Home Automation Podcast Episode #154: An Industry Q&A With Jason Roberts
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Jason Roberts of Bravas Boca Raton shares the Bravas approach to manufacturer preferences throughout their different locations.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Jason Roberts. Recorded live on Wednesday, January 20th at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Jason Roberts
Prior to joining the residential custom integration space, Jason spent 20 years as a software executive in the higher-education vertical.
In 2012, Jason bought what would be soon known as Spectrum Technology Integrators out of South Florida and grew the home automation company from a $2 million operation to a $7 million operation over the course of six years.
Today, Jason works with 14 other like-minded business owners to facilitate the merger that created the largest nationwide luxury A/V firm, Bravas.
- Jason's experience buying an integration firm in 2012
- The dynamics of developing a winning relationship with a custom builder
- The Bravas approach to manufacturer preferences throughout their different locations
- Jason's outlook for Bravas and our industry in 2021
Ron: Hello, Mr. Jason.
Jason: Good afternoon, Ron.
Ron: How are you, sir? I apologize in advance for stealing you away from the inauguration, regardless of what side of politics one stands on. That's a big show, and it's an important event to watch and pay attention to.
Jason: I know how all-important media moguls like yourself know how to bury the lead. You get a guest like me, and you've got to choose some other event going on to keep the crowd from getting too big. I know what you did here.
Ron: That's it. It would be too raucous, the crowd, if I didn't do something to get that under control. That's funny. We've got some folks tuning in here. If you're out there, give us a like, give us a share, an emoji. Let us know where you're coming to us from. That will be appreciated. How are you feeling? You are right there in South Florida. You're with me. I'm in Broward County. You're right there in the Boca Raton area. The former president is, and we can't talk politics, by the way, much or greatly, because Facebook is reading the transcripts. The big data machine is reading transcripts. And they'll actually do some funky things with the algorithm if it's political without using a lot of political terms. And I know that might sound odd, but we did an interview with Murray Kunis in October or November and there was a lot of politics talked about in the first few minutes. We actually got blocked from Facebook and couldn't promote the show, they wouldn't let us spend money to promote the show. But what I wanted to get at is the former president is now down the street from you, like literally, I think he just arrived.
Jason: I believe so, and the only thing that matters to me is that the Secret Service doesn't let your boat very close on that part of the intercoastal now. Every time he's been down the last couple of years, it's an inconvenience for some of us who like to boat. That's all I'll say about it.
Ron: Literally, can you not go up the intercoastal?
Jason: You have to keep a wide berth, and there are lots of guys with big guns on other boats in the area. Obviously a protected area for a good reason. It could be a traffic issue. I've got a place that lives in West Palm up on Southern Boulevard. And if the planes are coming and going that particular day, it could be the difference between a 20-minute commute and an hour and 20-minute commute.
Ron: That is funny. And I know we're live here, Jason, but I'm actually going to ask you to do something. And it's going to be impromptu because your audio did change for me from when we were preshow to right now. It feels like it almost ramped up to a pretty high level. I was going to give Ellie a shout out. Ellie says, "Welcome to the show, Jason really stoked for this episode." We have Tina. She says, "Welcome, Jason. Excited to have you on Automation Unplugged."
Jason: Thank you.
Ron: Jason, tell us where you're coming to us from and maybe tell us about for those that are hiding under a rock and have not heard of Bravas, maybe give us a little sneak peek of what Bravas is and your location. And then I want to go back in time and kind of talk about your background.
Jason: Sure. I think you mentioned we're down in here from Boca Raton. I'm actually on the Broward County Palm Beach line. I can see both counties, and I could actually throw a rock and hit both from where we're sitting there. Bravas Boca Raton is one of 16 locations of a nationwide branded AV company and home automation C. I all the different acronyms that we like to use in this space. We've been one company now for about 18 months, but it took us about three years to put that together prior to that. We're a single branded nationwide footprint company.
Ron: Got it. We're going to talk a lot about what makes Bravas, Bravas. And I want to go through that and get your perspective. I do want to give a couple of more shout outs. We have Kailey. She says, "Hi, Jason. Excited to hear more about you and Bravas." And then you might know this person. This is Bravas' own Kelly Mizar. She says, "Hi, Ron and Jason." Hi, Kelly. Thanks for tuning in. I see a note here from Cassie. She says, "Jason, excited for this one." Awesome. Thanks, Cassie. Jason, I've known you for a little while. I've known you maybe around 10 years or so, maybe something like that. Very close. You have an interesting background. You weren't born and bred in the custom integration world. You actually had a life before this world. Tell us about your background.
