Home Automation Podcast Episode #64: An Industry Q&A With Paul Ostrin
Growing a $4M Business
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Paul Ostrin. Recorded live on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Paul Ostrin
Paul Ostrin is currently CEO of Unlimited Integration based in Houston, TX. Paul started Unlimited Integration back in 2011 with a background in IT and engineering and has grown to $4M forecasted for 2019.
Paul is a network engineer by trade and education, and his real-world experience provides Unlimited Integration with the necessary focus to ensure their projects have a solid foundation to support the newest technology, both now and in the future.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Paul Ostrin
- Challenges integrators face in 2019
- The importance of hiring the right people for your business
- Paul’s strategies for scaling a business to 5 million dollars in annual revenue
- Energy management and energy automation solutions
Ron: Hello everybody. Happy Wednesday. Today is Wednesday. What is today? Today's Wednesday, February 13th. It's 1230, just a couple of minutes after 1230. I hope you have an excellent day. If you're listening to the recording, I hope you're having a great day regardless of what day and time it is that you're listening to this. And we're going to have a great guest. We're going to have Paul Ostrin from Unlimited Integration out of Houston and super pumped to have him on the show. But before we bring them on, let me go ahead and just check my technology, make sure that we are in fact streaming into Facebook, make sure no technology gremlins are attacking us and, or harming the show going live out to the interwebs. All right, so bear with me as I check this out. There we are. It looks like we are live. All right, so I'm gonna jump right into it. Let's go ahead and bring Paul in. Let me bring this down and we'll bring Paul up. Paul, how's it going, sir?
Paul: What's up man? How are you?
Ron: I am good. Thank you for, thank you for being on the show.
Paul: Of course. Thanks for having me.
Ron: So let's let the audience know, where are you coming to us from?
Paul: So we are in Stafford, Texas. We're about a Stone's throw from Houston, so we Houston and Stafford, but up to each other. So we're just South, South Houston, Southwest.
Ron: Southwest Houston. Okay. So I'm here in Florida as you know, Paul and some of our audience probably know that and it's nice and warm here. It's actually a little rainy. How's the weather where you're at? I know a lot of our friends up North are freezing.
Paul: All right. So yes, I've seen this in the 60s and sunny. It's a beautiful day today. So we're very lucky. We don't, we deal with heat. So do you?
Ron: Yeah, exactly.
Paul: We don't get, we don't get huge cold, so it's not too bad.
Ron: You're in Houston and you guys got clobbered some time ago by actually one of the hurricanes, right? That came there.
Paul: Yeah. Harvey itself wasn't so bad. There was the storm after Harvey, the rain that came in with Harvey kind of decimated a lot of the, a lot of our clients and a lot of the area around here. So it's a still in the rebuild and it's been a year and a half. And yeah, we're still people finally getting their checks. People are building new homes and lifting homes and stuff like that. So it's been, it's been fun.
Ron: Were you personally affected either personally or your business? Were you affected negatively from that storm?
Paul: So, I mean, we, thankfully, my house did not flood. My brother flooded, he got 14 inches and they're back in their house now, but thankfully we didn't. Business-Wise, I mean it was, the first couple of months were tough, right? We spent a lot of time helping with cleanup and using our guys to help with cleanup and stuff like that on homes. But yeah, we were nervous. I'll be honest, we were nervous for the first couple of months after and then, and then it's sort of, you know, industry-wide, I think January and February are tough months. So that happened in August. And so there were about three months of kind of scariness. And then we had Christmas, which was okay, and then it kind of dropped off again. But, things have definitely come back. I mean, we're as busy as we've ever been and you know, like I said, there's a ton of people building, so it's made for tons of work.
Ron: Tons. So business is good right now?
Paul: Business is good right now. Yes sir.
Ron: Well, awesome. Congratulations. I know I'm getting feedback around the country. Some markets are hot, some markets are not. And I think tech is, Texas is particularly unique or maybe built to withstand some of the stuff that happens around the country or even more macroeconomic issues just because of I dunno, Texas is Texas.
Paul: Well, oil is our big mainstay here. Right? So you know, as long as, as long as people are using oil, there tends to be on the big money side, there tends to be money flowing around.
