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Automation Unplugged

Automation Unplugged is a Facebook Live show recorded weekly with our host Ron Callis, Owner and CEO of the digital marketing agency, One Firefly. In each Automation Unplugged episode, Ron speaks with leading industry personalities and technology professionals to discuss all things business development, technology trends, and more. These interviews are designed to help our clients and members of the custom integration industry keep up-to-date with the latest news as well as learn from experts in the field.

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Home Automation Podcast Episode #108: An Industry Q&A With Keith Harrison

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Keith Harrison, Founder at Total Home Technologies, shares his perspective on the importance of RMR solutions and his approach to using virtual reality during project demos and system servicing.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #108: An Industry Q&A With Keith Harrison

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Keith Harrison. Recorded live on Thursday April 9th at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Keith Harrison

Keith got his start in the custom integration industry in 1992 when he opened up his small A/V retail store while still in college. Today, Total Home Technologies has three Control4 certified showrooms, two in New Jersey and one in New York, and is the highest volume Control 4 dealer in the North East. 

Keith is known to be a pioneer in the CEDIA channel for recurring revenue and offering the innovative solution of leasing automation systems to consumers.

Interview Recap

  • Keith’s approach to handling the changes in his business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Keith’s rental equipment leasing model and how it has been bringing ⅓ of the companies revenue for the last five years
  • How Keith and his team use virtual reality solutions like Help Lightning for virtual, hands-on support calls and Modus VR for media room and home theater demos
  • Keith’s motto of building a bulletproof system through implementing backup routers to make more profit as opposed to relying on ongoing servicing

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #107: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Mike Giffin

Transcript:


Ron: Hello, everybody! Welcome to another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today, we've got Keith Harrison from Total Home Technologies. Let me go ahead and bring in Keith. What's up, Keith?

Keith: Hey, Ron!

Ron: Keith, if you could fill our audience in and tell them a little bit about your - well, first of all, let's start with your business. You're based there in New Jersey and Manhattan. Then let's go back and talk about kind of your origin story in the industry.

Keith: Nothing tremendously exciting. Probably like most people, I decided I wanted to do this right while I was in college. I was an aerospace engineering major, I decided I wanted to start my own business. That was in the early 90s. I started a small retail kind of electronic shop and then it migrated into being a full-blown home automation business. It was one retail store and now we have three showrooms that are appointment only showrooms for automation and all three are Control4 certified showrooms. We're in the process of working on our fourth but obviously that's on pause with the pandemic.

Ron: Within your three showrooms, you said all three locations are C4 Certified. I don't know of many multi-location, C4 Certified showrooms. How many other integrators around the country or around the world fit that classification?

Keith: The last I checked, and I ask the Control4 department that runs this, I think we are the only company that has three certified showrooms. But that may have changed.

Ron: That may have changed. Okay. Well, that's kind of a neat stat. I know I want to dive into that. Keith, how are you guys doing with the lockdown there? You're right up there in the epicenter of New York/New Jersey. What is life like right now?

Keith: Well, we work in both New York and New Jersey. The rules are actually different and changing almost daily. Anybody that tells you this isn't a difficult challenge, both financially and emotionally is either amazing or lying. Every day we have to figure out what will happen the day before. At the same time, besides the rules, we're probably trying to be even safer than what's allowed. I personally from day one said, "Well, all of my teams of two are broken up into teams of one." Besides the three showrooms, we have a separate address that's an office. We just put one person in each location to work remotely or if something needs to get done.

We're trying to isolate the team from each other. And of course, isolate them from clients as well. For the most part, we ask customers to not be home if they desperately need a service call. We're trying to do a lot more remotely. But we were always very big on remote service, it was a big part of our business for almost five years, maybe longer. A combination of all those things is how we're getting through. You can still do work outside, so outdoor audio or outdoor video and wiring and things like that. Some new construction projects you can work on and we're making sure that other trades aren't there at the same time.

Fortunately, nobody on my team has been directly affected but some of them have been indirectly affected. Some of my team members can't come into work either because a household member got COVID-19 and they're now quarantined or they have children and they have to stay home to take care of their kids. We're working around all that.

