Home Automation Podcast Episode #125: An Industry Q&A With Kyle Steele
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Kyle Steele shares what the last 90 days have looked like for Global Wave Integration as a California-based business with job sites located around the US.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Kyle Steele. Recorded live on Wednesday, June 17th at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Kyle Steele
Kyle got his start in the audio/video industry as a way to make ends meet after moving to California with his bandmates shortly after graduating from college.
He started California-based Global Wave Integration in 2004, after gaining experience working for two southern California based integration firms.
Today, Global Wave Integration has completed projects that span from the West Coast to the Middle East, has been named "Best of Houzz Service" for seven years in a row, and can be found in publications such as Architectural Digest.
- How the Global Wave Integration wellness showroom has transformed due to COVID
- What the last 90 days have looked like for Global Wave Integration as a California-based business with job sites located around the US.
- Kyle’s thoughts on the industry’s role in approaching conversations around race
- Kyle’s strategies around building strong teams using personality types as a rubric for team composition.
Ron: Today's guest is a gentleman that I've known since the very beginning of my business. I started One Firefly back in '07 and Kyle and I were just actually talking before we went live here, I think maybe we met in '08. It was pretty early on, and I was out flying around the country and anybody that expressed even the remotest interest in our One Firefly services. I was like I'm jumping on a plane, and I'm coming to you.
He and I were just having some fun. We'll talk about it here in a minute. Today I've got Kyle Steele, President of Global Wave Integration. Kyle's growth as an entrepreneur and as an integrator is nothing short of impressive. In fact, he's doing projects around the country these days. I'm in Fort Lauderdale, and he's doing a project about 10 miles from here, up on Hillborough Beach, and he's doing just some of the best work in the country and honored to have him here for the show. What's up, Mr. Kyle?
Kyle: Hello, Mr. Callis. How are you doing? Good to see you.
Ron: Yeah, man. Likewise, I appreciate your willingness to participate. I think I had been reaching out to you for the better part of a year to have you on, and you and I were talking recently you're like, "Yeah, Ron. Sure. I'm happy to come on anytime." What about the last eight times I asked? Just kidding. It wasn't eight, maybe six. How are you doing sir?
Kyle: Doing good. Hanging in there. Interesting times and it's good to see your face. Just trying to ride out these times right now. So far so good and hopefully we're looking at the end of it here coming up.
Ron: Yeah man. By the way, where are you coming to us from? Just for everyone watching and listening that may not know much about you or your business and where you're located. Geographically, where are you at on the map?
Kyle: It's like The Tonight Show. Live from Burbank. No joke.
Ron: Are you really in Burbank?
Kyle: We just moved in. We bought a building about a year ago and just slowly moving in with everything going on. We had a small little flood at the end of last year so that kind of delayed the process. But we're actually very thankful because now we're doing the showroom right. It was already a wellness showroom before COVID. Now with COVID, there's more of a focus on wellness and what that looks like moving forward.
Ron: You just bought a building. How were you running your business before? I know I want to get into your story - you have a fascinating backstory. For those listening, it includes Kyle almost getting signed by Babyface for a record deal. We're going to get into that. But from a business standpoint, what led you to decide to actually buy a building and then go down that path?
Kyle: It was organized chaos, to be honest. For the past decade, we had multiple storage units. We had an executive office that was right down the road here in Burbank on the third floor to build racks out of a storage unit. The whole idea was to really consolidate one building, have space for the guys to build the racks, warehouse stuff, and we do a lot of DCI rooms projectors, calibrate the barcodes before we shipped them out.
Ron: For those that aren't familiar with the Hollywood circuit, what does DCI mean?
Kyle: It's first-run movies. So when a movie comes out in the theater, our clients can actually see it that night or day in their home cinema.
Ron: It's just like a ninety-nine cents a day subscription?
Kyle: Right. Yeah pretty close. It's funny, with this new building, Deluxe who does the licensing is literally on the same block as us. So if we need to pick up a drive we can just walk down the street grab the content and ship it anywhere in the world. That's been good for us. Everything's just consolidated to one space and that's just gonna be a game-changer for us.
Ron: Tell our audience just a little bit about your business. What does your business look like today? And then we'll go back to where the business began. I think it's always fun to go there and I get a lot of feedback from our audience. They love to hear where these crazy guys and gals came from that make up our industry. What does the business look like today?
Kyle: Yeah, we specialize in high-end residential, truly on a commercial scale. These are really large estates, multiple estates that we tie in, in terms of in-state management. But this project in Florida, I think we have nearly 300 shades, 90 audio zones.
Ron: That's a 70,000 square foot house.
Kyle: Guesthouse/main house. That's our bread and butter is these really large projects.
Ron: That's on the larger side of big.
