Home Automation Podcast Episode #97: An Industry Q&A With Pete Baker
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Pete Baker. Recorded live on Wednesday February 5th at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Pete Baker
Pete Baker, President of The BIG Corp, is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years of global experience making large strides in the CE industry. Pete began his career as a licensed low voltage technician and contractor before becoming the founder and CEO of Custom Home Integration, a leading installation firm that he created and later sold.
Pete has had numerous roles in the industry, from President of several leading Integration companies to keynote speaker, CEDIA Subject Matter Expert, and VP of Sales and Marketing for a major control system manufacturer. In his recent years, Pete was titled President of The BIG Corp, a global sales rep and business development agency providing support to the finest brands in CE. He also founded CE Business Academy that educates to CE professionals worldwide.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Pete Baker:
- The benefit of developing a strong company brand
- Why he became a CEDIA Certified Outreach Instructor
- How he approaches representing and working for international corporations
- The similarities between the CI space in North America and markets around the world
- Handling customer expectations through feedback and communication with your sales team
Ron: Hello there. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. This is show number 97. And my guest today is Pete Baker, an industry veteran. He's been around the block for a long time. I've known Pete for probably close to 20 years, it's hard to believe. I think he will agree to that. Pete is doing some super exciting things, growing brands and helping represent manufacturers around the world. He's going to tell us about some of those exciting adventures he's been on. Hey, Pete! How are you doing?
Pete: Hey, pretty good Ron. Thanks for having me today. Hello to everybody in your audience, really delighted to be here. Yeah, it is hard to believe that it's been 20 years. We met each other when I had an integration company, as you may remember, and I think you were with Lutron.
Ron: That's right. We're going in the way back machine. It's funny, we just keep crossing paths in random places around the world. We'd run into each other at ISE in Europe. You reminded me when you and I saw each other in Vegas a few weeks ago, we had crossed paths randomly as I was exiting a hotel in Nassau, Bahamas,
Pete: Right? Yeah, that's right.
Ron: And I'm like, "Pete, what are you doing here?" And you're like, "Ron, what are you doing here?"
Pete: Yeah, I'm from there. As you may remember, I was born in The Bahamas and I go back there quite a bit. I actually have dual citizenship so I still go back there. We have a little family store, Baker and Son, so if anyone in the audience is ever in The Bahamas, that's our little store right on main street in Nassau. My grandfather started it in 1897, I believe.
Ron: What sort of goods and services are sold at this?
Pete: Well, my father was a barrister so they sell some of the regalia that they wear when they go to trial for lawyers, but also just kids clothes and little touristy kind of things in the shop. It's a cool little store we're pretty proud of.
Ron: That's awesome. And you're still involved in the management of that store, is that right?
Pete: Well, a little bit. My cousins and I and my aunts definitely still get involved in that store. And then we have a couple of shops next to that as well
Ron: As always, I'd love for you to get us introduced to kind of your background in the consumer electronics industry, the integration and audio/video space. You have done some super interesting things over the years, so I'd love for you to give us a little bit of that.
Pete: Yeah, thank you. I started in the consumer electronics industry right out of high school. I had a friend of mine who was working at Dayton Hudson, or now it's known as Macy's in the US. In case we have any international customers, that's a department store. They used to have an electronics department. This person, who's still involved in the industry, Andy Warden, and most recently with Dynaudio he was working there and he would have customers that came in and said, "I'd like to get this surround sound system but I need someone to hook it up." And they didn't offer those installation services. Nobody did, this is back in 1985.
Andy and I would put the systems together for his customers that would come into the retail store because they just didn't have any other way to do that. Customers would say, "I need somebody to hook it up 'cause I don't know how to do this stuff." Andy eventually left and started a company, Advanced Entertainment Systems, I believe it's called or it was. I eventually went to work for him. That company was later sold to J.J. Anderson, which now is part of the Bravas Group that you're hearing a lot of press about. I worked for J.J Anderson for a little while and I remember just kind of pinching myself thinking, "I can't believe I actually get paid to do this," you know, sell all this cool equipment. I just absolutely loved it. I later went on from there and worked for a couple of different integration companies and eventually started my own integration company called Custom Home Integration. I launched that company, built it up, and eventually sold it and went to work at RTI as a VP of Sales and Marketing at RTI for 12 years. At RTI, I led all of the sales, marketing tech support, training, product integration, a lot of those different teams for 12 years.