Ron: Your business is deemed essential. Is there a lockdown where you are prevented from being able to go out and do work? Or on a limited basis, are you allowed to go out and do work on projects?

Keith: Well, there are lots of rule-makers. We are deemed essential under two different categories, home networking and connectivity and we also have a general contractor's license. Once again different states different rules. But at the same time, we could go into a building and the building could say there is no work being done. Then the building could have its own rules that could circumvent that. We also might say that we're uncomfortable because there's a full household and they don't have a way to segregate themselves because of the size of the apartment or something. It is truly situational.

"Here in the US the CARES Act with the payroll protection program and we have an audience listening and watching from around the world and rules are different in every country, but here in the US, we have what's called the PPP that was open for submissions."

Ron: Here in the US, I want to say maybe last Friday, here in the US the CARES Act with the payroll protection program and we have an audience listening and watching from around the world and rules are different in every country, but here in the US, we have what's called the PPP that was open for submissions. Are you submitting for that and what has that process been like?

Keith: Absolutely we are. I mean, let me just go bigger picture, the PPP is just one part of the whole program that's come out. There's probably about five or six different divisions all with their own initials. I do not claim to be an expert on them, but I have read and tried to understand them and have my financial people working on. We have applied for all of them. Even prior to that, the SBA loans that have been in place for probably 30 years about three weeks ago almost Day 1 of COVID-19 lockdown, about three and a half weeks ago, the SBA determined that if COVID-19 was in your county, then you then qualify for an SBA loan.

In the past, you would qualify other ways, like if you're building burned down, if there was a natural disaster in your area if it was the first time ever buying a property as a business owner. There would be other ways to get an SBA loan and one of the very first things that they did is they blanket said, "If you're affected by COVID-19," which is pretty much everybody, "you qualify." That opened up the SBA loan massively.

Ron: So you were already ahead of the game investigating those options weeks before the CARES Act was passed.

Keith: Correct, listen I'm not a politician nor do I really follow to follow politics, but I have to say I mean, I've never seen our country pay so much attention to small business. It's kind of liberating it's kind of nice to know that we make a big difference as a small company collectively. I mean, we've all heard about bailouts in the past -

Ron: Never small or medium businesses being part of it.

Keith: You hear financial institutions, corporations, insurance companies, and car companies. You never hear about the little guys. It's nice to know that we've got some attention and we're important.

Ron: I agree with everything you just said. How many business owners do you know that have actually received their confirmation or payment?

Keith: I don't know anybody that's received payment yet. I'm not saying that anybody hasn't. I'm not an expert.

Ron: Do you know many that have received confirmation?

Keith: I do. I know a few.

Ron: I want to say, I know a few and I can count them on one hand.

Keith: I'd say about the same.

Ron: We have submitted here at One Firefly, we have yet to receive that confirmation but we are fingers crossed like every business owner I know that is applying now.

Keith: It's complicated. Did you have to fill the application more than once, Ron?

Ron: I did not. I bank with a small regional bank here called Synovus and they're in a couple of states but they're bigger in South Florida. We could not submit until 6 p.m. on Friday and even then, there was a second email that came in on Saturday which allowed us to do the full application and submit all of our documents. I was receiving communication as late as 9:00 o'clock on Sunday night.

There was e-mail back and forth from the underwriters at the bank as they were processing our application that had some questions and we received notice on Tuesday that it was approved in underwriting and was moving to the next phase. But I don't know what that next phase is. And it's Thursday afternoon and we haven't heard anything.

Keith: Have you heard anything about timelines? I mean I've heard a few. I just want to know if they match up with what I heard.

Ron: Well, I've heard a number of business owners that have confirmed they received approval. I think approval started coming in as soon as Monday, this past Monday the 6th. I have not heard of anyone that had received payments and I think the speculation was around two to three weeks in terms of when that would come through. I see here on our Facebook feed I see Sean says, "I have several I know myself." So I'm assuming that it's approvals, Sean. Type in the notes is that actual money, right?

Ron: He typed that when you were talking about approvals. I'm pretty sure that's what he means.

Keith: Yeah, approvals. But I don't know of anyone. I'm hearing about five weeks to receive money.

Ron: You're hearing five weeks?

