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111: Snap One’s Greg Simmons on HTSN Partnership, Education Push

Written by Rob Stott

March 22, 2022

Greg Simmons, Vice President of industry partnerships for Snap One, spent the bulk of his career on the custom integration side of the business. He shares what it’s like being on the brand side and more on his push to train and educate inspiring technicians.


Rob Stott: Alright. We’re back on the Independent Thinking Podcast, and excited to have today a newer partner to Nationwide Marketing Group and specifically our HTSN group here. And Greg Simmons, the VP of industry partnerships for Snap One. Man, appreciate you taking the time. Excited to have you on. Been looking forward to this and now we get to podcast.

Greg Simmons: Glad to be here, Rob. Thanks for having me.

Rob Stott: You bet. Well, before we dive into that name on your quarter zip there, I think that’s a quarter zip. I can only see how far down it goes.

Greg Simmons: It is.

Rob Stott: OK. Before we dive into that, tell us a little about, for those that don’t know you, a little bit about who Greg Simmons is.

Greg Simmons: Yeah, so thanks. So I was a long time systems integrator, both in the security and the CEDIA side of the world with my business called Eagle Sentry in Las Vegas, Nevada. Basically when I was 19 years old, I started working for the company. It was a tiny startup and worked for the previous owners, basically monitoring security systems in our small little central station in Las Vegas. And I was going to college and as I was going through, I was moved into sales. And then the opportunity presented itself in 1996 to purchase the company. And I did that with the other main salesperson in the company. And we took our focus from, we still have the security side of the business, but gaming surveillance was something that we did prior. The owners kind of went, shifted into the gaming surveillance realm. And then we shifted more out of just security in some low voltage into full systems integration, home automation, and everything that we know as custom integrators today.

Rob Stott: And I know that background. Well, first of all, I should go tell Cory Reef hi and say that we talked. Is that something I should do?

Greg Simmons: Yeah. Just make sure you call him Cory Reif.

Rob Stott: Right? Reif, not Reef. A good point.

Greg Simmons: Yeah. Cory and the other owner, they’re doing fantastic. I check in with him regularly and they’ve just taken the company to new heights. It’s really good to see. Makes me very proud because that’s my legacy and people will associate my name with it for many years to come. So I’m real proud of what they’ve done. And it’s exciting. They’ve done a really good job being a very powerful voice in our industry in that market and super proud of the work they’re doing.

Rob Stott: I know I got to… I think it was actually with the other co-owner now, the house that they built out there up on the hills of Henderson. Is that where it is? Henderson, Nevada?

Greg Simmons: Yeah. So the house was really, at the time when I sold the business a few years back, it was really our biggest project to date. So I think it’s unique that that client is now one of the owners of Eagle Sentry. I’m jealous because they use it as a show home and-

Rob Stott: Yeah.

Greg Simmons: …kind of wish I had a 30,000 square foot show home and multiple theaters. And basically every thing that we do on-

Rob Stott: A car elevator that goes to your master bedroom. Oh, man. That house.

Greg Simmons: Why not? If you park our Lamborghini in the master bedroom. I guess, why not?

Rob Stott: Might as well roll right out the car into bed. That’s it. I’d rather have it no other way. So no. But cool to hear that. And obviously that background too plays a lot into what you do today. That’s with Snap One and kind of everything you have going on there. So, I know we’re coming off, not too long ago, of PrimeTime. What was that experience like for you to be with us in Phoenix, looking back and kind of getting to have some face time with our members, and Hank obviously, and everything that was going on down there?

Greg Simmons: Yeah, it was actually great. One, it kind of shows the power of the Nationwide Marketing Group. I think how well organized everything was, being able to have a chance to speak in front of a lot of the HTSN members, and have those one on ones. When I was a Snap AV and a Control4 dealer for many years, and so knew this organization for a long time, was a big supporter of that. And now Snap One encompassing everything together. They’re looking for the partner voice often. They want to know when I say partner, that’s what we call our dealers, they’re our partners. So my voice within the business kind of resonates throughout the entire business. So for example, someone in product can bring me in and ask me a question about something that they’re looking at. The people in marketing can bring me in and talk about what did you like to see when you went to an event or those type of things.