I had a really great team that I worked with there, we had accomplished a lot of great things. In 2014, I decided to leave and start my own company, Baker International Group. Really the impetus for that is when I started at RTI, they really didn't have any international presence whatsoever. I had a great U.S. Sales team, but I focused mostly on expanding their global footprint and developing the business outside of the United States really. Now those products are sold in over 120 different countries. I not only did the sales management, but I also did a lot of the training internationally cause I really like to do that. I like training. I'm also really wired for marketing, I love the marketing aspects and thinking about what makes people tick. What would motivate a buyer to want to use brand X, Y or Z or product X, Y, Z, in their home or in their projects? I felt that there were other companies, let's say in the U.S. that was really strong in the U.S. but hadn't yet expanded internationally or needed some help expanding internationally, not just with sales representation, but also marketing and training and other elements that support that sales process. I started BIG, Baker International Group in 2014.
It's hard to believe it's five years later and going strong. You can visit thebigcorp.com to find out more about my company and what we do here, but that's a little background. I spent 20 years as an integrator and a licensed low voltage technician and contractor and then went on to work for a manufacturer and now several manufacturers since RTI that I represent.
Ron: Awesome history and trajectory there from operating in some local integration firms, kind of stepping up the ladder and taking on maybe more risk and more reward.
"Entrepreneurship is a lot of risk."
Pete: Definitely, entrepreneurship is a lot of risk.
Ron: It really is.
Pete: Well, starting a couple of companies, you know what that's like Ron. It's definitely a nail biter.
Ron: It's wrought with tremendous challenges and either you're going to grow personally and you're going to grow that business or it's not going to go so well 'cause rarely we enter that having all the skills we need to ultimately be successful.
Pete: There's never a really good time. And I remember when I started my integration company, my wife was due with our second baby and she said, "Please don't do this. Please don't do this. We need your income." And I said, you know, "I understand that you're nervous about this, but if I don't do it, it's going to eat at me the rest of my life." And so I did it obviously and it was extremely successful.
Our revenues doubled every single year up until the day that I sold the company. To those of you out there that are thinking about starting a business: A: there's never a good time. And fear is a good motivator when you're thinking, "I can't fail because my family is depending on me." You know, that's a powerful motivator. I've done it a couple of times.
Ron: If you accept that failure is not an option and if you're having hard times, it just means you're not done yet cause you gotta work through it or you can quit. Just never quit today. Quit tomorrow, just not today. I'll quit tomorrow. So, you just gave us your corporate website, what are folks that go to your website going to find on your site?
Pete: One of the things that they'll find on the website that's a great resource is something that was developed by One Firefly and that would be videos on the Savant user experience. I have a full section on my website under resources that demonstrates the user experience that you can enjoy with Savant. I also have industry resources on there as well, which are a lot of really great links and resources for anyone in the industry, whether it's industry publications around the world. There are also other resources like links to ISE or a CEDIA, of course. I also publish a lot of articles for industry publications all around the world from Connected Home Magazine in Australia and New Zealand, Essential Install in the UK, and CE pro in the U.S.
Ron: Awesome. Pete, I wanna peel back the layers in terms of transitioning from an integration business and having successfully sold that business. How did you ultimately decide to sell and then how did you actually sell your business? How did you go about finding a suitor that was interested in purchasing?
Pete: When I started Custom Home Integration, it was at a time when the previous company I was working at actually went out of business and I had a couple of customers that were halfway through that installation. And so I started customer integration really to take care of those customers so that their projects would be completed and I wanted to do it legitimately. So I went to the state board electricity and got licensed, bonded and insured set up but a formal business entity. I brought in somebody who could manage the installation process and that person, and I should also say that I started at RTI at about the same time, but RTI was a very, very small company. There were only four people in the company when I started there. And so I did all of the sales training, tech support, customer service, all of that at RTI when I started there. I wrote all of the copy for the literature and so forth. I brought in somebody to manage the installation side of the business and I said, "Look I want you to have a vested interest in the business.
Over the course of two years, I'm going to allow you to earn equity in the business." And so he did, he learned, he earned equity over the course of two years and became a part-owner in the business with me. And when the business at CHI, my integration company, and RTI were doubling every year. For many years I was the only salesperson at RTI and the only salesperson at CHI. I couldn't continue to do both and still have a family. I was working two full-time jobs and so I came to a crossroads where I really had to pick one or the other.
