Home Automation Podcast Episode #170: An Industry Q&A With Cory Reistad
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Cory Reistad, President at SAV Digital Envrionments shares their approaches to leveraging best in class marketing and SEO for SAV as well as blending design and technology into spaces.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Cory Reistad. Recorded live on Wednesday, May 19th, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Cory Reistad
Cory started his career in the technology space right out of college when he partnered up and started his first AV firm in 1999. He later founded Studio AV in 2005 before rebranding to SAV Digital Environments.
Based out of Montana, SAV has two locations -one in Bozeman and the other in Big Sky. They’ve even decked out their Bozeman location into a full art gallery powered by Ketra!
Today, SAV has a team of 80+ members that provide their market cutting-edge technology, including in-house lighting design and innovative home and business automation solutions.
- SAV's relaunch, post VIA, focused on best in class marketing and SEO, ultimately making Cory a convert to the power of marketing
- How Cory approaches blending design and technology into spaces
- Advice for integrators on how to deal with changes and challenges to supply shortages
- How the pandemic has increased consumer interest in wellness technology
Ron: Hello, Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. I know many of you are super eager for me to jump right in with my guest. I've been a fan from the sideline of Cory Reistad and his business SAVY Digital Environments for a long time. If you are alive and in this industry, you know who they are. They're one of the more badass integration firms in North America, if not the world. And they're really running a pretty fantastic business and doing amazing work. They're amazing marketers. And so we'll talk a little bit about that.
If you follow their website or social channels, or newsletter, you really see some impressive best in class type marketing and messaging. I follow their content, and I take notes, and you guys probably should as well. But let me go ahead and bring in our guest. He is traveling, actually, and he was kind enough to join us from I don't know where he's at. We'll find outlive. But I know he's traveling and in a hotel room. Let's go ahead and get started, and let's have some fun here. Cory, how are you, sir?
Cory: Good, Ron. How are you doing?
Ron: I am super duper. You told me you were in a hotel, but I forgot to ask you, where is this hotel? Where are you at?
Cory: Southern Utah.
Ron: What are you down there for?
Cory: My daughter is in school down here. I'm hanging out with her for a couple of days.
Ron: OK. It's May. There's probably no skiing left in Utah now, right.
Cory: Oh my gosh. It's 95 degrees. Yeah, it's southern. It's close to Vegas. It's an hour and a half from Vegas.
Ron: OK, yeah. I'm totally geographically uninformed. I have plenty of people laughing at me, but appropriately so.
Cory: That's OK.
Ron: Cory, tell us about it at a high-level SAV. Just what is that business? Where is it located? What type of work do you? As always, I want to I'll transition that. I want you to go into your back story. But tell us just about what AV is. Where is that located?
Cory: SAV Digital Environments we're located in Bozeman, Montana. The bulk of our work is in the Bozeman Big Sky area. There's a ski resort, a local ski resort that's becoming world-renowned as we speak. Yeah. We're a custom RV integration firm. We run the gamut. We do AV systems, screening rooms, lighting control systems, window treatments, networks. We also have a security department. We do environmental life safety intrusion. Yeah, we run the gamut of low voltage integration.
Ron: Got it. I just so happen to know because I've known you and I've known you're head of marketing, Scott, I know that you guys are one of the biggest integration firms in North America, but you wouldn't know that from the magazine because you guys don't submit your data to CE Pro for the CEO Pro 100. But I'm just curious, high level, how did you build that business in Montana? What's happening in Montana that there's so much cool work?
Cory: Yeah, good question. It's interesting to think back. 21 years ago, when I got started, I was not a musician. Unlike most of my colleagues who started this business at or before me, I was actually an English major, with a background in English, with a background in hospitality. I spent 10 years in the hospitality business, waiting tables, bartending, that sort of thing, which put me through college and beyond. I got started in 2000 because. I needed something to do, I know I didn't want to spend my life waiting tables and bartending, so I came back and started a small business in Bozeman. I had a few things going for me. I had some friends in the construction business.
