Watch Episode #85: An Industry Q&A with Jason Sayen
Process Improvement and its benefits for the Industry
This week's show features our host Ron Callis interviewing Jason Sayen. Recorded live on Wednesday August 21st, 2019 at 12:30pm EST.
About Jason Sayen
Jason is an industry leader with over 26 years of experience in the Consumer Electronics Industry. He has spent the majority of his career working directly for manufacturers of high-end car audio and residential electronics. In June of 2010, Jason received the honor of being recognized by Dealerscope Magazine's Top 40 under 40 award.
Currently he is Director of Sales and Business Development for LK & Associates which is a rep firm in the state of Florida representing over 20 of the top brands of residential consumer electronics ranging in categories of automation, motorization, energy management, audio, shading and lighting control.
Jason is also a CEDIA COI and actively teaches classes with the design and build community often partnering with dealers to drive future business.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Jason Sayen:
- Jason´s background in the industry
- State of the industry and challenges dealers face.
- Business processes and the importance of having documentation for your business.
- CEDIA 2019
- Six Sigma
- The importance of working with the design and build community on education
Ron: Hello everybody. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. How are you doing today? It is Wednesday. It's August 21st. It's about 12:45 because you guessed it, we got bitten by some technology gremlins. I'm getting choked here by my headphones. Let me fix that. Looks like they're all twisted up. That is of course, if you're watching the video. So if you are out there and watching and listening, definitely do not forget to like, and or share this. If you're listening to the recording, please do the same. And as I do every week, let me just come over here to Facebook and make sure that we are streaming and that our stream is in fact live. Let's see here. Yep, there we go. It looks like it is cooperating. All right. And if it sounds a little echoey, I am, as you may have heard in the last show, I'm actually in the process of moving, actually. You can see some, what is it? Some drywall mud right there where I'm patching holes in the ceiling as we are preparing to leave this house. I'm moving into a new house here, actually moving next Wednesday. But wouldn't you know, it that right as we're coordinating the move and actually putting a renter in this house, our new home gets delayed. And so I'll be homeless for a week or not a week, actually about a month as I transitioned from living in a hotel for a while and then back into what will be our brand new house, which will be very exciting. So the environment will look different. So, now that you kind of know why the room sounds a little echoey, let's get started. Let's jump right into our guest. I'm excited to have Jason. I've been, you know, you and I have been seeing Jason everywhere. Jason has been in our industry for a long time. I actually don't know Jason very well, so we are all gonna learn together a lot more about Jason and what he has going on. But he's also been making waves across the industry as a trainer and educator around the operational processes and Six Sigma methodologies and how they can be applied to the integration businesses. So, let's go ahead and let me bring down the artwork. Let me go ahead. That's me. I'm Ron and let's bring in Jason.
Ron: Jason, how are you sir?
Jason: Good! It's working.
Ron: You know what it is. Let me get you actually coming through my headphones. There we go. Give me another one, two, three...
Jason: One, two, three.
Ron: There you are, you're perfectly, you're right here. Now we have a better chance of technology cooperating for the next 30 minutes. Jason, how are you doing today, sir?
Jason: Awesome. I'm doing good. Yourself?
Ron: I'm good. I'm good. So how many times have you been live streaming to thousands of people? Okay. Maybe there aren't thousands of people, but there will be on the replay. How many times have you done this before?
Jason: I have not. This is my first time.
Ron: Oh, right. Hey, I'm proud to be your first. Do you spend much time out of curiosity on Facebook?
Jason: Well, not really, you know, for personal keeping in contact with old friends. That's really about it. For business I spend more time on LinkedIn.
Ron: Got It. No, yeah. I think that is the trend for our industry. I see our industry becoming more and more active on LinkedIn. And I also see a growth in Instagram. Are you an Instagrammer?
Jason: I'm not, but yeah, I was at the CEDIA Tech X event yesterday in West Palm and there were people sharing Instagrams there and taking pictures and so it's something I'm going to have to look into.
Ron: Got It. Alright. Well, yes, look into it. When you do that, I'm going to cheat here. Do this, follow One Firefly. See if I they get that. So One Firefly is on Instagram, I know you're going to be bringing in all of your audience to this show. So hopefully we get some of them to follow us and you know, when you join Instagram, Jason, you could follow us and you'll kind of, you know, you'll feel better about it. I'm confident.
Jason: All right.
