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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 #210: An Industry Q&A with Tobi Tungl

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Tobi Tungl, Vice President of Sales, North America at Epiphan Video shares how he uses and leverages Twitter to connect with his industry.

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #210: An Industry Q&A with Tobi Tungl

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Tobi Tungl. Recorded live on Wednesday, April 20th, 2022, at 12:30 pm. EST.

About Tobi Tungl

Tobi began his professional career in the IT world during the dot-com boom (and crash). In 2005, he jumped from IT to the AV industry. Since then, he has helped grow system integrator organizations by creating and implementing client retention strategies to drive top-line revenue and open new physical locations across the US.  

In 2022, Tobi joined Epiphan Video as Vice President of Sales, North America. He is responsible for managing all brands, distribution channels, and sales deployment in North America. In addition, he develops strategic sales objectives based on company goals to promote growth and customer satisfaction for the organization. Tobi is an entrepreneurial, development and profit-oriented leader who communicates an innovative vision for the future and inspires his team to execute the transformation.

Interview Recap

  • How Tobi uses and leverages Twitter to connect with his industry
  • The current state of UCC solutions in the Pro AV space
  • The mind and body health of an ultra athlete
  • The importance of building and curating your network

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #209 An Industry Q&A with Tomas Wing

 

Transcript

Ron:  Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today is Wednesday, April 20th, 2022. It is 12:38 p.m. Yes, we are a couple of minutes late. That's because going live is always fun because sometimes we live by the edge of our seat, and we live on the edge, and technology doesn't always cooperate. Most of the time, it's me or my Internet. In this case, it was our guest and his Internet. It's funny; Comcast decided to do construction in his neighborhood. What they did is they checked our social media to learn about when Automation Unplugged would be going live. They said, "Now, let's start digging." But the good news is we're back and better than ever. Let's see if we are, in fact, streaming live. So bear with me here. Just going to check all my feeds going to look for my feedback from David. He says we are live on both; I love it when technology behaves. So I will mention for anyone tuning in with me live or in replay over the next 24 hours, join us back here on our One Firefly Facebook page tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., or you can also see the same live feed tomorrow on LinkedIn if you follow me, Ron, Callis. If you don't follow me, go to LinkedIn and find me and that's Ron Callis and try to connect to me; I'll accept, and you'll be able to see us at One Firefly as we launch or start the process of announcing some new products and services that we're excited about. We've been working on them for quite a while. So that will be tomorrow, Thursday, the 21st, and I would love you to see that announcement live. But today, we are here for show number 210. I just was pondering April 2022. It's actually our five-year anniversary of Automation Unplugged, ladies and gentlemen. So we've actually been doing this show now for five years. Here in this celebration month, we have show number 210, and today we have Tobi Tungl, Vice President of Sales for North America, at Epiphan Video. Without further Ado, let's bring in Tobi. Tobi, how are you, sir?

Tobi: I'm doing better now that my Internet is back up and running. I've bribed the local Comcast guy with a case of beer, and hopefully, he leaves me alone for the next couple of hours.

Ron:  I was going to say, what did it take? Because you ran out of the house, for those that are watching, we were connected for a while, and then he went away, and he called me like, "Wait, I got to go do something. I'll be right back." It was a six-pack, got him to leave the property for a little bit.

Tobi: It was almost a case of beer. I bought it a couple of days ago. I may or may not have had a couple over the last couple of days and just threw it in the back of his truck and said, "Look, go have a fun afternoon. Just leave me alone until tomorrow.".

Ron:  I got to try that.

Tobi: It works occasionally. Not always. Sometimes you get guys who would rather have barbecue or a Jimmy John sandwich, but this time it works.

Ron:  Yeah. We've had some stuff done on our property, and we're big on the Gatorade giveaway. But the six-pack of beer, I could see how that could be more effective for sure.

Tobi: Yeah. Especially on a hot day. Go back to the house, hang out in the backyard, maybe pop a couple open, and enjoy yourself a little bit.

Ron:  I love it. Tobi, for those that, if anyone is on Twitter, you know who this man is, because he is prolific in all of the channels and all the places with all the people that you know and you love. And I've been following you, sir, for a long time. So I'm honored to have you join me here on the show and super excited about the conversation we're going to have. But for those that don't know you, can you give us maybe who is Epiphan video or what is Epiphan video and what's kind of your role there?

Tobi: Sure. I'm super thankful to actually be on the show with you, Ron. I mean, we did have some fun sharing Twitter with BLC so if anybody wants a good, fun show of taking pictures from behind people and having a little fun during the event.

Ron:  We'll clarify to that in a minute, so people know what we're talking about. All right.

Tobi: It's good, though. So who am I? I'm VP of sales for North America for Epiphan Video. I have the privilege of leading a really awesome team here that covers all of our dealers, distribution channels and our direct end client. I get to do some really cool things with video technology on a day in and day out basis and building strategies. One of my most favorite things to do is talk to clients and do different things with folks in our industry. So I get to continue to do that. I recently joined Epiphan in February, so I'm still getting kind of up to speed, feet wet and all that good stuff, but super happy to kind of continue to push forward. On the company itself, we've got employees on every continent except for Africa and Antarctica, because I'm not sure anybody wants to live in that cold environment. Maybe some do. We call ourselves the Epifam when we are in our weekly calls to make sure everybody's kind of checking in and doing well. We are very fortunate to actually have a really good remote team, and we were mostly remote even before Covid started; that just helped accelerate that. Everyone is familiar with the standard UC unified collaboration and broadcast quality when it comes to video. Epiphan is driving innovation at the intersection of where those two intersect.