Jason: Sure. Not always AV, but always a nerd. I started off in actually high school and college doing computer science type work. And I got a degree in management information systems, which didn't exist at the time. But you learned accounting and a bunch of computer languages, and then you jammed it together and figured out what you want to do with it. My first career outside of college by luck and by circumstance was working for a nationwide group of colleges and the nationwide group of career colleges. They were called at the time, teaching people skills in a different career starting ways from six months to two years. It was a quick version of college, but it was a nationwide company with an automotive technology school with a business school. And it was all types of different companies put into one brand. And I learned a lot from that.
Fast forward a few years. And as a technologist of that, I joined another company where we started from scratch, and we bought and aggregated over a hundred college campuses over the course of about six years. I took the company public, which was out of Chicago, Illinois. And I was in charge of all the I.T. functions of that company, which meant information systems that everybody could use. But at that point, we were international. We had lots of different regulations and rules on how to even do financial aid for students, how we had to track in multiple languages. We were doing some pretty large scale I.T. projects, ERP implementation projects. That's what brought me to Florida with my software vendor in Deerfield Beach, Florida. I would visit them at a conference every year, and they were smart. They had a conference in March, and I was in Chicago, and March in Chicago and March in Florida are two very different things. I enjoyed some sunshine and beautiful weather a couple of times, and I was trying to help this company do some things to the software that I needed them to do for my fast-growing enterprise. And they asked me if I'd come to help them do that.
I actually jumped ship from a public company in Chicago and moved to Florida. That was 22 years ago, and I worked for a software company. I worked my way through being the VP of Operations to the Chief Technology Officer to eventually the CEO of that company. We grew from about a three million dollar, 12 person company to a 65 million dollar, three hundred person company in three continents. And we sold that to a private equity group. 2008 was when this happened, and I found myself having been a part of an acquiring group, a group of people who went around looking for people who had invested a lot of time building a local branded school to help their community. And they were looking for ways to preserve really everything they'd worked for in their life to put us to build a school from nothing to a several hundred student pieces of a community. We were the acquirer of that, and then my next piece was as I was in the software side, I served people doing that, and then we got to sell that company. I got to be on the selling side of a private equity group. Fast forward to today, a couple of years ago, I will come back to how I got into the AV business, but basically, it was through a side door. I had a friend who had a friend, and I offered to help him out, and I bought the company. This is in 2012.
As I ran that company from 2012 to 2017, it's my first time in this industry. I didn't know if I was doing a good job, a bad job, an OK job. I just focused on the same principles I knew about customer care, business relationships, taking care of employees, and investing a little in marketing, which is how I met you to try to build the business. And we built what was then called Spectrum Technology from about a two million dollar operation to about a seven million dollar operation over the course of six years, but at the same time joined this group of similarly minded people called the Bravas group, which were people sharing business practices and best practices with each other and actually comparing our financial performance and comparing our business practices and sharing them with each other to figure out if somebody had a better mousetrap. We should all use the better mousetrap. And that process came from being a group with a group of people helping each other to a group that said that we could be so much more powerful together than we are apart. We put together about three different ways of combining our businesses. We landed on one that worked out for us, which was getting a private equity investor to put some money behind a group of 15.
Now we're one brand. We share some really powerful leverage in things like marketing. And I'd love to talk to you more about that because you're a part of our most recent investment, a huge investment, but a super important investment in building our website. There are so many things as a small business owner you do every year, and it's just not productive. You shop for insurance. You have to review your health insurance. H.R. tasks that you're either good at or you're not good at. You're recruiting people. It's hard to be in every place you're supposed to be at any given time and still run your business and take care of your customers. And our background concept with Bravas was we could centralize a few core features, a few really core functions, pool our resources, and do better at those functions than we can do alone, but also let every branch operator like myself focus on what we love most, which is taking care of our customers and implementing core technology and not shopping for insurance and figuring out how to build a website.
Ron: I want to go back to 2012 when a friend of a friend asked you for help at an integration company. What was it about that interaction that had you say, "Yeah, I think I want to buy this, I think I want to be in this crazy business?" Did you think it was a crazy business at the time?
Jason: There were multiple friends. It was actually my former business partner with a customer of this firm. He had done the most outrageous theater and the most outrageous automation in his super luxury home because he just sold his software company for many millions of dollars. It was incredible. I had never seen it before. I'd seen Hi-Fi audio stores, and I'd seen a home theater before, but I'd never seen it all pulled together as I saw it at my friend's house. And he was a customer of an operator who was a good operator. But he found himself on the wrong side of 2008. And so my friend had loaned him some money, and the business had not yet recovered. They were on a slide from being a very successful location to struggling and figuring out a way through. My involvement was for my former business partner and friend to get involved with the business and see how we could do to tighten it up. Of course, one of the first things I found was there were no systems. There was no tracking, and we didn't know when the next sale would come. We had Quickbooks, and that's it. Part of when you sold ERP software for a living for 12 years, you kind of knew the solution. You've got to put a piece of software in that gets everybody on the same page and exposes all the information. Everyone that was one of the key motives was I could help with that. I knew what to do. I had to ask many people what the right answer was; I didn't want to invent it.
