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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 #187: An Industry Q&A With Shawn Hansson

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Shawn Hansson, CEO and Founder at Logic Integration shares on the increase in morale and work culture after returning to the office.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #187: An Industry Q&A With Shawn Hansson

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Shawn Hansson. Recorded live on Wednesday, September 15th, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Shawn Hansson

Shawn Hansson is a recognized leader with over 25 years of audiovisual industry experience. In 2004, Shawn founded Logic Integration, a Colorado-based audiovisual and automation firm specializing in the design and installation of easy-to-use technology in homes and businesses. Today, Logic Integration has been recognized for numerous accolades such as Inc 500/5000, Colorado Companies to Watch, and CEDIA Contractor of the Year. Shawn is also a presenter and panelist for events throughout the AV industry such as CEDIA, ProSource, and CES to name a few. When not working, he also volunteers regularly as a drummer and board member of his local church.

Interview Recap

  • Building an award-winning business from a humble start in Shawn's garage
  • One of Logic's hardest and biggest projects deploying a Crestron system in a former missile silo turned bunker in Kansas
  • Increase in morale and work culture after returning to the office
  • Trends in commercial technology in the workplace

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #186 A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Jeff Binette

 

 

Transcript


Ron:  Hello, Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. It is Wednesday, September 15th. It is just a little bit after 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. We're super busy here at One Firefly. The summer is often a bit of a slower period for us here where a lot of our customers and a lot of our team will take vacations and take a little bit of time off. My son just went back to school last week, and I know many of you. Your children probably went to school in the previous several weeks. So we're getting back to business as usual. We know it here because inbound calls, emails, inquiries are going bananas, which is cool. What else? One Firefly just launched our Josh A.I. marketing collaboration. That's all over the socials. Definitely, check out One Firefly on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and you can read more about that and learn more about it. But we're excited to be partnered with Josh, which is these are exciting times, and we have more exciting collaborations that we'll be announcing soon.

Stay tuned for all of that goodness. But we are here for Show 187 of Automation Unplugged, and I'm here. I'm excited to bring you, my guest. If you've read the show notes, you already know who it is, but I've actually wanted to have Shawn on many occasions, and it's been a matter of syncing our schedules and making it work. You are all super lucky because it's happening right now, and that will be interviewing Shawn Hansson. He is CEO and Founder of the industry award-winning firm Logic Integration. Let me go ahead and bring in Shawn, and we'll see if he is behaving, and we'll have some fun. Shawn, how are you, sir?

Shawn: Very good. Thanks for having me, and our audio is working. It seems everything is good so far. Yeah, and I do have this sign in case you mess up, Ron.

Ron:  Oh, thank you. Please do tell me what it is from. When did you know to get that? Was that a gift, or did you buy that?

Shawn: No, we bought these for everybody at the office during COVID because, as you know, there was a learning curve doing all the audio and video conferencing either from home or from the office at the desk. I bought them for everybody because we had the select few I will keep nameless who are always on mute as soon as we hopped on a Zoom call.

Ron:  For our podcast listeners, they don't know what you are holding up. Why don't you describe what you were just holding up to the camera?

Shawn: Yes, you can buy these on Amazon, shameless plug. And it's basically popsicle sticks, a sign that says "thank you" and "you're on mute." The joke was the same two people at Logic Integration who were always on mute every time we got on our weekly Zoom call. Everybody else would hold up the signs, and it became kind of a thing. We love it. Actually, those people who are always on mute, we bought them T-shirts. It just says you're on mute, and they hung them up in their offices behind. It's a fun conversation. They are both salespeople, by the way.

Ron:  No surprise there. No surprise there. Shawn, are you guys Zoomed out? How are you guys feeling about all the video conferencing?

Shawn: Oh, yeah. We really love being in person. We love the collaboration that happens in the office. Now we've been back in the office, and we were doing a rotation. We had an A group and a B group, and we would do it every other day. We even made a CAD drawing and a map of who was supposed to be in and not. So we're back full-time in the office. I love it. It's exciting to see everybody.

Ron:  For those that do not know you, why don't you give us just a quick summary of your business Logic Integration? Where do you guys operate? What type of projects do you guys do, and what is your day-to-day role in the company?

Shawn: Sure. We're based out of Lone Tree, Colorado, about 20 minutes south of Denver. And we do commercial and residential. We started doing a pretty heavy commercial in 2008, so we were doing commercials a lot. Our mix, a lot of people ask, What's your mix? How much commercial and residential? We're about 60/40 in 2021, so 60 percent commercial and 40 percent residential. We also have serviced apartments, so we're very heavy in the service and support contracts and reoccurring revenue. We use Parasol on the back end for that. We actually have our own staff that we have on-call every single week, and we're doing production homes all the way to custom homes.

Then on the commercial side, we don't just do commercials. We actually do have a commercial. We do a lot of boardrooms, conference rooms, NOCS, network operation centers. We do work for federal, state, city governments. Fortune 500 & 100 companies, of course, doing hotel rooms or huddle rooms. I like to call them conference rooms. The hybrid model is very popular now. Once offices started opening back up, some are still not even open, opening next month. We're getting a lot of calls. Hey, you know, we really want to do training, but we want some people in the office, but we want some people at home. That's a pretty everyday cookie-cutter system that we're doing.

Ron:  What's your day-to-day kind of role? Do you sell? Are you busy running the vision for the company? What do you see yourself doing day to day in a typical day or week?

