Watch Episode #116: An Industry Q&A with Rusty Deeble
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Rusty Deeble, President of Digital Installers, shares how interior design has elevated their showroom as well as using social media methods to strengthen design-build relationships.
This week's show features our host Ron Callis interviewing Rusty Deeble. Recorded live on Wednesday, May 5th at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Rusty Deeble
With a life-long passion for technology, Rusty has been building computers and networking them for businesses since he was 14-years old. Towards the end of his studies at Cal State University, Rusty founded Digital Installers out of Long Beach, California in 2001 and has never looked back.
Digital Installers now has an impressive showroom that mixes interior design with smart technology and even won the ProSource Dream Theater Makeover Contest in 2019.
Rusty uses his showroom as a way to bring the community together, from offering it as an event venue to even gifting movie nights to dedicated clients and prospects.
- How the use of quality interior design has elevated their showroom and helped consumers better envision smart technology in their home
- Ways Rusty is using social media to strengthen relationships within the design-build community
- The benefits using his showroom as an event venue has brought to Digital Installers over the years
- Why Rusty created the concept of TV templates and how he believe it can help integrators save time and win larger projects
As a way to provide you a seamless watching experience, we decided not to turn this show into a podcast as the majority of the show is better viewed as a visual experience. We hope you enjoy the show and the tour of Rusty’s showroom!
Ron: Hello everyone! Welcome to another episode of Automation Unplugged brought to you by my day job over at One Firefly. Today is Wednesday, May 6th. We just missed Cinco de Mayo by a day so I hope you had a nice Taco Tuesday on Cinco de Mayo with the virus named after your favorite Mexican beer. And happy to be here with you. You know life in One Firefly land, I'm sure like for many of you every day is blending into the next. So I think I've pretty much lost track of how many weeks we're in quarantine. I've totally lost track but life is good here at the Callis household. My family is still happy and healthy and in One Firefly land. We are closer-knit than ever. We're actually having a successful Spring. Believe it or not, business is good. We're hiring. We've actually posted for a couple of additional positions on LinkedIn and out there into the interweb. So we're going to be bringing on more people onto team One Firefly to help are our integrators and technology professionals around the world continue to grow their business. Without further ado, the man the myth and the legend that is Rusty Deeble. We're going to go ahead and bring him in. He is the President of Digital Installers. And this is for show 116. Rusty, what's up buddy?
Rusty: Alright. Thanks for having me, Ron.
Ron: Hey, man thanks for joining us on the one and only show 116.
Rusty: Yeah for sure. We have a lot to talk about. So it'll be a fun hour.
Ron: That's guaranteed. I've been following you for quite a while on social media and you clearly have fun with the marketing for your business and the way you put your brand and your personality out there.
Rusty: Thanks, man. We have a great team and we come up with some fun ideas. And the biggest thing I could say is we execute on doing something . We might not have it perfected. But at the same time, getting content of some sort out there. Sometimes we'll be hanging out and I think Quibi, have you heard of that?
Ron: I just watched your Quibi promotion or video this morning and I'm not going to lie, I downloaded Quibi after I watched it.
Rusty: I downloaded and subscribed. So that the story on that was someone said take a Quibi. I said what are you talking about? My son. Both of my sons are coming to work for me for a few hours a day during the slow time of COVID. So they get three to four hours or 14 and 16 years old one does a warehouse and one does marketing learning graphics and things like that. So they said something like a Quibi and I said what is that? And the young generation is teaching the older generation things, that is so cool. So we just said we have to do a quick little tech discovery on this. So we stopped what we were doing and took about 15 minutes and we did a quick little video , we threw it out there. But yeah, you downloaded it and I've been watching a few five-six minute clips. It's kind of cool.
Ron: I downloaded it this morning, around 9 o'clock. It was about three hours ago because I was checking you out on social to kind of see what you were doing lately. You or someone on your team, you know what you're doing. You're doing cuts and takes and shooting from different angles. You're creating some pretty neat video content.
Rusty: Thanks, man. There's a handful of stuff we're doing out there, trying to keep us engaged and interesting and exciting. We have a new one coming out which is going to be not just our house projects that we do but we have a cool engaged audience with pets and technology. So you're going to take a photo with a pet and technology like remote control and a cat or a dog and a TV or speakers. You know I think Eclipse does a pretty good job. They always have a cat with their photos in some of their iconic stuff. So we're going to be teaming up with a couple of people one is a pet supply store that has a grand opening we just did all the audio-video for this pet supply store. So it's a really good partnership. They're going to give us a bunch of free samples that they have and we're just going to keep our existing customers engaged with sharing this and sharing that. And then the winner will be announced , it will just be some fun. I just got to do new stuff.
Ron: Got to keep the audience interested and engaged as I stumble over my words. So some of our audience may not know you Rusty and if you could give us a little bit of a background, kind of how you got into the business, the history of DI, go to the way back machine and let's figure out who you are and how you got here today.
Rusty: OK. So basically I grew up in Long Beach. California. I still have not left to this day. My great grandfather back in 1920 came here from Tennessee and kept coming from other areas. But we're old school L.A. Long Beach people.