Ron: Sure. So for those of you that are out there watching, thanks for watching actually why don't you drop a comment in into the show here and let us know where you're coming to us from and just for the fun of it to tell us what the temperature is outside. I think that's always fun and I'll those of you that comment, Oh look at that. Julie just gave us a thumbs up. Julie Jacobson of CE Pro. Thanks for watching Julie. Appreciate that. And but yeah, give us a comment. Tell us where you're coming to us from. Speaking of Texas, I think Julie actually, didn't she move to San Antonio?
Paul: Yes, San Antonio, I think. I think I read that to you. Or maybe she might've just gotten a place in Minnesota too or something.
Ron: Oh yeah, they did. They, she used to, Julie used to live in Minnesota. So I did see that on Facebook. So yeah, I appreciate the love folks. Appreciate the thumbs up and but drop a comment. Don't be shy. Let us know where you're coming to us from. It's always to see. But Paul, let's start before I get a lot of hopefully fun and interesting topics I wanna cover with you, but I always like the audience to understand who you are and where you come from and how you landed in this crazy business and, and maybe even why you stayed. Why did you stay in this crazy bit? What is it that's keeping you here? So can you fill us in on a little bit of your background?
Paul: Yeah, so I did car audio with a bunch of other guys I know now. Really good guys I know now. And and then I I worked as an engineer for about seven years and I kinda hated every day of it. I being in an office is not my sound, my bag. And it's funny, as a CEO of a company now, it's my bag again, right? Not, not that I want it to be, but being in an office was not the thing I wanted to do. And so we, my wife was a teacher and, and she had some she had some, some I guess student parents in kind of a upper scale part of of Houston. And they kind of asked, Hey, you know, do you know somebody who would help us with this? And you know, they knew, she knows I'm a technical person. And so I sort of started that way in 2009 or 2010. I just sort of started helping out friends and, and that sort of thing, doing this stuff. And I learned that, that, that it was taking, starting to take more time than I was willing to give up. And so I made an agreement with the engineering company I was with to kind of stay on in a part time role and try this. And then and that only lasted about two months. And yeah, and then we just, we just carry nine my life and I just kind of said, okay, let's do it. And we Unlimited Integration was born in January of 2011 and full time in July of 2011 and then we've been rocking it ever since. And, you know, no real complaints. Things are great. I mean, obviously there are stress points in any business. And so we, we definitely go through those as well. But overall it's been a fun ride.
Ron: What do you think from your past work experience prepared you to be an owner-operator? I mean, what were the trials or tribulations you went through that had you ready to do this?
Paul: You know, nothing and I, to be completely honest, I don't know that I ever thought that this would be 20 people and, and you know, and employees and health insurance and, you know, I didn't ever think that this was the thing. Right. I think I wanted it to be, and maybe some subs and make a little bit of money and not have to work for somebody. So it's grown considerably since then. And I mean, I'm super thankful for it and grateful that we've made it. And but I don't know that there was anything in my past that would have prepared me. I think a lot of this is just drive, right. It's, you know, I feel like I'm a hard worker. I feel like we've been very lucky with the hires that we've made to have just a ridiculously awesome team. And you know, they make it easy, right? They make everything easier for me.
Ron: Yeah. I have a belief system that when you hire the right people, they make whatever their job is look easy. Sure. Whereas when you hire the wrong people, they complain and they make it look really hard and maybe you think you need two people to do that job. And the key is good hiring, focusing on that. Just for a minute. I mean, where did you figure out how to hire or the method you go through to hire, like is there any magic tricks you have?
Paul: I wish I could say there are you know, we are really just, I tell everybody this, I start relationships with trust, right? So, you know, I am one of those guys that, you know, I trust you when we meet and then you have to break that trust. So, you know, and it's not hard to break it. Right? I mean, you can do very, very small things to break trust with me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
Ron: I think that all my audio components on my computer tuned down, but you never know. One always squeaks by.
Paul: Yeah. I don't even know how to turn it off. So the technology got here. So no, I mean I I think that you know Chris is my COO. Marcus is my CTO and those guys, really the three of us really get together and we decide, you know, this is the position we're looking for. Is there somebody in our company that can fit into that? And that's something that we, I think we pride ourselves on is I'm so sorry. That's something we pride ourselves on is that we can really refocus people and, you know, get them to sort of buy into whatever it is we may want to do. And so because of that, you know, we have we've really gotten really good people and because we trust people, you know, they feel like they can work hard for us and not feel like there's a target on their back all the time. So I think it's a grand, you know, whole this, that, and the other thing.
