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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 Unplugged Episode #206: An Industry Q&A with John Campbell

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, John Campbell, Owner and Director of Sales at HomeTroniX of Arkansas shares how empowering your team can help with retention of talent and create a sense of trust within a team.

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #206: An Industry Q&A with John Campbell

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing John Campbell. Recorded live on Wednesday, March 9th, 2022, at 12:30 pm. EST.

About John Campbell

John was hired as the first employee when Hometronix was gearing up to open in 2013. His primary role was serving as a prewire "guy," but he quickly transitioned into sales and running the company. With some background knowledge in the IT/Network world, John accepted the transition, not knowing exactly what the AV world was all about. 

As Hometronix was growing rapidly year after year and not knowing what was next, John decided to make an offer to purchase the company along with some lifelong friends in December. John's goal was to build the right team and refocus the ownership role to creating the best culture possible as a leader versus a boss. In the last two months, Hometronix has added six new roles and continues to grow.

Interview Recap

  • The importance of creating a healthy culture 
  • How empowering your team can help with retention of talent and create a sense of trust within a team.
  • The benefits of loving what you do professionally and personally

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #205 An Industry Q&A with Travis leo

 

Transcript

Ron: Hello, Hello, Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today is Wednesday, March 9. And what I'm going to do first of all here is I'm just going to check into the platforms to make sure that we are, in fact, streaming. So bear with me here. Also, I'll look for David's queue that we are streaming into both platforms. I think I do see some people populate jumping in here into Facebook. If you're out there, tuned in, give us a like, give us a share. If you'd be so kind, drop down into the comments and tell us where you're coming to us from. I already see a bunch of comments here. It looks like that was on the original post, but yeah, it looks like we're coming in loud and clear. David says we are good on both platforms. So Hello, Facebook Land and hello, LinkedIn Land. Actually, I'm going to share something with you guys before I bring our awesome guest on. This kind of hit me; frankly, it was an epiphany right as I was logging in. So the piece of software that I use for doing this streaming it's a piece of software called Be Live, so B dot Live. What I had not fully maybe just realized, and I'm going to say those of us in America often live very sheltered, pampered lives, and we don't realize what people are going through around the world. I realized this software is actually from a Ukrainian company. So in my dashboard here, there's a link that says they are being severely affected by what's going on with the invasion of their country, is putting it lightly. So they did share a link here in the software, and I'm going to share that with David, and I'm going to ask David to drop that down into the social link so that you guys can check it out. Basically, in this link, they are showing you all the ways, from their perspective as tech industry folks in Ukraine, that you can help them, and you could help those affected in Ukraine with all of these awful circumstances. So just realized that as I logged in this morning to be here with you guys and gals, and I just wanted to share that, and we will share that resource. If you want to check that out, certainly feel free to. I'm sure if you go to the BeLive website as well, you'll probably find similar links and redirects to how you can help people in that space. But we are here, let's see, what show number is this? I'm actually not seeing this immediately in my notes. David chat with me over here in Slack. What show number are we doing here today? I know who my guest is, so don't worry, folks. I know who I've got on the show. We are show 206. So this is 206 of Automation Unplugged, and today I have the one and only John Campbell, owner and director of sales at HomeTroniX of Arkansas. And let's go ahead and bring John in. I know a lot of you are here, man. Look at these folks tuning in. They are here to meet the rock star that is John Campbell. So I'm going to get him on the screen, and we'll say hello. I just have to share with you, John. There's a message on LinkedIn from Chad Russell, director of sales over at Josh. And he goes, "Hey, Ron, I'm here for Aquaman." So is that your alter ego, Aquaman?

John: No, no, too small.

Ron: Too small? John, how are you, sir?

John: Man, wonderful, Ron. Thanks for having me on.

Ron: Hey, no, my pleasure. All right, well, tell us, who are you? Who is HomeTroniX? And maybe where are you coming to us from?

John: I'm coming live from Jonesboro, Arkansas. I'm John Campbell. I recently purchased HomeTroniX back in December, Christmas Eve, actually. I've been with the company since the original opening—employee number one. HomeTroniX is, I guess the best way to describe it, is HomeTroniX is everyone that works there, everybody that runs the company is a part of it. All the employees, sales, marketing, behind-the-scenes bookkeeping. That's who we are.

Ron: Man, the comments are coming in fast and furious. You warned me this might happen, but we're getting folks that are tuned in. They're saying they love the shirt. So thank you, Hannah. Sport the Dolly Part. Does that Dolly Parton shirt have some sentimental value to you, John?

John: No, I like Dolly; I like country music.

Ron: Okay, I dig the shirt. Well, I was born and raised in country music, that's for sure. That is for sure. Then Chad Russell is saying, "Mind blown." I think he loves the shirt. Oh, man, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to keep up with this chat stream. It's kind of bananas, but you got lots of love getting thrown your way out there, so that's pretty cool. Well, I have lots of directions I want to take this interview, but let's just start as I always do. Tell us about your background. Where did you come from?

John: Shoot. Where do I get started? Well, I came from a gravel road, a trailer in the woods, but I grew up working on a farm as a farmhand, not the farm owner. Just don't get it twisted. So then I guess right out of college, I went to work at a bank, kind of went around a few spots in the bank, started as like, a part-time teller in college, ended up working up to operations and kind of like the software side of the bank back end. I did not wear a Dolly Parton shirt to work back then. I actually had to wear a suit and had my hair cut short.

