1. What part does each individual integrator play in the outlook of our industry?

The first thing that I believe needs to happen is that the integrator needs to consider himself part of a larger entity. We all understand the need to make a living, and this should help. So one of the key elements in this regard, is the need for standardization of methods. All integrators should follow certain standards when doing installations. Everyone can still keep their independent tricks of the trade, so to speak, but these should be refined on the most basic level.

Perfect example, The use of a J-box or Mud ring. How many of us have gone into retrofit or repair jobs to find cable or phone jack plates screwed with silver hex head sheet metal screws to the drywall with a quarter sized hole behind the plate for the cable. This is a terrible way to finish the task. I have seen this exact method time and time again. And it’s not the only bad way. So, the understanding that we come away with at the end of a day, week, month, year, is that our contribution has not only improved the industry as a whole, but has improved our own internal practices, our reputation in the marketplace, and because of those two things, our profits. Now since our projections for the industry as a whole are so immense, every little company doing this right now, is responsible for establishing the way people perceive all of us as a whole. And our success, even our survival, as a whole depends on that perception.

Chief Manufacturing

2. What can an integrator do to improve the home technology industry?

Get involved! Attend trade shows, when you can, but make it a priority. They only come around once in a while. Establish partnerships with your manufacturers. Your relationships with your distributors are an important aspect, to be sure, but equally as important and greatly overlooked, are the relationships with manufacturers. Many of them have programs that are FREE. These can help you and your clients a great deal to better understand the products and features that this manufacturer can provide. Also, if you have independent relationships with manufacturers, you get better technical support should you need it.

No one knows a product like the person that designed and built it, right? Another great thing about establishing this relationship is that then and only then, they will listen to you. With credibility you get attention, not just help, but they will take your advice about the requests of the market, a change to a product, or anything else you have to say. And with that comes the responsibility to be candid. Sometimes this means risking your relationship with them, if you really have a beef to pick, right? But a good manufacturer encourages candid feedback from their installers and they use that to make themselves a better company. And lastly, your manufacturers WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH LEADS! But you have to get involved.

3. Can individual success be impacted by working to improve residential automation as a whole?

Absolutely. As I eluded to earlier, the industry has some bad reputations to defeat. The only way to do this is to be better than that reputation. Customer service, respectful staff members, a professional work environment. These are just a few ways. Also mentioned earlier – by establishing relationships with manufacturers you can help them to improve their products and features, and when this happens, everyone that buys that improved product benefits from it.

4. What impact do you hope to achieve as an individual in the industry?

I am working pretty hard to follow all the advice I’m giving to you. I am a Connect Home Dealer, a 5 Star HAI dealer, and an OnQ partner. I have established relationships with many manufacturers that I use, and I aggressively send information to them about how their products are working (or not working) in the market, with consumers – our clients. I am also involved in industry related trade organizations like NASBA. They take information that comes from their members and share it with the entire membership. I am also developing a system for other integrators that can help them to be more prepared to deliver very accurate pricing to their potential clients during the very first meeting. And I am authoring this feature set with “leave-behind” sales literature that will improve the information exchange as well as the image of the integrators. And all of this is being done at extremely affordable pricing. The gigantic commitments of some other companies doing this is intimidating. It’s true I’m not offering EVERYTHING that they are. But, for two of the biggest issues, I will be offering the simplest, and cheapest solution: Instant Pricing, and Custom, Friendly Literature.

5. How does the reputation of an integrator with peers/colleagues impact business?

Well, if we all compete with each other, at a nationwide level, we are never able to establish relationships with other integrators. This is KEY. They can teach us about our clients, the market, and they may make mistakes before we do. Also we can teach them the same. By aligning yourself with a group of other integrators you can greatly improve yourself. Your reputation within that group can either nurture or destroy that alignment and all of its benefits. If we make everyone our enemy, how can there be any winner. I have managed to establish relationships with my very own competitors – IN MY MARKET LOCATION! These have been integral with my own success. The right relationship, even with those that challenge our own success, can help us. And I mentioned the right relationship. This has to be bidirectional. But when it is, you share work, you share contacts, you give each other work, you learn what niche your competitors have a good hold of, and that allows you to locate that niche that no one is doing well. The list of benefits from the reputation you have with your peers goes on and on, but those seem to me to be the most important.