Kyle: We like big, that's kind of what Global Wave is about. We find that bigger projects truly to be easier than smaller projects. When you're taking on a lot of fifty thousand dollar jobs, those can be scary. You have a couple of things that you missed in the bid or one or two errors and next thing you know you're in the red. And what we've seen in those size of jobs, 30% of those jobs are a loss. On bigger projects, you can really manage those. It's weekly construction calls, meetings on-site, you can really catch things before it's a bigger issue. Especially for these DCI rooms. I mean construction is critical. We'll be checking and making sure the acoustics are perfect and they're executing per plan and that's critical for what we do.
Ron: On a DCI room, for the room to qualify for that day and date service it has to meet some certain bar of performance. Is that how it is?
Kyle: Absolutely. It has to be stamped by Dolby. And it's just every detail is taken into consideration. Literally, today we're wiring a room with 50 Meyer Sound speakers. These rooms are no joke and it's quite the experience. We like the challenge. We like the fun stuff and that's really what we're about.
Ron: Let's go back in time. How did you land in this industry and then when appropriate please get to the babyface story because that's just crazy.
Kyle: I'll try to fast forward to that. I was born and raised in Portland Oregon. And one of your guests last week, The Premier Group I was floored because that's the first time I've heard another human being mention Green Castle, Indiana. All my relatives are in Green Castle. The only reason I wasn't born in Green Castle is my father was actually drafted by the Blazers and played for the Blazers for nine years. He got his number retired recently lost his championship ring, so please if anyone finds it.
Ron: Like literally lost it? He was wearing it and it fell off and can't find it?
Kyle: It's gone so that's what landed us in Portland and not in Green Castle but shout out to Premier Group, that's awesome I want to come out check out your showroom. Growing up in Portland as upper-middle-class definitely white privileged. I didn't do drugs growing up I was addicted to electronics and my parents enabled me to play with electronics.
Ron: Your dad liked to buy the latest camcorders or TV's or stereo systems that sort of thing. A pro-NBA player, I'm assuming he had the means to do that.
Kyle: Granted, keep in mind the '70s I think they got paid $4.25 per hour or per game. I got to look that up.
Ron: OK so it wasn't the big crazy money of today.
Kyle: No, but he liked two-channel. He had an amazing record collection. I'm still trying to find it as well. But yeah, it enabled me to really just kind of play. I was the only one in the family that was obsessed with music and my older brother and sister thought, "What's wrong with this kid?" In third grade, my parents got me a drum set. Instead of taking lessons, I took some magnets and some copper wire and turned the bass drum into a loudspeaker. They were like, "What is wrong with this guy?"
Ron: Cool. That sounds like a fun science project.
Kyle: Yeah. As a third-grader, something's wrong with this guy. As a sixth-grader, I was walking across the street to the junior high and taking an eighth-grade geometry class and just really focus on biology and math. Come high school, all I wanted to do is play music. We had an awesome cover band. We won Battle the Bands in Portland and that's when I knew I was over basketball. When I'd much rather be done with basketball and go to the dance afterward and jam with friends instead of play basketball.
Ron: When did you start the band scene? That was in high school or college or when did you start performing?
Kyle: It was freshman year. Three of my best friends and we were terrible just terrible. But you know instead of partying every weekend, at my house we had a nice little setup and we would just jam for three days straight. And we got pretty good over time. One of the highlights was we did Battle of the Bands we were playing that Tommy Tutone song, that Jenny song. We didn't know he was a judge. He was judging his own song and we're playing downtown Portland on the waterfront and he's like you guys hands-down win. I'm like this is awesome.
Ron: That's amazing.
Kyle: That parlayed into college where all I wanted to do was just play music. I think it's kind of your background too. Were you bioengineering?
Ron: Mechanical engineering.
Kyle: I think we were complaining over O Chem at one point.
Ron: Yeah. O Chem and thermodynamics both kicked my behind for sure.
Kyle: Yeah. I was in the College of Engineering, Music, and Business because Arizona had a new program called The Lead program. I'm not sure what it stands for but they took the top 12 Engineering students and they put in this new program. They have a B.A. in Engineering, a well-rounded engineer. We're the guinea pig. It was kind of a mess. I just focused on music, to the point where we even changed our band name to Free Beer and I walk around campus handing out flyers, saying "Free Beer tonight at Guido's."
Ron: That's marketing genius.
Kyle: Oh we had a packed house every night. It was so much fun.
Ron: Were they disappointed when they found out they had to pay for the beer?
Kyle: Well we were smart and I bought a couple of kegs in the back and I'd give out some free beer but we were also getting part of the sales for cocktails so that was good. I had to make the same choice as my dad did when he was done with school. He's either gonna be in accounting for the richest guy in Kentucky or he's gonna go pro basketball. My choice wasn't as dramatic. I was either going to be a quality assurance engineer for Raytheon or try to be a rock star. The only difference is my dad actually had a shot from the NBA.
