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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 #226: An Industry Q&A with Chad Russell

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Chad Russell, Director of Residential Sales at SurgeX shares his background and history working the AV industry for 25 years.

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #226: An Industry Q&A with Chad Russell

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Chad Russell. Recorded live on Friday, September 23rd, 2022, at 12:00 pm. EST.

About Chad Russell

As Director of Residential Sales, Chad Russell oversees all residential sales for SurgeX and guides the sales team toward achieving new milestones. With over 25 years of experience, Chad is known throughout the industry for his training style, knowledge of cutting-edge control systems, and creation of best practice resources for dealers to help with sales, profitability, and efficiency across their businesses.

Chad has been involved in the custom installation space since his college years. He has also focused on the manufacturing side of the business, where he cultivated his dynamic background. Throughout his nearly three-decade career, he has served as Regional Sales Manager for both Kaleidescape and Crestron Electronics, the Territory Sales Manager for VUDU, Vice President of Sales for ICE Cable Systems, and most recently, the Director of Sales for Josh.ai.

Interview Recap

  • Chad’s background and history working the AV industry for 25 years 
  • The CEDIA 2022 Expo in Dallas and everything SurgeX was taking to the show, including SQUID, their new power solutions product.
  • His perspective on the labor shortage we are experiencing and different actions that can help pull talent into the industry.

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #225 An Industry Q&A with Angel and Alexandra Centeno

Transcript

Ron:  Chad, how are you, sir?

Chad: What's happening, Ron? Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. I decided to step up my game and come to see the HQ on the front end of a big week next week. We're all excited about, as you said.

Ron:  Dude, that's cool. So tell everyone, I bet you a lot of listeners and folks tuned in may have never been to CEDIA HQ. Where is it? What's there? Tell us about it.

Chad: So it's actually a gorgeous building. There's two floors. The first floor is really a dedicated experience center, full training center. This is the podcast room, which now that I know this is at my disposal, you may be seeing some live SurgeX based podcasts coming out of here once I figure out how to use this thing. But the whole facility, they've got full Ketra downstairs, they've got a full theater, they've got different experiences. And it's really laid out about what our industry does. Being local in Indianapolis now, I'd love to start getting more people, doing more industry awareness and help pushing that. I've been active with CEDIA for a long time now and it's really a beautiful building. Then upstairs, more administrative and conference rooms and this and that. But then there's also full training facility here to come out here and do live in person trainings to learn terminations of wire, other things and also more complex. So it's really, really amazing building.

Ron:  I learned something new in those couple of words, and that is you said SurgeX is based in Indy?

Chad: No, I am based in Indy.

Ron:  You are based in Indy?

Chad: But I mean, I am a residential SurgeX now. So kind of maybe I'm based out of the Waukegan Office for Ametek, which is just a little bit outside of Chicago. And then of course, we've got offices in Nightfall as well. Probably nightdale nightdale. Nightfall is the street that CEDIA is on.

Ron:  No worries. And where do you live in I thought you lived out west, or do you live in Indy now?

Chad: I just recently relocated from just outside of Aspen, which is a beautiful place, which is kind of where my heart and family and everything belongs. But as you know, with the onslaught of a third child moving from man to man to zone defense, I had to relocate, at least in the short term, back here to Indianapolis in order to get some help from my mom, my sister, nieces, and all of the friends and family out there and here in Indianapolis that have been amazing so far.

Ron:  Now, everyone just saw you look to our right, to your left. So you want to tell everybody you're streaming on your Facebook page, aren't you?

Chad: Yeah, I mean, you have an interesting story about your Facebook. You can share that if you want, but you can't broadcast on Facebook. I'm doing a live broadcast, too, of a behind the scenes cast. It's a different view, so you don't get to see Ron's pretty face, but it's a little bit me in kind of an awkward position. But, hey, whatever.

Ron:  That's all right. Has anyone subscribed? Anyone tuned in to your stream?

Chad: I got Austin Mejia, we got Richard, the guy that I love dinner with all the time and all the events. There's a few people there's a few people out there.

Ron:  That is awesome. And over on LinkedIn, Jason Sean, director of sales and business development at LK Associates and well known operations and process consultant, put in quotes "The Chad".

Chad: That's right. He's been a longtime friend, long time Chad advocate, longtime listener. So thank you.

Ron:  That is awesome. All right, so those that aren't familiar with SurgeX, what are you doing these days? What's your role responsibilities? Fill us in.

Chad: Yeah. So recently I've taken over the residential sales for SurgeX, and we are very involved in all three buying groups. There's a resi side and then a commercial side, which is a bit more focused on the distribution side of things. What we focus on the resi side is being direct with the dealers, and we have some patents on some really cool power protection devices as well as them from our parent companies, which are Ametek. What they offer are some really cool, large format ups solutions, and then you get out into the other world that they do DoD, as well as other medical side of things. We have a really comprehensive solution on how we can get things out there and help you on the rescue side. There are some things that we're developing and things will be working on, but Jimmy Pasche, my predecessor, did a great job on really building the Direct Sales Channel with SurgeX, and that's been it's really cool to come in and see a company so committed to the channel when they are so large themselves. So it's been refreshing. I've been learning a lot. I'm about six weeks in and I'm still a newbie and it's fun to get involved into a new aspect of the channel that I wasn't familiar with before.

Ron:  No, that's awesome. In your area of responsibility, are you the whole country? Are you a part of the country? How does that work?

Chad: North America. And then I leverage heavily shout out to all our rep firms out there, leverage them because they are better experts on the product line and power protection than I am at this point. After CEDIA, I suspect I'll be pretty brushed up on everything, but we really focus on all in North America. So Canada and then I guess the Mexico side, I don't really do much on. So Canada and the United States.

