Control4 Smart Home Professionals have a passion for technology and beautiful home esthetics, as you’d quickly find out after just a few minutes talking to Barry Dorsey with Armor Systems in Venice, Florida. Barry has been in the technology industry for a long time, and his talent and knowledge for home automation spans beyond his technical knowledge; he understands the importance of both how a home looks as well as how it functions. This is why Barry has become a trusted resource and partner to both interior designers and architects in the Florida area. We asked this Control4 Certified Showroom owner about his passion for technology, how he approaches the customer experience side of home automation, and what a designer or architect should do if they are looking to incorporate smart home technology into their projects.
What got you interested in becoming a home automation expert?
I’ve always been an audio person. I’ve always loved music, and it fascinated me that you could reproduce the sounds of a live concert on a sound system. I’ve constantly had extreme sound systems, and I would frequently play audio from my favorite bands, like Pink Floyd, for example. But I was always trying to think of what I could do next to make it better, never imagining, at the time, that one day this is what I’d be doing as my career. I was introduced to the industry through security, oddly enough. A friend of mine had a security company, and they also did small audio systems. I would go to CEDIA and some other shows, and I attended some really great classes on audio/video and home technologies. As I got to know more about home theaters and home technology, I would bring that knowledge back to the company I was working for. They were telling me I was wasting my time back then, and that there would never be a market for that sort of thing. They really had tunnel vision and couldn’t see that the future was more than security systems. After my contract expired, I left that company and worked as a rep for a few years to try and figure out what I wanted to do. I had a dealer who said he would sponsor me to become a licensed contractor if I wanted to, and then my wife’s grandparents offered to loan us the money to start the company. So then I started the business and focused on technology for the home. That aspect of a family business has stayed with our company, too. My wife, Yavonne Dorsey, runs everything on the customer side. She gives that extra level of care and helps to keep everything running. Our partnership has been really amazing, and I feel both the staff and our customers have benefited from having such an amazing and caring person heading up that part of the company. One little thing that she does is she sends out gifts to our customers and makes a treats for the staff for their birthdays, because she realizes the importance of taking care of them. She has been a huge part of our success.
How do you approach a project to make sure the client is satisfied with the results?
I listen a lot, especially for the first 30 minutes of my initial meeting. In the initial meeting, I do an interview, and I always ask people what technologies they’ve had in the past, what they like/disliked about those systems, and what technologies they have heard about that they would like to have in their home. I never want to create a system that they won’t be happy with, and I’ve learned through experience that customers don’t want complicated systems. So I listen and then think about what solutions would solve their problems and what they are looking for. For example, some of my clients are older, and they want something that is simple and easy to use. To help them feel comfortable with the technology, I bring them to my showroom where I hand them a touch screen and ask them to try things without giving them instructions. For example, I ask them to turn on the lights. I watch to see if they struggle, and 99% of the time they don’t. The Control4 system is very intuitive for most people. And, if for some reason they do struggle with something, I can then re-evaluate what would be the best solution for them and propose alternatives that will still give them the results they want.
What are the benefits of working with a smart home professional for design professionals?
Designers like working with me because they know I’m not going to complicate their client’s lives, I’m not going to put technology in places that will take away from the beauty of the home, and I can offer solutions to the designer to compliment their work. The true character of any company comes not when they are trying to sell a product, but when they are trying to solve a problem. How fast we respond, how fast we fix it, and how compently we fix it are what’s most important. And I believe that you can’t just be good at that—you have to be great at it. Designers can trust us that we want their customer to be happy and we will always put our best foot forward for both new and existing customers.
What are the benefits for architects/interior designers to partner with you on their projects?
Architects and designers should work with a technology expert because all high-end clients want, at a minimum, a good entertainment system and some technology in their homes, and that requires an expert. Architects, builders, and designers don’t have the time to become experts in technology, nor do they need to. That’s what I’m here for. I, as a technology expert, can step in when their client has a technology request or question and do so in a way that makes the architect or designer look good. People will ask all kind of kinds of questions, and so having an expert that can answer all their questions makes for a better overall experience. A good dealer has the right answers and knows the technology, so they can explain to the client the mechanics of how, why, and what a system can do. People want advice when buying something— even something as basic as a TV—and when you walk into a space and have to figure it out on your own, it’s frustrating. They want someone to be able to explain the difference and the benefits, which is why being able to bring clients into my Control4 Certified Showroom to see live system demonstrations is so helpful. For example, I had a customer come in and, after playing around with the technology and looking at his options, realize that he didn’t want music in his home; instead, he wanted a huge TV on his lanai so he could sit in his jacuzzi and watch TV—but he wanted it huge. I knew about a new outdoor theater system that would fit his request perfectly, which I had recently learned about at CEDIA, and so I was able to suggest that solution and put that in his home and get him what he really wanted while avoiding the things he didn’t want—and by the way the TV he bought was $130K.
How can an interior designer or architect start learning more about smart home technology?
Come to my showroom! That is the best way to learn what we can do for you as a designer or architect and what the technology can really do for a project. If you come into my showroom, you’ll not only get a bottle of wine—you’ll be able to see how to start thinking of technology in a more creative way in your projects and how it can enhance a client’s home. It’s a real experience room where architects and designers can experience technology and realize that it is easy, hidden, and, most importantly, that they can do a lot of things with home automation in their designs. It is a very professional atmosphere in the showroom that mimics a home environment to really demo the lifestyle experiences.
What advice do you have for designers/architects integrating technology into their designs?
What I see designers and homeowners struggle with the most is that they equate smart devices with a smart home. These piecemeal, DIY devices are not very reliable nor are they often integratable. That can cause frustration because they are not able to perform all the functions that a homeowner may want. Start thinking about technology as an integrated solution rather than just a device. For example, if someone just gets a smart doorbell or gate bell, you can’t have it connect with anything. All it can do is ring to your smartphone. However, if it is properly integrated into a smart home platform like Control4 and hardwired by a professional, then it’s not stressed with bandwidth and can ring on the audio system and video can pop up on the TVs and the touch screens as well as your phone. The homeowner can also respond to it via video or even open the gate/ door all from one interface or app. People want a quality experience in all aspects of their lives and that includes technology. Think of technology as a quality-enhancing solution for the home experience, and you’ll really start impressing clients.
Is there anything else you’d want interior designers or architects to know about what you can offer?Look to us as a resource that can provide answers for difficult questions about smart home and technology from clients. If you bring us into a project early, we can provide a professional consultation and then a high-end showroom experience which will make you look even better to your client. You don’t want to not know what you are doing when it comes to technology or have someone come in too late with technology on a project—then things don’t compliment your designs and everyone is then looking for last minute ways to fix things to look good. You want everything to be hidden, everything to line up perfectly, and, from a fit and finish point of view, you want the technology to compliment a design. We make things look great and compliment a home rather than become an eyesore in a home. Take advantage of these solutions we offer, and we’ll make your designs look and function even better in the end.