Ron: Do you surf? When you don't live in California and you look at native California I assume you surf right.
Rusty: Yeah, I surf. Well, I'm definitely out on the ocean a lot. I haven't surfed much in the last year and a half. I have five kids. It's getting busy but I do find hobbies from golf and I go on the boat and spear diving. But those are enough hobbies for me I can't do much more than that than run my company for the past 20 years. But how I got into digital installers is when I was 14 years old I was a big local gaming kind of guy I was doing BNC networks. We had local land parties and we were playing old school games from Starcraft to Quake and Doom and all that. I had so much fun gaming and doing computer networking. At 14 to 16 years old I kind of led that way. We were building computers with my friends networking and some small businesses.
Next thing you know, I was working at Circuit City at 19 years old. When I was in college at 20 years old, I started Digital Installers just because I've always said I'm going to have my own company. But I learned quickly that building computers and networking was not fun. It wasn't fun because of the emotional stress of someone calling you to say my printer is not working. Or back in the day, the user permissions and network administration, you were not the one that wanted to be called on. Things like, why isn't it working, why are you going to charge me $75 again? It didn't fill my bucket. Remember the commercials back in the day with Direct TV, Todd? They would hug Todd, say I love you, man. And that is what I think we get excited about. When we make a customer have speakers in their backyard say, "Oh man, it sounds awesome!" That makes you feel good. When I started doing that, from Circuit City doing sales, I was sitting shotgun in someone's truck doing Direct TV. Then I would learn how to do some speaker hookups, VCR stuff, and all the goodies back in the day. Then I got into cameras real quickly.
I had my company at 20 and I was going through school at Long Beach State. Once I hit twenty-three and I graduated, I had closed the deal on my house, my first kid was about to be born. I bought a house, kid on the way, and now it's full-time work. So I stopped doing the riding sidekick and I had my own truck and everything. That's when I had two employees. I started right away and never looked back.
Ron: What year was that approximately?
Rusty: 2003 is when I went full time with my company but I started in 2000.
Ron: In 2000. OK, you and I must be the same age. I actually don't remember how old I am. I was born in '78. I think I'm 42 or 43.
Rusty: I was born in '80 and graduated at twenty-three. I just turned 40 the other day on April, April 7.
Ron: You mentioned Starcraft and I almost flunked out of my freshman year at Virginia Tech because the dorm was networked. The first dorm, West Ambler Johnston at Virginia Tech, the first dorm on campus that we had a LAN and it was the first dorm connected to the Internet just for my staff that might be watching. That may make me seem really old and so the idea of playing networked video games became a thing and it became possible on campus and this was in 1996.
Rusty: It was a little bit of birth control too.
Ron: Yeah because you would stay in your dorm all night all weekend and just play. Oh yeah.
Rusty: I had to explain this, I did have a kid at 22 and it came out at twenty-three. But for the most part, it was birth control through college.
Ron: Oh yeah. It was super nerds unite play Starcraft and Warcraft and all of those games. Yeah, that was my youth as well. So flash forward what does your business look like today? What areas do you serve? What are your typical projects? What do things look like?
Rusty: Yeah. 2008 was going well. We were at 1.2 million in sales. We had about nine employees and we had three trucks and then that market really hit hard and we lost 40 percent of our business. We went from 1.2 down to eight hundred thousand in revenues and then from there in 2012 we were able to save money. We were very cash positive. We had no debt. All the vehicles we never had to get rid of trucks and we just had to lower the hourly employees and we got through it pretty good. We saved a lot of money during that time even though the market was in a bad situation. In 2012, we were able to snag our awesome business locations. We bought our building in 2012 and now eight years later we're now doing 3.8 million in total sales and we were on CE Pro as number eighty-five which was pretty exciting.
Ron: Congratulations that's huge.
Rusty: Yeah. Thank you. And then we have 18 full-time employees, two part-time and one subcontractor that we kind of call on which actually plays a part of the COVID deal? Where are you at? We're able to bring in some subcontractors that have been by our side. It's pretty exciting but now we've been in our building for eight years. We actually expanded because our building is such a unique space that we had to move operations to Signal Hill which is a city within two miles from us and that's where our warehousing, that's where our office space is. That's where we have a second showroom there where people can experience stuff. The cool thing about that showroom is our integrators and our techs can learn how to tear apart a system, put a system together. We have Savant. We have Crestron there. There are different things whereas at our showroom, we have a see for yourself Control4 certified showroom. You can't take things in and out, you can't mix match that, can't be down. It has to be perfect all the time. So it's really cool that we have two spaces. One designed as an event venue and one designed for a workhorse warehouse training center. You name it. You pick the final details of your light switches to your shades. Can you imagine twelve books of shades in someone's showroom? It's not very fun to see. But you need them.
Ron: Now you are a Pro Source member, you're a member of the Pro Source buying group and I believe I was at the Pro Source event when you were announced as the winner of the dream showroom makeover. Am I getting that right? And if so how did that go down? Is that done? What was the result of that?
