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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 #8: An Industry Q&A With Mike Maniscalco

Unique Insight into RMR for AV Professionals

Home Automation Podcast Episode #8: An Industry Q&A With Mike Maniscalco

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Mike Maniscalco. Recorded live on Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Mike Maniscalco

Mike has a BS in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology, specializing in networks and telecommunications. With nearly two decades of experience in network engineering and business management, Mike is published in multiple CEDIA handbooks and guides.

Mike is a CEDIA Registered Outreach Instructor as well as a member of several CEDIA committees, such as the CEDIA IT/Networking Task Force Committee and the CEDIA Tech Council.

Interview Recap

In the interview, Ron was able to pick Mike's brain on a variety of topics, such as:

  •  Mike and Stuart's approach to selling their home automation company

  • How networking has evolved in this industry over the years

  • Hindrances in achieving success with RMR

  •  What RMR can mean for a business in terms of valuation

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #7: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Troy Morgan

Transcript:


Ron:  Hello everyone. Ron Callis here with One Firefly and Automation Unplugged. Thanks again for joining us today. It is 12:30 on Wednesday, June 21st. Thank you very much for joining us today. Taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule or maybe you're sitting there eating your lunch and you have us running in the background. But regardless thank you very much. I've got a fun guest today. Got Mike Maniscalco from Ihiji. He's V.P. of Product for that fast-growing technology company based in Texas. Before we get to Mike, I'm actually going to look over here as I always do and make sure that our Facebook stream is running. For those of you that have tried to play around with Facebook live streaming you know it can be tricky and it's always a good idea to make sure everything's working. Yeah. Looks like we are good. So we're gonna jump right over and we are going to say hi to Mike. How's it going Mike?

Mike: Good. I just did the same thing and looked at our smiling faces on Facebook. The first time I've done a Facebook live, so kind of excited.

Ron:  It's kind of surreal isn't it?

Mike: Yeah definitely cool to see ourselves.

Ron:  Yes. So certainly Mike if you don't mind, share that feed and my team will be doing the same and we're going to ask all of those watching to also make sure you share this content so that your friends in the A.V. and security space will have a chance to see this content show up in their newsfeed. Also we're going to do our best as we go along to ask you guys and gals questions and we'd love to get your feedback. So real-time feedback. If you have any questions for Mike as we go you certainly can pose those questions in the comments and we'll try to do our best to make sure that there are real-time responses and answers to those questions. But Mike let's go ahead and jump right into it. We're going to try to keep this to approximately around 30 minutes and if things are getting hot and heavy and we need to go longer then we'll go longer but we'll try to keep it short and sweet for the audience. Mike can you give a little bit of background to my audience in terms of your background in the audio-video industry. Kind of how did you land in this space and how did that come about?

Mike: Yeah. We took a non-traditional routing of the space where do I start? So the best way to start is from the beginning. Back in college we did a project with Bell South. That was a kind of home of the future as part of an RND initiative that Bell South had going with emerging technologies mainly around home networking technologies. But with that it was voice over IP there is video over IP there was a home theater involved in the project. There was, you could order products right from not a handheld smartphone but literally they had a prototype touchscreen desktop phone where you could order Domino's. Anyway a bunch of fun stuff I'm a tech geek obviously. So we did this project and we talked to the guy that was doing it and he did home theater systems but I didn't realize there's actually a career opportunity here. That's pretty interesting. Anyway, we did the project went on graduated, went on to the real world got some real job doing software engineering network management, network engineering, things on those lines. Quickly kind of grew interested in doing something other than the corporate world. So came together with Stewart who is the co-founder here we had known each other through Bell South and through college and we said Okay let's start a business. What about that home automation thing that we did a few years back? That seems pretty interesting. So started researching the industry, got pretty interested in it, got a job. I found that it was actually something we really enjoyed doing and then decided to start our own business. So we started a business right in your backyard in the Palm Beach market of Florida doing larger-scale integration systems. And we were kind of pushing the envelope of what you could do with IP and coming from the I.T. background we knew what networks were designed to do, how they were designed to be scalable reliable fast and efficient. RS 232 seemed dated and we started pushing the envelope. Obviously there are some lessons learned as a lot of people did and doing early automation systems on IP. But as part of the pain points that we were experiencing our customers were experiencing and we developed solutions to monitor all of the IP devices and the networks for our clients.

