Home Automation Podcast Episode #119: An Industry Q&A With Matt DeVance
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Matt DeVance, Founder of DeVance Electronic LIfestyle, shares his perspective on the shift in demand for technology in homes and how integrators can prepare.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Matt DeVance. Recorded live on Friday, May 8th, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Matt DeVance
With over 25 years in the custom audio/video industry, Matt got his start in-car audio after spending his youth watching his father repair home electronics from their home basement as a side-hustle.
After spending 4 years at Dallas based audio-video retailer, Home Entertainment, he ultimately decided to strike out on his own and starting his own integration firm, DeVance Electronic Lifestyles, in 2002.
Today, DeVance is constantly growing. They are expanding their business by buying a building that will double their current space. They have annual revenues approaching $3M with a staff of 11 people.
- Ways in which previous life-changing events, such as 9/11 and the Great Recession, has prepared Matt to better handle this pandemic
- Matt’s perspective on the shift in demand for technology in homes and how integrators can prepare
- How EOS evolved Matt’s business and communications approach
- The importance of company culture and the mentoring of employees
Ron: Hello ladies and gentlemen. Happy Friday. Today is May 15th. It's just a little bit after 12:30 East Coast time here in Florida. I'm down here in Fort Lauderdale. It's a rainy day outside so it's a perfect day to be inside and talking to you. We are here for episode number 119 of Automation Unplugged, brought to you by my day job at One Firefly. I know a few of you are wondering do I have any other clothes. The answer is maybe I have to keep you guessing because I just like wearing my One Firefly gear. And in terms of my hat, it's a sad state of affairs up there. I desperately need a haircut. Let's jump into it. Show 119 guest, Matt DeVance, the one and only. He's the founder of DeVance Electronic Lifestyles out of Dallas Texas. He is a longtime friend and customer of One Firefly. I've had the pleasure of knowing he and his wife Dana for many years now. We founded our businesses and our businesses have had a similar growth trajectory really since the early 2000s. It is all about the team and we're going to talk about team and culture and lots of fun topics with Matt. Let me go ahead and bring him in. I know you guys are here to hear from him. So let's do that. Matt, how's it going, sir?
Matt: Doing great. How are you doing?
Ron: I am doing super duper. Oh, I see all sorts of wood. Looks like acoustical doodads there on the wall behind you. So where are you coming to us from?
Matt: Dallas, Texas and I'm in our home theater and our showroom. So that's some walnut diffusers we had made for our theater.
Ron: Awesome. That's real wood. That's not foam.
Matt: That's correct.
Ron: Yeah. That is beautiful. We already have folks. Man, you are drawing quite the audience here Matt. I've got lots of folks saying hello. Matt, how long have you and I known each other?
Matt: I think we met each other, I want to say it was maybe 2009-2010?
Ron: That sounds right. I started Firefly Design Group back in '07 and we were doing the drawing and the project engineering thing. Do you know who introduced us?
Matt: Look what I got right here.
Ron: Wow. Holy cow. You have a legacy. Yeah. Look at that. That is the sales portfolio. Holy moly.
Matt: You guys did that for us back in the day.
Ron: We would have done that probably around '09 or '10 or '11, something like that. I think Troy Morgan out of Dallas introduced us.
Matt: That is correct.
Ron: Yeah. Troy was a Crestron programmer with Pantech Design. As I always love to do, I have a whole list of topics that are gonna be fun for our audience to hear your take on. Before I go there, I always love to hear the origin story. Do you mind sharing, the way back machine? Twenty-five years plus, what were you doing and how did you end up landing in this custom integration space?
Matt: The way back story really is back when I was probably five, six, or seven years old, my father was in the air force and we were stationed in Omaha Nebraska and in Omaha you have basements. We say now, it was a side hustle. He would repair electronics out of the basement as a hobby and a little bit of a way to earn a little extra money. He was one of the first to get into the Tandy computers, Commodore VIC, 20 the Commodore 64, those first-generation computers. But that really piqued my interest in audio-video if you will. I remember him repairing VCRs and speakers.
Ron: And he was in the military so he was in the military in some capacity and this was like his side hustle? This was a side gig?
Matt: Correct. Yeah. So during the day you know he'd go off to base and be there all day long and then at night he fixed things, taking things apart put them together. And I always loved watching all that. I got to really enjoy the smell of solder.
Ron: How did he learn to do that? Was he an engineer by education or by hobby? How did he know to do that?