I love the team that I had with CHI, I really had the best team I could ever ask for. They were just phenomenal. They still are fantastic, I still keep in touch with them. I had done that for 20 years and was ready for me to make a change. I liked a lot of the challenges that that were afforded to me with RTI. It allowed me to kind of spread my wings in sales with marketing, with international business, which is what I studied in college. I made that decision and at first, I, of course, gave my partner the first right of refusal and said, "Are you interested in buying me out?" And initially, he said, "I'm not really sure I might do something different as well." I started putting together a packet presentation packet with financials and the benefits that we had to offer with Custom Home Integration and showed that to a couple of viable candidates, either that was just starting as an integration company or maybe wanting to get into that business and they were established in other areas, like maybe an electrical contractor. Eventually, my partner came back and said, "I really do want to do this. I want to buy out." So we put together a program where I paid some money down and then I'll payout over time, which I thought was fair. I didn't want to put undue stress on the business. If anyone has any questions about how I work, the mechanics of that you know, please feel free to contact me and I'd be happy to share it with you.
Ron: That's very generous. I appreciate that Pete, and I'm sure those listening appreciate that. In terms of your current business that you're operating The Big Corp, that business in essence is, and I don't want to misstate it so I'm going to paraphrase and then you correct me and tell the audience exactly what it is, but you're representing manufacturers so you're an international representative for various manufacturers.
For example, I know you represent Savant in certain international markets, maybe all international markets. You'll clarify that for us. And you also work with other vendors. I'm assuming you might work with some in Australia, some in Europe, some in South Africa, some in the middle East. That's what I think I know, now correct me.
"In order to really achieve great success, you need to have great marketing, you need to have great brand development, you need to have great training and understanding you need to be able to communicate to your customers what are the benefits to that customer."
Pete: When I first started The Big Corp, originally I thought that maybe I would act as like a VP of Sales that can be crowdsourced. Multiple manufacturers that maybe didn't have the budget to afford a full-time VP of Sales Marketing, they could hire me to help in that regard. And the business model kind of morphed a little bit even though I did a full business plan and really did a lot of research and planning going into it but what it evolved into is that I'm primarily a sales rep. I'm primarily a sales rep and business development professional that manufacturers contract with to help them expand their global footprint and also further develop their business internationally outside of the United States. I have helped some companies come to the United States as well because I have a lot of experience in that and I have also done some projects where I'm a consultant so I'm not acting as a sales rep for that company. I'm helping that company to develop a business development plan or strategy.
Those are pretty intense projects that usually go on a minimum of three months, maybe six or 12 months in some cases. In those regards, I would help them with maybe market analysis and competitive analysis and then develop a full comprehensive business strategy. I often pull in other resources, which you can also see on my website. That would be more of the business consulting section of The Big Corp. Most of my clients will like to utilize me not just as a sales rep, but they also want some help just in other areas of business development. I think there's a lot more to sales than just selling. That's just one small aspect of it. You have to support that. In order to really achieve great success, you need to have great marketing, you need to have great brand development, you need to have great training and understanding you need to be able to communicate to your customers what are the benefits to that customer.
If you're a customer, Ron. And you want to do business with The Big Corp, I better be able to communicate to you very quickly and effectively what the benefits are to One Firefly and Ron Callis and your audience on working with The Big Corp. The benefits with The Big Corp is that you're not just adding sales representation, you're having a full comprehensive business development strategy to develop your business and increase brand awareness in the markets where I'm representing you. That does vary from client to client. You mentioned Savant and just for clarification with Savant, I represent Savant in the EMEA region, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Also Australia and New Zealand and Southeast Asia. Those are the markets that I work with them. With some other clients like NEAR, I work with NEAR and represent them and act as the sales manager and business development manager for all of the markets outside of the United States. And then Russound, another key brand that I work with. I represent them everywhere outside of the Americas. Nexus 21 for another example, I'm working with them in Europe and Africa.
Ron: I'm assuming you're putting some serious miles on. I mean, is there a lot of travel involved in this?
Pete: Yeah, I definitely go to those markets and travel those markets, meet with dealers in those markets. That's another great benefit of working with The Big Corp, is that I'm feet on the ground for those manufacturers.