We actually chose a point along the way. And they've built a great toolset. Frankly, it reminds me of the toolset that they used to use in the 90s when I was a client of a small company in Florida. It's their first-generation product, and it's super complete and awesome. But if you could build it all over again, you build it completely differently today, especially if you knew that somebody like Bravas would come along and stick a bunch of different businesses together and see what needed to be the same in every business. And some things that we need to be different at every business. What's local, and what's national? What's standardized, and what's that special sauce and application? That's also part of the fun bouncing between 2012 and now, but getting to do the same thing again because it's like a new business because it's new and it's scale.
Ron: That raises an interesting topic, and I'm going to also balance between the past and the present because there's a number of just different threads I want to pull on. But while we are talking about systems and processes, I see that you are listed as one of the board members at Bravas. What is that process like of you guys trying to ultimately define the software or solutions that would enable you to really benefit from your strength in numbers? You made a comment. I don't remember if it was before or we went live or after finding insurance. You could have 15 locations doing that. Or you could have the corporate office doing that and rolling it out.
Jason: That's certainly the case. We went to a nationwide benefits plan where all the same super a really high-quality benefits plan. Not every location that joined had employee benefits. Now we all do have the same. Of course, we have a 401k. We rolled out 401K this year to administer a 401k of a 12 person company is insanity. To administer a 401k for a 400 person company makes good sense. Those are things of scale that we're able to pick up and get benefits on quickly. I think some of the things that are local that you have to figure out. We talk a lot about our product vendors or our product partners. Sometimes it absolutely makes sense that you're selling the same product in 15 markets. And sometimes, certain markets prefer a product. If you drive around Denver, Colorado, you're going to see a lot more Subaru's than if you drive around Florida. And Florida gives you a lot more Mercedes than going to see Subaru's. You can't dictate what the market wants. But you have to you want to sell a high-quality product that everybody knows how to use.
Ron: One thing, Jason, that I've observed that you've accomplished, or you maybe you even master, you certainly do a great job of it. From the inception of you joining our industry, I'm going to say my industry. I've spent my 20-year career in this industry, is that right out of the gate, you started to develop really tight relationships with some of the best builders in the marketplace. And not only did you develop those relationships, but you've maintained those relationships. And it's really interesting and impressive. How did you think about that coming in? Was that part of your plan, or has it just happened?
Jason: Well, we had a relationship with a number of builders, and I didn't know them, and I did have some appointments with them. And I went sat down with them and asked them, "What are we doing well for you, and what are we not doing well for you?" I got very discrete answers about what we like about you, and here are some things you need to improve on. And I took those lists of improvements, and I took them to heart, and I took them to my team, and I focused on them. And I delivered on those things, things like finishing on time and on budget with quality, which is our motto. Now it's our mantra. You did a really good job of getting to the 90-yard line. But the last 10 yards seem to take really long to use a football analogy. And so we focused on getting in the end zone. You've got to get in the end zone to score points. You can't get close. The other thing is we're planning resources in advance. If you don't really look at all your projects together to see what type of resources you need when you need them, you're going to come up short, or you're going to have a bunch of people on the bench. And so we had to look at when projects were expected to be complete.
What else had to be complete before we could do that and focus on having we invented this thing we called a swarm, where if we had a small amount of time to get a lot done, we would put everybody literally on our team on a project for a week and swarm on it. And our team wasn't used to doing that. They were like, oh, it takes three months to finish that phase. No, not if you just focus on it, and that's all you do. We've done a couple of swarms in our life, not frequently, but sometimes that's what you have to do. It was focusing on the things that those builders cared about. And the most important one was how well we took care of their customers after moving into their homes. We made relationships with people like Ihiji. We made relationships with people who were leading edge on proactive monitoring and maintenance instead of just being reactive. We try to be a proactive part of the equation. And if we told our customers, if you're going to have a party, you're going have a Super Bowl party, why don't you call us a week before and we'll come to make sure everything's in working order. That's a much better interaction with a customer than a phone call that their outdoor TV doesn't work and they have 75 guests, and they're like, "What am I going to do now?" These, I think, are standard basic business practices from outside the industry that if you've learned them as either running a software company, just being in other seats. There are things around service level agreements that are second nature. But you had to be there. You had to ride in that car for a while to bring that type of expertise here.
Ron: I had that in my notes to go there. You've led me there. Thank you. What is a service level agreement for those listening that maybe heard the term but don't know what it means? What is it, and how did you implement it in your business?