Ron: So you had publicized and even in the bio, I think that's posted here on Facebook. Yeah. you had publicized that you're going to do approximately $4 million this year. I dunno. Was that last year's number or is that?
Paul: Yeah. This year we're hoping for five this year. So, yeah, we're hoping for five or we're pushing for five now. And maybe that's something that I shouldn't. And I posted it. I was like, maybe I shouldn't say that.
Ron: Oh, it's out there on.
Paul: I'm not one of those guys who really care. I mean, the number doesn't really matter to us where we you know, we're running and going and really enjoying it. You know, I think that as an industry, everybody thinks about that number. And so I think that it's it's important to know that, you know, getting, getting there is, is hard. And, and once you're there, it's, everybody says, Oh, well, once you're there, it's easy to keep it. It's, you still got to make really good decisions along the way. And like I said, I think we have the right people making the right decisions.
Ron: Now speaking about that growth, right? So there's a lot of folks that are watching this or listening to this and they are maybe a $1 million business or a $2 million business. You know, what do you think some of the components or elements of your business or strategy that have resulted in you being able to grow? You know, you born the business was born in 2011 and here you are eight years later eight or nine years later and you're now on, you know, a nice size business, $5 million business. Are there any particular attributes of your business or your style that you think have lent to that consistent growth?
Paul: So, I mean, I think that we have core values, right, that are, you know, honesty and we, we really feel like we have minimum standards. We honesty, we have a lot of things that we really pay attention to. You know, I can't tell you how many jobs I've walked into that I'll see a proposal and what's in the house and what the client paid for different. Right. you know, somebody uses..
Ron: Other integrators that have sold one thing but delivered something else.
Paul: Correct? Correct. We always talk about the fact that we're selling black boxes, right? Our clients trust us. They, they, we give them a quote and we say, this is what's going to happen and this is how it's gonna work. And we're, really selling a dream right where we're selling this widget and that box are going to make this cool thing happen. And there's a ton of different ways you can make that happen. And a lot of times you'll see that, Hey, you know, they sold this and they use this because it was sort of the easy way of getting it done. And we just don't work that way. And so I think that, you know, that's a big deal. I think that, like I said, I think that we come across very trustworthy. We come across, there's typically when a client has gotten to us, there's multiple points of touch before they've seen us, right? So they've gone to our website or they've gone to they've been referred by another client or they've seen our vans, or they, you know, anyone of these five or six different marketing opportunities that we have. So they're coming to us either because they've already been burned or because, you know, we've been, they've been told that we're the right guys. And when we do, you know, we I think we do a great job for them. So you know, and we stand behind what we do right. And we offer 24, seven service and we you know, we, we have a great website and, all of these things are real. So it's not it's not us just two guys in a truck saying, Hey, we think we can make this work. It's, you know, we have proof that we've made it work and our clients, thankfully our clients are awesome and they, you know, if I have a, if I have a customer who's building in a high rise, I have a client that I know will want to show off their project in a high rise. If I have a client that's building, you know, a 15 or 20,000 square foot house, I know clients that would happily show off that we've got huge MDU projects and those clients want to show it off. I mean, we brought you to one of MDU projects, right? So you know, we, our clients, our clients are, are awesome and they, they are just super happy to let us, you know, show them off and, that's what I mean. You know, it's all about I mean, and we can say this all we want, but it's choosing the right client. It's choosing the right people, you know, it's making sure that everybody is on the same page.
Ron: Got it. I agree with all of that. I'm going to throw up here a few of the shout outs here. I've got Stephanie, she says it's 67 degrees in Miami. She's excited to see Paul. There you go. Well, Stephanie, you get to see Paul right there. And Troy. Troy says it's 10 degrees and snowing in Cleveland. No thanks. Nope, good try. But yeah, you can keep the 10 degrees. Let's see what else we got here. We got Liz, Liz says that she's checking in from San Diego, so she's happy to hear you. And then we got Kelly, she says it's 45 degrees in Colorado Springs. And we got Magnolia or Maggie, she says hi Paul and Ron, Unlimited rocks! And she loves your blogs. I don't know, a little birdie says she might have something to do with those blogs maybe. And here, we'll do one more. We got Jordan, he goes hi guys. Checking in from Orlando, Florida, where it's a balmy 59 degrees. Thank you Jordan. I appreciate the post. Yeah. That is balmy. Yup.
