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185: One Year In, Andy Orozco Recaps How NMG’s Custom Integration Division Keeps Innovating

Written by Rob Stott

September 19, 2023

While his ambitions would have him and his team further down the road, Year One was an incredibly busy and successful one for Andy Orozco and Nationwide Marketing Group’s custom integration division. Coming off of CEDIA 2023 in Denver, we sat down with Andy to talk about the show, his first year at the helm, and more.


 

Rob Stott: We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast, and we don’t give you any time off. You come right off a trip, you get home right back-to-back off another trip too. Primetime right to Denver is what it felt like for CEDIA. Mr. Andy Orozco, our SVP of custom integration here at Nationwide. It’s been a year.

Andy Orozco: Hi. How are you, Rob?

Rob Stott: I’m good, how are you?

Andy Orozco: Yep, I’m good. I’m good. You got me.

Rob Stott: I got you on your one-year anniversary.

Andy Orozco: I avoid the camera. So it’s my anniversary. So how could I say no? Right?

Rob Stott: This is your Nationwide’s birthday gift to you. This is an appearance on the podcast, which…

Andy Orozco: I like to live in the background. So podcast and videos out of my comfort zone. And we have others here that are much better than me on these.

Rob Stott: Well, you did it last year, so right after you jumped on board here, and I’ve been a fan of ours too. So I can’t let one of my biggest fans get away from doing podcast opportunities, sharing it out on LinkedIn. Man, I can’t appreciate the love enough.

Andy Orozco: I’m a big fan of the podcast, for sure, and I like to get others on air. I just try to avoid it myself.

Rob Stott: Well, here, this is your one-year commitment, and we won’t bother you until next year. All right, how’s that sound?

Andy Orozco: All right. I can do it in New York.

Rob Stott: Awesome. Well, so let’s start there, one year in, right? Wild year too. I mean, let’s kind of recap, right? I could let you do it, but just thinking off the top of my head, you come in, and obviously CEDIA was your first event right away. Basically, started at CDO. We saw the HTSN rebrand to Oasys, the launch of Ellipsys. I mean, the groups are coming together. You got Azione in there as well. So a busy first year, to say the least.

Andy Orozco: Yeah, super busy. So I can’t say that I’m new anymore, so I can’t fall on that. But things are going great. They’re great, but things don’t happen as fast as you want. My team’s really competitive, so they put a lot of pressure on themselves. But that’s why I love them.

Rob Stott: We haven’t even touched on, we mentioned all those new things. Another new thing was the field team.

Andy Orozco: Yeah. So really, and if I forget anything, you got to help me out. We did a lot, I’m really proud of what we did in a year that I’ve been here with the company. So internally, we did some work to rebrand HTSN to Oasys. So that was a really fun process. Hank Alexander, our director of Oasys. He’s built one of the most compelling vendor assortments that’s out there in the buying group world. We did hire a field team, so we got four people in the field that I worked with, responsibility for existing member relations and finding new opportunities for us.

So outside of that, we did launch a commercial group, so we brought Chris Whitley in here for that. He joined the nationwide family, I believe, in February, March around primetime. So he’s here for our commercial strategy, had a soft launch at InfoComm, and had an overwhelmingly positive response. So super proud of that Azione and team, they’re amazing and continued to do well, and we got long-term goals, which we could talk about in a second here. But that’s just kind of on the surface of things that have been going on here since I joined the group.

Rob Stott: Yeah, so you mentioned the things not as fast as you want to, but I mean, just from the outside looking in, you guys have done a lot, and it’s, for me, from my perspective, an incredibly successful year considering all the work that went into it. But you say that, so what are the things that you think are still sort of in front of you that you want to accomplish? Not necessarily long-term, but sort of those more short-term goals.

Andy Orozco: I’ll give you an example. So streamlining the process. So we’re finding new opportunities, but the people, I say, the guys and women, that are in our industry are really busy. So I think we have a big opportunity, but I think streamlining the process, automating the process on enrolling a new member would help because a lot of these small business owners they’re stretched really thin, and for as far as I can remember, labor has been the number one pain point in our industry. So people wear many hats, and asking them to fill out paperwork and talk to us, it takes time. That’s the one thing that does not enough of.