Ron:  Ladies and gentlemen, Tobi just disappeared, and I'm going to predict that the contractor that he gave the six pack to might have finished and is back digging in his yard. Let me message him. Looks like he's already coming back to us.

Tobi: I am back.

Ron:  All right, there we go. There you are. You're back. I was telling them maybe the six pack was finished, and they were like, "No, we need to be re-upped.".

Tobi: He wanted a sandwich instead, so my apologies. I have my cell phone on backup. At the worst case, if this does not work well.

Ron:  It's okay.

Tobi: Where did they cut me off, Ron?

Ron:  It actually wasn't that bad. It was maybe like 10-15 seconds ago. You were just describing Epiphan being a company with offices located around the planet and that you are the Epifam. I'm assuming that's a reference to the family that is Epiphan.

Tobi: Absolutely. That's our internal name. So that is actually a good segue there. So what is Epiphan? Everybody is familiar with what your basic UC unified collaboration and broadcast quality is. Epiphan is driving the innovation of where those two intersect. Everyone wants the ease of the one button join for a video call, but they also want to have a super high-quality event for, say, their executive team or a town hall or a sales kick off. We really operate in bringing those two worlds together. The ease of use thing, I tend to call that CEO proof. Some people love that. Some people hate that. But when you've got executives in a room, they want it to be really simple. So we've got a lot of cool things revolving around that. We are a video streaming and encoder company, and one last thing to kind of talk about, we do have some interesting roots of where our company started with what they call frame grabbers, and we actually have those on the International Space Station. That's how they get some video feeds back down to Earth.

Ron:  Well, you got to tell me. I'm a big space nerd. So tell me.

Tobi: Oh, yeah?

Ron:  Yeah, what is that thing on the? You said the space shuttle. Is it in the thing that's orbiting? I can't be too much of a nerd because I can't get the right words out of my mouth. So is it on the space shuttle that now no longer flies, or is it on the International Space System or center that's orbiting Earth at 17 or 18,000 miles an hour?

Tobi: International Space Station.

Ron:  Station, there you go! Whenever you're live, as soon as you have an audience and you're live, you're like, all right, my brain's going to freeze up. So hopefully, some people out there feel my pain here. The International Space Station, is that where it's at?

Tobi: Yes. So it's a frame grabber. So it takes one type of video signal, converts it to another video signal. And if I would have thought about it, I would have given you the picture for that, Ron. But we actually have pictures on the International Space Station of actually with the product on the wall with them up in space. And we have a couple of those folks on our advisory board for our executive team as well. So it's very cool. It's a very unique use case, and we're up in space. I mean, how many people can say that?

Ron:  Well, people have claimed I'm up in space most of the time, but not really up in space. That's funny.

Tobi: I love it.

Ron:  Did you describe where you're at physically? What state are you in?

Tobi: No, I didn't. I'm in the Mittens State of Michigan. So I'm in West Michigan in the Grand Rapids area, about 45 minutes or so from the beautiful Lakeshore. This time of year is a little bit of a Gray Sky. And yesterday, I posted on social media; I copied and pasted this from someone else. But due to supply chain, we just now delivered the snow and freezing rain that you ordered in February. It is now March 50th, and you're welcome. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Ron:  March 50. So what's the air temperature outside right now?

Tobi: Right now, it's 45. It's supposed to be 75 on Saturday. So everybody in the typical Michigan will be out in their shorts and tank tops and mowing lawns, and then again, it'll be 50 on Monday, so it's normal.

Ron:  All right. So I have to now tell the NSCA BLC story where I hope I nicely spooked you and Tim Albright. So One Firefly just joined NSCA. So this was our very first BLC conference. And so as a result, a lot of the businesses in the room, I don't know. Jessica Weiss from our team and I were at the show. So I don't know many people, but I see the back of two individuals that I've been following. I know Tim; I've been on his shows for years, but I'd been seeing you, but I didn't know you. I just thought it would be funny as heck to take a picture of the back of your heads at your table as you were watching some presentation and then drop that onto your Twitter feeds because you are both avid Twitterers. Just to see what the reaction and it was, I don't know. What did you guys think when you saw that image posted?

Tobi: Is Twitterer a word?

Ron:  I don't know. Grammar is not my strength.

Tobi: Trademark that, that's fun. It's pretty funny; Tim and I were messing with somebody else on Twitter doing something similar. Then all of a sudden, we saw that picture come up on our feed, and I'm looking around, going, Where's Ron? I had never met you in person either. But looking around, Tim's looking around, and Tim's like, "Oh, there he is. He's got the hat on. He's got the beret hat on. That's why we can't see him," kind of hiding behind a few people. We had a good time with it. It was a lot of fun. That's the kind of stuff that keeps you on your toes when you're at an event like that because people are watching you from every angle.

Ron:  Well, the funny thing is I'm like a late bloomer with Twitter. Like in Twitter's early years, I didn't quite get it. I didn't understand it. It wasn't until maybe the last three, four years that I've come to understand it and understand what it can mean for me and kind of my day-to-day life, both personally and professionally. So there are orbits of circles of influence on Twitter that I follow for certain kind of if I want to tap into the live consciousness of a thing. So an example of a thing would be the pro AV commercial integrator space. You and Tim are of a circle of individuals that are highly active in the space. And I personally also happen to have a hobby in crypto and Bitcoin and all that stuff. So I'm kind of tapped into the global consciousness of crypto, and it's awesome because you get this live feed of all of these thought leaders around the world that are communicating. So when I'm in my account, and I'm in a certain channel, I'm following you and Tim and all of your sphere of influence. I don't participate much, but I sit and watch and listen because I like to know what's going on. But then I think I did see you guys messing with someone. And I was like, and I saw you both looking down at your phones at the table while there was a presenter on stage. I was like, all right, I'm totally going to mess with them and see what happens. I appreciate that we all had a good laugh about it, but it was funny.