Jason: Well, I'll give you a high level. A service level agreement is a mutual understanding between a business and a customer of how they're going to be taken care of in different circumstances. And in software and AV, there are two different competing priorities. There's this thing called priority, which is what the customer says is important, and there's severity, which is, is it really important? For instance, life safety issues, if somebody's lighting or their climate system isn't working, that's probably more important than a guest room TV. We use both severity and priority, saying how important is this to the customer? Priority is their choice and severity our choice, and we mush those together to align resources. But in general, what it means is if somebody calls and says, "I have a problem, and I want it fixed." They should know before they call that the answer they're going to get is we'll be there today, we will be there tomorrow, we will be there within a week. We'll be there within a month. We'll be there within a year. That's the service level agreement or the timeline to address the problem. And then, the resolution of the problem could be completely different.
We don't promise resolution in a particular timeframe. Still, we do offer different service agreements that customers can sign up for that guarantee them a one hour response time, an eight hour response time, a 24 hour response time, or no response time at all. You'll just go in the queue, and we'll get to you when we get to you. And customers can pay for and prioritize the type of service they want, but at least we have a pre-documented agreement on their expectations. We're not at odds with each other just because we never talked about it.
Ron: What is your observation, pre-joining Bravas and now within the Bravas company of how common your approach that you brought to your spectrum integration firm? This concept of deploying SLAs and reviewing that with the client. What was your perception of peers in the marketplace doing that?
Jason: I think there were a couple of early evangelists that I mentioned, Ihiji, Stewart, and Mike from Ihiji tried to teach proactive maintenance, and along with that, the idea of having a paid service plan. That's a place where you could document that. I think it had some roots, and I've seen it take off. I think everybody understands the concept now. Interestingly, you could share the recipe for the world's most famous cookies, but if you're not a good baker, they're not going to come outright. Having the plan and executing the plan. I think on any given day. We have the opportunity to execute well or not execute well. And that's where the difference lies out is you can say you're going to respond in three hours. How do you actually respond in three hours? That's what's going to separate the good from the great.
Ron: What has the experience been like rolling out what you have practiced locally in Boca Raton to the rest of the locations? Has it become a new variant that works across the country for all locations, or is everyone doing their own thing?
Jason: We have similarities with a few distinctions by market, but there is a singular Bravas customer care plan with four different choices. Even if you're not a paying service contract customer, we still articulate our service goals in terms of response time and what you're going to get. And then the upgrades and every location has that. They have four tiers, and they go from everything from we will respond to you when you call to notify you before you notice a problem. And we're going to come in and update firmware and test everything twice a year and change every battery and every remote. There's everything in between. But there are choices. And I would say it's mostly standard. Again, the execution, telling that story, being comfortable with that story, and making it available to all customers here in Florida. We've been doing this for about six years, and we have about 200 customers on these types of plans. If you just start this month and you might be lucky if you're signing up one or two a month. It will take a while to build the participation to where you actually have everything operationalized to make it work the way it should. But I think that the recipe is the same. I'll tell you that the recipe is the same across Bravas.
Ron: I want to share it here on our screen. This is your new corporate site that launched, I think, quietly, we could say, in late December without much fanfare. Of course, we wanted to make sure all the bugs were worked out, God forbid. Tell the audience what you think I'm going to make this high level, then we'll bring it down to ground level. High level about the idea that you guys had a CMO, Nigel, and he since has just been promoted to CEO. Nigel brought a strong acumen for branding and marketing the brand positioning, the definition of knowing who you are and who you're trying to be and who you're trying to serve. My team enjoyed working very closely with Nigel for the last year to resulting in this website. I would love to say this is a One Firefly product, but it was a pure collaboration with the Bravas organization and the One Firefly organization. What does it mean for a business to know who they are and to know who they serve? Thus, even try to put something out like a polished website.
Jason: Well, it's the foundation of knowing who you are and what you're trying to do and what your cultural values are. It really defines everything from what your customer sees but, more importantly, what you are internal with your employees. Employees deserve to know who they're suiting up for, the team they're playing for. What do this brand and this logo mean? As it correlates to not just practices but attitudes and interactions and how to respect the customer and how to tolerate and respect each other. Things like being a learning organization is an important thing to not just say, but to be and to put in place things. If we're here to be the best for our clients, either from a service or an implementation perspective, then we better be the best at training and sharing information from an employee perspective. And I think you mentioned, as it relates to this website, those are employees that you see right there cleaning.
Ron: Those are your employees.
Jason: Yep, they're a part of this website, and they're proud of being a part of this website because it's showing the quality work that they do. But it also connects, from the customer to the person who's serving them and everybody in between. It really connects quite the message. Culture and mission have to be articulated. I think you and I had a conversation in advance, and it's something that I've never done in our previous life. Our website was more of a brochure for post client. It was not a place where we recruited customers; it is a place where we sent customers to validate that what we told them was true. This website is both a marketing website and a brochure web site. In my words, on this, there's all my team.
