During Nationwide Marketing Group’s PrimeTime show in Dallas, it was announced that our custom integration group was sunsetting its old name (HTSN). The team will move forward as Oasys Residential Technology Group, or Oasys for short. We sat down with Director of Oasys Hank Alexander to talk about the new name, the group’s new strategy and more.
Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast and joined today by the director of Oasys Residential Technology Group. Hank Alexander. Boom, mic drop. How does that sound, Hank?
Hank Alexander: Sounds great. That’s the first time I think I’ve really actually heard it live done that way. That’s awesome. How you doing, Rob?
Rob Stott: I’m doing well, man. Excited. This is a fun one. They’re always fun with you, but I mean, we’re like… well not breaking news because officially as this publishes, the news dropped yesterday and for those that are with us in Dallas for PrimeTime, the news dropped on Sunday that there’s some rebranding going on. HTSN, Home Technology Specialists Nationwide, no more Oasys Residential Technology Group from here on out. So, I mean, that’s the news. That’s what we’re here to talk about today and excited to get to dive into that with you and learn more about this.
Hank Alexander: Excited. Driving HTSN off into the sunset, man.
Rob Stott: No. I know you guys and me included, we’ve got some more work to do before we get to the fully integrated point of this, but a great opportunity at PrimeTime to talk about it with members and get them on board as we start to move forward. But let’s start there. Tell me about this name about Oasys. That’s what we’ve got the long name then and that subtitle underneath, but this is Oasys, so HTSN becomes Oasys. And so, walk us through that, the name itself, the process of getting there to this point and really what it means to you.
Hank Alexander: Yeah. Absolutely. So, first thanks, it was always fun to be here with you guys and I appreciate everything. So, yeah, Oasys, we talked about… I’ll rewind the clock here just a little bit like in October coming out of CEDIA in Dallas, we all got the team together, Richard Glikes, Andy Orozco who just joined the team, myself, Dean Sotille. We locked ourselves in a room for about three or four days in Atlanta and started to talk about just where we’re going and all of these things. And we brought up the idea at that point of rebranding HTSN, and it really kind of comes out of being a more inclusive group, bigger group. We’re growing membership, we’re growing vendors, changing things up, doing things a little differently and felt it was time to just change the name and grow a little.
And I started here. It’s been a pleasure to work here for eight years. It’s hard to believe. It feels like Flight One. I’m just, I love it. And HTSN came out of our alliance with HTSA eight years ago and made great sense and it was perfect then, right? And just as we evolved as a group and fast-forward to 2021 when we acquired Azion and that really set us on this path of growing CI and all of these things. And of course, hiring Andy Orozco. So, it really was time to change things up and lose that really long handle of Home Technology Specialists Nationwide. And we hired a company in and had a lot of fun doing this and Oasys.
Rob Stott: Well, and I know, and it’s a fun name and obviously the play on the SYS at the end systems and it has a nice ring to it too. And I know there were options galore thrown out there for possible names. When you think about Oasys, what excites you about it? And I mean, even if you want to feel free to walk us through the process of what it was like landing on this and finding a name that you know think suits this group moving forward.
Hank Alexander: Yeah. So, we hired a branding company and walked them through what our vision was, where we were at our vision, how we see things. And they came back with some questions and then they came back with some names and we all really liked Oasys very early on and there were a couple of others and asked them to come back to us again. And there were a couple of names on that second round that were funny to us. One of them sounded like a women’s clothing line and an adult entertainer maybe was like, it was just fun. And we just kept coming back to Oasys and it felt like your home is your oasis. It felt like it was a very comfortable thing. It was a branding that we could get behind. It really meant a lot when you bring the SYS into it. I mean, it just felt really good with what we were headed and-
Rob Stott: And I mean, getting even into the nerdy side, the communications and branding in me seeing even the little house logo that’s next to it, it’s kind of that gentle nod to the former brand, right? Because if anyone that knows the HTSN logo and what it was that had the roof over it, and I think even the little wireless network coming out of the chimney stack, if you will, and it’s just a slight rework of that and a nod to the former name and keeping it alive and what’s moving forward.
Hank Alexander: Well, in the new logo, if you look at that house and those five pillars, and I don’t know that it was always meant this way, but I look at those five pillars as audio, video, lighting, shades, integration, right? Those kind of are foundations of what we’re doing. And so, again, I don’t know that that’s the way it was always intended, but you look at that and you go, “Wow, those are the five pillars of Oasys.” And it’s the house and the whole… it just started to really fit together and really play really well. And the process has been a lot of fun. oasysgroup.org and it’s wonderful.