He was first-team All-American for the number one team in the country. I was a drunken drummer in Tucson Arizona in a cover band. That's not screaming rock star by any means but my roommate Jeff Barsky who's the best guitarist I've ever met. When I met him, he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan, a VCR tape of Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was playing note for note behind his head with his teeth. I just want to hang out with this guy. And we were roommates. And then you know he's going to go into electrical engineering.
This is the one-shot we have just to be irresponsible, let's go back to Portland Oregon. Let's just work retail and restaurants and play music and see what happens. The best thing out of it. We both met our wives doing that. That was a big plus. We met this incredible lead singer-songwriter based in Portland and we just had a band together.
Ron: Did you do the classic thing? You made the post looking for lead singer, two musicians trying to do gigs?
Kyle: Actually, from what I remember, we had a friend who went to the University of Oregon and we had mutual friends from Lake Oswego. That kind of made the connection and we started playing pubs and stuff in Portland and people started coming out and then I vividly remember the lead singer come into our apartment where Jeff and I were living. My girlfriend at the time, now wife Sarah, she is so nonchalant. Alright, I guess labels are interested in us but if we're really going to do this we need to move to L.A. ASAP. And I remember just looking at Sarah and saying, "Want to move to L.A?" "Sure!" And so we all jumped in this Buick and drove to L.A. and we found this 400 square foot tiny condo in Manhattan Beach. It's the band and Sarah. And that was for a year.
Ron: I'm sure Sarah loved it. Living with a bunch of dudes that sounds miserable for poor Sarah.
Kyle: She is a trooper. And the funny part is that there were two bedrooms and Jeff and Justin were gonna have one bedroom and Sarah and I were gonna have the other. But it was so small that our lead singer actually preferred sleeping in the hallway which was outside our door. Literally, going to work we'd step over him. It was not optimal, by any means, living conditions.
Ron: This weekend I just watched a new Netflix documentary on Garth Brooks. I listen to all genres but I like some country music. And that was Garth Brooks' deal. He and his whole band and his wife. All I want to say it was like a 600 square foot house in Nashville. It was seven adults living in that house and two couples, married couples in this tiny little house. I guess you do it for the love of music. Is that the theme?
Kyle: It was crazy. We were just shooting from the hip. After that year we actually moved into another house that was close to the beach and we had six roommates. And during that year it's like alright I need a job in L.A. Playing drums wasn't paying the bills, we were going on small little tours. There's this job post, like audio engineering. I always wanted to have my own recording studio, this sounded like what I'm looking for. Respond to that. And my first day on the job I'm pulling Cat 5 underneath a house on the beach in Manhattan Beach. I'm getting stuck under the house.
Ron: Seeing all sorts of creepy crawlies under there.
Kyle: Yeah I'm like, this is not audio engineering. I don't know what I'm getting myself into. I was the first employee for this integrator who just started the company and he was very candid and honest with me saying Hey I know nothing about this industry. I've got an MBA from Stanford but I realized if we can just get a little niche market in this luxury side in the South Bay Manhattan Beach, in 10 years this should be a real viable company. I was sold. We're still playing music. That was my day job, just installing. We grew the company pretty quickly. We built two showrooms.
Ron: What was the name of that business?
Kyle: A Sharper Home. Jeff was a very intelligent guy. His business sense was incredible so I gained a lot from him. And then during that time, we were still playing shows where we had this cancer benefit walk. It was a two-day walk. But it's all day all night and we're slotted to play pretty much the headliner 10:00 a night in Bel Air at UCLA.
Ron: You were the big band. All the lead in acts were leading up to you guys going onstage.
Kyle: Yeah we were stoked. I mean they weren't even signed yet but we are like Sarah Bareilles playing right before us and everyone was incredible. We're getting set up to play and they shut us down because it's Bel Air where they have a noise ordinance at 10:00 p.m. Basically you start packing up and they come up to us and Hey you can come back 7:00 in the morning and play.
Ron: Would there be anybody in the audience at 7:00 in the morning?
Kyle: Yeah, they're walking the track all night. People will be there and we're not into this so we pack up, we go back to Manhattan Beach We're kind of up all night just hanging out talking and having some beers, check our watch. Next thing we know it's like if we go back up there, we can make our 7 a.m. set. So we just jump in the car, go back set back up and I noticed this guy running the stairs. He looks familiar but he's far away.
We played two songs and after the second song he comes up and he sits next to the sound engineer. I'm like oh that's Babyface, no way. We played our entire set and he comes up right away. He's like Man I love this sound, you guys are awesome. Come to my house on Tuesday, I want to sign a production deal with you guys. Six songs, six months we'll get you signed to a major. This is like the L.A. moment. Like does it really happen like this?
Ron: They make movies about stories like that. Sounds amazing.