Ron: Or not. We'll see. So Jason, for those that may not know you or kind of know your background, what you've been doing in this industry, you've had a number of different roles and responsibilities. And you're currently a Director of Sales and Business Development now at LK & Associates here in South Florida. Do you mind taking my audience through a little bit of your background?
Jason: Sure. Like most of us, I was a hobbyist in consumer electronics and started out in retail, spent a lot of time on the car audio side. And shortly after college, I started working for manufacturers, started as a national sales trainer, audio control out in Seattle. Ended up over on this Coast working for JL Audio for over a decade and then merged into the CEDIA channel working for vendors such as Kaleidescape, Savant, AVID, and now at LK & Associates.
Ron: Got It. And with all of those, you mentioned a lot of major brands that everyone watching and listening has probably heard of. What, were some of your roles or responsibilities at those businesses?
Jason: Everything from being a sales trainer to director of sales. So I spent a lot of my time in sales and training and marketing and business development.
Ron: Got It. And you went to, I'm looking over here at your bio that we posted. Wow. So you've been in this industry, at least according to my notes here, 26 years. So what's your impressions of how things have been evolving?
Jason: They've changed, but honestly, I see things going back full circle.
Ron: Oh, please do tell more.
Jason: Well, when I started in retail, there was no internet. You know, people came to us to learn about technology. And nowadays I see it coming back that way. Even though there's so much information online, there's good information, there's bad information, in the end, customers have to come to us to really learn what's good, what's bad, what's gonna make sense. It's gotten more difficult. They had no choice but to come to us back in the day. But I see that coming full circle as we are the experts and we need to do better at educating these customers on why we're the experts.
Ron: Yeah. I just, I just had a guest on recently talking about lighting design and LED lighting and I got my start in this industry on the lighting side with Lutron and you know, so I agree with this full circle position in that lighting control I think has come full circle. You know, first you needed an integrator and you needed a control system and then there started to be more and more of these kind of do it yourself lighting control solutions out there. And now with the advent of LED lighting and the almost what seems infinite number of fixture types and now the fact that you have to have the right load type in the wall to control the right fixture type. And now there's dimming and there's color temperature selections and there's CRI performance out of the light. It's like, how would anyone have any clue what to do unless you come back to an integrator or someone that is a lighting expert and they guide you?
Jason: Yup. Absolutely.
Ron: I don't see how a consumer would have an alternative. Now, at LK, do you guys have, are you guys in the lighting business as well?
Jason: Yeah, we represent a company called APure, which is based out of Miami. There our Porsche Design Company, they're known for a very minimalist style LED fixture. And then we're also the Savant representative so we also represent USAI Lighting and we actually have a couple of different models on display at our showroom where we can show color temperature,, human centric lighting, WRGB, all DMX controlled.
Ron: Yeah, I know Savant has taken a strong position in this lighting conversation and they have a strong portfolio of solutions for their dealers.
Jason: Yeah, absolutely.
Ron: Now, can you tell our audience a little bit about LK? That's where you're at today and you're the Director of Sales and Biz Dev over there. I know I've worked with Seth and Lonnie, his dad, for years, but our audience may not know them. So can you talk about, tell them a little bit about that business?
Jason: Yeah. So right from that, you know, started back in the 80's. Actually, I might even go further back. Started in car audio. When Seth took the company over, he transitioned it to home electronics, you know, CEDIA channel rep firm. And what I think is unique about us is we tend to have products that solve problems for our dealers and they're usually products that are at the higher-end of the CEDIA channel. So we have, you know, automation brackets. We have home automation products, speakers. I mean, we run the gamut, but if somebody is looking for a solution, we kind of laughed yesterday at the CEDIA Tech X event because they did a CEU class on hidden technology. And pretty much every product shown on display was a brand that we represent. So we're very grateful for that. We have a lot of high-end brands. We also take a big interest in our dealers business by helping them with specifying and designing their projects with the products we have. We feel that's a really great service. In addition, we have samples of every single brand we represent. And on many occasions we're doing demonstrations at clients' houses to help our dealers close the sale.
Ron: What was this CEDIA Tech X event? I know I followed it on, I think I want to say LinkedIn and I think I saw Giles posting or I saw a picture of Giles maybe presenting a course to a room, but I'm not familiar with the event. What was that?
