Wendy Kinney, Power Generator, giving her sage advice on networking with your hosts Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini. Recorded at Atlanta Tech Park in City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
In this episode of the Capitalist Sage Podcast, Karl and Rico talk to Wendy Kinney – a referral marketing expert. Wendy shares knowledge and advice about how to find networking associations that are a good fit, common mistakes people often make in a referral market, and the importance of referral marketing in expanding your network.
How to contact Wendy: 404-816-3377
“So, someone once explained to me that the difference between a homeless person and Warren Buffet is timeline. The homeless person wonders what he’s going to eat tonight. Warren Buffet knows what his grandchildren are going to eat. So the homeless person is thinking, “Can I get 20 bucks. Can I go to burger king?” Warren Buffet is thinking, “Where am I gonna take my family on vacation three years from now?” And that timeline is crucial for referrals. Cold calling is – I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna interrupt what you’re doing, you’re either gonna say yes or not to me, and I’m gonna move on. Referrals has a timeline. And that’s the first thing that people miss. They want it to be instant.”Wendy Kinney
Audiences transform from groups of passive strangers to active, individual participants learning new skills together. People are meeting. New contacts are being made. Sparks fly.
Wendy Kinney created Ready… Set… Go Make Money! networking methodology from her 21 years of researching, experimenting and confirming what works for networking.
She opened the Atlanta office of PowerCore in 1995; since then PowerCore Teams in the metro Atlanta Area have connected more than 15,898 Members.
Wendy continues to guide Atlanta’s entrepreneurial community into the lucrative and exciting world of network and referral marketing. And she’s gone global, bringing her proven methods and innovative techniques for creating ah-ha’s and shocks of recognition to corporate events around the world.
Karl [00:01]: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Carl Barham.
Rico [00:08]: And I’m Rico Figliolini.
Karl [00:09]: I’m with Transworld Business Advisor, and Rico is with Mighty Rocket Digital Marketing and the publisher of the Peachtree Corner Magazine. Rico! How about telling us about our sponsors today?
Rico [00:22]: Sure. First thing is – I just want to let you know, we’re in the podcast studios at Atlanta Tech park in Tech Park Atlanta.
Karl [00:30]: That’s right.
Rico [00:31]: Love the name. It’s in the city of Peachtree Corners. So we’re in the middle of this accelerator here in Peachtree Corners. Now what is that – the incubator that’s at Prototype Prime just down the block. So this is a great hub for technology. So this is where we’re at doing this podcast.
Karl [00:49]: Part of Curiosity Lab of –
Rico [00:52]: Well, Curiosity Lab actually encompasses now Prototype Prime as long as a one and a half mile autonomous vehicle track, and I think it’s the Georgia Tech professional education services that’s being conducted out of there as well.
Karl [01:08]: Absolutely. A live lab in Peachtree Corners. Fabulous.
Rico [01:11]: So one – the only one I should, probably one of several, but the only one that made it in Atlanta. A live lab where people can actually put their autonomous vehicles and stuff into a real track. So that’s where we are here, just to give you an essence. Peachtree Corners magazine and the family of podcasts which includes Capitalist Sage is also a media sponsor for Smart City Expo Atlanta, which is an offshoot of the annual Barcelona event that’s done internationally. So this expo happens in September – it’s the first one in North America. Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners will have an offsite demo place in its racing place that the attendees of this expo can come to and check out the track and all the stuff that’s gonna go on there. Because they should hopefully be done in about 48 days – at least the PC portion of that to be able to share. The Smart City Expo is the first one of three years that are going to be here and the World Congress Center, and it’s right at smart cities and bringing it down to the people that would actually be using it on the boardway. So not just businesses. And, also want to welcome, for the first time, Gwinnett Medical Center. They’re a sponsor of our podcast as well. So they’re actually opening up a place – they’re entering Peachtree Corners. It’s called the GMC Primary Care and Specialty Center of Peachtree Corners, and they’re gonna have a lot of premier, first rate primary care services and specialty services. For those people that want to know where it is, if you’re familiar with the old Abuelita’s restaurant, which is the building that’s been completely gutted and renovated, just south of the QT of Peachtree Corners.
Karl [02:57]: That’s right. Right across from the farm. So if you can find the farm, you’ll be able to find this medical center.
Rico [03:01]: And if you find the QT or Climate Smoothie which is in that same place.
Karl [03:05]: That’s it. Good – thank you very much for introducing our sponsors. Today’s guest is Wendy Kinney. An entrepreneur, business owner, network and relationship marketing expert. Wendy opened the Atlanta office of Power Core back in 1995 and has connected over 15,000 members, helping people grow their business through network and referral marketing. Just want to thank you for joining us today, and why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit more to our audience?
Wendy [03:36]: Thank you, Karl, I’m honored, and Rico – I’m honored to be invited and participate in this. I think you’re doing good work, so, that’s good.
Karl [03:44]: Thank you. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got into this space?
Wendy [03:49]: I visited my first Power Core team, and all Power Core meetings are at seven o’clock in the morning, in Melbourne, Florida at the Hyatt across from the airport. And it was two hours from where I lived. And the reason I agreed to go to a 7 AM meeting two hours from home, because you’re already doing the math on what time they had to leave and get up and all that, right? Was because I’m incredibly shy. I had a hard time getting to events that were close to home. I would very often get dressed, get in the car, drive in the event, circle the parking lot and get home. And I figured if it was two hours away, I would actually go in because if I embarrassed myself, I wouldn’t have to kill anyone. So that was my first experience in that situation.
Karl [04:33]: Oh wow, fabulous. So when you found Power Core – why don’t you describe what Power Core is for folks that don’t know?
Wendy [04:40]: So, it’s a business referral network, and there are 21 different types of networking associations. So think of them as languages. Think of them as Greek and French and Spanish and Portuguese. And if I prepared for a trip to Brazil by taking Spanish lessons, when I got there, I would be, best case, ineffective and, worst case, offensive because they speak Portuguese, right? And so, associations are like that too. Each association has its own purpose, has its own language. And Power Core is the type of association that is codified, close contact. And what that means is that there’s a group of people who meet once a week. These people are not in competition with each other. And their purpose is to build the credibility required to recognize and refer their clients to each other. So they know each other closely. And this – the reason that that very first meeting worked for me was because one of the presentations was being done by the CPA. And I sat there during his presentation taking notes and thinking to myself, “How come the guy I’m paying isn’t telling me this? Why isn’t my own CPA telling me this?” And it was so powerful to me to recognize, and I could see right there already, that if I had a question, I could ask the banker. Just right after the meeting, and he would have answered me. If I had a question, I could just ask the attorney, and he would just answer me. And I didn’t have another place in my life where that existed. And that was my motivation. I – I know that most people join because they want the referrals, right? But my motivation was – I need these people in my life. I had just come off a very bad business failure. Do you want to know what it was? I bought a restaurant.
Rico [06:25]: That’ll do it all.
Wendy [06:28]: Big mistake. Big mistake. And what I realized, sitting there, was – if I had had these people in my life, I would have not been a failure as a restauranteur.
Karl [06:40]: That’s fabulous – it’s interesting having advisors and people that you can go to to help you at – grow your business is really key. And having this group that, by structure, you’re getting to know them very well, I could see that building kind of, like, almost a board of directors, a kitchen cabinet, or small council – whatever you want to call them. But they’re these people that you can go to for those questions. And along the way, you happen to be able to help each other do business.
Wendy [07:10]: Yes. Yes. And when I first joined, I didn’t think anyone would have referrals for me. I was wrong, but I was clear. And what I learned and what I tell people now is – these people are cheering for your success more than any other people in your life. More than family, more than anyone. These people want you to be successful. They’re building you up, they’re holding you up, they’re introducing you to prospects. This is your cheerleader, right here.
Karl [07:38]: So what do you think people miss, when you see folks looking to grow? So I talk to business owners all the time. Pretty much most of them have a revenue problem. They don’t grow enough money. You ask them, “What do you spend on marketing, what do you do for marketing?” They say, “Referrals. I built my business on referrals.” What are they missing when they’re looking at their business and how they’re approaching it and how someone that really wants to really drive their business using referrals can do.