Ron: Yeah, I love it. I got to put this on screen. Ali is saying that you look like Jack Sparrow.

John: Not Johnny Depp, the character Jack Sparrow. I get it. So after I worked at the bank, I went to work for a small I.T. firm here in town; that, man, it was incredible. They kind of kick-started me into networking. Network engineering taught me a lot. A lot of credit goes out to them. Then I got an offer for the person that started HomeTroniX to come and work at HomeTroniX. I didn't know what it was. I didn't know anything about A.V. I didn't know what it was. I remember I kind of filled it out, and I came home, and I told my wife about it, and I just still remember her saying, "Are you going to be putting up satellite dishes everywhere?" "I was like, I don't even know. I don't even know.".

Ron: I can imagine her asking, "Are you going to be the cable guy."

John: Like Jim Carrey, yeah.

Ron: Exactly.

John: I just remember thinking, I have no idea. I remember saying, "how many people? is this even popular?" And I was like, I don't even know. So probably put it off for about two or three months and finally decided just to take it and run with it. I remember day one, typical A.V. story. I had no idea what I was doing—supposed to start small, just me. I think I've told you the story before, how the first job I went to, I didn't even know anything about wiring. Actually, it's still there in this house. I pulled direct burial cable wire for speakers in the home through the ceilings.

Ron: I just ordered a bunch of that for my own home. And I can tell you that's an expensive wire.

John: The big spool, I put it, like on a Rod and just me pulling it all through this house. The house is still running great.

Ron: Even if it rains and it has a roof leak, that wire is good.

John: Yeah, absolutely, they're great, waterproofed.

Ron: Nicely waterproofed. All right, so you started that was back in 2013?

John: 13, yeah.

Ron: Okay, and then bring us to the present, like, what is all the roles and duties and responsibilities you've had since then?

John: All of them? So like I said, I started as a pre-wire guy. They knew that futuristically, I was going to move into sales. I remember they sat down, and they're like, "I think in six months you can do it." Six months and I was like, of course, I can do this in six months. Six months is a long time. I remember six months in; I was like, I don't know shit, like anything, I don't know anything. I don't know any of the products. I don't even know why I pulled wire. It was probably a year before I got into probably actually pitching my first sale. I was doing service work, bidding, things I didn't even know what to do, helping with invoicing, running service calls.

Ron: At that time, were you running the business or were you kind of just jumping in wherever the business needed you or how did that work?

John: Anywhere I need it, then probably within a year, I kind of gotten segmented into where I started to learn a little bit more about the business and how it works. The process of start to finish, sign on to sign off, training the client, invoicing the job, helping with inventory, step one to step 100. Then this past December kind of came around to where I got an opportunity to offer to buy the company. I took that with a couple of friends, lifelong friends not in the A.V. industry, and that took place on December 24. It's been wild ever since.

Ron: That sounds like that December decision was probably terribly exciting and terribly terrifying. I'm betting all wrapped into one. Tell us, how did you feel when you were ultimately signing on the paper?

John: I guess I don't think things through quite like normal people do.

Ron: Okay.

John: I wasn't really nervous just because I've been doing it so long, and I kind of knew the industry, knew what to do. Then the guys I went into business with both have construction backgrounds. They had already had successful companies in construction. So it's a really good fit for kind of our split of residential, commercial what we do in A.V. So it just worked, and it's been working. Shoot, it's only been two months.

Ron: So far, so good.

John: Feels like a year.

Ron: Yeah. Well, welcome to entrepreneurship. You're drinking from a fire hose, I'm sure. There's a post here from Joshua James. He says, "Where is the wall stretcher?".

John: That's an old joke. That's a very old joke. Josh was one of the first HomeTroniX hires that I made. Very handsome man, very brilliant, Super, super good guy, knows a lot of stuff. He's the guy that you go out there, and if you forgot something, he just makes it work. He's the guy that just doesn't stress out. He just makes everything. One of the best techs I've ever met. Great friend, great dude. Still works with us day in and day out. Awesome guy; I couldn't pick a better person than that guy. But one of his first days, I asked him to go in the back. Wall stretchers is just a word I made up and asked him to go find it. He just spent like an hour back there looking for it. That's the culture we have, man. It's really serious.

Ron: All right. Paul Osteen from Unlimited out of Houston. He says, "Yo." And then he says, "Ask about Miley." Is she your favorite singer?

John: Yeah. Do you know Paul and his wife, Carrie?

Ron: Oh, yeah, I know them well.

John: He and Carrie in Nashville sang "Party In The USA" that last night, that little get-together we had. I don't know if you made it. Did you see Chad Russell singing rapping that night?

Ron: I watched the video.

John: Yeah, I'm the one with the video.

Ron: I saw your video recording of him rapping.

John: We had the band play "Party In The USA." It's my favorite Miley Cyrus song.

Ron: Got it, and I don't know if you're serious or not.

John: I am, she's my favorite singer.

