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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 #158: An Industry Q&A With Matt Cwiokowski

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Matt Cwiokowski, CEO at Avidia, shares the marketing changes and business implementations made that led the company to a strong 35% YOY growth for 2020.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #158: An Industry Q&A With Matt Cwiokowski

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Matt Cwiokowski. Recorded live on Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Matt Cwiokowski

In 2010, Matt and two other colleagues founded the Chicagoland automation company, Avidia, with a goal to create a more focused, hands-on approach to home automation.

At inception, Matt managed Avidia’s programming and system design efforts. In 2018 Matt and Kamil bought their 3rd partner out and Matt assumed the role of CEO where his role involves leading the company forward through client-focused sales and marketing activities.

Today, Avidia is a team of 12 with a strong focus on residential projects. The company realized a strong 35% YOY growth for 2020 over 2019 and even beat their highest sales month in company history here in the first quarter of 2021.

Interview Recap

  • What ultimately led Avidia to have a 35% YOY growth in 2020
  • How a re-brand in 2018 and strategic marketing helped raise the company's brand awareness and overall visibility
  • Avidia's pivot to an RMR-based approach for system service support
  • Ways Matt has made it possible to enjoy a healthy work-life balance as a business owner with a growing company

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #157 A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Jeff Galea

Transcript


Ron:  Today, our guest is Matt Cwiokowski, CEO at Avidia. Matt has been a long-time client of One Firefly. In 2018, Avidia hired One Firefly to do some brand rebranding of the company. We had Matt on the show in February of 2019, so exactly two years ago. Matt, how are you, sir?

Matt: Good. Thank you for having me.

Ron:  I appreciate you running to the other part of the office where you had connected Internet, versus wireless and you even overnighted in a microphone to do this. You're stepping up the game. Thank you.

Matt: About an hour and a half ago, I had nothing, so I'm glad it worked out.

Ron:  Sometimes, you got to just point yourself in the right direction and hope it works out sometimes. I was looking at your picture on the website. It looks like you've decided to let your locks grow out of you.

Matt: It was a part of the rebrand, not only the company but the personal look as well.

Ron:  I love it. Alright. If you guys are out there watching live, don't forget to like and or comment. Let us know where you're coming to us from here. We've already got a few folks. Wes says, "Welcome back, Matt." Thank you, Wes. We have Ellie. She says, "So excited to have you on the show today, Matt." Ellie is your Account Manager here at One Firefly.

Matt: Yeah. There you have, Jordan, a blast from your past.

Ron:  I thought Jordan was too busy to talk to me.

Matt: Oh, Jordan, what are you going to say to that?

Ron:  Oh, my goodness. Jordan definitely is not too busy to talk to you. Matt, for those that are listening, that may not know Avidia, give us a quick snapshot of Avidia. Where you located? Then we'll go just briefly into your background. You've been on the show before, so people can go and listen to the longer extended version of that background story. Give us a little bit of understanding of Avidia, and then we'll dive briefly into your background.

Matt: We are 12 people, strong integrator based out of the northern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, specializing in high-end new construction retrofits system designs. Typically anywhere from Crestron to Control4 dedicated theater design and helping ultra-high net worth individuals make their dream come true with their homes.

Ron:  Your background, how did you land where you're working with your partner Kamil and as the CEO of Avidia. What's your history look like?

Matt: The history of me getting into the industry was when I got out of high school, it was three to four years after we migrated to the United States from Europe, Poland. I was in the process of self-discovery before signing up for college. The technology was something that excited me. I got into the industry in a very entry-level position and climbed up through many different spots into the top of company management. I then decided that I could do better than the people I worked for about 11 years ago in March. It's going to be 11 years, Kamil and I opened up the integration company with Avidia in Northbrook and started our adventure there. Again, climbing through different levels of systems and different levels of quality and ended up where we are right now.

Ron:  Awesome. Where are you right now? Tell us a little bit about how you finished up 2020, the size of the business, just for perspective. Our listeners generally find that pretty helpful because they're going to compare a lot of the things that you're talking about with who they are, where they're at in their business lifecycle.