Ron:  Okay, cool. So we have CEDIA around the corner. I want to dive in to CEDIA and what has you excited. But before we go there, I always love to learn about your background. And you have oh, my goodness. You've been with Kaleidescape and Crestron and VUDU and Avid and Ice Cable and Josh AI and you've got some experience. I didn't even know this. You worked with Steve at Ovation Audio Video?

Chad: Yeah. So it all comes back to Indianapolis for me. I remember I tried to apply at Ovation. They were like, we're not going to hire some kid. He doesn't know anything. No experience, this and that. So then Incredible Universe was hiring. And that was a tandy corporation run at really a large, large display, like really trying to compete with the big box guys. And I got a job there. They ran us through sales training and all of this, but then I sat out of school for a summer, was supposed to be a summer deal. And then I was like, oh, this is great, and then ran through that and became really involved with their expansion. And then I was like, I got to get out of here or I'm not going to finish school. And so I went back to Purdue. And I started working at Good Vibes. And of course, that was Steve First company at the time, and now he's doing some amazing things with Bravas. But, yeah, so then from there, I learned quickly that kids put things in their cars or athletes and other things, and then men and rich men put stuff in their homes and businesses. That's kind of where I realized the opportunity within this channel. So that was pretty cool.

Ron:  Well, take us from there. So you worked with Steve and what was Steve's company again? .

Chad: Good Vibes. Yeah, and Good Vibes. And they started that many years ago. Him, Steve Silberman and Marty Hayes and all these guys. And Marty came in as they were kind of closing out when Marty's like, well, we have two sales. You got grand opening and grand closing. So Good Vibe sold to Ovation, which then so at that point and one of the founders of CEDIA was actually heavily involved with Ovation. Gary McCormick was a founder of CEDIA, one of the first guys, I believe, and then a founder of Ovation. And then from there I worked there through college, graduated and then I went out to Arizona. Now it was the number one growth market in the country, Maricopa County. And we were in Scottsdale. And then another big industry named Mike Hague had this store called Showcase Home Entertainment, which was 15,000 square feet of glorious, glorious showroom. And it was really, really well done in a way that everyone spoke about it. They were the largest Sonance dealer in the world, the largest Phillips prompt dealer in the world. And we had 16, 17 sales guys who were just running and gunning doing 150K to 350K in sales a month. We were running numbers. What we are doing is focusing it on really the things that the channel really developed and learned quite well over the past 10-15 years. And that is control and automation and taking it make it to a singular experience. That single handheld remote at that time, in those days that was still new. You're talking Nialls and Telecontrolls with the processor. Maybe then you're building from there and getting into like Crestron St 1550s and processors and getting into like this Alon via music. And it's what I called was kind of these Frankenstein systems where nothing was really vertically integrated. So we had to do a lot of creative things on the integration side. So I was there for seven years and learned a lot, was a sales manager, a team leader there and then from there I went to Kaleidescape. I think that the heart of everything we do and it's something that is kind of lost right now because of the way we do things. It's more from a design consult way and it's not really focused on experience and was about content and so Kaleidescape being a content provider, the highest resolution thing we could get and this is still like DVDs and all that stuff is still out there and then not streaming and all of those things are still in their infancy. And from there I ended up back at Crestron. I sold a ton of Crestron at Showcase and that's why I was able to jump into that position.

Ron:  I didn't realize you worked at Crestron? When were you there?

Chad: I don't even remember the years. I was there for about two years. The funniest thing on that is I remember one of my good buddies on the commercial side, Roger Tacas, he was the first commercial guy to sell a million dollars in a month. I was the first residential guy to do that. It was Arizona and Nevada and it was like 2005, 2006 ish right in there.

Ron:  Dude. Were you and I at Crestron at the same time?

Chad: Maybe.

Ron:  I was there 03 to 07.

Chad: Then we were that's crazy. I didn't know. Talk about being hung up. And what were you doing?

Ron:  I was resi in South Florida. I was living in South Florida, managing Florida and The Caribbean.

Chad: Oh, my gosh. Yes. We were there at the same time. And so I was running and gunning. And that was an interesting because Kaleidescape one culture, and we will leave it at that. And then I go to Crestron in that time, in those years, working for Crestron was a lot of fun. Today, with the other things we'll stay at that. Crestron is still an amazing company. I still bleed some Crestron blue. And right now, there's a different story over there because they're trying to overcome a lot of the things that a lot of manufacturers are.

Ron:  Yeah, they have some supply chain stresses, for sure, but so do many manufacturers. I have to tell you. Just by as a side note here, Chad, John Campbell just posted on LinkedIn. And John Campbell's, director of sales and design at Hometronics down in Arkansas, he says, I've logged into LinkedIn for the first time in two years just to show my love for this man. Oh, yeah, and you too, Ron.

Chad: I'll see you in a couple of weeks, buddy. I'm working on that. IROC-Z. So he and I just want to pull up in a disposable IROC-Z and slide into the front of the convention center in Dallas and then just leave it on and leave the music playing and walk in.

Ron:  I see it now. I see the cops coming right behind you guys. But yeah, I see that for sure. So when you were at Crestron, you were on the commercial side or the resi side.

Chad: The resi side. And it was an interesting time. We were still at that point with Crestron. They were just really kind of launched their lighting products was just getting started. There were a lot of interesting things happening there, and the focus was shifting to becoming a vertically integrated solution. So, as you know, on the side of things, as a regional, your job is to capture that business from Lutron to capture that business where you can and now where they are now is a complete soup to nut solution where you can buy all of that and make that your complete solution. It's really cool to kind of been part of that on the front end and see that, but yeah. So that was a fun time.

Ron:  John replied. He says, Wednesday, bro. We'll be holding hands.