Jason: So this was their pilot event. What they're trying to do is work closer with the design build community. That's something that I believe in. I'm a certified CDO outreach instructor. We do those classes for our dealers as well at LK & associates. But they put this event on and they asked me to speak at it. So Giles and I actually taught three classes to offer CEU's to architects and designers and they made a big marketing push to get a lot of them in the local community and the West Palm area. Our turnout was pretty good. But the interaction was really good. Lots of questions about how to use our technology on their projects and there was even some integrators there that are CEDIA members that I think got some really good leads out of it.
Ron: For those integrators that are listening, what would you recommend as, maybe pointers or ways they could improve or modify their methods in order to do better business or have better interactions with architects? Are there any things that stand out?
Jason: Yeah, I mean if they have existing relationships, continuing education, you know, our industry moves fast. We have a hard time keeping up with the technology ourselves. Just imagine where they're at and the products we're offering, especially the high-end solutions. They're not aware that you can hide speakers, hide TV's, and do some of the really cool things that we can do. I know if you presented them to their clients, they would buy them. So continuing with education, and again we offer this as CEDIA outreach instructors. We have two on staff, myself, my wife, Vanessa Sayen, who is also a CEDIA outreach instructor. And that's a big benefit. You can use it as a tool, as an integrator to actually find new architects and designers by offering a lunch and learn and some education credits.
Ron: And so did I hear that you say that you work with your wife at LK?
Jason: I do. I do work with my wife.
Ron: Do you have any pointers for those that work with their spouse and in business. It sounds like it's going well for you. Are there any secrets to that success?
Jason: I think you've got to have the right partner. We've never had a problem working together. We don't work in the same office all the time and that probably helps.
Ron: Does she, does she report to you or you report to her?
Jason: No, neither. We don't report to each other. We work together. She does all of our marketing and project specification with the dealers.
Ron: Okay. All right, well then I'll take that as the tip, then. Don't be responsible for each other. You can work in the same business but not, not too closely.
Ron: That's pretty funny. Now I've seen you, Jason, I've seen you've had a number of speaking engagements in the industry. I want to say the one that's most maybe recent for me where you and I actually, I was leaving the stage and you were entering the stage, I want to say, was at the Pro Source Power event. And I'm trying to remember, we're in so many different cities. So that was in San Antonio back in the Spring. And you were out there talking about Six Sigma. Can you give kinda your perspective, what is that and then maybe the nickel tour of what does that mean for an integrator?
Jason: Sure. Six Sigma has been around for a long time. It's used at a lot of large corporations like Motorola and GE. What I focused on was Lean Six Sigma. It's really just a methodology to remove waste in a process.
Ron: Okay. And what does that mean for an integrator? How do they remove waste in their process?
Jason: Well, first they have to have the processes documented. You know, when I was at there --
Ron: There's the breakdown.
Jason: Yes, I meet with a lot of integrators and they say, how does this happen? How do you take a project from start to finish? Like where is it all written at? And they usually just, it's all up here. And that's the first scary part. You know, when we look at a possible economic change coming, I hate to say the word, I don't believe it's coming.
Ron: Don't say the R word! Don't do it.
Jason: When you look at, you know, something's gonna change, right? If you have that all stored up there, it's gonna make it very hard for you to really fight through that and be efficient. So the first step is writing down your processes and then once you write them down, you can actually analyze them to see what's wasteful. And it's amazing cause a lot of business owners don't really understand how things get done in their own business.
Ron: So do you find that you go into businesses, you're probably in integration shops every day of the week, I would imagine. Do you find that you go in and talk about, these ideas and then have your customers, your integrators break down their processes? I mean, I fully agree it's the right thing to do. We live by it here at One Firefly for sure. But do you get pushed back and, or how well is that message received?
Jason: You know, it's 50/50. There's people that agree with me.
Ron: Do you get thrown out of the office at all ever?
Jason: No, I think most people believe it in concept, but it's tough to implement, right? It takes a lot of time to just take a step back from your business. There's a lot of things happening. You know, most people feel if they stop being in the business, the business is gonna fall apart and that's actually a sign that they really need to work on it. They can't step aside to work on some things, that's really bad. Almost everybody agrees, it's just there's only a select group that say, you know, I want to do something about this and I'm going to take those steps and document my business process.
Ron: So after you have documented your process, we call them SOP, Standard Operating Procedures, or that's a common term anyway. What do you do next? How do you Six Sigma-fy it?