Ron: Okay, all right. Any other Miley Cyrus fans out there, speak up. You've got your number one evangelist for Molly here or Miley, not Molly, Miley. By the way, we have Steve tuning in from Kenya. What's up, dude? Good to see you. Thank you for tuning in. I appreciate you. All right, I think we're going to get... Candace is like; he's serious. This is John's wife; she's like, no, Miley's where it's at. So tell me, I know it's only been a couple of months, but you're having a lot of success hiring right now. You are hiring, and you are growing. I know it's a secret. Well, see, we don't have the largest audience, so I think your secret is still safe. But the folks tuning in, they're hearing this. Can you talk about just kind of your framework? How are you thinking about growing your team? Why are people choosing HomeTroniX over probably many other options? I mean, everybody we know out there is trying to hire.

John: I think it just comes from being, I guess, in the show and learning just over the years in A.V. Everybody's hiring. It seems like to me this is probably everywhere we go, every conference we go to, as well as I do, one of the biggest things is how do you hire good people? I think there's such a good mix of hiring talent, which is extremely hard to do. We've been very fortunate in hiring some people back that we lost prior. I think it's just really, from a leadership standpoint, showing people that you want to work for them. Being an owner/operator, I think in A.V. is a big deal. I think empowering people is one of the biggest things that gets almost a misconception. People forget that everybody wants to feel important. I think that's one thing; we practice what we preach. We always tell everybody that we work for them. I work for everybody that works under us. I just have my name on the ownership papers; that's it. Other than that, I'm a tech. I'm still a pre-wire guy. That's the only difference; I'm still a salesperson. Everything we ask them to do, we also do. So that's a big part of our success is just being open, being honest, being ourselves. Maybe not trying so much to sell the employees, but obviously, money matters. You want to pay people what they're worth, paying people what they're worth, and empowering them and trying to create the best culture we can, a place where people want to come to work. Probably one of our biggest goals of ownership as a company is just seeing people happy and seeing people thankful and appreciative to come to work. I think it's a big deal.

Ron: Your wife tuned in, and she says people are the best investment. She gets it, and then McKenzie on Team One Firefly, she says, "I built your site, your website. Working with you and your team was an incredibly pleasant experience. Everyone was kind, easy-going and responsive. I'm sure HomeTroniX is an amazing place to work." Thank you, Kenzie, for tuning in. That's awesome, that is awesome. So when you think of company culture, cause it sounds to me like you're describing your culture. And I recently, where was I? I was at a conference. Where was I? I was at the NSCA BLC Business Leaders Conference for NSCA, and there was a speaker on stage. They had some amazing speakers, and there was a speaker on stage that was talking about brand and the blending of brand and a company culture. Her comment was that you don't want a good culture as a business because what is a good culture? Like no one's going to tell you they want a bad culture, so everyone's going to say a good culture. Her comment was, you want a unique culture. You want to be truly you, and you want everyone on your team to identify with that culture, and you want to know who you are, and you want your team to know who you are and to know what they're a part of. How would you define the culture that you hope to build? You are building you're actively building right now, and if we had talked to you two years from now, you will have fully built out as now the owner-operator of the business. How would you describe that?

John: I think relaxed, fun. I think open communication. Let's just say if I put a quote out, I don't think I'm the all-knowing of everything A.V., and I don't pretend to be. I think just being uniquely yourself and going to whoever you're assigning that job to and saying, "You want to look at this? Do you have enough hours on this job? Is it going to put you in any kind of stressful situation? Do you see anything missing? Do you think that anything that causes a problem?" Making people feel like they're part of the entire process instead, that if there's a door between you. I hate to say open-door policy because it seems like I just sit in an office. I don't even have an office right now; I just share an office. I'm sure the person that I share the office with is insanely unhappy about it. I just feel like being having an open work environment where everybody feels like they don't have to walk on eggshells. I mean, I think a lot of people go to work, and they're unhappy because they can't be themselves. I think being themselves is incredibly important, and that's really what we practice. A lot of our guys may come to work in a backwards hat, and we're like, it's cool. We're not trying to create such a loose culture that no one does their job, but we want people to be happy and be able to be themselves. I think people give you their best effort when they don't have to feel like they're walking on eggshells.

Ron: Yeah, I think there's a lot to that. I think if you can make a workplace fun and comfortable where people can be themselves, I think they'll give you the best. They'll be the best for themselves, and they'll be the best for the place that they're working at. For sure, everybody wins. What would you call success? Again, I'm kind of pulling this thread of you're the new owner now, you worked on the company, and now you own this thing. What are your goals for the next year? Let's make it short-term, next twelve months. What do you hope to achieve?

John: I would love to see; I think we've made six new hires in the past month. I would like to see those project managers take the previous person's job. I would like to see the new guys replace themselves in the next year, and they'll be a level two tech versus coming in with no experience. Then we actually recently hired a salesperson, and this will be, I guess I would say, other than me, it would be HomeTroniX first ever salesperson.

Ron: You deserve a hand. That's not easily done; I remember for myself the day when I hired that first salesperson. It was a big deal.

John: Yeah, and it was actually a referral from my wife, which was great. So I hope that maybe she kind of takes over my position as the lead salesperson. That would be my short-term goal. Really to see everybody with a smile and face coming to work. I mean, I know it's not every day, and that's really optimistic to think that, but if there's problems, you know, they can come to us and talk to us openly about them, but just be happy to say where they work. I think it's a big deal.

