Home Automation Podcast Episode #95: An Industry Q&A With Miranda Grantham and Marc Fisher
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Miranda Grantham and Marc Fisher of Origin Acoustics share the philosophy around investing in yourself, your business, and our industry.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Miranda Grantham and Marc Fisher. Recorded live on Friday January 24th at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Miranda Grantham and Marc Fisher
Miranda has been with Origin Acoustics as their National Sales Manager for three years and quickly climbed to her National Sales Manager by age 24. Miranda started in the AV Industry with Metra Electronics at age 22 as a West Coast Regional. She was elected Top 40 under 40 at age 26 and recently elected as one of the most powerful women on the rise in consumer technology.
Marc is a consumer electronics veteran and joined Origin Acoustics four years ago. Marc has been titled Salesman of the Year twice in a row and was twice named one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the industry’s leading trade publication. Now, President of Sales, Marc continues to set the standard for sales professionalism and endeavors to share those skills with an entirely new generation of salespeople who are following in his footsteps.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Miranda Grantham and Marc Fisher:
- The importance of a strong company culture
- The philosophy around investing in yourself, your business, and our industry
- Insight on what training and coaching looks like for Origin dealers
- The advantage of joining a buying group like ProSource
Ron: Hello everybody! Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. This is episode 95. Today is Friday, January 24th. It's a little bit after 12:30. I'm coming to you on a strange day. Normally, Automation Unplugged coming to you on a Wednesday. With my travel schedule and my guest's travel schedule, this is what works best for all parties. I was super excited to get a "Yes" from Miranda and Marc from Origin Acoustics. This is an even more special show because this is my first time having two guests on Automation Unplugged. What else has been going on in my life here at One Firefly? A couple of really neat things happened. Last week we did our all-staff meeting. I flew the whole team, 40 folks up to New York City and we spent three days in the city stomping around visiting some different vendors and doing some various team-building activities. It was a tremendous amount of fun and excitement.
Super jazzed about launching into 2020 and beyond. I can promise all of you guys that are listening and are One Firefly customers, we have a lot of neat stuff in store for you. What else? I went from Florida to New York, New York over to Vegas and I was at the Savant Integrator Summit on Monday and Tuesday. It's just so much fun when I get to go to an event and spend time with, I think I personally knew about 50-75% of the people in the building that was at that event. That was just a tremendous amount of fun. I brought Josh out there and the two of us had a good couple of days, but I'm back here in Florida. I'm back here with you guys. Let me just jump over to Facebook to make sure our stream is going live and it looks good. Let's go ahead and bring in our two guests. Marc and Miranda, how's it going guys?
Marc: What's going on?
Ron: Another day in paradise! Marc, you're up in Pennsylvania, right?
Marc: Right outside Philadelphia.
Ron: Down here in Florida, you've probably seen it on Facebook, the headlines are that when it gets cold in South Florida, iguanas fall out of the trees. There were literally warnings from the Weather Channel, "Watch for falling iguanas!" That's a real thing. Like they're not dead, they just get so cold that they can't move and hold themselves on the tree so they fall off.
Marc: Oh. Another fear of living in Florida is falling iguanas!
Ron: I want to go to both of you and we're gonna play this by ear in terms of how to make sure that I balance hearing from both of you. I know that both of you have so much to share with our audience. Let's start with you, Marc. Where are you coming to us from? What's your role in the universe at Origin and even let's talk about a little bit about your background, where you came from?
Marc: Yeah, absolutely. I've been in the business for 20 years. Just kind of being a part of this awesome world of music, right? I started in the business back in 2000 before that, I was a DJ spinning records at the local nightclubs and keeping myself busy. It's been a lot of fun. I've had a blast meeting new people and travel the world and saving people from bad audio. About five years ago, I joined up with Jeremy Burkhardt and Nick Berry, Ed Haase, Ken Humphries, and a crew of great people to help the sales division of our organization to be the number one architectural speaker brand on the market.
Today I'm President of Sales. It's an absolute blast and I really love it. I get to work with awesome people like Miranda who came on with us. What are you three years in now?