Greg Simmons: And so I really appreciate that they listen and are able to utilize that to benefit us. And I think at the end of the day with HTSN one of the things I realized as a lot of the HTSN members, some of them are a little more in the retail space. And I sense that a lot of them were doing custom installation, but kind of wanted to understand about how to maybe even embrace the custom installation world a little bit more. And sort of the beauty about me being the Snap One representative within the group is that I can share my personal experiences of how I grew and maybe some of the mistakes I made. And I think what I’m looking forward to is getting to know their businesses a little bit better since they were slightly different than mine, for some of them, and get a better understanding of their go-to market and see how Snap One and how I can help.

Rob Stott: What was it, I mean, you mentioned that obviously this was a brand, the Snap brands that you leaned into when you were an integrator. What were some of the things that you noticed in working with them, now being obviously a part of the team, that they did to help you as an integrator on the integration side of the business kind of succeed?

Greg Simmons: Yeah. One of the most, I think powerful things for me when I originally started buying the products is that we make virtually everything in order to put a system together. We call it Only Here. And it’s true, between all the products that we make that can really automate and do anything we need for a new home or small business we have it all here. And the other thing now is that we own distribution locations all throughout the country. So not only do we have all the products, it makes it easy to obtain those products very quickly.

Greg Simmons: And in our world there were so many times over the years with installations where something would change on the installation, a client would add something else. And so Snap One gives the opportunity to be able to work real fluidly. And if we need to go get something that morning locally, in a lot of parts of the country you can do that.

Greg Simmons: And so it’s really powerful for me when my sales team would come to me and say, Hey, listen, some of these things are being shopped and it’s making the proposal maybe not look so great to the client. With a lot of the Snap One products, these are of things that the customer isn’t shopping online. Our brands are not these brands that are out there, that people can go multiple places to look for pricing. And so it puts a little more, I think, goes back to selling our business and ourselves and our products, as opposed to worrying about something out there is a few bucks less somewhere else. And so what it did for Eagle Sentry is it gave us the ability to really be more efficient. It gave us the ability to be more profitable, and really just overall a better organization.

Rob Stott: How about the flip side now for the Snap team, having someone that has the integration background like you do on the team. What do you kind of bring to the table for them, for the Snap brands?

Greg Simmons: Yeah. So one, I understand how to sell it. I understood what it was like to continually adopt categories. One of the things that has changed that I think is really great is our rewards program. It’s a points-based program. Because we have so many different products that our partners can buy from us, we want to reward them for each thing that they’re buying. And then that points system allows for deeper discounts as you move up levels. And because we have so many products, it gives the ability to really have savings and to grow with us.

Rob Stott: And now, thinking of it from the HTSN dealer side, I know you’re still kind of getting the feelers out there with who these members, who the members are, the HTSN members. But where are some of those opportunities? What things excite you about kind of what an HTSN dealer might be able to do utilize the Snap One brands and see success in their own businesses?

Greg Simmons: Yeah. In talking to them, I think that because of this kind of Only Here process we have and because of the things we can provide, I think that the HTSN members that I spoke with, and we spoke to quite a few of them over the course of the week in Phoenix, and it is the desire to understand how to become more efficient and be being able to purchase a purchase from fewer places. And we really provide that, and we can do a lot of things for efficiency within any business. And I think the HTSN members are excited about that. And I look forward to finding the ways that we can help. And again, I think learning a little bit more about the businesses. My goal is to get out and see some of their businesses and get a better understanding of how we, and I, can help.

Rob Stott: What were… I know it was a month ago or so here, but what were some of the questions? What were you hearing from dealers? Obviously first chance to interact, I’m sure questions were all over the place. But did any sort of stand out or did you start seeing maybe some frequently asked questions in person that were thrown your way?

