Home Automation Podcast Episode #112: An Industry Q&A With John Clancy
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, John Clancy, Crestron VP of Residential, shares exciting news about Crestron Home and ways Crestron is helping their dealers and clients during this pandemic.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing John Clancy. Recorded live on Wednesday April 22nd at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About John Clancy
With almost 30 years in the custom integration industry, John has experience as both a manufacturer, integrator and has served two years on the CEDIA Board of Directors.
John started his career with New York-based Audio Command Systems, working his way up from installer all the way to becoming Executive VP, CTO, and co-owner.
In 2016, John joined Crestron as VP of Residential where he uses his unique understanding of what his channel needs and what end-users want to continue positively impacting Crestron’s place in the global market.
- Ways John is seeing COVID-19 impacting dealers throughout the world
- Steps Crestron has been taking since February to keep his global team and consumers safe
- Exciting updates Crestron is making as a response to the lifestyle changes caused by COVID-19
- How Crestron is adding value to the industry by offering virtual resources, such as virtual product trainings and CEU course offerings
Ron: Welcome to another episode of Automation Unplugged! Before I get going here, you know we are all in quarantine or we're social distancing, staying at home. We're doing our best to play our role and what is it called, dropping the curve? lowering the curve? There you go. John just helped me out, flattening the curve. You can tell guys I haven't even been watching the news lately because I find it so demoralizing. I don't even turn the news on. This is a tremendous time. Whether you're a business owner or you're working for your company, maybe you're a solar producer and you're working for yourself. This is a tremendous time. If you aren't working on projects or doing design work or playing some role within your company, it really is a tremendous time to be picking up new skills or working on either your business improvement. How can you be working on your processes, your operations, your marketing?
Whatever that component in your business is or maybe you want to pick up some personal skills, maybe you want to learn that new language, read that book. Drop into the comments and let us know what you're working on during this very odd time in global history. We'd love to hear from you. What I am going to jump in to now is our awesome guest. I am bringing to you the Vice President of Residential of Crestron Electronics, the one, and only Mr. John Clancy. Let me go ahead and bring him in. John! How are you?
John: Hey! How are ya?
Ron: See, I told you the audio works whether you're on camera or not on camera. I heard you perfectly. You're like, "Let me help Ron out."
John: Yeah, flattening the curve has just been burned into our brains but yes, I wanted to make sure you got that right.
Ron: Are you watching a lot of news these days? I had blocked out that term. I haven't watched the news in a few weeks.
John: There was a period of time early on where I was watching it every day and it was depressing. Nw I try and just get a recap at the end of the day. If you watch it in real-time, it's just it's so unhealthy I think. Yes, information is important. You don't want to put your head in the sand. But you straddle that line between overdoing it where the same thing is just repeated over and over and it's not good, it's depressing. And so yes, I think trying to find a balance there is really important.
Ron: Yeah, I'm still on the hunt for a good balanced neutral-ish news source. On a Friday night or maybe on the weekend when they're replaying news from the week, I'll bounce through MSNBC, CNN, Fox News. I'll have a drink in hand usually, it's just pure entertainment. Let me see what they're saying and how many times they can look at the same challenge but from a different perspective.
John: Yeah. Look the drink in hand absolutely helps.
Ron: It does.
John: And trying to get all those varying perspectives absolutely helps because everything's been so politicized, it's really hard to just get information and pure facts. I've landed at all that I can do is what's right in front of me and my team and our nose to the grindstone. We're working on helping our customers and protecting our friends and family, that's all I can do. All that other stuff, I'll let other people worry about it. I'm just focusing on what's in front of me.
Ron: Great. Mr. Clancy, some of our audience may not know you personally. You and I have known each other for many years but they may not know you. I always like to start there. If you could go into a little bit of your background today. You are running Crestron's residential business. I want to say globally, is that correct?
John: That's correct.
Ron: You're the guy running it globally. I know you've been doing some really amazing things. You even have some super amazing things that the world will know about down the road sooner than later. How'd you get into this business?