Shawn: I wish I could spend full time on a vision mission, core values kind of driving all that, but I'm in the trenches a little bit. A goal of mine this year was to spend more time with customers. I'm out with sales team engineers spending time with customers trying to provide solutions for everybody. I started in the field as a technician hardly knew anything. I love the technical part. I love being out there, problem-solving things like that. But really, sales and marketing are what I spend most of my time doing. And then, on specialty projects, I'll help with ideas and engineering things like that.

Ron:  Let's go back in time. Where do you come from? What was the background that brought you here to the President running this successful business? Go back as far as you feel comfortable. Go back to elementary school. I don't know the womb or wherever you want to go.

Shawn: Alright. I grew up as a musician, so I was a band geek. I did sports too, but I was definitely a band geek, so playing piano and drums grew up as a musician, and then I eventually got into computers. I had a recording studio, and my first job was at Sizzler. My second job was at Office Depot. Well, what does that have to do with anything? I sold cell phones, fax machines like the thermal kind you had. Like the rule, super old-school flip phones. I got a $20 commission every time I sold a flip phone. And then computers. A long time ago, in Los Gatos, California, I worked at Office Depot. And it was almost closing time, and the owner of a home theater company came in. Joe Paris, if you're out there.

He came in and said, "Hey, I've got a bunch of computers at my office, and I really need help hooking them up. Can you help me?" So after hours, I came in hooked up as his network, which was in 1996, cutting-edge baby. Got it all hooked up, got his printers hooked up, and he said, "Hey, do you want a job?" So that's my first job. Los Gatos Home Theater out of California, the Bay Area, worked there for a while and went through the Dot-Com days, which was fun. Did some really awesome projects. A gentleman by the name of Jeff Crawford was my old boss. He taught me so much of what I know now. I was in the trenches with him, running wire underneath houses and attics, hitting my head on nails—the choice cuss words.

Ron:  Did you rotate through all the typical jobs in an integration firm, or did you kind of gravitate to any one role?

Shawn: No, I really covered them all. I was a technician. I managed projects. I learned to program. I eventually learned Crestron programming and rotated through it all. I made sales. Eventually, 9/11 came, and I was still working out in the Bay Area, and I had I was a touring musician. I took a year off from my last year of college, and I went and toured and played drums and met my wife, who's a singer. We still play together today. We just didn't want to be a slave to the lender out of California, and we wanted to buy a house, so I was interviewed by a couple of companies out of Colorado and eventually, one of them flew us out here.

We moved out here. I worked for a couple, very dishonest companies here in Denver that are no longer actually both of them are no longer around. I had a bunch of customers at those companies say, "Hey, Shawn, go start your own thing. We'll send you the business. We'll send you the business." I was fired from my last company, the last person I ever worked for since I started Logic. I was fired for being honest. I like to say I was told to put in used equipment and not tell the customer. And it bothered me, and I came home to my wife. The next day, I went back to work in a big house, 15,000 square foot house, and I'll keep the customer name out of it. But he asked why his speakers weren't working in his brand new house, and I said, "You've got some amplifiers that are used." I was fired that day. I was fired that day.

Ron:  Did you object when you observed that your boss or manager advised you to put in used equipment?

Shawn: I did. And you know what? I'll say this. Full circle, that person owns a furniture company called Furniture Row. His name is Barney Visser. We now do the Furniture Row stores. It came full circle. He actually didn't reach out to me later on. We actually ended up getting that account, and we did their new 95,000 square foot showroom just recently.

Ron:  Wow.

Shawn: It's funny how things come around full circle, but that's how I started Logic. I just was a technician, and I had to learn how to run the business. You're either a technician, sales and marketing and finance, and I was the technician, so I had to learn how to run the business, which was very expensive. It was excruciating. I learned the hard way. I wish I had gone to business school right and learned it all. But a lot of people in our industry have done it.

Ron:  How did you come to terms, and I'm going to say you were married at this point? How did your wife think about you going from having a paid job and a paycheck and thinking that you probably could join another technology firm if you wanted? You probably could have gotten another job the next day, but you said, "No, I'm going to jump off the cliff and start a business." How did you get there? 00:14:21.840 As many of you know, there is so much trust between our customers and our technicians. The relationship that's formed is tough for a salesperson to do. It's even tougher for an owner to do sometimes.

I had that trust and relationship with some of our customers, and they really did trust me. When they needed upgrades, or they expanded their home, or maybe they bought a condo downtown, they called me, and they trusted me. It wasn't that I was going to price gouge them and take advantage of them. They knew that I was fair. I would give them a fair price, and that the bit I gave them wasn't inflated. It wasn't at cost, but we just had this trust thing going, which we still try to do today. But I generally just had a gut feeling. I prayed personally, so I prayed about it, and I felt like that was something that I needed to do. I told my wife about our two big garages in Parker, Colorado. It's turned into a warehouse. Your car is not going there anymore.

Ron:  That's awesome. Were you the classic truck slammer for the first year or two, or how did you see yourself? By the way, I don't mean that in a derogatory way. I'm saying you ran your business out of your garage and many people in this industry did and still do.

Shawn: I did. However, I didn't have a trunk. I had a hatch. It was a minivan. It was a minivan. The last company I worked for refused to buy company vehicles. I had a Grand Caravan. 1996 Grand Caravan. That was my installed vehicle. Between that and the garage, that's where I ran things, and then eventually, I rented a Store quest unit 10x40. Then I rented another one next to it, and a tech and I actually got into the electrical, the lights in the storage units, and we ran a J box so that we had power in the warehouse. I got photos.

Ron:  You do what you got to do, right?