Matt: Just as a reference point 2019, in February, when we had our last discussion, we were roughly nine years into the business, I would say fairly standard size integrator. Back then, it was six to seven employees focusing on anything that came into our door, and we very likely in 2019 turn about 1.4-1.5 with the team we had. Then the urge came to rebrand. Back then, we were completely exhausted by just being integrators, any integrators, and we were looking for meaning to what we were doing day to day basis and rebranding, restructuring. The company came aboard, and we started that process. Today we are 12 people going, 13 strong, and we closed 2020 at 2.1. It was a thirty-five percent growth from 2019. We have a well-structured company that has a new image and with a completely different value in marketing and our small territory.

Ron:  How's Q1 2021 looking so far? How's the pipeline looking, and how's business as you look forward a little bit?

Matt: Q1 this year is very interesting. I would say historically, for 10 years of the company, Q1 was the lowest quarter in the entire year. Some years it even got to the critical level where whatever was going on or with the market was trying. This quarter, we just had our best quarter in 2020. If it goes like this in scale, we are going to quadruple in 2021.

Ron:  Is that your pipeline looks good, or you've already signed some deals that are already helping you feel confident you're going to hit some nice growth?

Matt: Our goal in the previous years we were doing nine-ten new construction to retrofit. Two years ago when we did the whole change of the company. Our goal was to do a 50/50, let go of some builders to open up time for marketing and direct to consumers relationship. Right now, I can say that we are 50/50. We achieved that goal, which helps us offset the quiet time from the builders with direct to consumers business. This month was a 50/50 split, and last month, we had fewer new construction projects, but more consumer projects came in, offsetting the loss. It ended up being a record first quarter in a company year.

Ron:  Just so that I'm clear, and you may have said it, so people listening, they can rewind, but I don't have that luxury. I think I missed it. The 50/50 was in reference to what?

Matt: To new construction in our industry. The two split sources of leads are either new construction builders where you have a relationship with the builder, and you work directly with them and with the client versus bypassing the builder and dealing directly with retrofit or consumers homes, where we go in as a home is built already and fitted with a new system. Our goal was to keep the 50/50 balance between the types of projects we go after every year.

Ron:  OK, understood. Thank you for clarifying. I want to dig a little bit more into last year, 2020. A lot of the businesses that I talk to every day talk about 2020, and they certainly, in many cases, I think you felt the same. You had a strong close to 2020. But that Q2, March, April, May, or maybe March was still part of Q1, but that March, April, May, June timeframe for many was super weird and often led to fewer contracts getting closed. Then there's some sort of recovery so that many businesses I've talked to talk about breaking even a success last year or mild growth, five or ten percent growth being a success, given what we all faced as business owners. You grew thirty-five percent. How did you do that?

Matt: I think for everyone, 2020 was a crazy or weird year. A lot of guessing, not many predictions from what was going on back in March when they closed us up in Chicago on March 16th. We were one of the first states or cities to be closed down. My partner Kamil and I had a very long discussion. The night of the closing, we basically reduced the company to two heads, myself and him. Our idea was that we had no predictions of how long this is going to take. We had a good amount of financial back up and credit lines and everything ready. But we did not know whether we were looking at two months or 12 months, and we did not know if our clients will let us into their homes. We were looking at the worst scenario, similar to restaurants where we have a business, but we cannot go into clients' homes. We basically fired everybody.

Ron:  This was before we knew as an industry that we were essential.

Matt: Exactly. For three weeks, he and I were driving and hiding on the streets, going into a home and installing for clients that wanted us in, and then trying to keep up the company. During the shutdown, we basically stopped everything went into the core of the company where we started 11 years ago, I and my business partner and we ran the company as a two-man show and waited for the markets to recover or at least give us answers of what is going to happen. Then, things started to clear out. We started getting people back in. In a matter of a month and a half, we hired the entire crew back, and we started growing. But why I'm mentioning this is, I believe this was an eye-opener for us, a bucket of cold water where we knew we were not comfortable, and we knew we had to take aggressive steps to survive the upcoming months. It enabled us to save money. It sounds crazy, but during the first two months, when we reduced the company to two people, yes, we were working 22 hours a day, but we were able to secure even more funding to secure the upcoming months. We eliminated the fear. There was no more fear of crashing because we had the backup, and then we started aggressive marketing.