Ron:  What was the timeframe of that busniess if you don't mind? Sorry to interrupt but just to give this perspective and you know computers had been invented by that point right?

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. So the timeline is that what you're asking?

Ron:  Yeah the timeline in terms of. Sorry you don't get a visual here but the timeline of when you started your integration business? You both had careers out in kind of corporate America and then you decided to jump into the integration space running an integration firm. What were the years that you were doing that?

Mike: Yeah. So we started the integration company in 2005- the 2006 time period. So we started then and then ran that for about four or five years before we sold that business.

Ron:  For perspective, what were you doing in that firm? What sort of technologies were you using? What sort of solutions were you regularly installing?

Mike: So we were doing whole home automation systems, everything from audio-video to lighting control, home theaters. The standards that the integrators are doing out there. We were doing control systems, we were foolish enough to dabble in Crestron, Control4 wasn't actually quite around at the time , Crestron, Savant, we dabbled in and Amex with Amex kind of being our primary system. But we were trying to juggle all three which as most of you know is difficult. They are three different very different and very capable but very different solutions . So large scale automation systems. We had a pretty good SMB like commercial-grade network backhaul for all the systems there and a lot of it's about support especially in the Palm Beach market where your customers want that level of support and they need somebody there to be able to take care of them.

Ron:  How did the experiences you and Stuart gained as integrators in the Palm Beach market, how did that then lend itself to your next natural step? Being, I think the next step was starting Ihiji if I'm correct? .

Mike: Yeah. So. The experience is pretty typical. I think almost anybody who's in our business has these stories where you were just getting constant phone calls nights weekends holidays because something was broken and it wasn't necessarily your fault. Sometimes the ISP had issues sometimes the user had issues themselves sometimes the systems that you installed have problems but with all the complexity there seemed to be constant firefighting. And it got a little bit exhausting pretty quickly about having to fight all these fires on a constant 24/7 basis. So what we did was we developed our monitoring solution for our own use. Honestly, it wasn't really a product we're looking to commercialize to help us be more proactive in servicing our customers and help us deliver more service to them remotely so that we didn't have to drop everything, hop in a truck and drive down to that client site just to troubleshoot and resolve their issues. So it really set the stage for Ihiji and what we did today and it allowed us to create a recurring revenue stream within that business through service contracts and ultimately I think the service contracts gave us some value when we want to exit that business . So it's kind of a natural progression and we sold that business and spun technology up to Ihiji. It really was well the industry as a whole has the exact same problems exact same headaches exact same challenges. Why don't we do it to try to help the industry with those issues?

Ron:  Can you provide a little more detail around the fact that you started and ran and then were successful in selling your integration business all in a rather short period of time? You know that concept of selling one's business in the integration space is generally a bit of a nebulous goal and you know people, they might desire being able to do that and don't exactly know how to go about that. So you did that in a very short period of time and you said that securing maintenance agreements or service contracts was one of the keys to increasing your value and making that asset worth something. Can you provide a little more color to that?