Rusty: Oh man, I'm excited to show you guys around. Normally your guys talk a lot but I want to show you guys.
Ron: Yeah, man do it. Let's see, what have you got?
Rusty: Yeah. You know Pro Source is one of the greatest things you can do in this industry. It's a buying group that has marketing, you One Firefly, so we thank you for all the stuff you do. There are so many members that are part of you. They have the education program, they have the first time ever we had the West Coast to the East coast winner of this dream showroom makeover. So they had awesome vendors from Sony to Salamander to Acoustic Innovation, Screen Innovations, Sony projectors. There is so much that people gave because of the buying group and without them, our showroom would not be where it's at today. So I'm excited to walk you guys around and show you some fun stuff that we did. Not just did we take advantage of during the construction time, but we've upgraded a lot of other things as well.
Ron: Let's do it. Before you do that, you're getting lots of love online here. Let me put some of this on the screen.
Rusty: You know it's hard to find friends that can glorify with you and your success let alone people that want to see you succeed. Pro Source is a rare find. It's pretty neat to see. They are there to make you successful because they are successful because of that.
Ron: That's right. Alright. Let's do it.
Rusty: Hey Matt, let's show Ron. So the big thing with us is the core design.
Ron: Let's hope we don't lose the Internet here as we try. We're living dangerously folks.
Rusty: No, we won't lose the Internet. My mom was an interior designer for 40 years. My wife goes to school for interior design. And if you are aesthetically correct, you can do technology in so many different ways. So this room in itself with different style couches we did a mid-century modern design and in this cabinet, we host a granite countertop. Actually this is marble. We have a carry tube amp here powering some clips kay horns. So the story of the kay horns, it's a big speaker mid-century modern design.
Rusty: But when I was in Indianapolis, I have some marketing partnership I could do with the symphony and the orchestra. These speakers were designed for symphony and orchestra stuff. How can I get these in here? I'd have to design this room to have a mid-century cabinet that is unique and completely different than anyone has seen. I'm going to have to decorate it. But these speakers would be not fitting in anywhere. So just because they're sounding awesome, we have to make them look good. So we teamed up with Klipsch. We designed this with my cousin actually, Peter Deeble. He does mid-century modern furniture. When you open this, it's like a transformer. We have nice little racks and on this side, we're doing another rack. So let me show you this.
This is a Marantz turntable or phonograph. And then as the door opens, you can put your records in here. But when you open this, we have all the electronics. So there's no slide-out rotation rack because you lose a lot of inches down the bottom. But you can access this all from behind. The cool thing about this is when it's open, it's almost like a transformer. We utilize the whole surround sound system. So here we have a passive sound bar on the Heritage line that matches the furniture. This is the LCR. We also have two Atmos speakers and then we have the rears as well. So this is a traditional surround sound but we're also showing the two-channel. The two-channel is another world we're in. Now we're at 3.8 million. How do we get to five million and how do we get to six? We have to be able to offer products at a higher volume. We've never done fifteen thousand dollar towers. There's a lot more in the shop but this whole thing is like , wow I want that room. Now a lot of people say I want that room because of the live plants, the way it looks. If you showed these speakers, they would be like where would that go? That won't look good.
Ron: You're helping them visualize the full space by really blending technology and interior design. And who did you say in your world is the interior designer?
Rusty: My mom's phasing out but my wife is on Instagram she has some really cool design but she's just starting so she's trying to get over the hurdles of the nervousness and the uncertainty. But she's so talented.
Ron: The mid-century design. I just want to add that I bought a house. I built a house, I moved in in September, and our house outside of my office is mid-century design. So what you're showcasing there is exactly what my wife and I actually love. Yeah, I'm resonating with the design.
Rusty: Yeah. Julie Jacobs just bought a house that's mid-century modern and she's going to be doing a whole house so she's actually going to be doing some really cool articles and press releases of a whole mid-century modern audio-video line. I think it's pretty neat. We order through Heritage dealer s of Klipsch that have this whole mid-century line so I'll show you a few other items that we have from them. You walk around and this is a fun area. Another area is our Bowers and Wilkins and this is a pretty cool area with a Salamander. These speakers look really good. This is showing you with a grill on. And then this is showing you with a grill off.
Ron: What do you find customers prefer? I know I would want to see the round circles. I would want to see the speakers but is that just because I'm a guy and I think that that tech is cool? Do most people want to cover it up?
Rusty: I love with a grill off. It is interesting that a customer comes in and they're qualified for ten thousand dollars speakers and we show them the Kay Horns we showed them the Bowers and they love the sound of Bowers. They ended up going with Golden Ear. So we had to partner with another dealer that actually had Golden Ear. The reason why, is the wife loves the look of the Golden Ear and we can't carry all the lines. But we did have some partnerships where we could make some money on it. And it was a win-win for everybody. I wanted them to go with B&W, they had to choose the Golden Ear. It just matched their room better.
Ron: Sure, it makes sense.