Matt: He did a lot of that in the military. That just really piqued my interest and I got to take things apart, put things back together. I loved working with my hands. And so that really got me into the industry if you will at an early age. And then when high school rolled around, I really got into audio systems and cars I had a truck and I did my own system in there and I competed in events and then next thing you know, I had people in high school wanting me to make systems for them or install stuff for them. I did that and I really enjoyed it and that got me into audio and just enjoying music in general.
Ron: I know of the IASKA stuff but I don't know it exactly. When you were designing a car audio system and you were competing, what were you trying to achieve? What would win you an award?
Matt: A lot of the people that were competing would compete in the D.B. category which is just how loud is your base right? How many DBS can you have in a car? I remember one car had 155 DB.
Ron: That would kill you if you were inside that car would it not?
Matt: Oh it rattles your eyes. But that wasn't what I was going for. I was going into SQ, sound quality. I wanted it to sound as realistically as possible in that small environment which was actually awful for acoustics.
Ron: I see, so you were trying to get the highs lows and mids? There was some standard for good audio. Or I guess you would always know the quality of the source and they were testing you for your ability to reproduce that accurately.
Matt: Correct. That was really my passion on the car audio side was the sound quality. I felt like anybody could do bass and make things really loud but it's much more of a challenge to make it sound really good in an awful environment.
Ron: Got it. And you mentioned computers. Did you guys also build computers back in the day?
Matt: Yeah, my dad did for sure. I mean he built a lot of them. That's his business today and he's starting to kind of slow it down a little bit. But he's had his own business building software programs, building computers. He does a lot of our computer stuff in our office for us today still.
Ron: Did you ever go to the old computer shows? I remember as a kid, my dad was a computer nerd. I remember it was the big deal when the computer show came to the coliseum and we would go and you'd get all the vendors selling the video cards and the audio cards I know for our young people listening they're like what are they talking about? That was how you build a computer back in the day, you'd go buy all your pieces and parts.
Matt: That's right yeah. We did that and it was on Saturdays. We would get up early Saturday morning and we go down. It was downtown Dallas and it was under one of the bridges but it was always every Saturday. You'd go there and they set up, all these vendors would have all this stuff set up. You can just walk through and it was hundreds and hundreds of people there trying to sell hard drives and computer cases and everything you could even think of.
Ron: I remember when my dad built my first computer and we got a 40-megabyte hard drive and that was a big deal. I have no idea what you can put on a 40-megabyte hard drive but it can't be much.
Matt: Not anymore. Yeah.
Ron: And where did you transition? So you were into the car audio and then how did you land in the home audio-video side of the equation?
Matt: Sure, yeah. I started working for a company that did car audio installs. That's what they were known for. And I was selling the car audio installs and they also did home audio. And one day they needed somebody to help them with a home audio installation and I was there and so I got elected and got to get out and see it and my eyes were opened and it was amazing how I realized the potential of a home audio system as opposed to a car audio system . You're no longer limited by the small space. Now you can do almost anything. And so that really got me involved with it and that's what got me going on the home audio side. And that was the early 90s.
Ron: Early 90s and then in the early 2000s you decided to leave that the store that you were in. What store was it?
Matt: It was Home Entertainment. It was here in Dallas Texas at a store called Home Entertainment. Them and Hillcrest, High Fidelity were the big competitors of each other. I think there were three stores here in Dallas and they had four stores in Houston. Roberta Lewis was one of the owners, Joe Brown.
Ron: And they ended up getting bought by Tweeter?
Matt: Yep, Tweeter bought them and decided their model was a different direction than what I was used to and accustomed to which was custom and building systems for clients from the ground up and that was not really what they were going for anymore. It was time for me to move on. It was beneficial, I got to do a little bit of management. I was able to be an Assistant Manager. I was able to be a Manager and it helped me a little bit with my people skills during that time. But, I realized that my passion was really in the design of a custom system and building it from the ground up. And that was just not something they were really interested in at the time. It was pretty easy for me to go out on my own. A lot of clients had my cell phone number, they were always calling me already. They were sending friends and family to me already be on my phone so I kind of had my own business going already. Even though I was working for Home Entertainment, I was taking care of them as if they were my client, not Home Entertainment. That transition when I left was a pretty smooth transition and a pretty easy transition because my phone just didn't stop ringing. And from that point on I just thought OK I'm a business owner.
Ron: So you've been running with your wife, Dana, DeVance Electronic Lifestyles, all the way back since '02.