Kyle: We're so excited and we go back to our 400 square foot condo and we're just really excited about it. And I'm still doing installs and I'm about to tell my boss that hey you know I'm about to quit.
Ron: I'm about to be famous. I got to get out of here. I got to go do the music thing.
Kyle: Yeah, head in the clouds. And our lead singer went back to Portland for two weeks. I picked him up from the airport and the first thing he says is, "Hey man, can I come work for you guys?" We're about to quit our job. We've got to focus on the music. He's like, "Well we had a little dispute with Babyface." His lawyer counteroffered Babyface because there was a battle on who owned The Masters and so Babyface essentially said good luck. From that point on it was, what am I going to do with my life?
Ron: The music career was over because of that thing?
Kyle: Yeah. It's one of those things where if there are problems before there's money, there's definitely gonna be problems later on. I just saw this probably wasn't for me and leaving Portland it was one of the first times I met Sarah's parents As we're packing up the car and they weren't too stoked about me and moving to L.A. But the one thing I did promise Sarah's parents is that I'll take care of Sarah no matter what. And I had to stick to that. And it's like what am I going to do at that same time?
We had a neighbor across the street, really sweet lady. She's about 75 years old and she had her house prewired and she was telling me she hired this company from the Valley to come down to do this install. She knew I was in the business. She wanted me to come to vet this alarm company. I was working for my first boss. I did this walkthrough with the alarm contractor and I was floored. This guy knew everything about low voltage. It was insane. He was like the mad scientist who's explaining the physics of the twisted pair and data transmission to a 75-year-old woman. And it was a four-hour walk through and it wasn't the biggest house.
She looked at me like well what do you think of this company? I looked at him like, "Are you hiring? I want to come to work for you and just learn." We're still close friends and I basically helped launch his Crestron division for his company and we had this mutual understanding that eventually Global Wave would be its own company. And we're still like sister companies.
Ron: What was the name of that company?
Kyle: Security Alarm Specialist.
Ron: And by the way, Sarah just made a comment here that I'm going to share, "Fall Out Boy got signed instead." I guess Babyface when you guys didn't do a deal he signed Fall Out Boy?
Kyle: Who truly knows? The rumor has it Babyface was like well I'm done with you guys he helped launch Fall Out Boy in the background or something.
Ron: What was the name of your band at that time?
Kyle: Justin Hopkins. We were playing for the singer-songwriter, Justin who is super talented. Check him out.
Ron: He's still doing music?
Kyle: Yes, he's still in the South Bay and he's incredible. And I hope it breaks through and he does a lot of touring and he's been on the shows. He was on The Voice, American Idol super talented.
Ron: Well hopefully the dozens of people that are going to watch this interview can help make the difference for Justin Hopkins. Help him become more discovered. But after the security company you joined them but with an understanding that they would be the security division and you would be the automation division was that the nature of the relationship?
Kyle: Yeah it was, full disclosure because after that walkthrough we basically moved from the South Bay up to the valley and I was his employee. Just let me help you want your company. As business owners out there, I'm sure you guys can relate. We can be our worst enemy. Sometimes we're in the way. Sometimes we need to get out of the way and let the company grow. I said, "Please just let me help you." And the clientele he had was just who's who of Hollywood and who's just doing alarms for the most part.
And so I said, "Just let me be the Crestron arm of your company and if I bring in work, some commission would be appreciated." And I remember one year for his birthday he just let me run with it which I'm so grateful for. And it's his birthday and I showed up for his birthday and I gave him three hundred thousand checks for his company. And he's like, "Wow what is this?" "I've been working for you." And he's like, "This is incredible!" "By the way, I need a new work truck."
Ron: You had gone and closed some jobs?
Kyle: Big Crestron systems singlehandedly and just did it for him. I love him like a father.
Ron: Want me to tell you when my birthday is? I will let you know when that is, it's March 28. Just mark that in your calendar fill up with presents like that any time.
Kyle: He's been a huge asset for us and just helped me grow as a person and working for him open up a lot of things for me personally.
Ron: I was picking up his mail in boxes from a U.P.S. store up in Calabasas and the owner of that U.P.S. store would always question, "So how come you haven't started your own thing or why you work with Scott?" We have an understanding. "Why don't you just start your own company now?" I think that's everyone's kind of fear going out on your own and not having that paycheck and that peace of mind. It can be a scary thing.
This owner of the U.P.S. store says come back here. I'm gonna make you feel stupid. I sat in the back of this U.P.S. store for two hours and I felt stupid but I felt. What did he do in that meeting? What was he telling you? He tore me apart. You can't run a company if you don't understand people and personality types and all this stuff business one to one. That's it.
"You can't run a company if you don't understand people and personality types and all this stuff business one to one. That's it."