It was a time where you approached me with a Google advertisement, Google marketing tool marketing. We selected a few campaigns, and we went in, not even realizing how critical some of the things we do would be. I will also say that the benefits or the growth factor can be contributed to our service departments. Two or three years ago, we started memberships, providing in-house service and remote services as membership and as a company. The best part of Avidia is our service department, the attention we give to clients, the service we provide. When the clients were at their homes, we were able to successfully remotely service them, as well as provide onsite service from people they trust. That trickled down to upgrades and changes back in September.

We basically shut down the company for two months, and the only thing we were doing is Wi-Fi. One day, one week, we get so many calls from our existing clients and new clients on the Wi-Fi setup. I basically had to postpone all the different cells because we were trying to contribute to our neighborhoods and make sure the families and the kids were ready for the school and the majority of the clients woke up. The Wi-Fi was not working well the first day of school on September 2nd or whatever that was. For two months, the only thing we were doing is installing Wi-Fi. Nobody cared what brand, whatever was available, we were buying and installing. That was a great contribution to the neighborhood and our clients. We were lucky that we have a very good I.T. background from an installation design perspective. It was natural for us to step in and fill those shoes.

Ron:  You mentioned a number of things. I know I want to peel the layers back on, but before I do that, I just want to respect some of the questions we've already had posed from the audience. This is Ted going back to your rebrand. He said, "Matt, what kind of feedback did you get from clients on the rebrands?" This is actually going back into 2019, maybe to the present. But has there been any sort of noticeable feedback or change in your business from doing that?

Matt: We had very positive feedback on the consistency throughout all of our marketing and branding. It is important to note that we specifically did not change the name or the logo is similar to what it was before. To prevent any confusion of our clients, getting us as a different company. We mitigated confusion this way. The only thing we got from clients is confirmation of a job well done by Ron's team and Miguel. Shout out to Miguel.

Ron: Miguel's an artist for sure.

Matt: Any commercial? I see the question on the screen. No, we are a 95/5 split. Before we revisited our soul two or three years ago, we were anything that came into the door. But when we sat down and looked in the mirror, we knew that we are residential, and we said we are going to focus a hundred percent on it. Really the only non-residential we do is hospitality. We have a couple of restaurants, partners we deal with, and we are very familiar with their projects, and we do them. But besides that, no commercial.

Ron:  I want to go into service. You said a couple of years ago. '19, did your focus on service and maintenance? And when I say that, I think you mean literally getting clients signed up into service agreements or maintenance agreements and collecting some type of ongoing revenue to help fund that operation. When did that start? And did you find that in two years, you were able to build that up enough to matter from a revenue standpoint during those number of uncertain months?

Matt: Yes, it matters. We don't treat it as a gold mine. We treat it as sustainable care of our clients with the sparkle of profit. If you set your mindset correctly on service, it makes a huge difference. We started three years ago. I think we were dealing with the biggest challenge of our industry. A company in a way organized to do installation project management. But when you mixed in it, a service. It was unsustainable efforts from a few members of the company. What I mean by this is a core installer cell phone given to a client or to 500 clients and him getting text messages and calls constantly. My business partner was not that installer. He was constantly on the phone no matter what happened. When he didn't want to be available, he just put his phone down. But there was no mechanism to let the people know where to call us.

We went through the exercise of exploration of different options on the markets. We ended up a year and a half later trying a few things with a platform to offer 24/7 support to our clients. We have a system in place, an internal system that answers phone calls, gets back to clients. We have a dedicated service team that takes shifts weekly where they know they have the phone for this week. But the magical thing was where we ask every client, what are your requirements for support? When do you think you need us to answer the phone call or a text message? Then depending on the answer they give us, we put them in a different bucket, different membership, and then leverage between the price of the membership and their requirements. Also, nicely allowing us to have one text message or one phone call per weekend instead of 50 of them. I'm talking about a client base of six to seven hundred clients.

I would say the memberships have been a great eye-opener for us. And shout out to One Vision. If the people watching don't know them, give them a call. Give them a try. Joe and the team are phenomenal, and they know what they're talking about and their support. This was the secret sauce to our success in 2020. I would say because we already had a mature understanding from our clients what we can offer them and what we what they can expect from us.

