At the tail end of the first-ever Oasys Summit, we sat down with the Director of Oasys Hank Alexander to get his near-immediate reaction to the event. And, beyond the Summit, Hank covers what’s next for the group in the lead up to CEDIA Expo this fall.
Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent Thinking podcast and probably the most relaxed podcast, right? This couch is…
Hank Alexander: Talk about a comfy couch.
Rob Stott: Wow. This is something, let’s lay back. Let’s kick it back man. This is… We’re here in Nashville in the closing moments of our first ever Oasys Summit, Mr. Hank Alexander, Director of Oasys.
Hank Alexander: It was fun.
Rob Stott: Well you said it. How was it?
Hank Alexander: It was amazing. This is the Oasys Lounge. This is our Oasys now. The summit was great. Good attendance from members, good attendance from vendors, everybody was into it, really well engaged. A lot of learning. I will shame the people who work here. You missed a great time. You missed a great time, a lot of education. I think Jason saying, and Matt Barnarth, their classes and talking about working on as opposed to in your business. I think that was like everybody just, they hear it but they got a process down.
Rob Stott: Well `that’s one of the things, and we’ll dive into it for sure deeper here, but the big theme I got out of this show was exactly that is on your business, not in it. And I mean it feels like one of those things where we had a blog about it not long ago on the Independent Thinking blog. The same topic. It’s like it’s got to be talked about a lot, right? So I forget what the old statistic is about how many times you have to hear something before it sticks? It’s at least like six or seven times. Right? But goes to show that it’s important. And the way you framed up everything at this show, obviously the one-on-ones with vendors is a very important aspect of this and why members do come. But that education and focusing in on those things that they don’t think about when they’re back home and out on a job or-
Hank Alexander: We all get into our day-to-day lives and you forget about some… One of the things when we entered the whole thing was don’t focus on everything, pick one thing, maybe two, and then focus on that but put time on your calendar to actually implement that. Focusing on it is one thing. Putting the time on your calendar, whether you take a couple of hours a week, a whole day every week, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what that time is. Put some time on your calendar to go back and focus on that one thing and implement that. And as opposed to trying to, if you do try to do everything, you get nothing done because you get back into the slip stream of your day-to-day life.
Rob Stott: And I mean it’s, if anything, the time away from home, like here, is that time where they can focus on those things and figure out what that one thing is that they want to try to do.
Hank Alexander: Absolutely.
Rob Stott: Whether it’s the business process mapping that Jason recommended or I think even Bruce being your lighting guy-
Hank Alexander: Sure, yeah.
Rob Stott: – talking about all that aspect. A buzzwordy situation right now in the industry, but rightfully so because of the opportunity that it presents, right?
Hank Alexander: Absolutely.
Rob Stott: So there’s so much that they can pick up on and hear from one another and not just from the partners and vendors that are here but each other, right?
Hank Alexander: Yes.
Rob Stott: When you boil it down to what this is the idea is that they can share amongst their peers in the industry.
Hank Alexander: The peer-to-peer part of it. And we finish the conference up with round tables peer-to-peer and they find out what’s working for somebody else and they go, wait a minute, I’m not charging enough for labor, or I’m not charging enough for the second person. Or I’m not doing this and somebody else is. And they start to think about those things. They have that aha moment and that’s what it’s all about. And it’s funny because even last night during the scavenger hunt and we had dealers with each other and members and vendors and all of these different kind of dynamic going on, they were doing that exact same thing. Walking down the street in Nashville they were having conversations about stuff like that. And it was like they actually, at the end of it, they came up and they were like, we actually were talking, having fun doing it, but they were actually already kind of networking. And that was-
Rob Stott: So hold on. You’re saying there’s a method to your madness?
Hank Alexander: There was a method to the madness. It wasn’t just a scavenger hunt-
Rob Stott: Down on Broadway.