This private club that was showing up in Big Sky, Montana, called the Yellowstone Club. It was a perfect storm in landing at the right place at the right time for audio. Video actually had another fortunate event. I met a man who would be my partner for the first five years who moved from Los Angeles in this business. Together we put this, and we started a business, and it's been up and down ever since but has grown over the course of that time. Yeah, it's wild. The first car that I ever purchased was a 2000 Chevy Astro van. That was my car for almost four years. My work rig, my personal rig, everything I drove, I drove a white van.
Ron: The marketer in me, of course, wants to ask, did you at least letter the van? Did you at least put your logo on the van?
Cory: It was fully logo'd, and it was great. Everybody recognized me as one of the two guys in their work vans.
Ron: Where did this entrepreneurship direction come from? Personally, I don't come from a family of entrepreneurs. I was, let's call it, a bit of an oddball in that later in life. Actually, after a bit of life, I took that turn. It sounds like you did it closer to after college.
Cory: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I always ask people how they would not sort of thinking creatively and outside the box when they approach a problem or a challenge, or a solution. Where did that come from? I think that came from me early on. I think I was very adaptive. Right. I come from a background of engineers. My family was science-based. It seemed like I took a more creative liberal arts approach. But I think that sort of coupled with this teeming desire to create something better than it was, has always been part of my fabric.
Ron: And then the AV and automation side. You and I work in an industry, and we spent the last 21 years in this industry, and it's an industry most of the world doesn't know exists. How did you learn about the industry or become exposed to the industry such that this was the business you were going to embark on?
Cory: I had an opportunity to move home to create a commercial satellite installation company in 2000. That meant to the layperson is that I would set up fake satellite dishes in grocery stores and sell them to clients as they come out of the grocery stores. I would install satellite dishes with a 20 dollar table from Home Depot.
Ron: Tell us about that business. Was it you and the army of one in your van, or did you build a team around that?
Cory: It was me and an army of one. I actually hired two installers. In a span of six months, I had grown to a business of three before I met my partner and started a much more comprehensive firm.
Ron: OK, got it, understood.
Cory: I was the dish salesman at the grocery store.
Ron: Was that the business? I'm just looking over here at your bio. Was that Studio AV, or was that a predecessor to Studio AV?
Cory: I was involved with a company called Poindextors Audio Video Environments. We spent five years together, and then I spun off Studio AV in 2005.
Ron: OK, understood. Now bring us to believe it, this sounds silly and hard to believe, but there are some people in our industry now because there are so many new people entering that haven't even heard of VIA or what VIA was. But you had actually transitioned into what was a national roll-up back in. I don't remember that happened. Was it 2013?
Ron: VIA, for those that are not aware, you can search it, and you'll hear about the history there. That thing ultimately was not successful, but you actually did not have such a painful experience. It didn't hurt as much as some of the others. Can you maybe describe what happened at the end and how your launch point was your new business?
Cory: Yes. Fortunately for me, I hedged a little bit against the demise of a conglomerate like that. I sold a portion of my company to VIA. That helped when this thing came crashing down. At least it helped minimize the financial impacts for me. It made it a lot easier for me to get started so that the finance side of it was certainly less painful. I would say. But the operational side of starting a business is at the end of October in 2015, and needing to deliver about three million dollars worth of AV in 50 days was nothing short of a miracle. It's just such a testament to our team and our culture that we were able to reform, re-establish dealerships, 50, 60 dealerships, thank God for platinum American Express when you're starting like that. But, yeah, that was a challenge. That was a really good learning lesson. I don't encourage it or wish it upon anybody. But in retrospect, some wonderful business sense.
Ron: What are one or two of those nuggets? If you don't mind sharing, you had the opportunity to build an amazing business, sell a portion of the business. That new thing ultimately, I would say outside of your control, ultimately did not succeed. But now you had the opportunity to start again. What did you bring to that restart that really you think maybe was pivotal to the current success?