Chad: Awesome. Silly. He's the king of weird things happening. I won't share it on here, but he has the weirdest people start following him around. It's true, John.

Ron:  Is John over there on your Facebook feed? John, if you want to really weird him out, go to his Facebook and harass him on that live feed. That's funny. All right, so what happened after Creston? Where did you go after Creston?

Chad: I had an opportunity to rejoin some of my teammates at Kaleidescape and get back into that content thing. And VUDU was an interesting thing.

Ron:  So VUDU had this passage streaming service, right?

Chad: Yeah, they were doing 1080p instantly. And so this is when Apple TV had issues. Apple TV couldn't do those things. They're pulling from a Singular server. And what these guys were doing were pulling from like eight different packets with these boxes on the same ISP and working everything in a way so you get 1080p instantly. And it was instant access. So it was really kind of the beginning the forefront of this streaming movement. Netflix was still kind of DVD and all this stuff. And so that was an interesting thing. And so I took a chance. I left Crestron, and I'll never forget my boss, he said, he goes, he goes, you're leaving, selling a solution and going to a Widget is what he told me. And I was like, whatever, boom, I was running for it. I like the Silicon Valley thing, and there are some other reasons there. But it was an interesting journey because the next thing you know, six weeks later, they're shutting down that division for CEDIA. And I'm like, what?

Ron:  Is that when Crestron pulled out?

Chad: VUDU.

Ron:  VUDU pulled out?

Chad: VUDU shut down that division, and the next thing you know, they're like, well, the guy who hired me gave me a ton of stock options and all this stuff. The guy who hired me was like, I'm sorry, but I've got this other thing for you. You're going to be an independent contractor and you're going to support this Best Buy thing. And I'm like, that's insulting, but fine. It was a humbling experience right around that time, too. There are some other life changes for me in Scottsdale, and so I'm like, whatever, fine. So then here's the real kick in the pants. I'm like okay, fine. Whatever. I'll do it. And that's it. The economic downturn. So at this point, I've been removed from the integration side for a bit, and then I had an opportunity to go join one of my good friends, awesome human, David Ray, of Paragon Systems Integration today it was Paragon Technology Group then in Aspen, which is where I always wanted to be anyway. And so I just had to move through and get rid of my house and do all this stuff. And I had an opportunity out there. Also I thought it would be a good time for me to get a fresh perspective on getting back in direct to consumer. Because that's the hard part when you go from being direct to consumer, going to the manufacturer side. A lot of guys trying to do this is go back to an integrator in some capacity and be successful at it. And I felt that that was a challenge I was up for. I also felt that that would be the last place to be hit by a recession and the first place to rebound. I was right in those respects. Now it takes time to build that. So I was there for three years.

Ron:  It takes time to build your own book of business, I mean, at a local level for you to enter. That was in Aspen?

Chad: Yes, but it didn't suck having.

Ron:  The Aspen backdrop.

Chad: Snowboarding. I called that second college because it was like going back to college, because that's Aspen. Everyone's on vacation, everyone's there, and it was a different time in Aspen. Aspen is a lot different now, too. But it was a really fun thing to be part of and to go back and be part of that and doing some of the biggest projects I've ever seen. And so, I mean, lifting 100 inch plasmas out of floors of TVs with 500 weight counterbalances, getting involved with all of these really high end architects like properties selling for 40, $50 million, and that's back then in 2009.

Ron:  Yeah, that's big projects.

Chad: Yeah. And so it was an interesting thing. But then I was like, I got to get out of Aspen because I'm going to get stuck in second college forever. And so I took off and went to LA and went to Avid and worked for on the distribution side, which I never worked in distribution. So this is another thing of me trying to grow and understand the channel more. And distribution is interesting in that you've got a million products to sell and you pick up the phone and you're like, what am I going to be doing? But I was focused on that more about working with the high end dealers in LA and getting them programs for video and other programs and while simultaneously building the commercial side. So that was an interesting journey.

Ron:  You lived in LA? you moved?

Chad: I did, in Pasadena. Then a good friend of mine, she had a house and I was house sitting for Santa Monica every other week because she traveled. So I also had the best of both worlds. I had Pasadena, which I love, and then Santa Monica every other week. So I was living the dream there. That was great.

Ron:  Santa Monica, there's a nice beach there, right?

Chad: Yeah, I mean, that coffee will get you going. You just say beach or Pete. Pete's coffee. I'll never forget. I couldn't drink it because it was too strong. It got jittery.

Ron:  By the way, Eddie Shapiro, chief AV designer over at Smart Touch USA and CEDIA director. He's on the board. I believe he's still on the board. Eddie may be correct me if you're still on the board or you were on the board. I'm not immediately familiar, embarrassing myself with lack of knowledge, but he says, nice to see Chad Russell on here. And I agree Eddie, he has been on the show as well.

Chad: Thanks, Eddie. Eddie has always been a very good supporter. Hopefully I'll see you in Dallas next week, sir.

Ron:  So, Avid, your role was in Southern Cal, driving that market, supporting rescue dealers and building a commercial business. And just from that experience, what was one of your biggest lessons? What did you learn while you were there or in that role?

Chad: The distribution is hard. That's what I will say. That's hard. And we're in the biggest branch. We're doing, I don't know, like maybe 40, 50, $60 million a year out of that, maybe. I can't remember the numbers at this point, but it was turn and burn. And what I learned out of that is the distribution dealer. And this is for the dealers out there. If you're that guy standing at the counter building the system for your client and saying, it doesn't matter, I just need it. What's in stock today? And that doesn't matter. What's on the proposal? We should talk because you're doing it wrong and you're also doing a disservice to your client. Not only just to the client, but also the industry. That's what I learned because there were a lot of guys would just show up and do it the wrong way.

