Custom integration industry veteran Andy Orozco hit the ground running — literally — as Nationwide Marketing Group’s new Senior Vice President of CI. His second day on the job brought him to Dallas for CEDIA Expo. A few weeks in now, Orozco sits down to talk about what excites him in working with NMG’s CI dealers, the opportunities that lie ahead in this industry and more.
Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast, and an episode… I wanted to do this while we were in Dallas, but I’d say schedules were a little crazy while we were down there at CEDIA Expo, but Mr. Andy Orozco, appreciate you, our senior VP of custom integration here at Nationwide Marketing Group. Sounds awesome, man. What do you think?
Andy Orozco: Sounds good. Thank you for not doing this at CEDIA. It was nuts.
Rob Stott: That would’ve been something.
Andy Orozco: I’ve taken the last couple of weeks to let everything soak in.
Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. Well, that’s, I think, a pretty cool place to start. We’ll dive into you in a second, your background, but I want to give you a chance because that was your big debut for Nationwide Marketing Group was down there at CEDIA Expo, but a really cool time to do it too because the industry was coming back together and first real CEDIA since 2019, and everyone coming together, and then you being able to meet with the team. What was that whole experience like for you at the jump, to dive in headfirst with Nationwide at CEDIA?
Andy Orozco: So, I think I was formally about a day in when I went to CEDIA, so I think I had 24 hours under my belt, but it was really good. I think, like you said, the timing was good as far as getting a chance to meet with everybody in person. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve really been able to do that as an industry, and I didn’t realize how much I missed the personal interaction. Also didn’t realize that I’ve gotten to know as many people as I do inside of the industry. So, making the change to come over here to Nationwide allowed me firsthand to see how supportive everyone was.
Rob Stott: Well, the other thing too, aside from just getting to meet the people in person, you see… Trade shows are where things happen, so you get to see everything in action. That had to be… Drinking from a fire hose might be an understatement, but getting to see how the interactions with members work and prospects as they come along and visit the booth and that sort of thing. So, I’m sure very educational aside from just excessively busy as well.
Andy Orozco: Big time. Yeah, for sure. The experience was great, and I have to say it again, we were long overdue for an in-person event, so a couple of things stood out, if you’ll let me just jump right into it, I guess.
Rob Stott: Yeah, go for it.
Andy Orozco: Do you want to go into the background on me, or do you want to get into CEDIA?
Rob Stott: We’ll get there. We’ll get there. We’re diving right into CEDIA. I like this.
Andy Orozco: All right. All right. I’ll follow your lead. So, the experience was great. A couple things stood out. One of them was there was panels on what was called the Smart Stage, including a buying group state of the industry event on day one. So, I thought that was great, to see all the leaders come together and share their perspective. Yes, we all compete in a way, but my message to anyone that’s out there that isn’t part of a group is to join one. So, there are so many resources that are here, and a chance to do some good peer-to-peer networking, which group depends really… That’s up to you and what you’re looking for, but I can say this. Every group leader I know, we wake up every day and we look to do what’s best for the membership. So, I would just say talk to us and let us show you how our approach is unique. So, that was one thing. So, I thought, “Awesome.” We all compete, but I think we’re all trying to do the same thing.
Rob Stott: Yeah, and that’s one of those things to… I mean, you kind of hit the nail on the head, that everyone’s competing, but that’s one of those… Hank says it a lot, and I hear it especially in this industry a lot, the high tides raise all ships, that sort of approach to doing things, and no better example, I think, than that when you see leadership from five different groups sitting on a panel and talking and sharing similar messages too, understanding challenges are the same across the space, opportunities are the same. So, that was one. I know you were sitting in the audience too with us. That was kind of cool, to see all those groups come together and share that message.
Andy Orozco: Yeah, yeah. There’s over 1,000 dealers that are in buying groups in our space, in custom integration, but there’s thousands more that aren’t being addressed right now. Maybe they didn’t know about a group and what a group does, but again, my message is to talk to any one of us and let us tell you what we do, not just from the group perspective and the resources that we have, but from the peer-to-peer interaction, which is really big right now. I started in the industry in… Well, I’ll say 20-plus years so I don’t date myself too bad. I started a while back. So, when I started, it was just about the vendor programs and the discounts, and that’s what everybody wanted, and that’s still important today, but I think where people lead on the things that we’re looking for are more leaning towards education and then a peer-to-peer best practice exchange and how you can facilitate that.