Ron: Yeah, I don't think it's realistic nose, my wires hanging out of my head here. I don't think it's realistic to think that everybody comes to work every day with a smile and it's rainbows, and it's perfect. But at the same time, it should be fun and rewarding and challenging and a fun, safe environment to work.

John: It's got its everyday struggles.

Ron: It's real. It's life. You know life isn't perfect; everybody has storm clouds on occasion. You just gotta push through.

John: A very funny; I guess it was really empowering to hear your; I remember I don't know who you were on, I think you were on with Michael Restrepo, and I think you told your story about your first day with Creston. That is a story I told you the first time I met you; that really meant a lot to me, your story. I feel like everyone should know that story. Would you tell that?

Ron: Well, yeah. I got to remember what version I told Restrepo, but I gave the framework. I had worked at Lutron for three years, and Lutron, as a young College recruit, they train you for six months in all facets of the company before you ever talk to your first customer. So I came from that corporate environment where there's a tremendous amount of training because there's a very particular company way of doing things and of talking about things and of talking to the customer. Ultimately, when I made the decision to leave Lutron, I wanted to go to an environment where I could at that time, and the way that comp model worked, Crestron offered a more advantageous model. If I was willing to go out and hustle, then I thought I could make more money going back to 2003, so I made the decision to leave. So on a Friday, I was working at Lutron, and on a Monday, I was at Crestron, except Monday was CEDIA. So my first day, I'm like, there's no way they're going to let me talk to customers. I don't know anything about anything about anything with these thousands of products in their product line up.

John: Oh, my gosh.

Ron: No. I was a territory manager covering South Florida, covering Orlando, the East Coast of Florida and the Caribbean. And on Monday at CEDIA or whatever, that was Monday or Tuesday, whatever that week was of the CEDIA show, I was there live on the floor and calling on customer, or the customers were there for me to speak to and "Oh, my God," talk about drinking from a fire hose. There was no rulebook, there was no manual, there was no training. There was "Here, go sell, and if you don't, you're fired." If you don't sell enough or hit your quotas, you'll be out of here. Maybe it wasn't that harsh, but that was kind of what it was like. Fortunately, I'm a hard worker, and I'm not afraid to ask questions. I'm not afraid to ask people for help, ad my coworkers at that time I'm thinking Josh Dean was a technical director in Florida and John Gudicunst was the sales director in Florida, and they all leaned in and helped me out, and I persevered, but it was darn frightening, for sure.

John: Wow, I love it. That's great.

Ron: Is that the version of the story you remember?

John: I remember that, and I just wondered if, like, because there's a lot of nerds and they're going to ask you about products. So I just wondered if people were coming up and being like, "Hey, what's the best conference room solution?" You're like, "Yeah.".

Ron: "I don't even know what we sell yet." No, I don't think it was that bad. But here's my rule of sales; is you never have to have the answer. You just have to hear them and commit to getting them the answers to the questions they have and then actually do that. So if you can get them the answers, and in the case of working on a floor at a trade show, get them to the people that have the answers or take down their information and get them the answers afterward, I would call that success. I think that's what you want when someone's calling on you or trying to sell you some product or service, and I'm imagining what your customers would want. So I'll flip the question on you. What do you think makes a good salesperson in this space?

John: Boy, I told you, I'm uniquely me all the time. So when I was hired, I'm very new in training a salesperson. I told her day one, I looked right at her and luckily it didn't scare her off. But I said, "Look, I've never trained a salesperson. I've trained a lot of techs, but this side of me, I've never trained." I told her my story that I just told you about. I just got thrown into it; here's a 13,000-square-foot house. Go wire it. We got two-channel channels in all these rooms; we got left and right. And I'm like, "I don't even know what that is." I just got this big spool of wire, and I'm supposed to go put it in the right spots. So basically, I think it's just being a wealth of knowledge for all the questions that she has. Being there to answer all the questions all the time, as long, I would say, for the first year, because there's so many things, there's so many revenues of what we do. We do; typical A.V. speakers, T.V.s, video walls, security cameras, exterior shading, we're really big with interior designers. I saw one, made a comment, Mariana.

Ron: "Did I miss the good part yet?" All right, Mariana, I'm putting you on screen here. "Did I miss the good part yet?".

John: No. All of it is going to be good.

Ron: All of it is going to be good.

John: Yeah. So I guess just being a really big, like you said, basically the Lutron style of being supportive, getting them to ask questions, don't hold back. If it's 10:00 at night, if it's 04:00 in the morning, and something comes into their head, take that text, take that call, be supportive of the person you want to take your position. Otherwise, you're just shooting in the wind.

Ron: The customers that come back to you, you have repeat customers, I'm assuming, at HomeTroniX.

John: Yes. Thank goodness.

Ron: Thank goodness. Thank God. Why do they come back?

John: I think communication, good service, open-ended on the front end. Honesty, I think that's probably your biggest one. Communication is probably the biggest one. Being there when they call, I think service is a big deal. I mean, people are buying not just a product. I mean, I would say we typically don't ever even name products whenever we pitch an idea; we don't really throw out products. Like, I hope my vendors aren't mad that I'm saying that, but customers, I just don't feel like customers really care. They just want to know a solution to their problem, a solution to what they want in their home, and then they want to you to offer them options. They don't want you just to go in and talk and tell them how everything is. I think whenever somebody's, whether it's building a home or build a business or working with a designer or an architect, they just want to know all the things you do, where you could implement the stuff you do to make it cool. I mean, really, at the end of the day, we're just doing a lot of cool shit.