Rusty: If you know a little bit about that and design and I think it's really big to be following not just AV integrators. Because I see our industry has such a fan and following of each other that we do that. What we're doing is we're seeing a lot of AV. We might get educated on it but you should also be following architects designers and learn about what they're doing with the pillows and what they're doing with piping on different kinds of bench seating and all these cool things. So you're more educated when you do meet with an interior designer and you can talk. Oh yeah. I like that balance. I like that or then they're like oh you get it. You're not going to put tech everywhere.
Ron: Do you mind sharing how you're thinking about the use of social media to accomplish that and to better interact or follow designers, architects, builders? What's your strategy?
Rusty: Yeah, you just comment on them and you see certain things, "oh I really like the way you did this." You never broadcast publicly, "Oh you should have done a TV there ." But you're just seeing what they're doing and you're liking a lot of their stuff and eventually, they're going to say wow this guy follows us and likes us and comments some cool stuff. Who are they, what are they doing? Then they're going to pique their interest towards your company. But I think you should be following because I find myself following so many AV people and I love it. I go home, that's my entertainment at night too. But I should start doing more and more of the other way around.
Ron: Yeah, I agree. For me, I'm a service provider and you and the folks watching like they're my universe. They're the folks that I interact with every day and every year. But for you, your universe is your customers and prospects and the design community.
Ron: And so your Instagram, your Facebook, your LinkedIn activity, those are really amazing places to go out and follow people, interact with them, and ultimately grow your sphere of influence in that design community. They're the ones. You get a customer that's a job, you could get a designer and that could be 20 jobs.
Rusty: Yeah absolutely. And that's where we're going to start kind of leaning towards and not that I will unfollow but I'll probably be just adding a ton of more designers and social media pushes like hey the cats and dogs or animals and pets with technology is going to get a little big following there. There are certainly five different main personalities of people. And if we can get that group and then we can get other groups. The barbecue the other day, we're gonna be doing that every month of some kind of barbecue hang out. We did a taco hot sauce thing it was kind of fun. But people really enjoyed it and we had Douglas give away $400 in gift cards. We had Sonos give away products we had all the stuff.
Ron: I didn't see that. This was a live? This was a Facebook Live or something like that that you had?
Rusty: We did Instagram live at the time and it had a few breaks so maybe Facebook Live might be better to capture it. But we did post at least 15 minutes of it that we did save, so you can see at least 15 minutes.
Ron: Yeah, I'll check it out.
Rusty: Every 15 minutes, we gave away something awesome. I'll show you right here.
Ron: Yeah. Show me what you got.
Rusty: Well yeah. So this is our see for yourself experience wall where we have a bunch of trinkets. This isn't very exciting, but that's the most boring part of this whole shop is that little wall. So as you come in here, this is our kitchen. This is where it just becomes like a house. The house is not just a house party but it makes you feel comfortable. When your guests and customers are comfortable, they kind of just let it down and they see things. But, this kitchen is fully equipped. This is some of the prizes we gave. So since this place is an event venue, this is a package for movies. We have a bottle of wine. We have candy, we have soda pop. We have eight movie tickets for somebody to come and enjoy this space. So we're trying to fill the seats. I think Art Marino, he's the Angels owner, and he says look the seats are like a perishable food. If you don't fill the seats, it's a waste. So we're trying to get people in here.
In my showroom back in the day when we bought the building in 2012, it was so nice but we'd only get 30, 40, 50 customers a year. So that's when we started opening it up to say hey let's design it to where it's just a hangout where people can have fun and then we can get as many people. We started seeing 30,000 people come through a year because they're hosting baby showers, birthday parties, all different kinds of events. That was a little different setup. And we were doing really well. We generated $80,000 a year just in event venue which was about $55,000 in profits. My mortgage was two grand and then we have another offsite building which is three grand. So we were getting free rent everywhere.
Rusty: After the Pro Source dream showroom makeover, it is such a high level. The turntable, if you break the needle, this one's $800. I didn't want just anybody coming in here so we're kind of changing that aspect. We finished right before COVID hit so we are going to be gifting for customers, good customers. We're giving back to them by them using our space to use it as an event venue. To use it as their daughter's baby shower or they can use it for fundraising. They can host a hundred people here and they can do something pretty fun. It's a neutral ground area to where it's just fun and I'll kind of show you why it's so fun. But when you have great music, have great videos like watch parties, sporting events, you're filling the place up and live barbecues and good stuff like that. People are just like wow that place is cool. Especially after COVID, when you can't go out so much you're gonna want to have your house as nice as this.
Ron: How do you book it? What's the process if a customer somebody out there wants to reserve your space? Is it that they call it a particular phone number do they call DI? What do they do?
Rusty: We have a website called DI Studios, we're on all the event venue spaces. So DI Studios is a separate business. But right now, we're changing it completely because one, you're gonna have to have valet parking. We're really upscale right now. Let's go back a little bit. But anyways, we gave out wine openers. This is Samsung Frame TV. We have Vantage lighting everywhere. It's technology but you don't see any wires. One of the best things we have is the candy bar. I don't know if you've seen this.