Greg Simmons: Yeah. I think as big of a company as we are, I got a lot of questions around things that are thinking about today. Supply chain, are we going to have product? How are we handling that? A lot of things that they’re concerned about today, because of the size of our company and the people we have here all over the world, I was able to answer some of those questions and give them a comfortable feeling about, I think, where our industry is going and hopefully the availability of products regularly in the near few future. And so a lot of those things came around the times that we’re in.

Greg Simmons: I think we’re fortunate that we’re in a very strong space. One of the things we talked about was the fact that a lot of people have shifted to working from home. And I don’t know, it’s obviously going to turn back a little bit here or more people going to the office. But there’s still going to be this element where you want to be able to perform better at home. But if I have to go back home again in the future, I want to be prepared. So all the things that our industry provides in the custom integration channel, we’re going to help set up the students learning centers in the home. We’re going to help make the office better. Really for me personally, I think it’s awesome that we can make all the Netflix and the content we’re watching sound and look better. And that’s what we do. So I think there was an excitement around the fact that we were able to agree with them that I think our industry is strong.

Rob Stott: And I was just having other conversations too, almost around this exact topic about how consumers are smarter now. Which is something that we’ve had this long runway for the connected home and smart home and automation waiting for just the space to take off. And it always felt like the one thing that was holding it back was consumer education, because whether it was the dealers or the brands having to educate the customer or their clients on why these things were important. Well now all of a sudden two years into a pandemic, they get it because they’ve been doing the research themselves. So now not that the products are selling themselves, but at least now your clients might understand more of what’s happening. So just the… It feels like the there’s massive opportunity that’s just waiting to happen right now.

Greg Simmons: Yeah. I feel like when I was selling pre-pandemic and people might have been cutting back on the size of a TV or maybe going one level down an audio that they shouldn’t that maybe I didn’t think they should do, all of a sudden they’re thinking of themselves, oh man, I really wish that I would’ve gone a little bit bigger on the TV, maybe improved my audio quality a little bit better. And so I think there is a lot of that. The beauty about our business is that upgrades, and which is what our industry is doing a lot of now to enhance those experiences, is possible. With the advancements in software and being able to upgrade products without necessarily changing the black box there’s a lot we can do to help people enhance their lives.

Rob Stott: To that point too, about the things you’re seeing and what these last two years have done, maybe this is to the integrator side of you and your background there. What kind of product opportunities excites you as an HTSN dealer going into a customer’s home? Or even just, what are you seeing from the customers side? Where is their focus right now? Where do they want to improve?

Greg Simmons: So the obvious things, especially in the times we’re in now, are the strength of networks. We want our network to be as strong as we can. And from a Snap One product standpoint, one of the things that we did last year was we acquired access networks. And so what we offer now is we for this great platform in the network all the way from something that we would consider maybe a little bit more entry level, all the way through a customized managed system that access networks can provide to our partners. And so it’s a huge deal for us, I think, to be able to talk about strengthening the network.

Greg Simmons: The other thing for me, personally, remote management has become a very, very big deal. Our Oversee Platform, which we’re going to educate a lot of the HTSN members on, is now embedded into a lot of our products. Basically our partners are allowed to assist their customers remotely and handle things that maybe would normally cause a truck roll. So I believe that the HTSN membership maybe isn’t as familiar as a whole with the Oversee Platform. And I think that Oversee Platform, I believe, should be the basis in every system going forward. We’re also… Something we’re wanting to do, and I think the industry is wanting to do, is to be able to add services and provide things for the client to help them in some cases now 24/7, 365, and it’s going to just improve the overall client experience with our products.

Rob Stott: Yeah. Obviously benefits both the customer and the business, right? Because you’re able to not roll the truck while service seeing them. And then from the client side of things, it builds sort of that loyalty with you, where they’re trusting you and you’re able to help them and you become kind of their one stop shop for whether it was putting in that system or now going forward managing it for them.