Shawn: That was our warehouse. Both units, I think, were $600 a month. It was beautiful. I had 800 square feet of warehouse, and then I've got pictures of my little home office. We did the garage, and then I sold my personal truck and the minivan. That's when I got my first actual commercial cargo van. GMC Savana changed the stereo out. Of course.

Ron:  Of course. What would have been the Alpine?

Shawn: Yeah, there you go. Yeah, it was an Alpine.

Ron:  Of course, you did. The one that with a removable faceplate?

Shawn: Yes.

Ron:  Of course.

Shawn: Did I ever remove it?

Ron:  No, probably not. What year was that?

Shawn: That was 2003.

Ron:  That was 2003. You started with no employees, or did you start with someone else working with you, or are you on your own?

Shawn: No, no employees, and then a couple of guys from my church and the youth group came, and we started pulling wire together. While they were pulling wire, I was going and visiting any new construction sites in Denver. I had a friend who was a graphic designer for BMW and Apple and is really good. So I had them make me a brochure that made me look way bigger than my company was.

Ron:  Marketing can do that for you, can't it?

Shawn: Yes, it can, Ron. Good plug. Yes, it can. Then I hired a call center to answer all our calls and marketing, accounting, sales, procurement. Guess where they all went?

Ron:  To yourself?

Shawn: This guy.

Ron:  Would you like to speak to accounting press three? They all went to Shawn. That also makes you sound bigger, doesn't it? That's, in fact, marketing. When you call a place, and you got all these departments, wow, they must be pretty legit.

Shawn: Yeah, it sounds crazy, but that's really what I did. That's what I was told to do by people who were way better at marketing than me is that no one wants to hire. OK. Most people don't want to hire two or three-person companies to put $100,000 of stuff in their house. I mean, it's a tough sell. I roll up in my '96 Grand Caravan with my laptop. We've had a fancy showroom before, we have a nice facility now, but the joke is I sold a million dollars out of my laptop. I didn't have a showroom. I just tried to build a nice website, have some good materials. Even now, you look at our website. You guys did our website. It's phenomenal. It's gorgeous. We take the work we do and give it to you guys, and you know.

"We give you the canvas, and you paint it with your projects."

Ron:  We give you the canvas, and you paint it with your projects, and your projects are stunning, and you capture your projects. Actually, I'm jumping a bit, but that's an important concept if you don't mind. Somewhere along the way, you knew actually to capture your projects, and you know that so frequently, we as marketers here at One Firefly, I get every excuse under the book. I'm just trying to help my customers, but I get told 97 reasons why they can't capture content. When did you decide that you knew you needed it, and how do you actually do it? How do you get the other party to comply?

Shawn: It comes in waves, right? Busyness can take over. It's hard to shoot every project. It's hard to coordinate the time with the client. There's the sweet spot when at least for residential, when a home is built, where it's new, and the landscaping is fresh, and you know, there are not stereos and kid boogers all over the house, the touch screens are all gross. Right. It's hard to hit that window. But we've really, really tried to plan and have the conversation, "Hey, you really, really enjoy what we did for you.

Can we share your story without your name?" That's how we stage that. We actually just shot a project last week with cameras and drones and all that. It's really nice Crestron home project. I know this was your excuse to buy a drone, wasn't it? The funny thing is, I have a drone. I have shot our own material, but we are now outsourcing all of the filming and photography. It's just another level. Those guys do it all day long. They shoot three or four days. I'm in a CEO group here in Denver, and one of the CEOs owns a media group media company here. They're just phenomenal. They've got the big drones that can pick up children that carry DSLRs, the big cameras. That stuff looks good that material the footage they catch. It's incredible.

"We just did a shoot for a client in Oklahoma, and it was there were two nine thousand dollar drones on-site. The second one was in case the first one crashed. Guess what? The first one crashed into a tree, and they brought the second one out, and they kept going. So it isn't my liability. We hired the right people, and they had the right insurance, thank God."

Ron:  Yeah, we just did a shoot for a client in Oklahoma, and it was there were two nine thousand dollar drones on-site. The second one was in case the first one crashed. Guess what? The first one crashed into a tree, and they brought the second one out, and they kept going. So it isn't my liability. We hired the right people, and they had the right insurance, thank God. Yeah, that's funny. From those early days of your business, Shawn? What's a story, a war story that you're super proud of where you just guys, you went against the impossible, and you found a way, and you learned or may be picked up some lessons along the way?

Shawn: Well, those of you who have known me out there have probably heard this story before. There are two. I think in 2015, 2014, we did a doomsday bunker. We put over a million dollars of AV in it in the middle of Kansas. That was probably one of the most difficult projects we've ever done. It was massive, and there was a 14 story building underground. I think it was $2 million of floor to purchase. And it's one of the largest doomsday bunkers in the world, and it took us over two years to do that job. But you want to talk about a pain in the ass to run cables in a concrete building that's underground and to deploy a team that's seven and a half hours away from our office. It was hard. It was strenuous on the company, and it was strenuous on the employees and their families. But we pulled it off. That was number one. I'm attempting, by the way, over here.

I'm looking this way because I'm attempting to go to YouTube and pull it up. After all, I know this video, I've seen it, and it has like a bazillion views. It's called a survival condo. Alright. I'm going to be Googling survival condo. I'm going to be trying, attempting to put that on-screen for at least our video audience. But yeah, please continue. The second project we did, which we don't have a video, grew a lot. In size, revenue and all that stuff. Right around 2012 to 2014 2015, we were hiring salespeople, and things were moving, and it was all good. But one of our sales folks who happened to be our top salesperson got a big request for the U.S. Army, which we have done work for all over the nation, and we've done offices and secure skiff rooms. So yeah, there it is. Pause that project story. This talks about the doomsday bunker and what was involved. It is big, and it had $150,000 of Kaleidoscape in it.