Ron:  Got it. I've just put it on the screen here for those listening to the podcast, if you look at the video, I've navigated over to the Avidia website, and you have a 24/7 support page on your website linked from the main menu. There are these cool videos. There's Kamil walking up to the camera. Do you find yourself taking clients to a page like this on your website and having a discussion? And I'm really speaking from a communication standpoint. Your prospects looking at potentially doing business with Avidia and or your clients who have signed on to a contract. I'm curious. I haven't asked you this before. Do you send people to your website to look at this content, or is this more just for people investigating your company?

Matt: Every time. I don't think anybody pressed on the signup button, but I use this as go to a place where we describe as a cheat sheet during a meeting with a client. It's a great way to go on our website, show them the resources, and talk about memberships. My team uses that all the time. Let's say we have a client calling in that is a nonmember, somebody that doesn't pay us monthly. They don't get any supports included in the memberships. We would send them the link and highlight the specific membership that they should consider. When I have initial meetings with the clients, we always go over the options. But the best selling point on this is the Control4 system, or the system is available on the market the clients have, and they are not happy with their current integrators.

The possibilities that we discovered and this type of market are endless. According to some data I heard from Control4, 80 percent of clients are not happy with their integrators. That goes back to the proportion of new install and support where after a few years of running a business, you struggle when you don't have proper support in place, support solutions. Because we've worked out a very good mechanism for offering different expectations and helping people 24/7, we have a 12 person team that reacts to clients like a one-man show. The client can text us in, and he's going to get a response, not even knowing that that's a different person texting him today than it was yesterday. That page where I was going with this is an excellent secret source for converting people who are in search of better support that is not happy with their integrators. I would say that's the biggest benefit of that page.

Ron:  I'm curious if you'll allow us into the kitchen to see how the cake is made. I'm wondering what sort of ticketing software, if any, are you using? So when an inbound request comes in from your client and they need support, is there a ticketing software or environment you're using? Do you mind sharing what that is to the audience?

Matt: Currently, on the market, you will find three to four different platforms or what we call the leading platform for I.T. support. If you are an integrator and you're looking for something, you specifically want to use I.T. support ticketing systems. We chose to work with Zendesk, and a lot of people do. But I know there are simpler, more complex systems. Salesforce has one helpdesk. There are so many different ones. The basic is the same. You have a system where any calls, text messages, Facebook messages, or emails go in, they open up a ticket, and you can interact with clients using that platform. Each platform comes with different functionality, unique functionality. We select Zendesk. But I would say to anybody listening and considering this. You have to test it yourself and see which one you prefer.

Ron:  Alright. I want to jump topics. You mentioned one of your keys to success in 2020 was focused marketing. And for those listening, you know that I generally try not to make these shows about One Firefly. I think we have a pretty good track record of doing that. But Matt did challenge us as an agency back right in March and April. Suppose you remember those conversations, Matt, because it was scary for all of us. It was scary for you. It was scary for us. And no one knew what was going to happen. But you came out on the other side of that with a laser focus on what you wanted to achieve with marketing. And I think in my mind, no doubt certainly has had an impact. Do you want to talk about what does it is to you, what is focused marketing mean? And how did you leverage that?

Matt: Yeah, the whole story of 20/20 marketing starts from a March call I made to after we fired everybody from the company. You were next on my list, and I called you. I don't know if you remember when I said, "Ron, we have to pause it." You convinced me not to with the very appealing facts. And my response was, so let's do it right. Focused marketing. I think it was a discovery between our company and the account managers at that time, then that I butchered at the beginning of the conference call, shout out to Jordan again.

Ron:  He did reply, and I've got to put it on screen. He says, "Matt, I'm never too busy for you."

"I believe many integrators don't like it [Control4 takovers] because they don't see the profit from equipment is already there. They inherit people, other integrators issues, and they inherit unhappy clients. I'm completely the opposite. If you can send me all of your clients, I will take care of them because we have a system in place to deal with it, and then we make money on the memberships when we service them."

Matt: It was a team effort. But the idea was instead of marketing about, "Hey, we are an integrator, call us!" We said let's focus on marketing and create campaigns. The idea was the first time we talked to the One Firefly team about campaigns where we have line efforts on very laser-focused topics and laser-focused demographics we are shooting. There were three campaigns born. One campaign was Control4 takeovers. As I covered before, us having a proper support solution in place and memberships. The idea was to get existing Control4 systems onboard. Many integrators don't like it because they don't see the profit from equipment already there. They inherit people, other integrators issues, and they inherit unhappy clients. I'm completely the opposite. If you can send me all of your clients, I will take care of them because we have a system to deal with it, and then we make money on the memberships when we service them.