Rob Stott: Well, kind of two questions. I want to ask you about seeing that evolution, being involved in watching the shape and form of buying groups change, but on the other side, there’s the second question there being… You mentioned the education and the other aspects of being a part of a buying group. Obviously, CEDIA was where our education program with CEDIA the association was announced, so kind of right in line with that, the importance of how things have changed. So, your reaction to seeing that launch as well?
Andy Orozco: That launch is amazing and cool, that you could have all those resources available to you under one umbrella. So, we’re creating an online learning platform that will be home to the CEDIA course library. We’re going to develop some custom content. So, we’ll try to make it super easy, that you could onboard a new employee through the system and teach them the basics, including etiquette, and then all the way up to manufacturer training. So, it’ll be truly a one-stop shop.
Rob Stott: Yeah, and then go back to the other point, seeing the way buying groups have evolved from being very program-focused and vendor roster-focused to what they are today. What’s that been like to be a part of, and then also influence as well throughout your time in buying groups?
Andy Orozco: Yeah, yeah. Being a part of it’s awesome because those decisions are typically led by the members. So, we don’t try to guess what it is that the members want. You always want to qualify your customer, the members of the group, and ask them where the pain points are and ways that you can help. So, many times the members aren’t directly involved in creating the content, so that’s good, to see them take ownership of the group, because it is here for them. I like to think that they wake up every day and think about the group the same way we think about them, but I think for the most part, we’re here when they need us, and hopefully it’s the first thing that they think about. We’ll work on that and ways that we communicate all the resources to them.
Rob Stott: Absolutely. Well, kind of a nice way to segue into talking about your work and being here at Nationwide now, like we said, the SVP of custom integration, a role made for you that sees you come in and lead the custom integration effort here at Nationwide, go back. We’ll take the chance now to go back and talk about yourself and how you got to this new role at Nationwide. So, dive in. Tell us a little bit about your career, background, history, and the path through the custom integration space.
Andy Orozco: Sure. Yeah. Well, on a personal side, I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, married with the rescue dog that’s underneath my desk right now. So, if she barks, it’s Maxine. She’s about 15 years old. We’ve had her for probably 13 years. Best dog ever. But like I said earlier, now that I’m getting up in age, I’ll say 20-plus years of industry experience. So, I started working for a display manufacturer, which, by the way, is where I met Tom Hickman.
Rob Stott: Okay.
Andy Orozco: It was back in that time.
Rob Stott: Yep.
Andy Orozco: So, I’ve had the history there with Tom. While I was there, I had a chance to work my way up through different departments, different responsibilities. My first job was detailing stores. From there, I went into a couple of different sales roles. So, Tom and I almost had parallel paths, just always competing. From there, both of us moved over… He went to Toshiba, and I was at Hitachi. So, those were the two companies. From there, I moved over to the buying group world, and again, I was lucky enough to have been given opportunities, various roles before joining the Nationwide team, and Tom and I, again, kind of friendly competitors, respect each other, but not part of the same team. So, the good news is that I’ve got experience working with all the stakeholders that we’re responsible for today, whether it’s a manufacturer, the buying group itself, or the members.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Well, kind of cool to hear. We talk to so many members on this podcast and get their path through the retail side of things, and they’re all talking about how they’ve worn all the hats, and many obviously still do today wear all the hats, but getting that experience across all different parts of the business. Neat to hear on the other side, it works on this side too. It works on the manufacturer slash buying group side, and one thing… We do diving here into backgrounds and things, so I saw that you had a stop in communications as well along the way. You did some communications work. How does that parlay into what you’re doing?
Andy Orozco: Well, that part’s interesting because, again, it ties into the members. So, it was more focused on internal communication, trying to figure out the best way to get all these great things that the group does out to the membership so that when they need something, they know where to go. But not everybody digests content the same way, and it’s more so today in 2022, because I don’t know, personally, I have multiple email accounts. There’s Slack. There’s Teams. There’s social media, Instagram, LinkedIn. So, I think you just got to have a stack of communication software, and you got to hit it all because not everybody’s the same, and you can get any one of them up really high, but it doesn’t mean you hit 100%. So, I guess it’s good, and there’s a lot of opportunity to work through that, but sometimes it is frustrating when you just can’t figure out the best way to make sure that it’s out there.