Keith: They were initially saying that money would start showing up in three to four days, that was the original claim. Then it got stretched out to maybe five weeks. Once again, there are so many e-mails floating, around there's so much information floating around. I'm not saying that I have any information better than anybody else.

Ron: It is super interesting. You're doing a number of things that I think are really interesting and those listening and watching might be able to gain some takeaways. One is, you are very unique in the universe of integrators that I know around the world in that you have developed a component of your business built around RMR, recurring monthly revenue. Do you want to say publicly the percentage of your revenue that's coming in through RMR right now?

Keith: Sure. It's about one third.

Ron: One third. And that is not security monitoring?

Keith: No, we don't do security.

Ron: You don't do security. So you're doing that through a creative service and maintenance approach, as well as equipment leasing. Do you mind telling my audience a little bit about kind of this brainstorm you had and then how you implemented it?

Keith: Well, you know Ron I've been doing this since before you and I met. I feel like the industry in the past year to 18 months has kind of woken up to it and it's been SOP at Total Home. There are a million things I can say about it, I really believe in the model. Yeah, it's great to sell people service but I kind of looked to the car industry or the cell phone industry. The cell phone industry is great. Back in the day you'd get a phone and a new model would come out and you didn't want to wait a year or two to get the new model. I know that's changed a little bit because now phones are so good that you don't need a new one all the time, but you would be eligible for an upgrade. You could trade in your phone, maybe pay a small fee maybe pay nothing, extend your contract and continue on.

I was on a Pro Source roundtable, happy hour a couple of days ago that a bunch of us were talking and they were talking about a whole bunch of Ruckus Wi-Fi systems they had put in at some big houses and saying that they had these systems cost $10-$20,000 just for Wi-Fi. And they do, it's a great product. I asked one of them I said, "How would you like to tell the homeowner that that $20,000 Wi-Fi system you put in a year ago is now somewhat obsolete?" Because you put in a Wi-Fi AC and now there's Wi-Fi 6. I said, "How would you how comfortable would you be calling the homeowner up and explain to them that there is better technology out now?" I think they probably want to kill you.

Ron: Yeah, I mean but I would also add that is probably the normal state of affairs for our entire industry. How do you make equipment leasing work? That's my first question. And then the second is how do you tie into service or maintenance level commitment to that? Are they one and the same or are they separate agreements that you have with the client?

Keith: Well, let me just address the first part if it's okay. If you asked our average homeowner what does it cost to maintain your car for three years. what do you think the answer would be, Ron? And I don't mean a Ferrari or Lamborghini. I mean like a BMW or Lexus.

Ron: I don't know. I mean, I think I'm on your team here in that I've been leasing for like the last 12 years because I don't want to depreciate a car. I don't want to even think about it. I just want to get a new car every three years and be done with it.

Keith: Exactly. So there you go. Thank you. You proved my point. Most people have no idea what it cost to maintain this very expensive, complicated system.

Ron: You gave me a trick question! Remember I said I would give you no trick questions? That's always my one rule on the show. It's always easy questions! No, I'm just joking.

Keith: That's the thing. They have no idea because it's built into the cost of the thing. When you lease a vehicle, you also get the maintenance and the service with it. Also, a new model comes out pretty regularly in fact exactly once a year for pretty much every car manufacturer. For some reason when there's a new iPhone that comes out or a new model car that comes out, our customers don't get upset. But when there's a new touch panel, new Wi-Fi, new main controller, or a new video switch that comes out customers get really upset and I don't know why that is and I don't care to understand why. I just want to use the model that works.

The model that has worked for them is leasing. Instead of selling you a part and saying, "Hey, this is how much the part costs and if it breaks you're going to pay me to come and fix it, and maybe you have to buy a new one and maybe it's under warranty from the manufacturer and maybe it's not. How about, here's the cost per month for you to own this part and if a new one comes out that's better or if the technology moves on you can get the new one. It might be the same price if the new part's the same price, it might be a slight upcharge.