Ron: We do. One of your staff just jumped in. I mean, my goodness. Tyler goes, "Hey, John, it's your favorite employee, working hard for your brother. Love you." He literally just said he's working hard while he's on this, while he's on social media watching you.

John: Cool, man. He's supportive. We're supportive; there we go.

Ron: I love it. All right, so I'm going to pull the thread, your new salesperson; I see her name is Ashton, and I'm looking over here at your Instagram. I'm going to put that on the screen here in a few minutes. So what is your game panel? I'm sure there's plenty of people tuned in, like, really leaning in when you say you hired a salesperson, you're a high-performing salesperson. It's just kind of your nature. You don't work at it; it just happens. How are you thinking about, I'm talking about the tactics. What are you doing? Like, how do you think about empowering Ashton to succeed? Like, do you send her to school? Do you send her to some sales courses? What do you think she should be doing, or what is she doing right now?

John: I don't think what I do is much of a typical sales approach. Like I said, we're kind of more of a lifestyle game. I don't really believe. I mean, I'm sure there is a lot of great schools and things, but what we're doing right now is she's just pairing with me for, I thought, six months, but would be the goal. But she's kind of already out on her own a little bit.

Ron: Has she made any sales yet? No pressure, Ashton.

John: One for one.

Ron: What? All right, tell us that success story. Let's make this big news.

John: Yeah. So she told me two Fridays ago, she was like, I know we've looked, and I know you don't want me to go, have to be thrown out to the Wolves, and you've been really supportive of that and being there. She goes back, really, I don't want you to do it, but I think I'm starting to get it. The way you present, the way you talk to people, just kind of listening and not really having a game because I don't really ever have a plan. Every meeting is different, and so she went on a Friday afternoon to talk about, in Arkansas and a lot of places, I guess, where you're at too. We have a lot of like mosquitoes, and it's really hot in the summer, a lot of bugs, wonderful environment.

Ron: You're really painting a pretty picture of Arkansas right now.

John: Yeah.

Ron: I live about 5 miles from the Everglades. So what you're describing is my backyard.

John: Right. So we sell a lot of these outdoor motorized screens, and we deal with a company out of Dallas called Universal Screens; little plug there, great people, awesome owner, good friend. We can motorize seal them down. This couple wanted to talk about it, and she went out there and led the presentation. I did the quote; you can't expect her to have all those things in two weeks. Then Friday afternoon, they accepted it. So statistics weren't on her side, but it worked out. So pretty pumped. She was pumped; we were stoked.

Ron: Ashton, I see you. This is her, Ashton Young. She dropped a comment. She said, "Hanging with him, hanging with John every day, watching what he's doing." How did that feel, Ashton? Drop into the comments, making that first sale. I'm sure anybody here that makes sales or does selling for a living, you know there's a high there when you get a "yes" from the customer.

John: We were all as a team, really excited. It was really cool because everyone both of my business partners, Alicia, I saw Alicia come in on here. She runs everything for us. She's one of my business partners' wives and a good friend; she's unreal. I actually went to business with her, and it's kind of the joke; she's the bomb. But everyone reached out, and congratulated her. So that's part of what we're doing. It's just empowering people, and I didn't do it; she did it.

Ron: There it is. She responded. Let's see, here's what she says. She says, "So rewarding. J.C. is the best in the business.".

John: You know anybody else? J.C.? Let me think. Who she's talking about?

Ron: Yeah. Who J.C.?

John: Do we know someone?

Ron: Well, there is if you're into religion, there's a J.C.

John: There is.

Ron: That's awesome. Well, Congrats, Ashton. That's pretty cool.

John: Really, I don't have; I'll be straight up. I don't have the best plan. All I know how to do is say, "Hey, look, I'm trying to introduce them. I'm trying to introduce the sales piece take it best. Nothing wrong with Silver.

Ron: That's good.

John: Oh, my gosh, that's good. But no, I don't really have a plan. I think it's just taking her out, introducing her to my network, teaching her how to build a network, building her own network. Obviously, there's going to be a lot of failure. There's going to be a lot of those, and I think that that's something to really be high on is saying, look, a lot of "no's" are going to, you know, ten no's to get to one, yes. There's some kind of theory. I don't know that I believe in it, but what is it? No, no and one yes? Is that what it is?

Ron: Yeah. Getting a no, you can think about it from a framework, that that's great because that gets you closer to the next, Yes. So this is your brother, maybe?

John: I don't have a brother.

Ron: Taylor Campbell says, "I noticed your shirt sleeves are riding up because of your biceps. Do you happen to do CrossFit?".

John: Can we talk about it?

Ron: Yeah, go for it, man. Let's talk about your biceps.

John: I don't really have a plan, but just empowering, being there, support. That's all you can really do because I don't think you can really teach someone. They have to figure it out on their own. I really think that you can just be supportive, be there to be like the knowledge base and just keep people positive. Probably a bad way to be a salesperson or teach a salesperson is to come in and beat them down every morning and tell them how great you are and then be like, "good luck." My first thing was like, "Don't be me. I don't know what I do right, what I do wrong." We'll figure it out in a year when you're ready to train somebody, what you thought I did right, what you thought I did wrong and make it a success. I don't know that you can teach passion, but that's kind of what we sell.