Ron: I'm gonna just mention a little bit of the origin when One Firefly was Firefly Design Group. When I started the business, I wanted business so anywhere in the world where someone was willing to hire us, I was willing to go. Early in our career early in the business, I remember I had an opportunity, someone expressed a little bit of interest in the Middle East in Dubai and I said, "No problem. I'll get on an airplane. I'll fly there." I flew there the same week. I went there, 24 hours to get there, 24 hours on the ground and 24 hours to get home. I secured the business, by the way, but I remember one of the comments that the folks that I was meeting with, by the way, you'll know these guys, this was ArcheMedia back in 2008. This was Kareem and team. But I remember Kareem asking me, he goes, "Ron, you're in America. You're in the best economy on the planet. What in the world are you doing over here in the Middle East?"
"It gave me the perspective to say, "What am I doing? I just need to be better locally 'cause there is so much," I mean, there's 10,000 to 15,000 of potential clients for me right here in my backyard. Why am I flying to these various places?"
And it was actually an interesting point for me because it gave me the perspective to say, "What am I doing? I just need to be better locally 'cause there is so much," I mean, there's 10,000 to 15,000 of potential clients for me right here in my backyard. Why am I flying to these various places? That's my little bit of exposure to international markets. I'm curious, you have this really interesting perspective of local markets domestically. What happens here? You're tied into the CEDIA crowd and what's happening in North America and yet you're working all over the world. What's different about what's happening in the CI space internationally versus what's happening right here in our backyard?
Pete: There definitely are different cultures and market strategies, different idiosyncrasies about different markets and cultures and also adaptations that you need to make for your product to fit in that certain market. A great example with Savant would be KNX Integration in the Amir region. That's something that's very important there, intercom integration, certainly in markets like London and Australia. It's every single house has Intercom indoor entry integration, all of them. We just don't have a whole lot of that here. I'm in Minnesota, you're in Florida. There isn't a whole lot of that unless it's like a gated community, we certainly see it there. Honestly, the challenges are much more similar, then you also have economic and political considerations definitely but there are a lot more similarities than there are differences, ironically. If you just look at the integrators that you're working with, I think that all over the world, they're faced with a lot of the same challenges. "How do I sell this product, which is a premium product when there are cheaper alternatives that are available direct to the consumer?" That's something that we're faced with globally and I think it's something that we really need to look at. How do you sell value? I think it's something that is important to talk about on this podcast. I feel like I have a responsibility as a CE industry veteran and I kind of bang on this drum, even with CEDIA, I'm a CEDIA Certified Outreach Instructor. In some of the courses that I deliver, I'm able to provide CEDIA ongoing certification credits for those courses. I just think that it's important for all of us in this industry to really closely and say we need to be selling products that deliver value and add more value to our brand and our existence on that project.
There's a lot of great interest in smart home technology and home automation, which is really, really good even at the consumer level and the do it yourself level. I think that's great because it bubbles up, once people start putting in things like Nest thermostats and Ring doorbells and locksets that you can control with your phone, that's all good. But in order for that to really be integrated into one nice ecosystem, one user interface, you really need the talent and expertise of CEDIA professionals to make that all really sing and make it an enjoyable experience for the homeowner. Yes, there are cheaper alternatives to brand X, Y or Z or category X, Y, or Z. Maybe when you talk about little separate systems that you can set on the kitchen counter, those are cool. But if you're selling little separate system that they can buy at the local electronics store, then why should they hire you? What's the value in having Pete's Audio Video company work on that project? I always tried to find products that were professional-grade products that I felt delivered a better experience for the homeowner, either in, let's say audio quality or video quality or ease of use. I would recommend those products and say, "The reason why I'm recommending this product is that I've been in the industry and I'm a technology expert and I've been to these trade shows at CES and CEDIA and ISE and so forth. I've looked at all the different products that are on the market. And based on my professional opinion, I think that this is the one that's going to deliver the best possible experience for you." And that really goes way beyond price.
I think that very often, and I see this worldwide to answer your question, where a lot of professional integrators, and I fell into this trap as well, they take the path of least resistance. So this is the easier thing to sell, but it doesn't necessarily add value. I always looked at it as I'm going to meet with that customer and I might get one shot. If you're coming in to meet with me at Pete's A/V and you're building a home and I know that you're going to meet with a couple of other people, how am I going to grab your attention and make a lasting impact on you where you say, "I want to work with Pete."? I took that very, very seriously. Not initially because I got maybe a little lazy or arrogant or whatever and thought, "Well everybody should want to work with us cause we're, you know, cool. We've got this cool company and cool showroom and who would not want to work with us?" And then next thing I know, I'm trying to get ahold of that prospective client and they're not getting back to me. Then I get the email that says they chose someone else. I took it really, really seriously and I've written articles on this subject that I would get down on my hands and knees and scrub that showroom and make a bowl of popcorn and test every bit of equipment, make sure everything is working properly.