They had servers in it that would store Google data for two years. It had 30,000 gallons of filtered diesel and generators and a rock-climbing wall. That's Larry. That guy is the brain. He's such an intelligent person. He was the mastermind behind this. See, is he the customer? He's the customer, and he's the developer. Oh, my God. He spent almost 10 years planning this. That's Bill. He helped design everything and kind of led the relationship.

Ron:  Hi, Bill. Do people live in this thing, Shawn?

Shawn: Some live in it full time, and then some visit from all over the world, so they're actually building a second one. They've already started construction.

Ron:  The idea is that people would live in this, and this would be their house or is this like, alright, if the zombie apocalypse is happening, you head to Kansas, and you punch your ticket?

Shawn: It's a little bit of both. Some people do live there, but most visit it.

Ron:  They have a condo already in Aspen or Vail. They've got a place on the beach somewhere. It's an old missile silo call. That's exactly what it is. It's an Atlas missile silo.

Shawn: That's amazing, yeah, so Paul just posted the question. He's asking if that was a missile silo? Yes. It was tricky to distribute a large Crestron system in a building with all conduit and surveillance. They had a command room, or they do. I mean, still, there they have it three or four full-time security guards at that place. Some people try to break in there as a joke and a challenge.

Ron: This shows what it would have looked like with a missile. Is that what that is?

Shawn: There's some progress footage, and there are so actually Crestron flew out and filmed this with us. They did a nice job. George Phelps speaking before he passed away, we actually got to talk to George about this project. It was a very exciting project for him. He was really, really interested in this. His wheels are always turning. He was always thinking of ways to build better products and super passionate guy. So yeah, I got to sit and talk with George about this project is incredible.

Ron:  Did George make it out to this? Did he make it up to the site?

Shawn: He did not. No, he did not. But the Crestron film crew will never forget it.

Ron:  Yeah, that's pretty darn amazing. Well, thank you. You were jumping into a different story when I rudely put the video on the screen.

Shawn: The story number two. Don't fall asleep because here's one more story. Story two was I showed up for work, and we got a purchase order. It was a massive purchase order for a project for the US Army. And I'm like, sweet, you know, we want a project from the army. Alright! Later on the day, my procurement person comes back to me and says, "Hey, Shawn, you big dummy. This project is in Amman, Jordan.

Ron:  You didn't know that when you bid on it?

Shawn: No, I did not know that. The salesperson knew that, but we were growing fast. We were busy buying the vans, expanding space. We leased another 7000 square feet. Things were moving and grooving, so we got a purchase order. My salesperson signed a contract. We needed to do the job like we were committed. There was a cancellation fee. Long story short, we built two massive planar video calls, RGB Spectrum controllers, 52 zones of Byam, Sure microphones. Now I can say that the NDA is now over. Obviously, a while ago, it was for the Syrian war, the U.S. Army working together with the Syrian Army. Oh no, with the Jordanian Army.

Our team built it. We actually had to build it all here. We had the video working, decommission it, shipped it out, and we actually put some guy's cell phone number on all the crates, and it went right through customs. Never questioned. I went out there, our guys went out there for two weeks, commissioned it, programmed it. Our programmer programmed it in the middle of the night because of the time difference. I flew out there for the last three days, four days. I went and looked at the project. I mean, you talk about being proud of your team. To pull that off, I would never do it again. Keep in mind, I won't say how much money it was, but we fronted all the money from the project because that was the terms of the PO.

Ron:  That was the terms of the PO?

Shawn: The terms of appeal were net 60 or 90. The entire project. Yeah, you want to talk about it as a business owner. You want to know your ass is on the line. That was pretty scary. And you can't call anybody for payment. You only can email. It's all over security email. And if you google the location of the building, back then, the building was not there. It's gone, and now they actually tore it down. It's gone again. The cool thing is, I got to go to Petra, I got to see Petra. After working 18-20 hours a day, twice in a row, because it was all hands on deck to get it done. We actually decided instead of sleeping and taking our time to the airport. We drove all the way to Petra. We ran through Petra of all the canyons, came all the way back and went straight to the airport.

Ron:  Is Petra the location? Now, those that are listening or watching, they're Googling this. Is that the place where you see those Indiana Jones scenes? They're walking into the side of a mountain with an old entryway carved in.

Shawn: Yeah.

Ron:  That's crazy, so that's like an amazing success story, and at the same time, a WTF in terms of putting a bid in a price and frankly, your name and reputation on something without fully understanding maybe all the ends and the outs that it sounds like that was one lesson.

Shawn: We came back. We're all stoked. We finished the job. We got sign-off right. We took a picture of the paper right because that sign-off is gold. We came back, and it was crickets for five or six weeks when we were getting paid. Who did you talk to? Who was our contact? Okay. They've moved on to another project but are no longer there. You have to go into there's no portal. Now they have a portal for payment. But back then, it was all email. Pretty awesome, huh?

Ron:  That sounds terrifying. That's what that is. That sounds terrifying.

Shawn: I call it one of the coolest things we've ever done and one of the dumbest things we've ever done.

Ron:  Yeah. But you learned some lessons. What were the takeaways from that?

Shawn: Process, there has to be a process. Everybody has to follow it. Our company culture has to be everybody follows the process. We've had people come and go here, and they don't follow the process, and now our culture weeds them out. It naturally pushes them out. But, we didn't follow the process with that. By the time I found out about it, it was already a contract.