Rob Stott: Hey, you’re preaching to the choir.
Andy Orozco: Yeah. Some people in there late at night. I’ll log in. I got it. I’m good on my own. Others, really, I’m kind of addicted to Instagram. I just automatically seem to go in there, and I’ll see things pop up. So, again, it’s, I guess, a good thing and a bad thing that there are so many different ways that we could hit the membership or hit each other.
Rob Stott: I think we’re all still trying to figure that out. I mean, you see us. We have podcasts and the communications today. I just think back to my own college experience and the fact that there weren’t… I think Facebook had just launched, so dating myself now, but there weren’t social media courses. Now you have people that can get full on degrees in this stuff and go out into the world and use it. So, it’s a fast-changing place, a fast-paced industry as well, like many other in the channels that we cover. So, cool to see, but I think, like I said, just need to see that it applies across both sides of the business where you can have all sorts of different areas of the business that you touch and how it rolls into what you’re doing today, and coming in and seeing the landscape of not just Nationwide’s CI dealership, the CI membership, but the broader CI landscape.
Obviously, one of the things you’re going to be focused on is those opportunities and where you think the CI business can grow. We had a lot of those conversations at CEDIA, but I want to give you the chance here to dive into that a little bit, and maybe some of it, I think, was discussed on that panel as well that you referenced earlier, but what are some of those areas that you think that you’re paying attention to right now that you think our members, our CI dealers would benefit from hearing about?
Andy Orozco: I think you could break that question up into two. There’s product opportunities, then there are some opportunities, I think, for your business as a custom integrator. Maybe let’s start with the product. That might be a little bit easier. So, on the product side, there’s a couple of emerging categories that stood out to me. So, the lighting fixtures is still the early stages of figuring out how to best approach the category in terms of education, product assortment. Our industry is definitely on the radar as far as lighting fixture manufacturers and then wanting to develop unique solutions for their channel. So, here at Nationwide we’ve had some meetings here recently, and we’ve met to discuss the best approach for us.
So, I would just say stay tuned because I don’t have it figured out today. We’re working on it, working with Hank Alexander, Richard Glikes, Patrick McCarthy, so a good group of guys, and together we’ll figure out the best approach for our membership. So, that’s lighting fixtures, and I think you got to be real specific when you talk about lighting that you’re talking about fixtures, not control, because I think control we’ve got. The fixtures piece is a little bit more unique and different, and there’s little apprehension that when you have those conversations with the builder or designer, you want to make sure that it’s really tight because if you blow that presentation on the lighting fixtures, you kind of blew your credibility on the whole rest of the job, even the stuff you’ve been doing for 30 years. Right?
Rob Stott: It’s fair.
Andy Orozco: So, kind of tied into that same category, if you’re looking at just lighting, I would say shading solutions. So, you see more manufacturers on the show floor now than you have seen in the past. So, again, not quite the same level of apprehension, but you still don’t want to measure a window wrong and eat a remake. So, there’s still some opportunity there. So, that’s probably lighting in some form or another, natural lighting or artificial lighting.
Rob Stott: Yeah. The shading side-
Andy Orozco: I think that’s a big opportunity.
Rob Stott: The shading side too, I think, not that it makes it easier for a CI dealer to get into it, but you see maybe the comfort level, they get there faster because you have some brands that they’re familiar with that are also taking… You think about home theater screens and how… You might not think that they’re similar, but you see those brands that are now making shades as well, so it’s kind of one of those things where, oh, well, they’re doing that? Maybe it’s something I need to pay attention to.
Andy Orozco: Yeah. Yeah. I think the other advantage when a company that comes from our channel enters a new category that way, they understand the day of an integrator and how tough it is. These are small businesses, and you’re putting out a lot of fires, wearing a lot of different hats. It’s kind of hectic. So, they understand that part of the business, and they’re very willing to accommodate, typically, to you, so a friendly dealer portal, a friendly remake policy, short lead times. They kind of get it.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Neat to see. Well, that’s the product side. Are you leaving anything out before we jump over to the other side?