Cory: A lot of hard work, right. To start. There's no doubt about it. We rethought our entire platform. We knew we had to come out of the gate and amplify our brand: our language, people, everything. The news was so negative, and we knew we would be attacked by our competitors, which we were, which makes complete sense from a business perspective. But what we did, we worked really hard, and we delivered. We also did something that we had up to this point, not really even considered. We went online, and we established a marketing plan to build our brand larger than our trucks and our people in our shirts and everything. We brought on a very seasoned marketing representative. It really helped us reestablish credibility and helped us re-establish resilience, and really built us as a national brand, again, through a single company. We did that over the course of four years.
Ron: I'm going to attempt to see if technology behaves here. I'm going to put it on the screen. We'll see if this all behaves. I'm going to put on the screen your website. I'm going to ask you to just maybe expound on that a little bit because I love the fact that you guys from day one, and I'm going to say day one of the relaunch have been amazing at capturing beautiful imagery, beautiful video, and really just beautiful messaging across all channels, all touchpoints. I know you hired a talented marketer in Scott, but you had to have known to do that. Where did that come from and your belief or feelings around the importance of branding, messaging, marketing? Did you have that before? You've always felt that way, or was this part of the relaunch?
Cory: We've known each other for a long time, right industry affiliation, and I even think you tried to get me to subscribe to MCO. Before 2015, and I was a naysayer, I was clearly not good enough to get the. Scott was, so that was where I'm coming from is like I was like. Ron, there's no way we need, you know, additional, you know, fluff out there in the marketplace. We have builders, we have contracts, we have architects, we have developers, and we have clients, and they just feed off of each other. That's all we ever need to do, and I obviously thought many things come 2015, and I thought, how are we going to do things? What are we going to do? What are we going to do differently? Was that first an attempt to basically try to rebrand ourselves, turned out to be like this whole business development initiative that came exclusively through marketing and CEO?
All I wanted to do when I went out there is, like, get us out there in the marketplace. Right. Get us known again. Get us back to who we were. Right. So that we can continue. Year one, that's what happened. In year one, I told Scott, our awesome marketing guy, "Scott, you brought in fifteen thousand dollars worth of work with your new initiatives. Year five, it's a considerable part of what we do. It expanded our customer base to the entire Valley, to different markets. People know about us both internally and externally. It's been a game-changer for us from that perspective. It's created so much value, I think, in our company. When we look at value as an integration company, is it our next biggest job? Is that recurring revenue? Is it our platform? Is that our blue sky initiative? And I think our marketing program has created a ton of value for our company.
Ron: I'm on your website, I'm looking at your blog, and I'm noticing that, and I'll click over. I'm mindful that a lot of our listeners are going to be audio-only. So they do not see your website that I'm navigating through. By the way, I'll just I'll give the URL plug again. For those on audio-only, it's SAVINC.net, But what I'm noticing you are doing is doing a great job of not just showing the beauty shots of beautiful projects. Still, you're showing your people that you're showing your people in your company shirt or sweatshirt, and they are doing the day-in-the-life stuff that a technician or a project manager or a programmer is doing. I love this stuff like I'm advocating as a marketer that this is the stuff our industry needs to do. And you're doing this. Do you get what type of feedback, if any, that's maybe top of mind? What do you get from the people who comment about how they observe you online, what this means to them, or how they interpret this content?
Cory: I personally don't get a ton of feedback. We'd have to bring Scott on to see what that is. But like you notice, right, it again, it's a depth of value, right? I mean, we all can throw up the prettiest pictures in the world all day long. Right. And try to sort of equating our business with that level of quality, expertise, aesthetic. Right. Design sense. But these behind the scenes just create so much more depth than that. Again, I think the credibility aspect of SAV shows how much work it takes and what kind of talent is needed to do this type of work. How much care goes into this, how much care we have for our team members that go out there every day.