Hank Alexander: -down on Broadway, it wasn’t just a pub crawl, it was-
Rob Stott: Listen, that’s enough to get people wanting to go but there actually was real reasons.
Hank Alexander: There was reasons why people were on teams that they were on. And it was anyway…
Rob Stott: We talked about being here, the message to the dealer that wasn’t here, what do you say to them to not necessarily convince them, but what is it that they missed out on while they weren’t here in Nashville?
Hank Alexander: So you miss out on obviously the vendor side of it and there’s all kinds of things, information that all the vendors are sharing all the time. But really best practices are the things that are going on in their business. They’re not alone in this. Like inventory issues or freight issues or HR or hiring people or whatever it is. They’re not alone in that. And it’s part of why you belong to a group is because you’re not alone in that we’re here to help.
But coming to something like this and hearing what’s working for somebody in San Antonio, Texas or in California or wherever, Chicago, wherever, Detroit, wherever it is, and you go, wait a minute, that’s the same problem I’m having. And listening to how they fixed it or where they’re at in that process. Not necessarily even fixing it because it may not even be something that has to be fixed, just where they’re at in a process to working on that business and those kinds of things. It’s the part of it that you can’t go it alone and that’s why you’re part of a group and it’s part of why you should be part of a group is because it’s like-minded people going through the same things.
Rob Stott: And the diversity of the group too. We had some dealers here 25 years plus in business. Some that are just cracking two years.
Hank Alexander: Yes.
Rob Stott: It that ability to see people at different stages, not just in maybe a certain process, but literally different stages of being a business in general.
Hank Alexander: I met a guy that from one of our regions that he’s just cracking that $700,000 mark in revenue and what are the next steps. And you know, hear it from somebody who’s doing a couple million dollars already and they go, this is how you get to the next step. Or here’s a watch-out, here’s where there could be a potential landmine or this is how we got to that next, how we tipped to the million dollar mark or whatever it is. And so it’s all of those things.
And it’s not even sometimes the larger guy helping a newer guy. We find that somebody who’s maybe been in the business a couple of years, they go, “Oh yeah, we use Slack channels all the time for communication with our teams.” And you’ve got somebody who’s been in business for 25 years and they’ve never used Slack and they’re like, “We’ve been having this challenge communicating.” And so all of a sudden now they come away with something that that guy that’s just been in business for a few years, he can help them.
Rob Stott: It’s pretty cool. I mean it is a neat dynamic. And the members and vendors have their own dynamic. Now at this show we kind of buried the lead here a little bit, like the Oasys team. They were here. They were here in force.
Hank Alexander: We definitely came out deep with the Oasys team.
Rob Stott: I mean the first opportunity for you guys that you got a four person field team now, Andy was out here, of course.
Hank Alexander: Andy was here. David Watt.
Rob Stott: David showed up.
Hank Alexander: So David was here, head of our CE team.
Rob Stott: I cracked when I introduced them. A year ago, it was the Hank show. And I mean, man, to see this all come together and you have the support now behind you and the CI channel here, really awesome to see. But from your perspective, having them here, what was it like for you?
Hank Alexander: Very inspiring. I’ll say. Because it was just me. I had admins, had good people around me and really good support from people. But now when you have that field team and we hired four people who eat, breathe, sleep, custom integration and care about the members and they care about the vendors and they’re excited to be a part of something that we’re building and being in early to build something as opposed to here’s something and maintain it or don’t mess it up or whatever. No, we’re growing something and this is what we’re doing. And you see their excitement and their excitement excites me. I feed off it. And it’s been a lot of fun with those four.
Rob Stott: We joke around, but I think it’s very obvious and this in a positive way. There’s a pep in your step. At the end of a show typically you’re a little exhausted, yes, we are actually lounging on couches right now, so this isn’t helping what I’m about to say. But there is a pep in you, an excitement that is just apparent. And I mean knowing that the groundwork has been laid here for what’s to come.