Tobi: Yeah. The guy in general that we were messing with was Matt. He's up in Canada. He's the resi side of AV Nation for Tim. There was a flat Matt picture that rolled around Infocomm last October as well. If you do follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I'm an extremely positive person with positive quotes and different things. And Matt was giving me a hard time. So then Tim and I were doubling down on being super positive back to Matt and doing different situations for gifts and pictures and keeping it light.

Ron:  What is your Twitter origin story? You're active. It's a platform. You not only consume content, but you have a social network on Twitter. I just described a little bit of my origin story and how I came to it late. Did you come to it late or have you always been active on that platform?

Tobi: My story is probably a little unique. I was very, very active in the early days, and then I decided to delete it for some ridiculous reason. I spent about a year or so, kind of away from it, then I realized that there's a lot of good that comes out of Twitter. There's a lot of noise and nonsense, but a lot of the people that I talk to in the industry and friends and family and just digesting, to your point, some of the news and different hobbies that I follow, it's a really good place to be. So I've started to rebuild that up since probably maybe eight or nine years ago. So not terribly long, but it's a slow burn to get it to where you want it and getting things aligned in different channels and so on and so forth. But I really enjoy it. I have a lot of fun with it, especially at events. I'm probably overzealous on the Twitter feeds, but that's just who I am and what I like to do.

Ron:  That's awesome. Well, I appreciate you sharing that. So let's go into your backstory Tobi; what's your origin story?

Tobi: So it's not a normal origin story for a lot of folks.

Ron:  Is it DC or Marvel?

Tobi: It's probably Marvel, to be completely honest.

Ron:  Okay.

Tobi: Just to be fair.

Ron:  All right.

Tobi: So 2001 dot.com boom craziness, and I decided, hey, let's go jump into technology. I dove in head first, and I started working for a company called Sequoia. Net.com. We called it the Tree back then. And obviously, business was booming through and all the craziness. And then it wasn't. We went through a handful of different acquisitions in a few years. It really opened my eyes to be pretty scrappy and pretty client-focused from that perspective as we went through those different transitions from ownership and leadership. That's really what got me hooked on to that just innovation of what we do in both pro AV and technology. I didn't go to college. I jumped out of high school and decided I wanted to go to work. I know the certifications. I had some friends that were in the industry that had various different certifications. It went to college and said, you know what? If you're a doctor or lawyer, by all means, go. But if you're coming in this industry, it's probably not necessary. So I continued down that path. And in probably 2005'ish, 2006, I had an opportunity with a client to actually dabble in some pro AV. Well, probably not so much Pro AV now, but it was pretty cool back then with some plasma TVs installed and some things like that. But I decided, hey, let's take a shot at it and do it. And from that moment on, I was kind of hooked, so through that little bit of a project that really wasn't a big revenue maker or anything like that, we started to really build out a pro-AV structured cabling or what we call media services division within that company. We just started building it. That's kind of where I realized that outside of all the technical things that I truly love about our industry. I really love that customer focus and sales side of it. So I slowly transitioned into more of a sales focus and presales and business area manager from that perspective, a company called Analyst International, which was, I think, our final acquisition of the Sequoia. net.com brand back in 2004. five, six, I guess maybe. I left there and went head first into the pro AV world and worked for Integrators for the next ten years after that. I spent the last 10, 11 years working for an Integrator, opening offices, building new business lines, expanding across the nation and the globe, for that matter, and really learning what it means to be that customer focus, customer-centric, or what I call red carpet, not red tape approach with clients and acquisitions from that perspective. So I've had a lot of fun doing it. Then in February, just to kind of continue to focus on my challenge of doing something different and continuing to be outside of the norm, I guess I had to jump to the manufacturer side just to understand that side of the business. So I can really focus more on building out my professional kind of resume to understand what it takes for manufacturers to make products work through that product line, their innovation map, all that good stuff. Just to basically give me a much better picture as we start to look through the next few years with supply chain craziness that we're all experiencing, how they operate and how do I bring that back to our clientele.

Ron:  Well, you've chosen such a, dare I say, challenging time to jump on the manufacturer's side of the equation.

Tobi: Maybe, it depends on which manufacturer, right?

Ron:  Depends on which manufacturer. All right, I have a couple of threads I want to pull there, but what has been your biggest maybe, ¨AHA," moment jumping on the manufacturer side?

Tobi: I always thought they had an easy job. Just to be honest with you, it was pretty eye-opening the first couple of weeks. Just how much they're doing to make sure that their clients and their integrators and their customers aren't experiencing all the pain that they are for the chip shortage and the product shortage for the metal and all the craziness that's happening in the world right now. They're looking at product roadmaps that your typical Integrator is not going to see for another 18 months. I probably knew it in the back of my mind, but I just kind of chose to ignore it for some reason. It's been really good to understand that process.

Ron:  That's fascinating. I'm imagining, and I think I know this, but you now are on the inside, and you've seen it both from the Integrator side and the manufacturer side of the equation. What has been happening? I'm just going big picture here with COVID last several years; I'm assuming that there's been a change in how Integrators are solving problems for businesses and the way businesses are operating from an IT and AV standpoint. We're doing marketing for more and more commercial integration firms, and the language of UCC and the creative solutions that I'm hearing about as it relates to how the technology in the office is in some cases brought into the homes of the executives so that they're ideally seamless and the company can operate virtually. You were even mentioning Epiphan is mostly a virtual company, right? I don't know if that's accurate, but what are you seeing there? Is there a change in what's happening out there in the ProAV landscape in the last two years or so since Covid came about?