Mike: Yeah absolutely. So I think what we realized quickly as we were trying to run two businesses that were both fairly young and had a lot of growth potential but our ability as a small company on both sides of the coin and both the Ihiji and Invostar was the name of the business. Our ability to do what we wanted on either those with the small team and the limited resources was handicapped because we were trying to do both. So we couldn't do either as well as we'd like. So we kind of looked at the scenario and said Okay what are our options here? And I think we're pretty analytical folks stare at and I and David who is involved at times as well. He said well let's evaluate the opportunity to make a decision and we did and we said you know Ihiji really caters to our background of software engineering and networking and things like that. It is a bigger opportunity than InvoStar. At the end of the day because it is a global market that we can tackle without having to have boots on the ground in every one of those markets. It was a recurring revenue business model which we really obviously as we preach to dealers every day, really like. So that point we said OK well what should we do with Invostar? We've got customers who are actually committed to us they're paying us annually to provide service. We just don't want to drop everything right? That's not really the goal we have built something of value. We said well maybe there are others in this market or in this industry who find value in what we've created and we started talking to some people and we brainstormed and at the end of the day what we ended up selling was to an electrical contractor and that contractor not only had an electrical firm but he had a low voltage wiring firm and he had an alarm and fire alarm business. So he's looking to diversify and continue to grow and said This is natural, I can leverage your brands and the brands your licensed to sell like the Lutrons and Crestrons of the world. I can expand my business by capturing more contracts with each home that we do. And kind of went into conversations with him and a few others and ultimately came to terms on a deal. We did it quickly, absolutely because we were also trying to get Ihiji and get that going as quickly as possible. We had a product which was we had developed at that point, was ready to sell. So it was interesting that the thing we learned is that it never happens as quickly as you'd like. It took us months to close the deal to the point where we had already made plans to start Ihiji, we had an office and a lease lined up in Austin. Like we said OK well clearly this isn't going to take more than next month. I don't remember what the timeframe was but six months. So we made plans we got a lease out here we have made a living arrangements out here thinking the deal had been closed we can make a nice clean transition. It literally went down to the day that the moving trucks were packed. We were in the lawyer's office and clothes having packed a moving van signing legal documents with the new business. And that same afternoon we hit the road to Orlando to EHX when they used to host that in Orlando and launched Ihiji the next day publicly at our booth and two days later after that we packed our cars back up and literally had all our IP phones and servers and everything in our cars and continue d driving out to Austin. Hit the ground Monday morning in Austin and we're up and running. So it was a whirlwind for sure.

Ron:  Now that's that's an awesome story I'm sure a lot of our audience can relate. I am curious and I 'd love folks to post if you have intentions if you're a business owner. Do you have intentions or any sort of focus on selling your business? And if so you know tell us that and if you do not have intentions to sell your business, say hey I work for somebody I don't own the business. Let us know that I'd love to hear feedback from you folks. So I can share that with our audience. Stephen just commented Mike , he said this is Stephen Stetson. He says such a great story. So I can tell you. You know I've been in this space you know maybe a little bit longer than you guys, since back in 2000 , and you don't hear that many stories of integrators successfully packaging their company up and selling it and being proud about that experience. I think a lot of room for improvement industry-wide for that success story to be shared. But on to Ihiji. And guys keep commenting and posting. Love to hear from you. And again we want to hear from you if you've had any intentions of trying to sell your business or down the road you want to sell your business and give us as much detail as you can. But let's talk about Ihiji. First of all where did this name come from?

Mike: So side note is that where we're kind of getting ready for CEDIA and we've got some exciting product stuff going and are having to name a new product and I think I've proven one thing that I can come up with some wild and crazy company names. After we came up with the name our PR firm said you know what. You guys have to have a better story for where you came up with this name. So we developed some acronym which I think I'm the only one on the planet that still knows. And it wasn't the best. So we abandoned that . At the end of the day it really doesn't have a meaning. We have the kind of the mythical mystery Ihiji character and we've kind of played it made a fun brand with it but the honest answer is had a bunch of names, wrote a bunch of them on the back of a cocktail napkin at a happy hour at a sushi restaurant. Obviously I think the Ihiji name has a little bit of both. There was iTunes and iPod was big at the time, Fiji was the thing we liked, the domain name was available. That's a big decision. So we said you know what we like it. It's kind of, Web 2.0 with the hot thing at the time. So people were coming up with crazy names. We said well let's do it let's go with it and we've kind of run with it since then.

Ron:  OK well I appreciate that answer. I knew there was a ninja and some ninja swords involved.

Mike: Then I guess that we just had fun with it. At this point it's silly we might as well embrace it. Yeah. So I'd like to say I'm in and a future career I could become a consultant on how not to name a company because I forgot to say I'm calling from Ihiji and they're like huh?

Ron:  What? How do you spell that? Okay. So what are your day to day duties? You said you have a partner Stewart, I believe. And what are your day to day duties within Ihiji?

Mike: Yeah. I mean we're still a small company compared to a lot of the industry. I generally on a day to day basis handle a lot of the product strategy , product decisions. Some of the newer things we're working on I tend to play with and also I handle most of our marketing efforts at this point so we dabble in sales. I try to stay away from sales but I end up helping quite a bit there. I don't program as much anymore, the programmers don't like it when I touch code. But yeah generally product and marketing is where I spend a lot of my time.

Ron:  Got it. Now you guys decided to base your business in Austin and you had just mentioned that previously you were running your integration firm out of Palm Beach Florida. Are you guys from Austin? Is that why you landed there or what were the reasons or considerations that you chose to move across the country and parked your business in Texas?