Greg Simmons: Another exciting thing is our contemporary lighting. A lot of our partners have been asking for some time for us to have some more decor plates and our dimmers and things. And the contemporary lighting, I think, is spectacular. It’s out there now. And the HTSN members are going to be able to get their hands on it, take a look here in the very near future. And it’s something that we’re very excited about.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. I know a lot of just product areas, this category has just been one that’s always been exciting to follow. But now coming through this pandemic and just sort of seeing where things are going, it’s got me very excited, kind of to see where things can possibly go, and now that we have a smarter consumer. And it’s just going to, I think, make all the difference in the world. So it’s just exciting to see, man.

Greg Simmons: Yeah. We… It’s exciting for us too. And we see it with our partners all over the world and we’re seeing the demands of the end user. And we’re taking all these things into consideration based what the end user’s looking for and what our partners are looking for and we’re doing everything we can to provide those things and make sure that they’re able to perform at the highest level.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And I know a lot of that too, has to do with we talk about a smarter consumer, the integrators as well needing to remain educated and trained up on some of these things to maybe at this point keep up with their consumers who are becoming so smart around this stuff, right?

Greg Simmons: Yeah. One of the things I’m excited about with this organization, we have an entire education team and a training team, and they’ve been incredible. They’ve helped me put together presentations for buying groups and for other people in the industry that I’ve been working with. And we have a ton of content, really good content. And obviously we all had to shift to say, Hey, this can’t only be done in person, but we have to be able to do it remotely. And they have to be able to go access this content. So that content is going to be available for all the HTSN members on any product of ours that they care to learn more about. And Hank and I and the team are going to work on making sure that we’re getting that out there.

Rob Stott: Why is that such… You talked about it a little bit there, but I know in talking to you at PrimeTime and hearing you talk to the dealers about it, this is something that you’re passionate about. So why is it something that you are so keen on and wanting to make a big push on?

Greg Simmons: Yeah, I’m impressed with the entire industry from CEDIA to many groups in the industry and how they’re thinking about education and providing great sources of education. I think one of the big pain points that we all have, and I talk to many of the HTSN members in Phoenix, is the labor. We’re struggling to find people.

Greg Simmons: And I think, me for years, I had developed back in Vegas at Eagle Sentry, we had developed a relationship with the local vo-tech high school. It was their IT program. And we went in and introduced the students to our world of IT, which is pretty exciting. And as you’re speaking to them in class about it, they kind of look at you a little crazy. But when I was able to bring them… We were able to bring them for a tour of our showroom. And they walked out of that throughout the entire experience and walked out of that final theater experience and said, that’s IT? And I said, yeah, that’s IT. And so this is several years ago, I saw how excited they got about our industry. And I thought that one of the big problems is a lot of young people don’t know our industry. What are we calling it? We haven’t had this great blueprint like they’ve had for many years with plumbing and electrical and construction management and all the things that young people can go and look for in these programs in these high schools.

Greg Simmons: And so one of the things I’m passionate about and Snap One is passionate about is, let’s educate younger people on our industry. We’re referring to it as the smart home industry. The builders that are building houses refer to their home as smart. And I think it’s something that resonates with people. And so imagine you are a young person and you’re going into that program and there’s an opportunity for a smart home program. So that’s something that I’m working on. We’re doing some testing around the country. And I think the, especially the seniors in high school that are looking for a really good career, we want to let them know how great this career can be. And that’s something that I’m working on. And obviously we can work on that with some HTSN members that might be interested in that. But I think that in order for us to really grow and to provide the level of service we need to for our clients, we really need a broader understanding from people of what our industry is so they may be encouraged to come that way when it’s time.

Rob Stott: It’s funny. Because you think about… One of the questions I always love to ask integrators is, I can turn this on you too, is how you got into the industry? Because so many, it’s always the hobby, right? Like tinkering with toys as a kid and it’s just a passion that was born that way. Kind of not that it would get rid of those, but to hear that there could be an actual carved out path like a smart home vo-tech course of sorts to get these guys in. For one, it’s needed. But it would be neat to hear more people over the next couple of years talk about how they actually went to school for it as opposed to just kind of stumbling into it.