Ron: I'm cruising your careers page on your website, and I see this super cool, creative graphic that is custom art where you guys are communicating your value proposition to employees, and that is so darn cool. Scott, good job. And whoever is involved in this thing, this is actually getting my gears turning. You have a wellness program, paid time off family life resources. Talk to me, Corey, about culture, company culture. The way you think about your company culture. What is that at SAV?
Cory: Again, it started with two of us. It started as a team. It started as a family. It's sort of all for one, one for all. We really try to listen to our folks from the bottom to the top, trying to get input, especially creative input. What makes sense. Right. Trying not to have this high level of management or the separation between management and team members. Culture is an incredible challenge as you grow and especially when you grow fast. And that's something that we really work on every single day. One of our major goals daily is how do we keep that synthesis with our team members? How do we continue to listen to them? It's easy to be forgotten when you grow. Right. We've had more success growing non-experienced AV folks from within than we have had to bring folks in from different markets with experience. And that, to me, is a testament to our culture. Right. We look for tenacity. We look for a desire to do something better. We've been successful at finding those folks and growing them from within.
"I think when you are recruiting from within, what better demonstration to your team that you are there as a leader of your team than to grow your people?"
Ron: I think when you are recruiting from within, what better demonstration to your team that you are there as a leader of your team than to grow your people? I completely agree. I've got so many topics here, and I know time is limited, and you're out there with your daughter in Utah, and you're kind enough to spend time with us. I'm going to jump to a couple of different topics here. This is just kind of funny and how the universe aligned sometimes. But yesterday, my team, all 50+ One Firefly's, were in a Zoom call with Sonance. Sonance was giving us some product training. Ari joined us, and Mike Cleary was doing great training, and then he transitioned to James. Without Mike knowing that you and I were doing this today, Mike immediately started telling a story of integrating art and design and aesthetics.
He gave you and your company as an example of a model representation of that. And the story he told was of, I think, a project maybe you could tell us about this project. But he said you sent in lumber from a project, and you had it custom milled for grilles for speakers because that's what the project aesthetic demanded. I thought it was just a really cool story. Can you expound on that? And maybe you can broaden that out to your approach on the blending of technology and design?
Cory: Yeah, first of all, I'd like to. Give a shout-out to Sonance. Those guys are amazing, and they've just been they've been amazing partners throughout this entire journey as James with their marriage. This particular project, you ever heard of a mushroom wood?
Cory: Beautiful texture. It's variegated. Just a beautiful wood species that in this particular condo, it was devoid of anything light fixtures. Right. It couldn't have a thing in it. The home was lit with lamps. There was some indirect lighting in specific places. But the lid itself had had nothing in it. We were able to convince them to use a four-inch square James Speaker, as long as we came up with it with fine detail, that would basically create a slim slot register detail for this small aperture speaker. And it just worked amazingly well. If you look at that lid, unfortunately, the picture itself is there's nothing in that lid, whereas there's, you know, there are eight of these James small up speakers embedded throughout.
Ron: How did that happen? I'm asking maybe for some ground-level interaction. Did you bring this idea to the homeowner? Did you bring it to the interior designer? Who did you engage with and pitch the idea? And how was it pitched, if you don't mind?
Cory: Well, the base design came from the designer, right. It was nothing in there. And the question was, oh, no. Like so, the client asked for sound in that space. It was up to us to find a solution acceptable to the designer while not disrupting their intent. That was a tough sell. But we did it. We achieved it. We've got aesthetic integrity. We've got uniformly distributed music throughout this entertaining space that sounds amazing. Again, a little bit of a best of both worlds scenario that can be achieved. You've got to think creatively about these projects and don't take no.
Ron: Cory, you are also running. I don't know if this is a separate business, maybe you could clarify, but I know you are also designing technology into spec homes. But this is a business operation that I believe you're a part of, or maybe it's a subsidiary of SAV. Can you talk about that? How did that idea even come about, and how does that business work, and has it proven fruitful?