Ron:  I'm happy for you that you guys made it through that and on the other side, and I'm sure there are plenty of people listening that have equally taken on projects only to realize the full scope and scale of that project, and sometimes it ends well, and sometimes it doesn't end well. This one ended well. You are a musician. You mentioned that you played as a kid, and you now have played all the way through adulthood. You still play. How do you play? Where do you play? When do you play, and how does that work its way into your work side of your life? Does the music come up, or does the fact that you're a musician come up? Does that help in any way?

Shawn: Yeah, I went to San Jose State University out in San Jose, California, and studied audio engineering. That's what my degree was in. The music part I use a lot when we're talking about doing large training rooms that seat 200 people, 250 people when there are microphones and audio, high ceilings, acoustic, all those things. Most people facilitating getting a system upgrade or even designing a new system are really like that, not just myself. Almost a third of our staff are musicians or have the audio background or went to school for it. So it becomes very important in those conversations.

You can't just slap microphones and punch the speakers in a room and a projector and make it sound good. You have to know the audio. There are DSPs and mixed minus and gates and all that kind of stuff that happens. I use a lot of work, even on the residential side. Right, if a homeowner wants to put in an eight-inch subwoofer and they're trying to save money, but they entertain a lot, and things get wild and crazy and Snoop Dogg's playing. They probably need a bigger subwoofer, so I talk about why is it more important to buy the bigger subwoofer? It's probably used more than I even realize. Where do I play? Now I am a church drummer, so I basically play drums for my church. My wife and I go to a church here in Centennial, Colorado, called Renovate. RenovateNow.org is the website, and it's a smaller church. We used to play for larger churches, and we did a startup a couple of years ago, a few years ago with some friends, and it's going really well.

But when we had a little more time, the business and our kids took a lot of time, and we enjoyed that. We used to play for churches that needed substitute musicians. Maybe a church in Denver, their drummer doesn't show up, or they need a singer or whatever. So we would play and play with other musicians was a lot of fun, actually. Paul, you are so interactive!

Ron:  He says, "Love Church Drummers, Rattle is my current favorite song." I don't know what he's referring to, do you?

Shawn: Yeah, I think so.

Ron:  That's funny.

Shawn: I play twice a month. I want to keep up with it. I actually play piano, too. My wife is a phenomenal singer. There are some YouTube videos out there if you really want to go digging and have nothing to do.

Ron:  My team might dig up some of those links and drop them into the show notes. We might make it a little easier for the audience to find those on your show page or down on the notes here.

Shawn: That's funny.

Ron:  To bring it to the present you mentioned or what I caught when we just started chatting, you said today, it's September 2021. Your business ratio commercial is about 60/40. What was it pre-COVID?

Shawn: It was creeping towards 75 commercial/25 residential. We were in the low 70s. It was a good balance and a good mix, and a lot of people asked me, "Well, why do you guys do commercials? The margins are low. You don't get paid." This and that, it's actually somewhat true. But if you cherry-pick your customers and you have good relationships and the whole trust thing and all that, it is a good market to be in. You need to know what you're doing. You need to have the right certifications, the right staff. But that's what it used to be; residential has grown.

But now we see this big wave with commercial, right Zoom and teams, Cisco WebEx, and all those platforms. People come back to the office, and they're in their meeting spaces, and they're like, "Oh. We don't have a camera in here like how are we going to?" So the awareness has grown as people are much more aware of that tech now, and they want it, which is awesome.

Ron:  What's changing? Is everything different now out there in corporate America? Are they looking at the vacated venue with COVID and now that people are coming back to the office? Is it causing renovations top to bottom in terms of tech?

Shawn:  A few things were going on, so the folks that come back or the folks that invested while everybody was out. Some smart companies actually invested in their technology while everybody was out of the office they remodeled. They had the cash and working capital to do that. They invested in technology. Everybody came back already done well done right. That's a dream client. The second thing is there's a shell game going on in commercial real estate. Most of you on this podcast probably know commercial real estate, and vacancy is way down. Denver was at 20 percent occupancy or less just a few months ago. I was in New York last month for the Snap one IPO. And when you looked at those office buildings during the day, they were empty. It's pretty scary. You have that going on, and then you have people that are downsizing, subletting, hey, we have 50000 square feet. We really only need 10.

I have a couple of CEOs on commercial movie companies here in Colorado. Those guys are busy, and it's almost like crabs moving shells back and forth. The little crab or the big crab wants a little shell now. It's really, really weird. What's happening with that? I'm not smart enough to know what it's going to turn into ultimately. It's a little bit of a mix of what's happening in that.

Ron:  But it does mean that money is being spent more today, September 2021, than there was in the big, scary slowdown in the commercial world. It's because of the awareness of the consumer, their teams, their staff, and the shell game, moving spaces, recalibrating how much space they have or need? Would you agree with that?

" The demand for the corporate executive conference room has changed, it's gone down, and I think from what we see in our lead tracking, the large giant training rooms where you pack a bunch of people together and train them all at once has changed. So maybe they're going to train 30 or 50 people in a room at once, and then they're going to live stream or record the rest and make it available later and have more of an archive system."

Shawn: Yeah, the leads that we receive. We track leads by market, by type. What does that mean? Is it a corporation? Is it a non-profit? Is it a K through 12? Is it higher education? Is it a restaurant bar? Is it hospitality? If we process 500 leads a year, we categorize those in eight to 10 buckets. The demand for the corporate executive conference room has changed, it's gone down, and I think from what we see in our lead tracking, the large giant training rooms where you pack a bunch of people together and train them all at once has changed. Maybe they're going to train 30 or 50 people in a room at once, and then they're going to live stream or record the rest and make it available later and have more of an archive system. It's kind of what we're seeing. We're still doing those large rooms. But I think the demand has changed because people are scared to pack a room, at least from corporate.