John: I'm not really the best at talking about myself.
Ron: I know! I'm putting you in that uncomfortable spot. Talk about yourself!
"I did come from the integration side and I think that really helps me portray internally to my peers and my boss and others inside about what the dealer needs, what our end users need."
John: I provided my bio! Nonetheless, I've been with Crestron for about four years now. I run this business unit, the residential business unit globally. I did come from the integration side and I think that really helps me portray internally to my peers and my boss and others inside about what the dealer needs, what our end users need. I think that we're finally beginning to show some of that. It takes years to change that.
It took four years of being there. It's been a dramatic learning experience but it's also been a huge benefit to me and to the company to have that side. I did spend twenty-three years at one of the largest integrators in the country. I started there in 1992 as a technician and worked my way up. I taught myself Crestron programming in 1993 when it was a DOS utility.
Ron: That was all line code, right? No graphical programming?
John: It was a DOS utility code workshop back in those days. Even the touch panel side - I tell the story and it's somewhat embarrassing but it also tells the story better than I could. When when we first started to design touchscreens in 1993, I had a grayscale laptop and Crestron touch screens at the time were able to display all eight colors, all of them.
Ron: All eight? Wow!
John: The fact that I was working at a grayscale laptop made the differentiation between say cyan and yellow almost impossible.
Ron: That's got to be worse than being colorblind.
John: Yeah. I'd load panels and realize, "Oh no the colors are wrong, we're going to change them," and things like that. I go back a long way in that space. The company I worked for, Audio Command Systems had offices in New York, Florida, and California. We manufactured our own audio distribution system at the time. We looked at Crestron very early on, and again, in 1992-'93 was when I really started to dig into Crestron. In the old days when you had to change the function of a button, you physically had to change its wire. And then discovering that I can do that change via software change was dramatic.
Or I wanted to add certain functions and features from just a change in code and loading that program was dramatic. That really kind of ended our play into the manufacturing of these audio products. What we did do is we reverse engineered Crestron keypads, because at the time these things were meant for real industrial use and not for the high-end home. We took our manufacturing expertise at my old company and built our own keypad that sat on the Crestron or Cresnet network. Really built some really high-quality polished brass or brushed nickel or even gold plated keypads for high-end homes. That from the Crestron side looks like Crestron keypads. So we evolved from there. The first home automation system where we integrated things beyond audio/video probably happened around '93 where we integrated lighting control. It was contact closure to execute lighting scenes and things like that.
Anyway, I evolved internally in my company from just the technician to teaching myself programming to becoming and developing project management skillsets, that again, at that point in time really didn't exist to me in the residential part of the business. Then evolving into system design engineering and building those pieces in our company. At that time and by 2000, I became an owner of the company and we continued to grow. When I left in 2016, we had about 120 employees. But the thing that I am most proud of, before leaving, there was the average tenure of our employees because I really felt it important to promote from within. Really be careful about who you hire and give people a career path.
When I looked at the people around me, these were guys that I hired as technicians in the early 2000s who have elevated themselves and continued to evolve in their own ways. When I left in 2016, the average tenure of our employees again with 120 employees was over 12 years. And that's pretty dramatic in this day and age where people bounce around between companies all.
Ron: That's unheard of. I mean broadly across our industry I would say that's pretty unusual.
John: Look, I was the perfect example. I started off as a technician and I left there as one of the owners because I really thought it was really important to provide a career path for everyone in the company. "OK, I'm this right now - I'm the warehouse manager or I'm the driver. What is my career path? How do I move on from here?" And I thought that was really important. And we really focused on keeping our employees engaged and giving them a path to grow.
Ron: That's amazing. I know the CE Pro 100 just came out, I'm trying to see if I can get it here in front of me but I want to say that Audio Command again was in the top 10 or the top 20 in the country?