Cory: Yes. Once we came out swinging from the VIA disruption, we made a couple of changes. We made the marketing change. I also rethought how I could create value in this business beyond a roll-up or a merger or anything like that. We know recurring revenue is certainly a value creator. We now know marketing is a value creator. But the idea that we had was we have so many deeply embedded relationships with developers, contractors, and subcontractors. By now, in this business, we understand design, philosophy, and aesthetics and what sort of sells and what doesn't sell.
We got into this idea tangent from our AV operation that we would start to partner with contractors, our contractor friends, and developer friends to invest in their projects. Right. By purchasing homes for speculation and knock on wood. Five years into it, we're into our sixth residence, and it is working really well. We go in as we buy the home. We furnish the home. We technify the home. We do everything to the best of our ability from what we provide. It's been a wonderful venture and has created parallel value as we grow as an AV company. That has my ear most of the day right now is. The other thing this does is it really puts you close to the people you work with. Right.
Ron: That's so cool. A funny little story. I've only started to learn about your neck of the woods, your part of the world, in the last few months. We'll talk offline about the details related to what I'm about to say. But I was referred to a builder, a custom builder, actually, that builds in your market. We're building their new website. It's kind of an odd type of customer for us. We do all integration, but this came through an AV integrator's referral from a different part of the country. Of course, this guy starts talking to me about all the amazing, beautiful land and properties. Now my wife and I are looking at lots and looking at communities. And you live in a really special place. Are you from the Bozeman market?
Ron: Yeah, I'm from Bozeman. Why is all this money being spent? Those that are listening and we have an audience watching or listening from around the world, what is Bozeman and why is it so special and why are there such neat, why is there so much money there? Just give us maybe a bit of geography. Maybe it's geography and politics. How is that? How does that work?
Cory: Its geography, its size. Right. It's a lifestyle. It's post-pandemic. I got to get the hell out of this urban area and get somewhere where it's much smaller and people are more focused on their lifestyle. I think now the ability to work remotely in 2004, Bozeman was booming, right. Bozeman was a construction-based town because everybody was moving to Big Sky and building huge homes. The wealth and affluence in Bozeman were all about construction. Fast forward 16 years. I mean, there are more tech companies, advertising companies, apparel, outdoor apparel. Those guys seem like they're coming every week now. According to Outside Magazine and New York Times, the micropolitan city is the number one city. Yeah, it's growing fast. The small town could be over soon.
Ron: Yes, it sounds like a special place for sure. My wife and I hope to one day get a mountain house. I'm from the East Coast. I'm from Virginia. I live in Florida. I know the East Coast really well. Go out west. I'm pretty uninformed. The technique I think I had recommended is starting maybe visiting all these different mountain towns and figure out what best fits your lifestyle or your culture. That's my plan. I'm coming your way. Sooner or later, I'm going to come to visit.
Cory: We have a show condo for you to stay in when you come out.
"Let's talk pandemic, post-pandemic. You and the rest of our industry are going, maybe speaking specifically. I'll say in the U.S. they're busy as they can stand right now. It's levels of red hot or white hot busyness levels."
Ron: Oh, that's very kind. I will take you up on that offer. The question, let's talk pandemic post-pandemic. You and the rest of our industry are going, maybe speaking specifically. I'll say in the U.S. they're busy as they can stand right now. It's levels of red hot or white hot busyness levels. Can you give perspective? What are you seeing? And then I'm going to ask you to look in your crystal ball for the next six to 12 months. I won't ask you to look further than that. But what has it been like for you guys? And what do you see around the corner?