Matt: Correct. Yeah, I started it in '02. She didn't join the company until '07. But it was me and one guy working out of my house I was selling he was installing I was doing all the bookkeeping paying all the vendors doing my taxes you know everything matched up and then I go out and help them install sometimes too but the majority of the time, he would install and I would sell. My wife eventually said this is getting too big for you to be able to handle by yourself. I'm quitting my job and I'm coming to help you. And she was the catalyst to really get us out of the house, get us into an office, and start getting people in place that can do the things that are not really my forte. Like the bookkeeping and ordering products and things of that nature. She was the catalyst of really trying to get us to grow our team.
"You need to be able to delegate, bring people into your orbit, and then figure out what you're best at and delegate those things you're not best at."
Ron: I was just on a conference call yesterday with a company out of a small operation in Italy and the UK with his brother. He was a one-man operation trying to figure out how to grow. And my answer was you need to be able to delegate, bring people into your orbit, and then figure out what you're best at and delegate those things you're not best at. It sounds like that's what Dana was able to help you see here or start to institute.
Matt: Yes she really did a great job with helping me see it. That's a good way to phrase it. And once I really started seeing it, then the challenge became just finding the talent and getting the talent in here that has the skillset and the mindset and the thought process that's on par with your thought process. That way, you can just let them do what they're good at and not micromanage and trust that they're the right person.
Ron: That makes sense. What does your business look like today? Just a high level. Are you doing residential work, commercial work? What is your day to day responsibility? I know you're the owner of the business but what is your day to day life look like in DeVance today?
Matt: Sure yeah. Over the past couple of years, we've kind of morphed a little bit more into the commercial side of things than resi. For a long time, we were probably 70 30 residential and the 30 percent commercial was a lot of our clients would call us in because they were owners of businesses. We'd go in and do their boardrooms and we'd do a restaurant because they open ed a restaurant. We've done yoga studios, all those types of things where it was directly associated with our client doing the residential project. Today, we've now gotten a little bit more into the commercial side of things so I would say we're getting close to a 50/50 split. I like the commercial side of things a lot because there's a lot of the emotion is taken out of the wholesale if you will on the whole project. You don't have a homeowner that's really emotional about the experience and how it's going to turn out and all the after stuff. It's more of a business and it's just used a certain time of day and so I really like that transition. But we've got good people on board that can handle and manage that. I'm not having to do it as much anymore. My involvement has really shifted over the past year or so to be more of a mentor. We have some young people here that are just fantastic people and just amazing at what they do. And I love seeing their development being able to be here for them to answer questions or guide them through certain scenarios when they pop up. But I empower them at the same time to not only make a mistake and learn from it, but do well and learn from that also and just give them the tools I can over my years of experience and let them be more of the people that are running the company.
Ron: So we are we're recording this here on May 15, 2020, and there's still a global pandemic going around. I've heard rumors of it and occasionally we'll get whispers of it on the news although I try not to watch the news. And how is it affecting you guys? How's your team? How's your family? How's business?
Matt: Yeah. Team-wise that's a really good question I feel because I think that's the core of what we're going through right now. I was able to been doing this long enough, obviously went through 9/11 back in 2001, went through the financial crisis back in '08 '09, and then now this is kind of our third really big crisis if you will. And I learned a lot through both of those incidences and it's helped me as a business owner be a little calmer, be a little more stable, less knee jerk reaction and not just freak out with what's going on.
Ron: What are some of those lessons? Let's say 9/11 or the Great Recession of '09 and '10. What are some of the takeaways? I can tell you for myself the things I did wrong that I'm trying to do better this time. What are some of those examples for you perhaps?
Matt: After 2001, when a 9/11 hit, one of the things that really became predominant for me in people's lives is they really wanted to make sure that their families were kept safe in their own environments. It was almost a competition between families of who could have the house that has all the entertainment built into it to where the kids want to go to that house so that they can watch their own children and know where they are and what they're doing and that kind of thing. It's a blessing that people really were understanding that their home now is a safe spot. Right? It's someplace that we're going to invest in because it's my safe place. And in '08-'09, fortunately, the Dallas Fort Worth area, with the way the economy is spread out here, it's not really focused on oil it's not really focused on the medical side of things, it's really spread out. This community really just kind of kept going and didn't really miss a beat.
Ron: Dallas is an amazing market, and then the whole state of Texas. It's like its own micro-economy in the United States and I'm saying that from a perspective I work with people throughout the world and throughout North America. And then there's Texas. And it really must be rather fun to be doing business in the state of Texas in such a special economy.