It's the knowledge you don't gain unless you have that experience stuff. You don't learn in school. And he blew me away. I feel stupid but I need to talk to this guy. And two weeks later I go back to that U.P.S. store and Marty Stark he's gone. I guess he sold the business and not only did he sell the business but he started a class action lawsuit against U.P.S. because they took advantage of the mom and pop stores. I get it.
He has a law background but he's trying to do good with his knowledge right. And he taught me you can be successful and do it with integrity and just all these nuggets he'd give me over the years. He truly is like a father figure to me.
Ron: You've stayed in touch with him?
Kyle: Absolutely. Our other company, Future Care Solutions Group spawned out of the conversations we had, me taking him to get his chemo treatments. He's in his 70s and he doesn't have kids and it really feels like a father-son relationship. Like I love my dad. I've grown at least 10 years in terms of business just with his guidance. He never tells me what to do. But just to have that soundboard we can bounce that ball off the wall and see how it comes back. It's invaluable. I'm a big believer everyone should have a mentor of some capacity. It's not just business.
Ron: I think your story even that you didn't find a mentor through the classical path of going in and hiring a business coach. You ran across this person that had sage wisdom from their years and they were willing to share it. It's just acknowledging that that's a good thing to have and then seeking it out.
Kyle: It's just genuine. It truly feels impactful in terms of a true entrepreneur. They want to pass that on. You want to take what you learn and give that to somebody and even the small things I've learned to my friends, "Well have you thought about this or try looking into this." Really outside of the box.
Ron: Now you're that old man.
Kyle: You can see the gray hair. It's coming in.
Ron: I don't know. I think my grey is coming in a little stronger than yours.
Kyle: Here it is. But yeah I couldn't be more grateful. The growth we've had and the team we have and the people that have my back. Truly, I couldn't be more grateful. I'm seeing even the comments, Alex and Josh.ai. I couldn't be more grateful to be associated with those guys.
Ron: Hey what's up Alex? Thanks for watching buddy. I appreciate it. Big fan of yours.
Ron: What have the last 10-12 years to the present brought? What have been some of the big milestones? Obviously, you made it through the Great Recession. Now of course only to have a greater recession right now. What are some of the big milestones that stick out to you over the last 10 years or so?
Kyle: I think we were joking about that. For me to get my contractor's license and officially incorporate in 2008 which is the worst year in American history that started this.
Ron: You and I both had perfect timing.
Kyle: Yeah I just thought that was just the way business went. In a way, it's gotten easier but the biggest thing is just slowly growing out our team. This controlled growth and really just taking care of clients and the biggest thing is obviously this building.
We've been trying to buy this building for about three or four years and now for it to finally come together have everything centralize, build out this wellness showroom. That's part of the biggest milestone.
Ron: You mentioned that it was a showroom. And now obviously in light of COVID. It was always gonna be a wellness showroom but that's really taking on a new meaning as to what health and wellness mean what are you. How are you seeing your customer base or your design trade respond to this conversation now maybe versus before?
Kyle: Yeah. This is something all of us as integrators really need to address head-on. I was already planning for this to be a showroom. I'm personally getting well-certified on, the building's getting well certified.
Ron: How do you become well certified? I'm not familiar with that.
Kyle: It's the same organization as Lead. A lot of people might remember Lead. That didn't really get traction just because it's so expensive and green buildings are tough to feel it and touch it. Now with wellness, this is really going to be taking off and I saw that wellness would be a big niche. Even before COVID. But another good example, yesterday I had a meeting I would have not had if it wasn't for COVID. Super interesting. A comedy club reached out to us. Once they reopen, they realize they can't have as many people in terms of capacity and when it comes to comedy clubs, they try to put you right next to the person next to you because of lack of a better term, laughter is contagious.
If someone sitting right next to you laughs, you're more likely to enjoy it and laugh as well. How do they address this? They reached out to us and consulting, Meyer Sound has an awesome solution in the constellation system where you can manipulate clapping and laughing. In fact, some of the late-night talk shows have constellation systems. If Jimmy Fallon's making a joke, it sounds louder on stage than what's actually happening in the audience. We went to a restaurant that had this constellation system and the comedy clubs think yes we need this and all our locations.
Ron: Because the comedian on stage is feeding off that energy from the crowd.
Kyle: Yeah they realize if they don't have a solution like this then everything falls flat and it's going to be a bad experience for the comedian for the audience and they're solutions like this. That's something I never thought we'd be doing. I've always wanted to do a constellation system and I'm a big fan of Meyer Sound but because of COVID, there are opportunities like that.
It's kind of like a win-win for everybody. It's not like you want to be tone-deaf going out selling stuff just related to COVID but we're just seeing it as our company getting new opportunities that we wouldn't have had even a couple of months ago.
Ron: In your design center, I know you're doing tunable lighting. Is that correct?
Ron: What are you using? How are you thinking you're going to show that or demo that or talk about it?