We started a Control4 takeover campaign that shoots emails to our existing clients and prospects—Facebook marketing. We had a Google advertisement campaign. I'm probably butchering some of those proper industry names. But the whole idea was because we did the rebrand the year ago, the year before we had consistent branding on everything. So when we fired up all those campaigns, we had a language that was aligned. We had a look that was aligned. I had clients that called me, and I asked them how did you hear about us? And he smiles. He says, "I got an email. I got a postcard when I bought the home. You were referred by a client next door. And then when I Googled for the Control4 guys, you showed up on the first spot, and that was great." Fired up on all cylinders. He's ours. And there was no shopping around anymore because whatever he looked like, we were everywhere. We were the top guy in the market, and after we did that, we did whatever was the end of summer. We started the Wi-Fi campaign. We did the same thing about upgrading and monitoring Wi-Fi systems in their homes and not aligned with the pandemic's schools going back in session online. After that, in November, just as you were showing, we started a home theater campaign. Instead of just putting money and marketing and say, "Hey, this is a minimum, let's do it and see what happens."

We started focusing on campaigns, creating one after the other with the resources. Every campaign we started had a positive ROI. I would say times four times five to whatever we invest in each campaign each month. This kind of effort requires a lot of focus from our position and One Firefly. They typically require more investment, but there is the data behind it is. You know how much you have to invest, and you know how much you take out of every campaign. It was the first time I would say that we see huge benefits from marketing efforts paying off in the longer-term.

"A lot of times investing in marketing feels very slow, certainly as you're building a brand and building up positions and platforms around the Internet. Then there reaches a point for most of us as business operators where you're getting the good, steady lead flow and you talk to the customer, and they go, 'Yeah, I see you guys everywhere.'"

Ron:  It's the adage a lot of times when you're investing, and you and I were riffing just before talking about cryptocurrency and whatnot, and oh yeah, don't mention that. And it'll be our secret. The adage is slowly and then all at once. Often, investing in marketing feels very slow, certainly as you're building a brand and building up positions and platforms around the Internet. Then there reaches a point for most of us as business operators where you're getting the good, steady lead flow, and you talk to the customer, and they go, yeah, I see you guys everywhere. The reality is you're not everywhere, you just know your customer, and you know where your customer hangs out on the Internet, and you position yourself in those places very strategically. Because you don't have an unlimited budget, you have a finite budget. I'm very excited. At what point last year did you know that you guys were going to be OK? December 31st?

Matt: You know, I would say. I think we never stopped. I think when we took a breather, it was somewhere in mid-January because I was so concerned about the winter of 2021. And when I saw the pipeline in December, I was saying. It's going to die. It's going to die. It dies every year. But because I studied whatever happened. What's different between 2021 and 2020 when we had another dead winter? The only thing we changed was the marketing. Because we have consistency in marketing campaigns, my pipeline and the incoming leads are exactly flat, meaning.

I see I'm putting this much in from the marketing budget, and I take out ten people calling me in this week and whatever I can do it. That is my secret sauce and my magic. But the campaign does this, and until mid-January, I thought it's going to happen. But then the leads continue coming in. I was continually busy with sales, and I would say we are mid-February, and it's not slowing down. Two minutes before this conference call, I got another Control4 take over from the same campaign. It's happening. We are seeing a flat lead coming in, which is a great way to stabilize cash flow for 2021 and guarantee a record year.

Ron:  No, that's amazing. Thank you for sharing that. I want to give a shout-out. We have Jesse Silva. He's been a guest on the show, and he stopped by and said, "Hello, Ron and Matt." Thanks, Jesse, for stopping in. Let's talk 2021. What's the outlook like in Chicagoland in your marketplace? I know you said quarter one sounds like it's going to be record-breaking. I hear that trend not everywhere in the United States and Canada, but I'm hearing it in many markets that this quarter is a really good quarter for everybody. But when you look out when you look into your crystal ball for the year, what are you seeing?