Miranda: Three years, yeah.
Ron: All right, well let's jump over to Miranda. What is your role at Origin? And then if you don't mind, I was just actually talking to you before we went live about your origin -- like that pun? You went right from college into the industry. Tell our audience about yourself.
Miranda: Well, I have been in this industry for seven, eight years. I did start when I was still in college. I was 22 at the time and worked for a company called Metro Electronics in Daytona Beach, Florida. I didn't even know what HDMI stood for, had no idea what I was getting myself into and joining this industry but I quickly fell in love with it, fell in love with the people and technology. Lots of fun, constantly changing.
Three years ago I joined Origin Acoustics. I'm currently the National Sales Manager for Origin, which really just means I do whatever needs to be done to help out Marc a lot, just sell it speakers and having a lot of fun doing it.
Ron: I know you went to school in Orlando. I live about three hours south down in Fort Lauderdale. What did you end up studying in school? Was there any correlation between what you studied and kind of what you're doing now?
Miranda: Not at all. I was in college for medical office management and I have absolutely nothing to do with the medical field now. I think I chose the right career path for me, it's been a really fun seven or eight years.
Ron: That's also myself. I studied engineering and that has very little to do with running a marketing agency these days. So I totally understand studying one thing and then choosing a different path. I'm curious, Marc, what did you go to college? Did you study something? And did it have anything to do with this business?
Marc: I did go to college, but my college days were really spent around strictly learning how to open Milwaukee's Beast and drink it.
Ron: I was a pro! I got an A+ in that as well!
Marc: I didn't attend a single class. The only time I attended a class in college was when I was with a friend. I went to about three different colleges, none of which I ever paid for. I just kind of went and helped them through their difficult evenings of partying and making sure they had breakfast in the morning. That was about the extent of my college career.
Ron: Holy moly.
Marc: When I graduated high school, my dad had about $5,000 for me and said, "Well, do you want a truck or do you want to go to college?" And I took my dad's advice and took the truck.
Ron: Hey man, I went, when I got married in 2003, I gave my wife the choice. I said, "I can buy you a house or we can have a wedding." And she said, "I'll take the house!"
Marc: So you didn't get married, right?
Ron: No, I got married but she got the house. There's no pomp and circumstance at the wedding. Miranda, I'd love to know like what a day in the life of Miranda looks like? By the way, you and I have not engaged or interacted much over the years, but I can tell you I've been hearing such amazing things about you. You're obviously making an impression on people out there.
Aside from doing whatever it takes, what is a normal day or week or month for Miranda look like?
Miranda: Well that's kind of an interesting question. I was based in the East Coast and I worked from home but traveled a lot, kind of doing the East Coast Regional thing and also managing the rep firms and anything else sales-oriented that needed to be done. However, I have recently moved to Las Vegas to be at the corporate office. I am two weeks into living here in Vegas at our facility. Now I go into the office every day.
Ron: You don't live at the facility though, right? Did they set up a cot for you in the backroom or do you go home on occasion?
Miranda: You know, I'm here enough that I probably should have a cot and a toothbrush here. I go into the office every day and it's interesting, Origin is growing very rapidly and we are now up to almost 40 employees in five years in. We've had impressive growth every year and as we grow, we've had to add additional layers of Salesforce into our organization.
We've recently added an inside sales team and I'm here to kind of coach and grow that inside sales teams so that we can be even more dynamic than we already are and continue to grow and make sure that we have genuine relationships with all of our dealers.
Ron: What is your vision for the inside sales team that you're going to be growing their Origin? How will that benefit the dealer or how would they ultimately, when that's fully implemented, what will that look like?
"The idea is to continue to break down the country into different regions, smaller regions, to have more dealers that have that one on one contact with an individual inside salesperson in addition to the regional center out in the field."
Miranda: Well, we have three inside salespeople now. The idea is to continue to break down the country into different regions, smaller regions, to have more dealers that have that one on one contact with an individual inside salesperson in addition to the regional center out in the field.