Cory: OK, well, look, the pandemic was an incredibly wild ride. It's been, what, a year now. Right? But here in a couple of months. Yeah. In March or early April of 2020, we regularly met to establish our cash burn rate. Right. Our sensitivity toward employees, high-level talent, how many we were going to keep, how many we had to let go, how long we could hold on to our staff before we really had to start shedding cost to save this business. And it wasn't only AV. I was meeting with developers who were saying the same thing. Right. Nobody knew what would happen. To go from that right to a completely white-hot market within a matter of three to four months was anxiety-producing for sure. Right. The idea of just some of the restrictions around COVID. Just all the H.R. considerations with that it's been such a turbulent ride in the context of a white-hot market, which has just been crazy-making. We're finally starting to get out of that. One of the other things that were disruptive for our business, we live in what would be considered a vacation market very much. Our clients spend 28 days a year in their home on average, and they go from 28 days a year to full-time in the shoulder season. We went from a vacation integrator status to a primary residence status, which was very disruptive. Super wild.
Ron: I can promise you a few of my gray hairs have come from the last 14 months. You still don't have any gray hair. How do you do that? You must dye it or something. I don't know how you do it.
Cory: We're smoothing out right now, but we're growing like mad. It's a challenge but a welcome challenge. We're going in the right direction, and we're excited to see what the future brings.
Ron: How are you handling the chip shortages that are global right now? The shortage of silicon affects every industry, from the automobile industry to your receivers to your TVs.
Cory: Luckily, new construction starts, which is obviously a bulk of our business. We're able to, I mean, we're able to predict that to some level. Right. And we're able to place orders months and months in advance. But it's still a problem.
Ron: Vendors because of shortages and because I'm going to challenge overall inflation that's creeping into our world. Certainly, the United States, due to the excessive printing of extra cash from the Fed, costs are going up across the board. We've all heard the stats on lumber, the outrageous increases in lumber recently. I'm assuming your manufacturers, the ones you love, are probably going to be increasing prices on you if they haven't already. That's for everyone listening. Your prices are going to be going up. Knowing a lot of people listening are your peers around the world. Have you already built some of those price increases into your projects with your clients? Are you getting clients to pay for gear earlier to kind of lock in a price? From a business strategy, how are you handling it?
Cory: We will preorder as much as we can. But that's an issue, too, because there's a restriction on supply. Right? We can't necessarily order many products in advance, which is what we're finding from our vendors. That's something on a case-by-case basis. Up to this point, we haven't had any escalation clauses in our contracts. We need to scramble to try to make that work.
We're changing our prices the minute we get those those those those new price increases. And in fact, we've even gone retroactive and across the board and just changed the price. This stuff is going up from the economist's perspective. They talk about whether or not this is transitory inflation and whether things will settle down. I have not in my lifetime. I've not seen a price come back down in the integration world. Once the price is there, it stays. Those prices, I believe, are here to stay. So it's time to recognize that fact and make the necessary changes.
Ron: What would you say to those listening that maybe haven't started thinking about that? Maybe they haven't been in business as long as you or I have. Any advice for them on how to think about this or not? Not that you're telling them to raise prices, but how would you advise them to think about this situation, which is very real and very now?
Cory: I think you have to raise your prices. We talk about this all the time. We could put in a clause that says maybe we need to raise prices in a contract. Right. For the next 12 to 14 months. You lose credibility, right? You can't go back. Nobody's going to pay you for that stuff. You need to raise prices today and anticipate raises on some of the products. Right. Maybe you don't use much of a certain manufacturer. What not. It's going up. It has to. It's time to raise it today. Otherwise, you're just going to lose those dollars.
Ron: Alright. I want to sneak in one or two more topics for you, Cory. Do you still have a few minutes?
Cory: Yup. You bet.
Ron: Awesome. Wellness. Julie Jacobson, back when she was over at CE Pro, was the initiator of the idea, planted the seeds. Maybe the credit is also due to others. But I know she was writing about it for a few years there. Maybe before it started, it seemed to catch on. And I think for your business, wellness is a topic. It's in your mind and or in the minds of your customers. Can you maybe talk to me and the audience? How do you think about it, and how are you presenting it, or what are you doing about it?