You can decide if you want to upgrade or not. But the price that you pay monthly is for the parts, the updates, the maintenance, and the customization of it." Most homeowners have never had an automation system. The day you're collecting the last payment, that day you're in the house saying look, "Everything works, everything's good!" You're basically putting a gun to their head and saying, "Okay, now tell me everything you want this system to do completely customized," and they go I don't know. We want to give them the ability to customize that system over time and not send them a bill every time, it should be included. Does that make sense?

Ron: It does. I'm buying in. I can imagine if I were a customer of an integrator, I'm thinking that would probably be a pretty nice financial way to tackle a project and the obligation. Why are more integrators not doing this? I want to say, I think you're the only one I've ever met that's doing this. If you're watching or listening and you've heard of others, please type into the comments and share. Sean, you know a bunch of people. Have you ever heard of another integrator doing this? Why are more integrators not doing this, Keith?

Keith: I get pulled tapped on the shoulder at pretty much every three or four conventions that I go to every year where somebody says, "Hey, can you explain how you do this? Can you explain what you do?" And I hear that all the time. I don't know of any other integrator doing it. I think that's going to finally start to change a little bit. It's been really successful for us, it's been a lifesaver during this crisis because we have a third of our revenue coming in guaranteed. There are people are already set up on remote support. People are upgrading their Wi-Fi and parts that we're just either Uber-ing or shipping over the parts to them and set it up via cloud service.

Ron: What if they stop paying?

Keith: Good question.

Ron: What would you do?

Keith: Well here's the thing, we have a contract. What would happen if you stopped paying your car? I'm not going to break into your home and repossess it.

Ron: But you have legal remedies?

Keith: We have legal remedies. A lot of the value in what we're doing is the service that we're providing, we can stop providing a service and a lot of it is licensing on parts that are physically in the home that we can reapply. We can recoup some of it, knock on something - it's never been an issue. If somebody doesn't like something because that never happens right?

Ron: Never. Oh, I'm sure they're always immediately and instantly happy.

Keith: It reduces the crime of passion. The crime of passion being something is not right. Sometimes the dealer never even knew that the customer was upset. They never even knew, they didn't communicate it. And they leave and go someplace else or live in pain, live in the world of bad service and they don't even know. At least this provides an open line of communication. You don't have to ever worry about sending an email or requesting something and getting a charge because it's all included. Now the lines of communication are open a lot more so if something isn't right, we've got a much better chance of hearing about it.

I talked to integrators all the time and I say, "I believe a lot of our customers suffer in silence. I believe a lot of our customers go downstairs and unplug that rack or unplug something in that in their home every day," and curse about it every day and never let us know. I believe that occurs way more than we're willing to admit.

Ron: Oh, I completely agree. I'm on board with that position.

Keith: If they're upset and we don't know, how do we fix that? This is a much better way to do it. Make them comfortable to reach out to us knowing that it's part of what they're getting every every every month from us. Of course, we got to make it right.

Ron: Do you mind sharing a little bit of the structure? Do you work with a bank or a partner to do this? Do you self finance this? Any of the behind the scenes mechanics that you've figured out?

Keith: We sell finance. We started off slow. It was one customer that we tried it out on and it was a smaller amount of money and then one paid for the next, paid for the next, paid for the next. We've thought about farming it out. We've looked into it. I'm not saying that we won't.

Ron: But right now you do it in-house.

Keith: We do it in-house and the main reason why is the leases change pretty frequently and we love the ability that when a customer calls up and says, "Oh, hey there's Wi-Fi 6 out and we're all stuck in our house and we need more Wi-Fi," that we can change that lease at a moment's notice up or down.

Ron: By the way, Wi-Fi 6 is a real thing? I'm completely ignorant about this. Anyone watching or listening probably is not surprised by me saying that. What is Wi-Fi 6?

Keith: OK. So there was Wi-Fi AC, which was the last generation. The one before that was called N. So it went from N to AC to the new one that's called 6. They reversed AC and now call it 5 and call N, 4. The next one will be 7 when it comes out, it's not even on the drawing board.

Ron: I have a Cisco router, Cisco POE switch, and I have some Ruckus access points in my house. Those are probably Wi-Fi 5?

