So the past few months have been a whirlwind for me. And I am not exactly sure why.
My general manager and son Hans has been launching new products faster than my mind can follow — ranging from his podcast network (Appen Podcast Network) to new email products and more. Yes, the pace of “life” is fast and getting faster. But it is everywhere else too, you know.
I have always enjoyed and been energized by this business — newspapers and the media in general. Meeting new people who are making things happen; being exposed to new ideas and agendas; and the nature of this beast make just about every day different. That’s about as much as one can ask for I think. The only thing that beats it is family.
I am meeting more and more people “doing their own thing,” people who had long and successful corporate careers and have opted to strike out on their own. These people, by in large, fascinate me.
Recently I met Jim and Christy Noll who started iTRUST HOME SERVICES. Jim’s background includes many years on the tech and management side with IBM, HP, Bank of America and Mellon Bank. That is, he is a techie who knows how to get stuff done. And he knows that the stuff he gets done, he has to get done right. That’s a big deal to me.
He is also as passionate an entrepreneur as I have met in a long while — well, until this morning, but that is for another time. Together Jim and Christy have started a business in what they call “intuitive home automation solutions.” That translates to “intelligent technologies,” including smart, almost always digital-based or enabled cameras, lighting, lighting controls, smart thermostats, smart locks and smart irrigation systems that “empower users to personalize protect, and control their homes from anywhere via smart phones or inside with ‘intelligent assistants’ like Siri.”
Most of us have heard about these smart gadgets, like the Amazon Echo or Google’s Home Assistant. Jim uses these and more to make homes smarter, more efficient, and, yes, more fun.
What hooked me with Jim and his iTRUST HOME SERVICES was not exactly that. It was something related but different. It was his determination, his utter honest transparency and his tenacity to staying on task no matter what.
You see, when Jim was talking with me about integrating technology into life he shared that when he first started his business he quickly ran into a problem. Although most people liked the idea of making their homes smarter, too many balked at the idea of actually spending significant money doing it. He said that there was a disconnect between the idea of making a home smarter and a perception of insufficient relative value.
“Is that why you decided to hedge your business model to include iTRUST HOME SERVICES Painting and Restoration as well as Electrical,” I asked, because when I saw that included in his list of services, it had puzzled me. I didn’t see where or how that low-tech stuff fit into his high-tech puzzle. He smiled and replied, “yes, but not how you are thinking.”
The key, he said, was in his realization that almost all home improvement decisions are made by the wife. “It is the women who want to stay current — current with the right color paint, the right shades of flooring and types of furniture.“ Trends change, and sooner or later, he said, the decision to “update” is made.
When he makes a house call for a paint estimate, he has the opportunity to share that other aspect of his business and give it value — more than enough value to make clients want to buy it. The value, he explained, is that nothing makes a newly painted kitchen, living room, dining room or entire house look better than the right lighting.
“You walk into the 2-story foyer that so many North Fulton homes have, and with my smart lighting, that chandelier that is usually never turned on automatically comes to life as the door opens. Light fills the room. And these often are gorgeous and expensive chandeliers that no one ever notices.”
Kitchens, he said, never look so grand as when the new paint and countertops — such as those Waterfall islands with their intricate stone patterns or the new built-up mitered edge countertops are showcased by the right lighting that is on at the right time at the right intensity.
Smart homes, said Jim, have smart lighting that magnify color and help focus attention on design and style.
“This is all discretionary spending,” he said. “I know that. I don’t sell needs; I sell wants.”
And I thought that all that “smart” stuff was about clapping your hands and something happening or telling Siri to play some Van Morrison or something. Duh.
Value, I learned — or relearned from Jim — is a relative term. Frame the product properly and you end up creating sufficient value in the eyes of your customer.
When Jim figured out this roadblock he did what we would all do; he went out and started a paint division of his company. He bought trucks. He sought out and hired the best painters in the market, equipped them properly, paid them top dollar, and in a sense, created the demand for his core product, which was and is his Home Automation line.
He is a walking, talking Harvard case study. He is yet another reason that I love my job, still.
Oh yes, you can catch up with Jim and Christy at their website: iTRUST HOME SERVICES. Prepare to be amazed.