Ron: Look at that. That's so cool.
Rusty: It's good. Lighting's good. Oh yeah. So can you see it better?
Ron: Yeah, it's beautiful.
Rusty: So the candy bar, you can come up pretty close. We have every candy that you can imagine, especially back in the day. Do you remember when you were going to movies and what movies you saw when you were a kid? To me, I could remember fighting with my brother after watching Rambo. I wanted to wrestle and do all this stuff. That's what I remember, the emotional thing. I remember going to the candy shop before I'd go into the theater and how I got that candy snuck in. I remember the popcorn. I don't remember the movies that I've watched. People remember the emotions, right?
Ron: That's right.
Rusty: Here, you would never believe how excited people get when they come and see this because we have the classics. From Boston Baked Beans there's not many people are excited about. But we have Sour Patch Kids. We've got Junior Mints. We had the basics, we even have drawers full. Remember this one? Ring Pops, we've got a ton of stuff, Fireballs, Atomic stuff.
Ron: It's bringing even for me, nostalgic memories. My brother and I used to stand at the bus stop and we would time it so that we could run across the street to 7-Eleven and buy candy before school.
Rusty: Yeah. I mean the 25 cent boxes.
Ron: Oh my gosh. That's so cool.
Rusty: Apple Heads. We got Grape Heads. We got all that fun stuff.
Ron: That's so smart in terms of the strategy. I mean you said it. People buy with emotion and so you've got emotional triggers in that. It's such a subtle psychological method technique whatever you wanna call it. Because who's gonna walk up to that not be smiling from ear to ear?
Rusty: You should see that the people who came in here. Super awesome vendors and partners come with the engineers and they're just like "Wow this place is so cool." You know that's what we wanted right when we do their job for their house. We want that here too. So they come they're like, "Oh my God you've got the candy! Can I take one?" Take as many as you want. I mean are they're leaving with a whole handful and they're so excited. It's awesome.
Ron: How do they not remember you in the space? I mean that's really sticky. It's a great idea.
Rusty: Out here we have big wide double doors that take you outside. We have a whole wet bar where you can host. And then down here is some seating. We call this our outdoor boardroom. Really good sound system, a good two-speaker system as well as eleven speakers with subs. So we have a really good demo if you wanted to just say hey this is what a $1,000 outdoor sound system is, two speakers. Or this is what $8,000 gets you. You don't really need to say price but for the most part, it's really acoustically done right.
Ron: What gear is that? You're allowed to share? Do you want to share whose speakers those are?
Rusty: Yeah. We have Tru Audio landscape speakers throughout this whole backyard and we also have Bowers and Wilkins as well. The AM ones with a passive subwoofer. So out here we have two different showings. We have a SunBrite TV which is weatherproof that's mounted and we also have a motorized TV. If you can see, we pretty much don't leave anything untouched. We like to do graphics. We did the painting on the walls, it kind of blends in with our iguana and our Nexus 21 motorized lift. This is a cool setup. Now, we showcase what indoor TV is and a weatherproof box and what an outdoor TV is. And customers can see less reflection. As AV integrators, we see the debate like I'll just buy a $500 TV and you just keep replacing it. It's like well the labor is different but the performance is also different and we have to show them at least what we do and give them an educated response and let them make the decision. But anyway, I'll keep showing a few more.
Ron: Yeah. Show me.
Rusty: We've got the barbecues. We got a flat grill. You can see some colored lights. All the tape light we do has been American Lighting. They've been really good to work with. Ben and Jennifer over there and you can push a button and it shows you one day. It's really neat to show customers that.
Ron: Oh that's the new Savant demo.
Rusty: Well yeah we do Savant as well but this demo is with Vantage.
Ron: That's Vantage. Okay. So the idea of running someone through a full circadian rhythm cycle in a period of about what a minute or two?
Rusty: Yeah it takes about a minute to show you the warm Kelvin to the bright Kelvin back to the warm Kelvin like the sunset, sunrise-sunset.
Ron: As you talk to customers and you give them that demo, does that help connect the idea of human-centric lighting and lighting in your home that matches the position of the sun? Is that the demo that connects it or what's been the impact of doing that demo?
Rusty: Yeah, since we just finished, our shop really hasn't had too many people coming in. So we haven't been able to showcase that. And for us doing that lighting, it's all finished now. So we're excited to show people. But the handful of people that I've done tape lighting for their stairs, their kitchen, their closets, is because of our demo pack and they're not buying the tunable whites. They're really just buying the single-color light that I've seen so far. Hopefully, with a new demo, we can show. They might spark their interest. I love it myself.
Ron: No I'm just curious. There's always new topics, I'm going to put wellness into this category of a topic that comes like a freight train at the industry. The vendors are coming to us. I'm always curiously trying to then find out from you as you're talking to the consumer and the designers, how is the message being received? Like do they care? And if they care, what do they care about?