Articulation, when I saw the work that you did, you and Nigel and the whole team, because I know it was not just you, it was your team, and that was a lot of people. I think this is the best articulation of Bravas and who we are and what we're trying to do, and frankly, it took a year and a half of being together for us to get the messaging right and get the formatting and to capture that message. It's an exciting time for us. As you said, it was technically last January before 2021. We soft-launched a couple of weeks before that to get some feedback. But it's a beautiful website that does a good job of explaining what we do and who we are.
Ron: There's going to be a lot of additional videos, as you know, and the audience now knows added to the website. This will be a significant component of how the Bravas brand tells its stories by showing the beautiful spaces and beautiful places. This project, in particular, the one the audience is seeing. And for those that are listening, I apologize. I'm going to do my best to describe what you're seeing. But just imagine you see a beautiful luxury residence. This is one of your builders, and you actually do regular work for this builder. Whereas some companies may go and get a builder, and they may regularly get fifty thousand dollar jobs. You're regularly getting jobs much, much greater in size than that.
Jason: That's grown over time. I recall in a spec home environment, this is a speculative home, by the way. It was built turnkey, ready for somebody to buy. And what does that mean? It didn't use to include technology. Over the course of time and watching the trends of buyers and delivering on quality, you can see televisions and iPads and doorbells, and everything is here. This is a toothbrush ready home, I call it. Just bring a toothbrush, and you can sleep here tonight. There are sheets on the bed. But if there are sheets on the bed, there better be window treatments on the windows and a lighting control system. We do see from time to time in a spec situation with other builders where somebody is going to buy the home, and they have 90 to 180 days of customization to move in. Imagine if you're buying a car and they're like, yeah, we'll deliver your car in six months. I guess that's what you do if you get a Tesla. But other than that, you want to drive the car off the lot and buy preplanning and incorporating all the technology early and being as complete as possible. Our builders that we work with are experiencing a differentiation in their product quality and their customers' appreciation because it's truly ready.
They can come in, and now they have to call Comcast or DirecTV. They've got to get some services, but otherwise, it's ready. And that that to me, is an amazing conclusion for a builder to meet that even though they are spending some money to make that home ready. It's a differentiation that's worthwhile visiting this home.
Ron: It's funny, there's a beautiful pool outback. I don't know exactly where those videos are, but I know there's a video of the pool. Actually, I was snapping pictures of the pool, and I'm on a personal project at my home to do a pool. I've actually contacted that pool contractor. I'm looking at the finishes on the pool at this home. You and I spent the entire day, morning till night, at this home shooting this video.
Jason: Yes, we did.
Ron: And I've learned about custom pool finishes and slate and porcelain. You've opened a can of worms by bringing me to this type of project. It is nothing short of stunning.
Jason: Well, I'm glad it impacted you that way. I stopped bringing my wife to homes like this several years ago because I know what happens.
Ron: It's not good for one's wallet. It's a beautiful project, but it's not good for your wallet. I am not the customer that buys a fifteen million dollar home. But you go in, and my wife almost joined me for that day of the video shoot, and it might not have gone well. I love you, honey, but it might not have gone well because it's gorgeous. It really is amazing. Talk to the audience here, Jason, about the programming. The technology in this home. What's your core brand for control?
Jason: For control, this home has Crestron in it. We are here in Florida, focused heavily on Crestron as a platform. We find the reliability and the quality is certainly recognized in this area. Of course, as you know, folks from AV around the difficulty with Crestron historically has been programming. You either have a programmer, or maybe you don't have a programmer, and you hire somebody else to get it done. And all of a sudden they disappear and then where you are? You have to know how to maintain your product. I have a philosophy. I call rinse and repeat, which is missing the step of wash. It is supposed to be a wash, rinse, repeat on your shampoo bottle. But the idea is that if you do something once and do it well, then keep doing it that way and don't make changes for the sake of change. We partnered with a group out of Texas called Pantech Design. They have a platform called Adapt, and Adapt is a programming platform that does most of the basic product for you.
The customization can be done by more and more people in our firm. We're using the Crestron platform with a little bit of custom software on it to achieve that notion of not every home is a custom-build of software from the ground up, so we have lots of proven functionality in that platform. We're losing people. Say that again.
Jason: I think we're losing people.
Ron: No, no. Someone just joined.
Jason: Oh, great.
Ron: Someone just joined. I don't think we're losing. I think they're telling their friends and neighbors, they're saying, forget the inauguration. Jason Roberts is on. And he's live. We got to know about that. Tell me, high level, how does Bravas think about all the various locations you guys have? You guys do a lot of Crestron, and I know you do some other stuff, but a lot of Crestron. Does Bravas, as a brand, singularly focus on products that are then used nationwide, or are there many focus brands within categories? How does that work?