Matt: I definitely love it. And you're right. You know I go to a lot of events whether it's a Pro Source event or CEDIA event or whatever and you get to meet people from all over the country and all over the world and you get to meet people from your own state. Right? And it is true when you're talking to people that aren't in Texas and how they talk and how they speak and what's going on with them and then you talk to somebody that is in Texas.
Ron: It's a totally different conversation. Yeah, it's amazing. So I interrupted you. You were saying in '09 and '10 and then I jumped in. So please continue.
Matt: So in '08, '09 as a matter of fact we were hiring during that downtime and we were hiring more people. We had a ton of business going on, a lot of big projects.
Ron: You were hiring during the Great Recession?
Matt: Yes. Yeah, we had started a couple of really big projects. One of them turned out to be when it was all said and done about a million five. And those people didn't miss a beat on their projects. They just kept going. They're like We do not stop and we're not letting this slow us down. We're going to keep going. And that was what really help us through '08 '09 and we were able to hire people that needed jobs, get them on board with us because we needed people to help us do these projects. And so we learned a lot through that on just maintaining the course. Don't deviate. Don't try to let outside distractions determine how you're going to run your own business. It's so easy to do because you especially like you're saying you don't watch the news. I was watching a lot of the news recently when this pandemic got kicked off to spur knowledge. But over the past week or so I've kind of relax ed that because it really does start to affect your mindset.
Ron: Maybe it is terrible outside. Maybe the fact that we're busy and doing well, maybe this is an illusion.
Matt: Yeah, you know you hear all these different things that can get into your mind and your thought process. And as a business owner, you need to be able to stay focused. You need to be able to stay the course and not let all these outside distractions determine the direction of your company. So '08 '09 helped me with that a lot. Now that we're going through this now, it's scary. But the main difference is the world's going through this. Those other two, it was really just the US that had to deal with it. This one the whole world is now impacted and going through it. And I feel that even though we're going through it and we've started to slow a little bit, we've had some people put the brakes on their projects. We've had some that are not putting the brakes on the projects and we're still plowing through them. But we have seen it slow down a little bit. We're not going to be concerned about it. We're still going to stay the course. We still know that the services that you provide us with all the marketing that you do for us, the new website you just did for us, that's all going to be very vital right now during this time to get us out there and help our clients. When people get to the point of getting back to things, I feel like they're going to really invest in their homes again, invest in their offices again, and really want to be prepared if it happens again.
"As folks are spending more time in their homes than they probably ever have, that there's going to be a demand for the toys in the home that we provide as an industry. The music, the networking, the audio-video, and the control."
Ron: You gave us a very nice shameless plug which I will graciously accept. And I just put on the screen there your website and I'll just kind of cruise through that a little bit as you're talking but I am curious. I have an assumption, I'm feeling better and better about this assumption by the day. That is that as folks are spending more time in their homes than they probably ever have, that there's going to be a demand for the toys in the home that we provide as an industry. The music, the networking, the audio-video, and the control. That's an assumption I have. And I know that some of my customers maybe many are very busy. Are you seeing that and do you believe that? Let's say there is a second wave, let's just run worst case. Let's say there's a second wave of this thing and then maybe a third wave. If you look back to the Spanish Flu, it came in multiple waves. All that means is our consumers are going to be spending more and more time in their homes right. So it seems logical that you would be in demand. We as an industry would be in demand. What are you seeing?
Matt: Yeah we're definitely seeing that we're seeing projects that we might have been talking with the client and they put the project on hold or they decided they weren't going to do it right now. Maybe something else came up or whatever but we've been getting feedback from those clients now saying I wish I would have gone ahead and did that with you because now I'm stuck in my house and I would have liked to have had the better music or I would have liked to have had the faster Internet speeds or I would have liked to have had this media room already done that I've just decided to put off. And I think you're right. I think people especially if it's going to come back multiple times, people really are gonna start investing more into their homes because especially if you think about a media room or a theater. The goal of that is technically to transport you to a different time or a different space or a different change of mindset. And I know that it does that for myself and my wife. At night when we want to have a different mindset other than thinking about what's going on around us every day in the world. I want to get away from that and we can turn on a movie and it achieves that. We watched last night, a stupid movie, Zombieland.
Ron: I watched the Z one with Brad Pitt, right when this whole thing went down.
Matt: Right. So that was one of those things right. Zombieland is not a go-to movie like oh my goodness you got to see this movie right? But it's one of those movies where you don't really have to think, it's gonna kind of make you laugh. It's silly and it gets your mind off of everything that's kind of going on around you and I think more and more people are going to understand that now and want to invest in that in their homes now.