Wendy [08:05]: Yeah. Two things. The first thing that they’re missing is timeline. So, someone once explained to me that the difference between a homeless person and Warren Buffet is timeline. The homeless person wonders what he’s going to eat tonight. Warren Buffet knows what his grandchildren are going to eat. So the homeless person is thinking, “Can I get 20 bucks. Can I go to burger king?” Warren Buffet is thinking, “Where am I gonna take my family on vacation three years from now?” And that timeline is crucial for referrals. Cold calling is – I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna interrupt what you’re doing, you’re either gonna say yes or not to me, and I’m gonna move on. Referrals has a timeline. And that’s the first thing that people miss. They want it to be instant. Yeah.
Rico [08:48]: I’ve been – I didn’t do Power Core. I did another – I won’t name it – I did another networking group. And the other networking group was more like – wasn’t like this. I mean they had the –
Wendy [09:03]: I think you should name it. I really do. Just because it will be clearer.
Rico [09:07]: It’s been a long time, it’s BNI.
Wendy [09:10]: But I just think it’ll be clearer.
Rico [09:11]: Okay. So BNI is this Business Network International. It’s been around a long time. Same thing. 7 o’clock in the morning, we all did the one minute, two-minute elevator screens. We all had to share leads. It was almost mandatory – it was almost like you were shamed if you didn’t do it. And it was always typically the same type of business. An accountant, lawyer, it’s always the typical. And I just felt very – I just wasn’t feeling it. And I’m –
Wendy [09:45]: So here’s – here’s my response to that. I believe that associations are like blue jeans. Not every pair of jeans fits every butt. Can I say that? Do I need to rerecord? And as soon as you try it on, you know if it’s a fit for you or not. And if it’s not a fit for you, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you and there’s nothing wrong with the jeans. So I have no illusions that anyone should belong to any one type of association. I think that’s part of the reason why there’s 21 different associations. I think we all need to belong to three different types, but it doesn’t matter which type we belong to. As long as we work each type according to its purpose, right? So. Finding out, and finding out quickly, that it’s not for you – I think that’s a good thing.
Rico [10:34]: Yeah, I don’t disagree, and it didn’t take me too long. I think it was about four or five weeks, which I thought was long, I thought I needed to do a little bit more. And I found my network and my referrals confirmed with different –
Wendy [10:46]: So I want to – I want to address how long is long enough. Just in the general referral marketing thing. So I told you that I belonged – I believe that we each need to belong to three different types of associations. I believe very firmly that we need to belong to an association where every member is a prospect. Now that would not be a close contact association. So if someone went to a close contact association, selling to the people at the table and the people at the people then buy with them, they would think they were unsuccessful. However, it would be because they were speaking the wrong language, right? So that’s really important. So there needs to be, in my marketing portfolio, one association where every member of that association is indeed a prospect for me. There needs to be a second association in my portfolio where every member is a gate opener for me. A gate opener is a person who will never do business with me personally, but is in a position to send me one referral a month like clockwork. And I need to belong to a third association with this broader cross-section of people as possible. And for most people, that’s what Power Core is. Where there’s this broader cross-section of people – so watch, I’ve got depth in the first two, I’ve got width in the second one. And that depth and width is what gives a marketing plan stability. And I believe that everyone needs to belong to those three things, and then – and so here we go. Here’s – I know that was a long answer to come back. Once my private clients make those three choices, it’s a three year decision. So now we’re coming back to the difference between the homeless person and Warren Buffett. So the important piece here is, five or six weeks isn’t long enough to know. It’s just not. And it’s long enough to know the jeans don’t fit or you don’t like the jeans, right? But once people make a decision, the difference between success and failure and referral marketing is being a member long enough for these people to know you. So the team I was at today – I was at Cumberland today. And David Arnold turned in a business slip from a guy who was a member of his team fourteen years ago. Fourteen years ago. And now he’s moving to Denver. Now. Fourteen years later! Of all the real estate agents in the greater metro area, this guy knows David the best. And that’s a long – that’s a Warren Buffet time frame, right? So when people use – there’s only three ways to get new clients. Advertising, cold-calling, referrals. When people use an advertising or cold-calling mindset in a referral marketing plan, you’re always gonna be ripping up these plans before the roots have had time to form.
Karl [13:25]: Yeah. It’s a good thing to know as I’ve ventured out and talked to a lot of the folks and participated in some of these different – getting to know people, part of it, if you think about it, it’s hard for me to refer to you, and we’ve known each other for a while now. And we’ve worked together, and I know what you do, little by little, many small conversations. I know details. But I now know how to listen for things. And I’ll say, “Hey Rico, there’s someone here that you need to talk to because of our conversation we had” that if we didn’t stick through this and meet every week and chat all the time, I wouldn’t have known that.
Rico [14:04]: You know what I find out – I find that I don’t know the two organizations you’re talking about – all have to be networking, quote networking? Because what I find is that, when I belong to an association, let’s say the America – the Atlantic Marketing Association, which is going to –
Wendy [14:21]: That’s a really good example of an industry specific association.
Rico [14:25]: Now, there I find that, because maybe because of what I do particularly –
Wendy [14:31]: No, I think these jeans just fit your personality.
Rico [14:35]: Maybe. Because I don’t like being necessarily a member in an organization as opposed to being a board member. I want to be an effective person that could bring value to that organization. And in doing so, expand the value of the organization. And bring – and when you do that, I think, when you get in, then you get it.
Wendy [14:55]: Yeah. So the key in this three-year trajectory is to be a visible, committee member or board member by the end of the first year. So everyone needs to be on a leadership track, a visibility track – just from the very beginning. Go find out where there’s a hole that fits me, right? Because I don’t want to volunteer for a board position that’s onerous for me, right? Find – always work in your area of strength. Always work in your area of strength.
Karl [15:24]: That leads me to one thing that does, when people get that involved, it starts building credibility. I know that’s one of the important elements of getting referrals. Help folks understand why credibility is so important and how people build that and build that.
Wendy [15:39]: Yeah, so I just came from a lunch conversation with someone who was referencing a person who we both know. And he cost himself any referrals from her or from me because he blew his credibility. And he blew his credibility in very specific ways. The easiest way to get credibility is to say, “I’ll call you at 10 o’clock tomorrow,” and then do it! Right? Because if I say I’ll call you at ten o’clock tomorrow, and at ten o’clock tomorrow I get your voicemail and I say, “Hey this is Wendy,” you’re gonna listen to that voicemail and go, “Ooh, she did what she said she was gonna do.” If you answer the phone, you’re gonna be, “Okay, she did what she said she was gonna do.” I can count on her – if I refer to her, my clients are going to experience the same thing. The easiest way to bust credibility is to not do what you said you were going to do. So whether that is not performing well as a leader, or not showing up for a lunch appointment, or not performing in some other way that I said I was going to, that’s referral death.
Karl [16:44]: So I’m wondering. As people start putting together a plan on building credibility, are there tools and strategies that they can use to start to pull some of this together to be more effective in getting referrals?
Wendy [16:59]: Yeah. So, so let’s start with the concept of meeting one-on-one for coffee. So those one-on-one meetings, as you just expressed to Rico – those meeting where people are just talking and beginning a friendship because referrals are always between friends. And beginning that friendship – those are really important. So I can strategically make a plan to have one coffee meeting in between every meeting with the association. So you like AMA meets monthly – in between every month’s meeting, you’re going to have lunch with some person from that association. Now watch what happens. Remember my three-year path. In month number one, you have lunch with Art. And when you go in month number two, Art’s gonna say – “Oh, hey! I want to introduce you to Scott, Tom and Jerry.” And in month number two, you’re going to have lunch with Betty. And when you go onto meeting number 3, Betty’a gonna say, “Oh I want to introduce you to Carla and Deborah and Sally.” And in month number four – are you getting it? And so what happens is – if you have lunch with one person in between every meeting, those people become your advocates and your champions at the next week’s meeting – or the next month’s meeting. And by the end of twelve months – twelve meetings, you’ve got a whole group who knows who you are and knows your name and recognizes you – I don’t know what you do yet. But they know who are, they know what you do, they know your name. And if you saw them Friday night at pizza, they’d come up to your table and say hi! When people don’t have a proactive strategy to do that, networking doesn’t work for them.
