ESX panel tackles home automation

Friday, August 1, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Speaking here at ESX to a lively group during an educational session about how security companies can get involved in home automation, Michael Tangora talked about the importance of focusing on details and efficiencies.

“We’ve gone from 12 employees to six employees, and we still do the same volume, but we’re more efficient. With that, comes profit,” he said.

Tangora is president of Tangora Technologies, a company that does the whole range of home automation including security, home theater, distributed audio, HVAC and consulting.

The majority of attendees were new to home automation in the past five years, or were just considering entering this market. There was also a handful of installers with several years of experience in this space, including Dom D’Ascoli, president of Smokey Mountain Systems, and George DeMarco, whose previous company, Greater Alarm, did a lot of home automation work. Greater Alarm entered the space initially “as a way to make us unique,” he said.

The high-dollar, high-profile “glamorous jobs” for the rich and famous are not uncommon for veterans in this space, but these are not usually the most profitable, “and can turn into a real pain in the neck,” DeMarco said.

What you want, Tangora said, are “‘the bangers’ ... a job you can bang out in two days. You purchase the equipment ahead of time; the technician understands what needs to be done. At the end of the day you have a check, smiles all around and referrals, and it’s still a custom job.”

You also want to limit your product selection, have quality controls on the sales process and pay close attention to how jobs are quoted, Tangora said. There are tried-and-true formulas for ensuring that your quotes are profitable, but Tangora thinks these calculations should be as automated as the home automation systems themselves.

For his own business, he worked with a software vendor to come up with a custom software program that he branded and is reselling as Pro Shop. The software allows Tangora to automate the process “from the initial contact, on ... the lead through the project end, and to mine the customer data for new opportunities.” He can “click on a button and I can tell how much into a job I am. I can see that I’m 44 percent complete and I’ve used 23 percent of [allotted labor costs].” The software allows “me to close books monthly instead of annually,” which is particularly important in today’s slow economy, he said.