Rob Stott: Yeah. I mean, I think you hit on it too because the name, it was one of the first that was thrown out there and it sort of like, you don’t want to believe that it’s right the first time you’re here. Well, we’re supposed to go through this whole process and this whole kumbaya moment of ta-da and the… that it fits but it was there throughout the whole process. And I think that’s what’s cool even despite all of the other possibilities that were thrown out there and the fun that you guys had as a team and when it’s right and the fact that you kept going back to it and it has meaning.
Hank Alexander: Yeah. And we had a lot of fun with it. Andy and I and Richard, we all talked to our spouses in the early goings of this thing. If I say this name, what does that? And then, and we’d do that over a weekend and then Monday we would start to compare notes about where we were at on things. And it’s funny because Oasys always kind of came back up to that top, and so we knew we were onto something with it. But it has been a fun process getting some different… there’s been some crazy stuff.
Rob Stott: Well, again, just a fun project and obviously to be able to have this name and move forward with it, the name’s great and I think people are going to love it. But I think what it really comes down to is nothing about, well, we say nothing. You guys, nothing about how this group serves members is going to change. That’s what we boil it down to… yeah, it’s a new name and a new branding and look and feel. But the way you guys go about serving the membership of Oasys and how you tackle, you mentioned it, the vendor programs and the ways you serve these dealers, that’s not going to change.
Hank Alexander: No. It’s the same team. I’m here. Andy Orosco is here. Dean Satili is still here. Randy Durr on exchange and his team, everybody’s still here. Really, it’s more of a new dawn of new programs. So, we announced RTI and Pro Control and Blue Stream and IC Realtime, our new vendors, we’re starting down the path of lighting. We’ve got a relationship with a lighting designer, Collide Light. So, a lot of really exciting things here at the show that we’re announcing, and we continue to grow that membership. I look back over the last 12 or 13 months and January of ’22, HTSN was 191 members, really fun group of people.
In January of 2023 we were 250 members, right? So, we’ve grown a lot in the last 12 months. And that growth between membership and growth of vendors and services, our CEDIA partnership, Oasys is still going to take care of CEDIA dues for our members. That’s going to continue. We have a great partnership on the CEDIA education side. Oasys members are still going to have their education. Nothing is changing, it’s just a bigger group and it was it’s time to expand and be that bigger group.
Rob Stott: No. That’s awesome. And you mentioned that growth and some of the things that you guys are doing. What excites you about the… Now that, I mean, like you said, the name it’s a jumping off point for what the plan is now moving forward for Oasys, and I know a lot of that’ll come to a head and get explained at summit, which happens in May in Nashville and the first ever … we’re at a handful of summits for the CI group, but the first ever Oasys Summit. So that’ll be kind of fun to be at but what is the feeling and what excites you about that potential for continued growth? Because that’s a large chunk to add to a big percentage of the group to grow in just a year. So, I mean, and I know you’re just getting started here.
Hank Alexander: Yeah. So… yeah, we are. We want to be close to that 400 members by the end of the year. We really want to grow Oasys to that 600-member level. More brands, more services at the Oasys. Can I say First-Annual Oasys Summit?
Rob Stott: Yeah. Right.
Hank Alexander: The First-Annual Oasys Summit in May will have vital management there, right? So that’s a divergence. It’s not just one-on-ones with vendors and members, it’s business coaching and developing your business. And we’ll have Jason Say in there talking about process management and all of those things, right? Obviously, CEDIA will be there, we’ll be doing some lighting classes with Kaleidolight. So, it really is a huge jumping off point and a more inclusive, a bigger group is really what we’re trying to be, we’re hiring a field team and we got all kinds of fun stuff. So, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Rob Stott: Yeah. I mean, it’s for anyone that’s read the press release or seen coverage in the trade media, we mentioned it in there that it’s a jumping off point for this redefined strategy of sort of like you said, more inclusive working on those dealers giving opportunity to the integrators that maybe in the past where I think Andy’s quoted in that release even says they were often overlooked or skipped over from the group mentality and that talk about going after that dealer and why not necessarily why joining. I mean, don’t make the pitch to join, right? But talk about why this is an opportunity for that make the pitch to join, go for it. You do you, but what is it about that level of dealer I think that the opportunity and why go after them and why try to be that space for them to grow?
Hank Alexander: It’s a great question because a lot of people just don’t know what a group does. They just don’t know. And so, you got to kind of educate a little bit about what it is we do. And we always say that people come for programs, they stay for peer-to-peer and education and those kinds of things. I know we’ve got hundreds of different services, business insurance, and credit card swipe rates, and finance. So, all these different things that people just don’t realize how much money they’re leaving on the table. And especially, as you start to look at bringing people up through the business and they don’t know what a group does, and they don’t know that there’s additional value in programs and additional value in that peer-to-peer. And what they start to find out when they come to a group meeting is some of the same growing pains that they’re having, somebody else in the room has already had.