Karl [18:43]: That’s super key. I notice that another thing, as you start talking with folks, in the cold networking kind of groups, if you’re trying to sell to people, that’s speaking the wrong line.
Wendy [18:57]: It’s so speaking the wrong line.
Karl [18:59]: So if I’m trained in sales, and I know – I don’t know if you’re familiar with Challenger, Inside Be Sellings – some of those kinds of things. One of those key things is changing the way someone thinks introducing new information.
Wendy [19:12]: Right.
Karl [19:13]: If you’re not supposed to be selling to – to Rico – because he’s not supposed to, he’s not my customer, what should I be spending my time telling Rico?
Wendy [19:22]: Right. So, the book, The Secret Life of Pronouns is fabulous. The author is James Panabaker, he’s a University of Texas at Austin. And one of the things that he describes is how our use of pronouns affects how people react and respond to us. So the pronouns, “we” – this is what we do – and “you” – I can help you – are sales pronouns. And neuro linguistically they call them vertical. So these pronouns make people think – “I need this, I don’t need this. Yes, no, up, down, in, out. This is for me, this is not for me.” These pronouns – what an incredible power – stop referrals. Because when I’m speaking to Rico, and I say, “Well, Rico, what I can do for you is…” – Rico either thinks “Oh, I like that” or “No I don’t.” And then we’re done. He’s not thinking laterally, which is what neurolinguistics call the pronouns “I” and “they”. So when I’m speaking to Rico and I say – “What I did for them was…”, now Rico thinks what is like or what is not like what she’s talking about. So I was just talking with Heather, and she said, “I’m a good referral for your friends who have coffee table books of the places they’ve visited.” Well, immediately, when she said that, I thought – “Ooh, Kevin and Hal. They don’t have coffee table books from the places they’ve visited. They get some piece of art from every place they’ve been on vacation, and that’s their memento from the vacation.” Right? So that lateral thinking – it’s not a coffee table book – it’s a piece of art. That lateral thinking is how referral happen. And they happen with the pronouns, “This is what I did for them” – the person who’s not here. Not “This is what we can do for you,” the person who is here. And that’s key to referrals. Just key.
Rico [21:13]: You know, that’s funny. Because I’ve gotta believe that’s – as you were saying it – it’s almost like the case study.
Wendy [21:19]: Isn’t it?
Rico [21:20]: And everyone talks about – “I want to see the case study. I want to see what you did for someone else. Is that what you’re gonna do for me? Because we – you don’t even know me.”
Wendy [21:28]: Right! Right! And yet you’re pitching me? Yeah.
Rico [21:31]: Right. And I don’t do that. I hate doing that. I hate coming up with, I have a toolbox. I have a hammer and a screwdriver. I know you got nails and screws –
Wendy [21:40]: And now everything’s gonna be hammered.
Karl [21:43]: Even if you don’t need it, I’m gonna hit you.
Wendy [21:44]: Yeah, it’s what I got.
Rico [21:46]: So I need to know who you are first because you don’t even – you know, if at least I give you my case studies like that. What I did for them, then they might be able to step up and say and feel empathy. I understand.
Karl [21:56]: I just had an incident where what you just said happened, and now that I’m sensitized to it, I see it coming right at me. At a just a networking event or meeting some people, and someone selling, I think it was maybe employee benefits. And said – and she didn’t know anything about me. And she started saying, “Well, you know, I sell employee benefits and I can build us up, and if you have three to ninety-nine employees” and so on. And I said, “Wow.” She just went in and went from me to the next person and said the same thing to the next person and next person, next person. And I’m sitting there going, “why, I’d love to pull her aside for a moment and just have a short” –
Wendy [22:39]: Say, “Honey I can help you.”
Karl [22:41]: Which I am scheduling coffee with her, so we’re gonna have a conversation. But you see when folks do that a little bit different. There’s another thing –
Wendy [22:49]: I think that venturing to do that, thought, don’t you think? And they’ve just – what – and I remember the metaphor that I was taught was, you’re just picking up rocks and saying, “Is it you? Is it you? Is it you?” And it’s really uncomfortable to be one of those rocks.
Rico [23:01]: You know, when I was a stockbroker, it was like that. I got a stock, and I don’t care who you are, you’re gonna end up buying this stock from me, right? That’s the mentality of a lot of people have –
Wendy [23:11]: And we’re over it. We’re just over it.
Rico [23:13]: It doesn’t work that way.
Karl [23:15]: There’s this interesting thing that you introduced to me about the file cabinet and how to look at it. And I’ve used the ideas of it over the years – I didn’t realize – I used it in a different way, but it was a great way to organize your approach to it. But basically, offering insights. But when I have conversations with business owners – I’m not selling them a service. There’s information that I might have that could help them with their business. They may want to know evaluation, they may want to know how to increase marketing – whatever it is, I offer them insight to think differently about their business. That’s where I start. And then I can pivot from depending what they need, whether it’s a referral, what I can help them, whether they can help themselves. How do you use this filing cabinet now, do you help people organize that?
Wendy [24:04]: Right. So think of a four-drawer cabinet. You know, it’s about shoulder high, everybody has one, whether it’s in the garage or basement, they’ve got one, right? And the four drawers of the filing cabinet are the four things that people want when they come to us. So nobody wants peace of mind – they want car insurance or they want homeowners insurance, or they want umbrella insurance, or they want insurance on their motorcycle, right? They have something they want and it’s called insurance. Now, the name of the filing cabinet in this example is, “Insurance,” right? So if I’m an insurance agent and I go to a networking event, and I say, “I’m an insurance agent, so if you’ve got a home or a boat or a car I can help you.” People are either going to say, “Oh thanks I love my agent.” They’re not gonna talk to me because they feel pitched, right? Or they’re gonna say, and these are the only two options – or they’re gonna say, “Oh, I know a lot of insurance agents. Do you know Tommy Schlosser? Do you know – ” And they’re gonna start naming my competition. Well there’s no money for me if they’re talking about my competition. And there’s no money for me if they say, “Don’t need you.” And so naming the filing cabinet, starting the conversation by naming my filing cabinet, is automatic. It’s over, there’s no place to go. If instead, I name one of the drawers in my mind. Not out of my mouth, in my mind. So let’s just – in this example, let’s take homeowners. If in my mind, I say – I’m shaking hands with Rico – I say to myself, “I’m gonna play in homeowners.” And when he says, “Wendy, what do you do?” I open that homeowners drawer, and in that drawer, there’s thirty six different Pendaflex folders. There’s thirty-six different topics in that drawer that I can choose to talk about. Let’s say that I’m gonna talk about – let’s say we just had a hail storm. And I’m gonna talk about roof damage. Hail insurance for roof damage on a house. And I pull that topic out, and in that topic, there’s anywhere from six to eleven pieces of information that I could share. Let’s say that I decide to pull out the one file folder that has the information on the conversation to have with an insurance agent when there’s been hail damage, right? And I – Rico says to me, “What do you do?” And I say, “Well, yesterday I had a great conversation with a client who had hail damage to their rah-rah-rah, right?” Rico knows that – what the name of my filing cabinet is. And he knows what drawer we’re in, right? And he responds to me by saying, “Not interested in that, but what I wanted to know about is motorcycle because my 18-year-old just is looking at a motorcycle.” And I slam that homeowner’s drawer shut, I pull open the toys drawer, and now I’m talking to Rico about him in minute number two – I’m talking to Rico about him. He knows exactly what we do, and he thinks to me, “Ooh, that Wendy Kinney, she knows a lot. She knows more than my guys does. She’s telling me more than my guy has told me. I got people to send to her.”