Jason: Well, so the key is not just having, you know, in your business you writing the processes out because you're in a position where you see how it's done, but then working with people who are involved. So every person that's part of that process has to document what they do from, I pick up the phone, I make a call and then I send an email. That's where you find the inefficiencies. When I was doing my certification for six sigma, I had to do a project with a company where literally there was a person that one step of the process was printing a sales order, placing it in a folder which would sit there until somebody picked it up. I mean, think of how inefficient that is. Most business owners sitting in the position they're, and don't believe that stuff happens in their business. But once you start to get into the process and get the people involved who actually do the work, you find all kinds of inefficiencies that can be easily fixed.
Ron: Got It. And I want to talk to our audience here. We've got a growing audience by the minute. So if you're out there, if you're watching and listening, thank you. Definitely stop in and go to the comment section and say Hello. Maybe tell us where you're coming from and if you have any questions for Jason, type those in. And I will do my best to put it up on the screen and to read it live with him. And make sure you give us those really hard questions. Those Jason stumper questions, too. We'll watch him. Maybe sweat. I don't think Jason sweats, but let's try. Let's try to make him sweat. Just just joking. Jason, are you teaching this course or this content at CEDIA and CEDIA is right around the corner here.
Jason: Yes I am. So it's a, it's a core slash/workshop. It's an hour and a half. So the title is called Save Money, Make More Profit: Satisfy More Customers Through Process Improvement. It's Tuesday, September 10th at 10:30 AM. So I'm going to do pretty much the presentation I did at Pro Source, which was about an hour. But then we're going to have 30 minutes of actual workshop where willing participants are willing to put their processes up on the whiteboard. We'll document them and you know, try to live, create some efficiencies and get them down the right path.
Ron: Now I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable and don't say anything that you aren't allowed to say, but can you give maybe an example of where you have implemented a process improvement at your current workplace? Something maybe that you identified and you saw that it was documented or you documented it and then how perhaps you refined it.
Jason: Sure. Well that first step of actually documented in everything. So last year at LK, we had phenomenal growth as a company. We picked up some really good lines, but we wanted to figure out how can we take this a step further. And the first step was actually documenting them. So we did a company meeting towards the end of the year and everybody within the company wrote down, you know, their punch list of items that they're responsible for on a daily basis. And it was amazing. We actually saw that multiple people were kind of doing the same thing and we did it because we want to take care of our customers and our manufacturers, but we realized there was a lot of waste in that. So then we just kind of more clearly defined everybody's goals and got everything written out and that's, that was really the first step. And it's been working well for us.
Ron: Awesome. I want to throw up on a screen here. Tomas Wing is coming to us from Panama and he says "Saludos from Panama", I think Saludos, I don't speak Spanish. I think that means hello, right?
Jason: Hola, Tomas. Yes. It's like salute. Like, I know a little bit of Spanish.
Ron: Yeah. I can speak a little bit of Spanish, but I didn't know that word. Of course everyone's laughing at me now. Hey Man, language is not one of my skills. We all have different super powers. That's not one of mine. There we go. I'll take it back off the screen. Are you teaching any other courses or what else are you doing at CEDIA?
Jason: That's really the only course I'm teaching. You know, everything else will be kind of the, the rep responsibilities. So it looks so far we have a pretty good turnout of integrators from Florida coming. And we've got a lot of great products from our vendors that we're excited to show them.
Ron: I'm gonna make an assumption here. And by the way, Thomas just says, correct. So he's telling you you're right and I'm wrong. So just put that out there. Hey, Tomas. Good. Thank you for participating. There we go. Just want to make sure I get my technology working here. At CEDIA, what else are you interested or what are you curious to see with the big event here right around the corner.
Jason: You know, that's tough. I don't think there's any groundbreaking technology that is on the cusp for me nowadays, that stuff gets rolled out all the time. It's not, you know, waiting for the big show. I mean, we have a lot of vendor partners that are coming out with some really cool new solutions. I'm interested more to find out the business side of things and in the climate of the business that's out there to find out, you know if dealers are busy, what are they busy working on? How's their pipeline? Just really understanding what's going on within our channel. From the business side.
Ron: I mean, we have to assume if the dirty R word happened, there will be less work. It's just how do you make your dealers, there's still plenty of work. How do you make your dealers better positioned to win more of that work so they don't see a downturn? Just if there's a recession, your dealers don't have to be on the receiving end of that if they're better.
Ron: Do you believe that and if so, you know, how do you guys practice that or kind of what are some of your thoughts around how to position your dealers to succeed? You know, regardless of the economic climate?