Rusty: It's so new and we just have to do a good job and say this is what we would do. My brother is a dentist and when he's working he can't work in 4000-5000 Kelvin brightness all day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. He can't do it. His head hurts. He gets migraines. He needs tunable whites. He didn't do it. He just redid his whole shop and he did not do that lighting. And it's easy for people to just throw out OK. Just give me that commercial light. We really need to slow consumers down to get them in to teach them and show them. Because if not, they're gonna be in the same situation. They don't know the difference between the daytime. They don't know the health benefits. We needed to have a really good video and say look you really need to come and see this stuff and here's the pricing for it.
Ron: It seems to me pretty logical that demoing it and immersing them in the experience is, I would challenge, maybe the only way to connect the dots and really get that message across. But you can do that now, I'm excited for you.
Rusty: Yeah. Hopefully, we can put together some videos for that. We also are powered with Josh. OK Josh. Turn on the kitchen lights to 100 percent.
Ron: Alright. He's listening.
Rusty: It's been working really well for us. It's really neat to showcase some voice. The best thing is when we leave. We say we're leaving and it actually shuts everything down our shades, our lights, our TV, and just sets the alarm it's perfect. We don't have it turning the alarm off when we come in but we also have a scene to where we say hey we're here. And it turns all the TVs onto screen savers, the music on a really light volume. What would typically take probably 50 pushes of buttons? Now you can just say something and it's done.
Ron: To get Josh to listen, do you always say, "Hey Josh?" I don't remember. Actually we're thinking about putting one in our house here. But do you give it a "Hey Josh" command to wake it up or can you just talk?
Rusty: Yeah. You could do listening all the time if you wanted to.
Ron: Then there's a concern. Well but Josh, their position is they don't record. There's an IP, intellectual property, right? That's what they're selling.
Rusty: Yeah. But if you have it listening all the time then you might say something and it just does it. Right? So having that keyword will allow it to listen then to where you don't have any false statements.
Ron: OK. So you can play it either way and you've got it with the activation word.
Rusty: Yeah. So the unique thing I want to show you guys a theater. As you walk down the hallway, we have this really cool lighting. It's kind of like those Regal Cinema movies when you come down, you would see that. That's linear lighting in the wall, it's pretty flush. It's kind of fun to see that.
Ron: That's beautiful yeah.
Rusty: I'm gonna have Matt back up a little bit because this is really cool. Matt's our creative director and some marketing stuff and we made this nice little recess TV. Basically you can see that it's just a TV but this is showcasing what movie could be playing in there and actually you can sync them up with Kaleidescape but it gives it that ambiance of a movie poster.
Ron: Yeah. I didn't know it was a TV when I was glancing at it so that's nice and pretty cool that it's hidden like that.
Rusty: Yeah. We're getting people that are buying stuff like this. But we're doing a Samsung Frame TV now that it can go in portrait mode. Or other TV's that we're just recessing in and doing that. But they like that poster idea as well as some of the star ceilings. So we've never sold star ceilings before. Since we have it now from the Pro Source showroom, people are buying it. So we just got another sale for Acoustic Innovations for that one too. So I'm excited to be starting to see real benefits from having all this fun stuff.
Ron: Yeah. That's amazing.
Rusty: You see our theater entrance?
Ron: I do, look at that optical illusion. That is so cool.
Rusty: Yeah. So come on in. I'll show you guys a cool theater. We're running Kaleidoscope here. In here, we go vinyl on all the walls. Let me turn on some panel lighting. So what you're going to see is Acoustic Innovations panelized walls and lights. We have a star ceiling. We have our columns and this room is pretty awesome. We have a waterfall glass projector that goes in the back. So the projector is a Sony S5000. I'll show you how you can actually visually see it from the other room because we put a dual-pane glass that's all sealed on the other side. So if you look up from the front family room and the mid-century modern design, you can actually see the projector and that's all lit up. And then from here, it's flat. So there's no projector in the room. And then go back here.
We also have a two-channel setup in here with a NADM10. So we're showcasing the Klipsch Fortes two-channel with a really awesome player. I think the retail on that thing is $2700 but it is so cool. There's really high resolution. The nice thing is that it comes with a really good mic calibrating system and it is a world of difference once you calibrate the room for those speakers. This is 181 inch Screen Innovations screen. It's pretty awesome, we have the color lighting as well if we wanted to do that. But I've been actually enjoying with no lights and sometimes I feel like I like the blue light as well.
Ron: Now when did the remodel get completed? Like what was the timing on that?
Rusty: It took us 10 weeks and we had a boardroom and we blew out our storage facility and our boardroom to create this theater room which is 25 by 15 at 12 feet tall. So about 4000 cubic feet.
Ron: OK. Given COVID, how have you been able to bring people in? At the moment is this under-realized in terms of your ability to really take people through demos and let them experience this or how has that worked out?