Rico [27:03]: And it feels like that – that’s genuine. Because I think that people want – people are always asking questions about themselves. And if you’re coming in from the place where you’re selling to you, and they’re like, “I can pick a brand and I can share it – “
Wendy [27:18]: Yes – she’ll tell me!
Rico [27:20]: Yes, that’s a better way.
Wendy [27:22]: Now, this is why – you didn’t ask me this question. Ask me if there are words you shouldn’t use. So the word “depends” is an anti-referral word. We could do a whole cast on all the words not to use. The word “busy” is an anti-referral word, ask me about that later. Okay. But the word “depends” – so if someone says, “How much does that cost?” If I say, “Well, it depends…” they think I’m hiding something. And if I’m hiding something, I’m not credible. If I say, “it’s $137 for the customer who just bought it yesterday,” now, they’re like, “Ooh, I need that.” Or, they’re like, “I’m gonna have to save for that.” There’s never a value in me hiding the price. In sale – in referrals. In sales, what everybody who’s taken sales training is taught – first rule is, never address price until you’ve established value, right? Everything about referral marketing is the opposite. So in referral marketing, the first person to talk dollars wins. Every single time. And our fear is that they’ll think it’s too expensive. You know what? Thinking it’s too expensive – they were never gonna buy from us anyway!
Rico [28:27]: You know, you’re right. Because that’s not your client –
Wendy [28:30]: That’s not my client! That’s not my client! That’s not my best client!
Rico [28:34]: And you know, you qualified that too. You said, “Yesterday, for this client it was $137.” So that doesn’t mean it would be the same for me, so qualifying it –
Wendy [28:44]: And there – but you don’t have to qualify. There’s research on this. Let’s say that I say that it’s gonna be two thousand dollars, and you refer me to Carl, and for Carl it’s – and you say to Carl, “Hey, you need to talk to Wendy. It’s gonna be two grand.” And for Carl, it’s twenty-four hundred. Carl will think he’s special. He’ll think – “Oh, I’m better than the average bear.” Now, let’s say that for Carl, it’s 1700. Carl will think he got a deal because of you. Carl will think, “Ooh, that Rico – he did me good.” And he does all that himself. We don’t have to do it. So – there’s no downside to talking dollars if you’re doing referral marketing. No downside.
Karl [29:23]: I love that, and I started to adopt that because now I know attorneys and so on. And I start asking what they do – I wanna know fee. Give me a range.
Wendy [29:33]: Yeah, just tell me something!
Karl [29:34]: Because my conversation with someone – I’m not someone in legal services. They’re always gonna ask you about how much that’s gonna cost.
Wendy [29:43]: Right – what should I budget for that?
Karl [29:44]: And so I can establish the budget between two people, and that’s exactly what happened. I’ve gotta save for that, or now I gotta rethink the investment. But I can follow that out and say, “Well, let’s think about your situation. If you invest in this solution, three thousand or whatever it is, now, what is it saving you? What are the business benefits? Are you gonna get to take a vacation?” Whatever that benefit is, I’m talking in your language. I’ve almost pre-sold before I refer them to – they’re not – they’re gonna say, “well I know you’re gonna be in this range, and now it makes it easier for the person you’re doing, which accelerates referrals and business.
Wendy [30:22]: Yeah. There was another thing that you were addressing – I had a conversation with a woman who’s a state attorney and her basic – her basic – her bottom line is seven thousand. Now, I know another state attorney, whose average – not her lowest – her average is fifteen hundred, right? So the first woman is saying, “Oh, how am I gonna talk people into seven thousand?” You’re not gonna talk people into anything, right? You don’t gotta talk people into fifteen hundred or seven thousand. What’s gonna happen is, your best clients never think that seven thousand is out of line. Your best clients, and referral marketing is all about best clients – sometimes people say that they’re in a networking group for the low-hanging fruit. That is a mistake and it’s offensive. Your best clients will not be offended by your price. Which is the second reason to be clear with your price so that people can select in. Her best clients don’t want to pay fifteen hundred dollars. They want to buy a seven thousand dollar estate plan.
Rico [31:23]: Yeah the problem of that I think from the business side is, she shouldn’t want less than seven thousand. Because if you help to bring – if you’re pressed out to fifteen hundred, no one wins.
Wendy [31:33]: Nobody wins.
Rico [31:34]: That’s not your price range. It takes you –
Wendy [31:37]: She doesn’t want to take less than fifteen hundred. She wants to find out how to talk people who have fifteen hundred dollars into spending seven thousand. You can’t do it! Instead, go networking for the seven – for the people who want to spend seven thousand.
Karl [31:53]: Yeah. Perfectly, perfectly. Now, I know we could continue talking about it, and I think we’re – we’d love to have you back and just continue this conversation because I think you’ve shared a lot of good stuff. But I’m curious – what do you have going on? Or there’s, you know, how can people learn more about this stuff if they wanted to get in?
Wendy [32:15]: So the Power Core website is PowerCore.net as in networking. And at the top left, there’s a place where you can get the twenty-one types of associations. So if that is the first place that you’re thinking – what are my options? Is American Market Association an option for me? Go get that downloaded – the twenty-one types of associations. There are other places on the website where there is more information. And there’s also a list there for upcoming events. For example, in August, I’m doing a workshop on the filing cabinet. So that’s something that people can look at.
Karl [32:49]: And if somebody wanted to visit and just, you know, take a – take a look at someone, how many groups there are? How do they get connected and to explore the fit – this would be a fit for them?
Wendy [33:00]: Right. So the website is PowerCore.net. On the top left, there’s a little thing that says “New to Power Core” and they can put their information and find a team, and I’ll pick up the phone and call them. Or, my phone number is 404-816-3377. And the processes – everybody gets two visits. And that’s just to try on the jeans and say, do they fit? Are these for me?
Karl [33:21]: Oh, fabulous. I just want to thank you very much for coming out, sharing some of this knowledge. I think anyone that listens today can take something away from it and change their approach, tweak their approach, and see immediate benefit. If they want to learn more, there are a lot of resources out there. There is BNI, there is Power Core. But be intentional about how you use network and relational marketing to grow your business. And there’s just a lot of opportunity. So thank you today for sharing that advice with us today. We’d also like to thank Atlanta Tech Park for hosting the Capitalist Sage Podcast here in Peachtree Corners. Great space for people to come, meet other entrepreneurs, other business owners. It is the hub of business in Peachtree Corners in southwest Guinnett, the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber if Commerce is headquartered here as well. What about other sponsors?
Rico [34:17]: Yeah the sponsors include as we said before, Gwinnett Medical Center, which is entering Peachtree Corners. If you want to find more information, it’s GuinnettMedicalCenter.org/PTC. And they’re gonna provide first-rate primary care, specialty services. So that’s our main sponsor off there. And Smart City Expo Atlanta –
Karl [34:39]: Looking forward to that coming up soon.
Rico [34:41]: September 11th is its first day. It’s gonna be a great event. And if you’re into or want to know more about technology, ILT, Smart City – if you are smart, if you are a company that’s in sustainable or smart areas, technology – that’s the place to be.
Karl [34:57]: Absolutely. All those ILT companies out there. It’s definitely a place to be. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors. We help people find the right buyers for their business. We help them find the right businesses to invest in and just offer them general advice. Think of us as one of your – your board members that just helps advise you on decisions you make to help you with your business. And Rico –
Rico [35:25]: Sure – I do a few things. I wear a lot of different hats. So – I’m publisher of Peachtree Corners Magazine, which is a bi-monthly publication for the city of Peachtree Corners. Our next issue is gonna hit the post-office Friday. Its cover story is about the movie industry in and around Peachtree Corners, along with some other great stories. One is about the boyscouts, another one is about a local – one of the local, five – of five swim teams that just won the Gwinnett Championship. That’s fun. So there’s a bunch of things in there, so visit livinginpeachtreecorners.com or Peachtree Corners Life’s Facebook page and you’ll get more info there. And I have a company called Mighty Rockets. MightyRockets.com – you can find a little bit about what I do. I do a variety of things – product videos, social media, online content, and anything that’s in the creative realm. So –
Karl [36:18]: And you’re fabulous. If you haven’t seen the Peachtree Corner magazine – it’s been well received. It’s a beautiful publication. Keeps you up to date on what’s going on around the city. And just really interesting stories about people. People stop – they go on the internet for everything, and we have something you can pick up and read and talk to your neighbor about. So, thank you for that.