Ron:  So you're saying the system would essentially they'd show up, meet with a salesperson and invent or design a solution on the back of an app at the counter based on the customer's needs?

Chad: Based on what's in stock and what they could walk out with today.

Ron:  How often would you see that happen? That sounds shocking.

Chad: Daily. Almost daily with certain specific guys. Because you're in a market like that market probably has 4000. At the time, I had three or 4000 Integrators that were just running amok. Yeah, that email list, it was ridiculous.

Ron:  All right, random question and maybe even give me at that data point that I'll ask you, the present. How many Integrators do you think at that time there were in North America?

Chad: Oh, my gosh.

Ron:  You're going to tell me you thought there were three or 4000 in LA.

Chad: I wouldn't call these guys Integrators.

Ron:  All right. People that had credit cards, buying products through distribution.

Chad: My gosh, probably 20,000 guys, maybe more.

Ron:  Is that and then what? Bring it to the present. How many guys today?

Chad: Today, what they say the numbers are? Based on what I've seen, there's about 7500 to 10,000 ish. But there's a lot of guys that operate well below the radar that are also kind of just doing stuff like handyman, that can do some electrical work that found out about this stuff, that have a distribution account in some other places. I think there's a lot of guys that operate under the radar and it just depends on if someone knows to go to the CEDIA.org website, find a qualified Integrator that can also give them what they need. It was always sad to hear an end user saying, I spent $100,000 with this guy. And you're like, It doesn't matter. You have to spend $300,000 with me. You've got hardware. But this is a mess.

Ron:  All businesses are not equal. All integrators are not equal. Not saying there are well, I guess you could say there are good integrators and there are bad integrators. There are people that are really thoughtfully approaching their projects and the client experience, and there are people that are you're describing would walk up to the counter and say, hey, my customer needs me to do this. What should I use? Oh, my God. Are you really qualified to go and install a quarter million dollars worth of electronics in their home? That sounds terrifying.

Chad: Yeah, there was a situation where I was talking about using a better projector and changing out the lens and doing this and doing that. At one time, this dealers like, oh, I'll just tell the client that we're putting a lens on it, and I'll use this cheaper projector, and I'll charge them the money and just use this cheaper projector. And I'm like, Wait a second. I'm like, I went to the back, made a call, we shut his countdown at the counter. He's done.

Ron:  Really?

Chad: It was a situation.

Ron:  That wasn't company policy. That was your policy? You're like, I'm not letting this guy go and harm a customer.

Chad: I was like, yeah, you're basically telling me that you are going to be dishonest with your customer. Not on my watch. No way. He probably went over to another.

Ron:  He went down the street to the back shop and bought something. You got moral victory for the day.

Chad: Well, I was just making more of a I think that we had a conversation later, and we set his account back up, but I was like, you got no more.

Ron:  What happened after Avid? Where'd you go?

Chad: Then my good friend Roger Takis called me and said, hey, there's this position and that brought me in. I got to work with that was a fun job because we were growing. We had a huge opportunity. And HD based T matrices are expensive. And so that's what I started getting the Western region focused on, was 16 by 16 HD based T solutions. So those $20,000 or POS, boom, boom, boom. We have a good solution. We also have the right partners and the right rep firms. And that was a fun time. And then they ended up being purchased. Shout out to Ilia.

Ron:  He's the owner, right?

Chad: Yeah, he's got a cool thing called Ilia's Kitchen now. You guys should look him up. He's like, in his retirement.

Ron:  He's out? I didn't know that.

Chad: Oh, yeah, he's done. And he's got a cool cooking thing on Instagram and Facebook, Ilia's Kitchen. And he's really passionate about it. And his videos are great. So I've been following Ilia. I harass him every once in a while and tried to drag him back into the industry because he's really good. He's a smart.

Ron:  Feel like I miss that. I ran into him on multiple occasions over the years. I didn't realize that's just me not paying attention. I didn't realize he had an exit.

Chad: Well, I think it was kind of quiet. We worked really hard there, and that was a fun I learned a ton. That was a whole nother thing, because now not vertically integrated solution. We're part of the solution working into that. And it really gave me an ability to kind of help people get the right piece of the product. And his brother Michael, they made great products, and it was a great story, and we had a good program. Everything there was fun, and that was good. And then from there, I just had an opportunity with Ice Cable, and this is now it's like a commodity type piece. But what that was was at that point, I was like, Do I get my MBA? Or Brian Rizzo and Ice Cable. This could be your MBA. And so he gave me a VP position at Ice Cable Systems. And then it became around working around efficiencies for installation and free wires and getting the right type of products and the right things there in order to help dealers on that. Now, not everyone pays attention to that story, and getting 30 minutes to talk about wire with a dealer, that's a tough ask oftentimes. But that was interesting, and that was a good learning experience. And then from there, I ended up with Josh. And as you know, the voice thing is really happening now. People are using it, people are curious about it. I've talked about that for the last three years on where that was. But that was a great time. You look at working with Alex, working with Natter and working with Scotty and working with Tim. That team, that executive team is, bar none, top notch. Well, pedigreed, smart people.

Ron:  The launch of the micro, that's the little guy, the little microphone.

Chad: That's the nano.

Ron:  The nano. Sorry, my bad. Alex, if you're watching the nano that buildup and that launch video and that whole experience, that was one of the best launches I think I've ever seen in our industry. It was first class. You were involved in that, too, because I remember I don't know, I think of you. You were the hype man. You were out there building the energy for that thing and that's beautiful gear.