Tobi: On the ProAV integration side, there absolutely is. Nobody was really ready when COVID happened, and everybody needed to go work remotely. That's nothing that we're not. We're all sick of hearing that, right? What's really interesting to me now is we start to look at 2022 COVID coming high and low, and it's getting better. I don't think that it's ever going to go away, but there's a lot of leadership teams in the entire country that are looking at more of the hybrid approach, which really drives, I think, a lot of people intrinsically to do more for their organization. They are working on executive kits, they are working on home kits, and they are working on figuring out how to make things easy, whether they're at home, they're at the coffee shop, they're sitting at the campsite up north somewhere, they're sitting on the beach in Florida, or they're back at the office and actually collaborating with folks. People do miss that in-person interaction. At Epiphan, we've got a couple of different things relative to those executive kits as well, just as everybody else does. But it's going to be really interesting, in my personal opinion, in six months or twelve months when things come back around and they go, "Oh, well, we weren't really ready before. I don't know if we're any more ready." We are now through that whole learning piece because they've kind of taken a step back now and said, "Well, if we're hybrid, just come back to the office and hang on and do your work there, and then go back home." They're losing the mindset that so many of the generation that we have out there now are looking at it from the perspective of, "Yeah, I want to be around people, but three days a week I can be home. I can be focused; give me those tools to be super awesome at my job. And then when I want to come to the office and have the water cooler talks and hang out with people and do more collaboration, I'll do that." I think that the integration teams as a whole, as well as IT they're starting to get some product roadmaps around that. But it might be a little too late for some of them as people start to get back to the office this summer.

Ron:  For the integrators that are tuned in here. What are the paths of education or discovery they should go down to kind of learn what are the best ways to design solutions that are best for their customers around this UCC conversation? Where do you go to? I know we have Infocomm coming up around the corner in June, and this is not my first language; I'm learning this language. So, where do those that are listening, where do they go to learn what the current best practices are?

Tobi: Infocomm a big show, right. That's coming up, I think in 50 days or so; I saw on Twitter this morning that's pretty quick here. Next week we've got the NAB show, which is in Vegas, which is for the broadcasters. We've got ISE that's overseas; there's not a lot of folks that will jump across the pond for that this year, just simply because it's so close to Infocomm. I'm a big believer that CES or the Consumer Electronics Show in January drives a lot of what happens in the commercial side for integration. If you keep an eye on that, you'll typically see some good strategy Nuggets for what the consumer demand is going to look like, which typically drives the commercial strategy for how we work at home, as well as how we work in the office. I believe that there's some integrators that get that, and they're building training strategies around that, leveraging Avixa, leveraging all the manufacturers and their specific training to really empower their teammates, not only from a technical perspective but a culture perspective so they can operate in a more efficient way.

Ron:  Got it. You said what the NAB show is next week?

Tobi: Yes. In Vegas starts on Sunday through Wednesday next week.

Ron:  You're going to go work that show?

Tobi: I will have a huge team there. I am not going. I know it sounds crazy for what I'm doing.

Ron:  Oh, it sounds awesome, not having to travel in this day and age. I think those are always wins.

Tobi: Well, it is typically in February, and they moved it because of the COVID cases to April. And this weekend, my wife has a 50K run up north. So I am going to be the good husband, the good family man, as I would always do, and fly up there and hang out with her for the weekend, which essentially, with the show starting on Sunday, being in Vegas, I wouldn't get out there till Monday afternoon. Not really worth it, but we've got a full crew out there. They're going to be out there showcasing all kinds of cool stuff, hanging out with everybody and all the AV Tweeps. So they're looking forward to it.

Ron:  Any big product announcements you guys are going to do there?

Tobi: We do have a couple.

Ron:  Is that the show where you do big announcements, or do you do it at some other type of event?

Tobi: We typically will trickle in NAB and Infocomm pretty equally depending on what the actual announcement is. So for next week, although it's been announced on newsletters and social media, we've got a Team's connector that's tied in there where folks that are actually a Team's house can actually have a bot kind of join their teams meeting, and they can extract that feed to a virtual production studio where they can do encoding and mixing and push that back out. We're not completely up to speed on what that's going to take for the general enterprise person yet, but we've got a lot of good people on board with that. We've got a lot of good feedback with that, and we're really starting to tweak that tool for a lot more integrators to resell to their clients and the clients to digest it and really focus on that more polished, flawless experience for their town halls.

Ron:  Now that you're on the manufacturer side, do you look at how the dialogue should most effectively happen from an integrator to the manufacturer when there's either product requests that you'd like to see or product issues that are observed? Do you have empathy now for the manufacturer now that maybe you're the one receiving feedback, whereas previously, you may have been the one dishing feedback?

Tobi: No, not at all. It's funny you bring it up. We actually had a meeting a couple of days; I think it was Friday last week, where we talked about we had a new product software add on launch that happened on the 13th, and we were walking through the typical integration dealer and how they would handle it, what their typical value add for a client would be. I'm listening to it going, "Okay, guys, that's great. But that's not how an integrator is going to want to see it." So my perspective brings a much different perspective on what the marketing team is looking at. It's been awesome because it allows them to really tweak that message where then the integration companies can grasp it and really focus on their clients, day one, that was something that, on the integration side, we struggled with a handful of companies, not Epiphan, of course, but where they would launch a new product and Ron Callis Incorporated product, and it wouldn't give us any data or any real substance to how to position it with a client. That's a big miss for a lot of manufacturers, in my opinion. And there's some that do it really well and some that are starting to get there. And that's something that I believe that we'll be able to really get homed in more in the next couple of months as well.