Ron: Speaking of the pandemic and I know that you guys have a beautiful showroom cause I went there myself this past Fall. This is a little corner of your space there and there's this spectacular Macintosh and I think that's BMW towers. So you have a gorgeous space loaded with fantastic gear. How do you see the demonstration experience change if at all?
Matt: Sure. I think more and more people are going to want to have an experience, they're gonna want to be able to go into a facility especially if they're going to invest the money now into a media room. They're going to want to experience a media room and I think it'll be better for us as integrators because we'll be able to show some fantastic experiences and have people say perfect I want it. This is exactly what I need in my house. So if something happens again a second third wave or whatever other you know something that could come along that's gonna make me and my family be in the home for long periods of time. This will be something that I can do with my family and it can be a getaway at the same time because you think about the vacations that aren't being taken right now. All the extra stuff.
Ron: I don't think anyone's gonna go on vacation this year.
"What is your release as a family?.. And if you can't do that by physically going somewhere, I think people are gonna see that and recognize that and say let's do that in our home."
Matt: Right. And you think about that. So what is your release as a family? I mean that was going on a vacation. It was going somewhere it was transporting yourself to a different time or a different place. And if you can't do that by physically going somewhere, I think people are gonna see that and recognize that and say let's do that in our home. Let's make that a reality. So if we are here we have to be here. We can kind of do that in our own home.
Ron: Now I have to give you a very public thank you, Matt, to you and your team because you helped One Firefly and you helped the industry at large and many do not know this. I'm gonna disclose a little secret. One Firefly, we're producing websites. Last year we produced a website called Mercury Pro and in that website product, we're also doing video shoots which is a new ambition, a new project of ours. We started doing this last year. And if we're gonna shoot models, we're hiring families you know a husband and wives kids different demographics and we're renting out beautiful homes and we're loading them with gear and we're videoing that for marketing assets. That means I actually need the beautiful gear. And so I was going to be doing a shoot in Dallas and I called you and I said Matt I need your help. You said Ron what do you need? I said I need beautiful gear. And you said well come on over and pick it up. And so I'm going to put on the screen here a couple of images. I'll do it this way that we were able to capture and then I'll come over to the screen and show how this is realized. What is this here? This is a Macintosh set up over on the bookshelf?
Matt: Correct. Yeah, a little Macintosh executive system if you will. Some speakers, amplifiers, and you can hook up some kind of streaming device to it. I mean it's an impressive little system for what it is, to be honest with you.
Ron: It's beautiful and by the way, I'm showing stills but these are all videos that are in some cases visible on your website. But what was the donation and really the philanthropy here is, these videos are going to be on integrator sites around the world and that's made possible when good partners of ours help us with gear so that we can show it off. Here's that same room but a different look.
Matt: B & W speakers in the background.
Ron: What are those called? That's called a bookshelf speaker or a tower?
Matt: It's a bookshelf speaker. It's their top of the line, the 805s. So it's a small little bookshelf speaker but it just sounds fantastic for what it is. You put some good power behind it and you can really enjoy some music.
Ron: I'm going to show one more here. This is a scene, we had these folks sitting over here on the sofa having their nice cocktail. And what tower speakers are those?
Matt: Those are the BMW 702S's. It's the one step down from their eight hundred series which is their top of the line. It's one step down from those.
Ron: Got it. Let me see if I can find my screen. And so now I'm just gonna go the audience here. I know for the podcast I'm having to verbally describe this, but I'm just gonna show a quick video to show how some of these speakers are then being realized. And again, big thanks to Matt, to you and your team for letting us borrow this gear so that we could include it in our video shoots.
Matt: Yeah, I'll give all the credit to Kalyn here. He was the one that kind of got them ready for you and helped you get them and got them back and took care of them. That wasn't on me, I'll give him all the credit and my team, they got the stuff ready for you. So I really appreciate them doing that.
Ron: Awesome. Great job. And Kalyn you were awesome both in the pickup and the the the the drop off of that gear . and Matt if you don't mind I'm going to give a few people shout outs here that are commenting. Matt has a question for you, he's saying, "How much do you think your showroom raises your average project ticket?" So does it make an impact on the dollar value of your projects?
"A lot of what a showroom can do for you other than just showing the product itself, gives you validity in the industry."