Matt: I would say another unpredictable year. There are so many different factors. What is going to happen? When are we going to open up? What are people going to do when we open up? Are they going to sit at home? Still concern about taking care of their little kingdom, or are they going to go nuts and spend six months in Mexico not caring about their home?

Ron:  I think they're doing that already. At least that's what I've seen on social media.

Matt: It's not for everybody, but we still have clients that have not escaped their safety of home. They are concerned. We have clients that travel all the time. You know how it is. It depends. But my prediction would be for the next six months, the same thing. Tax season is going to pass big in March. We're going to see a market warm-up until summer construction. And then I'm predicting crazy holiday season 2020 from our big growth of 2021. There is a huge question mark of winter 2022. People are going to get away from their leashes in 2021. And I'm predicting a very good holiday season and this year.

Ron:  Alright. A couple of rapid-fire topics here for you. One is industry events from buying group events. Industry trade shows. The news was just, what, a few weeks ago that I want to say it was ISC or Infocom moved again from June. It moved to later in the summer. The fall. Are the virtual events out there that the industry's been trying to put on and keep us connected? Have they been working for you and your team?

Matt: The short answer is no. It's nothing different than watching a video on a website. I would rather send an email with 10 minutes deck of what we should know about each brand and then logging into those events. I'm a big believer in human-to-human relationships, and the only reason why I was going on those shows was to interact directly with people, get to know them, and have that one-on-one conversation. The product demonstration was secondary. Instead of doing the events, we schedule one on one calls, video calls with our vendors and have a one-hour discussion on what's new, what we need, what they need from us. That works out much better than spending one week of time on a screen watching random stuff.

Ron:  That is fair. CEDIA right now is slated to happen in September or October. I know as a vendor I'm registered to present, although I'm going to be very transparent with everyone listening unless you're from CEDIA and then put your fingers in your ears and ignore what I'm saying. But I don't know if we're going to show up just because I don't know the status of vaccine distribution at that point. I want it to be good. I want my team and myself to feel healthy out there and safe traveling. The other side for me is I don't know if I go, for any manufacturer. I'm a small company but think of some of these big companies that spend ungodly amounts of money on their booths between their booths and their people. You're talking hundreds of thousands into the millions of dollars.

Matt: And they have to make a decision now.

Ron:  Right now.

Matt: Yeah.

Ron:  If we go and spend that money, we don't know if anyone's going to be there to talk to. That's where I'm at as a vendor that serves this industry. And I've been trying to show at Infocom for the first time. This is my second year where I'm actually ready to spend money on a booth to go and be there. And we're just holding because the event's not happening. How do you feel from your vantage point?

Matt: If the door opens, I'm there. CEDIA expos have been one of the most useful outings for us as a company showing our technicians the industry size, interacting with different vendors, building relationships. It's been the best experience. We've gone every year, and we took 80 percent of our company with us. If they are going to open and you are there, I will stop by and shake your hand.

Ron:  I'll buy you a beer or two, maybe one for your whole team.

Matt: But I think a lot of people are hungry to go out, right? Especially in our industry is essential. We are used to the risk of interacting with clients, going out, driving. I don't think many integrators are concerned about travel, and then the majority of them will be open to going. But it's just my little view.

Ron:  Yeah, we've got to wait and see. You talked about some of your marketing strategies from 2020. You've been doing active investment in marketing for years now. I'm asking a random question. You don't even know where this is coming from. But do you guys run a CRM? At Avidia, do you track lead gen through all the different mediums that it comes in, and you track them through opportunities to close sales? Is that a level of tracking or organization that you guys have ever focused on? I don't remember if you and I have ever discussed that in detail.

"We had to have a CRM in place that interacts with other departments, and it sounds unproductive and wild for a company our size. But because of that, I can go on vacation for one week, and if somebody calls, my team will be able to help them because they filled in my CRM, and yes, we have it."

Matt: Yeah, as a small company and we tend to time depending on where we are, we have one to two salespeople. It's easy to say you don't need a CRM. You can keep everything on your phone and run the business. But because we structure this internal system in a company where I put in notes and specific requirements for procurement to do their job right during sales. For service, to do their job right. Even if I see a client is particular about the audio quality in that room, I will put that note, and that will end up in the service department two years from now to create that kind of system. We had to have a CRM in place that interacts with other departments, and it sounds unproductive and wild for a company our size. But because of that, I can go on vacation for one week, and if somebody calls, my team will be able to help them because they filled in my CRM, and yes, we have it. We don't regret it, and it is one of the best things we did in the last few years.