Ron:  Yeah, that's interesting. It's either the product was conceived by an engineer knowing that it was going to theoretically round out the product line, or maybe it was born out of customer feedback, made it into the engineering channels, resulted in a new product, but then in the life cycle of getting it launched, didn't make it through the marketing team knowing exactly what problem it was solving, and it then gets brought to market as another black box or another add on. But I would imagine a lot of wasted opportunities for manufacturers bringing solutions to market without clarity around what problem it's solving.

Tobi: Oh, 100%. And is it any good manufacturer, somebody that's making a product or software, for that matter, if they're not interviewing their clientele and dealers and actually grasping where those holes are, we all have blind spots. Let's be honest and documenting that; that's how you build a really good value story. Otherwise, to your point, I mean, it's just like the old story, if anybody can put a TV on the wall, but what are you going to do with it? What are you going to plug into it? What's going to be on the TV when you're done with it, right?

Ron:  Yeah.

Tobi: And that's something that there's so much data on the back end, something that I knew happened on the integration side from the manufacturing teams. But now that I'm on this site and I can read and digest all of that, it's really eye-opening to understand that, at least from a sales strategy perspective, to know what the client's needs are, outside of the ten things that I think are cool, you think are cool, there's that one little nugget that can completely change the mindset and the roadmap of what you're working on.

Ron:  What is the landscape of the pro-AV or the commercial AV space look like the next twelve months? My background is personally on the residential integration side, and I'm learning about the commercial AV side; and I'm fascinated, and I feel like I'm drinking from a fire hose every day. But I don't have a good read on exactly kind of what that business environment looks like. If you look at the, I can say any size commercial integrator, but let's just say the typical that I'm talking to regularly is kind of that $10 to $30 million a year firm. What is the business outlook look like ahead for them, from your perspective?

Tobi: I still think it's pretty strong. We've got a very growing market. Client demand is probably at an all-time high. Inflation is super crazy out as well. If you look at your typical project's $10 or $30 million company size, they might be able to close a project that has 20 parts on it. They'll get 18, and then those two parts are going to sit there for six months on the backwater list. And those guys, as long as they continue to pivot around that, build new strategies and actually still focus on that client and perhaps changing products out, which I know we did on the integration site for the last year and making sure projects come to life, I think they're going to be just fine. The market is crazy. I think I saw one of the Avixa emails that came out on the market growth, and it's up already substantially compared to last year. I don't see it slowing down. I think that the demand for the hybrid work environments that we talked about earlier is going to continue through the rest of this year. And honestly, with the chip shortage, it could be another two or three years before they catch up, in my personal opinion, which is going to affect everything else in the innovation side of it, too.

Ron:  I don't know whether I'm supposed to ask that loaded question. How's Epiphan Video doing with the supply chain stuff that's going on out there?

Tobi: We're doing okay. We've actually got some decent products in stock and shipping out on a daily basis. I know that sounds strange for a lot of people in the Pro AV world. We do have a couple of product lines that are constrained for a few months just for different reasons, from supplies and chips and things like that. But when I was talking to Mike, our CEO and Jeff, our CFO, I don't know, two or three months ago, I guess now when I started, and they're really good at forecasting what the need is compared to why they're innovating, how they're innovating and really working with their manufacturing channels to build out that pipeline of product and then spreading it out over when it comes into our warehousing and different things like that. We've gotten really lucky on a few, and we've got a lot of new products coming to replace products that we just can't seem to get past. That chipset that's back ordered two years to get into our product line. A lot of manufacturers are buying out two or three years of upfront costs on those chipsets to get in line to basically push everybody else out of the way as well. So there's a lot of different things that we're dealing with, but overall, we're doing pretty well. We are up almost 27% month over month since the beginning of this year. We are super thankful for our clients and getting their product to go and install their projects and their customer rooms. That's something that a lot of people can't say right now.

Ron:  Big picture. So not Epiphan specific, but maybe your ear to the tracks; if you watch the news, and I try to do as little of that as possible, but on occasion I'll take a peek, or I'll follow some Twitter feeds around world news. And I understand that China's cracking down due to COVID. There's some really weird stuff happening up and down the coast in China, and I've heard rumors that that might further impact supply chain just in ports closing, port cities. There's supposedly many times the normal quantity of shipping containers that are just frozen out over there. Is there more of a supply shock heading to North America that maybe some don't realize, or is that maybe more blown out of proportion? Do you have any perspective on that?

Tobi: Well, for the news comment, I'm with you. If it bleeds, it leads. So it's usually a bunch of bad news.

Ron:  Yeah, exactly. My son's 13. I'm teaching him; Max, this is a business, and they're selling advertising. So know that what they lead with is a lot of hype and not necessarily the full story.

Tobi: Yeah. It's just what they think is cool for you to click on it. But on China and the supply chain, I think, at least from what I'm hearing through talking through some different channels, there's a lot of different companies that are shifting manufacturing facilities from China to Taiwan and China to Japan, and I think that they saw this coming even maybe 8, 12, 16 months ago. Even what we're doing with some of our products and warehouses over there, we're shifting it out of there as well. None of our products in our company are made in China anymore, and we do that. That was on purpose. So if you look through their huge economy and what they do for the States here, I think we might see some more constrained products, especially on the consumer side, that come from over there. If we're not prepared for it, who knows what it might look like, especially during the holidays and the shopping season from that perspective, but also with the war in Ukraine, like, there's a lot of different variables for what's happening in imports and exports and things. I think what we're dealing with is here to stay for some time. I think it's going to be, I hate to even say this out loud four five plus years before it gets to some sort of more acceptable. I don't think it's ever going to be what it was, but some sort of acceptable time frame or when we want to go and get something, where we want to buy something and bring it over to the States.