Jason: Well, I kind of preached the principles of Six Sigma from the standpoint of being more efficient. If you're more efficient, you're not overstaffed, right? You can repurpose people for other areas. During the last recession, I worked for a company that, you know, we experienced some layoffs and the common thread was you're going to have to do more with less people. Well, if you're efficient, you can do more with less people without having to get rid of people. I think it comes down to being efficient. It doesn't matter if there is a recession, our industry is mature, and as our industry matures, profit margins begin to shrink. To me it's almost the same thing. You're making less money one way or another. The only way to combat that is to be more efficient with your business.
Ron: What is your observation? You know, you're in the south, are you in the entire state, Jason or you just South Florida?
Jason: I spend most of my time in south Florida, but I do have responsibilities covering the entire state
Ron: And South Florida is one of the hot markets, one of the bigger technology markets in the country. Would you agree, maybe top three, top five perhaps?
Jason: Yup, I would agree.
Ron: Do you feel that this is a different economy sheltered in any way from what might happen to other parts of the country or do you not know and thus the reason you're looking forward to pulling your integrators?
Jason: I mean, I think it's different in the fact that we always get large sums of money coming from different areas. You know, we had an influx from Latin America and Russia over the last boom and that's all starting to dry up. But there's still people coming here to build houses. There was an article I read recently on how much people save in taxes by claiming this as their, you know, their main living area. So that draws people from all over. So because of that we are kind of unique to other markets. But yeah, I'm curious to figure out what's going on though. I mean our integrators are busy. Some are busier than normal. Some large accounts are actually down a little, which is alarming. But you know, I don't know if that's a function of the economy or a function of they just been doing the same thing for too long and they need to reinvent themselves. So that's what I'm looking to find out.
Ron: I have a perception, I don't know if it's accurate, so I'm curious to get your read on it. That after the last big recession right away after '08, so maybe '09 and '10 were the the hardest years, '09, '10, maybe a little bit of '11. A lot of integrators downsized considerably and they have a perception that they then from that point have run with leaner teams, maybe done a similar amount of work that they did previously. Certainly in the last three years that have been very, very good I think for most of North America. Do you feel that they maybe are doing more with less right now across the board or do you think it's maybe better business operators are running that way and others are maybe running a little overstaffed?
Jason: I think you have 20% that have improved their processes and use software that's out there to better run their businesses. I think a lot of them are still running lean. I see at least down in this market, but I think it's happening elsewhere is a trend in hiring sub-contractors. You know, do your pre wires, your cameras, all the basic things is in using some contractors. So you still have your core operations, sales team and MI technicians, but subbing out the rest. And it's amazing. I mean, I see guys that I know they're not really competitors, but they literally run the same type of integration firm. And I've seen guys at other places building racks for that dealer. So that's the trend that I've seen. They are doing more with less, but they're just subbing a lot of that out. There are a few that might be overstaffed, but I think a lot of them are running lean.
Ron: So whether it's in a good economy or a challenged economy, partnering with the design community, architects, designers, builders, other trade partners strikes me as probably a really good idea for a contracting type business, like a design-build integrator. Would you agree that's generally a good practice or a good good method for business, this development?
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, what we've also seen to trend on is dealers getting plans thrown at them from a GC or contractor and says quote this out and they're forced to quote almost by price because nobody's able to have this discussion with the end user of what's available. So partnering with those design-build communities to me allows you to get in front of the project sooner so you can have those smart conversations and if they're a good experience, obviously they're going to use you again.
Ron: So what are your recommendations? Someone listening doesn't know how to do that. They agree with you that Jason, this sounds like a wonderful idea. You're out there, Jason speaking with Giles, you know, a Senior Executive from CEDIA to this community. If they want to benefit from that, what is some advice? What are some immediate actionable next steps they could take to say, change their trajectory of their relationship with the design community over the, say the next year?
Jason: Yeah, I think they've got to create a plan and that's something that we would be willing to help our dealers with this, create a plan to attack that community. I would also, as an integrator, I would go to CEDIA coming up and do the trainer class, become a Certified Outreach Instructor. It's very inexpensive to join AIA and ASID. You get access to the entire member directory. You get invited to their social events and that's the best way to forge those partnerships. But certainly an integrator could reach out to LK & Associates and we'd be willing to help them with that as well.