Kyle: Yeah. My favorite thing we have so far is that we have Ketra throughout. Huge fan of Ketra. That's kind of blown away once we put Josh.ai in to overlay with Ketra. You can call out the color temperature. I just unplugged my Josh.ai, but to set it up 5,500 Kelvin and just go to it with multiple component commands and then actually use the micro as a color wheel is key. We've already done a few installs with clients with Ketra and Josh.ai.
That's something we're really trying to push with our showroom because that's kind of new. In fact, the guy we just hired from New York because he hasn't been able to work in New York. He's never heard of Josh.ai or Ketra. He's playing with our stuff in the showroom. This is the cool thing he's ever seen.
Ron: That's amazing. You mentioned you hired a guy from New York. Obviously New York has been beaten up pretty bad due to the COVID. It's super hard for everyone in the Northeast certainly business owners small business owners and that means and integrators at least in many parts of the rest of the country integrators could still do work. You've been able to do work. What has been the experience of your business?
As I interview people, everyone's having different experiences. What did the last 90 days look like for you in Southern Cal chaos? There's another topic I want to get into. There have been the protests and that's adding another layer. There is an amazing cause and a rebirth of the civil rights that is happening, layer on top of that. There have been protests on a few isolated cases there have been riots just a fact and that's added challenges for small business.
Anyone that's doing business or trying to do business in that marketplace. But just what has it been like and have you been able to grow your business? Are you making sales? Are you able to do installs?
Kyle: Yes. In L.A., we're an essential business. Obviously that was huge for us. I can't imagine, I have friends on the East Coast, talking to Ed Gilmore in New York. Not only are they shut down, but he was battling with COVID himself and it's just New York it's devastating. Here in L.A., we can work. Our clients didn't change their deadlines, we still have to be done.
We had one little scare where we thought we might have to shut down. We were able to get tested and results back the same day and then the client heard and said, "Hurry up we gotta be done by the end of the week!" Just scheduling and that dynamic has been tough. And we were traveling during that time. We had deadlines across the country.
Ron: This sounds very stressful, Kyle.
Kyle: Grey hair you know?
Ron: I don't see it but I believe it's coming and I'll take your word for it.
Kyle: A lot of our guys' girlfriends and wives, I owe them a nice dinner. To go to the guys and be like, "We need to go to another state and finish this job because this is a client that's actually paying our bills and we can't just pass this off to another integrator, we got to see it through." That's not a fun conversation to have. As a business owner to be put in a position where they're making us finish and I'm looking out for the well-being of our guys.
Ron: A blessing and a curse at the same time.
Kyle: Yeah, and we're all very candid and open conversations like, "Listen, it's your comfort level. I'm never gonna ask you to do something that you're not comfortable doing. You don't want to get on a plane. Totally understand." That's just one of the things about our guys. I love our team. We're like a family and we always say whatever it takes. I think that's why we've been successful in the past few years because we're all in the same understanding that we know who pays the bills.
Global Wave is not owned by a billionaire who can just ride this out. This is strictly taking care of our clients and customer service and that's first and foremost. It's been a struggle with what's going on. And then the riots hit. And we have deadlines in Beverly Hills to finish and then we're getting kicked out of the house at 1:00 p.m. because it's curfew. We're battling curfew, COVID, deadlines.
Ron: I had no idea. Here in Broward County in Florida, they did a curfew for about a week. I want to say it was instituted around 9:00 p.m. I had not heard of curfews in midday or 1 o'clock.
Kyle: Yeah. That is just a new dynamic like every day like everything was so fluid it's like how do we even make a schedule? But we were getting new leads and new jobs and we're grateful for that. We've been busy this whole time and we actually hired up.
Ron: That's amazing. There's something that has happened in our society. And I would say for the longest time I'll speak for myself. It's not something I would talk about and with no good reason or excuse but I feel compelled to talk about it now with everyone that I'm engaging with through this format and that is around the Black Lives Matter movement.
I'm a white male. Fair to say I've not by my own fault but grown up with white privilege. Alex, he's watching, he wrote a really fantastic article a week or two ago around his observations joining our industry. Alex joined I think in 2015 and he said he went to CEDIA and noticed it was all white middle-aged males. And that is our industry, if we want to do that in air quotes. I think the question and I'll let you take it wherever you want to take it. But I think it is a fact it's not an opinion that our industry is mostly nonminorities. It's mostly male. You can see it's mostly nonfemale. And what do you think our role, your role, the industry's role is to try to change that?
Kyle: Great question.
Ron: And I didn't say it would be an easy one. There are no right or wrong answers. I don't want to put you in an uncomfortable spot. Everyone's looking for guidance around this.