John: Yeah, I think for the past 20 years they've lingered in that top 10. Robert and Jonathan, who started the company, had tremendous foresight in the '70s when the company started. They've always surrounded themselves with really good people. And they maintain that today. I give them a lot of credit in that respect. Moving on from there, I was elected to the CEDIA Board. I spent two terms on the CEDIA board. While I was on the board, I took this opportunity at Crestron, and really it was about stepping back and looking at this chance to make a change in the industry.
Here's Crestron, this very large company primarily focused on the commercial space, that's the bulk of our business, even to this day. But in some respects, they've kind of started the home automation aspect of where we are today in the CI channel. If I can, I use the term "wake the sleeping giant" and focus some of our resources on this channel, we can succeed in ways that we really haven't realized yet.
Ron: What are your responsibilities these days at Crestron? I dropped global and that just sounds like a ton of responsibility right there. What is it like? Who answers to you? What are you expected to achieve here?
John: Yeah, that's a really good question. That's a loaded question. Dammit, Ron! Why'd you asked me that? I wake up every morning asking myself that question. If they were at twenty-six hours in the day, I could feasibly work 26 hours because of my global responsibilities regarding sales. That propagates the entire globe, the needs are always there. There's product development, software development, and marketing aspect that is unique and we've been kind of been able to have some autonomy. One thing I am proud of over the past four years, I have gained my boss, Randy's, trust.
He has let me do things that I think really takes a lot of effort to get at Crestron or any big company like that. Having our own direction and specifically relating to sales and marketing and product development, as a former programmer, I knew when I came to Crestron, the idea of custom program projects for the mass was unsustainable. That's where the push towards Crestron Home really began. Crestron uniquely stands in this space as the only solution provider with a custom capability. I think that at the extreme high-end superyachts, the 50,000 square foot house, that's where we live. But is that it?
"That's where the push towards Crestron Home and having a solution that's easy to deploy, that delivers a great user experience but utilizes all of our high-quality products was really the focus and that took years to get there."
That's where the push towards Crestron Home and having a solution that's easy to deploy, that delivers a great user experience but utilizes all of our high-quality products was really the focus and that took years to get there. September of last year was when we launched it and it's been ever-evolving since. I'm really really proud of it.
Ron: It's worth noting that I brought my whole team at One Firefly up to see you in New York. Now, this is before COVID-19. We heard inklings of something that was happening over in Asia and starting to happen in Europe, but it still felt appropriate and safe to take my team and travel to New York. You were a very gracious, wonderful host.
You and your team and took us through the various facilities there at Crestron and it's definitely impressive. Not only the whole company but then also the residential side of things and what you and your team are building. It's very cool. How are you and your family handling quarantine? What is that like? You're up there in the epicenter, you're in the New Jersey/New York corridor. What is life look like for you personally?
John: I am in the, I guess, the hotspot of the nation right now.
Ron: I think the world, actually. You're the hotspot of the world.
John: The first place we actually would have strived for the past. As you can see, I'm sequestered in my basement. I have two college students and a middle schooler learning from home. We try and scatter and try to do our own things. I spend ten-twelve hours a day here in front of this machine with online calls and meetings. It is monotonous and it is somehow unbelievably exhausting.
Ron: Do you at least have a standing desk?
John: At my office in New Jersey, I do, but here at home, I don't. What I did do is buy a Peleton. I just recently had delivered. I try and hit that between meetings.
Ron: Oh, nice!
John: It's sitting like right outside my door.
Ron: You'll show up to a meeting with beads of sweat rolling down your face.
John: I have a little towel there, I do what I can. I just felt after the first couple of weeks so unhealthy just here for ten-twelve hours a day that I needed to do something and that was the first thing I did. It's helped, it is amazing. I feel more exhausted at the end of one these days than a similarly long day when I do commute back and forth, it's just bizarre.
Ron: As part of our effort to give back to the industry, we've done a bunch of webinars in the last six weeks and all of them generally have been about techniques and strategies that we practice that we think the world might benefit from. Very little to do with exactly products or services from One Firefly. One of those tips, I'm going to give you the tip now, and I'll check in with you in a few weeks, we'll see if you're doing it. And that is, one of the keys to working from home is you have to get outside, you have to take breaks. You need sunshine, you need vitamin D.