Jason: I think there's some special sauce there, but the control platforms, we support them all. In fact, we're dealers here in South Florida for all the control brands without even saying their names. We sell, install, support, service every control brand that you have. And if we get a lead from a control brand, we stick to that control brand with that lead. If it came from their marketing, their website, of course, we're going to support them. But customers also have a brand affinity. And so if, as I mentioned, Subaru in Colorado, and I'll make this up. If Savant is a popular brand in a neighborhood or with a builder or even with a city in Colorado, then I think you're going to see an affinity for that brand to continue back on the whole idea of rinse and repeat. It is certainly not our plan that I'm aware of to standardize on one control brand.
Now step down a layer to things like security and surveillance. There are lots of products in those categories. We're seeking the best. One thing that I'd love to mention, I don't know if you've even heard this, but we just launched the Bravas two year warranty. If you purchase a home automation system from Bravas, we implemented in your home, we offer a two-year warranty, and we've got many of our manufacturers to follow up on that. If they have products in their category that are one-year warranty products, they'll extend the warranty to two years. But even if they don't, we're extending that warranty because we're so confident in the products that we're choosing and we're using and reusing that we know how to implement them properly. We know how to service them properly. We're doubling the warranty on many products. That said, there are many products with ten-year warranties or five-year warranties. Those warranties remain intact. But as an installer, we want our work and our products for two years now.
Ron: Well, that's very notable and impressive for many reasons. 2020. How did it treat you guys locally? I don't know if you can speak for the company, but how did it treat your division?
Jason: It varied nationwide based on governmental constraints. But for us, we had a very busy year. There was a bit of pause on the new project because you couldn't get permits in March, April, and May. Builders that wanted to start new projects couldn't get through the government offices to start new projects for a period of time. There will be a little lull that is happening probably now due to this going to nine months later, six months, six months later. But we've seen nothing but high demand. In fact, people are trapped at home, and they're investing in using things they never used, perhaps. Using rooms they never used. They're using features they never use. They're listening to more music. They're playing video games. Their kids are in school online. There's a lot more happening to improve the home. Just like you're looking at a pool, it's like, why is now the right time to put a pool, and well, here I am. I'd love to have a pool.
Ron: I'm staring at another year of not traveling. I've got a preteen, and I think it's the thing to do.
Jason: It makes perfect sense. And so if you can't travel the world and you're not planning a trip, a 40-day cruise to the Mediterranean, then you spend that money on something for your home that your whole family's going to enjoy. We've seen some uptick from that. But we've also seen an increase in service demand because people are using things more throughout the day.
Ron: That's a good point. What is random? Maybe not random, but in the ballpark of this topic, many national movie chains are closing down or going bankrupt. Is that resonating at all in your customer base? Do they know or care? And is that affecting any sort of the change in demand for the home theater or home entertainment? Or is it they wouldn't go to the movies anyway, so it doesn't matter to them?
Jason: They definitely did go to the movies. I think IPIC is the brand that I think of that was the premium experience, where you got a big recliner, and somebody else makes popcorn, and you have a full menu and even cocktails to bring. As far as has, it changed the definition of the homes that we're building right now? No, we have not started putting theaters. They dwindled over the past ten years because television's gotten so big that the media room or the club room or the family room is now the media is now the theater. After all, you can get a high-quality sound system in there. You can do room darkening shades, but it's where everybody already is. You don't have to drag them into the theater to get him to watch the movie you wanted to watch. You just put it on, and they're watching whether they know it or not. We've seen a lot more. Certainly, people want high-quality televisions, they want large screens, they want to know how big they can get, one hundred and ten inches for a reasonable price, they would buy them all day, but not they're not reasonable yet. But as the screens are going up in size and the audio can be done well in shared spaces, we're not seeing anybody dedicate space to a theater right now.
Ron: Now, it's worth noting in Florida, and I think this is accurate. There are generally no basements.
Jason: That's right. And square footage is premium here. To dedicate something, we recently designed a house that would have a theater golf simulator. I'm not sure what the outcome is, but I mean, some people want to have those features, but it's a premium space. You have to decide what type of space you want to use. We've seen some golf simulators and garages work.
Ron: I have a theory, and I want you to test that theory for me. And you won't hurt my feelings either way. But I'm operating under an assumption.
Jason: That would be my goal. Tell me how best to hurt your feelings.
"Let's assume the positive that the vaccine makes a positive difference, that we're going to see more consumers, more of your customers take that trip again and take that vacation. Assuming that families get out of the house more than they've been now locked into their house for two years at some point later this year. I think it's going to change in some respects, the purchasing habits within the home."