Andy Orozco: I think a little bit further out, there’s energy management. So, it’s not quite far along as lighting is, but eventually, I think that’s going to present opportunities for our membership. But we’ve got to save that one for later, maybe. But I think around the corner, once we get the lighting fixtures things figured out, we look at energy management, maybe some other things. The legacy categories are still developing great solutions in terms of video displays and the quality, the size of video displays, audio control, all that stuff.
Rob Stott: Yeah. The energy side, it’s kind of timely too. You think about, well, not too far from you, the other coast and some of the possibilities there, maybe not even just on the residential side, but the larger commercial or… I don’t know. Where do apartments fall? Is that commercial, resimercial? Is that sort of that in between the way they are?
Andy Orozco: It’s residential, multi-dwelling unit, MBU.
Rob Stott: It’s just huge.
Andy Orozco: But yeah, somewhere in the middle, maybe. Yeah. There’s a community out there, somewhere on the West Coast. I don’t know if it was-
Rob Stott: I saw that, yeah, the one that was built entirely on solar that didn’t lose power. They were the only community not to, and you’re seeing all these other communities on that coast that are weeks, maybe months away from getting power back, and they stood up. They were fine. They weren’t far from Fort Myers or one of them over there.
Andy Orozco: Yeah.
Rob Stott: Yeah, something like that. The opportunity’s there.
Andy Orozco: Yeah. Yep. So, it’s not just about getting off the grid to save money. I mean, a situation like this, those people are okay and you can’t say the same for others. I actually watched the YouTube video last night, just people that were creating their own video blogs as the storm was coming through, and we still have above-ground power in front of my house, so it’s like a telephone pole type of thing, and those just snapped. So, the whole infrastructure was destroyed. So, to hear about a solution where you’re independent of all that stuff, it’s pretty compelling.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Awesome. Well, what is that other side of the business where the opportunities exist? So, you covered the products pretty well, some of the things here now and down the road. What are those other things that you’re looking at?
Andy Orozco: I think business is resetting a little bit. I’m not in any way saying it’s crashing or it’s bad, but before the pandemic it was good, but we just went through the roof from the pandemic because everybody was at home and wanted to have a nice home office, nice outdoor entertainment space. So, it was all about the home. So, I think we’re kind of resetting the pre-pandemic levels and a lot of categories, so I think one of the biggest opportunities is actually in marketing, marketing out to your clients, so consumer marketing and making sure that your website’s up to date, that you’re executing good digital marketing campaigns. So, if you are getting into shades and lighting fixtures and all these new things, your clients don’t know that, so developing a campaign where you’ll just stay in touch with them, “Hey, by the way, we’re doing lighting, we’re doing shading. You need us. Here we are.” Then they land on your website. Your website has a nice presentation. I think that’s a good opportunity.
Then second, I think for a custom integrator to think about ways to create efficiencies in their business, that could be easy. It could just be going to an event and asking your peers what they do, and going back early in our conversation and talking about it’s not just discounts, it’s about peer groups, it’s about education and all those things, so I think that’s a good opportunity, and maybe you take it another step further and hire a business coach. So, I think that presents good opportunity. Just tighten up your business, make it really efficient, and make sure that you’re… If the pie does get a little bit smaller, you want to keep a big piece of that pie. So, I think your marketing efforts, the way you present yourself to the community is really important.
Rob Stott: You mentioned… Obviously, not saying the business is getting bad. To your point, it’s just getting back to normal. We’re seeing that across all industries, I think, and in particular, the ones that we cover here at Nationwide. Is that a chance… As things are, again, not to say cooling down’s a bad thing, but getting back to normal and the normal cadence, is that a good opportunity or a good… Whether it’s on the product side for a dealer to look at those new categories, things are getting a little bit… Time’s freeing up for them to explore those opportunities and do the things that you’re saying on the business side. Is there ever really a right time, or would now be the perfect time as things are doing what they’re doing with the market to explore those opportunities?
Andy Orozco: Yeah. I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect time, but I think if you can maybe free up a little bit at a time… I don’t think anybody’s sitting idle. There was a time early in the pandemic when people sat idle for, I don’t know if it was a month or however long it was, not sure even if you could get into a client’s home, and there was a lot of uncertainty, and during that time I think a lot of people invested into education. But I think here, it’s resetting, and if there is an opportunity to maybe invest in your future, there’s always the opportunity cost. Okay, if I go to a training, I’m giving up something that’s maybe a legacy category that I could be working on today.