Growing that and developing that is obviously very important and the reason that that is important is Origin is known for having that customer relationship with all of our dealers and also being very genuine and our customer services are, I may be a little biased, but the best in the industry. We want to continue to make sure that we have that same development with all of the dealers that come onboard with Origin.
Ron: Got it. That makes sense. And Marc, did you want to add anything to that in terms of Miranda's role in your vision of how this plays out?
Marc: Well, I mean I think she nailed it right there. I really can't add to someone as awesome as she is. We brought Miranda and she was one of our first add-ons. Since she's been added, we've added nothing but talented people. As Miranda mentioned, we have 40 people and all 40 people all have a special talent. One of the things that we do, which is much different than a lot of people that I've met in the industry, is every single person in our company is empowered to make a decision for the best interest of our customers and clients. That's something different than what a lot of other companies do.
You can ask the people that we work with, we're there to make their lives awesome. This is supposed to be fun and easy. We're not selling cars and toasters, we're selling something that people want and it's great to be part of it.
Ron: Well what's an example that really ties into this concept of culture? What you just described there, is the culture at Origin where your team is empowered, but can bring that down to the ground level of what happens?
Marc: My wife once said to me, actually, I think she said it to you Miranda, she said, "You guys are like a cult." And Miranda finished that sentence by saying, "No, we have culture." It is a mixture of those two words. I think what it really boils down to and the way that I look at it is, it's like being in high school and you find a group of people that you love to hang out with. You hang out with them and you see them during the lunch breaks and you see him at recess and you see him after school. If you remember being a teenager, there wasn't a lot going on in your life back then, right? I mean, it was what outfit you're gonna wear and how you're going to comb your hair.
Today, we still sort of have that. We have a group of people that were like in high school with, and it really is that simple. They've become our friends and our family. We vacation with them and we have dinners together and we bring them into our lives and they bring us into their lives. I think that's what really has made our company so strong and our people so strong, is the one-on-one relationships we have with every customer and client that we do business with. I'm heading out next week with 25 friends of mine to go snowboarding in the Hills of Breckinridge and all 25 of them happened to be in the business. It's not a paid trip, it's not a freebie, you didn't have to do it. It's just a bunch of people that are getting together to enjoy life. And that's the best part about it.
Ron: I'd love to hear from both of you on this, and I'm going to go back into some of my memory banks, I don't even remember the year. I think it was before both of you were at Origin. It really goes back to Jeremy and this concept of helping integrators improve themselves and improve their business processes and practices. I think it's okay to say back when Jeremy was at Speakercraft and I remember the way that Speakercraft would show up at the CEDIA trade shows. I remember one year where the entire booth was just about business improvement. There was very little focus on the products and I've seen you, Marc, in action at events all over the country.
I know you guys are very heavily involved in ProSource and ProSource activities. What is your position as a speaker manufacturer? I don't even know if that's how you see yourselves, feel free to correct me. In helping these technology contracting businesses ultimately have a better culture or have a better run organization - is that part of what Origin believes is important or is that what Marc and Miranda do? Can you provide a little bit of color to that?
Marc: Absolutely. I think one of the things that we do is we teach. If you go back and you look at Jeremy Burkhardt, the Chairman of the Board, the guy who started everything here 20 years ago, he was coming into the business doing things completely differently than anybody else without a doubt. He was the one that created different cultures for different companies and the way he did that was by teaching other companies, not how to sell or install speakers, but how to be a better business and how to be a better culture and to have more fun. He taught that.
I travel around and I see dealers today that still have laminated cards in their desks of something he sent them 20 years ago. And that's remarkable to have that type of vision 20 years ago and still today, we're following that exact same vision. Miranda can speak on the gigs, she was heavily involved in them.
Ron: I'd love to hear your perspective on that Miranda.
Miranda: It's interesting to Marc's point, we travel all over the country all the time and we see many different dealers and sometimes when you go to a particular area, you see different things that dealers are doing that is very impactful or powerful for their business that's kind of out of the box.