Rico [36:44]: And just one more thing – my daughter’s been behind the camera today. Thank you Kinsey.
Karl [36:50]: Thank you Kinsey for joining us. So that’s it from the Capitalist Sage Podcast. Stay tuned. We’ll have more interesting guests that come in and help you find ways to improve your business. Thank you. Karl Barham, signing off.
Capitalist Sage: Bill Frey’s Architect of Illuminations [Podcast]
Have you ever wondered who’s in charge of designing and setting up those amazing holiday light displays? Well, this week, Karl and Rico sit down with Bill Frey – entrepreneur and owner of Illuminating Design, a local business event, holiday and specialty lighting company. Bill talks about his path into creating a business and how he found a niche in the holiday lighting market during the 2008 economic recession. Additionally, he shares about his struggles and solutions to working in a seasonal industry, as well as the joys of using his lighting designs to create and evoke holiday memories.
“I like to think about it in a theoretical way, where we really just provide the backdrops of people’s memories. You have your holidays, you have your holiday pictures and all the memories that you have. We’re the lighting behind that. We’re what brings about the emotion, we’re the ones that bring about the feelings of the season. By seeing our lights in different areas, it really brings about that Christmas spirit and gets people in the mood – whether they need to shop or come in and spend more time with their family – again, to create those memories. And that’s – that’s really the main point of where – what we do and what we like to do.”Bill frey
Karl [01:33 ]: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasons pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Trans World Business Advisors. My cohost is Rico Figliolini, with Mighty Rockets Digital Marketing and publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. Hey Rico, how are you doing today?
Rico [01:50 ]: Good, Karl. Lots of things going on.
Karl [01:52 ]: Absolutely. Why don’t we start off by introducing some of our fabulous sponsors?
Rico [01:56 ]: Sure. So the first thing I should say is Atlanta Tech Park, which is where we are in this podcast studio. We’re doing the recording here in the city of Peachtree Corners. Atlanta Tech Park is an accelerator, right? Go to from a startup place – that’s the incubator – to an accelerator. That’s the next step for a growing company. And they have, I don’t know, how many thousands of square feet here. But they have enough event facilities, they run workshops, they run things with funding and venture capitalists.
Karl [02:28 ]: Absolutely. There’s a cyber – cyber event coming up I think later on. Thin-tech. It’s coming up later this week. Fabulous stuff to get connected in technology and business community here.
Rico [02:38 ]: That’s Peachtree Corners. So anything you need to fund your business, you can – I mean they do some of that pitch stuff.
Karl [02:44 ]: Yup – Friday morning. Pitch Fridays.
Rico 02:46 : So then our other sponsor is GMC, or Gwinnett Medical. Just got bought out by Northside Hospitals, by the way. So – but it’s the place that just opened. It’s the GMC Primary Care and Specialty Center on Peachtree Parkway, next to Planet Smoothie and QT. And it’s a great place. We just interviewed Dr. Barbara Joy Jones just last week. Find our podcast, by the way, online. But they’re a sponsor as well.
Karl [03:11 ]: Oh, fabulous, fabulous. And I think in the next week we have –
Rico [03:15 ]: Smart City Expo.
Karl [03:17 ]: Smart City Expo coming up. I’m excited about that.
Rico [03:19 ]: It’s going to be great. You, me, Patricia Wenzburg, who’s a writer for Peachtree Corners Magazine. We’re all going to be attending that expo.
Karl [03:27 ]: Absolutely. And it’s kind of going to be looking at smart technologies and cities. And I think Peachtree Corners is going to be featured there.
Rico [03:35 ]: That’s right. So the first day, which is the 11th. It’s the 11th, 12th, and 13th. So the first day is gonna be – we’re gonna have – and it’s probably, I think it’s the only off-demo site for that expo. And there are gonna be people from all over the world and the country visiting, and we’re gonna be showing off our 1.5 mile autonomous vehicle track. Along with a couple of special surprises and stuff like that going on. But there’s quite a few things. I mean, we – to be having that in this city when they do a world conference of this in Barcelona. First time in the United States, so…
Karl [04:12 ]: So much fun stuff happening here. Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners highlighting technology, showing how a city can continue to grow and innovate on itself. And one other thing that’s great about this business community here – we’ve got lots of entrepreneurs in the business community, and today we’re just – it’s an absolute pleasure to have Bill Frey from Illuminating Design – a local entrepreneur, business owner here – that combines technology and art to create amazing lighting displays for holiday seasons, for a variety of cities, commercial customers. Just help them really celebrate the holiday season or whatever festivity they may be having through innovative lighting displays and design and display. So really glad to have you, Bill. Tell us a little bit about how you do that and how you’re able to make clients super happy with their displays and help attract people to come see them. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little bit about yourself?
Bill [05:18 ]: Alright. Well first of all, thank you for having me. I appreciate the time and being out here. This is a great thing that you guys do, and I’m very happy to be a part of it. Well – I graduated from Clemson University and went back to Georgia State to get a Masters degree in marketing, and found that the corporate world wasn’t really for me. I had the advantage of being in a management position at a very young age, however, when you’re dealing with people that are older and have been in the work environment a lot longer than you have, they tend not to take your ideas so seriously. So at that point, I’d always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and that kind of pushed me to do it. I was young, didn’t have any kids, didn’t have a family, didn’t have any responsibilities, so I was able to easily take the jump. I worked for a gentlemen that had a holiday lighting company and saw an opportunity where the market really wasn’t being taken care of. So opportunities for better customer service, better pricing, and really just a better know how on doing the holiday and event lighting. There were a lot of missed opportunities before, and this is back in 2004, so back then, there were maybe a handful of companies out there. Now, recently, there’s been more people jumping into the industry because they see what a good industry can be and the opportunities that are there.
Karl [06:38 ]: Fabulous. Well, for those that do not know, describe what holiday lighting is and how businesses like yours help clients.
Bill [06:45 ]: Well, in – I like to think about it in a theoretical way, where we really just provide the backdrops of people’s memories. You have your holidays, you have your holiday pictures and all the memories that you have. We’re the lighting behind that. We’re what brings about the emotion, we’re the ones that bring about the feelings of the season. By seeing our lights in different areas, it really brings about that Christmas spirit and gets people in the mood – whether they need to shop or come in and spend more time with their family – again, to create those memories. And that’s – that’s really the main point of where – what we do and what we like to do.
Karl [07:25 ]: So what made you choose to go into this industry? You saw – you worked for a company that did that before, but how did you feel that you could make it different or make a difference in this industry?
Bill [07:36 ]: Umm, for a long time, it was kind of like, Henry Ford’s saying – “You can have any color, as long as you want it black.” And that’s not really the way the design and the lighting goes. We saw – if you drive up and down, and you look at different Christmas displays and holiday displays, a lot of them are very similar. They use the same products, same techniques, and we found ways to be a little more creative. To use an artistic side to it. To add pops of color here and there. To add different elements that people wouldn’t necessarily think of. By being Christmas – 365 days a year, versus the other companies that are really doing it as seasonal job, we have the ability to research and work with worldwide vendors, find the best products, and really find what suits you. As a client. We don’t – we use multiple vendors, and we find the best fit for the client. We don’t lock you into proprietary software. We use all open-sourced software. And it’s really giving the client the options again. Giving them their voice in what they want. And a lot of people might not know what their voice should be saying, but we help bring it out what they want. So we have about 20 questions or so that we start our conversations with our clients to get them to kind of relax a little bit and to get into their own design mind and what they like. Are they symmetric people? Do they like the right and left to balance? Do they want – do they want heavily daytime decor? Do they want nighttime decor? Are they a less is more person? A more is more person?
Rico [09:07 ]: Do you have the things, like – also, like – you know how the fireworks, you can do that electronically now? Is it all app-based? How do you set up on something like that?