Ron: So let's take a pivot to the design community. You and your business are friends with the design community, and you do business development; you think about the design community as your friends, your partners to grow together in the marketplace. Can you kind of speak to that approach?

John: Yeah, I just think from the whole design-build process, I can give Crestron a little plug here. We do a lot of Crestron. We're always kind of lifestyle-oriented versus just product sales. I mean, there's just a lot of different things in A.V. and the tech world. We do know a lot about the products, but I think solutions is kind of where we're headed. I just feel like when you go into a home, and we did it enough where you go into a home, and you have all these different categories and subs on a job, who's making the decisions? Is the homeowner making the decision? Is the custom home builder making the decision? Is the architect making the decision? Is the designer making the decision? A lot of times if you're building a custom home, you're not expecting it to be ugly. Designers and architects, and custom home builders make those things beautiful. They create beautiful spaces. So why we don't want to go in and be like, hey, I know you have this beautiful, clean-lined room with all this modern furniture. What if we throw a big subwoofer right in the middle? Would that be great? They're going to be like, no, that's not going to be great. So we just thought about what's the best way to create clean lines, square room and make things pretty, make things go away to suit. If there is a designer, if there is an architect that has a plan, you don't want to go in there and be the person that messes up that plan, and it's been received well. So that's kind of our approach to the design community is we work together, we work hand in hand, and if you can create that relationship and you are on the same page, the end product seems to be better.

Ron: Do you call on them? Do you go to their offices and teach them about the latest products or the latest this or that? Do you do outreach, education? How do you build or forge those relationships?

John: So a lot of it comes in person. Whenever we're building a new house, one thing I always ask on the front end, on a building, a bank, anything we do. Are you working with an architect, or are you working with a designer? And if they are just like the builder, the electrician, I'll just start on the front and get all their contacts. I'll call them, and I'll say, hey, we love working with designers. We don't want to step on your toes; I'd love to come to meet with you, get your ideas on the space, make sure that we're creating the same ideas and spaces that you foresee in the end of this. Then also we go in, and we try to put our products if they have a design studio. Mariana, for instance, was on there. She's actually Oday Studios. We just did a conference room set up at her design studio in Little Rock. We did some Crestron Horizon Switches, some air media stuff. So whenever clients come in, she can show her designs and integrate that with technology. We do a lot of interior shading, so that's a big help. We're able to offer a lot of interior motorized and non-motorized options. So that's just in that world, and everybody needs shade and being able to produce books to hand designers where they can pick on, it actually makes my life a lot easier.

Ron: What keeps you up at night right now?

John: I'm pretty wired.

Ron: Are you up most nights?

John: Yeah. Not a lot of worry, really, just excitement in what we're doing. I'm always excited for the next day to get up and meet someone new, meet a new designer, meet a new builder, meet a new client, go into a new business and just talk about what we do. I feel like what we do is so exciting and so cool this far into it. Again, I'm only ten years in; I just feel like it's so cool, and it's getting cooler. I look forward to conferences with industry leaders to learn from them. I'm just always ready for the next thing. I'm just always excited; I'm excited to train people, and I'm excited to hire the next person.

Ron: Are you heading out to shows coming up? Prosource is going on this week, Azione is coming up, HTSA, Infocomm. All this stuff is coming up in the coming months.

John: Infocomm, I think, because the whole commercial world with what we do is big. I've been before; I like that one. Is it in Vegas?

Ron: I want to say we're showing at the show. I think it's in Vegas this year. I think it's in Vegas. We're going! We've attempted to have a booth at Infocomm in the last two years, and because of this COVID craziness, it hasn't happened. So this is the year, in June in Vegas, One Firefly is going to have a booth there.

John: Awesome, man. I'm proud!

Ron: You got to go, and then we'll do a live right there from the show.

John: I'm down.

Ron: Let's talk social media.

John: Okay!

Ron: You guys, you and your wife or you tell me how who does what or why you do it. I'm going to share the screen here. But you guys, I'm sharing your Instagram at the moment. You guys have 444 people following you, but you guys are posting pretty regularly. Why do you do that, and how do you do it?

John: I don't really do any of that. I take some of the photos. I take some of those photos. Not enough, but I should take more. I did not take that first one. That one's too good for me to take credit for that one. So I think the way that we look at social media, my wife loves social media. She actually teaches high school chemistry and biology. So she does it in her, I guess, downtime from that, being a mother, putting up with me. I think that with the way we look at it is one, It's huge I mean, most people, when they look for a company, they look to social media first. We obviously have our website is pretty good. I'm trying to figure out who did it.

Ron: I don't know. It's like Dragon Flies?