If you just sit there, specifically sitting all day long, it sounds like you've broken that habit because you're going to the bike and back and forth. You have to design that flow so that you feel good, you feel healthy, you feel energized. You have to imagine, when you're at corporate and you're in meetings, you're going to the boardroom, you're gonna go see people in the factory, you're walking and moving all the time.
John: I mean, we have four buildings on our immediate campus and I purposely walk to all of those meetings because it's so much better than jumping in my car and driving two minutes. I miss that and obviously the human interaction part of it. But the physical part of just walking to the next meeting, it doesn't happen here.
Ron: John, you have customers around the world. Much of my business is here in North America, although we certainly have customers around the world as well, just not remotely as many as you do. How are your customers doing? How's the marketplace doing right now?
John: It varies by region. Australia seems to have come through this right, they locked down very early on. Right now, I speak to our Australia team weekly, and from what I can see it looks like they've come through this and they're beginning to open up things. That's kind of shaken free. When I look at Europe, the UK, and Southwest Europe are still under lockdown and still really struggling as businesses for our dealers to do anything right. That's been really a big struggle.
Here in the U.S., it's been very regional and I know in the New York area here, our dealers are locked down. They're prohibited from working on any construction sites. If they've been able to register themselves as essential businesses, they can provide support services to their customers. For the existing projects, where they might need service and support but they can't go to a construction site, those don't exist. When I look out west, I spoke to a dealer out in Arizona last week who said he's never been busier, all of the upgrade quotes he sent out to every one of his customers over the past year, all of a sudden he's getting calls, and of course, they want to implement them right away. So he's busy.
I think it is regional and it's somewhat based on even the size of the business. The larger dealers who have significant overhead had to make changes and make and make adjustments. Whether that's laying people off or furloughing people because their overhead is so great that they're counting on this continuous cash flow they've had to make adjustments. Smaller dealers, some of them have been able to sneak through and get into projects, "OK I'm going to go to this site. I'm gonna do this upgrade. I'm going to wear protective equipment, wear gloves, and wash my hands. I'm going to ask the family to be in another part of the house. When we leave, we'll provide instructions and maybe even a video on how the system is utilized instead of the in-person lesson." Dealers are adjusting and adapting in all different ways and unfortunately, it's been really hard for a lot of them. It's really based on region and to some extent, size.
Ron: Well, let me take this in a different direction. If I'm remembering correctly about my days in the way way back machine from Crestron, I think I remember runs a July through June fiscal year. Is that still the case?
John: That's correct. We're in Q4 right now.
Ron: I was going to say. Because this is my Q2 so it's your Q4. How are you guys trying to close the year strong? How do you do that right now?
John: Let me step back a bit. I think, post-ESC, ESC was a tremendous show for us. We had a huge attendance but that was kind of the beginning of the rumblings of this virus.
Ron: That was like one week after I saw you. I was in New York and then you were flying to Amsterdam, correct?
John: Correct. We came back from ESC with a "what if" mentality. What if this thing gets really bad? How do we as a company begin to operate under varying scenarios? We experimented with parts of the individual teams. Our tech support and sales support services - order processing, customer support, and customer service.
Ron: You have thousands of employees.
John: We do. We have many thousands of employees scattered all over the world but for the most part, thousands just in our New Jersey headquarters. In early to mid-February, we began this experiment of sending these portions of teams home and working with our internal I.T. group to make sure we had the right mechanisms in place. We had security in place and we didn't miss a beat.
Ron: You started doing that in February?
John: We did.
Ron: Wow, that's tremendous foresight.
John: It was really we came back from ISC because we saw that companies big companies like LG did not show up. Samsung didn't send any of its U.S. representatives to the show. We had the foresight to look at it and say, "What if this really continues down a really bad path? How do we maintain operation as a company as a global company?" Because again, even though this is a global problem and a global pandemic, it hits different regions at different times. And it would be silly for us to just shut down when our customers need us in various places. We really began to experiment in early-to-mid February about how these teams can operate remotely.