Keith: Yeah. Also called AC. If you are leasing customer of ours who said, "Wow, everyone's home. We want more bandwidth. We need better Wi-Fi." I could courier over to you, we use all Meraki. I could courier over to use some new access points, we would use Help Lightning, augmented reality to help you just plug it in. I'd see it come up on my dashboard and it would just go into service.

Ron: Awesome. This is about to be a full IT session. What's different? Is it faster or more bandwidth?

Keith: Faster, better, more.

Ron: Faster, better, more for less. Love it. Well, you just mentioned Help Lightning. I actually just had Mike Giffin from Help Lightning this week on Automation Unplugged and I told the story that you, Keith, had taken me over to their booth at the Pro Source event in Vegas. If you could tell the audience how have you been using this augmented virtual support solution for your customers?

"We are big believers in instead of the client to employee communication, it should be client to company."

Keith: Sure. Well, I don't have to tell you that I was a fan of it when I saw it because I dragged you over to the booth. We are big believers in instead of the client to employee communication, it should be client to company. If somebody is busy or if you call, you're not calling my cell phone you're calling the office phone that then routes to the first person available. We always want somebody who's available to pick up the phone. I don't want to get an email from a client directly about support. I want it to go into our helpdesk because then it pushes out to everybody and we can see who worked on it and just try to be organized with support. That means FaceTime or things like it are client to person or client to employee whereas Help Lightning, you can send somebody a link and they don't need an app on their phone, it doesn't matter what kind of phone they have, or what kind of computer they have. When they open the link, it basically initiates something like a FaceTime call.

They don't see the person on the other end, they could if you wanted to, but there's no reason for them to see me. I want to see what the client is having an issue with or what I'm trying to point to them. And then you know the cool part is as long as the person helping, so the person on my team, holds their phone up against a white background, you can reach your hand into their image. You can freeze their image if you want. Then you can point to something into their image with your hand, you can even draw a circle around it. You can even say, "This is the thing I'm talking, about can you take that thing and move it from here to here? OK. That's the device on the rack, I need you to reboot. That's the button on the remote, I need you to press whatever." It's a really really great way to kind of virtually have your hand in the person's home during this quarantine.

Ron: What has been the response? I'm assuming you've been deploying it or working with it over the last 30 days?

Keith: Has it been 30 days since we were in Vegas?

Ron: It has actually been 30 days exactly.

Keith: Yeah, I mean we started right up with them as soon as that was over. A week after that is when the quarantine started. I really saw that this is going to be a tool that's going to really help us. If you use another tool, you have to ask somebody to download an app. What phone do you have? What computer do you have? It's complicated. This is, they get a link, they click on the link, and it works in a browser.

Ron: You're a fan.

Keith: Yes.

Ron: All right so if you're out there watching, listening check out Help Lightning. They've got some neat stuff.

Keith: It's just one tool along with the remote team, Zendesk, IP phones, Cisco Meraki. That's just one it's one ingredient in the stew for good remote support.

Ron: Now while we're talking about cool things, I'm going to put one other cool thing on the screen. This is another cool thing that you pointed me to at the show and I know that you've actually been a fan of these guys for a while. This is modus VR. What is this stuff and how do you have in mind to use this to make your business better?

Keith: I don't know if I can explain how great it is over this over this podcast. I think you really need to do a demo of it. It's a virtual reality design tool, it's CAD and a headset. It's probably one of the only things in our industry that is really pushing the bounds of hardware technology. I mean, you need some serious computing power and serious video power to make it work. But it does work.

You can create an empty room, you can put in the size and shape of it, and then you can just start grabbing elements with your hands in this headset, and add risers, couch, color, carpet, screens, projectors, TV, speakers. Build it all, invite the client in with another headset walk, around the room with them, and say, "Well what do you think? Is that couch too close to the TV?" You can throw up scales and show them what it'll look like, "Hey, according to standards that TV is too close," or the TV is too small or too high. You can really give them a feel for exactly what the room is going to look like instead of guessing. And here's the thing, it shows a level of professionalism that you just don't get from the, "Hey, how are you doing? I'm going to put up the speakers and the TV.".

Ron: It's definitely next-level tech. I think it's super interesting. If you're out there and you're watching or listening and you're using Modus and if you have experience using their technology and selling or working with clients, I'd love to hear it. Definitely drop it in the comments. We have Tomas from Panama, he says that is an impressive tool and that he got a chance to test it back in 2018 at CEDIA.