John: No, I'm kidding; you guys did awesome! We love our website. I'm really proud of it. It's really good, and we get a lot of good leads off that. The one thing I'll say that you've done well for us, like a really big thing, is the Google review link that you guys did for us. I love that. But I think what it does is everybody tends to have this idea of a website that it has to be perfect. When I tell people, "Hey, here's my contact. Our website is really awesome; go check it out. You can look at our Google reviews," and I say, "Also, our social media links are attached because that's who we are." You can go out and see some of the stupid things we do, some of the real projects, because whenever we get there when I show up to a job, people feel like they know me. If they've seen me on this, if they've seen me on another podcast or a little talk show thing, they feel like they know exactly who I am and what I stand for. They feel like they know our guys when they show up and they see some of the stuff they do because maybe in the presentation you forget some of it, and they go, and they're like, "Oh, man, I didn't know you guys did this projector that drops down where we can cover all of our windows and create like almost a media room because we don't have one." You can't put all of that on a website, you can't put all of your applications on a website in live view, and you can't put all of that in your showroom because... Wait, I'm sorry, some people do all of those things in the showroom, but for us, it's just not practical. Showing a bank conference room or an SEC school's touch screen video wall or an interior shading project or a lighting control project, you can show all those things and people are like, "Oh, my gosh, this is so cool. I didn't even know I needed shades. I didn't know I needed a touchscreen video wall.".

Ron: When you're posting on Instagram or Facebook, who's your audience? Who are you trying to get that content in front of? I'm going to lead the witness here. It's probably not other integrators. No, I'm really not trying to target other integrators to impress them. I have a lot of inspiration from other integrators, so don't get that twisted. I'm in the position I am from a lot of close friends in the industry that have driven me to where I am right now and influenced me. But I think it's everyone. I think it's anyone that we could create a solution for, whether it be a patio. Somebody has a great patio, but it catches a lot of sun, and they're like, "Man, I wish we had a way that this space is usable twelve months a year or nine months a year." They say, "Oh, this company does. I saw on this company, Facebook or Instagram, that they did. They do these outdoor motorized screens that block 95% of the sun when they're down." Now people can use their outdoor kitchens or their outdoor grills, and they enjoy their space or they have a space that they want to turn into a media room that overlooks a beautiful scene, but they don't want to take away their windows. They want to be able to have a drop-down screen and drop-down projector when they want to watch a cool movie. That's kind of how we target everybody.

Ron: How do you think about being on social media as HomeTroniX verses as John Campbell?

John: You follow me on both

Ron: I do follow you on both, and I know there's a dichotomy there. There are some differences. So I'd love to hear you describe that and to let the audience know that that's normal and okay.

John: It kind of started as a joke, it wasn't really making fun of someone, but I was late to getting on Instagram personally. I just didn't feel like I had the time, and I'll probably get called out here in a minute. So my wife, I just kind of joke at our gym. I was always cued on taking, and I'm not any type of photographer. It's not anything I even do. But they're always like, ¨John, take a picture after a workout," my wife would always be like, "Hey, can you take this picture for me? Can you do this?" Then I just kind of created this whole joke that I was like an Instagram husband on my personal Instagram. So basically my Instagram, I just kind of like take photos of her and post them, and it's just kind of a running joke in our house. It's just really the only things I do other than A.V. is hang out with my wife and my kids. Then I have like a gym family, we all work out together, and it's just the things I love, I just really practice the things that I love.

Ron: Your wife is making sure everyone knows that she does not manage your personal Instagram. She is distancing herself from any of that content.

John: She does not manage that material. You can tell from the camera angles that it is me. So I just post the things and do the things that I love, and those are the things I love. I love being in this career. I love getting up and doing this every day, and I love my family. That's pretty much my entire life.

Ron: Well, I think the fact that you know what you love and you're doing what you love, I think that says a lot about you and is a lot of the reason you are so successful in work and personal life, which is pretty amazing. I'll give another shout-out. We have another comment. Drew says, "First rule of CrossFit is to always be talking about CrossFit."

John: That's my first Crestron rep, and he's really probably my friend first. Anybody that we're a vendor of, man, they're friends first. And he's a really good friend. He's a close friend. We talk almost every day. He may say differently, but he's probably like, "Oh, gosh, now?" anytime I call, but he's a good dude. I really love that guy.

Ron: Everybody tuned in in the A.V. integration space, and I know you've got a lot of friends and family and maybe folks that aren't in this industry, but our industry right now, there's peak levels of demand, and there are peak challenges on supply. I won't name names of brands, but I'm going to give an interesting stat, and the manufacturer may start with a C and end with an on.

John: Drew just commented.

Ron: We love Drew, though. But now here's the interesting stat. So I was talking to some folks at that company, at Crestron, and they were saying what many people don't know is they've actually shipped more product right now this time than they did last year at this time. I'm hearing that, by the way, across multiple manufacturers that are having challenges getting products. There could be a perception that we just aren't able to get products produced, but that isn't true. We are producing products. We're actually shipping more products than we've ever shipped in the history of the company. There's just peak levels of demand, and so there's misalignment, but nonetheless, it does hurt. How are you guys handling that, or what are you... When you put your ear to the tracks, you look the year ahead. What are you thinking is the case for the year ahead?

John: I don't think anyone was prepared, I would say, prepared for the shipping demands. It's really hiring, and shipping and delays is the whole industry talk; basically, right now, it's all I hear. I mean, I live it, so I know it and it's really hard to stay up whenever that's all you hear. But I think one thing is; I didn't come up with this; I learned this from our vendors. But setting expectations on the front end, which is hard because you're selling passion, you're selling cool things; you're selling solutions. You got people excited because that's what we do. We get people excited, and they want all of these cool things. Then you have to follow up with, "When will we get it?" And you're like...

Ron: I've sold you on the dream, but I can't tell you when I can deliver that dream.