Ron:  What software did you invest in?

Matt: We created our own.

Ron:  I should have known that I shouldn't have asked such a silly question.

Matt: We didn't create the software. We configured it. There is a company called Airtable. The best way to describe it is like a spreadsheet having a baby. It's basically a very flexible spreadsheet that allows you to view the same spreadsheet in different ways. And we've been using this for a few years. It works great for us. But now we've been three months into the implementation of iPoint where iPoint can handle the CRM the same way as we were doing it. We are modifying iPoint just to reflect what we did. And we are scheduled to go live with iPoint on February 1st, 2021.

Ron:  We're recording this on February 17, 2021.

Matt: It's life, so we are going, and we are a little delayed, but I think we are going live in a couple of weeks. It's already set up. It's just iPoint is very complex software. We are going from independent CRM and D-Tools into iPoint to merge everything.

Ron:  Got it. I love it. You mentioned just a minute ago that you were able to have enough organization to step away for a vacation because of the software you've invested in, and you actually did step away for a vacation in 2020. I want to say it was 2020, maybe late 2020. You took a week or so.

Matt: Maybe two weeks. I went into your neighborhood for two weeks.

Ron:  You cruised around Florida. We didn't actually see each other. You were too busy enjoying the manatees and nature and the alligators. You called and said, "Hey Ron. I was in Florida."

Matt: You know, I hate you so much for living in a state where it's warm, not negative, 10 degrees for three weeks like we're having right now. I didn't want to see your face. I wanted to enjoy the sun myself.

Ron:  I take no offense, Florida is a beautiful state, but I want to talk about how you did that? Because I know so many businesses and maybe you've already answered it because of this piece of software. But just high-level words of advice, words of wisdom for people listening may be in similar spots as you. Often the business owners and operators I talk to every day are so busy that the concept of work-life balance is not always top of mind. Or if it's top of mind, they don't actually know how to achieve it. And the concept of getting away for some time and spending it with your family. I can't think of anything, no better reason to work so hard than to work so hard so that you can spend time with your family. How did you achieve that? Have you always been good at that, or was this something new?

Matt: I have to decline the credit. I'm far from achieving my goal, and my goal is six to eight hours a day, being able to easily take out one week off without feeling it and going back into six to eight hours a day. That's my long-term goal for the next five years. But yes, I can go on vacation. The company does not feel it whatsoever. And I would say where the secret sauce is, having overlapping employee responsibilities and systems in place. We have a system in place written down or not on paper, but where everybody is responsible for part of the project. If I sell the project and I assign it to a group of people.

We always try to make two people responsible for one thing because if one is on vacation, we don't want the system to crash. Having twelve people only it's a fairly complex test to do. If we had 50, we could have two or three people for the same task, but not in our case. Every part of the project is somebody responsible for it. If they are not out of work, they make sure that the other person knows about it and is responsible for it. If I left on two weeks vacation, a salesperson was dealing with their leads, but they knew that if my client called or emailed, they could look at the CRM and see the conversation we had and then respond. If the projects that I signed the day before my vacation, I put it in billing, the billing department knew that they had to follow up to get the money for the down payment. Then if they received the payment, they don't have to bug me. They push it to the procurement. Then they start ordering parts. Project management gets the red light, green light. The project came in and is paid for. They reach out to their client, introduce themselves, and the ball rolls. Right. I'm only responsible for part of the company and then the service department.

I never deal with service unless it's critical circumstances, so I don't have to worry about it. The secret sauce is to segregate your company into buckets and make sure you have good people responsible for each bucket—a lesson from Ron Callis. I don't know if you guys know them.

Ron:  I love it. I'm looking at the time. I'm mindful you've got places to go and stuff to do. I know that you and you shared with me. I just love to try to put ideas out or lessons for people that may need to hear it or want to hear it. You've started a process of trying to figure out how to invest the money for retirement. And you're at a place where you felt that I would challenge you should have done that from day one of your business, but you're in a mode of figuring that out today. Where did that self-discovery come from to lead you to say, I need to start figuring this out?