Paul: And I know balmy here. I mean, humidity is our best friend.
Ron: Yes. Florida and Texas for humidity. So Paul, I want to kind of cover maybe the good and the bad and maybe it's not really bad, but we'll just start with the good. What are some of the elements of either business strategy or products or technologies that have you excited for 2019? What's like the top of mind that has you pumped?
Paul: I mean, look, I think there's a ton of stuff that's happening. Low voltage lighting is super cool and Savant has a whole bunch of new lighting stuff that's coming. That's cool. I think RGBW circadian, all that kind of stuff I think is very, very cool. And I think that, you know..
Ron: Have you started selling that? The circadian rhythm or the tuneable lighting?
Paul: We are definitely talking about it. We haven't sold a project with it yet, but it's definitely something that our sales guys are talking about and that even our clients are asking about. Right. I mean, there's a lot of people talking about it, so it's definitely something that's coming, right. I think we, as integrators, we see a ton of gimmicky stuff. So stuff that, Oh, this is who, who cares about this kind of stuff or that kind of stuff.
Ron: 3D TVs.
Paul: Yeah, exactly. 3D and you know,there are others, right? But I think that this is something real. I think I obviously it's not for the, for the middle, even middle of the road client. It's going to be a high-end solution. But I think that, I think if we can get into energy management, I think that even in Texas where energy prices are dirt cheap there's still a valid need for it and a valid want for it. And I think that it's big. I think that yeah, I think there's a lot of cool stuff that's coming that's, that's gonna make, it's going to change for us. Right? The key to being an integrator, I think it's that you've got to be dynamic, right? We've all seen these, you know, older companies that just, they want to keep it the same. They want to do everything the same as they've always done it. And you know, small aperture speakers and, you know, just all of that kind of stuff is you know, we've got it, we've got to know about it, we've got to play with it. We've got to try it.
Ron: You had mentioned energy management and you are a member of Azione and I am a newly elected board member at Azione. And so I am very familiar. One of the topics at the next event in April is going to be energy management. I know Savant is going to be on that panel talking about race point energy. Sonen is going to be, there talking about their energy automation solution and who else? I think SurgeX is going to be on the panel talking about their solutions. So I do think that that's an up and coming topic for the industry.
Paul: Well, sure. I mean, Tesla's done a great job of making the batteries and solar and, you know, all of this kind of stuff. It's like I said, Houston's not really your big market for it, but you know, in the high-end luxury space there's always a market for things that are cool and that are different and that, you know, maybe we can make work or you know, our clients are typically somewhat, you know, that they have a phobia of technology a little bit. Right. And that's why they bring us in and but they love it, right? It's sort of this weird, this weird dynamic where they really want it to be super cool, but it has to work really easy. And that's what they, that's sort of our go-to.
Ron: Factor without any of the pain.
Paul: Exactly. Exactly. And energy management can be one of those things where, you know, Hey, it's, we, you know, even if the rates are higher and we automatically dim based on rates or automatically, you know, change AC settings based on the type of energy that's coming in. So if you're working off of a battery or you're working off a generator, Hey, you know, all of this stuff happens automatically. It's very cool stuff. And that's the kind of stuff that our clients really dig. Right. So..
Ron: I agree. I think it's going to be an exciting year as these, this category really breaks out in our industry. You know, I say that, I know Savant has been talking about their solution for a bit and then you have a what Rosewater and his solution. I've had him on the show and talking about that and now Sonen has been already at two CEDIAs. Believe it or not, this will be their third CEDIA. And then you have all your standbys, everyone knows all the..
Paul: Yeah, totally. I mean, but there's, and then there's another, I think there are other battery manufacturers out there and there's other guys doing solar, there's guys doing..
"The energy solar and energy storage industry is huge, but yet we in the CI space, really don't know that much."