Chad: Yeah, that was fun. That's a whole market. That's interesting. There's obviously work to be done for dealers to understand that and why that shortcut. And I don't want to go too deep off the deep end on that because I'm still passionate about it. I still believe in it. And from there, I needed to take a break. Three years, because what happened is then the pandemic hits and I stayed at it. I went out there. I went out. I kept traveling. I was the one of the last guys to pull in, and then I was the first guy to start doing webinars. I did them every week, the first Friday Power hours, and then from there, I moved them to monthly. We kept the whole thing going with that throughout the whole time, even when we were on that complete after. I'll use a Restrepo comment. People are zoomed out. They don't want to be on Zoom.

Ron:  We got Zoomed out here at One Firefly. We did it. I remember in the spring and summer of 2020, I had the best positively and sadly, we had the best Zoom attendance of our company history. This is 15 years this year, and our numbers were crazy. And then there was just some period in 2021 where no one wanted to go to a Zoom anymore. At least that was our experience. Did you experience some version of that? Maybe it was us. Maybe they don't want to come to our Zooms and went to everybody else's.

Chad: We had like what the team called. We had the Josh, the Regulars or the cult. The Chad Cult was kind of the joke around it, but I'm not talking me up about it. People want to know more about the content, and I was also.

Ron:  But Chad you do have a following, and you do have people that if you want to go and shoot shit for an hour, they're going to tune in.

Chad: Well, I tried to make it fun and engaging, and I always had something outlandish, and I'd be kind of wacky and weird about it, and I had a lot of fun with it, but it did take a ton of time. But it got to the point that I got a system down that was pretty easy. And I knew the content. I had hundreds of topics I could go over. And because of that, so fast forward to the departure. I guess I was so wrapped up in it, focused on East Coast when I'm on Mountain Time, I'm starting at 5:30 or 6 in the morning, doing East Coast stuff and then roll that all the way into West Coast, and it's like it's 14 hours a day. And then after everybody goes to sleep, I'm sitting there scrolling, managing community pages and doing all this stuff. I was too dialed in. I needed a break, and I wasn't being a good partner to my wife, and she was pregnant, and we were getting ready to make this move to Indianapolis, and there was a lot of moving parts, and sadly, I had to and breakways there.

Ron:  Well, good for you, man, for acknowledging that. And I don't have the picture, so I'm going to talk about something I can't share, but I remember seeing a picture. This is back when I was on Facebook before I got hacked. I remember a picture of you and your wife. I want to say in bathing suits. I want to say skiing.

Chad: Oh, her. The picture of her.

Ron:  Is that what it was? You guys were out there, and I want to say she was pregnant, and maybe she wasn't really skiing, but I was like, man, you guys are living the mountain lifestyle.

Chad: That picture is pretty epic. I'll see if I can pull it up on the camera here so you guys could see that one right now.

Ron:  Yeah, there she is.

Chad: The thing about that is the Independence Pass. Generally, when Independence Pass opens, there's not that much snow. The amount of snow, we got a huge dump of snow up there, and it was open. And I'm like, Babe, you're about to have this. So that was January. Was that no, that would have been for Wyatt. So that was probably June. That was in June. And I was like, babe, we got to go up there and get this picture. Put on your bathing suit. We're going. So what you don't see is there's a huge blanket behind it. Me, like, helping her, making sure she can walk up there without falling to get the shoot.

Ron:  To get the shot.

Chad: No, she was not snowboarding, but people were walking. And we're like, what is going on here? And so she's a good sport like that, but yeah, have some fun with it. That was for the first one, and now we've got three. And so I had to move back to Indianapolis as you and I were discussing. And so that's how I'm here in Indi, I needed to be closer to family. I needed to call on friends, family, loved ones to help in this transition. And then when that was about to happen, so she was still trying to help us move and do all this. I'm like, you're too pregnant to be doing that. So I drove her out here. It takes from Aspen to here with her two toddlers and a dog. Takes like 22 hours. And it was like.

Ron:  That does not seem easy or fun.

Chad: No, it's a 17-18 hours drive solo. So I got her here, and then I went back, packed up the house, loaded it up, and then came back. And at that point, I started working an opportunity came up with SurgeX, and I was like, I'd had enough time to kind of reflect and get my mind right. And I was in the process of transitioning, and I was like, okay, let's do this. Let's make a run at the power industry and have some fun with it. So here we are.

Ron:  I'll give my personal experience. I have one child, and I'm here in South Florida, and my family is all up north. And so we had no family here. And it was it was really challenging. When you don't have family raising kids, like, you just think about the simplest things, you know, your mom coming over or sibling coming over to watch or help support something around the house. We did not have that as my son is now 13. So I would say we need that less. Although family is always nice, so I imagine that was really challenging, not having that. And so now that you do have that, what's that like?

Chad: It's nice right now. On the labor day, my wife went into labor. Mary was in labor for like 17 hours or something, had the baby, and then so he had ended up going into NICU for a week. Everything's okay, It was fine. It's a more common occurrence than you'd think with the lungs, and you had to get some treatments. And he's fine. He's home. Right when that was okay and I knew everyone was okay, it was start the remodel. We're living at my mom's now, so I live at my mom's. And so it's my mom, me, two toddlers, my dog, her little dogs. It's kind of chaos, but we've got a rhythm there. And so to say, it's amazing. And I think it's a time that it's fun to see her really become tight with Wyatt, who's three, and also see Waylon the little guy toddler run up and also be close to nana, too. And it's really a fun time, actually. It's a little stressful on me because I want to be in the new place, but it's in shambles right now, and so we'll hopefully get past that.

Ron:  I was able to get my hands on a funny picture of you, kind sir. So now you got to tell our audience what's going on in this picture here.

Chad: That's the birth of chainsaw. So you've probably heard chainsaw. That mustache. So I'll spare the part that I started growing a mustache and drew it out for like two years. So that thing is like Yosemite and that's what that is. I needed some pictures or something, I think for Ice Cable or something.