Rob Stott: No, that makes sense. Well, you talk about process, the only thing I can think of there is Mr. Sayen and everything that we brought him to preach during the Oasys Summit, right?

Andy Orozco: I’ve got coffee with Jason tomorrow morning.

Rob Stott: There you go to see.

Andy Orozco: We do coffee meetups once a month to talk about the industry.

Rob Stott: No that’s. Awesome. I mean, so looking then further ahead, I know anyone that’s been following the story, of course, there’s the drive to a thousand that’s been talked about across all three groups. So Oasys, Ellipsys, and Azione, that’s the big one, that’s out there other long-term goals that you’re talking or that you’re thinking about?

Andy Orozco: Part of the reason I came here is, I like the culture. Long-term goal for me is to create a nice home for the people that work here. So that’s really important for me, and the way we onboarded our team and the way that we go through different processes together with the HR group is fun. And for me, that’s the stamp that I want to leave, my market that I want to leave in the company or in the industry. So yeah.

Rob Stott: They’re pretty solid ones, I’d say. It’s what you’d want to strive for, right? Yeah. I think That’s something that everyone’s always looking for in a place, right? I want it to feel like work.

Andy Orozco: I went from the youngest guy in the room to now I could see the end. I’m across midfield. I’m not like at the goal line yet, but across the midfield. So you look at things a little bit differently, and I’ve heard many people say it the more seasoned people in our industry they want to give back. So I’d like to find a way to give back and help other people help whoever’s going to replace me, right?

Rob Stott: No that’s…

Andy Orozco: Find that person, and coach that person.

Rob Stott: Yeah. I think that’s a pretty cool, neat aspirations for sure, and cool to hear as well. So, I want to revisit two things with you real quick and both branding-related. I think that’s where we spend a lot of our time together. A really neat experience and being able to take a longstanding brand in HTSN and see it reborn in a new light and then launch a brand. So what was going through that for you?

Andy Orozco: Well, I haven’t gone through that before, so it was fun. So we have internal resources here, there’s a lot of them, and you know that, but we use an outside agency. So to go from our creative brief and talk about the things that your goals and all the front-end work that you do, and then to see it come to fruition later, find a really good identity for what we want to do, cross your fingers that the name’s not taken, the URLs available, and all the social media stuff, but I’m really happy where we landed it resonates. So that was the rebranding of HTSN. So that’s been pretty awesome, and then to create a new brand, exciting in different ways. Chris Whitley is our executive director of Ellipsys, our commercial group. So he brings with him, at least 25 years of experience. So It’s just watching him do his thing, it’s been awesome.

I went to InfoComm with him to offer a little bit of support, but I didn’t really need to do anything, I just watched. That was a fun experience. So we had some assumptions on the market and how big it was, and we went to InfoComm, and that was validated, and then some, so we probably underestimated what’s out there. So both were good and fun in different ways. Seeing something come to life from nothing is pretty amazing. And then to change a known entity that’s out there, that’s challenging. There’s a lot of good things that HTS M did and stood for. So you don’t want to erase any of that, but you want to evolve it and create a clear identity, eliminate confusion. That’s out in the market.

Rob Stott: So the easy follow-up, would you ever do it again?

Andy Orozco: For sure. That was one of the more fun things that we did here. I think everyone enjoys it. Probably the hardest part is when you get all these options presented to you. Sometimes it’s a tie, it’s a three way, three names maybe stand out at you, and it’s subjective. So my opinion is not the only opinion that matters, for us to land on something that everyone could align on. I don’t want to say it was difficult, but it could present a challenge. But we’re all really happy where we’re at.

Rob Stott: One of the things I love too is that each of you, I think, went back to significant others to get their opinions. I thought that was unique because someone that’s obviously close to you and knows what you do, but at the same time they’re not in the industry, so talk about that process. Anything other than that? Did you do anything unique or out there as far as trying to solicit feedback?