And they can help them through a lot of those things, like, “Oh, we’re doing this.” And our teams use a Slack channel to communicate, or our teams do this, or we found this business insurance because of the relationship that Oasys has with CEDIA. And there’s all of those things that they start to look at that when you’re starting a business, you’re wearing the accounting hat and then you’re wearing the programmer’s hat and then you’re wearing the customer service hat because something goes wrong. And then you got to unload a delivery truck and you got to reload the van and you’re wearing all these hats. And so, when you’re starting it, you don’t know how to really do some of these things. And as you start to grow, you just keep doing the same bad habits. And so, we want to help you grow, maybe change some of those bad habits, improve accounting, improve marketing, improved communication with your team.
One of the things that I think most integrators are most challenged with is human resources. And we have a great HR team here and we want to help with some of those things so that they know how to do background checks and drug tests and hire and form a team and grow the team and what it means to grow that team and all those kinds of things. So, there’s all those things that going after a different section of dealer, they just don’t know that they’re having some of those or they know they’re having some of those struggles, they just don’t know who to turn to. And we want to be that person that they can turn to for that help.
Rob Stott: Right. And I mean, if you think about it really that level of dealer, I mean, it’s that saying of they don’t know what they don’t know, right? So, you’re being that informant for them on the opportunities it takes or not necessarily even just… I mean, yeah, you guys are experts in this, but you can also connect them with the businesses that have gone through these growing pains and gotten over the hurdles and now they are larger businesses and have expanded and continue to succeed today. So, it’s almost like, I don’t want to call it a life raft necessarily, but you’re helping them get from the infancy phase to a point where they’re like that teenager that you trust on the room, right? And then they can go and have that professional career and grow into that business that has sustained processes and they’re able to succeed and grow at the end of the day.
Hank Alexander: Well, don’t think of Oasys as a buying group, we’re a mentoring, right? This is, we’re here to help you and mentor and whatever the problems are. And sometimes truthfully, we may not know what all the problems are, right? I mean, somebody may go, “Hey, I’m having this… this is something that’s going on in my business and we can dig in and find the solution.” So, it’s not a buying group, it’s a mentoring group and it’s here to help you out on those things.
Rob Stott: No. That’s awesome. And I’m excites me not even just with the name but seeing all of these things because you’re just over the top about it and it’s awesome to see how excited you are about the name and everything that you guys are doing. So I can’t wait to see sort of… what this is going to look like moving forward because I mean, yeah, you got a lot of work ahead of you, but it’s paying off and you’re starting to see it with the name and then everything else you guys got going on .and I mean, it’s cool for me from my seat so I can only imagine how it is for you, you know what… having been here almost since the inception of this group within Nationwide to now see it where it is today.
Hank Alexander: I was talking to somebody a couple of days ago and I used the Oasys name, and I started to smile and they were like, “That’s a smile I haven’t seen.” I love my job. But they were like, “That’s kind of cool when you say it and you smile.” It’s like, “Yeah. Because I know what it means.” And there’s a lot of ownership and things on my side and Andy Orozco and Richard Glikes, I mean, we all locked ourselves into meetings to go over this and come up with this. There’s a lot of ownership on our side and I say the name Oasys Residential Technology Group and I smile and because I know what that means in the business, I know what that means to the channel, and I know what its really cool things coming on it.
Rob Stott: No. I’d love… You mentioned it a little bit at the top about how this group has evolved over time. I think back to what was your first day coming into Nationwide in this? At the time it was the Specialty Electronics Network, if I’m right, right? So, SEN and-
Hank Alexander: It was SEN. It was a great group of people, great brands, great members. I remember it very well. My first day I’d been on actually for a couple of days, but my first real official day was eight years ago PrimeTime in Dallas-
Rob Stott: Oh wow. What do you know?
Hank Alexander: Yeah. After eight years, it’s come full circle and talk about drinking from the fire hydrant, right? Kind of knew at that time we were probably going to rebrand SEN to HTSN because of the alliance that Tom Hickman and HTSA and we’d all started to embark upon. And that was a great relationship and a great phenomenal relationship. And as it just evolved over time, we knew that there was more to that, and we knew that we wanted to continue to grow. And again, that’s where we went in and in 2021 and brought Richard Glikes and Patrick and Dan and Karen and their whole team into the Nationwide family. And that’s been phenomenal.
And that again kind of set us on the road of growing the CI side of things and we knew we wanted to really grow that business. And the membership really embraced HTSN when we rebranded from SEN to HTSN, again, didn’t change the DNA of the group, it didn’t change, it was just a new branding and the membership really embraced that. And the membership, I’ve talked to a handful of people about it and our dealer advisory board and some of those folks and they’ve embraced it. When we kind of go down the whole thing, it’s like we’re just sun setting this and it’s a new dawn and it’s… Anyway, makes sense-
Rob Stott: No. It’s awesome. I get it. I get it, man. And so how have the challenges just for the integration business 2015 versus 2023, what challenges were they facing back then, and I mean, are any of those still the same or what compared to ’23, what are they facing today?