Ron:  I want to say I think when I met you, I was mindfully met you. I want to say you are with Ice Cable, and I want to say you looked is it possible you had this mustache at that time?

Chad: Probably so. Probably so Ron. But I had that for two years, and I'll spare you. Like, I started growing it out, and it was fun. I think that when I go back to Colorado and in my latter years when I decided to be like, sheriff or something, I'll grow it back.

Ron:  Is that one of the career ambitions? Maybe cap it off with the title of sheriff?

Chad: Yeah, something, I don't know. Mayor. Sheriff. I feel like that's a good look for me there.

Ron:  The hair do, I mean, the hair. You got something going on there. Combined with the suit, combined with the handlebar mustache. You got a look.

Chad: Maybe I should bring that style back. Let me get a haircut.

Ron:  Yeah, man, I had to put that up on the screen.

Chad: Thank you.

Ron:  Tell me about CEDIA, man. We got a resilient industry and actually, for many, COVID was better than we thought it would be. Right? I know we had lots of friends and family and lots of people harmed by that disease, for sure, and it was terrifying and scary. But the residential industry kind of had a bit of a boom the last 24 months. And we're going back to CEDIA. We're going in full force. At least many of us are, kind of how you feeling about the state of things out there? And I also know we got weird economy stuff going on as well, so we don't know exactly what's around the corner.

Chad: Yeah, I'm a stay positive. The only thing you can control in life is your perspective type guy. So let's run at this and stay positive. So on that, what you're seeing. And for us to all get back together, you can see everyone's excited about that. There's no surprise there. That obviously shout out to the origin team. Those guys are really leading that charge. And the excitement, they did it last year. We made a call at Josh to not spend the money because we knew it was going to be a lackluster. Like when Savant pulled out, that everybody started pulling out. It was just like a domino effect. I was one of those dominoes.

Ron:  I wasn't at the beginning, I can say that, but I was probably somewhere around the middle. One Firefly pulled out in the 11th hour.

Chad: Yeah, we still went. Ryan Conway and I still went and went to Indi and we were there. Not with a booth, but we had a suite and we were still taking the meetings with the dealers individually. So we kind of control flow and be respectful of people's COVID concerns. But yeah. And this year, what you're seeing is everyone's excited to get back. I mean, you're seeing now there's concerts, there's football games. We're past it. And whether or not it's still a concern or not, that's an individual choice. But I think that overall, in general, the US is ready to rock and ready to go, and I think that we need this. I think that since 2019, being the last one that we really had, that was a real time for us to get together. I think that this is going to be a really fun time in Dallas. I'm excited to see everybody that I haven't seen. I still kind of ran around and saw people, but not in mass like this. And so I think that there's a lot of excitement for it and I can't wait to get out there and see everybody.

Ron:  So David on my team here at One Firefly. He's actually done you and I a service, and he's provided us our booth numbers so that you and I don't have to get in trouble by not remembering it here live. So I'll start out with the SurgeX booth is 24059. And the One Firefly booth for those who want to come and say hi to us is 4035. So come and see us at 4035. But what are folks that are going to go to the show, what can they expect to see in your booth? Who will be there and what will be there?

Chad: We'll be going over. We are launching a product. I'm working on something kind of fun. If it comes together, it'll be amazing because it's been tough getting shipping and all this stuff. I'm trying to do something fun in the booth. I got to keep out of the wraps because I'm still waiting to finalize those details. But we will be want. We'll be talking about Squid, which is a power solution product with IP control and some really cool analytics. We'll be showing that the back end software of that, that's kind of where all of our products will be going through to our whole suite of things. We'll be showing large format ups, standalone ups, and all these other aspects of that power category solution that we're so good at. And then of course, Big Bertha will be blowing stuff up. It makes me wish I still had my.

Ron:  What is big bertha blowing stuff up. Remind me what that means.

Chad: SurgeX has a patent on this thing called ASM. It's called advanced series mode. And it's complete surge elimination, not sacrificial MOV components getting burned up where the surge can still come through. What ASM does it eliminates the surge. It's a patented technology and it's really amazing. We're the only company that has that. I don't know, I may be getting the numbers wrong. I think it's like 6000 volts straight into things. And then we blow stuff up .

Ron:  In the booth?

Chad: Yeah. And then we put the Advanced Series Mode products in there and we showed how it still works, sending that same voltage through it and it doesn't affect it.

Ron:  Seems like a cool demo.

Chad: Yeah, I'm excited to be part of that. I like blowing stuff up. I mean, that's kind of like the kid, the young man and all of us.

Ron:  Yeah, I have many fond memories of blowing things up and getting myself in trouble and often nearly losing fingers and limbs.

Chad: Exactly. We'll be doing that. And then we do have a on Wednesday night, we'll be kicking everything off. We'll be in Deep Elm in Dallas at the Deep Ellen Brewing Company from six to eight will be hosting a kick off happy hour there. It does kind of overlap with some other things, but I hope everybody can kind of make it. And I'd love to see everybody and give you free beer that's all over my LinkedIn, my Facebook and my Instagram to register. I'd love to see everybody make it there before. Remember, though, take it easy on Wednesday night because you still have three days. You got Thursday, Friday, Saturday. You got to go to bed early on Wednesday. You don't want to start the show off.

Ron:  I know everyone's going to be so excited to see everybody, and we don't want anyone to get carried away and then actually miss the show, which is think about all your poor vendors that have had such a hard time, frankly, with supply chain and other stresses, and here they are spending money on trade shows and make sure we go see them. So I know you want to hang out with your friends. This is actually my public service announcement. I know you want to see all your friends, but make sure you go and take care of yourself and get a good night's sleep and drink plenty of water so you can go see all the vendors who I know are excited to see you guys. All right, public service announcement over.