Ron:  Let's unpack that. I want to unpack that comment about packing into a room and talk just for a minute about COVID. What are you guys doing? Are you guys masked up, or are you even vaccinated in the office? Is everyone back in the office, or are you hybrid? What are you doing? And then I'd love to know you said you're in a group of CEOs there in Denver. What does it seem to be consensus in that group? What is life like in Denver, and knowing we have a global audience here, so people are tuned in? People that care about our industry, but they're located all over the planet, really. I know they're all curious about what life is like in Denver right now.

Shawn: I'll get you later, Tyler. The way we did COVID, as I mentioned before, was as we did an office rotation, which was really nice. It gave people space. We do have some shared office spaces, and we would rotate. On Monday, a group of people would come in on Tuesday, a different group of people would come in. Basically, when we said, Hey, let's have everybody back to the office, we did an advance notice, and then we brought everybody back in. We've got hand sanitizer around the office if people want masks. I've got 1000 thousand masks in the warehouse. People can grab those.

But really, since we've brought everybody back to the collaboration that happens here in person is so wonderful, right? There are some amazing conversations and ideas that happen at the coffee maker—the hallway talk. Back in the tech room, we have a room where we build all our racks and all that. People just hang out back there, and they come up with the greatest ideas. That is so valuable. The CEO group that I'm in, in the community that I'm involved with, it's the same there. Having everybody together is so much different than virtually convenient. Don't get me wrong. I use it all the time. But being in person. I mean, we need each other, right? We're humans. We're designed to be around people like chickens.

Ron:  I agree we want to be together. There's no doubt I mean, we just all also watched the CEDIA trade show implode a couple of weeks ago, and that was because of a lot of this, I'll just say, uncertainty around Delta. I'm sure there's more to that story, but that seems at least to be a high-level take on the show. Do you mind if I get, like, specific with a couple of things in terms of, like, what are you guys doing? Are you guys masking up in the office? Is that an optional thing?

Shawn: It is optional. It's not required. As far as vaccinations. We do not require vaccinations, but my feedback to everybody is you don't have to share if you're vaccinated or not, OK? If you're not, be respectful of those who are and vice versa.

But if someone is not comfortable being around an unvaccinated person, if they know, just keep your distance, don't drive with them. But you know, I'll say that I've seen people at other companies and even our companies that maybe are conservative. And then, on the weekends, they're doing things with larger crowds or whatever. So it's all over the place. But at the end of the day, we really try to deliver the message that we don't be judged. Don't make it. Don't judge people. Don't make it political. Let's just focus on the business, right? Let's respect each other because if it turns into a thing, it just distracts everybody from what we're all trying to accomplish, right? We're trying to be great at AV. We don't want to be great at the topic of COVID or masks. That's not our job.

Ron:  What seems to be the consensus in the CEO group in Denver that you're a part of? A similar theme?

Shawn: It was bringing everybody back to the office, for sure, and the folks that are in my specific group, we actually meet here. The company's revenue ranges from four million to $110 million a year. Right. I respect those bigger companies, right? They're leading large organizations and large teams. They try to get people back to the offices as quickly as possible because it impacts their business, whether in tech or manufacturing. Obviously, you can't bring people home and work from home. That was the consensus for sure.

Ron:  Work-life balance. I know that you have made that a personal mantra. I don't know if it's that 2021 initiative or a 2020 initiative. Talk to me about that. What did you think about with yourself and your family that made you say, I'm going to try to work out a better balance.

Shawn: Well, I think like most people watching this, even just most people in America like. We can work ourselves to death, right? If you look at Europe and specific countries over in Europe. They take almost two months off in a month or whatever it is. Don't quote me. Calm down, everybody.

Ron:  A lot more than America, for sure.

Shawn: Yes. I did that. Especially when the economy crashed in '09, I worked myself to death. I got tendonitis. I did tennis elbow surgeries and was miserable. At some point, like what's going to happen is going to happen, and you can't control everything. It comes in seasons; I put in the hours. I work hard, but I really try to play hard. We teach that here in our company, we talk about it from onboarding and hiring all the way to people that have been here a long time, like, "Hey, you've got 200 hours of vacation, maybe use it. It's for you." My kids are old enough now where if I'm going to go somewhere for work, a ProSource thing, Total Tech Summit, whatever it is, I try to bring them like, let's find some stuff for us to do. Maybe we get there a day early if we're doing a conference and there's a pool. Most kids like pools and waterslides. I try to do that. Try to include the family and the wife. We fly with Southwest a lot. My wife has a companion pass if you don't know what that is.

Ron:  Alright. You got to tell us. You told me about this just before we went live, and I was like, Oh my goodness. Please do tell me your secret.

Shawn: OK, so Southwest Airlines, a friend of mine, works in government and flies all the time. Tell me about the companion pass. Basically, if you have a Chase Southwest card, you can rack up a certain amount of points. Southwest gives you a companion for one year. One year you can choose a friend or a family member to fly with you for free anywhere in the world. Cancun, anywhere Southwest flies, and you only pay sales tax for that ticket. When I booked a ticket to Florida for $450, my wife flew for 13 dollars because that's the tax on it. You have to fly there together. You have to fly back together. You can't separate or do anything like that. But it's awesome. Now, if any of you look that up, you have to let me send you a link because we will drop it into this show's needs.