Rusty: Yeah. During COVID it has been reduced a lot. It's been reduced immensely but we have given a couple of giveaways and people have came here. There's no charge. We wanted to provide a place for a small group and we had about six to eight people and we sterilized everything and it was no charge but we just wanted people to get out of the house. We're also going to be drumming up some kind of idea to do movies like a drive-in theater and it'll all be free. We will team up with some restaurant that is hurting for business as long as we have a wall we can project on. It'll reduce our overhead so we can project onto a massive wall, all the cars will be parked and then a food truck or restaurant can cater outside. We might do that with TGI's catering or if anybody's listening that actually thinks a restaurant that is in our area that wants to benefit from us. We're doing it all free. How you hear the movie is through an app system or an F.M. transmitter. So in your car, you can tune in or you could download an app and listen in. But the movie will be a quiet outdoor movie. It'll be pretty cool.
Ron: That's a super gnarly idea. I love that.
Rusty: Yeah. It's gonna be fun.
Ron: Awesome. What about these posters?
Rusty: Oh yeah. Let's talk about a couple of cool things that help the industry. So if you're listening, come on out here and I'll show you some cool things.
Rusty: So the idea of TV template came about when I was going out to customer's houses and I was selling them a TV and I measured with a measuring tape and put up blue tape and it took a little bit of time. I got tired of it. I would do a 75. They go no, that's too big. What do you mean too big? You have this great room that's open to your kitchen. All this open space. The floor plan deserves this TV. And they're like no, you're just trying to sell me. I'm like Oh my God. Fine, get a 65. We do the 65. They want to return it because they want the 75. It doesn't look great. It's not perfect. I have friends calling me saying "Hey I had to go to Costco three times to get the right size." I mean if you asked my wife, how big is it 80-30. What do you mean 80-30?. She's like well it's less than 80 inches but it's more than 30 inches. I'm not sure. And yes, whatever some guys can be spatially misunderstood or girls can be too.
But the biggest issue was people fighting. Or when you grow your company to 18 people and they're out on the job site and ones like "Hey I just sold the TV, 75". Are you sure? Yeah. And they come back. Hey, they want an 85." In our industry, we cannot return TVs. We cannot go back and forth. It is expensive. They don't allow it. We're sitting on a TV that was $3,000-$4,000 or $500. Doesn't matter. But now you're sitting on a TV you have to sell as B stock or you have to try and sell it as fast as possible. We needed to reduce that. And so we came up with TV template. We were selling this thing internationally. We just stopped because not many people were buying it in the UK. Not many people were buying it in Canada. It was on Amazon. It's awesome. It comes with six posters, all different sizes. From the 85" 75" 65" 55" 49" and 40". Those were the standard sizes. The best thing of this is it should be free. But how is it free? We need Sony, we need LG, we need Samsung. We need somebody to step up and say look I'm going to name them and picture them for all the current models. It doesn't need a show price but it's just a hey this is 85". I want 100 inch. If we can show somebody 100 inches on the wall, we'll sell more. I've sold a few 100 inches, mainly because I put a 100 inch in my house. I know Justin Johnston of Twilight Solutions. He's got a ton of 100 inch tvs. He got a great deal on and he's selling those. And Michael Restrepo. He wants a 100 inch. The reason is, if we can show them, they'll buy it. Once you put it up on the wall, they're like, that doesn't look that bad. I don't care if they go 75" to 55" as long as you get the right TV the first time.
So these are TV's with images and writing so you can read and see and understand that that is the right size. You don't see husbands and wives or husband s and husbands or wives and wives. You don't see them fighting anymore right. You just see them understanding. That's right. Now you get to focus on what quality TV. Do you want the good the better the best? If you could reduce your time and measure a whole house in 10 minutes, a five location. This is fine. Let's go to the outside. Let's go to my master bedroom. You nailed down the perfect size every time.
Ron: TV template. How does someone buy this? How does an integrator listening?
Rusty: Go to TVtemplate.com or AVtemplate.com. And I had another fun one to show you. You can buy into your distribution at a few spots. You have to go to Amazon. But we have a three-pack for $99 so you get three whole sets and they're reusable you can use them up to 15 times. If you are in COVID and you can't get to someone's house and they said I need a TV. They don't know what size or they're just saying they want a 65". I would not order it. I would send him one of these or have them go buy one of these, have them put it up and then say yes you're right. It's kind of a cool tool. I want the 75". So look at the reaction with your customers. Once you start using these, it's pretty freaking awesome. We've sold about 3,500 of them for the last two years. I thought we would be selling a lot more. We bought 5,000. Our company uses them all the time, we swear by them. We don't have returns or exchanges. And I hope it helps you guys. But for me to be able to get this affordable to you guys I had to invest a lot of money to buy 5000 sets. Keep the price.
Ron: Help a brother out people. Contact Rusty. Buy some TV templates dammit.
Rusty: Yes. The same thing about the image across trying to make sure your customers getting the right TV and the right size. We wanted the image of our company because we feel like the techs in the field aren't letting customers know. How many times have we had a customer have a shade installer come out and do shades? What are you doing here? Oh yeah, I got shades. Did you know we do shades? I had no idea, I would have loved to have bought shades from you. So we were so tired of that too. So we came out with a cool AV menu.