Chad: We got the right place, Ron.

Ron:  It is. You know what, man? I have a picture we posted on our Instagram on One Firefly of my, I've had a little thing. Maybe now that your child. You say your oldest is three?

Chad: Yes.

Ron:  Maybe you do your own version of this. But when Max was three, my son, every single year since he was three, I took a picture of him in front of the Pallet or the shipment. We would send out the CEDIA, and that's like our little memorial of the CEDIA and kind of a way to remember Max and his growing. And so we posted some of that to our Instagram just the other day. And the picture from last year was Max in front of our palette. It was fully wrapped and ready to ship, and he's got a thumbs down because we pulled out maybe a month before the show. But this year we're going. So we have Max now. He's starting to look like a young man. He's 13 going on 14.

Chad: But then the other thing is your palette must be way larger than it was. It was like a middle, like, tiny palette back then when he was three. And now I'm sure it's this whole thing.

Ron:  Well, we have other supplies coming from others. So the palette that comes from HQ here in Florida is approximately the size. But now there's other supplies coming from lots of other directions that land at the show. But it is exciting. What else is top of mind? You're in the loop, you're hip. What else is going on at CEDIA next week that has you excited? Or jazz?

Chad: Well, the things that kind of like I focus on is I do need to see. I was helping out in Dealer the other day with some barcode stuff, so I'm always curious about the video, and that's something that you have to be in person to see and appreciate and that's something. So I want to see the new barcode stuff. I want to see the new Sony Laser projectors that I haven't been able to be part of, to see the road shows. I want to see that. I'm really curious what Joe Whitaker has been working on with Jeremy, of course, and I know he's over there.

Ron:  Has he been inventing some new stuff?

Chad: They've got these new outdoor Ballards. They've got these new small aperture opening speakers and then of course, all these things out there, the headlining sponsor. So I'm curious. They're going to have a lot of fun stuff going on. I want to see what Jeremy and Team are working on. And then the other thing I'm curious on Josh, we were working on a lot of initiatives. I'm curious on what they've got. I did see a little sneak peek release that Alex put out and I do think the new logo spray piece that's pretty cool. I'm going to say I'd give that some shout out. I do like that.

Ron:  I probably should be aware of that. Where would I see this?

Chad: Alex posted it. It's pretty cool. I like it. Yes, I think you'll like it. You're a design oriented guy. You're going to like it. They're launching some new pieces to really enhance the way that I think integrators deal and focus.

Ron:  There we go.

Chad: Yeah. Boom. There you go. There it is. And there are some other things I'm curious. I don't know much. I haven't talked to anybody over there because I have my own little things that I'm working on to kind of get everything up and running. But I'm curious on that. And then from there really just kind of see everybody. I stay in contact with people and I'm excited just to see all of everybody. I do want to see the CEDIA All Star band, see if I can get a stand in I've been requesting. We'll see if I can get up on the mic at all. We'll see if they'll let me.

Ron:  Dude, that sounds, sorry, I'm over here looking at the Josh, is this officially their new logo?

Chad: I think it's just a teaser for what they're working on. It's pretty cool, though.

Ron:  Alex and Team have always been fantastic at branding.

Chad: Smart guys over there. Smart guys.

Ron:  Smart guys. They have us guessing, man. Look at that. They got T shirts. They got a whole campaign running here. All right, folks, jump over on the Josh AI Instagram page and check out what we're talking about here. They got this spray paint themed branding going on, which is pretty cool. So if you jump up on the mic with the band, the CEDIA band, I know you got this rap thing going on.

Chad: I can sing a little bit.

Ron:  Do you also sing?

Chad: Everybody knows me for these things. Is that because I'll get up there and I'm not scared. Uninhibited uninhibited.

Ron:  No. That's amazing, because so many of us are inhibited and not willing to do that.

Chad: But yeah, it's one of those things that if I had focused on that probably a little bit more intently prior to discovering my love and understanding of electronics and technology, my career would have been a completely different way. I didn't really embrace that whole thing at the VUDU point when I was in a place of needing to focus on something, I needed something to believe in. That's poison, right? That's a poison song.

Ron:  Yeah, I think it was.

Chad: Yeah. So that time, I really kind of went hard into that. I played guitar for a long time, and I went after it and started a band and played for many years. And from there, the thing that's easy to do is I have a good cadence on the hip hop thing. Some people say maybe I don't. I like writing and doing all that in the creative side.

Ron:  I appreciate it.

Chad: 00:55:42.412 We did a cool music video during COVID with Daniel from Barco. Jason on your team?

Ron:  Yeah, Jason on my team. He did the audio editing.

Chad: Yeah, originally. And put the musical composition together. And we had Todd from Signals AV. Who else was on that? Help me out. Kyle from Global Wave. Jimmy.

Ron:  Yeah, Kyle played the drums. Right.

Chad: And I think Todd played the bass. And then we had some people from Barco from all the way overseas in Belgium. I can't remember that his name right now.

Ron:  We're going to have to totally. Is this on YouTube? Is this music video? It is. You're going to have to send that to me and David. David and I, and we'll drop that into the show notes. So for those who want to watch this video.

Chad: We'll close this segment out. We can close out with that music video. You have my full authorization.

Ron:  We should edit that in. Right?

Chad: I like it. At the end. That can be the closing the closing piece.