Ron: Got It. Now I'm going to jump topics, you guys are the Savant folks here in South Florida. And again, I want to make sure I'm accurately stating that for Savant, you're the entire state of Florida or you're part of Florida?
Jason: We are rep from has the entire state of Florida for Savant.
Ron: Okay. So for Savant, I know they have cut their, they've been talking about more and more their energy products. I'd love to hear from you what can you talk about? What is this energy product and what integrators should be paying attention to?
Jason: Yes, sure. So the energy products from Racepoint Energy that's a side company that Bob Madonna founded a couple years ago. And the way I describe it is it's an automation system for your sustainable energy or renewable energy product. So again, in automation, right, we put in a Savant system because we want to control audio, video, lighting, shades, all these independent systems, Racepoint Energy manages all the different power sources. So the grid, solar, wind, whatever's generating power generator, and then manage it through a storage system. And the unique part is basically the client can do everything from take their house off the grid or just have their house mitigate the grid because we all know the grid infrastructure is very weak and we have brownouts and surges. So it's a really cool system that allows a client to do a couple of different things. It's not a return on investment at this point. It's more of a luxury feature for high-end residents. But the technology's down-scaling where very soon it's going to be a return on investment opportunity and we're quoting lots of projects in the state of Florida with that solution.
Ron: It is, and you may or may not know this, Jason, we haven't talked about this in advance, but I know at CEDIA, well, I'm trying to, I don't know how much that I know the world knows and I'm allowed to talk about, but I know that there's other energy companies that Savant is actually forging relationships with that are going to be, you know, they're friendlies. One might from the outside look at them and say, Hey, there are two competitors, but actually there's really neat ways to collaborate and put both types of technologies into projects. And in fact, Savant is having some of these folks I believe in their booth at CEDIA. So it's not just Savant, but Savant creating an ecosystem of a more, you know, eco-friendly, eco-forward homes. Is that message worked its way down to the field, to the rep firms and down to the dealers? Or is that more of kind of news that's coming out here down the road or partly at CEDIA?
Jason: News coming out down the road? It's nothing I'm aware of, but it's not surprising. You know, their solution right now, their core product is the companion modules, which are essentially breakers that go in and are able to monitor your loads in addition to the overlay and software that really does all the magic. The solar panels, the battery storage, all the other hardware is products that they've procured and outsourced. So it makes sense to partner with other brands in our channel that are able to supply those types of solutions, which is just going to make it a better option.
Ron: I was really impressed when I started to get some whispers about this because one might think, you know, Savant certainly could say there's my products, my ecosystem, my hardware, and or they could say this is a thing our industry should be embracing and we're going to play friendly and open API's and we're going to communicate. And the very little that I know, it sounds like they're more towards the latter side of that equation. At least so far, which I think is pretty cool. We did have Mr. Joe Whitaker just jump in. He said he loves hearing about this. So, thank you, Joe. Thanks for watching and listening as always. And Joe, your new website's live and you're about to have a new new website, which is even more exciting. So look forward to seeing you here in a couple of weeks at the show. So, Jason, what else is top of mind? What else in terms of what's going on at the dealer level? Either that dealers need to be mindful of or that you think there's things that you could recommend that they investigate - any of those topics are top of mind?
Jason: I would just like to see, not just dealers, everyone in our industry, but at the dealer level, some education of taking advantage of the education opportunities to present them. You know, fortunately and unfortunately dealers come to us as a resource for help where they have a project and they need us to help specify and design it. But sometimes it goes a little too far where I think they're not spending enough time educating themselves on the product. And we're doing our industry a disservice if we're experimental with a product for the first time in a client's home. Now that being said, new brand of speakers and things, that's all well and good. But some of the projects and products we represent, you know, dealers just aren't educating themselves and they're waiting until they get that client and they're waiting until that client's install happens. And that's where we hear the horror stories of where people have really bad experiences. And you know, it's really frustrating when someone comes to me and says, Hey, I need a quote for this stuff. Oh, but they're putting in this brand, this brand and this brand because they just want to have a few apps because of a bad experience. That's where we start to lose our customers and their possible referrals.
Ron: Makes sense. I'm gonna ask you about something that's all over the news and it's consistently being written about. So I'd love your perspective as a leader here in the South Florida market or in the Florida market and that is obviously Snap AV acquired Control4. I was actually just reading an article I think on Residential Systems where Anthony Puma, a strong Crestron advocate, was talking about it being very interesting how he had previously never considered the Control4 brand, but he has such high regard for SnapAV that even that made it interesting to him. I'm wondering what's your observations? What are your thoughts?