Rusty: So this is the story of our business. We wrote it and we got all the graphics and we put it all together and it's written very easy for customers. This is on our website. Digital Installers. This is also on AV template. We have a digital menu, that's only $55. Remember we're doing this for our industry and our friends, we're not trying to make money on it but it is something. So this idea is a real quick book that showcases what we do. So we go from talking about what a smart home is, the pre-wire stage, what cables will be running. We talk about the network, the rack, and access points, and the best of ways on how to do Wi-Fi. Real simple for customers to understand. We like them to read and understand it before we come out there. Remember I'm really big into interior design and aesthetics. So when we do show this, we show there are different speakers.
This is brand agnostic. This is not showing brands, it's timeless. So if you have it, you can use this for years and years to come. We talked about in-ceiling speakers, pendants, bookshelves, towers, in walls, and then there are three different subwoofers. Floor standing, in walls, or even in ceilings. Customers don't realize some of this stuff is even out there. Just like the landscape. We show that landscape speakers, there's 360s, there's wall-mounted , there are different shapes and sizes from rocks above ground and even below ground. Once they see that, they start getting really cool ideas and then they say wow I didn't know that. Once customers learn something new, they are really listening. Believe it or not, contractors builders designers they love this stuff because that really makes them understand what you guys do. So instead, if you flip through the book, there's a lot of different topics. Covers the Wi-Fi.
Ron: Is this the book you sell? Is this something people can order? I just got a comment. Steve says this is awesome.
Rusty: This is gold because even I use this. Ron, how many times you profile a customer saying oh you have brand new shades you don't want shades. I'm not going to discuss shades. I used to have a checklist to check off. OK. What did I talk about? Someone says I want a Ring doorbell. Thank you. We're going to do your Ring doorbell. Can I show you what our company does? We flip through this. I swear this is a true story. A customer called us for a Ring doorbell. One of my techs in the field goes, can we show you what we do? They showed him the page, page by page. They got to lighting they go. I'm in the market for lighting. I want lighting. It was a $20,000 sale plus $200 Ring doorbell because they knew that we did this. And if you keep going, you see that we do even landscape. And this is a really cool page. We talked about shades. There are so many people that don't know we do shades. Right when they see this, they're going to say OK let's talk. If we were doing what they asked for, we're not going to offer the new stuff.
Ron: How does someone watching or listening get that?
Rusty: Go to AVtemplate.com.
Ron: OK , so I'm going to share my screen. I think technology will behave right there, see it on the screen?
Rusty: There's TV templates and AV menus on that website.
Ron: Awesome. There you go, folks. Avtemplate.com.
Rusty: There's gonna be some new fun stuff coming as well.
Ron: Help Rusty, help the world, help the industry.
Rusty: That's what we're doing right? We're just trying to make it easier and it keeps you on course. It makes it really efficient. For some reason, a digital menu on an iPad that works.
Ron: Well, you are about to receive an order from Kenya. Not joking Steve says considering the fact that I cannot have everything on a demo, how do I get this in Kenya? So now, there you go. TV templates going to be used in Kenya here before the month's out. That's pretty cool.
Rusty: It's really hard. But then you use freight forwarding. We've gone through it all.
Ron: Alright. Well, I have confidence Steve, contact Rusty and his team and they're going to make it happen. Rusty, I know that you are about to be on a CEDIA tech round table here in one minute. You're a panelist correct?
Rusty: Yeah I'm going to be on. I got to go right now. I appreciate it but I'm on the roundtable for California we're going to be talking more COVID. You have to have been registered. I think there are 100 hundred people on there. Yeah. I'll probably post something about that later on the follow up through our Instagram of Digital_Installers and also on Facebook. We're more active on Instagram right now.
Ron: Rusty it was a pleasure having you and your support team behind you holding the camera. It was a pleasure having you guys on episode 116 of Automation Unplugged sir.
Rusty: We appreciate you. Thank you, Ron.
Ron: Alright guys. Be well.
Rusty: Alright guys. Later.
Ron: Alright guys. There you have it, the one and only Rusty Deeble from Digital Installers. And again if you did not catch it before here I'll put his website up on the screen just so that if you want to go and follow them, definitely do so. Check out their social media feed. These guys are innovating around what it is to be an integrator, what it is to be sharing with your industry, and your friends in your buying group. And of course the community at large, both customers and members of the design community. They're doing some really neat stuff. Anyway, folks, as I always do here, if you do not already do so follow us on your favorite podcast platform. If you are game and willing and able, leave us a review, it really would help us get further exposure for the show. And I do this and my team invests time and energy, we do this for you guys. We do this so that you can hear from your peers and those that are into the industry that makes this industry happen. The reason we launched Automation Unplugged is that we wanted your voice to be heard. If you're enjoying the show, leave us a review, it would help us out to get further growth for the content. And on that note, have an awesome rest of your Wednesday, May 6th and we will talk to you soon. See you guys next time. Be well.
Rusty has been working in the industry since he was 14 years old and is currently President of Digital Installers out of Long Beach, California. Digital Installers has an impressive showroom that mixes interior design with smart technology and even won the ProSource Dream Theater Makeover Contest in 2019.
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.
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