Cory: Yes. I see wellness as in a more expanded view than I think much of the industry sees wellness. I certainly see air quality and water quality being something that is of intrigue. Right. For our clients. I see lighting, tunable lighting, and manipulating color temperature as an aspect of wellness. Again, using this transitory world. I don't know how much of this is trendy or transitory. In our clients' last year post-pandemic, I found that wellness means I'm spending more time in my home, and I'm more focused on the experience in my home. Before this, we can confidently say that trying to sell higher fidelity audio and video equipment was just something where it didn't seem like our clients had time to experience it.
Let's just do what I've heard. Right. Get that going. We're finding now that people are willing to listen more to us as we present quality solutions that allow them to spend more time in their homes. They want to have a positive experience. We think that is wellness as much as air quality or whatever lighting and all that I think certainly has merit. But we're finding that the experience your experience in your home is an engagement with wellness as much as whatever else happens with the systems in your home.
Ron: I want to try to restate that. And I just want to restate maybe what I heard, and then I want you to bounce back to me if I'm wrong or if I heard it incorrectly. It's not so much that you're "selling wellness" as a category or as a word. It's that because the consumers, because of the pandemic, have been spending so much more time in their homes and particularly for you in what has historically been a transitory market. But now, some of them call it their primary residence, or at least for an extended period of time. You found the conversations around wellness aspects of music or light or enhancement aspects of technology. The wellness conversation is being had and helping engage customers or helping you with sales. Did I hear that correctly?
Cory: Yep, that's exactly right. It's just more it's more rounded, right. It's everything we do contribute to that present experience with the home.
Ron: To get granular and specific. These are just top of mind. I don't have a list written down. I didn't prepare this. But I've been very curious about this concept of wellness. And I'm going to give my own personal experience since I've been reading about it and doing marketing for my clients around it. I started in on Saturday mornings. When I get up, I put on nature sounds throughout the house. And I listen to the brook running through the forest and the birds chirping, and I swear, even though I've been doing this, I started doing this right the pandemic's it was exactly tied to that happening. More times than I can count, my wife will come downstairs and goes, "Oh, listen to the birds outside, don't they sound so beautiful?"
I'm like, "Babe. We don't have any trees outside. There are no birds outside. They're coming from the speakers. But it is nice, right?" And she goes, "Oh, yeah, I forgot." Because you're setting this audio scene that's very calming and so I don't have tunable lighting, I don't have many of these technologies. Still, I do have a multi audio distribution system. And I can play nature tracks. It's really amazing how calming that is. Does any of that resonate with you personally or any conversations you're having?
Cory: It does, Ron. I think I just figured out why I don't sell air quality systems because people move to Montana for the air quality and the water quality and the sounds of the birds. Right. If you were in Big Sky and you told me you wanted bird sounds from your speakers, I would tell you to open your window. Yes.
Ron: That makes a lot of sense. Around my house, I'm in Florida. I got palm trees. I don't have too many beautiful songbirds hanging out in the palm trees.
Cory: I need to create high-resolution images of palm trees right on these new 100 inches Sony's to give our clients in the sticks that experience. But. Yeah, I think that could be sort of the reason why we shifted our thinking to wellness up here, saying, well, gosh, I understand why you need some of those wellness aspects in an urban environment when your view is another sky rise. But out here, how do we round out the experience that that is already present? That's how we're enhancing it with more sort of entertainment aspects, tunable lighting.
Ron: You guys are big into Lutron. I'm assuming that means you're big into tunable lighting and Ketra?
Ron: Alright. How do you make that sale?
"We want to be responsible from the start to the very end. That's our value proposition to our clients."