It sounds like Tomas at least has seen this before and I agree I put the headset on and I played with it for about 20 minutes or so it was definitely some pretty interesting technology. Now, a couple of things Keith I want to cover for before we part ways here. One is just a real simple little I don't know tip or trick that I heard you mentioned to me the other day and I just want to know how long you've been doing this and it was the idea that you always put a backup router on your job sites. Is it the router or the switch or what is it that you're doing? And you said it's been a lifesaver so many times.

Keith: Well, remember these systems that we're installing in our customer's homes, we own. Service is our responsibility because they're our products and they're paying for service. The less service my team has to go out to do, the more profitable is it for me. The old model is, the more service I get the more I make and I kind of found that almost inherently a little dishonest. That means you could do the worse job and if you get more service, you make more money? I don't know. I know people don't intend for it to be like that but it kind of does.

Think about it, we're sitting down with a client and telling them day one, you haven't even installed this system yet and you need to buy a one-year maintenance program on a system that hasn't even been installed. I would be a little trepidatious about saying yes to that. The more bulletproof we build the system, the more advantage it has to us and actually makes us more profit, too. Our industry has been behind on networking, it's caught up a little bit. But in the world of networking our industry has been really behind. Stuff that's been out in the enterprise and professional level, it's been out for you know 10-20 years that we're just starting to get into. I think it's because our industry has this brand loyalty to speakers or TVs or cable or parts. We just have this love of the company.

We have three manufacturers in this industry that pretty much everybody uses that would probably never be used in an IT department in any company. But yet, the AV industry has landed on these three companies that are networking products that are made just for AV guys. My methodology is to use the professional stuff. I happen to use Cisco Meraki. I like it. It's not the only one out there. There's lots of other different Cisco stuff out there, Fortinet and Sonic Wall and HP, lots and lots of great stuff out there that's been in the industry doing what I do for 30 years.

Ron: I want to say in my office in Davie we're running Cisco Meraki. I think that's what we moved to probably about 10 years ago or so.

Keith: I think what you're trying to get me at is, if you have a router and a house and the router stops working, it's game over. Everything stops working. Your remotes, your lights. It's game over. How do you not have a second one there? It's called a warm spare. It's sitting there, it's on and ready to go. It's basically just playing Marco Polo with the main router. And when the main router doesn't answer, Polo. It becomes Marco. It sits there and it has the exact configuration and it just takes over and it's automatic. We get an alert that that's occurred but that's the difference between us calling the customer and saying, "Hey, next week we're gonna come out because you're on your backup part and we're gonna change it. Or maybe we can even fix it remotely." To them calling us saying, "Hey, by the way, the Earth has stopped rotating." Because that's what they say. The proverbial, "nothing works now.".

Ron: Love it.

Keith: Cellular backups, I'm a big believer in. Redundant routers, redundant parts. If the internet goes down in a house, we should still be able to get in remotely and reboot things through a cellular connection.

Ron: I agree. Keith, you and I were able to talk a bit and even hang out and do some fun activities there in Vegas last month. In one of the conversations, you had mentioned that your company, you always have your eye out for acquisitions and acquiring new businesses whether that's the employees or the brand or the book of business or the customer list.

Obviously, we're 30 days later and now we're almost in a new economy and in a new state of affairs. We're not even quite sure yet what the new normal will be. It's interesting that you're a go-getter, business operator, running a successful business. What are you looking at when you're acquiring businesses? What is really your strategy there and maybe how has the COVID-19 situation modified that if at all?

Keith: Well, I think maybe you're giving more credit as a business person than I am. I'm just an integrator like everybody else. We're a small, mid-sized company. I've seen so many really talented people that were like a one and two-man show, where they know their stuff care and are smart hardworking. The clients have a lot of loyalty to them, but they're just wearing 50 hats. Maybe they're not good at accounting or maybe they're not good at marketing or sales and inventory. The list goes on and on of all the hats you have to wear that you didn't even know existed when you started the company.