Matt: Sure. I definitely believe it does and I know it does. A lot of what a showroom can do for you other than just showing the product itself, gives you validity in the industry. It gives you some credibility that what you say you can do you can do. Without a showroom, you can meet a client. I did it for a long time and I think I was blessed with the gift of gab obviously, where I can get people feeling comfortable to do business with me. But I sold a lot of product without even having a showroom. But once I had that showroom, it definitely became much easier because it solidified my capabilities and what I can do and what I can achieve and what I can do for them and achieve in their own home. So I would say at a minimum it's raised at least 10 percent of your projects. When you get somebody in your space and you can show them what you do. You might not sell them certain things in your showroom that you've spent a lot of money on but they'll see it and that'll be in their head. And what that does, it wows them. You gain their trust you gain, their confidence. So now going forward, when you make recommendations on a product or a way to do something, they're gonna be more open to listening to you because they've physically seen with their own eyes, your capabilities so they have that trust in you.
Ron: That makes a lot of sense. So I know that in just chatting with you prior to going live Matt, some of the words in the language you were using, I really connected with as it relates to your approach to your team and company culture. And I didn't know this but I just said have you heard of a book called Traction? And you said yes Ron, we're following the Traction EOS system here at DeVance. One Firefly adopted this methodology back last summer and we've been kind of onto a path of improving our business operations and processes based on that. Do you mind sharing with the audience what is that and what does it mean to you and maybe even how has it changed how you look at running your business?
Matt: Sure. Yeah, I'll give credit to my wife Dana and our CFO Stephanie when they went to a Pro Source event last year in Tennessee. They got to see Traction it's called EOS which is I think it's an entrepreneurial operating system.
Ron: That's right.
Matt: And so they got to see that at the Pro Source events and brought it back and said we need to implement this. And in talking to them of why we need to implement it, basically what it did is it brought structure to the company, it brought structure to our meetings. It wasn't just random meetings that would pop up and have no direction and we would be all over the map and another thing that it really brought to us is we have a team that's kind of our management team. It gets us all together and it gets us all on the same page so that we all know our goals. We all know what the company's goals are, what we're trying to achieve in one year, three years, five years, ten years. We all have that same mindset and like thought process. Stephanie and Dana have been the catalyst s of implementing it. They're reading the books, they're watching the videos, they've made it happen. That has been tremendous for us. It gives us something to set our sights on. It gives us a way to be focused that we didn't have before. Before that, we were just kind of like OK yeah. It would be cool to do five million dollars a year or be cool to have 15 employees. But there was no real direction on how do you achieve that? How do you get to that point? And when we got EOS and Traction, it helped us have a format of how to get to those goals and how to structure your company so that it's not just chaos every day. There is actually a meaning to everything you're doing.
Ron: Tell the audience here, how do you solve problems now? So let's just say there's a problem. What's the process? By the way folks, this is an EOS Traction methodology here. So how do you solve a problem now?
Matt: So when we have our management meeting and we have ours every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. That's an hour and 40 minutes and it has a structure to it. So at the beginning of the meeting, we all go around the table and we all say some good news. It's always good to start off on a positive. So we all say some good news to each other and it could be something as simple as I had a great weekend or I was in the sun or who knows what. And that great news is just a good positive way to start the meeting off. And then as the meeting continues, it's broken up in sections and you can in a certain section say we have an issue. OK, is that issue with something internally like an employee issue? Or is it a client issue or a vendor issue? And so that issue gets brought to the table and if it's something we can kind of discuss within five minutes and come up with a solution. Great. We've discussed it. We've knocked it off. We've got a solution now. Now it's just making that solution happen. If it's something that needs more conversation and a little more detail, we push that into a different section of the meeting that's designed to have a longer discussion time. Maybe it's 30 minutes or 45 minutes. I'm trying to remember what that was.
Ron: 20 minutes per issue.
Matt: 20 minutes per issue. So then you put it off to that issue and then you can sit and really get into that issue because it needed more talking. But the goal is to come up with a solution. How do I solve this problem? And when you're done with that you should have solved that problem.
Ron: So that process is called the IDS process. You define it. You discuss it and then you solve it and then you move on.
Matt: Right. Identify and discuss and solve, correct.
Ron: There you go. Identify discuss and solve. And just as simple as that might sound folks, you and your leadership team in that meeting or your team at large in that meeting knowing there's a structure and you're not just going to talk in circles you're not going to restate the problem 18 different ways. You're going to agree on what the problem is and then you're going to IDS it. It is it's amazingly refreshing.