Hank Alexander: And it’s been a long ride. It’s been fun. I will say it, I say it all the time, this is a job that never once have I ever woken up and been like, I don’t want to go into the office today. I love what I do. And now with these four people around us, we’ve got a new admin who wasn’t able to be here, Josh, we’ve got all of these people now on this team and they work so well together and they’re excited about it. And that excitement gives me excitement. And I mean we’re just like, the whole thing is, it’s a lot of fun. And I will say that our leadership team at Nationwide really believes in what we’re doing. And Andy’s done a phenomenal job and the support from everybody’s just been great. It’s so much fun.
Rob Stott: Well, and not even, the next question here, not specifically about the summit, but when you think about what the potential is, and I know you’ve talked a lot about the drive to a thousand and growing and the Oasys brand being about supporting more integrators, a wider potential integrator community to be served by this group. But what are some of those next milestones that you’re looking towards as we move out here over the next few weeks and months?
Hank Alexander: So we’re membership wise, 260 members. I think the milestone that I am excited to get to is 300 and we’re coming up on that pretty quickly actually, really quick. And seeing the diversity of the group. So actually somebody just joined a few days ago in the Chicago area and growing and I’ll say in that eight hundred thousand to nine hundred thousand dollar in revenue a year and seeing that guy coming in and being part of a group that we’ve got guys all over the spectrum. And again, it’s not just helping somebody grow, it’s helping the guy who’s already three or four or five million dollars be more profitable and work on their business. And the whole thing is just, it’s fun.
Rob Stott: There’s a lot going on. It’s pretty cool to see. And we haven’t even touched on some of the things that have been sort of around for this group, like the CEDIA membership aspect and the education thing. There’s more reasons right now. It’s cool to see that-
Hank Alexander: No other group pays for CEDIA dues, we do. We share the CEDIA Academy with our members, so the members have that with us. But all the things that, it’s just like there’s tools you just access them and it’s just like coming to the summit. This is one of those tools. Put that tool in your tool belt and it’ll make you more productive. And I know it’s a big commitment. I get it. You’re taking two or three or four days out of your business. It’s a commitment. I understand it, but it’s worth it. It is absolutely worth it.
Rob Stott: So coming out of this now, obviously, I mean I know you have objectives for what you want to see it become, but some of the things that excites you about, not necessarily number milestones, but other things that you can now work towards?
Hank Alexander: I think the biggest one that’s on my plate next is digital marketing. And really we’ve done a great job at Nationwide with that part of it. We own a couple of great digital companies. And I think what the integrator needs is a little [sirens going off in the background] …
Rob Stott: It’s all good, we’re in downtown Nashville, man.
Hank Alexander: Downtown Nashville and they’re coming for us. They’re coming for you, Rob. I told you they were gonna get you…
Rob Stott: That one scavenger task, man…
Hank Alexander: Anyway, what an integrator needs for marketing and digital and all of those things is different than what a retailer needs. And so for me, that’s the big one that’s sitting out there and we’re working hard on that one. I think that’s probably one of the next big milestones for us. Back half of the year, we’ve got some new vendors lined up for the back half of the year. That’s all I’m going to say. I don’t want to jinx anything. We’ve got some initiatives around lighting, obviously. We’ll be at CEDIA in September in Denver, we’ll be at Appaloosa. So a lot of really big things out there on the horizon.
Rob Stott: One of the fun conversations I had, and this is kind of getting back to the growth numbers, with Mark one of the new field team guys here, just about the opportunity of what the potential dealer could look like. And knowing that there’s an opportunity to get a bunch of people that don’t maybe understand the benefits of a vanguard, they’re not in one. You’ve referenced some pretty crazy CEDIA statistics about the number of dealers that are in groups, all the groups collectively in the CI space. And there is a large portion of dealers in the range that what you’re talking about wanting to support from an Oasys standpoint that aren’t in a group. So what are some of those hurdles that you think it’ll behoove our field team to help them overcome the myths or whatever that might be out there about buying groups.