Even before I had my showroom, I printed up brochures and invested a lot of money on a website so that you know, fake it until you make it. I wanted to present the best possible image and make us look better established than we were in the early stages. And it did work. My revenue doubled every single year until the day I sold it. I look at that very seriously and tried to always plant seeds throughout that meeting with that prospective client. I would draft up ideas that maybe they no one else would talk to them about, like maybe now I mentioned high-res audio or I'd mention circadian rhythm, or wellness, those kinds of things. Those are things that we should be talking about.
Ron: That was going to be one of my questions. There's a number of super-hot topics that are happening, at least here domestically in North America, like wellness. One of the components of wellness is circadian rhythm lighting, you have all of your various lighting control brands that are now offering the automation. You have the lighting fixture brands that are giving you color temperature control so that's big. There's a lot of noise being made here that is big. Is that big globally, are they talking about that in South Africa, Australia, or in the Middle East?
Pete: It's definitely being talked about internationally. I would say some markets are a little bit ahead of others. In Australia, they seem to be just really into technology and always looking for the next cool thing. Some markets are a little bit quicker to adapt to that than others. There are other things that come into play as well where you might have climate control and shading and things like that or even security might be more relevant or heightened in some other markets as well compared to others.
Ron: We've got a question from Kris Gamble out of the UK, he said he respectfully disagrees with something you were saying. He expounds on it by saying, "Unfortunately, our industry is tainted. Too many homeowners have had a bad experience with home tech pros in the past and they're pulling in the direction of doing it yourself. How do you bring them back?" So I'll leave you with that question. How do you coach your folks around the world that may have had a poor experience with an integrator? How do you bring them back into the fold if maybe they've gone the other direction?
Pete: Well, that's a very good point, Kris. I appreciate you bringing that up because I do think that it's important to address things like that. There definitely have been a lot of bad examples. I hear about them all the time, homeowners from neighbors, friends, and family. I mean, I get a lot of those calls. I would answer it this way, number one, I think that it's very important to establish credibility with any prospective new client right from the beginning. When you have that person come into your showroom I'll first address it that way. Assuming that you're going to have someone coming into your showroom that maybe the builder has recommended that they come to see you or the architect or someone like that. Maybe it's a tech-savvy person that is inclined to do it themselves or had a bad experience in the past, maybe they don't want to put technology into their home because they had such a bad experience in the past and they say, "I just want to put separate systems around the house and be done with it."
First of all, what I think you should do is number one, establish credibility with that customer. What I mean by that is at my showroom when I had my integration company, first of all, I spiffed my installers and I said, "When you go out on a job site to finish that project, I would like to get feedback from those customers of ours." If you come back to me with any written feedback from any of our customers, good or bad, I would spiff them to bring back feedback, good or bad. The bad feedback, of course, I'd reach out to those customers. The good feedback, with their permission, I printed that out and I framed it and I put it right into the greeting area where I would greet guests that would come to our showroom. I had a couple of walls full of accolades from our customers, seeing how much they loved working with CHI. I thought that was a pretty cool idea. I recently shared that story in a presentation I did in Australia and somebody at the break came up to me and said, that they did something similar, but instead, took all of the feedback and recommendations from clients and turned it into wallpaper and put it in the bathroom of their showroom. And I thought that was brilliant.
When someone's a captive audience in the bathroom, all they can do is stare at all these glowing reviews about how much they love working with that customer. That's number one. Number two, I do think that it's important to show that prospective clients what that user interface looks like and what that user interface experience is like. I would actually hand them that user interface. In a lot of cases, I'll just use two examples of brands that I wear. I work with Savant. You can download the app and use it as a demo app. Then if maybe Mr. Homeowner is there and not Mrs. Homeowner, they could download the app and go home and show it to their spouse or significant other or members of the family and show them how intuitive that user interface is going to be. That's if you get the chance to meet with that customer. Now let's talk about the industry as a whole and your market as a whole. I think that there are ways that you can communicate the value of working with a professional integrator. And I think it's our responsibility as members of CEDIA and members of this industry, either formally a member or informally, a member by being in this industry that we should take a responsibility to promote the importance of working with a professional integrator and having someone like that involved in guiding you through that technology process.