Mike: Yeah there's actually a good story here as well and I'll share it because I do like the story. When we sold the business , before we were even thinking of moving we knew we were doing Ihiji. In fact the guy that helped us with our initial user design has been commentating on the video too. We said OK well we need to hire some developers and we did and we hired our first developer. His name's Roone and we hired him out of the University of Florida and it took us a few months. Took us a lot longer than we thought it would to hire that individual. And Roone had a lot of talents but he was he had a master's degree. Generally, he was more than qualified for the position we were needing and we said Yeah that was a lot of work. We also had at the end of the day we ended up having to work out some Visa issues and no big deal. But it was in no way scalable and Stewart especially is has a very a mindset where we think scalability is one of those core things that he thinks about and we look to each other and said you know we're going to have to hire dozens more developers over the lifetime of our business. Is this the right market to do it in? Palm Beach is a great market for integration. Obviously there's a great demographic for that. I was actually from Florida, I grew up in Jupiter so a lot of my family was there I love the beach but it wasn't necessarily the right place to get a startup off the ground. So we were looking at other cities. I had ties, Stewart and I both had ties to Atlanta through Georgia Tech. So we talked to the incubator at Georgia Tech. My wife was at UNC in Chapel Hill so we talked to some of the folks up there in the tech community. We looked at Boston and we looked at places like that but neither of us particularly like the cold. Stewart was from Texas and said Austin's great. There's a strong startup community there. So we took a trip out here to talk to the Chamber of Commerce talked to the University of Texas their technology incubator out here , really liked the experience out here. It was a great startup environment the cost of business in Texas was was wonderful compared to you know Silicon Valley. And when we got accepted to the Austin technology incubator at UT, that kind of tilted the scales in the favor of Austin and we decided that this was the place we want to start the business.

Ron:  What are some of the benefits of being in an incubator? You know I've heard of incubators happening all over the country I've heard references to Austin being called the second Silicon Valley.What is it in an incubator environment that helps foster a new business?

Mike: There are a lot of benefits especially for an early-stage startup. The first is just the physical things you know you get turnkey office space, your leases are really flexible. The cost is pretty reasonable. So there's that piece and they you know they sold that. Just show up and plug in. You'll have network you have everything you need. You have power, you don't have to worry about getting permits to operate or renovations on your lease. All the things that you've experienced and I'm sure others have when they started a business in a physical facility . So that made a lot of sense a lot of what the coworking facilities provide today. But an incubator is usually more than that. You get access to resources, advisor resources so they have a strong network and leveraging the network was important to you. In Florida we had a pretty strong network from our involvement and just relationships down there. But in Austin, neither of us really had a good network here. So the incubator served as an instant extension of our own network and allowed us to get out to the community and find advisors, find early investors and things like that. So they made connections to those types of people. And then you're surrounded by others that are going through similar experiences. Starting a company, having other people you can talk to even about their technology that they're using say. What do you guys develop and what languages what challenges do you have? We're having this technical challenge or this business challenge. So there are a lot of benefits to the incubator programs.

Ron:  OK no, I appreciate that background for those of us out there in the audience that haven't heard of that and weren't familiar with that I'm sure that was enlightening those folks out there watching. Oh yeah and Taylor. Taylor Whipple says and they have good barbecue.

Mike: Yeah. Austin's got amazing barbecue, I lived in the south, obviously had plenty of barbecue in Atlanta. Lived in Kansas City for a year. They had fantastic. I didn't think it could better than Oklahoma Joe's and then I moved to Austin and there are a dozen places that could compete but some of the best barbecue in the country.

Ron:  So you have Ray Allen says what's up Ihiji.

Mike: Do you know Ray Allen? Hey Ray how's it going. Bud thanks for watching. I like big mugs. I guess that's a beer. I'm not even gonna touch that.

Mike: That's a great beer community too. We're beer nerds here. Oh yeah.

Ron:  All right. Well , Mike, you've been in the networking space it sounds like from the very beginning of your career and you're very intimately in the networking space now and providing monitoring technologies for integrators to monitor networks in their client's projects and homes. How have you seen the networking marketplace change and I know it's maybe a big question and where do you see it going?