By the end of February, we had essentially pulled the trigger on that. We had moved a lot of these teams offsite. We never missed a beat, really. Everyone has been working from home, from tech support to tech sales to order processing. If you call Crestron, you will never know that the team is working from their homes, their basements, their dining rooms, or whatever. That is remarkable, to have that foresight. We haven't laid off anybody, we haven't furloughed anybody. That is a testament to the Feldstein family who owns the company. They believed in keeping this team intact and really believing in them. From the manufacturing side, we manufacture a lot of our products in Orangeburg but most of our products come from factories in Mexico.
Mexico has not been hit that hard. They really have done a really good job, at least based on the numbers, of what they have done to protect their citizens. We have done a really good job to protect those employees. We staggered shifts, we social distance, we do a lot of things to really protect our employees and we really haven't missed a beat. I was on a call last week where we were asking ourselves if we slow down manufacturing and we decided that we won't.
For the most part, many of the projects that we're tracking haven't been canceled, they've only been postponed and we don't want to leave a customer short. June is by far the biggest month for us from an order perspective because it's the end of our fiscal year and we don't want to leave anyone short. Yes, it's a huge investment to continue to build these products and stock them and to keep them in the warehouse, but for our customers, it's the right thing to do. It really is focused on making sure that we are there for them.
Ron: I'm going to theorize here, I'm going to pretend I have a crystal ball and say that the New York/New Jersey markets might start easing up in the May/June timeframe but certainly, much of the country probably will. I mean, I just started to hear that Georgia is opening back up, South Carolina is opening back up. I'm not here to be political and say whether they should or shouldn't, I just think that's what we're hearing in the news and it's going to start happening. I would theorize June probably still will be a bang-up year for Crestron.
John: June by far is our biggest month when it comes to shipping.
Ron: There's a lot of pent up demand to get projects moving.
John: A lot of these projects have been postponed. A lot of the dealers I speak to are still planning on delivering these products in May and June. They're ordering products now from us, they're pre-building racks. Even in their own facilities, social distancing with their own employees. Where they might have a technician come in early on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to pre-build racks that have to be delivered at the end of May. We're doing what we can to help them out.
Ron: Now John, I'm curious. I'll speak from personal experience here at One Firefly, we track out our product development roadmap. Generally, we try to map it out about 18 months into the future. For example, just this month in April we launched a new product - our search engine marketing Google ad product. We had other products slated to then happen next.
We've actually paused, with my leadership team, we paused our plan for what was happening next and we're actually moving different services into the mix really based on this new marketplace and this new economy we're in and the needs of our dealers have shifted in some respects. That's what we're doing. I'm curious, how does that product roadmap for you change? If at all. Or is it already baked so solid in months and years into the future that this doesn't change anything?
John: I would say, typically, it is baked months and years in advance. We know where we're going for the next 18-24 months. It is ironed out. I will say that this crisis has definitely caused us to look at things in a different way. No doubt. I think there are opportunities out there for our dealers when the stay at home orders begin to succeed. I think that homeowners have realized that they need to invest more in their home entertainment systems, their home systems in general. Secondarily, I'd say that the home office, which used to be, "I'm okay with just a desk," that mentality changes. What is the infrastructure?
Ron: Or, "I'll have a desk in the playroom." Right?
John: That's right. I mean, even the home office, even if it was a dedicated space in our dealer's project or our end-users homes, the infrastructure that goes into that space will absolutely change. I think there's an opportunity there. For us, Crestron, because of all the offerings we have on the corporate side of our business and being able to pull those into the residential side. I'd say we're a week or so early to talk about some other opportunities because this has caused us to shift internally. There will be an announcement by us, there will be a new product category for us.
Ron: You're saying you want to come back next week? Is that what I just heard?
John: Maybe. I will say that there are some very interesting partners and some of the solutions that we have in the commercial side of our business will absolutely impact how people utilize their home systems and what value that brings to end-users in a very dramatic way. And I don't mean to overstate this, because it's not me. But this is going to be something very dramatic and I think that a year from now we'll look back at this crisis as a trigger point for a recheck and how we go to business in the residential space.