Andy Orozco: Well, I go to my wife a lot because she’s definitely from outside the industry. So sometimes you’re a little too close to a project, I feel I am sometimes. So I bounce ideas off of her, and sometimes I bounce product ideas for the home off of her, and she’s got her approval, so I value her opinion.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Andy Orozco: Yeah. Getting a fresh set of eyes on things. Sometimes she comes back to stuff that I haven’t even thought of.

Rob Stott: It’s unique. It’s cool. I mean, kind of talking to you, I hear a lot of the same things that I think back way to episode one of this podcast, and Mr. Hickman, when we were setting the stage for what this was going to be, talked a lot about how his sort of mindset for leadership is surround himself with a lot of smart people that know what they’re doing and back away. I hear a lot of those similarities in the way you approach things.

Andy Orozco: Yeah, so I’m lucky because everyone around me is great and beyond my immediate team. The company is just stacked with a lot of talent, but for the CI group, I mean, just think about it. I have buying group experience, I think eight years at least, with Nationwide running what used to be HTSN, now Oasys. Richard Glikes, he launched Azione, he used to manage another group. So he brings a lot of my group experience. Chris Whitley, same thing, launched and ran a group previously. So now I sit on the same bench as all of those guys, and it’s pretty amazing just…

Rob Stott: I mean over what?

Andy Orozco: It doesn’t happen a lot.

Rob Stott: Combined, like a century and a quarter of experience. I don’t want to go too high, I run the risk, but what’s it like? It’s over a hundred years.

Andy Orozco: Yeah. I heard.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Andy Orozco: Yeah, I say 20 plus now because I don’t want to reveal my age. I think I’m probably right in the 25 range. I’m guessing I’d have to add it up. I say 20 plus, though. 20 plus feels good.

Rob Stott: I like that. No, that’s awesome.

Andy Orozco: Because I think that’s what happened. I was like 20 plus.

Rob Stott: We’ll double-check and confirm before the end of this. No, but what’s awesome too, you talk about all three brands. They’ve never had the opportunity until this year at CEDIA, just last week, as we’re sitting here talking to all come together. I know you were all at InfoComm, and that was the soft launch for Ellipsys. But to see it all come to life, come to fruition in one booth, in one space at that show, co-located alongside the commercial integrator expo, that had to be a neat experience for you.

Andy Orozco: So the show was great, but we could talk about the show a little bit more later. So it was great in many ways. So Emerald did combine Resi with commercial, and that lined up perfect for us. So for anyone that wasn’t in Denver, CEDIA Expo, co-located with Commercial Integrator Expo this year. So we got to show off our strategy, which is to offer both solutions under one route.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. I think, if I remember right, too, location on the show floor. It was right between both shows, wasn’t it? Because the shared show floor and you were right on the line in between where they boarded.

Andy Orozco: I think technically we were in the commercial area, but right where they came together right by an entrance. So the location was great, our internal events team did a nice job with the design of the booth. I mean, it was way outside the box that I think, but then so I was really happy with just the visual of it. And then our booth did combined, so combined residential on the Azione Unlimited and Oasys side, and then alongside the new commercial group called Ellipsys. So we feel really strong about the value prop. We offer integrators. So for anyone that qualifies as an existing Azione Unlimited or an Oasys member, we could do a bridge membership so they could tap into all the buying group benefits that the commercial side will bring. So that could be program benefits, peer-to-peer stuff, vendor programs, all those things.

Rob Stott: So what kind of reactions are you getting as you talk that strategy out loud to the attendees that were there in Denver?

Andy Orozco: It was good. Chris Whitley was on the smart stage. All our guys were actually Hank, Richard, and Chris. So all three groups were represented on the smart stage. So it’s a good opportunity to talk about things that are happening and what we’re doing. I think if you look at just industry stats, probably most residential integrators do 15, 20% commercial anyway. So again, it kind of validates some assumptions that we made when we talk to people in person about it. And again, it’s a differentiator, not looking to do the same thing that others do, we’re looking to be unique wherever we can. So I think that makes us unique.

Rob Stott: Explain that too. I think I’ve heard Hank say it on this podcast, I’ve heard Chris talk about it when he was launching on this podcast. From your seat and kind of the combined perspective of how this group, this Nationwide CI group, kind of differentiates itself, what is that to you in your words?