Jason: Well, I mean I think it's good for the industry. Companies need to be efficient. I like to see manufacturers that make a great product and are easy to do business with. That's really the two biggest things that we as reps and dealers want from them. And if that's what this produces out of it, that's great. You know, there's a lot of dealers that have concerns they're going to lose their identity because now anyone that's a part of that conglomerate has access to the same stuff. Right.
Ron: I don't think that's how it works, by the way. The little I know about that. I think that that's a strong perception.
Jason: Yeah, I would agree.
Ron: But at least as of right now, what I understand to be the case is all of the rules and regulations about onboarding to be a C4 dealer are still in place. So it's not automatic.
Jason: Yeah. That's just the fear that's out there. That's the chatter.
Ron: That's the chatter, I agree.
Jason: But even with that being said, I think it's up to the dealer to create their own uniqueness andtheir own branding. Cause at the end of the day, all integrators can access products. You know, the protected distribution of the past doesn't exist like it used to be. So I think they shouldn't think with their emotions and do what's best for their business.
Ron: You said the word distribution. I'm curious how you guys at LK manage this and I'll say distribution. So you have different brands that have different rules of engagement for who's allowed to sell the product. Maybe numbers of dealers or the amount of penetration in a marketplace. What's your belief system, Jason, in terms of,if a new dealer comes knocking and wants to buy, I'm going to say the easy one, say Savant. How do you evaluate whether you say yes or no to them?
Jason: I mean, we have a list of qualification questions. You know, there's the dollar volume commitment that every vendor has. But we also like to ask their experience level, you know, what other systems have they used? Are you asking because you have a client asking for it, you know, that's usually a common one, which means they're stealing it from another integrator. So that gets a little tricky. But we have a series of questions we use to kind of vet and prospect them to make sure it makes sense. And I'm always honest to say, listen, there's a lot of work involved in this. You know, I wanna make sure we're both got skin in the game to make sure it makes sense for everybody. There's a lot of work involved with bringing the dealer onboard, especially with automation, a lot of training. It's, I mean, you know, Ron, you worked for Crestron, it's any automation system, there's a lot of work in bringing dealers from zero to fully fledged programming place.
Ron: Yeah. And every brand is not right for every, every business and you're in the hot seat to try to evaluate that, you and your staff are in the hot seat to try to evaluate that. I actually can name a few people, I left Crestron in 2007. Okay. It's 12 years ago. I still have people that have grudges against me personally cause I didn't put them on with the Crestron brand. It's fascinating how pissed off people can get if you don't give them that line or whatever the line is, whatever it is that they want. You and your team, you're always in a tough position to make that right call or what's best ultimately for the brands you represent?
Jason: Yeah. Well, I work for Savant, so I have guys that I had to terminate and suspend, and now I'm back working for them through a rep firm and have had to face those guys. But with many of them we've had some good conversations. It's business, it's not personal. And you know, if they don't meet the requirements,
Ron: Shawn's Stermer with URC he just jumped in, he says, you can say that again. So talking about the decisions of who represents who. That's funny. Jason, if you don't mind, I'd like to close and kinda, obviously we are a marketing agency, I don't make these shows about marketing, but rather about the state of the industry and about you, my guest and your perspectives. What is your perspective regarding your customers that you call on the state of Florida and you and your staff and you know, what is the state of your market's marketing? Are they using marketing in any way? And if so, what are the things that are maybe being done well and the things that are not being done well?
Jason: I do see the shift towards social media. So a lot of lot of dealers are going to LinkedIn and I'm seeing an uptick in Instagram, which I need to get more involved in.
Ron: Gotta get on the 'gram.
Jason: Gotta get on the 'gram. I do see a decrease in websites as far as how they're utilizing them. And it's frustrating when someone sends me an inquiry to pick up a brand and they have a website link in their signature and it goes to a GoDaddy domain, not found link. So if you're going to do it, do it right.
Ron: You just can forward those, Jason, over to Sales at One Firefly, we'll fix them right up. Don't you worry about that.
Jason: Yeah. I think people relaxed on their website development, but I think it's still equally important. It's all part of your infrastructure. But social media has been definitely the big friend of marketing. I think people should focus more on newsletters. You know, curated content. That's one of the things I talk about. If someone's trying to reach out to architects and designers, create some curated content for them to show showcase installations and solutions. There's a few newsletters I belong to in the business world that couple of years ago I wouldn't have signed up for. But I think people are really starting to use that as another type of marketing that's better than the web.