John: I don't know. So I think basically setting expectations on the front end, as soon as we can, we'll give you an ETA on shipping. One thing I will say a couple of our vendors did. One is he told me on the front end, he was like, "Look, you need to make these orders," and it's tough. I mean, it's tough, especially as a new business owner and say, "Hey, you need to place, you're doing this amount, this is what you're doing. This is what you did last year; we're looking at your numbers. You're doing more sales than you've ever done. You need to place a $120,000 stock order for six months, eight months a year from now." You think as a small business owner what that does to your mind. I don't even think like that. I don't even think about how to do things like that. You just got to put faith in who you put faith in and your vendors and hope they're leading you down the right path and just follow the trend. Let them look at your trend and say, "Hey, here's what we feel like you need to do." We don't have a lot of vendors; we don't deal with a lot of different vendors. Like I said, most of our vendors we are personally friends with them. We personally know them. They know who I am, they know who we are as a company, and that's what we do; we just follow their lead.

Ron: I love that. I know when you introduce yourself to me and we didn't know each other, and you said, "Ron, you don't know me, but you need to know me, and I need to know you, let's go." We just sat there and just shot the shit and just talked about life and business and everything in between. It was a lot of fun.

John: I think you were literally in a meeting at a table. You were supposed to go lead a meeting, and you were like, "I got to stay here.".

Ron: That's right. No, people matter. At the end of the day, it's people doing business with people. Just for Drew, and Drew is with Crestron, he goes, "he's backing up the stats." So I've heard the version of the stat. He says that we shipped 15% more product on February 22 then February 21. I was thinking that was a date, that was a year. On February 22 compared to February 21, but the reality is the demand is two to three X. It's outrageous levels of demand, which bodes well if you're in this industry, man, 20 years ago, when I joined the space, I felt it was a hot space. Here we are 20 years later, and my goodness, it's only getting hotter and more demand.

John: Yeah, I will back up saying, the good thing is it's getting more understood because of appliances and furniture, I think are really two big ones. If somebody's ordering a custom couch, oh, my goodness, or appliances, it's crazy. I mean, windows for houses. You're seeing it everywhere on the whole shipping demand. So it's not as hard as it would be if it was just us because you can go in and say shipping demands and they're like, "Oh, I know, I get it. I understand." That's really cool when you get to deal with people like that that are just like, "Oh, I know," and we're lucky to have the clients we have. I think anybody that has clients should be very appreciative. But we are lucky to have the clients we have that are understanding.

Ron: Yeah, and Drew is pointing out, he said, "and cars." I've seen on social media pictures of, like, Ford manufacturing card lots where they have like whatever 10,000 Mustangs that they can't ship off the car lots cause it's missing a chip or some piece of plastic, and it's not done yet. So, yeah, it's challenging out there. John, I speak for my team and everyone that knows you and support you, and we're proud of you stepping into that ownership position. We're all rooting for your success, and we all got your back. So we're looking forward to watching you continue to thrive and succeed. Thank you for joining us on Show 206 of Automation Unplugged. For those that want to follow you directly or follow your business, what are the handles that you'd put out there?

John: For our business, Facebook and Instagram is Myhometronix870. I'm going to be really embarrassed if my wife comments on here; "That's not it!".

Ron: No, I've got it up here. Myhometronix870. I'm assuming 870 is the local area code?

John: Area code, right!

Ron: Yeah, got it. Okay, and I got to put this on the screen. Hannah says she is so proud of you.

John: She's a wonderful human being. She works in our operations, that's her husband, he was one of the best techs in the industry. I actually referred him to come on your show. He's brilliant.

Ron: Let's make it happen. Dustin, your people, talk to my people. Let's get you on here.

John: He worked with me for several years, and he now manages Listen Up in the Springs, Colorado Springs.

Ron: Awesome! John, thank you, sir. Thanks for coming on the show, man. It was a blast.

John: Yeah, man. Thanks for having me.

Ron: All right, folks, there you have it. The one and only John Campbell. He is now owner and director of sales at HomeTroniX, there in Arkansas. HomeTroniX are longtime clients of One Firefly. We've enjoyed watching them grow and prosper. I only personally got to meet John last year. He came and introduced himself; good on him. He came and introduced himself to me at the Azione conference in Nashville. We were able to spend some time, and I've been able to learn more about him and kind of his life and business and ambitions over the last year, and it's been a lot of fun to watch. So good people, I love supporting good people, I love keeping good people close. That's what life is all about. So on that note, if you haven't already done so, please follow the podcast. You can subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcast wherever you like to tune into your podcast, content or platform. I know personally, I use Apple Podcast, and if you need anything from One Firefly, that is my day job; when I'm not podcasting and feel free to visit us at onefirefly.com. I will see you all next week. See you soon, folks.

SHOW NOTES:

John was hired as the first employee when Hometronix was gearing up to open in 2013. His primary role was serving as a prewire "guy," but he quickly transitioned into sales and running the company. With some background knowledge in the IT/Network world, John accepted the transition, not knowing exactly what the AV world was all about. 

As Hometronix was growing rapidly year after year and not knowing what was next, John decided to make an offer to purchase the company along with some lifelong friends in December. John's goal was to build the right team and refocus the ownership role to creating the best culture possible as a leader versus a boss. In the last two months, Hometronix has added six new roles and continues to grow.

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:

John can be reached directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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