One of the cool things that Marc and I get to do and the entire team at Origin is we get to talk to other dealers and share different things with them to allow them to grow and expand. If we'd go to a dealer down in Dallas, he's very focused on his business and his particular market and maybe something that we experienced in Seattle will apply and help him. One of the things that we do at Origin is last year we had eight or nine different gigs where we brought in 40 to 50 dealers per event And we talked business.
We did round tables on how we can help grow and expand their business, whether it's an employee or helping employees climb the ladder to be better or bigger within the organization, not just Origin related but really business-related.
Ron: What are the forums where you interact? I know you guys are involved in the buying group ProSource. Do you do this sort of training and coaching with your dealers at your sales training? Educate me and the audience, how do you bring your dealers up to speed? Are you bringing them to Vegas or are you doing that at, ProSource events? And when are you guys engaging in these sorts of discussions, these workshop type environments?
Miranda: A lot of that happens here in Vegas at our gig. We bring groups in for about two days and they have an opportunity to sit down and break bread with us. We have two dinners and we have that opportunity to speak to them and to learn more about their business.
A lot of our interaction comes from ProSource in the buying group meetings and also bringing them here to Vegas. Really any platform that we can get, I mean Marc can talk to you about how many weeks he spends on the road, he has dealer events all the time and he has the ability to go into a market where you might have 10 or 12 competitive dealers and he can get all of them to sit down and have a meal together and talk business. It's pretty incredible.
Ron: Marc, can you provide some big picture - why should a company or should they be involved in a buying group? Whether it's ProSource or A, B, C, D, is that something they should do and why?
Marc: That's a great question. I was with a dealer yesterday out of the Seattle market. And he said that he does about a million and a half a year and shared some of the brands with me that he was selling. I asked him if he was in a buying group, and he said, "No, I'm not interested in buying through distribution." And I said, "No, no, no, the buying group isn't really like that."
I think that one of the problems is that if you look at the buying groups between ProSource being the largest out there, Azione, HTSA - also very good groups. Those three groups represent only about 900 dealers in the country and there are 15,000+ dealers out there. I think one of the issues is in the education of the groups out there is not as big as it could be. The advantage of being inside of a buying group is not only the fact that you do get the purchase products at better pricing. That is one of the perks and benefits of it. You do buy as you normally do, whether it's from us or any other manufacturer out there.
But the biggest perk is the community involvement, it's the community of all the dealers together to share how to be better in this business. Right now, there's no shortage of business. We're living in great times, the market is good. People are wanting the technologies that we're offering. Sharing on how to capitalize on that business, we have to continue to look at how we can work better with these buying groups and use them to our advantage.
"I find myself out there when I'm talking to folks evangelizing the concept of spending time with your peers around the country and with vendors that are bringing such amazing perspectives."
Ron: I agree with everything you said. I do the same thing. I find myself out there when I'm talking to folks evangelizing the concept of spending time with your peers around the country and with vendors that are bringing such amazing perspectives. They're interacting, they're working, they're seeing success stories, they're seeing things that clearly are problematic.
What are the forums that you set yourself up as a business operator to learn from those other people? Why go carve out a wheel out of stone for the first time, if others have done it. You can simply learn how to do it 100%. It sounds like we're on the same team, they're direct. Another vendor question - without being specific to Origin or any other brand, how do you approach conversations with dealers regarding how many lines they should have? Should they be doing 10 companies or 50 companies or a hundred companies? What's your opinion or advice of how they should be thinking about that?
Marc: Well, of course, my selfish is you should have one speaker brand, right?
Ron: Clearly you only need one.
Marc: Clearly you need one speaker brand. But you know, that's not the truth. When I visit these dealers and larger accounts, I guess you would call them the specialty higher-end accounts, and you ask them, "What's your control system of choice?" They'll say, "Oh, well we use Control4, Savant, and Crestron. We also dab with URC." I think it boils down to, they want to be able to service all of their customers and all the customers have different types of needs. Most companies will grab what I see as a primary line. The architectural line, the TV line, the control line, everybody seems to grab one line but then they have secondary or third lines, just a sort of a, "Hey, I'm not going to keep all my, all my money in one bucket. I want to want to share that a little bit just in case."