Mike: Yeah it's a big question because I think initially when we started in the industry IP was a dirty word because there are a lot of bad experiences. I think one of the challenges with IP if you haven't done the implementation of it. There are a lot of places where you can run into struggles both on the implementation but also when the manufacturer integrates the Internet card into their equipment. So people went through some pain points and struggles as the industry transitioned but at this point , it's transitioned to a very reliable way of communicating and delivering content. It's the backbone of all the systems and we believe that going back to we had our Invostar company running, I had volunteered for the CEDIA Technology Council because we were doing a lot of Cisco Systems voice over IP systems. I said why isn't the industry adopting IP and what can we do to help move it forward? Talked to Dave Pedigo and Gordon Van Zuiden on the phone one day and next thing you knew, I was participating in the Tech Council trying to help the industry figure out where the network was going and how it was going to impact the industry. So a lot's changed over those probably close to 10 years where it is now the most critical system in the house. I mean it just is, it's the third or fourth most important utility in the home now. So it's been really interesting to watch how quickly that's changed. We've tried to do a lot of help with the industry to move things forward because there's a lot of new education that needs to be learned and things along those lines. So been very involved with CEDIA from an education standpoint, created some of the courses with networking and teach a lot of the boot camps to do a lot of instruction CEDIA Expo, because obviously at this point it's not going away . It's going to become more important for integrators as time goes on.

Ron:  Now I'm looking at the clock I have so many things I want I want to go down a deeper dive regarding CEDIA and training but I think that might have to be in a version 2.0 of our interview I'm watching the clock here and I want to make sure I get in some more questions regarding Ihiji, so specifically the recurring revenue model that helped you ultimately have a higher valuation at Invostar and sell that business. Your company has been a big advocate of integrators getting better at this by writing contracts and helping them understand how to contract it. Trying to help them find a market and sell it. Certainly giving them the technology behind the scenes that helps them ultimately have the ability to monitor that. Can you just maybe in the simplest way you could describe the basics of how you see an RMR service-based model working for an integrator? What do they need to do to be in that business?

Mike: I mean at this point there's not a lot that needs to be in the business other than make the commitment. I think that most integrators out there are so busy that finding the time to actually sit down and do it and make the commitment is one of the biggest hurdles because once they do that the resources are there the templates are there. You know we've got everything under the sun they need to get going. The software is there to support it all. We built our Service Manager tool to help them keep up with all the billings and the back end operations side of things. We even have marketing programs that we're working on with companies like yours to help them find even more success with RMR. So really I think the biggest thing is commitment.

"You're out there traveling the country, you're always at some event training on not necessarily topics that are Ihiji but rather general and broad around networking design and how to build an RMR business and such. Thank you for doing that. That's a big contribution to the industry that often can be thankless."

Ron:  Where do you see the biggest hurdles right now? One thing I know, you're a hard worker. You're out there traveling the country, you're always at some event training on not necessarily topics that are Ihiji but rather general and broad around networking design and how to build an RMR business and such. And so, first of all, thank you for doing that. That's a big contribution to the industry that often can be thankless. So this is my small way of saying thank you for going out thank you for doing that and the people watching this show now also know that and hopefully they drop you some thank yous as well. What do you see as the biggest barrier or reason that integrators are not seeing success growing in our business and for those of you that don't know RMR is recurring monthly revenue typically around you know dealers contracting their customer base for maintenance contracts or service plans.

Mike: You know I think once you make the commitment the biggest hurdle is the sales side. Getting a sales team trained , getting them comfortable selling something new. That's not a projector. Not something they're traditionally selling. There's some barriers there. And I think really the best place for integrators to find fast success is through marketing engine of some sort. But a lot of integrators haven't ever had to think of a marketing engine because their business was project-based . And those projects always came through referrals and recurring revenue's a little bit different because you're trying to mine an existing customer base. So marketing I think of the plans more than sales is where dealers can probably find the best chance of success once they make that commitment. And again that's something we're working with dealers every single day to help them with.

"If they have a customer base they've sold and those customers have trusted them with their installations and have paid them for that work and some dealers have maybe hundreds in some cases thousands of past customers and so it's really a matter of then designing and executing the strategies to go back to that customer base."