Kyle: I think everyone should be having this conversation and if Alex is still listening that was a beautiful article and I applaud you for writing that. Initially, it kind of is in two phases in terms of the protest and what is happening. Yes, I agree. I'm also white privileged and initially, I just wanted to listen. I wanted to just hear what's happening out there, understand everybody. There is just outrage and I want to hear it from all sides. And then when you got into week two, at least in L.A, it kind of turned from a protest to something more sinister. That second Monday, it was really unnerving to me because I have my guys sending me videos of people stacking bricks. Our suburb, we have National Guard but there's no looting and it's coming to the suburbs. You're hearing all this misinformation online. We had fake police scanners in our neighborhoods saying people were going around house to house with machetes.
You're just like what is happening? It's just outrage, every group was just outraged. I like to be educated before I say anything. I am extremely open-minded. I know I'm white privileged. And then I addressed it on our weekly company call to the guys.
That Monday just seemed like everyone was angry. It didn't matter who you were. It was palpable, going online watching the news. Everyone's angry. And the only thing I could think of was I just wanted to turn it off that night because I'm still in the camp that I want to listen. Before I open my mouth and make a stance on something. I know I'm on the right side of history, but when do you say something?
"Before I open my mouth and make a stance on something. I know I'm on the right side of history, but when do you say something?"
Everyone can have their opinions or views on things but then it comes down at some point what's right and wrong. Where are you gonna fall in terms of the history? And at least with my team, my guys. I had to say something and that Monday just got to me with the news and everything. I just kind of wanted to turn off my own head so I was watching the Beastie Boys new documentary that Monday night just to tune out. I grew big up a Beastie Boys fan.
There is a line at the end that MCA, rest in peace. He's being interviewed by a woman basically saying he's a hypocrite because Beastie Boys back in the day were sexualizing women in their videos, you've got to fight for your right to party and they're slapping girls butts and stuff like that.
For his latest raps, it's all about love for women and rapping about his mom and his sister. The person interviewing him says, "You're a hypocrite. Here you are sexualizing women but then you turn around and rap about equality in women." I think he said it best. He just goes, "I'd rather be a hypocrite than the same person." That just resonated with me. I think all of us as human beings can recognize, "Hey, we don't want to be the same person."
I let my guys know that not really taking a stance but if I hear you make that same joke, I don't want to hear it. Start there. I'd rather you guys be hypocrites instead of that pride of like this is how we do things or what we used to say about women or other races. It's just not cool anymore. At least personally and in our company, I won't tolerate it. They can go work somewhere else. Nothing lost on my front. But that's kind of the benefit of having my own company.
Ron: We get to decide what message we put out there, internal and external.
Kyle: Having someone new from New York and hearing their views. I just feel more empowered. What Jay-Z says, "If they're not bumping it locally, they're not going to bump it nationally." Let's work on local. Let's work on us first.
Ron: I was in a conversation with a friend of mine that runs another marketing agency in the northeast. And he made a comment. He's white. He has an all-white staff. He comes from a mostly all-white state. If you could say such a thing and he said he felt the longest time that he didn't have a position or a right to make comments on Black Lives Matter. He didn't know what to say.
And I just informed him, I said the fact that you and I are having this conversation right now is part of the change. A year ago, six months ago, three months ago, this would not have been the conversation we would be having right now. I think that's where it comes from, is not being afraid to have the conversation and to look introspectively at your own beliefs. He even made the comment, I won't mention his name, but he made the comment that he had been one of those all lives matter people.
People say, "Black lives matter." He'd say, "Well, all lives matter." He says at the time he did not realize that's perceived as almost a racist or a white supremacist stance. He made the comment that when Vegas had that terrible murder, that mass shooting years ago, not too long ago, unfortunately. He said the whole country went out supporting Vegas Strong. You didn't hear people go well what about my city? All cities strong. No, it was Vegas strong because Vegas needed support. And when Paris had those murders from terrorism it was Paris strong. Well, you didn't hear London go, "Well what about us? London strong." No Paris needed support.
Black people and people of color in our society, they need support. I think that was it was really interesting for me to have that conversation with him and help me see his perspective and I think us not being afraid to have the conversation is part of the solution. It's not the solution but I think we're on a pathway that if we all agree and unite we can find a solution.
Ron: Kyle, I'm looking at the time, I do have one more kind of direction I want to go with this. And I appreciate our audience for sticking around. And if you guys have questions for Kyle and you'd be so kind. Post them and I will see if we can get him to answer here live or even in the comments afterward.
You have a philosophy around teams and you have a philosophy around how you man your projects and you even believe that may be why you got some of your work right when you launched your business because your customers even identified this philosophy of yours. Do you mind sharing what that is?
Kyle: It's definitely unique. Even our new hire from New York he's like, "I've never even heard of a structure like this" I heard it about 12 years ago and maybe it's not true or I'm not sure but I was told within Sony, very large corporation, they had a team of four guys called The Tiger Integration Squad. These guys would go all over the world, work on AV on an arena, for example, finish the job, come back, come home, get the new assignment, fly back out.