Andy Orozco: The way that we differentiate, you can go back to our talk a couple minutes ago when we were chatting about all that experience. Just the in-house experience for both industries. Residential, commercial is high, so the knowledge level is high, and then you bring in all the other benefits. So vendor relations that are specifically geared towards either one. And then, if you’re somebody in the industry, that’s either half and half, sometimes guys do half and half 50 Resi 50 commercial. Truly is a one-stop shop, and everything that you would need is under one roof and in one place.

Rob Stott: How about on the membership side and the ideal target, I guess? I’ll ask what’s sort of the differentiator there of the group?

Andy Orozco: Between the three?

Rob Stott: Yeah. Like collectively from an Oasys member, we kind of get who they are, and Oasys is more that hybrid and pierce eye, but as far as the type of dealer you’re looking for.

Andy Orozco: Yeah, I would say that I’ll start with the way, I’ll go through all three.

Rob Stott: Yeah.

Andy Orozco: I’ll start with Oasys. It covers the broadest market. So it’s a group for integrators and specialty retailers of all sizes. We have CE Pro 100, top 100 dealers in that group. We also want to help less mature businesses accelerate their growth. So that’s Oasys, that’s residential, Azione Unlimited, also, residential group is a little more specialized, a little more niche caters to mid to large-size custom integrators only. And then with Ellipsys, that’s for commercial integrators that can benefit from the same things that we do on the Resi side with conferences and the peer-to-peer exchange, all the things that we facilitate plus strong business programs, vendor programs, kind of the same thing. And then again, to be able to live in one of those three worlds and tap into the other is truly unique.

Rob Stott: Awesome to get I think your perspective on that. And again, I think it’s really cool too. I say really cool, it’s more that I’m jealous that I wasn’t there to experience it in Denver, what that collective story was like, but I’m sure everyone there had to have been impressed to kind of see it in action, whether it’s from the team side or the industry side, coming to learn more about the groups and what you offer.

Andy Orozco: Yeah, I’m in it every day, and seeing it in person, walking in and seeing it, I was impressed.

Rob Stott: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. So the rest of this show, obviously, the CI team was fully integrated into everything that was going on there. What did you take out of it? Obviously, been to a number of CEDIAs, right? So how was this one different, and what was just that overall experience for you?

Andy Orozco: I guess a couple of things. There was definitely good energy around the show. So just emotionally, it felt good. I don’t know about attendance, it felt like there were a lot of people there. I don’t know the official number yet. But definitely good energy coming out from the attendees. It’s always a big reunion. Again, been around for a little bit. I again lost track somewhere in the 20 plus range, which again sounds crazy to me to just say it, but to see so many industry friends in person and then you’re still meeting people. So to make new friends just really felt good. And then we could talk about product. So on the product side, probably on the product side, if you break it up into mature technologies and then maybe some emerging stuff on the mature technology side, you look at audio manufacturers and how they’re still evolving, and there’s a big focus on blending the performance into the interior design of a home.

So, for me, that really resonates. I think that’s the way I approach things, probably a lot of people that are married have to approach it that way. So you both win somehow. You get a nice performing system, but it doesn’t mess up the interior.

Rob Stott: That’s been, I think, gaining traction over time. There’s always been certain brands that that’s their focus. We could talk about a new brand in a partner with our group, but I think it goes almost hand in hand with as this industry, the CI industry has put more of an emphasis on trying to reach out to design and architecture communities and wanting to have those conversations. It feels like that’s been the catalyst to put more of an emphasis there.

Andy Orozco: Yeah. That too, and then, so that reminds me of we can talk about emerging technologies and some of the things that I see going on over there. So if we talk about lighting fixtures, which are really popular right now, there’s still plenty of upside in that category, and those vendors I see, really focused outside of the business, they’re really wanting to be a partner. So they’re really focused on partnering with custom integrators, educating them not just on the brand but also how to approach the industry. We really want to roll up their sleeves and get them in front of the design community or teach them how maybe finding fixtures, how do you work the relationship with an electrician that you’re partnering, and you’re not really looked at as an adversary.