Bill [09:17 ]: There are some app based programs. What we find is a lot of those are limited. We actually use a program for our programming side – an open source software called x-lights. It’s based loosely on, my opinion, it’s based loosely on madrix, which is used for stage lighting. And that’s what I originally started with. So our philosophy is – we take the stage lighting and event lighting and everything and bring that into holiday shows. We go to concerts and say, “You know what, that’s cool. We like that. How can we bring that out? How can we make that relate to the holidays?”
Rico [09:52 ]: So you’re creating as you’re going, almost in a way – because every year it’s a little different?
Bill [09:58 ]: Right. And that’s the one thing that we want. Our philosophy is that, if you dream it, we can make it happen. And that’s what we try to do. We’ve had some wild concepts come to us that we’re working through – a fun project we’re working on now is, we’re working with a couple of people to create art pieces with LED background lighting for it. So they actually, as you’re – it’s not a stagnant picture any longer. So you’ll have color flashes that’ll change. Say, it’s a series of umbrellas, and the umbrella will change colors.
Rico [10:25 ]: So you find the technology useful? I mean, you’ve been in the business for a while and stuff. Has technology helped you do your work better, do you think?
Bill [10:33 ]: I think so. I think it’s really cool, some of the stuff that we’re putting out. We work with – on one of our big displays, we made – gosh there were 15 by 25 foot light panels that we broadcast massive displays across. So imagery, and it’s the motion and imagery. So it’s not as stagnant. It used to be the only movement you had was twinkle lights. Every now and then, one would twinkle in. If you had your strand of incandescents, put the wrong bulb in, they all start twinkling on you. They didn’t like that.
Rico [11:04 ]: Do you do other things besides the lighting as well? Like mechanical stuff or other inflatables?
Bill [11:10 ]: Yeah. Some of the pieces we have, we can add motion to it if need be. Haven’t had the opportunity to – in our warehouse, yes we have plenty of that. Haven’t found the client yet that wants something with that much movement. With more movement comes sometimes more issues, and they’re afraid of that for a short term installation.
Karl [11:29 ]: I remember growing up in New York – we – the Rockefeller Center display was always a centerpiece, and people would, for years, you’d go and visit, and it would attract people to that display. You fast forward 20, 30 years later, you see more places using lighting and holiday kind of spirit to attract people to there. Do you find that clients get a lot of success by investing in these kind of displays to help attract folks?
Bill [11:59 ]: Definitely. It’s funny that you bring up Rockefeller Center, because that is one of the reasons I’m in the business. My grandparents lived in New York, and I would go see it as a child, and it’s one of my fondest memories as a child. And I’ve always said if I get the Rockefeller Center tree, I’d be done.
Rico [12:15 ]: You’ve reached the pinnacle.
Bill [12:17 ]: Yup – I’ve reached the pinnacle. What more can I do at that point? But yeah. We see – you know, it’s interesting because the first exposure I had to that, where it was really helping to increase revenues and things like that was during the recession – 2008. And when I – I noticed a lot of people were cutting back on what they were doing. Obviously, they were concerned about what was going on in the world, and with the market and everything like that. But what it did was allow me to kind of recenter our company and to see what’s going on out in the world. And neighborhood fronts – you had homes that were diminishing massively in value, and people were fighting against each other to sell their houses. So the first exposure was – we started decorating neighborhoods – neighborhood fronts. And by giving the exposure to those neighborhoods, it gave them more name recognition, allowed the home values to – I’m not gonna say they stayed where they were in 2006, but they did not decrease as much because you had the talk about – the word of mouth going around about what they were doing, and that the community looked nicer. People were doing a lot of cutting back, so we worked for our clients at those points to allow them to have that exposure. And also – you see a definitive difference in shopping centers. You know when you go out during the holidays, a shopping center that is not decorated, it’s like any other time of the year. You go in there, you spend what you would. Holidays are all about excess, you know? And that’s for – a lot of people it’s about, they eat too much, they shop too much, they drink too much. They do everything too much. And that’s what – having the lighting really evokes that feeling of peace and euphoria and good times and cheers.
Karl [13:58 ]: Especially, during the holiday season, if you think about, if you live up north where it’s snow, you feel Christmas coming around, you feel the holiday. If you live in warmer climate, you don’t have the snow, so the lights is something that could still connect people, that you could tell it’s a different time of year. If you have little kids, I know during the winter, people don’t go out as much. But if they’ll drive around the neighborhoods and see the houses that are doing better displays –
Rico [14:27 ]: So do you find then that – because I totally agree with you. Living in New York or Brooklyn, everyone hung their lights and stuff, but it didn’t matter. If it snowed, it was Christmas – you knew it was coming. Down here, it’s so different. The hurricane’s coming, God forbid. So, but, you know, your lighting during – are you lighting throughout the year as well?
Bill [14:46 ]: We do most of our work during the holiday season. We do still work with events and facilities and things. If they have larger events going on, we’ll go out and help them. What we can do is year round. We’ve really created a niche in the Christmas market, though. We’ve worked on some of the largest areas around the Southeast. And we have really made our names for ourselves in the Christmas area. There are a lot of companies out there that do events. They have a lot of big products, and it’s kind of a different product base that we have, but it is still possible. We have a lot – maybe 50% of it transfers over, which allows us the opportunity to go and decorate for some weddings, or big corporate parties or Fourth of July. We got to go up to – one of the really neat things we got to do is, we went up to Knoxville and lit up the Sun Sphere for the World’s Fair. It was, I want to say, their 250th anniversary. And we had the lights rotate around, red white and blue, and they rotate around the Sun Sphere. It just happened to be the year that Pat Summit passed away, and we were able to dial in the Tennessee orange and light up the Sun Sphere in honor of her, which is a really, really neat and impactful moment for us.
Karl [15:56 ]: How did you get command over the technology? Cause it sounds like you gotta know a little bit about design – artistic design – but also to program, to figure out what pieces to go together, to integrate and all that.
Bill [16:11 ]: You hire the right people. To be honest with you. I dabble in the programming. I like to say I’m good at it, but I brought somebody into the company that has extensive background in it, and he – Tim Griffith – and he is phenomenal at what he does. And he – we work together, and it’s very – it’s kind of we’re yin and yang. I’m the artistic side, he’s the detailed process side. So we balance off each other in very, very great ways.
Rico [16:40 ]: So you can envision what you want, and he sort of implements it.
Bill [16:44 ]: Yeah. I come to him all the time and say, “I wanna see this!” And he kinda looks at me and goes, “Alright, give me an hour.” And it’s great, because you know, it takes him out of his comfort zone and I’m asking for elaborate things, and we kind of bounce ideas off, and I know enough to give suggestions about different ways to look at it rather than the engineering side. Look at it from this direction, see if it changes some things.
Rico [17:07 ]: Are you seeing the technology and lighting itself? Like, LED’s been around for a while, right? Are you seeing that changing? Are you seeing anything new coming out?
Bill [17:16 ]: Actually, yeah. And that’s one of the things that’s – and we’ve had to kind of adapt our company because of it. It’s, you know, LED’s – incandescents and LEDs are the first change in lighting in how many years? Forever. So then, so what do you think? Okay, well LEDs are gonna be here for a while, and this is how it’s gonna be. Well now they’re moving onto low voltage. So low voltage gives you – obviously, you’re running less amps, thus you’re having less – when you have a power spike because of rain or something like that, there’s less fluctuation. So it doesn’t trip your GFI. So low voltage lighting is exactly which landscape lighting runs on. So you don’t have problems with that normally when it rains, but your holiday lights, occasionally you do. And that’s honestly a problem. If you have a GFI, and it’s put in there, and it’s working right, and your lights go out because of rain, it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to. But nobody wants their lights out. And you can’t tell somebody – “Well, you know what? Sorry your lights are out, but that’s doing exactly what you want.” So we figure out ways to work around that. And we at – when we were working at Atlanta Botanical Gardens for four years, we had – I’ll never say 100%. So, 99.999% on rate. I don’t – I cannot remember or do not recall or was not told of any situation when the lights went out with low voltage.