6. How has Autogy, Inc. maintained such a positive reputation over the years?

I’ve managed to mention, in each of my previous answers, how this has worked for me. How I established it comes from the same point of view. It’s really all about the relationships we establish. Life is about those relationships we establish on a personal level and business is about those we create on a professional level. And there is some overlap there, of course. But the key to this is THE RELATIONSHIP. It’s NEVER about who has the best product, the best service, the best pricing… ever. It is about who establishes the best relationship with the other, be it consumer, coworker, competitor, distributor, manufacturer, inspector, builder, etc. This approach goes even to those to whom you are a client. If the guy that comes into your home to fix you’re A/C is treated by you with disrespect, they are more likely to treat you as such. So I guess a more direct answer to the question is: regular attention to all the relationships that I have established over the years. It seems like a lot of maintenance, and I certainly haven’t got it all figured out, but it has been worth every minute.

7. What steps can integrators take to assure a positive reputation with their peers?

This all goes back to getting involved. Don’t be afraid to align yourself with an integrator that is just outside your area. Someone close enough to meet once in a while. Someone that could direct some work your way. Having people like that in your pocket, so to speak, can be a huge benefit. Also, look into organizations like NASBA and ConnectHome and challenge them to meet your needs! Align yourself or partner with manufacturers and demand that they improve their products! Get involved with your distributors and tell them their prices stink! Do whatever it takes to get yourself noticed in positive ways. People respect candor, and everyone needs a little motivation now and then. Be that person. Stand up for yourself, your image, and the image of everything that you represent: products, organizations, the industry, etc. Ultimately you are the last person in the chain that the client sees. If any link of that is weak, the whole infrastructure breaks down.

8. Are there unwritten codes of conduct that should be followed within the residential automation industry? If so, what are they?

Don’t cut corners in someone else’s home. Don’t even let them tell you to do so. This will only hurt you. If someone tells you that your prices are high and you feel they are fair, tell them it’s because you are better than the next guy. And that statements needs to be true. The only ways to make more money are to be more profitable and get more work. It’s true that sometimes you can get more work just by being cheaper – but this won’t last. Eventually the reputation of cutting corners will catch up to you. So don’t

Secondly, have respect for your clients. Dress right for meetings. Have your installers dress right for the install. This can be a different code for Rough than it is for Trim, but it should be better with each stage. The finish stage should have the highest dress code and the highest caliber of your staff.

Don’t be afraid to spend the client’s money. This doesn’t mean rip them off. It does men, however, that it’s very likely that they have a different perspective than you, that they put a different value on a dollar, and hundred dollars or a thousand dollars than you do. Just today I got a request to automate a privacy screen – open and close – for a doctor’s office, with a remote control This will cost the doctor some $2000 or so. Would I spend that much for that feature? Not now. Maybe not ever. But it’s not my money – or my choice.

Don’t be “cheap”. It would seem this is already stated – and partly so. But the concept here is that if you are cheap now, you may make a few dollars more – right now, but you will have to stay cheap forever, and you’ll never really grow into this industry. Someone else will beat you to the line. That line is the Quality line. Be “quality”. If you are, it will cost you more in the beginning, but as your reputation grows, so will your business. As your business grows, so will your profits. You’ll be the guy beating out the cheap guy.

And lastly:

HAVE FUN! This is a great industry to be in. Thrive and be successful! Be proud of the work you do. You will not be able to wait to tell your family how you made a client feel in their brand new home! Celebrate that you are among the elite – that you have found a way to offer one of the next great waves of technology. Be grateful. And share your successes with others.

9. How do you envision the role of integrators progressing over the next 5-10 years?

It is my belief that the role of the integrator will grow considerably over that time. In five years, we may be considered as essential in the construction industry as a plumber, or a roofer. In ten years we will not only be as important in the building of the home, but we will be equally important to defining the industry, and defining the direction of technological improvements in all things. By the fifteen or twenty year mark, an integrator will be as common as a dentist, a plumber, a landscaper, etc. And will have as much of an important impact on building as an architect, engineer, developer, etc.