Ron:  I'm going to close on actually similar, but actually it's not similar. I'm going to close with one last idea, and I just would love to hear your input on this. I know what's near and dear to your heart, or at least you've shared that with me. Offline is really the labor shortage in our industry and getting new people, new talent, new blood, new ideas into this space. I'll go as far as saying there's a whole generation of integrators that will likely be retiring in the next five to ten years, and at the same time, there's the talent, which our industry does not have a great track record of bringing people in from outside into this space. I'll go even further to say that here in Florida, there was a time when, for example, there were the sound advices and the sound advice and the Tweeters and these different AV retail shops bringing in all this town spending millions of dollars on local advertising. And I know so many people at so many firms that were brought in from that period. And what's the equivalent today? The answer is, I don't know. So anyway, that's a really long set up. What are your thoughts on this and what do you think are some of the solutions?

Chad: Okay, you're right. I am all about recruiting the new blood. One of my buddies, Jason Savage from Sony said something to me yesterday. He goes, we're the next generation of seasoned ticket suite holders. Then there's the guys that brought us in, right? And those guys are ready to retire. Those guys are done. And so it's on us. And so I'm actively recruiting. I hear somebody say they hate their job. I'm like, hey, have you heard about this? Here's a website. Here's my card. Constantly trying to build this and in fact, I'm thinking about it. There are some things I would like to try to push on the CEDIA side and try to become like active and bringing people in because we're not good at it. One of the things that I've found is I've pulled some people into this industry that now have cooler job titles than me and make more money than me and are female. And I love that.

Ron:  It's amazing.

Chad: And it's one of those things that shows that this industry will not only support it, but embrace it and give people an opportunity. All you have to do is show initiative and a desire to learn. The door is wide open right now if you don't see young people like installers that don't know where they are. If you can get over and become more if you can talk to people, you can be good at this job. That's it. Anybody can learn the technology and this and that. It's more about learning the solutions. There's training resources. There's all that. We as an industry need to be responsible for pulling that in or what happens. We've done nothing to plant those seeds. We're terrible at it. And it's one of those things that I kind of want to focus on. And I'm really adamant that it falls on all of us in the channel to get people to come in and learn it and also become passionate about it because I don't know a single high school kid if you said. Hey. Do you want to help people so they can talk to their house and hit buttons and make gates open. Make automation happen in the house at certain times and create clean air and ensure wellness within living environments and make it so you can watch and listen and play anything you want throughout the house and as it evolves through sensors and all this other stuff you want to be involved in that? I don't know, a single at least a high school kid that would be like, that sounds amazing. Why wouldn't they want to be part of that? And we don't have a good outreach for it. I'm excited. I'm excited about it. And I'm actually working with our high school here. One of the teachers there, I've offered to come in and talk to him about these trades and he does stuff, I forget what his exact title is and what he's doing, but he said he's working on getting a time for me to come in and share with those kids and talk to them about things as well. So I'm excited about it and that's kind of a thing that as we kind of close, get to the back end, I'm probably not working 25 more years, right? So it's one of those things I'd like that to be one of the staples of my career. At the end of it is trying to recruit the right guys to come in and take over.

Ron:  No, I think that's brilliant. I think everyone watching and listening has a part to play. So often in society, we want to point the finger and say, what is that entity doing? Maybe the entity whose name is over your shoulder, right? So what is that entity doing? And I think that entity does have a role, but also every person watching and listening has a role. And so what can you do in your backyard right now to bring in that new talent? And I think that be some really fun brainstorming for leadership teams, or maybe entire teams, to say, guys, what can we do to bring people in that maybe don't know we exist? But yet the career opportunities are abundant. The ability to earn is robust. The prediction or vision for the future opportunities is robust. It's just at the same time we sit here and struggle with talent. So I think it's a really good point.

Chad: You keep on talking and I'm going to recruit you. If it helped me run this and drive.

Ron:  Well, I just say I've done some local volunteering at some local public schools and I've actually hired some kids from those schools to work here at One Firefly. So I promise you they wouldn't have known about our industry otherwise. You just got to get out there and you've got to figure it out and you got to offer yourself up. Mr. Chad, how can the folks that are watching or listening, they want to get in touch with you. They want to learn more about your guitar playing and your rapping and singing, or they want to learn more about SurgeX.

Chad: Track me down at what we said. What we said. Next week, if you're in Dallas, track me down at 24059 booth number. I will be planted there with a few exceptions, al next week. I'm the_chad_ russell on Instagram. You can find me on Facebook, just Chad Russell search. Just search me under there and you'll find me. Also on LinkedIn, you can track me down there. Chad Russell at Ametek ametek.com. You guys have my number, my numbers out there. It's pretty easy to find me, pretty easy to get a hold of me. I'm generally responsive. I am on East Coast time now and I have an infant and two toddlers and a commitment to a wife.

Ron:  Maybe no replies at 11:00 p.m. On Friday. Maybe ten is the cutoff now.

Chad: I guess that depends. That depends on what I'm into, right?

Ron:  Good point. Good point.

Chad: The morning comes quick no matter what. But yeah, reach out to me. You have ideas, whatever I can do to help you, anybody, anytime or anything, you guys let me know and I'm always here for it.

Ron:  Chad, it was awesome having you on show 226 of Automation Unplugged, my friend.

Chad: Thank you for having me, Ron. I appreciate you.

SHOW NOTES:

As Director of Residential Sales, Chad Russell oversees all residential sales for SurgeX and guides the sales team toward achieving new milestones. With over 25 years of experience, Chad is known throughout the industry for his training style, knowledge of cutting-edge control systems, and creation of best practice resources for dealers to help with sales, profitability, and efficiency across their businesses.

Chad has been involved in the custom installation space since his college years. He has also focused on the manufacturing side of the business, where he cultivated his dynamic background. Throughout his nearly three-decade career, he has served as Regional Sales Manager for both Kaleidescape and Crestron Electronics, the Territory Sales Manager for VUDU, Vice President of Sales for ICE Cable Systems, and most recently, the Director of Sales for Josh.ai.

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 became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work 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:

Chad 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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