Ron: Yeah. As much as we all want to hate on email, and I'm going to say myself included only because of the number apparently of shit list I am on out there in the universe and how many random emails I get on a daily basis despite sending them all the junk and unsubscribing. It's mind-bending. As a marketing agency and as digital marketers, I mean, we study all the best practices and what's happening and email is still one of the best ways to stay in front of your customer. Despite all of these other techniques and new fangled strategies. I mean, email is, so I'm agreeing with you entirely. Email is still a very, very powerful strategy that if your listening and or if you guys are talking to your customers, Jason, if you and your staff, I mean, so few integrators are even staying in touch with their customers. They've done business with lot of these people that have trusted them with large sums of money and access to their homes and yet the integrators so often never stay in touch. It's missed opportunity.
Ron: We have Stephanie, she just says, yes, curated content is so important. I agree, Stephanie. 100%.
Jason: Yeah. The class that you taught at Pro Source was really good. I mean, I've been in involved in marketing in some way, shape, or form throughout my career. But you had a couple of slides that really simplified why it makes sense to have all these different social media accounts combined with your website because people don't realize, sometimes they forget. Like even when I'm shopping for something, if you see it here, you see it there and then you get an email about it, you're more likely to respond to it. And you'd have to have all those different touch points.
Ron: Yeah, it is music to my ears when I talk to an integrator or let's say they see us at CEDIA, which you know, we'll be at here in a few weeks and they'll talk to a member of my staff and they say something to the effect that, you know, "You guys are everywhere!" We're not everywhere. We're not even most places. We're only in a very few places. They're just very strategic. So that ultimately, you know, that customer, which for me is integrators, feels that they are aware we're present and we're in the marketplace. Same goes for any business, any integrator. You just got to have the right instruments in place so that your target customer and or referral source, like you know, builders, architects, designers, other trades, know your name, know your brand. And that's instrumental. I've got to give Joe, which is an integrator by the way, out of the Midwest. Do you know Joe Whitaker, Jason?
Jason: You know, we've probably exchanged messages and things. I don't know if we've ever formally met in person.
Ron: Alright, well Joe, you've got to meet Jason, Jason, Joe, and here's Joe. He says for those, I just had to throw this up. This is very self serving. Joe, I'll give you 20 bucks later because, "For those watching get with Ron about Mercury Pro! Prepare to have your mind blown!" I agree Joe. I think it's pretty exciting. Let me pull that off the screen. Let's see here if there's any more comments. Well, we did have one more. Looks like this is actually from a member of our staff. This person says, I agree with your specific active on continuing education. It's such a vital aspect in our growing industry and that is, Stephanie. Jason, what is the best way for our audience to stay in touch with you or to get in touch with you?
Jason: That is correct.
Ron: Awesome. So if you want to get in touch with Jason, talk about Six Sigma, talk about Savant or I don't know, talk about fishing on the weekend. Fishing in Florida is pretty great by the way.
Jason: It is.
Ron: Definitely reach out to him. Jason, it was a pleasure to have you on Automation Unplugged.
Jason: Yeah, thanks for having me, Ron. Look forward to seeing you in Denver.
Ron: No, absolutely. And it looks like you are, this is episode 85 if I'm reading it correct. So there you go. Thanks for being on episode 85.
Jason: No problem. Thanks for having me.
Ron: Awesome. Thank you sir. So guys, there you have it. You have show #85. You got to meet Jason, a rock star in our industry. I was just reading his bio and he was just recently recognized as a DealerScope Magazine, 40 under 40.
Ron: So definitely one of the thought leaders that's moving and shaking here in our space. And what's exciting for this show, aside from the fact that I've got lots of moving and CEDIA and all sorts of gyrations going on, for me personally, we're actually, we have guests booked out for the next two months. So lots of awesome guests. If you absolutely want to see somebody on the show, get in contact with me, send me a message, shoot me a text and I'd love to hear from you. But otherwise, until next time, thanks for tuning in and we'll talk to you soon. Thanks everybody, be well!
As Director of Sales and Business Development for LK & Associates, representing over 20 of the top brands of residential consumer electronics ranging in categories of automation, motorization, energy management, audio, shading and lighting control, Jason is an expert on the state of the industry and any issues dealers may face.
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.