Ron:  You see a day where a lot of these chips are manufactured right here in the United States that we have control over supply chain locally. I've heard ideas like that. I mean, I've heard of some different chip manufacturers that are going to build in Ohio and build in Texas. Is there a day where our industry is primarily fed from domestic silicone chip manufacturers?

Tobi: Wouldn't that be awesome? I don't think it's going to be primarily. I think what this whole supply chain has really made us open our eyes to is to be more diversified and where it's made and how we make it. So instead of having such a reliance on one specific country on where we get it from or how we manufacture it, what I'm seeing through, like Jabil Circuit, is one of the biggest importers in the world. They're building factories in Mexico and all over the world to try to diversify where they make it, so; would I love to see it all in California? Absolutely. But I believe that that might also pigeonhole us to a different kind of scenario that we're not even aware of or prepared for yet. As things change and the demand change, and the technology changes for whatever the demand is, whatever they're making.

Ron:  That makes sense. A little bit ago, and it wasn't lost on me; you mentioned that your wife is running a 30K race? No, 50k. Now, when I was in high school, I ran cross country, and that was a 5K race. So I know that that's 3.1 mile. So your wife is running a 31-mile race?

Tobi: In the woods. Yeah, it's a trial run.

Ron:  That sounds superhuman. So tell me more about that.

Tobi: She is superhuman. I can't run to the nearby party store to grab a six-pack of beer for the Comcast guy, but she's this huge avid ultra runner. We were just down in Oklahoma in March for the south, and she did the 50K down there that was on gravel roads. The one this weekend is in Traverse City, Michigan, and it's the Traverse City trails Fest. It's a mix of single track and double track and all kinds of craziness. She's super awesome. I could never, ever do that. But we go, and we have a lot of fun with that.

Ron:  We have a member of our team here at One Firefly. He's an ultra runner, and he does these long runs, 30, 50, 100 miles races that I comically. I've joked on this podcast. I walk every morning. This morning I went on my walk, and like four months ago, I was feeling so good on my walk I decided to sprint. And then I broke myself and couldn't walk for a month. So the idea that someone's out there running 30 miles or 50 miles it's really an amazing feat. And I'm young, but I'm getting older, and my body parts are, like hurting more and more by the week. So to think to be in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond and running those distances, I'm pretty confident that there's alien DNA or something involved because my body can't do that. So I think that these people are superhuman. That's at least my takeaway. So, folks that are watching, you know, that our man Tobi. It looks like his Internet has frozen. So we're going to wait for him to rejoin us. There he is.

Tobi: I'm back.

Ron:  He's back. He's back. That's all right. I was talking about alien DNA, and he's gone again.

Tobi: Come on!

Ron:  All right, you're back.

Tobi: I talked about the Comcast guy. That's why.

Ron:  Yeah, that's why he's out there; he's like, "you're on, you're off." He's messing with you. All right. So I was able to grab some photos from social media. So I'm going to totally embarrass you now, and I'm going to put these on screen, and these look like some outrageous mountain biking maniac. I believe this is you. So tell our audience, I mean, my God, this bike. I think that's a bike looks outrageous. So maybe tell our audience about your hobby.

Tobi: So I'm an ultra gravel cyclist and a mountain biker. And you know, the picture that Ron has on-screen there, that's from Mid South, which is in Still Water, Oklahoma. It is a 106 miles bike race. It's typically in the second weekend of March. And just so everybody knows, Oklahoma is not flat either, as everybody thinks the Midwest is. The weather down there is absolutely unpredictable. I've been down there where it's been 65 and sunny. This particular picture was from 2020, the week that COVID blew up, and it was 45 degrees and raining. And the mud down there, when it gets wet, and it stays wet, just becomes like a slurry and milkshakey kind of sloppy mess. When it dries, it sticks to everything, which is that picture of my fat bike, which was from 2017 when it was 35 degrees and rainy. And everybody got hypothermia. Essentially it becomes basically like a cake. Everything sticks to it. It will not come off. That sticks to your shoes, your hands, everything on your bike. It's insane to say you go back for those events. But just the craziness of going down there and trying something hard that most people won't ever do is why we go back. I've got a lot of different races this coming year. I've got 100 miles, 200 miles. The big one for me, there's two big ones. I have a 303 miles bike race in Nebraska in August for gravel worlds. We start at 05:00 p.m. On Friday. We ride hopefully 24 hours or less straight through to finish Saturday night. Then this picture right here is from Iceman Cometh, which is the biggest one-day mountain bike race in the country, which is up in Trevor City. That is on Anita Hill where everybody tends to party and have fun. And somebody stamped my picture a couple of years ago. So that can be just as crazy as weather, where it can be 60 degrees and sunny or 20 degrees and snowing. That year it was snowing on one part of the course, and then it was dry the other part. So that's why we were kind of muddy. It's kind of my happy place. I go, and I get away from everything and still have my phone in my back pocket. But you have to be focused. If you're not, you might hit a tree. So you got to keep your eye on the prize.

Ron:  Tell me about your mental preparation because this is really a story of endurance and the ability to suffer and continue through suffering. And any athlete that has ever competed at any level knows what I'm saying. So you're going 100 miles on a bike in arduous conditions, and you're competing, which means you're pushing yourself, and I'm imagining it's not fun, and it's probably exhilarating. So what's the state of mind you're in both before, during and after?