"In the future, I think that it seems clear and obvious now that home infrastructure, home technology, home entertainment, and home office infrastructure and capabilities are going to be a priority for many consumers."
Ron: We manage marketing for many hundreds of integrators and I can't remember the last time that on a dealer website or maybe in an integrators brochure, that we highlighted home office. I can't think of a time we've done that in years and years. I think we're going to look back and we're gonna change that. In the future, I think that it seems clear and obvious now that home infrastructure, home technology, home entertainment, and home office infrastructure and capabilities are going to be a priority for many many consumers.
John: I mean, you have a whole learning space at your home, correct?
Ron: I do.
John: How do you invest there? Wi-Fi, is that good enough? Even in the home office, "It's okay, I'll stick my laptop down on my desk. That's good enough." Maybe not. Maybe a wired ethernet connection and maybe a speaker bar with a camera is a good thing to have. Or maybe there's a desktop device or something that we can help our dealers with to bring to that space and add value for our end-users.
Ron: When we built this house with the builder Pulte, they're like you know a production builder. I don't know if they're nationwide, certainly here on the East Coast. This particular model, my wife gravitated to because off from the kitchen is a separate nook area that seats two and they call it the "Pulte planning center." I have a son so it was planned to be his homework area. We thought he might come home from school and be using it only in that application. Now we look like geniuses because he's spending five days a week there doing his home learning and video conferencing all day, five days a week with all of his teachers.
I just got lucky and had the foresight and built a very robust network, I had my friend Al from Advanced Home Theater help me spec out the right gear and so I have a great network. We're ready, we're good but so many people around the world are not good. Their networks are not robust and their homes are not set up, whether you're working from home, like you John in your basement, or your children home from school or college.
John: These systems are always current. This might have been installed three-four years ago, your Wi-Fi is not up to the current technology or your network infrastructure not up to the current technology and they're being utilized in ways in which they never have been envisioned to.
Ron: How are your sales? I know that at Crestron you have like 20 plus sales guys and gals out there and you have an architectural or design community biz dev team as well. How are they? What are they doing right now that they can't go shake hands? I don't know when we'll be allowed to shake hands again.
John: Shaking hands according to Anthony Fauci may never happen again.
Ron: May never! It's eliminated from our society globally.
John: People used to judge people by how good the handshake was, I don't know how that changes. Nonetheless, we have about 20 or so direct salespeople throughout the U.S. and Canada. We have about 10 or so indirect salespeople. Very early on we internally put a travel ban in place, we didn't want our people traveling. This was probably happening mid to end of February where we shut down our training centers, shut down our experience centers, and shut down our showrooms.
We moved a lot of our people who are used to traveling in-home or working from our remote location. First and foremost my direction to that team was to reach out to our dealers and really do a health and wellness check. Because these are our family. Regardless of the business aspect, these are the guys who we rely on all the time, we reach out to all the time, and it was super important that we provide a bit of a health and wellness check.
My direction to that team was to call every dealer you have and ask them how they're doing personally, how their family is, how their employees and their families are because if any of that is damaged, then nothing else matters.
Ron: There is no business conversation to be had.
John: No, and not even a place for it. It was really about just making sure our extended family was OK. Secondarily, the questions about whether we're operating, because this varies regionally. Even within a particular region, it then varies by the business size. Big companies may be prohibited from doing anything while a small company can go attack the single-family home if they use protective equipment and they're deemed an essential service.
This was done to understand what our dealers were doing, what they were capable of, and what their personal experiences were right now. That was first and foremost. We were offering all kinds of things, so our indirect sales team that you asked about, has completely transitioned to in-house. No joke, we have Brian Celly who runs our New York City showroom has taken his sales training, or his experience dealing with end-users and taking that online. Any of our dealers and their sales employees who want to understand better ways to go to market Crestron, he's done a tremendous job in delivering that remotely and online. We have a group of individuals we call solutions engineers and these guys are teaching our dealers typically one day at a time at their facility how to go about designing and installing Crestron Home or lighting and shading solutions. That's all been transition online.