I absolutely believe with all my heart that no matter how tech-savvy that person is, if they have a technology expert or professional that is putting together that technology in their home, even if it's just a home network. All the devices that are being on that network, it's going to be a better experience working with a professional integrator than without. How I put my words into action is being a CEDIA Certified Outreach Instructor. What that means is I'm certified by CEDIA and I went through training by CEDIA, I invested my own time and money to get trained by CEDIA to be an authorized CEDIA outreach instructor. What that means is I can go into different markets like Kris for instance in the UK, Kris, if you ever want me to help you do some kind of an event for interior decorators, builders, or even your consumer audience talking about the benefits of using a CEDIA professional, that's why I did it. I don't get any financial gain directly by doing that. I'm doing it because I want to promote the fact that a consumer working with a CEDIA professional specifying professional-grade project products in that project is going to be a better overall experience.
Ron: That's a wonderful response. And Kris actually says, "Pete, appreciate the response. Pete and Ron.
Pete: Thank you, Kris. And Kris, you know how to reach me. Feel free to reach me anytime. I'm happy to expand on this a one on one with you as well.
Ron: I do want to close on a topic, I want to get granular around some of your thoughts or feelings around a building brand. This applies to both the big companies, but also the integrator. For big companies, talk about the big vendors, the manufacturers, and whatnot, but also down at the dealer level. What does it mean to build their brand? And why should they do that? What does it make happen easier in their life if, in fact, they focus on building their brand?
Pete: I would sum it up this way. I have a very good friend of mine, Helge Fischer, who used to be the managing director of Jamo U.S. He brought Yamaha speakers to the United States and he used to tell his team that nobody is standing in line waiting to buy Jamo loudspeakers from you today. You need to give them a reason why they should buy Jamo loudspeakers from you. I think about that every day with my business. And I think it's important that anybody in business is communicating that. I honestly don't think that most companies do a great job with their branding and marketing. Marketing the reasons why people should do business with them and just the branding in general. I'm a marketing guy at heart. One of my clients says, "Pete, you're a marketing professional that makes a living as a sales guy." I really love the marketing aspects of it.
And just to give you an idea, when I first started with The Big Corp, I worked really hard on that brand. I was fortunate to get a great domain name and great name. When I first started The Big Corp, although I had been in the industry for several decades and had a lot of contexts, I didn't have any customers at all, zero customers that I could work with. It wasn't like when I worked for an integration company and then started CHI. I had kind of a base of consumers that I've worked with over the years. I didn't have any customers so I decided I was going to ISE in January of 2015 and I was trying to promote my company and build my brand. Nobody had heard of The Big Corp, nobody. They had heard about Pete Baker, but I didn't want my company to be Pete Baker. It needed to be bigger than that, no pun intended. I came up with this idea of "Think Big." I printed up some stickers that said, "Think BIG." And everybody I went to, I went to all of different booths and I said, "Listen, I think I can help you with your expanding your business and building your business internationally with sales, marketing, training and so forth. And if you're open to that, just don't remember. Don't forget to think about me. Think BIG." And so I gave him the "Think BIG" sticker and I later trademarked that. I own the trademark for Think BIG. I invested a lot of time and energy into my brand and I created a really nice brochure.
Initially, I had my website done and a whole business plan is done right away. When I left RTI and launched my company, I pretty much had my idea in mind and not to digress too much, but I knew I was going to leave for a couple of years. I had talked to John, the owner of RTI, about that for a couple of years. When I finally left, I did have that all ready to go. Same with my integration company. I had a really nice website and brochure and marketing materials done. I think that it's important for integrators to do that. And you don't have to be an expert at marketing and branding. There are great companies out there that are experts at that. And you know, honestly Ron, I would strongly encourage the audience to contact you and your team because I really have not seen any company out there in our industry that does a better job just as a comprehensive marketing strategy to help integrators further promote their brand and market their brand and the benefits of why their audience should be working with them.
And that kind of goes back to the comment with Kris that I think marketing and branding play a very, very important role in that. I also took project photos with the permission of my clients and posted all of those on our website and they looked really, really good. And there again, if you have an audience that looks at your website and sees a really amazing theater that they can't do themselves and they really need a professional to help them pull that off, how do you communicate that to your audience?