Ron: How best to hurt my feelings. I'm practicing my predictive muscle as I challenge my team, my leadership team to do that daily and regularly. What do they think is going to be coming around the corner? And I've got a theory that as the vaccine starts to make its way around the country, around the world, that it's certainly I'm here in North America, around North America, that maybe that takes the course of this year to happen, 2021, assuming the assumption is that it actually helps and makes people healthier and it protects them. I think that's unknown. But let's assume the positive that it makes a positive difference, that we're going to see more consumers, more of your customers take that trip again and take that that vacation, that family get out of the house more than they've been now locked into their house for two years at some point later this year. In some respects, I think it's going to change the purchasing habits within the home. Now, does that matter? Do you think that's going to happen? Do you think it matters? And if it matters, how does it matter?
"I think there is going to be a pent up demand fighting with satisfying demand. What I mean by that is that there are many things I have learned that I want to do to my home right now through COVID, but I'm not letting contractors in to do it. As soon as it opens up, then I'm going to go ahead and move forward on those things."
Jason: I agree that it's going to happen. I hope it happens for me. I'm looking forward to traveling. I think there will be a pent up demand fighting with satisfying demand. What I mean by that is that there are many things I have learned that I want to do to my home right now through COVID, but I'm not letting contractors in to do it. As soon as it opens up, then I'm going to go ahead and move forward on those things. Like if I was doing a pool, I would let to happen outdoors. But my master bathroom needs remodeling. But now it's not the time to do that. I'm using it a lot. We're here. I think there's going to be pent-up demand that then gets to catch up. But then there's also like you say, there's going to be people changing their focus and taking their dream trip as soon as possible because this has changed our perspective on a lot of things about life.
If you've had you lost anybody if you lost a family member and they were supposed to be on that trip with you, no better time than the present to do it. I think it's going to be soup to nuts, everything. I think the economy is a bigger question for everybody. Are we going to get out of the discord, the disparate types of outcomes for the economy right now and in 12 months from now. It is this type of work that is the priority or not? I think it's more going to be an economic question. Frankly, many people have done very well in the last year, and that's good for them. Good for us. Many of our customers are not their first or even their second home. It might be their third or fourth home. They're still traveling between those four homes as well.
Ron: We have a question, and I love it when my audience participates. First of all, I'm going to give Todd's comment. Todd says, "Great perspective on the home theater situation. Thanks for covering this. Do you see home entertainment furniture as a category for your business? Why or why not?".
Jason: It's definitely a category. There's no question that it is important. I think the trick is who is the decision-maker, and typically, in a home build, there is a designer that's the influencer of that type of decision. What's the furniture going to be in that media room? And it's up to us to educate them more on what their options are from us as a channel versus where they're accustomed to going and buying furniture or specifying perhaps furniture that doesn't have the same features for a theater movie or movie watching. This is a good influencer topic where we have this great product. We know why it's beneficial. I would say lighting fixtures are in many ways the same thing. We have better high hat lighting to offer our customers than anybody. However, we're not there when it gets specified many times. Building relationships with specifiers early in the process of architects, designers. Everybody upstream is the key to making that a bigger part of our business, so home entertainment furniture is the same. You have got to be there where the decision is made.
Ron: Love it. Thank you, Jason, for addressing Todd's question.
Jason: I'd love to know Todd's perspective.
Ron: Yeah, Todd, drop your perspective in the comments.
Jason: You'll be on Automation Unplugged in three weeks, Todd.
Ron: Todd's already been on Automation Unplugged. Been there, done that. I would love to have Todd back. That's funny. What's your outlook for 2021?
Jason: A little slow start with a huge ending. We've been meeting with our builder partners, and again, they were held up on permits. They were held up on from there. There are supply issues in our industry and the construction industry. I think about bringing some high-end products from Italy for certain finishes. There have been some delays on some projects, and either alternate choices have to be made on those building projects, or they have to wait for the product to arrive. As that diminishes again, vaccine nationwide, international adoption, and everybody getting back to work, it's going to pick up. But we have tons of demands that we see for what we do for the next 24 months. Beyond that, it's, again, the question of the economy, and just pray we're never going back to 2008 again.
Ron: Yeah, no. Amen. What do you know or what can you share with any perspective, Jason, regarding expansion plans for Bravas? And I know you don't speak in that capacity, so I don't know what you're able or willing to share. But I'm sure those listening are curious.