Ron: Oh there's lots of people there. The universe is very large. In fact, that vendor, the SPI show the last two years I went out in Vegas and I went to LA. I mean you think like CEDIA is a big show. Oh my God, go to SPI, which is the power solar power. I'm probably getting the name wrong. It's Solar Power International or something. But I mean that shows ginormous. I mean, so the energy solar and energy storage industry is, is huge, but yet we in the CI space, you know, really don't know that much. But most of us don't know that much about it.
Paul: Right. No, I will be very open and admit that we don't know very much about it. I just know that we have to pay attention to it. Right. We have to be involved.
Ron: No, I agree. It's, it's coming fast and furious now. What, for 2019. What are some of the, I don't want to make this negative, but what are some of the areas of concern that you have or observations you have that you're kind of keeping your eyes wide open for? 2019?
Paul: Well, I mean my biggest concern, and this should be a, it should be an industry concern. I don't, I don't see enough of it. I don't get enough people concerned about it. But in Texas you're not required to be permitted, which, which I as a company I would totally be fine with if we were required to be permanent. We are required to be licensed for security and we are licensed for that. But but when it comes to low voltage, we're not required to be licensed. And there was a, there was a thing in New Jersey that somebody on the Azione channel posted about that they are trying to make power over ethernet, a high voltage required license for a high voltage person to run. And you know, the problem is, is that inspectors don't know the difference whether, we don't know the difference to be honest, if there's a POE line or if it's a just a data line. And so what's gonna happen is the AV industry is going to either have to become electricians or we are going to have to hire electricians to do our pre wires or I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen. But it's a huge concern for me. I think that if we're not paying attention to stuff like that, we are we're going to be in big trouble. But like I said, I think as a company with, you know, somewhat larger company, I feel like we can afford to go hire an electrician or, or figure out what we need to do to make this solution happen. But you know, with, I would say the grand, the grandest number of AV guys are not in a position to be able to do that. I'm sure it might help us in the future, but it's something that, that nobody's really talking about and it concerns me at least. So, yeah.
Ron: And I know that that's an issue that CEDIA as the trade organization is, you know, looking at, and I think working on from a political lobbying standpoint in the various states around the country, and that's, I've heard the dynamic or the discussion for years, you know, what is CEDIA doing for me? Why should I pay my dues? At least that is a pretty obvious one for me as to why any integrators should pay their dues to CEDIA to help them fight that.
Paul: Agreed. But I mean, do we, do we have a chance against IBW? Right. You know, the international brother of electricians is huge. So I mean, I do have some concern that you know, we could lobby all we want, but you know, they are, they are going to win that fight if they actually care about it. And so it's only really New Jersey right now. And, and I know that CEDIA is working on it and I think it's great that they're working on it, but I do think that it's a going to be a ongoing issue. So it's just something that we are paying attention to and I think that any smart business guys probably in this industry is probably paying attention to it already as well.
Ron: Now, another topic that I know is close and near and dear to your heart is this topic of network privacy and kind of how that's being addressed in our industry and in our, all of our fellow integrators taking it seriously enough. And what should they do about it? What are your thoughts around that?
Paul: So, I mean, yeah, I honestly, I, we have cybersecurity insurance for us and our clients. I mean, we pay for that. I think that's something that all integrators should definitely look into. There was an Azione conference a few years back and they brought a guy in who, who that's what he does. And he scared the heck out of all of us. And so we bought insurance like that week. But you know we, you know, being IOT devices and all of these new devices that our clients are using and that we're using. And we just don't know where they're going and we don't know what data they're selling and what data. And I mean, I know on our highest-end clients, that's a huge concern. And we use access networks for a lot of that stuff because they, you know, they are paying attention to a lot of that stuff, but even internally on small networks that we do ourselves, it's something that we have a huge concern over. And I think it's something that our clients are, I know it's something our clients are asking about daily now. And it's also something that we as an industry need to be very concerned about because you know, we haven't seen it yet, but I mean, I can only imagine that, you know, somebody could easily get sued for not, you know, not hard, hard password protecting routers and modems and, you know computers and, you know, we don't, we don't do a ton of computer work per se, but but you know, we all have that type of stuff. It's very scary. I mean, you know, not SSL securing, you know processors and anything that's open to the outside world needs to be encrypted somehow.