Hank Alexander: And a lot of people just don’t know what groups do. It’s just like, well, yeah, I’ve heard of Oasys or I’ve heard of that group , I just don’t know what a group does. What are they going to do for me on my business? I have money in the bank, I have profit. What are you going to do that… I have a great deal with XYZ vendor already. But it’s the power of 260 people, that collective power that we get better programs or we get different things. And it’s just educating people who aren’t in a group what a group does. I will tell you the first question that comes up when you talk to an integrator is, well I’m buying from this vendor, do I have to change that? And it’s like, no, if it’s not broke, we’re not going to fix it.
You’re not buying from us. That’s the number one. You continue, you’re building on it and you have people around you and all of that collective wealth goes together to help you buy better and compete better and be more profitable and all of those things. And there’s all kinds of tools. I mean literally we can help you buy paper for your copy machine. We can help you on working with our D-Tools program, our D-Tools partnership. D-Tools, links with our distribution partners and exchange. And so you’re working on a proposal in D-Tools and you can see the pricing and availability from your preferred partner. And then when you land that job, that job is ready to be completed. You can just hit a button and it uploads it right to the exchange and the order is pocketed. It’s simplifications of things that a group can help you do. You’ve just got to find the right group.
Rob Stott: It goes back, kind of bringing the conversation full circle, what we talked about at the top and this show being themed around efficiency and finding ways to save time and money, that’d what it boils down to. Those are the things that aligning with the right group, with a group in general is something that they may not see because they’re too busy being in their business as opposed to working on it.
Hank Alexander: And they hear it from other people. A rep may say, “Oh, you should be part of a group” or whatever. These people are out there helping you and they have your best interest and you absolutely should be looking at it. And if you’re in a group, you should be looking at what are groups doing that can help me. And those are all the things, again, it kind of is full circle. It’s like if you weren’t here, you should be. We’re all busy, but taking three days out of your schedule to do something like this, it really is, it’s powerful.
Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome man. Great stuff. Kind of leaving on a high, right?
Hank Alexander: Thank you for being here, by the way.
Rob Stott: Thank you for having me.
Hank Alexander: It was great to have you here. We had Rob White here. We had a lot of fun. That was a big-
Rob Stott: Quite the contingent of people. So it was a good time. And we had fun sharing the message about the rebranding, how you got to the Oasys name, like just so many aspects of this show that we really haven’t touched to this point. If you weren’t here, you missed it, we’ll just leave it at that. Drop that nugget.
Hank Alexander: We could spend three days recapping the last three days, guys.
Rob Stott: No, but it was awesome, man. So we look forward to being back here in a few weeks for prime time and seeing what Oasys… I know, right? 87 days.
Hank Alexander: 87 days now. Yeah, 87 days.
Rob Stott: As we sit here recording this. So it’ll be even less by the time this publishes. So we’re getting there. But no, we look forward to continuing to follow the story of Oasys and see where you take it, man.
Hank Alexander: We’ll be back in Nashville in a few weeks it feels like. And then like I said, CEDIA, we’ve got some tech summits. Yeah, we’ve got some tech summits that we’re doing. We’re doing all of them, but we’ve got some coming up the back half of the year. Yeah, CEDIA in Denver.
Rob Stott: We’ll be on the road with you every step of the way.
Hank Alexander: Oh, you’ll be there with us. We’ll be doing this by… Hopefully we could bring couches, does this like ship easy?
Rob Stott: We’ll make Juanita one last call out. Juanita, our events team, just a wonderful job. This has all come together so well. We’ll get this couch to come with us wherever we go.
Hank Alexander: We’ll get some packing slips and some stuff on this and just have them ship it out with all of our stuff, right? Yeah.
Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome man. Well, we appreciate it and like I said-
Hank Alexander: Thank you Rob, appreciate it.
Rob Stott: -look forward to continuing this.
Hank Alexander: Thank you brother. Appreciate everything.