Ron:  Got it. So you're thinking that if they have a customer base they've sold and those customers have trusted them with their installations and have paid them for that work and some dealers have maybe hundreds in some cases thousands of past customers and so it's really a matter of then designing and executing the strategies to go back to that customer base perhaps putting a smart appliance in that home that lets the integrator have intelligence about what's working and what isn't working and then selling the customer on the benefits of that dealer being able to preemptively know those problems and then roll trucks to go out there and solve issues perhaps before the customer even knows they exist.

"We are going to take care systems, we're going to be the trusted technology partner so that when you have problems we're here to help and we do that through our proactive maintenance and support we do that through our remote monitoring and diagnostics capability."

Mike: I mean that's the value prop right. It's we are going to take care systems, we're going to be the trusted technology partner so that when you have problems we're here to help and we do that through our proactive maintenance and support we do that through our remote monitoring and diagnostics capability. And it all comes at a very attractive price. And the interesting thing is that it's been proven over and over and over that it works and the customers want it. I don't think there's any question about that. In fact when an integrator makes a big push in any given market when one integrator makes a big move, we see three or four integrators within a month start following because all of a sudden customers are asking for it because somebody else in the market is talking about it. So it just to me, that's just proof that there's plenty of demand. It's just a matter of capitalizing on it.

Ron:  Can you give any general numbers around what it means for a business if they have say recurring revenue and I'm talking in terms of valuation or what it means to a potential buyer versus a business that maybe is very successfully selling projects has a steady history of hitting certain revenue numbers assuming certain levels of profitability but say has no recurring revenue and it's all project-based sales. What does it mean? I would think that that would help people understand why they should at least try to figure it out.

"Your business is only as strong as your next contract."

Mike: Having run a project-based business I think I know your business is only as strong as your next contract. Right. As the next project you bring on right there is always that level of unpredictability recurring revenue. Not only brings consistent cash flow into the business but it also starts to build value. And I think if you've got a services business that doesn't have recurring revenue, you're lucky to get 1X your trailing revenue like your last year's revenue. In a recurring revenue business, if you look at parallels like the security industry those multiples are 3-5X annual revenues or 30+X monthly revenues depending on how they're building out their revenue. So it's literally hundreds of percent increase to the value of your business. And even if you don't plan on selling your business in the near term, that cash flow is undeniable it means that you can pay your employees every month because you've got that predictable cash flow coming in without any concerns. You can sleep better knowing that you can take a vacation and realize that if a project doesn't come through in that two week period where you're out of the office things will be OK. It lets you have something that's lendable if you want to buy another business or buy a building. And if you do want to go into mergers and acquisitions it's going to help you sell your business or it's going to give you leverage in the company you're trying to merge with. So the value of RMR is undeniable. The good news is we spend a lot less time preaching that these days and it's a lot more about OK. Now how do you actually do it?

Ron:  Yeah I think that's a fair assumption. That said you have been standing on a soapbox for the last six or seven years it seems like trying to spread that message and maybe what you're seeing are some of the fruits of that labor and the marketplace certainly seems to be listening. You know I hear the concept of maintenance or service contracts, meant I don't think a week goes by that somebody doesn't talk to me about that and how to drive that. So I think we're seeing it from this end here at One Firefly. I'm looking at the Facebook feed and we are running already a couple of minutes over so I'm going to just ask one or two more questions and we'll get you out of here Mike and back to your day of designing awesome products but Ray did comment. He says he uses the Ihiji dashboard in his service department to proactively fix issues. He says he also includes the appliance as part of our maintenance program. Can you talk just for a moment about what the mechanics are when he says the appliance and the dashboard. I also know there's something else called Service Manager. What does the landscape look like within Ihiji in terms of the products and software?