Ron: Is that why you use access networks do you use access networks on certain types of projects and then you do others in house or how do you balance that?
Paul: Right. So, I mean, we use access for our, for our highest-end clients. We do some some stuff in house for, with other products. For smaller clients it's typically a cost. I mean it's always a cost question. But, access does a phenomenal job of making sure that, you know, all of those kinds of things. You know, if you need a report that shows that your network is secure and client requests that, I mean they're the guys to do that for you and they'll, have a engineer get on the phone with the client and explain, or the engineer will get on the phone with the client's engineers and, you know, really come up with good solutions that, that help you out. So those guys are awesome. But yeah, I mean it's still, it's just, you know, client, you go, we walk into clients houses all the time and there's a box, right? Some, whatever it might be, you know, Hey, I bought this thing, I connected it to WiFi and you know, we, like I said, I mean nothing even the best network guy in the world, you know, I can't control if this thing's talking back and you know, and sitting on your network and spoofing DNS and you know, collecting all the data and there's nothing we can do about that. Right? I mean, it just so it's something that we have to educate our clients and we have to be very educated about.
Ron: Got it. No, that makes sense. I want to jump topics, I want to go diagonally to high performance audio and how has that grown as a category for you? And I, of course I'm going to tease my next guest. So I'm going to throw up some show art here so everyone can see this. But everyone can see that I have Ryan of Meridian as my next guest and I, you know, that is of course a high performance audio brand, a well respected brand out of the UK and you know, what is your take on that?
Paul: Sure. So I have a pair of Meridians literally right there my computer over there. So Ryan's awesome. I think Ryan will bring a great discussion about MQA and about just speakers in general. I mean they have a bunch of new stuff that's coming too. And so know I think that the high end audio category is something that we all should be paying attention to because I think two channels definitely making a comeback. And you know, we love Meridian and we love some other brands as well. And but you know, we've done pretty well. And, and the other nice thing,
Ron: Have you always been able to sell, I mean, the nice high performance gear, I mean, did you have to grow into that? Did you have to learn different techniques to master that or be successful at that, or how have you approached it over time?
Paul: That I don't think we're masters at it at all. There's some guys in Houston that are just amazing at high end audio and so, you know, we'll partner with them if it's something that's, you know, but so I don't think I'm a master at it at all. I think that I think there's clients who ask about it and we're able to fulfill a need when they ask. But we are not by any means. And we're automation guys. We're security ware. We're great at multi-room audio, we're great at control, we're great at network. But you learn that, you know, there are certain things in life that you're, you know, not the greatest at, that, you know, there's things that you gotta bring in other guys for. And so we aren't the experts, but we love doing it.
Ron: But you do well enough to where it's top of mind for you.
Paul: Absolutely. I think it's absolutely, I think it's something that we bring up in every conversation and we always talk to clients about, about, you know, what they want, what they want it to sound like. And you know, is there a room that they're very concerned with, high quality sound with and you know, and we bring it up. So I think that, that, that's the probably that the easiest part of selling anything right asks the question. Right.
Ron: Do you find that you always have to demo it or the customer has to hear it in order to say yes to it?
Paul: No, I don't think that's it all again, core value being trusted and that sort of thing that we really do. We really do get clients to kind of say, Hey, you know, this is what, you know, I want this. And I mean, I don't think it's ever a bad thing to have a client listen to something. Of course. And we do have them displayed and we can absolutely let you listen, but that's not typically the pushback we get, the pushback is money or the pushback is, I don't care that much about that, but but if somebody cares about it and they want excellent sounding product it's never a problem. And like I said, when we ask for it, a lot of clients we've found that more and more clients say yes, I'd love to do something in my library or I'd love to do something in here where I have a great spot right here or I'd like to listen to opera and be able to sit and read the paper. And so.
Ron: No, that's very cool. Believe or not, we've been talking almost 40 minutes goes to leave that he goes, my fat. I told you it'd go by fast. I do want to cover two more quick topics. And so we'll just be, we'll both be mindful of time, but one is you are a member of one of the buying groups, Azione Unlimited. Can you just talk to the audience why are you a member of a group? What do you get out of being in a group? Should they be in a group? How do they know which group to be in? Kind of just talk about your thoughts.
Paul: So I mean, we love Azione. I mean it's been fantastic. Richard and the team, they're awesome. You know, we obviously joined because the manufacturer lineup worked for us and we wanted to save money, right? I mean, we were doing enough business that it made sense for the dues. The dues were going to pay for themselves. But I will tell you that after being in for three or four years now, probably going on three or four years now we get more from the conferences and from the relationships than we get from anything else. So the money is obviously great and being able to buy together. So that we can get, you know, better deals on stuff. And you know, the promotions we get from all the vendors are fantastic, but it really is, it's the Slack channel that's reasonably new part of Azione, right? But the Slack channel where we can really get vendors all have a channel plus, you know, there's dealer only channels and stuff like that. So you have problems with something, you pop in there, you ask about it, and you get somebody who actually cares to get back to you very quickly. And with some of our manufacturers, you know, that's a, that's a tough ask. But they're very active. So I mean, you know, a company like Sonos for example, right? They're very, very active on there. And you know, that's not typically somebody you would expect to get, you know, quick, easy answers out of but we can pop into Slack and say, Hey, we've been seeing this weird thing. And they're like, Oh yeah, we noticed that and we're working on it. Or Oh, we haven't seen that. Let me go and grab an engineer and let's discuss it really quick. And so, I mean, that's been huge. And then all the promotional stuff, right? I mean the different key leaders meetings and the contests and the this and that, that, you know, I mean, there's just, there's so much going on that it's a ton of fun. And you know, we all live in this very niche market where we deal with, you know, very typically very high net worth people and with high demands and to be able to get into a room with 250 other guys or women or, you know, people who have that same deal with the same thing that you deal with every day. There's nothing like it, right? There's nothing like being able to, you know, especially we started and I was about a million-dollar company and I would sit across the room from guys doing 12 and 15 and $20 million and they're telling me exactly how they did it and they're telling me what I need to change. And you can't beat that. I mean, that's just, there's no way I can't get that kind of training or education anywhere. You know, and so Azione has been fantastic. I think that if your lines fit and it works for you, then I think there's no reason not to. I mean there's, you know, the price of dues are significantly cheaper than what you'll save for sure. Just money-wise. If, if the only reason you're out doing it as money, then it's a bad, you're making a bad move. But you know, it easily will save the money.
"If a business in the CI space is doing at least a million dollars in business, which is usually a qualifying metric for most of the groups you're silly to not be in one [a buying group]."
Ron: All right, that's great. And I have a belief system that you certainly need to pick the group that's right for you based on product mix and leadership and style. But you know, if a business in the CI space is doing at least a million dollars in business, which is usually a qualifying metric for most of the groups you're silly to not be in not be in one.
Paul: That's correct. I agree. I don't know. I've never been in a different group, so I can't tell you that the others aren't great. I mean, I met I've met the CEO of some of the other groups and they seem like great people and I'm sure that, but Richard is fantastic. And like I said, you're exactly right. If your product mix fits, even if you've got, you know, a few of the biggest, the biggest ones will, we'll solve your issue and you're interested in the rest of them. So I mean, I would tell ya, you know, don't go join a group and not expect to try and do as much business as you can inside the group. But you know, if you're, you know, if you could make the product mix work and most of your larger lines are in it I think that it's awesome. Azione is fantastic. All the people are very, everybody's great.
Ron: Last topic, you and I were talking offline and I asked you if you wouldn't mind talking a little bit about or express yourself on this topic when we're live. And that is, you know, you said one of the keys to your ability to grow and to grow thus far and grow beyond this point is the ability, the fact that you've learned how to say no. You've learned when to say no. You've said, you know, you say no to certain types of projects or certain types of customers or certain types of product lines. You just talk about how you think about that.
"It just doesn't make fiscal sense for us to go into a house and learn all new product every single time. We just can't be efficient that way."