Jason: It's part of our vision, and it's an important part of our vision and plans to grow both in new markets where we can have a presence, where our customers already have a home. Many of our customers here in Florida have homes all up the northeastern seaboard, and we want to serve them in both places. They ask us that all the time. We love what you did for us so much here. Can you do this in our home in Massachusetts? Can you do this for us in our home in Aspen or Vail or Jackson Hole or Salt Lake City? To fully achieve our vision, we need more added platform locations we call platform locations because we want to find partners in those who are doing a good job, who share the same values that we have that want to attach to something larger. That means more to them. But then we also have opportunities like here in South Florida where we're here in Boca Raton we're but 30 minutes apart. And as a true Floridian, I better have a darn good reason to drive that far to see you. Right. It's a long way.
Ron: We're at the opposite end of the same county, and we see each other once every five years whether we want to or not. I actually went to Boca this weekend to look at a tile vendor, and we drove like 30 minutes to get there. My wife and I like that we've been driving for so long.
Jason: That's my point. I think there are opportunities to expand within the South Florida market. We need to have a closer presence. It would not make sense to me to service a lot of customers in Miami from Boca. It's too far of a commute.
Ron: People in Miami don't go to Boca, and people in Boca don't go to Miami. As a general rule, people looking on a map out in the world may go. What are you talking about? It's 30 miles or 50 miles away. You just don't do it.
Jason: To complete our vision of serving South Florida in its totality, we see ourselves having branches spread throughout the southeast seaboard and then perhaps adding Naples or up the side to Sarasota and Tampa. That would be a complete market. If people recognized Bravas as the brand they want to use, we obviously need to be available in their markets where they live. Five or six additional locations in South Florida would be ideal for us.
Ron: Jason, I'm going to call it that time, because I know you are busy and have scheduled appointments, and you've been very kind to spend a little bit of prep time with me while the presidential inauguration was going on. And then here we are. We went live just minutes afterward. I want to thank you for that sincerely. It was a pleasure to be able to spend a little bit of time with you. How can our audience follow you or get in touch with you if they wish?
Ron: I think you held your own. I know you, and you and I can riff for hours at a time, and we don't need a microphone or an audience to do that. It was great seeing you just, what, several months ago when we did the video shoot. I'm glad to know you've had some medical things going on in life, and I'm glad to see you made a strong recovery.
"You can have the best policies, the best idea, and the best market, but if you don't have great employees and care for them and work with them, you can't be successful."
Jason: Thank you very much. I couldn't have done that without my own team, by the way. They're phenomenal. Of everything that we think about. If I could just close with one statement. Everything you do in business, and you know this better than anybody. You can have the best policies, the best idea, and the best market, but if you don't have great employees and care for them and work with them, you can't be successful. You've enjoyed great success with your team, and you have highly skilled, highly professional people. And I admire that about you. And that's, frankly, what I am most proud of as Bravas Boca Raton is both our local staff and our national team. I think we're really well poised for success because we have such a great team. And that's how you win this in this world.
"I had to learn some lessons along the way in life and business in order to maybe fully appreciate the power of team and the power of building up those around you. Nothing brings me more joy than helping that person on my team."
Ron: I'm going to tell you, Jason, I think you know this because you've known me long enough. That is, I didn't always know that. I had to learn some lessons along the way in life and business in order to maybe fully appreciate the power of a team and the power of building up those around you. Nothing brings me more joy than helping that person on my team. And of course, my customers achieve that next level of success, whether it's training, a certification, an accomplishment, a stretch goal, something that they were scared to take on, and ultimately achieving it and feeling good about it. The older I get, I'm young, and I hope I have many, many years in front of me, God willing. But that is what I've learned up to this point, is the better I get it, the easier and the more fun business is.
Jason: Yes, absolutely. Well, thanks to my I saw a few Bravas folks on here. Thanks for joining me, and thanks to everybody else. Pleasure meeting you. Have a great day.
Ron: Awesome. Thank you, Mr. Jason. Alright, folks, there you have it, the one and only, Jason Roberts. I remember right when he actually purchased that business because I knew the owners and operators before Jason made that acquisition. And I didn't know who this crazy guy coming from the I.T. software university world. I didn't know who he was. Right out of the gate, the guy just impressed the heck out of me, just in the way he spoke, how he interacted with me, and the way I saw him interacting with his team. I knew something was special and something was different. And of course, he was able to successfully, in a short period of time, a relatively short period of time, grow that business from two to seven million, he said. And then further gain being acquired by Bravas. And now I know that his location, they're just on a skyrocket of a trajectory. It's really fun to watch him and learn from him. And hopefully, you all learn some things as well. On that note, I wish everyone a great rest of your week and a great and safe and happy weekend. And I'll see you guys next week. Thanks, everyone.
With Bravas Boca Raton, Jason works with 14 other like-minded business owners to facilitate the merger that created the largest nationwide luxury A/V firm. Prior to joining the residential custom integration space, Jason spent 20 years as a software executive in the higher-education vertical.
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 become the leading marketing firm specializing in 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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