Karl [18:31 ]: So you can use technology to help make them more robust and bring all that. When you think about the business side of this, when you started this out, anything that you learned along the way that you think would help someone else that was thinking of starting a business?
Bill [18:46 ]: Yes. A 22 year old does not know everything. I learned that one very quickly. And, you know, you learn to trust your support system. And that’s the foundation of how you’re gonna be successful in business. If you don’t have a strong support system with you, with family, friends, people that believe in you and are going to pick you up when you get knocked down and say, “You know what? Let’s get up tomorrow and try again.” That’s crucial. If you don’t have that, you’re off on an island. And it becomes extremely difficult.
Karl [19:17 ]: What is it like doing business here in Georgia or at least in this part of Georgia area? Have you found there being any advantages of being in a community like Peachtree Corners?
Bill [19:28 ]: Yeah. Well, one, it’s a newer city. So there’s a lot that the city’s doing that we can help out with. We’re actually working in the new City Center this year, which will be great. We’re very happy about that. I was actually – as soon as I heard it was starting to be built, I started calling. Because it’s a project I wanted to be part of. To me, the community is important. The community’s giving me, myself, my family so many opportunities. My children go to school here. Their friends go to school. I coach soccer here. So being part of this community is a great, great thing. I even moved my office here from Norcross so we’d be a little more local and tied more into the business community in Peachtree Corners.
Rico [20:08 ]: Are you part of any of the business associations here locally?
Bill [20:11 ]: Yes.
Rico [20:12 ]: What are some of the things you’ve been able to gain through a relationship you’ve built through those?
Bill [20:16 ]: Some contacts. That’s really important. You find out – moreso business contacts, it’s personal contacts. People who have gone through what you do. As an entrepreneur, it’s very difficult for people to understand your day to day. What you wake up dealing with, what you go to bed dealing with. What problems you have. And you know what? None of us here are recreating the wheel. Whatever business process we’re working on – whatever situation we’re dealing with – somebody else has dealt with. We’re not the first ones to go through it, so why not ask for feedback? Why not say, “Hey, let’s go get coffee. Let’s talk about a couple things. What’s troubling you? What’s troubling me? What can we help each other work through?” And you never know who’s gonna have that opinion or that little nugget of advice that really helps you out.
Rico [21:03 ]: Let me ask you something, if you don’t mind. It’s a seasonal business. So the one thing that struck me – like urban growers, you know? They have the cycle – the season. Although they, if I remember, they said there’s really no season because they can keep growing throughout the year. How does that work in a business where it’s more seasonal? How does that impact revenue, income – how do you budget the company out? How do you keep staff where they need to be, I guess?
Bill [21:30 ]: That’s one of the harder pieces. That’s – if I knew all the answers to that, it would uber successful. You know, we’re not doing bad. But, it is difficult. The seasonality of the business makes it difficult for staffing. You have – so what we do is, we have a core group of people. That those are our people that we bring in. Then, we wind up bringing in revenue producers that – the guys are doing the actual install. But we bring the team of leaders in before that. We spend about a month with them and training them on what we are, who we are, going around and seeing the jobs. So we catch them up to speed on what’s being produced. Then we bring the next team in and do our OSHA training and those things. So, a lot of times, it’s recreating the wheel each time. It’s restarting the process each year. But we’re fortunate enough that each year, we have some residual people that come back. We try to find business owners that may have another business. That their seasonality goes a little bit lower in time, so we kind of work together in that aspect. And you find – you do have a lot of guys that are out of work over the holidays. So generally, finding labor in the actually installers is not that difficult. Because you have all the other season out – like, the non-winter jobs – pool companies, painters, landscapers, that aren’t doing as much. They all lay off, we hire them in.
Karl [22:51 ]: I’m curious, you know, if you were to advise – whether it’s neighborhood that’s deciding holiday lighting or retail areas and so on. What are top things they should consider if they’re thinking on doing this? Where do people get it wrong? When you go out there and you look at people trying to do it, what do they get wrong about it?
Bill [23:11 ]: A lot of the time, it – you wind up with inconsistencies. Where it doesn’t – it doesn’t flow. There’s – it kind of, it’s sporadic, where they’re not actually – they’re saying, “Okay, let’s light every tree.” Well, lighting every tree, while nice, doesn’t always give you the best visual impact. I like to work in negative space. So it’s not where the light is, it’s where the light is not. Because if you constantly have a wall of light, it’s a blur. It doesn’t give a good visual image. If you’re selective in what you liked – so really, I guess the answer’s editing – I guess, what exactly to do. Anybody can throw stuff up anywhere, but it’s systematic in that type of editing in the overall design that makes everything better. And the consistency in the products. You can’t have one color bow in one area, another color in another area. Or have weird colors. If – I’ve noticed a lot, they try to go with festive colors and things like that now. But it starts looking a little like Mardi Gras. Which is awesome for the Mardi Gras time, but it doesn’t really flow with what most people think of Christmas.
Karl [24:17 ]: And things that will create those memories that you were describing. If you do a blur of lights, it just remembers it’s a blur. But if you can create art with that and create it, that’s what create memories.
Bill [24:29 ]: Our lighting philosophy is, we believe every light is important. You can make a very impactful statement with a single light. So it’s all in the editing of how you edit those lights down.
Karl [24:38 ]: Fabulous, fabulous. Well, I’m curious, you know – as this time of year, we’re getting into the fall season. What’s it like for you this time of year? What do you have coming up? What do you do over the next few months as you gear up for the holiday season?
Bill [24:52 ]: First thing is not sleep. It’s – this is really the busy time. But we’ve set ourselves up over the past few months, and basically, since we’ve finished last year to be ready. So we’ve dotted all the i’s, crossed all the t’s. We’re just ready to go now. We have – we’ve tested all the products. We’re gonna be out. Within the next month or so, we’re gonna be working on some of the bigger installations. We’re gonna be at the battery for the Atlanta Braves, decorating out there. We’ll be building a 35-foot walkthrough ornament at World of Coca Cola. And working on some of the really large displays downtown Atlanta. We put all the garland on Peachtree street. So really finalizing what we’ve worked on for so long. It’s – you’ve had your spring training, and now it’s time to get to action.
Karl [25:41 ]: You remember when Christmas season used to start the week after Thanksgiving? And now, I remember – I think in August, I saw Halloween stuff start to show up, and I’m pretty sure it’s happening with the season. When is Christmas really starting now? Is it October? Early November?
Bill [26:02 ]: November 1st is when a lot of the turn on dates. And you know – it’s understandable. If they’re spending good money on the displays, it makes sense. Go ahead and get them up. Yes, it mixes Thanksgiving and Christmas. But the idea is to spread the joy. To get people out there.
Karl [26:19 ]: So if they’re starting November 1st, that means if you want to have a spectacular display, you probably should be starting now having conversations with folks like you.
Bill [26:28 ]: Very much so. If not a few weeks ago. We’re – it’s time now. We’re locking in most of our bigger installations. And there are still some slots open that we’ll take as we go through. But yeah, there’s plenty of opportunity to still get decorated and for us to work with you.
Karl [26:45 ]: Fabulous. So how do people reach you? If they want to know more about what you do and how you do it, what’s the best way to reach you?
Bill [26:50 ]: First thing I suggest is to go onto our website and take a look at some of the projects we’ve done. See if it’s something you’d like to do and see if there – we can work together. We like to create a union with our clients. It’s – we’re not a one and done type company. We like to create relationships. So go onto the webpage. It’s www.illuminating-design.com. Or you can give us a call at 404-454-8944.
Rico [27:25 ]: We can also find you on instagram on @illumin. I’m assuming there’s lots of pictures there too.
Bill [27:32 ]: Yes there are.
Karl [27:33 ]: Fabulous. Well it’s great to see a local company here in Peachtree Corners. Entrepreneurs that are doing really fun business. I gotta imagine, when you complete a project, you get a big smile on your face, on your client. Who doesn’t like a business that helps create smiles?
Bill [27:48 ]: Oh, it’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing.