Matt: For 10 years, every 1st of January, I was bummed because I didn't invest a year before. Then when I was thirty-one, four years ago or so, I don't even remember how old.

Ron:  I don't usually remember how old I am either.

Matt: But then I had this moment of realizing something. I am in a position a little bit different than the majority of the people in this country. I got my start point of or being born in the US was when I was 16. My family did not have a penny when they came here. There was no foundation. I started to appreciate where I am, and I planned it out. When I am going to be investing, what financial goals and what business goals I have to achieve before I'm ready to invest. Am I behind at thirty-five? Yes, I should have been investing since I was twenty-one, and I will make sure my kids invest when they're twenty-one. But I didn't have this luxury. I didn't inherit money from my parents. I didn't have a relationship. It all had to be build-out.

Ron:  You didn't have a mentor teaching you and telling you to do that.

Matt: No, I didn't know the American financial way of thinking. I was more focused on building my family, my business, and growing its roots than investing. But right now, this is the magical year where I promised myself three years ago. Here are the goals you're going to make happen. Then here is when you're going to invest. And a year ago, I started educating myself. And in two months, April 1st is the day. Where is the latest that I have to put my first 15 percent in for retirement, and I'm not going to bore you, but there is a full system I developed in my head? But this is the year. This is the year. It has nothing to do with the market if you're listening. You're younger than me. Do it. But don't wait. But I just had to grow in my life to that point.

"It's hard to see it when you're young, and you think of all the other places you could spend that money. I'm still young, but you start to look ahead, and you now start to question, are there more good years ahead of me than behind me? You see that it's wise to have those funds set aside in smart places."

Ron:  Well, congratulations, and yes. Here at One Firefly, I have at least a session or two every year to recommend that our team invest for their retirement. We support them with some matching funds in an IRA and try to give further incentive to have them do that. It's hard to see it when you're young, and you think of all the other places you could spend that money. I'm still young, but you start to look ahead, and you now start to question, are there more good years ahead of me than behind me? You see that it's wise to have those funds set aside in smart places. I commend you for starting to figure that out. And if there's anything I can do to help you that I'm here for you. Matt, thank you again. We're wrapping up here right around an hour.

It's been two years since not since you and I talked, but two years since you came on the show. I want to thank you for coming on. This is episode 158. We should have timed that better and should have made it exactly one hundred shows between the last time you were on and today. But we got that pretty close. For those that want to follow you or get in touch with you, what's your best way to do that?

Matt: Listen, I always say after the CE Pro cover, I would say every month, or so I get an integrator reaching out. Please feel free to call me, email me on LinkedIn, whichever it is. I always provide input, helpful information, directions, how to do it, how we did it. Any way I can help any of the integrators listening to make sure we reach out, and you can reach out to anybody on One Firefly, and they will give you my direct contact. You can find me on LinkedIn under Avidia, and from there, we will connect via cell phone or a phone call and talk, but never hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

Ron:  Well, I want to thank you again for coming back to the show.

Matt: Awesome. Thank you for having me. Good luck, everybody.

Ron:  Alright. Thanks, Matt. All right, guys, there you have it, the one and only Matt Cwiokowski from a video again. This was episode 158 of Automation Unplugged. If you like the content or enjoy the interviews, or you appreciate them. Don't forget to subscribe. Go to your favorite environment for listening to podcasts and subscribe. But you also can leave us to review whether you just leave a star rating or you put a comment on whether you like the show. If you don't like the show, you could write that too. It actually is all good. It would help future folks that might find this content or those interviews interesting and helpful would help them find it. On that note, I will sign off. I hope you have a good and safe rest of your week, and I will see you next week. Thanks, everyone. Be well.

SHOW NOTES:

Matt and two other colleagues founded the Chicagoland automation company, Avidia in 2010 with a goal to create a more focused, hands-on approach to home automation. At inception, Matt managed Avidia’s programming and system design efforts. In 2018 Matt and Kamil bought their 3rd partner out, and Matt assumed the role of CEO, where his role involves leading the company forward through client-focused sales and marketing activities.

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 works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview:

To keep up with Matt and the team at Avidia, visit their website at avidiaonline. You can find Avidia on social media on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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