it more useful is really what I like to think now.

Ron:  I appreciate you touching on that subject. I know it's coming up more and more often with our customers at One Firefly. And so it's great to hear from you, Angie. Just another elephant in the room, at least for me, is you guys purchased GE Lighting. Holy bananas. I grew up screwing in the GE light bulb, and now that is you. That is Savant. You acquired that brand in that business. What does that mean today? What are we about a year after that went public?

Angela: Just about six months.

Ron:  Six months. OK, so what does it mean for the integrator listening or watching?

"It's a really interesting concept to think about how you can take a brand like G.E. and give visibility to the client about home automation, the benefits of lighting control, the benefits of audio and video."

Angela: Well, I think it's a really interesting concept to think about how you can take a brand like G.E. and give visibility to the client about home automation, the benefits of lighting control, the benefits of, as Blair said, audio and video. The idea that we're bringing into our industry, a brand as large as GE Lighting, is significant. Blair, I don't know how many tours you've had in the last six months where somebody said my integrator was recommending something like this to me, but I thought it was more niche-oriented. And now that I know that something as large as GE Lighting is involved in this space, I really want to hear more. I do think it lends a lot of what you call brand trust into its credibility.

Blair: Street cred, Angie. That's what the kids call it.

Ron:  This is the real deal.

Angela: Yeah. I don't know how many of these tours, even where that's come up as a lot of confidence-boosting, not only in Savant but also in the integrator industry at large, that this is not, as Blair called it, the next big thing. This is real. This is here today, and this is something I can install in my home. That's been an awesome experience. And we're going to show the future evolution of what we're doing with GE Lighting and Savant together coming into 2021 because we're very excited about all the opportunities.

Ron:  Awesome. Well, it is that time, Angie, so we're going to sign off, and I'm going to say, Angie, I'll start with you. Thank you for your ability and willingness to come on the show and join us. And it was awesome to have both you and Blair here. But I want to say a personal thanks for me and our audience and also so it's been such a great partner for One Firefly, and we really appreciate that. But thank you for being on the show.

Angela: Thanks, Ron. Thanks, everybody, for listening and hanging out with us in the comments. It was great.

Ron:  Awesome. And Blair, thank you, sir. I know that you and I have not we've crossed paths several times in recent years, but we haven't had a chance to really get to know each other. And I appreciate you coming on the show, and it wasn't just you and I learned about each other, but we did it publicly, and the whole world got to listen and watch.

Blair: That is that is horrifying and awesome at the same time. That's great. I appreciate it. It's been a lot of fun, and it's always fun to talk about what we're doing. Thanks for the opportunity.

Ron:  Likewise. And I'm going to read a comment. This is for both of you and One Firefly. But one of our listeners said, "Angie Blair just wanted to thank you for helping our integration company grow. Thank you, One Firefly, for all the marketing support. Thank you, Savant, for the great experience you provide to us as the integrators and our customers. Best wishes for 2021, and it's from Arturo.

Angela: No better compliment. Thank you.

Blair: I know. We'll take it.

Ron:  Pete Baker, "Long time loyal Savant fan and supporter. This is a great episode." So, guys, I'm going to sign off. Thank you so much. Thanks to you both, and Happy New Year. Have a safe and fun holiday coming up.

Blair: You as well. Looking forward to 2021.

Ron:  Alrighty, folks, there you have it, that was Episode 152 of Automation Unplugged. That was a lot of fun I've had. You guys know I've been around the space a little while, and so often, manufacturers really spend time inventing amazing products. Still, they don't always connect the dots and try to really help the reseller, the integrator, or even the consumer fully understand how that technology will make their life better. And I think Savant really gets a lot of credit for me for the two pennies. That's where they really think about that. And they focus on that, and they try to help connect the dots.

They try to help their integrators understand how to talk about technology's lifestyle benefits in the home. And I think our industry is for sure, better for it, better as a result: today's Wednesday, December 30th. We have New Year's Eve here in a couple of days. And I know many of you are going to be tempted to spend time with your friends and family. Please do so. Wear a mask, be safe. Listen to Dr. Fauci. And when you get the chance, get vaccinated, and we'll all get through this. 2020 has been a great year. 2021 is going to be even better. Guys, this is the last show for the year. It has been a pleasure. I want to say thank you to the whole One Firefly team, everybody that makes this show possible, and our team that tunes in regularly. Thank you, as well. And I'll see you next year. Bye, everybody.


Angela Larson currently works with Savant as Senior Vice President of Customer Operations at Savant. Blair Piersall is presently Vice President of Sales with Savant. Angela uses her 21 years of experience in the lighting control and home automation space to oversee Inside Sales, Marketing, Training, and the development of all web platform business tools, including the Savant Store. With over 20 years in the custom electronic industry, Blair leads the field sales effort as Vice President of Sales for the pro channel of Savant's domestic and international business.

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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