I really like meeting somebody who I think is a winner, but maybe their phone is blowing up - you can't even have a cup of coffee with them because their phone just going bananas. I say, "Look you're probably wearing 50 hats. How'd you like to wear two or three and you pick the favorite ones that you like, pick the ones that you got into this business for and you could just do that. You could still deal with your same customers and you could still do the jobs that you love and come and meet the team, meet the people that are going to do the rest of it for you. And if you don't think they're gonna do a great job, then this isn't for you but they're gonna."

You know other members of my team, I have a lot of faith in them. It's great to watch a person get distressed, do better work, have happier customers by what we call it a roll-up. We roll them up into the home. We've done this probably about five times, from anything from a one-man show to companies that were more than half a dozen people in the past ten years. I've done about five acquisitions. They've all worked out great. I love keeping the same people on board. I mean, I want the team I want the staff.

Ron: Got it. Before we close out, there's a lot of people that are listening from around the world, some are watching the video here live or will watch it on replay. I always like to end with any parting words of advice or things that you would have people be mindful of or take into consideration during these challenging times.

"Put your own safety and your team's safety above everything else. Make smart decisions."

Keith: Put your own safety and your team's safety above everything else. Make smart decisions. If you're not doing RMR now, I'm sure you know why you should be. And the hardest thing that I think we're all struggling with is I think everybody needs a hug right now. It's tough. And that's the one thing you can't do. Ron, I would love to go get a beer with you. But we can't do that right. I think that takes a lot of mental discipline and a lot of emotional focus to stay positive during these times because there are better times to come. This too shall pass. And in the end, we're all gonna be better for it.

Ron: Amen. I do think there'll be a calling of businesses. Every business will not survive, not being overly harsh there may be more matter of fact. I mean, this is one of the more tough economic challenges the world has ever gone through. Not the toughest, there's been tougher situations World Wars and whatnot. But this is a tough one. This is up there on that list.

Keith: It's the highest one emotionally.

"Humans are creatures that like to interact. They're social creatures. Yes we have our Zoom and we have our FaceTime, but there's just a lot of value in actually being at the same time and space as that other party. And we're not allowed to do that right now. We look forward to being on the other side of it."

Ron: I agree. I mean the anxiety and the level of fear and just the lack of human interaction. Humans are creatures that like to interact. They're social creatures. Yes we have our Zoom and we have our FaceTime, but there's just a lot of value in actually being at the same time and space as that other party. And we're not allowed to do that right now. We look forward to being on the other side of it. Keith, what is the best way for our audience if they'd like to get in touch with you directly, what's the best way to do that?

Keith: Well, our website is totalhome.tech. My email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., that's probably the best way to reach out to me and please do. We're trying to do everything, even not for our customers. I mean, Ron you know that promotion we just put out on Facebook.

Ron: Actually do you mind sharing that? You're actually putting some money behind promoting a way that you're trying to help your community if you don't mind maybe we could just close on that. What are you doing?

Keith: Sure, absolutely. In our region, Manhattan has been hit the hardest. It is the most locked down. It is the most restricted. It's a hot zone right now. So us a Control4 dealer, that's our bread and butter, that's what we know really well. We've reached out to every single person, not every customer but anybody. And for free, no credit card, no commitment, you don't ever have to do business with us.

We are providing, at this point, one month of free remote service for anybody that has a system that we're familiar with, which is mostly Control4. Basically, if you have a Control4 system out there and somebody else did it, and you're having a hard time on something. We're happy to jump in remotely and help you out. No commitment, no money. And we're going to do that for one month. We're gonna see how it goes and if we're not out of this, we'll probably do it again for another month.

Ron: Now that's putting your money where your mouth is. That's impressive. Well, Keith, it was a pleasure having you on episode 108 of Automation Unplugged.

Keith: Thanks, Ron!

SHOW NOTES:

Keith Harrison, Founder at Total Home Technologies, shares his perspective on the importance of RMR solutions and his approach to using virtual reality during project demos and system servicing.

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 within 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:

If you'd like to learn more about Keith and his team at Total Home Tech, visit their website at totalhome.tech or email Keith directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Make sure to also follow them on social media on Facebook!

More Automation Unplugged:

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