Cory: We're in the process right now of transitioning to a total lighting control system company. Right. Up to this point, this entire channel has known lighting control systems is supplying the Lutron lighting control system. It had nothing to do with the fixtures. Just deal with whatever happens on the fixture side as we transition. We want to be responsible from the start to the very end. That's our value proposition to our clients. We control that entire aspect. It gets us more in the design phases of these projects and gets us more into their creative phases. Right. Gives us more credibility. It doesn't separate scopes of work between low voltage integrator, electrician, designer if there is one lighting designer. We're really excited about building a total lighting system that includes fixtures similar to how we build an entire AV system right. From control to product, right to programming.
Ron: Does this mean you're adding or you already have an electrical license? Are you thinking of going to that extent? I know that's been a growing trend. I'm going to say for the last ten years.
Cory: It has. We haven't brought in an electrical division on. We've brought a design division on. Right.
Ron: Do you do lighting design in-house?
Cory: Yep. We have the lighting design, but we don't have the electrical side yet.
Ron: Got it. And in terms of lighting design, naturally, that means you now get to specify not only a beautiful environment and the layers of light that is beautiful lighting design, but you get to specify the fixtures. That's good business. And you get to specify the control system. Is that already up and running that side of it, or is this what you're ramping up and running?
Cory: We've built our showroom, we're in the process of expanding our showroom to showcase all of the quality. We've actually turned our Bowsman showroom, and it's a full art gallery, so it's 3500 square feet of local art, all powered by Ketra.
Ron: Oh, wow, that's amazing. Question Cory and I want to give our listeners an additional closing takeaway or two from you. I would like you to think about those that maybe have not been at it as long as you and maybe have not had as many trials and tribulations or the opportunities to purchase lessons as you have and what is maybe a sage piece of advice? If you want to pass a piece of advice on to another entrepreneur, another integrator, brother or sister in arms out there, it may be a less mature stage of their business, and they're looking up to you on the pedestal as one of the most successful integrators in the country. What's something, a singular thing or two. You'd have them think about focusing on getting right that would likely point them in the direction of success?
"Understand and honor unyielding customer service. That whatever, whenever philosophy has made us very successful."
Cory: There are a couple of things I would say. The first thing I would say to anybody starting is: Understand and honor unyielding customer service. That whatever, whenever philosophy has made us very successful. We teach that through and through. Through our company, which has been a big testament to our success. The other side of this is we are held to standards as designers. Instead of asking people what they want, we tell them what they need. We lead. We don't give options. We listen for sure, but we are presenters of solutions, and that's another avenue in which we found success. Having spent time in this business, understanding what people need, what makes sense, what has value gets us through the door, gets projects closed, and gets us clients who believe in us.
Ron: Awesome, Cory. For those listening or watching and want to get in touch with you or want to learn more about SAV, where do we want to send them?
Cory: You can send them to me. Happy to give you my cell number. You've got my email address.
Ron: If you don't mind, verbally describe it, and then we'll drop it down into show notes and into Facebook comments as well as anybody who wants to give me a shout.
Ron: Cory, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you over the years and certainly the opportunity to interview you here for show number 170 of Automation Unplugged.
Cory: Thank you very much.
Ron: Alright, folks. There you have it. Show 170, the one and only Cory Reistad from SAV or formerly Savvy Digital Environments. These guys are really running an amazing business. I definitely recommend going checking out their website, their social channels, signing up for their newsletter. Yes, I know that you're not their customer, but you could learn a lot by consuming what they are putting out to the world. I'm actually going to have their head of marketing on. We're going to get him booked here soon. Scott Abell. He's well respected not only within the industry but specifically within the Guild, which SAV is a member of the Guild, and they're members of HTSA. I'll get Scott on, and I'll share try to share some of his knowledge with you all as well. Thank you for tuning in.
Cory has been in the integration space since graduating college, starting his first AV company in 1999. He founded Studio AV in 2005 and later rebranded it to SAV Digital Environments. SAV is a Bozeman, Montana-based integration firm with 80+ members that provide their market cutting-edge technology, including in-house lighting design and innovative home and business automation solutions.
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. 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: