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Automation Unplugged

Automation Unplugged is a Facebook Live show recorded weekly with our host Ron Callis, Owner and CEO of the digital marketing agency, One Firefly. In each Automation Unplugged episode, Ron speaks with leading industry personalities and technology professionals to discuss all things business development, technology trends, and more. These interviews are designed to help our clients and members of the custom integration industry keep up-to-date with the latest news as well as learn from experts in the field.

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Home Automation Podcast Episode #78: An Industry Q&A With Josh Christian

Building a standard

Home Automation Podcast Episode #78: An Industry Q&A With Josh Christian

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Josh Christian. Recorded live on Wednesday June 12th at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Josh Christian

Josh is a home technology veteran, starting on the retail side of the industry in 1995. After leaving retail in 1998, he moved to a high-end custom integration firm in Los Angeles where he specialized in sales & marketing through 2014. In 2015 he worked even more closely with architects, builders, and interior designers as a low-voltage consultant and design engineer. Since early 2017 Josh is proud to run the Home Technology Association, the association that helps consumers and specifiers find the best-qualified home technology professionals.
 
Interview Recap

Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Josh Christian

  • An overall update on HTA Certification, how many dealers are certified and what successes are they seeing.
  • Discussion of the power of the HTA Technology Budget Calculator, how dealers are leveraging it 
  • Announcing that the Budget Calculator may now be embedded in a dealer's website
  • Announcing that HTA Certified dealers getting a special tracking URL that will always list them at the top of the dealer finder
  • Discussion of why a company certification matters
  • Discuss what HTA is NOT (a listing service like Angie's List, HomeAdvisor, etc.)

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #77: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Kendall Clark

Transcript:


Ron:  Hello there, Ron Callis coming to you with another episode of Automation Unplugged. This is episode number 78. We've got the one and only Josh Christian joining me and hope you're having a great Wednesday. It is about just after 12:30. If you're listening to this on replay, then it could be any day of the week or any time of day. But if you're joining us live, thanks for joining us live. Thanks for stopping in and don't forget to like and comment or even share. Let me jump over to Facebook as I often do and just make sure that in fact, we are streaming live. So just bear with me one moment And that was very loud in my ear. I wonder if you guys heard that text thing. There we go. Looks like we are live. So a lot going on here at one Firefly just came out of a, yesterday we did two big webinars partnered up with for those actually had the largest webinars we've ever held in the history of one Firefly were held yesterday. Back to back. I did one at one o'clock when at five o'clock. And they were just a ton of fun. It was a marketing 101 course and did a bit of marketing education and a bit of product overview. So check out the One Firefly website under the learn tab there is a webinar, a section and we'll have that recording posted. We should have that up today, today, June 12th. So don't forget to check that out if you want to download that and watch that after the fact. And let's go ahead and bring in Mr Josh. Let's not keep him waiting in the wings. Let's bring him in. Josh, how are you sir?

Josh: Doing great. How are you?

Ron:  I am super, man. Thanks for joining me. You, you in fact are a returning guest.

Josh: Yes. Back to way last year, I believe early last year.

Ron:  Yeah, I looked it up. If I'm actually gonna attempt, we'll see if I can get technology to behave here. Josh, I know we're early in the show, so this is a bit risky. But let me, let me try to do this. We'll see if we can do it. There we are. So here's the One Firefly website. And if you come over here to the learn tab, there's Automation Unplugged. And here are, I found you your episode 17 and 18 double duty. You remember why we did 17? Was it just that good? Did we have internet issues? Do you recall why that happened?

Josh: It was that good. And we had Internet issues too.

Ron:  That was good. We didn't rehearse that at all folks. That was nice. By the way our lovely audience you can always go to this page and if you want to see who we've had on the show or any of the topics we've got this built out pretty nicely here. And you can do a search by name or a search by topic and we have all of that here. But let me bring that down. So for Josh, some of those watching and listening may not know you, they may not know the HTA. Although look, we got a shout out. Kendall says, Hey Josh, glad to have you back on the show. Right. There you go, Kendall. So Josh, give our audience a little bit of the background. Who are you, where do you come from? And maybe even what is the HTA, but let's do you first.

Josh: Sure. That was a lot in there. Yes. So I've been in this industry since 1995, so I guess that puts me as a, as a veteran already but been kind of worked up the ranks through different types of custom integration. In 1995, I worked for a retailer mom and pop retailer that started getting into custom installation. But then I left that firm in 98 and went to a full installation firm or you didn't even have a storefront. It was just you know, no showroom custom installation only. And through that from 1998 all the way through 2015, stayed at that company in the sales and marketing role. And we evolved from small projects, basic low-voltage integration all the way through massive, huge estates out in Southern California here. So there's some pretty big homes being built in Beverly Hills, Malibu and Bel Air and such and got involved in those really, really big projects that could get into the seven figures. So I've grown up in this industry, had a lot of fun doing it and also through my, my positions I've had since as a marketing person, I did a lot of outreach to architects, designers and builders going back to right around the year 2000. So that's also something really near and dear to my heart is working with the design and build community and basically building a bridge between what integrators do and their and their clients needs to get technology put in their home and make it all fun and easy to use.

Ron:  Yeah, I would just go back. I remember when I first met you and encountered you. I think it was maybe back in around 2008 or 2009 in LA. I was visiting the company that you worked for, and I, I remember that even then, you guys were very forward thinking in terms of marketing and blogging and content creation, speaking to the design and construction industry. I mean, where, where did that come from? Was that you and you knew that was the right thing to do, but it seemed to be a bit ahead of the curve.

Josh: Yeah. It literally, it was just thinking logically when we started, you know, I went to work for this one integration firm. How am I going to get business? I mean, basically, remember the old Nextel phones?

Ron:  Oh yeah.

Josh: It was, here's a box of business cards and here's the next, I'll go out there and get business.

Ron:  So just Josh to where when I started selling, I was issued a pager. My staff is listening to this. And they're like, no way are you. Well, maybe they're saying, I'd like to think they're thinking I wouldn't, I'm not that old. But yeah. That's how I started my sales career with a pager.

Josh: Our gray hair gives us away. Yes, it does. So yeah, this is what happened. It's got an interesting evolution. I pretty close to the Pacific design center in West Hollywood area and that's a big Mecca of showrooms for interior designers and architects to take clients to and pick furniture. It's a beautiful place. And I thought, well, it'd be good to come up with a lecture or basically a presentation to these folks and let them know about what we do. So I created one on my own and gave that in 2000 at the Pacific design center. And that led that just cartwheeled into other things. It led into presenting more at the Pacific design center and architects, designers and builders, getting to know who I was, what we do that. And once people in the trade heard that, I was asked by buzz Delano to create a presentation to CEDIA. I taught at CEDIA expo for a few years on how to work with interior designers, which actually kind of got worked into their CDs core curriculum. So kind of a veteran at this and yeah, I just thought it makes sense if we're going to be a successful company and architects are designing homes, interior designers need to implement technology in their client's homes because their clients want it, then I should go out there and make relationships with these folks and let them know, Hey, I understand what you do. I could speak your language. I understand aesthetics. Let's put this technology in your home and, and you don't have then that way they don't have to, you know, look in the yellow pages, not really dating ourselves, you know, or they didn't even have Yelp back then, but you know, they, they were really at a loss to find out who's going to put this technology in their homes. So

Ron:  Did you, did you have to walk to work both ways uphill in the snow barefoot?

Josh: How'd you know? Exactly in our show shoes made out of wood? Yeah, exactly.

Ron:  Quick question. So you were at that integration from, you obviously learned a lot. You're in a booming market in California. It's still a booming market. And how did, how did you ultimately have this brainchild of, of the Home Technology Association? HTA. So how did you, end up having, and I would even say the, the creativity and the gumption to go think that you could be this sort of change. So why, why was HTA created and how did you end up starting it?

Josh: Yeah, so I wish I could take credit for being the brainchild for it. I wasn't, I was one of the early people attached to it, but the idea was created due to it, a need that I totally understood because I lived it as an integrator. And that is that this industry is very strange when it comes to other trades that are working in a home. The custom integration trade is odd. And the reason is because anybody could really claim to be a technology expert. There's no test you have to pass, there's no license you have to pass to be a specialist. Yes, some will. Some states have a low voltage license, but typically that low voltage license really does not have much to do with what integrators really do on a day to day basis, making technology work. So you know, the guy down the street that knows how to hook up an echo device all of a sudden becomes a professional, you know, just because he knows a little bit more than the client doesn't necessarily make them a professional yet they're good integration firms. And like the firm I worked out, I consider ourselves one of the best firms there was, we're competing against these quote-unquote integrators that really had no business even putting a bid on some of these homes we were working and they just didn't know either how to do it or they didn't know what they didn't know they were getting.

"It's just the customer doesn't know what they don't know."

Ron:  Yes, the customer was doing themselves a disservice because the likelihood or the probability of success was not that high. It's just the customer doesn't know what they don't know.

Josh: Exactly. They don't know what they don't know. They had no place to really vet that company or a way to compare that company versus anybody else. So it's kind of a wild west. And what would happen is at that company I worked at, we would mostly win the projects we went after, of course we, you know, we'd be out of business if not, but several times a year we would lose a project to a, you know, we'll call them trunk slammers, let's just use the term that everybody uses. You know, a company that either just got in business or maybe they're okay company, but they specialize really in small projects, more of the hanging things, simple projects. And that's not saying anything negative about their company, but there are companies set up more on quick-turn projects. They do a great job at that. But now if they're trying to do a fully integrated home that's very complicated, that might have, you know, usually a year plus build cycle where you need project management design and engineering docs and all the things that good integrators do to deploy a project like that. We were being compared to them and we are losing projects to companies that don't have any of this? You would be shocked that a client that's that successful to be able to build this beautiful home would be able to kind of like, we call it fall for that. Like how can they equate us with them?

Ron:  You'd think they were smarter than that, right?

Josh: Yeah. You think they were, and what would happen is kind of the realization, if you don't know what this stuff costs, which they don't, clients typically don't know what integrators systems costs and there is no way to compare it. Then you get what you got. You know, we're an industry right now where clients really have no clue and it all the integrators out there listening to this I'm sure in they're going to nod their head like they of course, you know, you client's building a nice home. You can kind of see the cars they're driving, maybe you know the architect design and build around the project. These are all top quality people and you put together a completely realistic proposal specifically to get exactly what that client wants. They look at you like you're crazy because they just don't know what things cost. And then they'll go shopping around and if they start shopping around and then reasons why is I don't trust and there is no basis for trust yet. Well yeah, my architect said you're good, but come on in whatever, a number here in the proposal. That sounds crazy. They might not verbalize that to you. Sometimes they do, but if they don't verbalize it, what do they do anyways? Often they'll start shopping around. Is this, is this price fair? I don't know. What typically happens with integrators. I live this again is if you're the first person they talk to now, the client talks to let's say a couple of other firms that are, that are good firms, good reputable firms in your market. After two or three times of hearing the same thing roughly, you know, the proposals are fairly similar. The client goes, wow, okay, I guess this, that's what reality is. It's more money than I thought, but alright, but what happens then? Often it's the company that that client spoke to last wins the bid. I've been on the losing end of that far too many times in a care to admit on the other side. Even worse because it's gonna end up worse for the client is instead of talking to a good firms next they talk to, you know, someone they find on Yelp or Craigslist or you know, just, just anybody in town, they start doing Google searches and they find a company that might have a pretty website and the salesman is really good, but they're not qualified to do that work. And now, Oh yeah, I could come in at 50% of that or 70% of that. And the client goes, ah, I knew I was getting ripped off. I knew it, I just knew it. And then they hire that firm and we know what happens when that situation occurs. Right. Everyone loses the client, most definitely loses. They don't get what they thought they were getting. The architect, designer and build are attached to that home. If it's a new project, you know, a new construction project, aha. And another one of these companies, this industry stinks. They're very cynical. The trade partners towards our industry overall. That's a general statement. But overall, and I have a lot of personal experience with this from teaching and lecturing and hearing a lot of feedback that they really have a problem with our industry because it's such the wild West that the quality level is so variant. So we all lose. Right? And then the manufacturers, when that situation happens, the client takes the cheap price for a company that's not qualified. Client loses the industry loses. You know, the integrators that in town that should've got that project, that would have been able to do a good job lose out on that sales process. But then the brands that are installed in that house, the control brand, if, if there's, you know, home automation or smart home or in the shades and all the things that you have to be programmed that might not work right, then the client thinks, aha, you know, brand whatever here that they're looking at on the touch screen or the key pad stinks. And manufacturers are tired of getting thrown under the bus for a bad deployment. So all of that past that I experienced personally or their integrators did kind of informed something needs to do to fix this. And the Home Technology Association was born out of fixing those problems. And it was put together by a very smart integrator. The thought process I was brought in to kind of take that idea and move it forward into creating the association. And we did that with the help of nine very smart people in this industry. If you go to the HTA certified.org on the website and you look at, click on the who link, you could see who's on the board of advisors and the integrators. I'm going to attempt to do that.

Ron:  What is the website?

Josh: HTAcertified.org. Alright, let me, there we go.

Ron:  I'm actually gonna attempt, go back to our screen share here. See if technology continues to behave. Okay, so where would I go?

Josh: On the who link at the top, at the top now. There you go. Excellent. So you could see there's nine board of advisor members there. And you know, you've got, you can see there from the names that you got a Crestron savant, Lutron Control4, you know, Jason not from, from CE Pro and Frank Stern from Sony, Kaplan from Leon, Richard Glikes, Mazzeo and Jason Sloan from Dan Innovations. You know, people that are very well known, very well respected in this industry. And it took us many, many months. You know, they, they jumped at the soccer Attunity to help the industry and they see this as a way of helping the industry. So these, these gentlemen took the time to get together and discuss what are the important things that are going to be baked into a standard and what, what basically Home Technology Association is, is creating a standard, cause there is, there has been no standard in this industry. There's been no barrier to entry. So we built it H the Home Technology Association built a standard, which is basically a barrier to entry to say this is what a good company looks like. These are the attributes a good company has. Let's build a standard around that. That those firms that apply for that in the way that a dealer will become certified as they apply on this website here to become certified. And it's a pretty big application that they have to go through. But we're looking at all these company metrics and details to see if they're living up to that standard. And there's nine different endorsements that are needed before someone can be certain, you know, if they're certifiable nine different endorsements have to check out and it's a minimum nine, it could be more. So it's a very real standard. And it was built to fix those problems that we talked about earlier, that now the dealer that's certified could explain early on in a sales process to a prospective client or a new trade partner, they're going to meet a new architect, designer builder to say, just want to let you know that in this industry there is a standard of excellence. It's administered by the Home Technology Association. Only about 10% of firms are expected to meet that standard. We're one of them. I could send you a link to see, to show you what that standard's all about. Then move back onto themselves. They don't have to go on and on and on about Home Technology Association. I gave you basically a little elevator pitch that just shot off the top of my head, but it explains to a consumer some very important things that is small subset of this industry meets this standard and it's important that they hired the HTA certified firm. Now since you're on the page there, if you click on the lower left, square says HTA certification defined. That's where the standard is published. And that's where I, you can call it the teeth of this certification standard is there are all, and if you look at this, this is a consumer-facing website. It's not trade facing. If you look at the site through the consumer's eyes, it all just makes sense. Like, well, of course I want a company that's been endorsed by the trade and that has insurance. And that you could see all the specifications that are known architects, designers and builders have endorsed them. Industry peers have endorsed them. So there are all the little bullet points there. And it gives that client the trust factor that they need to hire you if they got referred to you, you know, you get a referral from a past client and architect, designer, builder, great. It's already in your favor that you're going to win that project. Things are going for you. You show them this and then it's even better.

Ron:  I just had someone stop in and give us a comment here, so I'm just going to put that up on the screen. Jessica, I happened to know Jessica is with the manufacturer named Sonen and she says, hi Josh. Thank you for sharing information about HTA.

Josh: Hey, my pleasure, Jessica. Thanks for tuning in. Excellent.

Ron:  If you're out there listening, by the way, if you have any questions for Josh as we navigate this conversation, don't be shy. Certainly post your questions and I'll read them live here to Josh and we'll have him field them for all of our audience. But sorry to interrupt Josh, just whenever anyone makes a comment, I like to make sure they get a little shout out and I'd like to throw that out up on the screen there.

Josh: Great. Okay, great. Thanks.

Ron:  How has certifications, you know, grown if I go back and watch the show that we did a year ago and if we, you know, now understand where you're at with dealer memberships. I mean, I guess you, you could describe that number if that's part of your methods or you could maybe just talk about percentage growth in terms of number of dealers that are signing on and becoming certified. How, how have things been over the last 12 months?

Josh: Slow, steady growth. We're at 171 certified integrators. As of today. There are applications that have started, so there's more in play. There's probably about seven of them right now that are maybe more than that, probably about 10, I guess that we are doing active vetting right now. So the applications are in and we're doing our due diligence, our background checks. So it is growing. W which we've had good success with is we have manufacturer support. So some manufacturers have put in their newsletters nudges to get certified cause they see it as a benefit to their integrator. You know, if there's a way that you could tell a client that you truly are better, some neutral third party validated way and you could win the business, great. Go for it. Do it. So it's growing, it's doing well. We've had support recently and here's something to, to, to talk about manufacturer support and kind of how this is growing. It's a flywheel that keeps picking up more and more momentum is, you know, magazines. Fortunately, I've written some great articles you know about, about the HTA. So you'll see that and see pro residential tech today, residential systems, connected design, all great magazines. They've done articles about it, but also last year, over a year ago, Savant on their dealer finder, even calls out HTA certified right there in the search results. If you click that link, it pops up a thing to the consumer explaining why, you know, here's the three pillars of HTA certification. So it's to the consumer.

Ron:  Well, you're saying right on the Savant website?

Josh: Yeah. Go to the Savant dealer. Yeah, let's do it live. Let's see how it goes. Okay. Savant.com. Alright, I want to find a dealer.

Ron:  There it is. Find a dealer.

Josh: Yup.

Ron:  What's a Southern Cal zip code?

Josh: Famous 90210.

Ron:  They make movies about that, right?

Josh: Yeah, exactly. So now you see some integrators there and you see the HTA certified right there in the middle of the screen at the check.

Ron:  Look at that. That is pretty cool. Now if I click on that, what happens?

Josh: Try it. There you go. So explains to the consumer what HTA certification is. And there are the three points right there, the three pillars, which is technical proficiency. It is customer service aftercare and it's reputation. So right the end it there, it shows a consumer. So Savant sees it important that so important that they will call it right out there. The only two things they will note on their screen is if the dealer has a showroom and if they're HTA certified. Those are the two checkmarks you could have and you actually see both of them reflected there on that page. To join them, Control4 as of a couple of months ago, will Control4 dealers as your Control4 dealers will know, give you a microsite about your pay. So if you go to Control4 dealer finder and you click into a company they will in the microsite will list if someone is HTA certified and so does it automatically. We let them know every month that the dealer is certified and they will update that Control4 is more of a manual process. But if you go to, if you do the same search and you go to I know audio-video experience AVX if you see AVX is page in there somewhere then you click to do with what their dealer level is, right? I think that's how they categorize them. I believe so, yeah. AVX design and integration. Yup. So you click that if you click into them and then if you scroll into that a little bit, that's their microsite and if you keep scrolling you'll see there it is HTA certified professional membership. So the call out author CEDIA three HTA certified and are also listing if the dealer is part of a buying group.

Ron:  So I saw that you have John Clancy from Crestron on your board. Is Chris John doing this on their dealer finder?

Josh: They are going to, so that's going to happen probably this year. They're working on their website now and they are going to call that out. So the big three, you know, big control brands are doing that will reach out to a lawn to see if they'll do it as well. All the control brands thus far, we spoke to of course realize it's in their interest to again get their, their dealer certified. Crestron's been a big supporter. All, the control brands have been great about this. So we're happy to see that support. And dealers are seeing this too and there's like, okay, this is real, this is, this is good. So I can tell you. Yes. So we're at 171 dealers now. I don't know if I mentioned that. So we're at 171 dealers, I forgot. I'd have to look back at the exact date we were last year to see where we were then. But it's been, it's good. Good growth. You know, it's a consistent growth.

Ron:  Now you sent over some show artwork or not, some show you sent over some, some artwork. I'm going to put it up on the screen now. And can you tell me and the audience what this is and what we're seeing?

"You're certified, now you have a third party way to differentiate yourself from the competition that's not certified so that we've established. But this is the other secret weapon that we've built as a budget calculator."

Josh: Yes. So we haven't talked about the budget calculator yet. So we did talk about, you know, each day is a differentiation, right? So you're certified, now you have a third party way to differentiate yourself from competition that's not certified so that we've established. But this is the other secret weapon that we've built as a budget calculator. And that link is right there on the home screen, that little green button that says build your budget. But what you're seeing here, that screenshot I sent you is something that our certified dealers have been asking for for a while. And we built it. And this is, this is really new. So we haven't put out the artifact. They can get it in a newsletter out to all our dealers. Now to let them know this is available.

Ron:  So you're saying some of them might find out first from Automation Unplugged?

Josh: Very well. Could be. So here we go.

Ron:  We're breaking news people. This is big.

Josh: Yes, this isn't, this is really cool. So what that is, what you're seeing there is the budget calculator can now be embedded in a dealer's own website. So many dealers right now are linking out to our HTA page, our website and telling the client to play with the budget calculator on our site, which we still recommend. I mean to me, if I was an integrator today, I would still link out to the HTA budget Calgary. Cause I want the client to see what the standards about. It's just gonna make me look better as an integrator. But some dealers want to embed the calculator in their site. They don't want them to click out to any other website. Well now they can do that. Each certified dealer gets a snippet of code that we give them and they're able to now embed that in their site. It's the same math as our budget calculator. It's all behind the scenes stolen our website that the client can't tell. You know, it's, it's there on their site. It's, as you can see, it's still branded. It says powered by the Home Technology Association. And that's important because if you don't have the objectivity of an association, then it becomes an opinion. So what happens is, you know, going back to my old company, well that's your opinion, that this is going to be $250,000, you know, proposal. But what does the next guy down the street when a client sees this in there, they have a hand in building it, right? Because this is their 17 questions. They're the ones that fill it out. It's very high level, very simple to do. It's designed for a nontechie person to figure out a high-level budget. Now when they had a hand in creating that budget and they see it from a neutral source, they believe the numbers and that helps the integrator immensely because now the sticker shock is still there. But the dealer is not the one providing the sticker. Put that burden on the Home Technology Association, put it on a neutral source. Once they see that thou, they don't look at that proposal so suspiciously anymore cause they kind of expected to know what that budget range is. So that budget calculator I showed you in the other screenshot is that is our budget calculator now built into the site. The text at the top and bottom is a little different. This is powered by HTA and now the client could stay in the site but still gives it that objectivity.

"There are just a lot of people around the market that loved this calculator, this third party qualification tool that doesn't make the integrator the bad guy."

Ron:  So the high-level concept is if an integrator wants to add the, and I know that there's just a lot of people around the market that loved this calculator, this third party qualification tool that doesn't make the integrator the bad guy. Let HTA be the bad guy and tell you what this thing costs. And now it allows the integrator to have already to interact with a consumer that already has some good budgets and qualification done prior to saying, you know, further sales dialogue or interactions. If an integrator wants to add that into their website, now you're going to give them per dealer special code that makes that possible. Or what is that process like?

Josh: Yeah, there's a snippet of code that it's, that is the same for every dealer in the only thing that changes is the last few digits in every HTA certified dealer has a code. So they reach out to us, we give them that code in that snippet of code and send it off to them. So yeah, it's specific to the dealer that way too. And this actually happened a couple of weeks ago that this was before though. What I'm telling you is really new. But before we had this a couple of weeks ago, I had a dealer and another reach out and say, Hey, a client just built a budget and they're in this zip code. And, they didn't send it to me, but they said they did and they did it. Do you have that? Can you look that up in your files? And I did. And I said, here it is. This budget was just created like a half hour ago and I sent it on. So the budget calculator, by the ways you might've seen in that screenshot, has the ability to, for the client to email the budget back to, you know, to the integrator to themselves so that it's saved. But now, because our analytics and our side will tell which dealer, it's kind of coated. So I could say if the dealer ever needed to come back and say how many budgets were created off of my link, I could do that because we have that analytics data in the back end. So pretty neat. We're catching, you know, we're storing data pretty soon we'll be able to have some interesting metrics to share with the industry, you know, anonymized data of course.

Ron:  You know, on average what people are searching for and what they're pricing out. I mean, that could be really fun.

"One of our dealers in North Carolina reported back that they just won a project over the weekend. They got the go-ahead. They were the most expensive bid. They got it. They were certified. The client told them, we're hiring you, you're certified."

Josh: Yeah. So this is neat. This is our, it has some go hand in hand with our rebuilt budget, Calcutta, which we launched about three months ago. We did some updates and that tracking really started an intro in earnest then. And we did some much-needed tweaks on there. So yeah, we're very excited about that because this budget calculator is a big thing bigger than we even thought. We always thought it was a great idea to help support those dealers out there to explain to a client, this is what budgets really are, here's the realistic range, what they are. And then that way a client, once they understand that they don't doubt our numbers. That's the great thing in a lot of work went into this budget calculator. So now you have an educated client and dealers are proactively leveraging this. So you get a referral from an architect today, you know, building a house, you know, such and such. Can I meet you? Yes. Oh well, I'll meet you tomorrow at four o'clock. I have a little homework assignment for you. I'm going to send you to a link to a budget calculator or now you can tell him, go to my site and play with the budget calculator up to them. And it's going to ask you a few questions. It's only take you a couple minutes to do, but it gives you a rough idea, not only in the services that we could offer you at our, at our firm, but it gives you a budget range of what things cost. When I show up tomorrow at four o'clock let's you know, please let me know what you've calculated or tell them. If the dealer wants to just email the results back and we'll discuss the matter meeting at four o'clock tomorrow. Dealers that are doing this are reporting great things. The clients still, it's still sticker shock, but now it's directed not at the dealer like you gave me this bad news. Or like they might say, Oh my God, I never knew the budget ranges could go up this high. You know, what is it? What do I get for this at the high end of the budget range? What do I get at the low end of the range? But now you have a whole different sales conversation than you did before and clients are finding that ticket prices are going up and it's also bringing them to more subsystems. You know, your typical consumer doesn't know that, you know, Oh yeah, I want you for my TV and my speakers and maybe a media room or a home theater, but they often don't know you're doing lighting and shades and all these other subsystems too, and networks, right? So now that's all exposed in there. So they're being brought to it more projects and reports back from the integrators or that instead of getting shocked so many times, then hopefully they're the winner. You know, they had the best interview that clients are feeling adequately educated on budgets and they're getting design check right there because of the, you know, this particular dealer charges for their design and they're getting design retainer, right? They're in first meeting, no need to keep shopping around, which is great because the client feels educated. Why do I have to talk to five people in here? The same thing over and over again? I like what you are. I like your dealer like you, Oh, you're certified that looks good. You know, that means that you're really a pro top-notch company. Why would I need to shop around? So that's happening. So yeah. Great things. I want to share an experience too. I just heard this yesterday. I'm going back to some, we were talking about earlier about how the differentiation works. It's not theory this, this works. I, one of our dealers in North Carolina reported back that they just won a project over the weekend. They got the go ahead. They were the most expensive bid. They got it. They were certified. The client told them, we're hiring you, you're certified, you know, the gambling. Are you any good? That gambling goes way down. Client resonated with the certification standards about they were the most expensive proposal they won. And this is not the first time we hear this, but it's not theory anymore. This works so great to hear that it's doing exactly what was intended to do.

Ron:  No, that's awesome. Well, Josh, it is been a lot of fun having you back on Automation Unplugged and it's been a lot of fun to hear about your successes and your continued growth and I know you and your team had been forging ahead. I know I've seen you speaking at various buying group events and you are evangelizing this concept, this association, and you guys are growing. It's a lot of fun to see your success.

Josh: Yeah. Thank you very much. I appreciate the time and for the industry. Support's been great in your time here to get to know more about this and yeah, it's great thing. There's a lot of satisfaction I have in this position here because it's really helping the industry do exactly what we want. We want to raise the industry bar, get respect for the industry because as you know, and the industry knows there are a lot of great integrators out there that do excellent work. Let's help them win projects. That's what this is doing. We're helping these integrators when the projects that they are entitled to and qualified for and that's great. We all win then our industry gets the respect it deserves.

Ron:  Cameron just gave us a comment. He said the budget calculator is very easy to use. He says night.. Sorry about that. He says nice work.

Josh: Oh thank you. Thanks. You might see the manufacturers' building this into their website too. They're not ready to make an announcement yet, but there are some rumblings that manufacturers want to embed it and that is something we will of course allow. That's good. An informed audience is great. So that's something to look out for.

Ron:  Yeah. I think we should probably to get the word out further. You have, you've authored a blog for the One Firefly site. Have you not?

Josh: Yes.

Ron:  Perhaps we should go in and provide an update on that article and maybe even for as an example, you know, cause our audience on our website is probably mostly from the trade and it'd be perhaps we should embed the new calculator into that article just as a proof of concept just a thought.

Josh: Yeah. That's great. And if people use it, we'll be able to track it too.

Ron:  You'll know who's using it and interacting with it. Well, on that note, it has been a blast here. I know it's 1:15. I think we've been, I don't have a number right in front of me, but I think we've been on and, or live for close to 40 minutes or so. So I usually try to wrap things right around there. That's usually around the attention span of most of our folks that watch or listen. Josh, it has been a blast having you on again man. And we'll have you on again this won't be your last time.

Josh: Alright, thanks a lot. Thanks everybody. If you have any questions, reach out. I think you put in the notes. No, people can reach out to me if they need to.

Ron:  I'm going to apologize in advance. And publicly, when I was filling out the show notes to launch this live show, I made a mistake in your name I said Home Technology Alliance and I know it's not the Home Technology Alliance, it's the Home Technology Association. So I am gonna go after we wrap here and I'm going to see if I can edit that description. So for posterity it will be accurate. So I'm apologizing in advance.

Josh: Alright, no problem. Alright, thanks a lot.

Ron:  Thanks Josh. Alright folks. There you have it. We have show number what is it, 78 now in the books. It's a blast having you on the show. I appreciate your comments and Josh and I will be auditing the comment stream here now and into the future and replying to all of you. So thanks for stopping by and saying hello. Don't forget if you liked this content or you think others in the industry would benefit too, please share the content and that's how we ultimately are able to get the word out and help more people with more information. I am getting the last minute question that did just come in and so I'm going to answer this. Ari is asking for the website. So let me do a little bit of typing here, Ari, and let me see if I can get my technology to behave. So there it is. You can go to HTA certified.org and you can see the website and learn more about HTA and certainly give them a call. You'll probably be speaking to Josh or a member of his team. So there you go. There's the show. So everyone thanks again and I will see you next time on our next episode of Automation Unplugged. Thank you, everybody.

Show Notes

Josh has been running Home Technology Association since 2007, helping consumers and specifiers find the best-qualified home technology professionals. Josh has an extensive background in home technology in retail, sales, and marketing that spans back to the mid ninties.

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.

Resources and Links from the Interview:

You can also learn more about Home Technology Assocation at https://htacertified.org/ Make sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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