Our business development team who has been focused on the outside, our design-build professional partners have transitioned that whole messaging and even the education aspect to online. A lot of our CEU accredited courses, we've been granted permission to deliver which usually has to happen in-person to deliver those online. We've added value in ways that we never would have before.
Ron: That just triggered a thought and even I didn't know that had happened. Is that universal for all CEUs for the architectural community?
John: I don't know if it's universal. I know that we got permission to do that.
Ron: It seems like a world-class opportunity for your dealers to be doing biz dev with their design communities because that community at the moment still needs their CEUs. They need their credit.
John: These types of reach-outs, we would have never done in the past in this way. We would have done the in-person events. And so this crisis has caused us to rethink and provide a different approach to delivering these very valuable pieces to the puzzle to our dealers and our community.
Ron: John, you have a unique perspective in that you were an integrator for many years and now you're at one of the largest manufacturers and companies in our space that operates globally. Many of our customers, and I'm going to speak residentially, globally. Many of our integrators out there are what we'd classify as a small business. We went from one man in a van to maybe the Audio Command size of 50 to 100 employees. They're in a very odd situation right now where that many of them had two to four months of booked work.
Maybe a few of them had more or less and those projects, as you've said and this confirms what I've been hearing, those projects aren't canceled they're just paused. At some point, it'll be appropriate to go back out and do those jobs. And yet now, while we are all quarantined and trying to spend time in our homes, the fact is there's just less business being signed. Not trying to be Negative Nancy here, I'm just saying that's a fact of life. There are just fewer projects for the integrators that are being booked or signed.
There's this like weird situation where it's we're gonna be allowed to go out into the industry or the marketplace and install, then they're gonna run out of work because they weren't signing new jobs. Then there's gonna be some tremendous influx of new work and having to get all these jobs done that they don't have enough manpower. Just in the next nine to twelve or six to twelve months, they're going to be hairy. What advice, if any, do you have?
John: That's a really loaded question!
Ron: I gave you a really hard one to answer, but what perspective do you have?
John: That's where I really try and put my perspective as the integrator on the manufacturing side. What can we do to help? I think, yes, there will probably be a boom when things resume. There'll be this hockey stick effect because of all these products that have been held, where there are construction loans or whatever it is, some urgency to get these done and people moved into their projects.
Then there probably will be a lull because we all know the time frame it is between the time a contract is signed and it's actually delivered. It's usually the construction cycle itself. But what can we do as manufacturers to help our dealers there? And I'd say, the telling times of going back to your existing customer base and talking about upgrades and opportunities there.
There are dealers I'm talking to these days that have limited manpower, working in their shops, both working on their own showrooms or working on assembling racks for a May or June prospective installation date. But beyond that, going back to your existing customer base. The people have now been sequestered at home, who have a five-year-old system. That's an opportunity for an upgrade. And that can help fill that void between the now and then that you're talking about.
Ron: What would be your guess as to how many integrators, and I'll say your customers regularly reach out to their customers via email marketing or anything like that.
John: Well, it's unfortunately sadly low.
"Generally, the idea of reaching out to existing customers to upgrade or add or replace, is historically very low. That just means there's a world-class opportunity to be better and to do a better job on that."
Ron: It's got to be very low, right? That's what I would say broadly. My customer base is, they do lots of systems including Crestron and I would say generally, the idea of reaching out to existing customers to upgrade or add or replace, I'm going to say it's historically very low. That just means there's a world-class opportunity to be better and to do a better job on that.
John: And honestly, to be bluntly honest, it hasn't been good for Crestron dealers in particular. The cost of reprogramming a system can be crippling and can stand out compared to the devices or the products that are being added during this upgrade.