Matt: I think one of the things that it really does is it empowers your team. In those meetings, I'm not the one sitting there making these decisions. I'm not saying we're going to do this or we're going to do that. It's more of the team and I'll sit back the majority of the time and not speak on purpose because I want the team to make these decisions. I want to know what their resolve is going to be. And it empowers them to know they can make decisions and make them on their own and implement. They don't need me to make the decision for them.
Ron: You and I have talked over the years and now about how we had the weight of the world on your shoulders and on mine as we were running our businesses. And today I feel more relaxed at peace confident than ever. And it's because I have an amazing team around me that is helping me run the company. And you were telling me the same.
Matt: Yeah it's amazing when you get good people and you get the right people in the right position what they can do and you let them do it. You know you don't micromanage them, you don't tell them how to do their job. You guide them and you give them some direction sometimes and you give them some coaching sometimes. Here's how I did it when I had this issue or when I experienced this and give them those tidbits but let them make their own mistakes, let them make their own successes and praise them for those successes and then when the mistake comes. OK. Let's learn from it. How do we not do this again? What did you learn from that mistake and empower them and with our people that we currently have, it's the best team we've ever had. And I am more relaxed because I know the team can handle whatever comes their way. They have the ability and skillset to make decisions. They don't have to say well we got to talk to the boss and let him make this decision. More often than not they can make it and then come to me and say here's the problem here's what we did resolve it. It's all good. And that is the most satisfying feeling you can ever have because you're just like awesome. You know I didn't have to be the one that solved the problem anymore. They can do it.
Ron: No better way to cruise into a weekend than your team telling you about the problem, telling you how it was solved, and they were just letting you know. Amen. Matt we are running short on time and I did want to give just a few more shout outs. By the way, I saw Eddie you were hanging out watching, thanks, buddy. Eddie was on the show just recently.
Matt: I saw his. That was a good show.
Ron: It was a lot of fun. I'll ask you the controversial question that I asked him. I don't know how controversial it is. Do you think CEDIA, the expo event is going to happen this year?
Matt: Probably not. There are still just too many questions out there that need answers before I think people are going to be comfortable getting back together in a large group.
Ron: I just received an announcement that they're going to hold it and it's now been reduced to two days. I'm still kept skeptical it's going to happen. Do you think if they still hold the show, that it's the right thing to do? Should they hold the show?
Matt: Is it the right thing to do? It's hard to say now because we need more answers right? What's really going on with the virus? Is it getting better? Are we getting better or is it going away? That kind of thing. It would probably be better to answer that question maybe two months prior to that as opposed to now. Because it would be speculation and if I had to speculate it as of today I would say probably it'd be better not to have it just go ahead and cancel it. Don't let people do deposits and get their hopes up and do all the stuff.
Ron: Think about all the money the vendors have to spend to get a show properly.
Matt: Yeah. And why have them go through that extra stress right now of trying to prepare for a show that might not even happen? So I think it would be better off on at least the vendor side of things to say hey let's pass this year we'll tackle it harder next year, let you guys get your business under control and let you really focus on that. This first part of this year's just been shot. Right? Let them get another three quarters under them and really get back to what they were doing before this happened and get more of a comfort zone before trying to add extra stress to now put together a show.
Ron: Yeah, I agree. I don't think it's too controversial. That sounds so darn logical. But yet, it's still hanging out there. So we'll have to watch and see what happens. Matt I always love to close with if you are game there are folks listening there are people watching live for sure and there are folks that are going to watch later or they're going to listen to the podcast and maybe they have challenges. They haven't been through the battles that you've been through in terms of all these opportunities to learn. This is their battle they're gonna remember and reference in their future career. Have any advice for them on how to get through it? What do you got there? Small business for Dummies. OK. I didn't know such a book existed but it makes sense.
Matt: No, I got this probably 20 years ago. No, I think really you got to have faith and that's not necessarily that you have to be religious to have faith. But you have to have faith in society to have faith in the world in general that we're all going to get through whatever comes at us and learn from it . Especially if you're the owner of your business or the leader in your industry whatever it may be, that you understand what's going on around you and just sometimes you got to be calm and listen before making decisions. You don't want to make any kind of knee jerk reactions to things and maybe let things present themselves which might take a little more time. So I would just recommend from what I've experienced going through 9/11 and '08 and '09 is to remain patient and remain calm. Try to laugh, try to enjoy who you're with. Try to enjoy your teammates that you're around. Make them laugh. Have fun with them.
Ron: You were telling me that your pets at home have really been comforting.