Ron: Almost like Special Forces.
Kyle: Yeah, it's like a Navy SEAL kind of mindset and everyone has their specialty and their personality type. I've kind of built out our company with teams of four. We have a team of four right now traveling. We are going to have another team of four traveling next week. Understanding the personality type and how you team people together is absolutely crucial.
Even our first big job, a big time Hollywood director interviewed six companies and we landed this account. I asked the client's team, "Why us? We shouldn't be doing this project." And he said, "Well, you're talking about things the other companies didn't talk about. You're talking like future technologies that are not bleeding edge but cutting edge which the client wants and we love your structure."
"We're dealing with the 1% of the 1%. And it's really about showing up. They know they can call us 24/7. We have a structure and teams built to handle this which is very different than what I see across the board for other integration companies out there. You need to understand the personality types first before you try to build out teams like that."
This is what this caliber of client wants. It's that immediate service attention. Get ahold of somebody, response time. That's key for the clients we have. We're dealing with the 1% of the 1%. And it's really about showing up. They know they can call us 24/7. We have a structure and teams built to handle this which is very different than what I see across the board for other integration companies out there. You need to understand the personality types first before you try to build out teams like that.
Ron: How do you classify skill sets? Let's maybe just start there. When you're saying different projects will need different skills. How do you divide that or define it?
Kyle: It's mostly personality-driven. We all wear multiple hats, we're cross-trained. I mean if it's like a Crestron system or Savant system, obviously we have certain guys who have those specialties. But really, it's how these guys gel. That project in Florida, who we send out there, and why we sent them out there is because they can function better as a team. If you have two drivers on a team, a strong personality type, and two people try to fit in that driver box, they're just going to butt heads.
Ron: You're using a term that is a personality definition type. What are these types that you use as you're formulating your teams?
Kyle: Yes, we break them up into four categories and there are many different names for it that are out there. We just kind of made our own. Amiable is one, expressive, analytical, and driver. Usually, we have two, like a secondary as well. You know how to navigate. For example, our latest hire, I think he's a great analytical, engineering mind. If we're both trying to be drivers or push that needle forward, we're gonna butt heads. But if I can work with him like this is what we need to be done and he goes into his analytical mode, we can execute and it's great. It's a balance of how to work with each other. But it also goes well for sales. Every time you try to close a sale you need to pin somebody in that personality type. It's crucial.
Ron: Let's say that you define them and you put them into one. Let's say the customer into one of the four buckets. What do you do with that information?
Kyle: We'll talk about it as a team. Most of our clients in LA are drivers, analytical, CEO of tech companies. They have strong personality types. And sometimes if a system is not working they just need to vent. Don't even try to correct it. Just pick up the phone let them vent for a couple of minutes then try to resolve the issue. But if you try to talk back right away to them, if something's not working, they're not going to be happy. They're immediately going to feel like you're talking down doom or they're not smart enough.
You have to understand how to deal with people. And that comes to service troubleshooting or closing a deal. Like an amiable, they just want to be liked. That's the biggest thing. If you're trying to close a deal, it's really about just making them feel they're getting attention and that's all they really want, that someone's going to show up, really walk them through the bid. And some of these other personality types you can e-mail the bid but certain personality types can need to show up and really give them the intention in order to close that deal.
Ron: Are there books of certain writers or philosophers or psychologists around this topic that you follow or study? This sounds like the topic of emotional intelligence. I'm familiar with Myers Briggs and DISC profiles. There are a plethora of other personality profiling and philosophies out there. Is this your own invented thing or is there something that anyone listening could go read up on?
Kyle: My mentor gets the credit for sure but we put together something that simplifies it, just a short doc. I'm happy to share that with anybody and review it because in that two-hour meeting where he sat me down and made me feel dumb, this was the very first thing he said I need to understand. Over the years it's proved itself.
Ron: I'll let you think that over but if you want to share that we'll put that in the show notes and allow people to download it. We'll put a link maybe here on the Facebook chat and put it up on Dropbox or something and then on the show page, we'll make it available for download and all credit to you Kyle for your willingness to share that. I'm sure there will be people that go yes I want to read that I know I want to read it. It sounds awesome.
Kyle: Happy to help.
Ron: Kyle. Believe it or not, we have been here an hour. We did it. It was an hour. Can you believe that? I told you thirty to forty-five minutes but you're like, "But last week Ron it was an hour." I'm like, "Wel,l sometimes when it's a good interview or I'm feeling maybe better as an interviewer and my guests are flowing, we'll go an hour."
Kyle: Let's just keep it going.
Ron: Well, I'm not going to do that to you. And I also have meetings. It's been a pleasure chatting with you, Kyle. Thank you for joining us today on another episode of Automation Unplugged.
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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