Mike: The quick overview is we have two main products. We have our Ihiji vision remote monitoring and management product. Remote systems management it's kind of the new term that the industry is put behind that and that does all the remote monitoring alerting diagnostics inventory of all the devices, identification of devices remote access for sport. So that's Invision, to make that happen in a secure manner, we have an appliance and the appliance is just a small harbour component. You put on the client-side and that allows us to collect all the information behind a firewall without having to penetrate the dealer network from the outside. So keeps their systems more secure. So appliances required to be on site. That's just an enabler for the software at that point the dealer does everything from our dashboard or from our cloud interface and they order from the mobile phone where they can access all their systems. So that's Invision and it's really the tool to deliver the service. And then we've got another tool called Service Manager which we launched that at CEDIA almost two years ago. We run the best new product award and Service Manager is about the operations side of the service business, it's about creating better customer experiences. We like to think about creating customers for life. It allows you to do that. It helps you track all of your warranties on your service plans, does all the recurring billing and invoicing for your customers. That money is deposited in your bank account. It gives you a nice client-facing portal where you can advertise your service plans to the outside world and collect payment security from your customers. And it also has a help desk and ticketing solution built into it. So those are our two products. The little sneak peek is at CEDIA those two products are starting to converge a little more into a new reimagined kind of experience for the service and operation side of your business.

Mike: And those two products being Service Manager and Invision.

Ron:  Yes Service Manager and Inivision will kind of come together in a union or a marriage of sorts.

Ron:  Okay so that's part of what will be unveiled or perhaps teased at CEDIA.

Mike: Yeah you'll start to see over the next few weeks to months more details on that that since it's a project we've been working on for quite some time now.

Ron:  The last question I'd like to ask is if someone, let's say the integrator figures out the marketing piece so perhaps they're either getting very effective at selling it at the point of sale when they sell the system they sell the service plan it's all part of the sale and I've heard cases or use cases where some dealers have gotten very good at that and their take rate is very high. Alternatively, let's make an assumption that they are effectively going back to their book of business and marketing and getting interest, getting clients coming on board saying yes I'd like to add this capability to my system. How long does it typically take for an integrator to get ramped up so let's say you're at CEDIA, hopefully you know maybe it happens right after this Facebook live. But someone knocks on your door and you said you don't want to handle sales Mike. So they talk to your sales team and the sales team take good care of them and they sign a contract and they come on board. How long does it take them to get ramped up and maybe be successful if I'd be so bold? How long does that take?

Mike: You know it shouldn't take long. Everything's there. I literally have had dealers and this is going back years so we've given the templates to that call the next day and say Hey I just sold one. So it shouldn't take a lot of work. I think if you really want it depends on how you define success. But we have templates that you can put into your e-mail marketing system and send out the next day and convert. So it really doesn't take a lot of time. It's more about well let's understand your customers, your goals, let's make sure you're happy with all the materials we have in place. You don't need any tweaks and then let's get it done. And I like to say the faster you can move on the recurring revenue the better off you are because that recurring revenue compounds. So I encourage people to move quickly.

Ron:  Mike do you have any closing remarks for our audience that you speak now or forever hold your peace as my mom used to say.

Mike: I mean I think a lot of a lot of the audience out there we see on the road at all the events, Pro Source and Azione, HTSA, Tech Summits and CEDIA. So you know we're pretty accessible. If you do have follow on questions we're here to help. That's one of the things we really do go out of our way to do is provide all the resources and access you need to help be successful. We want to see this industry successful which is why we created our race for our RMR where we're trying to incentivize dealers to get out there and get RMR in place before CEDIA Expo we really want to see how far we can move the entire industry as a whole. So we don't have much else that other than I appreciate everybody's time I know that everybody's busy out there today so taking the time to tune in is appreciated. I look forward to seeing everybody in San Diego.

Ron:  Awesome thank you Mike. Thanks Mike for being such a great guest and working with me before we got started and getting the tech working and cooperating. And you're very patient. You had you made for a great guest with great feedback to my questions. So thank you very much sir.

Mike: Appreciate you having us on.

Ron:  You know my pleasure and guys and gals thank you again for joining me for another episode of Automation Unplugged. It is my pleasure to be here and interview some of our industry's best and brightest and hopefully we all learn so a few things I know that I always do every week as I interview the talent that makes up our industry. So thank you again for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. Great week. And remember the decision is yours to have a great day and a great week regardless of what happens to you. So make it a great day. And we'll talk to you soon. Thanks so much guys.

Show Notes

Mike is currently Vice President of Product for Ihiji out of Austin, Texas. He has a BS in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology, specializing in networks and telecommunications. With nearly two decades of experience in network engineering and business management, Mike is published in multiple CEDIA handbooks and guides, is a registered outreach instructor and participant in several CEDIA committees.

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 become 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 Ihiji at http://www.ihiji.com/ Be sure to follow them on Facebook.

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