So mature categories, I use the example of audio, I mean there’s plenty of other mature categories on the emerging side. I noticed not just the product but the approach that a lot of those vendors are taking. So I walked away. I kind of made a mental note in my head, like, “Wow, that’s pretty neat.” We’ve got some really good opportunities out here to create these long-lasting partnerships between vendors, custom integrators, the group, and then, I’m sure anybody on the floor that was there saw these big video walls. So companies like Samsung, they have these big video walls that They’re bringing to market. So those are a couple of things that I could think of right now that stood out to me.

Rob Stott: Well interesting. The list goes on and on. Of course, there’s always, I mean, countless press releases that get sent to inboxes of new product announcements and things like that. But interesting that you touch on the education side. It almost seems like you call out lighting as a category. It’s kind of apparent that they have as much of a craving and need for networking in this, wanting to know who the integrators are, and it’s just like, “Well, I need help networking. Well, I need help, like now we’re starting to talk,” and that’s where it feels like it’s coming to life and these partnerships are forming.

Andy Orozco: And they’re listening. Like I say, I was part of discussions a couple of years ago, and then you see products come to market or maybe a new brand brought to market. That’s truly unique for our channel that business lighting fixture companies, traditional business is lighting showroom. So there’s an existing client base there that You’ve got to be really careful with. You want to expand but you don’t want to irritate the loyal customers.

Rob Stott: It is a fine line.

Andy Orozco: So very careful. Yeah, it’s like a balancing act.

Rob Stott: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. Well, so I guess you gave a lot of info to sum it up in a couple words, Denver’s always a great city too, but that overall sort of how this CEDIA stacks up.

Andy Orozco: So it’s hard for me to remember. There was that whole period where the pandemic, I feel like we’re crawling out of it now, but this feels like it’s still around, I guess, but it feels like it’s very distant. So it feels good. It feels like we’re getting kind of back into the swing of things, feels a little more normal. The city is great, it’s all walkable. So I think the city, the location of the event helps the co-locating of the commercial with the Resi thing. The timing couldn’t be better for us. So I thought that was really good. So yeah, I couldn’t tell on the floor if there was as many vendors as before, if there was less vendors, you got to keep in mind there’s been consolidation in the industry.

So Control4 used to have their own booth. Snap had their own booth. And you can take that example of other companies that have merged or acquired, Bowers & Wilkins used to be in a different booth from Masimo than the other brands. So it looked a little bit different from that perspective, but I thought that pencil was good and the energy was really good.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. It’s clear that people are excited to be back to it and what better time? It feels like there’s such momentum around this space too. And not to say it was sheltered during pandemic, but there was such a focus, I think, as people were stuck at home, they turned internally to their house and where they were living. So there’s a lot of room for business and innovation in this space, and brands really delivered.

Andy Orozco: I think now events in general are back outside of city as well, there’s an event. If you talk to the vendors, there’s plenty of events that they could go to.

Rob Stott: They’re going to get tired of it again pretty soon, I guess.

Andy Orozco: Yeah. So you just got to be really careful that you don’t hit them too often because they can only do so much, right? They’re still going to sell.

Rob Stott: No, that’s great. You mentioned that, but events coming up too, right? The back half of the year, well, back half, I should say, last quarter of the year. We got Tech Summits will continue, things like that. So plenty to look forward to as well.

Andy Orozco: Yeah, those are great. Local events are good. Even go deeper into the company, typically, when you do local, you get some of the people that are either technicians or project managers, people that don’t usually go to national conferences are there. So That’s always good. The deeper you can go, I think the better off you are as a buying group, as a manufacturer, as any type of partner.

Rob Stott: Yep. Yeah, no, that’s awesome. And I think you weaved this in sort of through you’re talking about CDN, kind of the things you’re seeing and trends you’re following at the show. But how about for the members out there listening, or even just integrators that might be at this point in the episode? Opportunities that exist. Where are those for our dealers? Whether it’s… I don’t want to say, avoid the cliche, let’s talk about what you can get from your group, but what are some of the things that they could be doing or areas of business they could focus on, or maybe it’s a product, is it lighting? What are sort of the things you would do if you were in their seat?