Greg Simmons: Yeah. I mean most of us fell into it, right?

Rob Stott: Yeah.

Greg Simmons: I fell into it by needing a job in my freshman year of college. And I was monitoring alarms from four to midnight for this very small company that became what Eagle Sentry is today. And I felt I purely fell into it. I wouldn’t have known. It wasn’t something that I was going to school for or that I was even on my radar at all. And I think that’s part of the problem. There’s a lot of organizations in our industry that I’ve been focusing on it, we’re getting better at it. But I think we all need to be working on a broader understanding at a young person’s life about who we are and the opportunities we can provide. The careers in our industry are…can be great. It’s exciting. And when these students will through a tour of one of our showrooms, the look in their eyes, it’s just, this is exciting to me. And so I think if we all work together, I’m going to…I’m dedicating a lot of my time to it, I think we can help the industry grow and get better.

Rob Stott: And it’s cool too, because they have examples like yourself where they can see someone who did start monitoring some cameras to owning a business. So it’s not like they feel like there would be a… There’s not a defined path, right? So you can come in any point of this industry and doing any kind of job, obviously having the educated background that they would be coming into it with, they’re almost at a leg up when they get into it. And then they can have all these examples of people who’ve gone on to own businesses or start their own business branch off and wind up in so many different parts of this industry.

Greg Simmons: Yeah. There’s people in the industry, us included, that believe every home in America is going to be smart in 10 years. And so if that’s the case, there’s this massive growth that’s going to occur with our industry. Right now, the average company is 11 or 12 people. And what I found, especially even for myself, the way I kind of rose to the top, was it’s a little bit easier to do in a small company sometimes than it is in a giant organization. So I think one of the great things about it is these young people can come out, and if installation programming and making these systems function is their passion, great. We can provide that. But there’s opportunities in sales and marketing and management and project management. And it’s just super exciting. When we finish a system in our industry for a client, it’s a very different experience than maybe some of the other trades and the other things that they put into that home or business. And I always enjoyed, one of my favorite things, was just firing up that system, whatever it was, and watching that kind of customer enjoyment about what they’ve just purchased and that’s great.

Rob Stott: Yeah. Yeah. It’s very different because… It’s the feel goods. Because it’s more than just that obviously there’s the important parts of the home, like plumbing and kitchens and things like that, but when you get into those entertainment spaces. And even just, I know controls nowadays are getting into those more traditional, and I don’t want to call them necessary, but essential parts of the home, but that’s kind of what they are. But to see them kind of now touch every facet of the home, but always kind of go back to just in increasing the entertainment value in your home.

Greg Simmons: Yeah. We’re part of people’s everyday lives and-

Rob Stott: Yeah.

Greg Simmons: Now more so than ever the network, and the entertainment experience ,and what lighting is doing for our state of mind, the ease that control gives you to maybe operate your day more efficiently and save some extra time. These things are all just, I think overall, just great. And it’s beyond sometimes the entertainment experience or the strength of the network. But just what we as custom integrators can do for everybody.

Rob Stott: Yeah. No, it’s awesome. And cool to see your passion around it and on the education side, of course. But also just what you’re bringing to the table there at Snap One.

Greg Simmons: Yeah, I love the industry. I love this company. I love the people. And I’m very glad to be continuing in a different… It’s really interesting to go from being an integrator to the manufacturer side. And I’ve learned a ton. And I realized how important we are to each other. Our partner’s super important to us. We’re super important to the partner. And the more we interact, the more we listen to each other, just the better we’re going to be. And, to me, that gets me fired up every day.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. Well, cool to hear that passion and be able to share it here on the podcast. So I definitely plan, this won’t be our only conversation for sure. I look forward to catching up with you down the road and at future PrimeTime’s as well. So this was a lot of fun, Mr. Simmons. And look forward to, like I said, catching up down the road here again soon.

Greg Simmons: Yeah. Rob, thanks for the time. And I appreciate it. And I look forward to seeing you here in the near future and get into the next HTSN event.

Rob Stott: You bet.

 

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