Tobi: Before, you're excited. During, I would be lying to you if I didn't say that there were a couple of dark spots that your brain was telling you, what are you doing? Stop. Get off the bike. This is dumb; this hurts, but you have to push through that, and it essentially becomes a strong mind will carry a weak body. A weak body will typically not take a strong mind through that process. Right. So you really got to have a good balance. In my opinion, that boils down to nutrition. It's kind of a race to see how many calories you can eat to keep your mindset. And if you get in a bad mind spot and you're 15 hours into a 200 miles bike ride, you get off the bike for 5-10 minutes and reset, look around and stretch a little bit. You'd be shocked on just that little bit of a reset of a scenario how your brain will be like, okay, you stopped for a minute. They might hate you again when you get back on the pedals after that long, but it's part of working through it and who can suffer the most, and my mantra out there is you train for this, keep pushing, and it hurts for everybody, not just you and that's usually what keeps me moving.

Ron:  Dean, a longtime follower of the show, says, "25 miles on a mountain bike is hard. 300 miles is insane."

Tobi: Yeah, it's insanity. That's part of the draw for me. There's a 200 miles bike race. It's one of my favorites that actually rides from Lake Huron in Michigan, all the way across the state to Lake Michigan. It's called Michigan Coast To Coast, and it's in Northern lower Michigan of spots that you would never, ever see because you're never going to go there in a car, and that's really why do it. You get out there, and you get to see a bunch of cool new things, get to suffer. But to be completely honest, when you're done, you can eat whatever you want, you can drink beer, you can eat pizza, you can drink whatever. Doesn't matter.

Ron:  How many calories do you consume on a 200 miles bike ride? I mean, it's got to be tens of thousands.

Tobi: On the one in MidSouth, which is 106 miles, was 14,000 calories consumed on the bike, and I burned 23,000. Michigan Coast to coast last time we did it, which was 2020, I think I burned 19,000 calories. I lost like 4lbs of whatever during that process, water weight. And I think I ate 24-25,000 calories.

Ron:  Are you carrying that many calories on you in food packs or gel packs, or are you getting them handed to you at food stations or something?

Tobi: Some of it is liquid; some of it is actually hard foods. There are checkpoints. So the 200 miles bike race has four checkpoints. The 300 miles bike race is self-supported, so if you can't buy it at a gas station, you're not going to get it. Basically, you have to train yourself to eat up gas station garbage.

Ron:  Are you sponsored? Do you have anyone that helps you out with clothing or bikes or supplies, or is this all a self-funded hobby?

Tobi: Mostly self-funded. I do have some sponsors. Orange Mud supports me for hydration vests Stages Cycling for power meters, and GoPro for cameras. And then I have some earbud companies that are helping me out right now as well. But I don't do it for that. I do it just simply because I like their products. And then they basically picked me for ambassadorships for things that I do on Instagram with them. But it keeps things kind of fresh and new products and trying new things all the time.

Ron:  So your wife, again, is also an ultra athlete. Did you meet her through ultra-athlete, like, social events, or did you just randomly run into someone on wherever that happened to be an ultra-athlete?

Tobi: No. So we actually met in high school a long, long time ago, and she, as well as myself, were never really into ultra stuff until maybe I got back into cycling in 2012. She got really into running probably four years ago. So this is really relatively new in the general perspective for both of us on the ultra side of it. But she's crazier than I am. I don't know if I'd ever do ultra, just to be fair.

Ron:  You know what? If I was to do an ultra something, I think it would be bike riding. I do bike riding, or a lot of mountain biking in my youth. I've been to the mountains. I've been to Utah and mountain biking with one of my buddies, and he was like a super athlete. I just remember how much it sucked then; I was like, this is beautiful, but, man, does this hurt, going for hundreds of miles. Oh, my God, that's impressive.

Tobi: It's a lot of fun. I wouldn't say that it's the easiest thing in the world, but I enjoy the process in the training and the kind of the data nerd behind it. There's a lot of software that I use to track my training and different things from that perspective. I think that process is one of the reasons I do it because I enjoy that prep around it.

Ron:  You learned to treat your body like an engine where you look at the fuel and how you care for that engine. I don't know if there are some athletes listening or watching that can relate to that statement, but is that true for you?

Tobi: Absolutely. Yeah. The data behind it and understanding caloric intake, kilojoules power, how you feel because there's a lot of things it's going to probably sound weird, but off the bike stress is a real thing, what's happening around the kids in the family and do they have tests or whatever is going on at work? You have to keep all that in balance, and you can actually see some of that in your training if you keep an eye on it and you actually track all of it.

Ron:  That's cool. What is a normal day for Tobi look like? You wake up in the morning, and what's your routine?

Tobi: Coffee. I mean, that's first and foremost.

Ron:  So first thing, you're out of bed, you're to the coffee machine.

Tobi: 100%, like, I got to have my cup, two cups of coffee a day. That's where I start my day. Typically from there, the kids, you kick them out off to school, and then I get on the bike. A lot of times, when it gets warmer here in the Northern parts, I'll get up at four or five in the morning and go for a two or three-hour ride. This time of year it will be in the trainer in the basement, but it's typically anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours a day on the bike. Sometimes that's split between the morning and afternoon. Then through the day, it's meeting with clients and having a lot of fun through that process. I'll typically break in the afternoon, the kids get home for a few hours, make sure they're good, and then get back to doing some catch-up work and then kind of start all over again. So it's a process. It's a lot of fun. And I wouldn't get out of bed every day if I didn't love what I do, both professionally and personally.