Andy Orozco: Well, I got to talk about it from the group perspective to start.

Rob Stott: For sure.

Andy Orozco: Because that’s kind of where my mind went immediately. If I talk about the group perspective, I’m talking about Azione Unlimited, talking about Oasys, talking about Ellipsys. So I think the biggest opportunity for members is to engage with the group because you only get back what you put into the groups. So that means all our members can learn from each other. That value alone, if you go to an event, come back with a good idea. I think Richard says this a lot, Richard Glikes, one idea could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. So our role as a group is to facilitate those interactions at our events. So I would encourage the members to just go and be part of the conferences and I think it is a great place to start. That’s like low hanging fruit.

Rob Stott: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. Any products. But you mentioned lighting, of course, from coming out of CEDIA. Are there any other areas that, whether it was from your time at the show or just sort of what you’re seeing partnerships develop, things like that, where they might have some areas they could focus on?

Andy Orozco: I’ll keep my eye out. There was a lot of discussion about artificial intelligence, and everybody’s trying to figure that out. So maybe stay up-to-date on that. There’s a lot of things in the press, a lot of smart people in our industry are digging into it, and there was panels and a lot of discussions at CD Expo about that. I think the more immediate opportunity, we’re still trying to figure out the lighting fixture category. I think that there’s so much potential there. It could be one of the two top categories as far as how much business you do as an integrator. So you should figure that out. And then again, the groups kind of play a role in bringing good education, introducing good partners, good vendor partners.

So yeah, maybe some of the stuff I talked about earlier, just even in a mature category, the vendors are still innovating and doing some great things. You mentioned Sonas that they had an incredible booth, it’s funny because I was in there, and the way that they were talking about selling audio is very similar to the way the lighting world presents and how you locate where you locate things. Having layers of sound similar to layers of light. But you know what I would do if I was an integrated? I would just leverage my relationships. We didn’t talk about reps, like rep firms, they’re the front line, and they’re always looking for new opportunities and looking for ways to help.

So I would just leverage the relationships. I was an integrator. Plenty of people around that want to help. I know I do. I know everybody that here at Nationwide wakes up every day and wants to find a way to help. Sometimes we get frustrated when people don’t take our call. “We’re just trying to help you, come on.” Right? It’s like a no-brainer. But again, I get it, people are busy, but I would just be leveraged by the human capital. That’s available intellectual capital.

Rob Stott: Yeah. No, I could appreciate that for sure. And that’s not cliche, see, that got around my cliche. Let the group help you. That’s the emphasis on making sure that you are engaging because, to your point and to Richard’s point, what you put in is what you’re going to get out.

Andy Orozco: Yeah, yeah. I’m not taking credit for all the good ideas, I’m just going to put you somewhere in a room with other people with good ideas and just watch the magic happen.

Rob Stott: Yeah, good things are going to happen.

Andy Orozco: That’s really fun when you’re the host and you see it happening and you can’t talk about it to somebody who’s not familiar with Cruise. Like, “Hey, this alone pays for itself.” They don’t get it initially, but when they go to an event, they can get somebody to go to an event one time. Usually, they’re going back.

Rob Stott: Yeah. It’s where it starts to make sense, and you talk about that, and I know we got some of our own up here in the future too, not too far away, and planning already well underway. So look forward to being at those and seeing that magic in person once again. So, cool. Well, Andy, I appreciate it, man. Always great talking to you, having you on here. Even if it is just once a year.

Andy Orozco: I can commit to once a year, maybe more, we’ll see.

Rob Stott: Awesome. Well, we’ll talk next September.

Andy Orozco: You made it easy, so.

Rob Stott: Yeah, we’ll talk next September 14th. Awesome. Thank you.

Andy Orozco: Thank you. I do love the podcast. So I have ideas on people that I want to get in front of you on here so members can…

Rob Stott: Feed them. Keep feeding me.

Andy Orozco: … watch, learn. Yeah, there’s a lot of good personalities in the industry, and they just want to share. They want to help.

Rob Stott: Hey, let’s talk.

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