Hank Alexander: Well, some challenges still exist. Yeah. Like there are new challenges. Obviously, we went through a pandemic, and I tell my guys, our members all the time that there was a couple of outlier years there, right? Where you’ve got some new challenges, we’re going to have some headwinds in ’23. But that’s what a group does is helps you through those challenges. It helps you be more profitable. We can help you through marketing, it’s time to go back and start maybe going back through some of your old dealer lists or your old client list and start to generate some… it’s time to update. We haven’t been to your house, and you haven’t updated your system since 2018 or whatever it might be. And there’s all kinds of new technology. You think of the evolution of TV and evolution of control and shades and lighting and all of those things.
2015, the lighting business was just the same old lighting business, the electrician or a lighting designer and the integrator wasn’t involved in that. And that’s starting to really flip on its head now and the integrators involved in that, not just from the control side of it but providing the actual fixtures. And with Collide Light the actual design that wasn’t even thought of in 2015 breaking that old lighting model was not even on anybody’s radar screen. And where we’ve come with shades, like the shading business and growing that side of the business.
So, yeah, it’s wildly different. And I was joking with somebody a while back, I said I think it’s the thing I like the most about CE, consumer electronics and custom integration is that constant change. I’m in an environment of change and I like the new challenges and that change keeps us all going and there’s going to be changes this year. And like I said, it’s time to maybe open up the book of the old clients and go back to that job you did in 2015 and talk about new lighting and talk about shades. There’s some great retrofit shade applications out there, battery powered shades and shades that use solar panels and I mean, all of that stuff. It’s a wildly different business.
Rob Stott: The funny thing obviously, you know get to stay up with those technologies and see them change and develop those vendor relationships as part of the group. Going back to your integrator days, can you imagine yourself doing lighting and shading?
Hank Alexander: Shading a little bit. So, I embarked on some shading projects and all I can say is measure twice and then measure again and cut once. It was certainly, it’s different today than it was when I was doing integration. Lighting absolutely not. I mean, that was Sparky we always called it, that’s a Seth Sparky’s job. And so, we knew we were maybe integrating panels and some of those kinds of things and controlling some lights, but that was a lighting designer and the electrician and those guys doing that. Never had any… I mean, that was… It wasn’t going to happen. We were AV and maybe a little bit of shade but that wasn’t on the radar screen when I was doing integration by any means. So, it’s been a great evolution to see that. And somebody asked me, they go, “What if there’s another… You got the five pillars of Oasys, what if there’s one more?” And I go, “Well, add another pillar like house will grow. We’ll grow.”
Rob Stott: We’ll bring the smokestack back. And-
Hank Alexander: I don’t know about that, Rob. I don’t know. I think the smokestack is officially retired. I told Andy, I asked the other day, I said, “I’ve officially started to pull like the smokestack and stuff off of some of my old sweaters and pullovers and so-
Rob Stott: You know what? No. I’m sure as we’re talking about it and being in PrimeTime it hits, and it feels real. But that Oasys summit in Nashville, once we start seeing, I know the waffle quarter zips will be back and have some different logo treatment and that’s when the second you throw on your first Oasys quarter zip, that’s when I know it’s really going to feel real. So…
Hank Alexander: A new hat and a new Oasys quarter zip. And I might… Don’t tell the hotel. So, don’t tell the hotel because it’s brand-new Downtown Nashville hotel. Don’t tell them I might take a spin again on an e-bike through the hotel. You never know.
Rob Stott: Oh, we don’t want to go in trouble.
Hank Alexander: Well, yeah, don’t tell our HR that I did that or I’ll end up with like a broken arm or something.
Rob Stott: No. That’s all. I cannot wait to get there and see what that first Oasys summit is like. But like we said, a lot of work to do until then and excited to help you get the word out about this new name and the same group… new name, same group, and excited to see you guys on the journey.
Hank Alexander: It’s same group of people, whole new programs and whole new offerings and there’s a lot of stuff. So, same group, same DNA and magic and fun. Just a whole lot more to offer. So, it’s funny at PrimeTime seeing some HTSN signs and catching a little bit of flack from people, like, “what? I thought it was Oasys?” I was like, “We couldn’t… there’s a fine line of what you can print and not print and all of those things.” Right? So anyway, it’s fun to sunset HTSN. It’s not just ripping the Band-Aid off and gone. There’s obviously going to be some legacy there, but it’s fun to have Oasys here.
Rob Stott: Heck yeah. Well, it’ll all come together here in just a few more weeks. When we get-
Hank Alexander: A few more weeks. Nash-Vegas.
Rob Stott: Hey, we’ll see you there.
Hank Alexander: All right. Thanks, Rob. Good to see you.