After all, you're going to get something, right? We both get something, so we both get points. It's an awesome little Southwest pitch. We've been doing that for four years, and it's really allowed my wife and kids and I to do more stuff together because we do not have to buy four tickets. We can now buy three tickets. I love that. When you look forward, you look forward to the next six to 12 months. That's not too far in terms of technology, Shawn, has you excited about what's coming out? Or maybe it's about to come into its own that you know your customers are going to be jazzed about, or maybe just your team. Is just about? I think lighting is a big one. We have dabbled and looked at lighting, but we never really got serious about it. We've done every new line in the door and try everything and go figure it out method. I think, like most companies, we don't do that anymore. We're trying to get better vetting things, letting our engineers play with things, really having a partner with a manufacturer instead of just selling everything to everybody. But lighting and lighting fixtures are big. I know a couple of companies here in Denver are very successful with it and then friends of mine in other states. So we're looking at that.

I'll keep the name out of it, but we have some lighting stuff here. Low voltage lighting is going on here, the showroom. We want to get more serious about it, so we've focused on reoccurring revenue. Alright. We've all talked about that too. We're blue in the face, so we finally got serious about that. We got that going. That's a well-oiled machine. I think the lighting is really exciting. The cost of video and audio distribution, that price point has really come down. A product like Crestron home has been incredible; Custom Crestron has its place in the world. Don't get mad at me, but Creston home and even what Control4 has done with their platform is incredible. Incredibly, a lead technician who has been in the industry for maybe two or three years can go out and program a $200000 system. I love it.

Ron:  Yeah, well, let's pull a thread on that. Back in the day, I left Crestron and '07, and I want to say that was just before Ping. Ping and Adiageo and all of that jazz. And I saw some of that didn't necessarily go over too well and bring it to the present. John Clancy joins Crestron.

"John Clancy was a very smart hire, very strategic out of the box thinking, take somebody who ran a very successful integration firm who is a partner, equity partner, and very big change going to work for an integrator that long and owning a piece of it to going to work for a large manufacturer, billion-dollar-plus company."

Shawn: Yeah, he changed it, and it's amazing to me that Crestron let the reins loose and let it happen. Yeah. John Clancy was a very smart hire, very strategic out of the box thinking, take somebody who ran a very successful integration firm who is a partner, equity partner, and very big change going to work for an integrator that long and owning a piece of it to going to work for a large manufacturer, billion-dollar-plus company. Ping was what it was, and Adiageo and all that. But the Crestron home thing, we were all kind of sitting back watching. Then eventually I tried at my house. We started deploying it all. It's a game-changer. They are doing very well with it. We are doing very well with it. I know a lot of integrators out there are doing very well with it. We do Control4 and Crestron, and they both have their place, and we love both of those partnerships. We absolutely treasure those partnerships.

Ron:  Where do you transition from? The world of everything was custom Crestron to the world of now this is custom Crestron over here, and this is Crestron Home over there. How do you differentiate that today?

Shawn: It's a journey. We listen 70-80 percent of the time, give customers feedback, and share stories. As we go into a home, whether it's a new build or a retrofit situation, our job is to listen to how the customer will use the house. What do they want to integrate with? Are there drivers available all that kind of stuff, but maybe they just want audio or video is not important? Maybe they have Lutron shades or Screen Innovations, or so there's a lot of variables that's kind of the journey and path we go on with the customer or the designer to figure out what system is best. That's how we help them decide.

Ron:  I'm going to do a teach-back to see if I heard you correctly. Whether it's Crestron, custom Crestron or Crestron home is determined by the interview with the client and what needs to be integrated into the final solution. So that helps you go down path A or path B.

Shawn: Yeah. We have a programmer on staff, and we have outsourced programmers like many of you. And there is a fit for custom Crestron, for sure. But there are a lot of applications that you can do with Crestron at home. Last year, we did three-quarters of a million-dollar job with Crestron home shades, lighting, soup to nuts. It runs wonderful. It's running NVX in the background, 4K.

Ron:  Did John Clancy come out and visit you on that job?

Shawn: No, he's all big time now.

Ron:  I saw on social media, he visited you on a job site and maybe last year.

Shawn: Yeah, I know that actually, that was like three years ago. That was the big party house we did. But now he's been busy. He and I chat once in a while. We mostly work with his team, but I would love for John to come to visit. It's been a while, John.

Ron:  John, tune in. You've got to go hang out with Shawn again. Amanda says, "Shawn is a rock star. Everyone should always take notes on what he says." I agree, Amanda.

Shawn: No, I share horror stories of what I've done wrong.

Ron:  Well, if you help others make less of those mistakes, I think we all win. Amanda goes on to say, "I love that you make sure to listen and then craft it for them." That's based on customer feedback. Now help me understand and the audience. When do you position Crestron home vs. Crestron custom versus Conrtol4?

Shawn: I don't think we should talk about that.

Ron:  Is that is that too political that gets you in trouble?

Shawn: Yeah.

Ron:  Alright. Well, I'll switch topics because I know that you were so freely discussing Crestron that it would be an easy transition. I tried, folks. I tried. How was it going out to New York to the Snap 1 IPO? I saw that all over social media. That looked like a lot of fun.