I think to work with a company like One Firefly and utilizing your services of developing a website and embedding the user experience interface onto the website, that's all great stuff. Those are motivators for those end-user customers. They see those videos. I don't have a huge end-user customer audience on my website, but if I had an integration company, I would absolutely have your videos on there because it promotes what a great experience it can be for that consumer. If they're using a professionally designed and deployed home automation device a professional-grade home automation device, that's something that is an off-the-shelf do-it-yourself, home automation, a control device
Ron: I appreciate the infomercial for One Firefly. I'll, I'll pay you 20 bucks when I see you!
Pete: I really truly believe that and I'm a huge fan of what you and your team do. You and I have worked with you personally because I have your videos on my website. If anyone wants to see what they look like, just go to thebigcorm.com, Resources > Savant and you can see the videos that have been produced by One Firefly. And in full disclosure, I've talked to you about this, Ron, that now I'm producing some of my own real short videos that I'll be putting on my website. I used your template as a reference to say, this is how professionals produce these things. I sent your videos to my video production guy and said, "This is how we should, we should follow the leader here."
Ron: No, I appreciate that. I've seen various manufacturers over the last, we launched that product in '16, so since 16 to the present, I've seen different people around the industry try to emulate or copy the format. And I think you know, it's the best form of flattery when people consider they want to copy it. I think it's all positive and frankly, similar to maybe Elon Musk's philosophy, he shares his IP with the world. I believe that our rising tide raises all ships.
Pete: I totally agree.
"We need to get better as an industry communicating not just communicating, but communicating to the customer the value that these things, these technologies bring to their life."
Ron: We need to get better as an industry communicating not just communicating, but communicating to the customer the value that these things, these technologies bring to their life. And yeah, I was going to say the other side of the equation is they also need to just be better. Right? Back to Kris' point, there's guys and gals out there just doing a shit job and they expect a demand, a higher of excellence from themselves and their teammates. If we communicate more effectively and we grow as an industry, there's a bright future for all of us for many, many years to come.
Pete: Yeah, I totally agree. And Kris brought up some really valid points. I do think that we all have a responsibility to work together to promote the professional CI industry and promote the fact of why consumers should be working with professionals like us. I've devoted three decades of my life to this industry and I know you probably are in about the same boat, I like to give back to the industry, the articles that I write, I don't get any money for it. Obviously, you're not paying me to do this now and that's all in an effort to give back. Same with the training that I conduct, webinars and so forth.
I just want to give back to the industry and help us all grow and, and become better together. Because going back to my example of those little separate systems around the house, look, there are a time and a place for that. I have an old client of mine that is a physician. He and his wife moved into a temporary house. They're not going to stay there that long. And it didn't make sense for him to completely rewire that house when they're only going to be there a year or two and retro everything for him and his lifestyle, probably not. He put a couple of separate systems and I recommended that to them.
But if someone's building a new house, it really is sad and kinda turns my stomach if they're not wiring for technology in that home. And that's really scary for our industry because if they're not wiring for technology, they're not putting in speakers, they're not putting in keypads. They're not putting in a home automation or control system or integrating any of that stuff. What happens a year, five years, 10 years from now to us in this profession that we've all dedicated our lives to. I'm not saying that we should all be taking advantage of the consumer and selling them things that they don't need. But I will tell you that that wiring for technology in a home absolutely adds value to that house. And if you look at a neighborhood where you have similarly priced homes and some are wired with technology and some are not wired with technology, you're not going to convince me that that the ones wired with technology don't have value over the ones that are not wired with technology. We all need to be beating that drum and talking to a consumer audience as well about the value of working with a professional integrator.
Ron: Awesome. Well, Pete, it has been a blast having you on episode number 97 of Automation Unplugged.
Pete: Yes, thank you. It's been great being here. Thanks a million, Ron, and thank you to the audience as well.
Ron: Awesome. Pete, we'll talk to you soon, buddy. All right, think big. Think big. All right, folks, there you have it. One and only Pete Baker show number 97.
CEDIA Certified Outreach Instructor and President of The BIG Corp, Pete Baker is making large strides in the CE industry and brings a unique perspective with his global experience of over 30 years.
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:
- CEDIA Outreach Instructor Training
- The BIG Corp Resources
- The BIG Corp Articles, Events, & Press Releases
- ISE - Integrated Systems Europe
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