"There is an advantage though to pushing all of your business with one organization because that organization will then support you more because there's that that give and take."
There is an advantage though to pushing all of your business with one organization because that organization will then support you more because there's that that give and take. There is no right or wrong answer. I will say that the one thing that I do see is dealers that bring on too many vendors. You could have five or six speaker lines and you're trying to sell three or four TVs and different access network points and just lots of different products, you're actually making it more confusing than it needs to be. Staying focused on what you do, learning the brands you sell makes a big difference.
Ron: I want to close on a topic around Origin's philosophy around helping the business. I have the opinion that it's been a wonderful economy behind us, it's a wonderful economy right now, and maybe there's uncertainty in front of us. It might be wonderful or it might not, I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. I've heard from you guys and the messaging that you're putting out around this concept of investing, reinvesting in your business, working on your business. Miranda, I'd love to start with you and what are some of your philosophies around this, how you talk to dealers and engage with them around this topic and then I'll bring it back to you, Marc.
Miranda: There is a lot of uncertainty with what the market could hold in the future because business is so good right now. I think that we've done a really good job in the last 5 to 10 years in diversification. There's lots of focus on lighting and shades and speakers still have a great margin built into it. There are lots of great things still happening in the industry and I think dealers are diversifying enough that if things do have a downward trend, we'll be okay.
As far as Origin goes, we continue to add fabulous partners to our lineup. We are continuing to invest heavily in engineering and basically fill any need that we may have that would cause dealers to go to another manufacturer and to be their primary provider for the products that they need. It's important to Origin to not just bring in a lot of different products but to make sure that we form partnerships and bring in the right products with the best engineering and the highest quality out there.
Ron: Marc, I'm going to drop the same question on you. Particularly about reinvesting in business or investing in their business. What should the owners listening do or be doing or thinking about out there for our organization?
Marc: Luckily, we have a great man at the helm. Nick Berry, our CEO, has a wonderful vision of where our organization and our company should be going. We all thank him because he's the one that helps us create the future of our organization. He's the one that allows us to reinvest in our company because he signs the checks, he makes the final call about where we should go, and what we should be doing.
When we sit and we talk in our meetings about our future, every time we talk about what can we be doing to make our company better, he says, "Well let's reinvest in our people." To back up with what Miranda said, our people are the future of our organization. We have 43 people right now and I know everyone's name and I know what everybody does. The great part is, to give you a quick story, I had a dealer come in to visit us a couple of weeks ago and he called me back and said, "Man, I had a great time visiting your company. It looks like such a fun place to work." He said his favorite part was walking out into the warehouse and hearing music blaring and our warehouse guys having a good time, enjoying themselves.
"Surround yourself with good people, surround yourself with the opportunity to grow, the most important thing is to have fun with it. If you have fun, you wake up every morning, you're having fun, then it's easy to go to work."
That makes me proud to be a part of an organization where people are having fun. I think that's really at the end of the day what every business should be doing, having fun. Surround yourself with good people, surround yourself with the opportunity to grow, the most important thing is to have fun with it. If you have fun, you wake up every morning, you're having fun, then it's easy to go to work. That's the greatest part about working with Origin, the team that we have here, everybody I work with is a blast. We all have a great time. If you want to have some fun, come give us a call or come hang out and we'll have some fun together.
Ron: Marc and Miranda, you are my first two-person interview or two guests interview on Automation Unplugged.
Marc: You know what you want to call it, it's a three-way.
Ron: Yeah, I'm not going there. I'll let you do that. But yeah, we're going to have to do it again for sure. Thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedule and for Marc taking time out of your ski schedule to hang out with us here. Much love your way guys. Thank you so much.
Marc: Thanks a lot, Ron.
Consumer electronics veteran, Marc Fisher, and industry leader on the rise, Miranda Grantham,are making huge strides in our growing industry and empowering dealers through their passion for Origin Acoustics' mission goal.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.
Resources and links from the interview:
- ProSource Buying Group
- Origin Acoustics History
- Powerful Women in Consumer Technology 2019: Miranda Grantham
- Dealerscope 40 Under 40: Marc Fisher
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