Paul: We've implemented, the first thing we did was implement sort of very strong minimum standards. And so we put stuff in, in place that I guess it prices us out of certain jobs or it may prices out with certain type of clients. But we have decided that that's something that we have to put in place as we've grown and we have service technicians and everything else. It just doesn't make fiscal sense for us to go into a house and learn all new product every single time. We just, we can't be efficient that way. It's not fair to the clients because, you know, if I went and I did a nice sized job for a client and then had to send technicians back every time and they had to spend four hours there trying to understand how the network infrastructure was set up or the this or that, you know, was set up or how to get, you know, a certain setting in a receiver going. And, you know, it's not smart for anybody. So that was in sort of an been an easy path to saying no, because, you know, there are clients who come back and say, well, I already own this or I already own that. And we just kind of have to be sort of very stringent with our policy and just say, Hey, you know, we, we have a minimum standard, you know, we have to use this so that we can service it well for you. And then we have great, you know, I've always felt that it's very important to be friends with and, and acquaintance with all the guys, all the local guys who are, who are reasonably good or, and so we've got relationships with those guys and, you know, I'm happy to send work to one of these other guys who I know is a X dealer or Y dealer, you know. So, you know, and as long as they get a good job and get it taken care of, cause doesn't bother me if they take it. I just, we have decided that these, you know, 12 items are the things that we always will do in every single house no matter what. And if you're outside of that, well then you're, you don't really fit with us. And so and you know, we've gotten pushback on it in the past, but overall our clients are, are very excited about it, very happy about it. They understand it and they want a system that works every single time. And that's what we can, that's what we can provide. If we provide, you know, a minimum standard.
Ron: I think it goes back to your belief in your core values and living by those and running your business by those. And, and if that means you need to, you know, hand a client off to someone else or you know, if that's what's right, then that's what's right and everyone around you will appreciate that.
"At the end of the day, we want the clients to enjoy the system..if we're going to do a bad job for you and I know we're going to do a bad job because we're doing it incorrectly, well then I don't want it."
Paul: That's right. I mean we want happy clients. At the end of the day, we want the clients to enjoy the system, like the system, and like us, right? I mean, you know, I want, we want referrals from them, we want all of that. And if I am going to have, if it's going to be a bad job, if we're going to do a bad job for you and I know we're going to do a bad job because we're doing it incorrectly, well then I don't want it.
Ron: That makes a lot of sense. Well Paul, I know there's so much more we could talk about. We didn't even get to jump into the MDU project. You toured my team through there in Austin. So I'll just put that out there for the record. My team and I visited Austin in December and Paul was very kind to come over and meet with our team and the builder of this project and toured us through this amazing project near the University of Texas. It was, it was very superlative. It's very excellent. So congrats on that successful project and thanks for going out of your way for, One Firefly is greatly appreciated.
Paul: You guys do a good job for us every day. So, you know, easy, easy to, to help out when you're getting, you know, good support on the other sides.
Ron: Well, agreed. Well, Paul, thank you sir for coming on and being on show number 64. Sometimes it's hard to believe we've made it to 64. You know, it's very exciting for me and for one Firefly for us to have that many shows under our belt. And I keep teasing the audience. There is more to come. We are going to be converting this content into a podcast. In fact, you might be listening to this on a podcast. I hope that's the case. But that's going to be happening here in the very near future. But Paul, thanks for coming on the show.
Paul: Ron. Thank you. Thanks so much. Really enjoyed it.
Ron: Awesome man. Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. You know just a fun conversation with a rock star in Texas and you know, I'm now proud to say Paul has become a friend of mine and a certainly a friend of One Firefly. And you know, I see him at industry events and he is a thought leader and well-respected. He's growing a very well-respected company. So on that note, I hope you have an excellent rest of your day or night depending on when you're watching or listening to this. And we will see you on the next show. I'm just going to throw that up here again to see you guys can see that. Here's our up and coming guests. We have Ryan Donaher of a Meridian, and we have Sean Weiner of Star Systems out of Maryland. And he's also with this. And so we've got a couple of really fun conversations in store. So I will see you folks on those. I'm also going to share again our Instagram address. If you're listening, you go to Instagram.com/OneFireflyLLC and you will find us. We launched this page in September of 2018 at CEDIA. And we've now got just under 500 or just a few less than 500 people following the page, which is pretty cool. So if you're not following us, please do that. We try to have all sorts of fun educational content there on the show. And on that note, I'm going to sign off and I hope you all have a great rest of your week. Thanks so much everyone.
Paul started Unlimited Integration back in 2011 with a background in IT and engineering, Paul has grown UI to 4M and has big goals for the coming years to surpass 5M!
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 in 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.