But I think investing in the future and thinking a little bit further out to get into a category now before your competitors do and let your customers know that you’ve entered a category, I think now’s a good time because there’s a level of training that’s involved. If you take on a new control platform, there’s a level of training that’s involved. If you take on a new category, there’s a level of training that’s involved. So, it’s not something that you just flip a switch and jump right into. I think you’ve got to do a lot of investing, investing of time now so that you’re good a couple months out.
Rob Stott: Certainly.
Andy Orozco: Yeah, I would do it now.
Rob Stott: Makes sense. Well, I want to close it because I know you’re a busy man, of course, not just even coming out of CEDIA, but getting your feet dirty and getting in there with your hands and really exploring the space, but I want to close it with just almost a forward-looking question for you, but you got a taste of what this membership’s like at CEDIA, people swinging by the booth. We didn’t even talk about the tiny home. We could save that for another day. But you got a taste of what this membership’s all about. What excites you about getting to work for the Nationwide dealers and the CI dealers here and everything that you have ahead of you?
Andy Orozco: The people, the people. I’m still pretty new. So, if I started the day before CEDIA, that was only a couple weeks ago, three weeks.
Rob Stott: I think so.
Andy Orozco: I think this might be my fourth week, right?
Rob Stott: Yep.
Andy Orozco: Something like that. It’s been crazy. It was like that. So, I’m still pretty new, but the interactions that I’ve had so far, everybody’s made me feel really welcome, and that’s really stood out to me. So, there’s a lot of resources that are here, a lot, so there’s plenty to work with. The challenge is just organizing ourselves around the resources and making sure that we’re presenting them in a way that caters to the CI channel and the unique solutions that are in the CI channel. Yeah. I would say the people. There’s a bunch of resources.
I was in the office last week in Winston-Salem, so I’m trying to figure out what’s here, drinking through a fire hose, as you can imagine. But when I say there’s a lot, there’s a lot, and there’s world-class talent here at Nationwide, which is another amazing thing. There’s people from our industry because you need the industry background and experience, but there’s people from Fortune 50 companies that work for Nationwide. So, I think it’s super exciting in terms of just challenging myself, being surrounded by that level of talent. So, yeah, people. I think that’s the answer to your question, is the people.
Rob Stott: Awesome.
Andy Orozco: I’ll just leave it at that.
Rob Stott: No, that’s a great answer, and I feel like you mentioned it, there’s so much talent here and figuring it out, and again, maybe it goes back to your communications thing of figuring out how to just get what is possible or what those opportunities are in front of the dealers so that they understand what they’re capable, or what they have at their disposal as members of this group.
Andy Orozco: Yeah, and those were a lot of the conversations I had last week with the different business unit leaders. I was like, “Hey, this is awesome solution. Let’s make sure when we presented it to a custom integrator, we present it in a way that they understand, and we cater the product to whatever it is that they need for their clients.” It might not be the same as a retail account and what a retail account would need, but everybody needs the same backbone to their business, whether it’s human resource, marketing, all that stuff.
Rob Stott: Yeah, and they have it here as members of Nationwide, and now they got you to help figure it out and get the message in front of them and go to work for them. So, it’s certainly an exciting time.
Andy Orozco: Yeah. No, I’m wired the same way. When I said earlier that I was really impressed with the group leaders on that panel and how they wake up every day and they want to do what’s right for the dealers, I’m the same. So, I want everybody know that I’m here for them and I’m pretty accessible. I’m really good at texting.
Rob Stott: So, we’ll drop your phone number in the description of the episode. Is that what you’re saying?
Andy Orozco: Yeah, yeah. I’m an awesome text guy. The calls are hard. Sometimes I’ll be doing something like this and you just can’t pick it up, but you can sneak in a text sometimes, say, “Hey, I’ll get right back to you.” Right?
Rob Stott: There you go. Well, we are thrilled to have you and excited to see where you take the CI space here at Nationwide Marketing Group. So, Mr. Andy Orozco, appreciate you taking some of those valuable minutes that you could be putting to work for the dealers and spending it with us here on the podcast. So, we appreciate it and look forward to catching up again soon.
Andy Orozco: Yeah, let’s do another one.