That line up for programming in the old days with the custom-programmed solutions stand out. I do believe that what we're doing now with Crestron Home where you can go back into a four or five-year-old system to somebody that hasn't yet experienced the current technology and easily get in and get out and keep the costs down. That's what really makes Crestron Home shine. All while still delivering world-class user experience. Those can be huge benefits to a lot of our customers.
Ron: You can take old hardware, hardware that's five-plus years old, you can go in and load the new Crestron Home software and deploy new UI's and new feature sets? And that's a fraction of the time that it would have taken say the old way?
John: I know it's funny because we continue to go backward. We support thousands of our existing products within Crestron Home. We continue to go backward as well. I will share it with you right now.
Ron: Uh-oh! Everyone listen.
John: In our May 18th scheduled release, we will support first-party solutions that haven't shipped in eight years. Things like our PAD products that we haven't shipped. It allows our dealers to go back to older systems and easily upgrade them at home. We're not stopping there right. We will support Lutron HomeWorks QS, not QSX which is imminent, but QS directly within Crestron Home in middle May. This allows our dealers to go back to these systems and bring these customers up to date with again a very world-class user experience but with simplicity and ease that they've never had before.
Ron: Did your dealers know that that functionality was forthcoming in May?
John: We try to communicate. But we are doing our best and that's why we hold webinars, we e-mail our dealers. Again, we can't communicate enough to let everyone know that this is coming.
Ron: I'm mindful of time, John. Yours and our audience. I just have a couple of things I want to cover and then we'll wrap up here. For some integrators particularly the markets where they're in lockdown now is an interesting time because they can't go out to their job sites. What's your advice, your wisdom, your experience on things that they should be mindful of, and trying to accomplish right now?
John: I used two examples before. There are some dealers who are either working on their showrooms or try to enhance their office systems. There are dealers who are trying to get ahead of this curve so that when things get released or relieved, they can hit the market really strong. They're pre-building racks and things like that. There are dealers who are completely locked down and so what we're trying to do is provide education. In the past five weeks, we've done 400 different dealer events online focused on Crestron Home or our lighting and shading solutions or sales training specifically.
Trying to educate your employees so that when this is lifted, they're already experts at these products that we can offer. The feedback I've gotten from so many dealers about that has been so positive where we've even further discounted our packages. If a dealer has you know six employees attending an online Crestron training next wee,k they may order these six packages to have shipped to their technician's homes so they have these in place and they can utilize them in their homes.
In many cases, we're offering extended terms so they're not getting filled in 30 days. For this, we understand that this is something that's going to take a partnership from a big manufacturer like Crestron but also a way to get them in a position to really re-enter the economy in a very strong way and be very effective.
Ron: Do you have any predictions on what the balance of the year is going to look like just from a macro standpoint? The U.S. economy. Do you have any ideas?
Ron: Or opinions, they're nothing more than opinions.
John: It really depends on how long this lasts. You start to see states lifting these barriers on their own and regionally, I do believe we have the opportunity to come back really strong and I do believe we at Crestron with our June 30th end date has the opportunity to come back and finish strong. It's all about being there for our dealers. Now when times are not so good, how can we help you be successful right now and prepare yourself for what's coming down the road? That's really been my message to our team and to our dealers is, we want to be that resource for you.
Ron: John, it has been a pleasure having you on Automation Unplugged. It's hard to believe I'm all the way at show number #112. Thank you for coming on the show. Man, I know we booked this back in January and you and I both had no idea that we'd be talking about a global pandemic. But you've been a great sport and we agreed to stay on.
John: It was a different world. Yeah, it's been my absolute pleasure. Thanks, Ron.
With experience both on the dealer and manufacturer side, John Clancy, Crestron VP of Residential, brings a unique perspective to Crestron on ways to improve their residential solutions.
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:
- CE Pro 100
- Crestron Home
- ISE Expo
- One Firefly SEM Product
- Pulte Builder
- Advanced Home Theater
- Crestron Online Course Offerings
More Automation Unplugged:
Want to stay up to date with the latest Automation Unplugged interviews? Head over to the One Firefly Facebook page and subscribe to receive a notification whenever Ron is live!