Matt: Yes. We have a dog. We adopted a couple of years ago and he is just a character and every morning I get up. He makes me laugh and I think that's going to be key to this time as things can seem so dire and so stressful and so many people get focused on that. It's not healthy. You need to laugh, you need to have fun. You need to remember that we're gonna get through this and we're gonna get on the other side of it and we'll have to adapt. That's fine. And you can adapt but then remember just to have fun. Make your team have fun and don't let the stresses of everything that's going on around us, dictate how your company should react and respond.
Ron: Amen. I saw a meme recently and then I researched it a little further and it was around a survey of how many people want to stay working from home when this is all said and done. And there was a pretty strong correlation between the people that said they wanted to continue working from home and those that had pets at home. It was almost a one for one correlation. I know that my dog Charlotte and I've been working from home for a long time but she's really enjoyed having my son home from school every day. He's doing the remote learning so if she has her vote, I know she doesn't want Max to ever go back to school. She just wants him to stay homeschooling.
Matt: Yeah. Dogs are great for mental clarity and being able to relax when you're around them. If you're stressed you can go up and hug them or play ball or something like that. That's why I love dogs so much and my wife loves dogs and we rescue and those type of things. But you've got to find something in your life that will give you some calmness and relaxation when you're being bombarded by all this negativity and all this sad stuff that's going on around us.
Ron: No, I agree. How can those listening or watching learn more about you or learn more about your business?
Matt: Sure. Our website is devance.tv which you did for us which is another plug. And there you go, devance.tv. This is not anything you asked me to say but your team has been fantastic through the process. We just got the new website that you put together over the last year or so. We had you do that website for us. You do all of our marketing for us today. You and I did speak about this before we came live, when you're going through tough times like this what is something that you feel is necessary as a company? Something you don't want to cut out as far as budget goes.
Ron: Yeah. We did talk about people are figuring out what do they cut and what do they keep in their businesses when they're under stress?
Matt: And oddly enough, my CFO was the one that said the business we're doing with One Firefly is something that we do not cut.
Ron: Stephanie, I'm sending you flowers. That is definitely flowers worthy.
Matt: And so she said you know they're very vital to our business. Keep them going. So there's going to be a lot of tough decisions that business owners have to make. But hopefully, with these types of podcasts you're putting on they can hear from other business owners and the decisions that we're making and help them with their choices. I would say that our choice of keeping your services going is an easy one because it's just going to help us in the long run. And hopefully, other business owners if they're not doing business with you maybe they have somebody else they're doing business with that's taking care of them that they continue that service with because it will help in the long run.
Ron: Awesome. And that is very kind words very gracious. I appreciate those thoughts and feelings. And it is mutual. You've built an amazing team. And I know my team really enjoys interacting and working with your team. And I say that I don't say that lightly I won't mention names but I had to fire a customer yesterday because they weren't nice to work with. You never want to do that especially when the economy is so weird and bad. But at the end of the day, time is finite. And I want to be around both my family my friends my employees my customers. I want to be around people I enjoy being around. Why do anything else?
Matt: Our time is valuable. And why have this time with everything else that's going on have more stresses put on top of it?
Ron: It's a choice. And I know you choose the people you spend time with and we do the same here at One Firefly. So again, we wish you guys tremendous success for the balance of 2020. And Matt thanks for being on the show sir.
Matt: Happy to be here and thank you for having me and I've enjoyed it. And then hopefully people can look at this, other integrators or other business owners and it'll give them some insight.
Ron: Awesome folks. There you have it. Episode number 119 of Automation Unplugged. Thank you for all you folks that are still tuned in, we kept a pretty steady audience. Obviously Matt has quite the following and I know he and Dana and his whole team are just tremendously respected in the industry. They've built quite a name and reputation for themselves. So it was an honor to have Matt on the show and I have been in that theater where he's talked about the acoustical panels on the wall and he gave Kendall, Allison, and myself quite the audio demo. He had these monster Macintosh speakers in there. I forgot to ask him if he still had them but he gave us quite the demo when we were there. I want to say back in November for our video shoot and it was very memorable and in fact, I took a lot of his demo songs and added them to my title playlist here in my house when I'm demoing music. So anyway on that note, I'm going to sign off. Be well, have a fun and relaxing weekend. Tune in next week for more shows. And if you haven't done so already, don't forget to go to your favorite podcast platform and search Automation Unplugged and subscribe and I will see you guys next time. Thanks, everyone.
Matt has over 25 years of custom integration experience and is Founder of DeVance Electronic Lifestyles, which opened in 2002. DeVance Electronic Lifestyles currently does just under $3M in business annually and is expanding its business by purchasing a new building, doubling its current space.
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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