Ron:  In terms of professional development or improvement. Is there any podcasts or blogs or books or resources or places that you go to? You do have a wonderfully positive attitude. You express that on social media. Where is that? I mean, it certainly is from within you, but is there a place that you go to refresh yourself or to kind of get new ideas or just to keep it going?

Tobi: Yeah. There are two authors that are probably two of my favorites, and one is Daniel Pink for that Drive book; Intrinsically Driven is very much one of my favorite books. One of the authors that I tend to rely on it, and it's helped a lot with just being very self-aware through blind spots, is Dr. Tasha Urik, and she's got a couple of different books out there and tools online that helps anybody in their career path, whether they're just starting or they've been in a leadership position for multiple decades to really understand how their team is influenced and how they can be just a better leader. So I really lean on that kind of stuff just to keep me in check. Then I have a handful of personal, professional mentors and friends that also are a little more abrasive on purpose to make sure that I keep myself in line, which I'm very thankful for just to make sure that we're all moving forward. And we're not just assuming how things should be and continuing to expand, not only yourself but the team. I mean, to the team, to me, is the most important thing. The more that I can learn to help them, the better off I'll be.

Ron:  How do you think about your network? There's a term nodal networking that I've recently been exposed to, but it's the idea that there's the adage your network is equal to your net worth. Do you mindfully curate your network? Are there people that you seek out to put into your network? Are there people that might be negative or abrasive? You said you had abrasive friends, but negative or particularly not constructive, where you will remove them from your network? How do you think about that at this point in your life and your career?

Tobi: The abrasiveness of my friends is impressively honest about that. I've always looked at it; there's a time and place to be unhappy with a situation or unhappy with a time in their life, and I think that people should reflect on that and absorb it. But if it starts to affect your circle of influence, that's where you've got to take a step back and either have someone help kind of right you, or you have to let them go. I mean, that's one way we grow as professionals and personally. Right? I've had to push a few of those folks out of my life simply because they can't get out of that hole. I truly hope that they come back at some point. But misery loves company, and that tends to what they attract. And I'm not that kind of person; I really look at it as a perspective of glass half full. How do we move forward? How do we break things? How do we have a little bit of fun? Days are going to be hard, but that's okay. And if we can help them or I can help them get out of that in that circle of influence, let's do it. On your question about seeking people out to be kind of introduce yourself. Absolutely. I will talk to anybody. I love to talk to people. It's probably one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. Drives my friends and wife crazy. But that is what it is especially like to your example, like the Twitter stuff, one of the reasons I like these kind of events, if you see somebody that is pretty active and they're pretty open about a topic or a situation or whatever it might be, and you see them out there, I would love to go, and fist bump them or shake their hand or get my hug or whatever, just to understand them, get to know them a little bit better. Because if you're continuing to absorb what they've got, it just makes you a better person in the long run.

Ron:  I agree, and Jessica on my team, she's listening to us, and she just messaged me you need to go ride bikes with Tobi. I agree. So when we're in the same time and place, we'll have to go ride bikes. I look forward to that.

Tobi: I'm game. Let's go.

Ron:  You'll have to bring it down to my speed. I'm just saying there's like Tobi speed, and then there's my son Max's speed, and then there's my speed. So long as you're willing to take it down a gear.

Tobi: We'll go on a brewery drive. We'll go ride brewery to brewery. We'll really have some fun. Right?

Ron:  Sign me up. Yes, let's do that. I love that. Tobi, for those that would love to get in touch with you directly or follow you on the social media or the Twitter sphere, what are the different channels or handles that you want to pass off here? And we'll drop them into the notes on social media. We'll also put it on the page notes when we post this up on our website. What would you give to the audience?

Tobi: Sure. So my handle across all social platforms is the same. It's @tobitungl, and then if they want to hit me on email, it's my first initial, last This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I welcome it. For anybody that wants to reach out, just chat. I have a lot of those casualizations all day long on Twitter and LinkedIn and I'm happy to give back any way I can.

Ron:  Awesome! Tobi, it's been a blast having you on show 210, sir.

Tobi: Thank you, sir. I really appreciate it.

Ron:  All right, folks, there you have it. The one and only Tobi Tungl. You should go follow him on Twitter. If you aren't active on Twitter, you'll see how it's done by following Tobi. He posts, he comments, he puts out fun content. And actually, I'm admitting here live, I don't follow him actively on the other channels, so I need to do that. But I'm actively consuming the content he's putting out on Twitter, and it's good quality content, which is if you're following someone, you want it to be good, healthy stuff for your body and mind. So that's what he does. I see my team already posting those handles here on Facebook and on LinkedIn. I will see you all next week for the next show and bring up my show art here, and I'm going to sign off. I'll see you all later. And Tobi, you're down here on my screen. Hang out, sir; we'll connect right after the show. Alright, thanks, everyone. Take care!

SHOW NOTES:

Tobi began his professional career in the IT world during the dot-com boom (and crash). In 2005, he jumped from IT to the AV industry. Since then, he has helped grow system integrator organizations by creating and implementing client retention strategies to drive top-line revenue and open new physical locations across the US.  

In 2022, Tobi joined Epiphan Video as Vice President of Sales, North America. He is responsible for managing all brands, distribution channels, and sales deployment in North America. In addition, he develops strategic sales objectives based on company goals to promote growth and customer satisfaction for the organization. Tobi is an entrepreneurial, development and profit-oriented leader who communicates an innovative vision for the future and inspires his team to execute the transformation.

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:

Tobi 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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