Shawn: Yeah. We've done business. We're a sit and wait for company. When people moved to OVRC. We waited. We sat and waited. I watched all my buddies move over to OVRC, and then so we've only been a SNAP customer actually doing some business for probably three years, so not that long. But once we started moving some lines over and consolidating and taking five relationships and trying to move them into two to five lines and move them into two lines, we really started to see a lot of success, a lot of wash, rinse, repeat in our designs. Right? The sales guy would design one system. Sales guy B would design one sales Guy C. We wanted everybody to sell and do the same thing, right? Standardization, Wattbox, switches, all the stuff. We always know where the router is and where the video switcher is, Comcast, et cetera.

We built a really good relationship with SNAP. Our rep actually used to work for our company. His name is Brian Thompson, an incredible person. He's been in AV for a long, long time. And once I started to get to know the executives, the executive team and even Jon Heyman, that culture at that company was incredible. When I was at the IPO party, their accounting person came up to me. I mean, they're drinking the Kool-Aid over there, but they actually really do believe in what they're doing as a company, and you want to talk about work-life balance. John and Jeff they all teach the employees that, and they have their power team. Their executive team has run successful companies in previous years, and that's why they're doing it again with SNAP. They just have an incredible culture of people that they have are amazing, and they brought people in from outside our industry.

Ron:  Yeah. No, I think that's an amazing testament.

Shawn: It was a lifetime experience to go to that I had less than 24 hours notice, and I jumped on it so fast because I wanted to be a part of it. They're an important partner of ours. We tried not to know 50 manufacturers. We want to be best partners with like eight, like six or eight. So that's what we're striving to do.

Ron:  It sounds like very wise words. And I often internally cringe if I don't externally cringe when I talk to a business owner and ask him about lighting, and they name four brands. And I asked him about Control in the name of three or four or five brands. They could be a small business, a one to $10 million a year business. I'm like supporting one vendor is hard enough. How in the world can you support all of these vendors, much less your poor team that is trying to support all of these lines? You, in some sense, ask the impossible of them for them to be experts across this wide diversity of constantly changing technologies. That's definitely very wise. I want to close on this. I'm mindful of time. We're at the top of the hour.

Can we focus just for a minute or two on leadership and the idea? Shawn, what does it mean to be a good leader, and what would you know there are others out there who will be listening and tuning in to these words? What do you think is advisable for them to consider if they themselves want to be a good leader? I'm calling you a great leader for your team and the industry.

Shawn: Let's go with a good leader. Great will be, hopefully, maybe when I'm 70. But even then, I think it's a lifelong journey to figure that out from the books and the groups and my own experience and friends and the industry out of the industry. If I was to summarize it, the leadership thing is to serve others. Help people be successful in taking people's talents and gifts and help push them forward. Our programmer is a good example. He was a technician at another company and just was a technician and never, never got the chance. He is a phenomenal programmer. He's one of those guys who can figure out anything software. Gail, our procurement person here, manages all of our purchasing and everything.

She buys almost three million dollars a year, and the dealer costs the product. She started as our office cleaning person and our front reception person, and she's incredible. Recognizing people's gifts and what drives them and trying to get them in the position to do that. Jim Collins right seat on the right bus. I think most of my job as a leader is to try and discern and pick that out. When people try to, you know, hey, you're over there doing the install, but you really like to troubleshoot and fix things you should do services, troubleshooting and fixing stuff all day. Right. It takes a special person to run into a problem five or six times a day, tries to figure it out, and go home at five.

Ron:  What magic happens when you identify that in and you help them transition? What did you witness happen?

Shawn: Wonderful. I get so excited, even almost tear up to watch some of them thrive. Completing a job and seeing everything work and happy customers is definitely why I get out of bed. But the second reason is to watch people succeed. I love when people buy houses, have babies, buy cars. "Hey, I just got a new car." "I'm debt-free" or whatever it is. I love that. That's fun.

Ron:  Amanda is saying, "Wise, man, great advice." I agree, Amanda and Brian Good. Thanks for tuning in. He says, "It's a great mindset for a real leader." I couldn't agree more. Shawn, the time is the time, and we are out of it. Thank you for coming to Show 187. I see the thank you sign. Thank you for that. It was a pleasure having you on the show, man. We'll have to. We can't wait for another 186 shows to have you back on.

Shawn: Appreciate the time. Good chatting with everybody. Thanks, everybody, for watching.

Ron:  Awesome. Thank you, Mr. Shawn. Alright, folks, there you have it. The one and only Shawn Hansson, CEO and Founder of Logic Integration, definitely be sure to check them out. I'll put his email and web. Actually, I see my team dropping it down into the show notes right now as we speak. Definitely be sure to get in touch with Shawn. Thank you all, as always, for tuning in. My team is working feverishly behind the scenes on putting these shows on. There are many people at One Firefly involved, and it takes a village to make this happen. Special thanks to all the One Firefly team members that are working on this. Thanks to all of you for watching, live, and watching on the podcast. If you have not already done so, definitely go to your favorite podcast app. Check out Automation Unplugged. You'll hear this audio interview with Shawn. It'll pop in the middle of next week, usually about a week or so in the rears on getting those lives, and I will see you all next week. We'll see you all next week for the next show and be well. Stay safe. You get my artwork printed up here. There we go. Ciao.

SHOW NOTES:

Shawn founded Logic Integration in 2004, a Colorado-based audiovisual and automation firm specializing in the design and installation of easy-to-use technology in homes and businesses. Today, Logic Integration has been recognized for numerous accolades such as Inc 500/5000, Colorado Companies to Watch, and CEDIA Contractor of the Year. Shawn is also a presenter and panelist for events throughout the AV industry, such as CEDIA, ProSource, and CES, to name a few.

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:

To keep up with Shawn, reach out directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and check out their website at logicav.net.

 

 

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