Karl [27:50 ]: It’s fabulous for that. We want to thank you for being our guest today. Bill Frey, from Illuminating Design for being our guest. Taking time out and sharing your experience and journey on this, and giving some advice to folks that are looking to start in their own businesses that may not be as traditional as others. Maybe taking a different look in providing a different service for clients. And we also want to thank Atlanta Tech Park for hosting the Capitalist Sage podcast. If you’re starting a business and looking to network with other people, like minded folks in there, there’s no better place to start in a community designed around supporting entrepreneurs and business owners. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. We help people – help business owners understand their business. When they’re ready to sell their business, when they’re ready to buy a business, when they’re ready to grow their business. We offer services to help them all throughout their business life cycle. And Rico – why don’t you tell them a little bit about what you’ve got going on?
Rico [28:49 ]: Sure. I publish Peachtree Corners Magazine. Just launched that this year. Cities – hopefully of what’s going on in the city on a bi-monthly business. We’ve got a lot of traction on it. We’re planning the three major stories that are coming in this forthcoming issues. One is – the cover story is a Pat and the People story. So submit your – this can be a contest giveaway starting Friday. You’ll find that on Facebook. So we’re gonna be giving away some prizes. But that’s one of the main features. The other one is Great Spaces for your Corporate and Holiday Events. We have a writer out there, and she’s already on the 8th or 9th or maybe 10th place. So she’s putting out there – she’s putting together the article as well. But that’s Patricia Windspur. And we have a third piece on technology in the school system, which is cool. So the magazine, of course, you can find my work also at MightyRockets.com. I handle social media, social media content, videography, product videos, a whole bunch of things that different types of companies may need. And that’s where you can find me.
Karl [29:54 ]: And follow us on Facebook. Peachtree Corners Life on Facebook if you want to get an update.
Rico [30:00 ]: That’s right. So, like us there because once you like us there, then you get notification of these live Facebook feeds. You can find the podcast, Capitalist Sage, on iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher – almost anywhere that – FM, that’s another one – almost anywhere you can find podcasts. Find this, listen to the drive, 25 minutes, and you’re good. And LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com is the website for the magazine, the podcasts, and all that.
Karl [30:28 ]: If you want to keep up with what’s going on, a fabulous job of keeping up, you go in there, you’ll see articles in there, it’ll give you highlights on what’s going on around Peachtree Corners and greater Gwinnett in general. But just lots of ways to get connected back to the community. And please do tune into the Capitalist Sage podcast, and all of the other podcasts that highlight local people in your community. About business owners, political leaders, community leaders, schools.
Rico [30:58 ]: We have two other podcasts – Prime Lunchtime with City Manager which is once a month. And we have Peachtree Corners Life which is a whole host of things, and we do interviews.
Karl [31:08 ]: So thank you very much for tuning in, and looking forward to bringing you more great guests on the Capitalist Sage Podcast. Thank you everyone, have a great day.
Boutique Staffing Firm Opens in Peachtree Corners
Staff Builders HR, which specializes in identifying quality talent for businesses, celebrated the opening of its Peachtree Corners location recently.
Operated by management and staffing expert Austin Ashworth, the office will serve the north Metro Atlanta area and offer staffing solutions to businesses in administrative, professional and industrial trades.
“We like to think of ourselves as a one-stop shop,” said Ashworth, who is the territory manager for Staff Builders HR. “We specialize in staffing light industrial and clerical positions and strive to provide companies with top-notch personnel. We handle payroll processing service, too.”
Ashworth said Staff Builders HR recognizes that each business and its needs are unique and offers a personalized recruiting strategy for each client.
The Peachtree Corners location is the first permanent site in the state for the Florida-based business which founded in 2008. The new staffing office is located at 5260 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Suite 600. Ashworth said the company plans on opening an additional four to five locations in the next three to four years.
“We are delighted to welcome Staff Builders HR to our community,” said Councilmember Lorri Christopher during the company’s ribbon-cutting event held on Aug. 27. “Peachtree Corners is well known as a business-friendly city, and we are confident that you will be very successful operating your new business here.”
Staff Builders HR offers temporary, temporary to permanent and contract staffing services for the fields of warehouse, professional and skilled trade. For more information visit the website or call the Peachtree Corners office at 404-858-2228.
A conversation with Aarti Tandon about the Smart City Expo Atlanta
With the first Smart City Expo Atlanta coming up in less than two weeks, Rico sits down with Aarti Tandon, the CEO, and co-founder of the expo. Aarti talks about how they’re striving to redefine “smart” by bringing in the human aspect of innovation into their event. By bringing in younger generations, people from the public and private sector, CEOs of corporations to mayors to non-profits, Aarti shares how the United States’ first Smart City Expo will instigate essential conversations and dialogue about what the future of technology is, how its applications can impact cities, and how we all can reframe our mindset towards “smart” technology.
“The conversation is so comprehensive. It’s micromobility, but it’s also building a workforce that’s not just the future of work, but how do you build dignity into the future of work. We talk about economic mobility. I think for us, in reframing the narrative, we want to talk about not just autonomous, electric and micromobility. We want to talk about social mobility, economic mobility. We want to talk about human capital alongside venture capital. And we want to make sure the infrastructure is equitable while it’s intelligent.”Aarti Tandon, the CEO, and co-founder of smart city expo atlanta
Transcript of the podcast:
Rico [01:26 ]: Hi, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, a podcast that’s centered here in the city of Peachtree Corners, just north of Atlanta. The city of Atlanta that’s gonna be hosting, for the first time, the Smart City Expo Atlanta, which is an offshoot – it’s the US edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress that’s hosted every year since 2011 in Barcelona. And over the years, they’ve expanded to other cities like Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Mexico, Argentina – other countries – and this is the first time in the United States. So, what I want to do is bring on Aarti Tandon, who’s the cofounder of the Smart City Expo. So let’s bring her on. Hey Aarti, how are you?
Aarti [02:13 ]: Hi Rico, thanks for having me!
Rico [02:15 ]: No, this is great. I appreciate you bearing with me for the technical difficulties we were having before. But thank you for coming on.
Aarti [02:25 ]: My pleasure.
Rico [02:27 ]: So tell us a little bit about Aarti. Tell us who you are and how you got to Smart City Expo and stuff. Give us a brief.
Aarti [02:35 ]: Thank you for asking. So, I’m actually lawyer by trade, and many years ago, I was working in entertainment and after that, working at a project for a client of mine who was serving 14 years in federal prison. And I really understood what, at that time – how do we actually, really build an inclusive economy. I spent five years working pro bono for this case, and President Bush had granted a commutation to my client in 2008, and since then, I’ve been really trying to understand, you know, how do we use sports, entertainment and marry it with justice. I went on to produce a bunch of films, and then, in 2000, or actually probably three years ago, I was asked to be the executive director of Smart City New York. And in that process, I really wanted to talk about what makes a city smart. And sort of redefine the term. And we ended up having 2000 people from over 80 countries – over 30 countries. But we had the CEOs of UNICEF and Robin Hood and Boys and Girls Club in conversation with the Mastercards and the Microsofts. And we really felt that everyone had to have a seat at the table if we were going to make sure we had an inclusive, 21st century economy. And so last year, Mayor Bottoms was at our conference and I established a relationship with Vera, and we had decided, you know, she had a focus on developing strong Smart City strategy, and Atlanta would be an ideal place to host the first Smart City Expo World event in the US.
Rico [04:15 ]: So you were in – you helped run the Barcelona event, then?
Aarti [04:19 ]: No, I ran a separate New York event. It was just a Smart City conference.
Rico [04:24 ]: Oh, okay. So this is the big expo then.
Aarti [04:26 ]: This is the big one. Yeah. This is really exciting. So Smart City Expo World Congress, which is the original temple event that’s happened since 2011 in Barcelona, 20,000 people attend. It’s basically the CES for cities. And what’s interesting about it is that, the rest of the world has really been focused on smart city strategy. So when you think about actually countries that have had conflict, they’ve leapfrogged into the future because they didn’t have legacy issues to deal with that we have in the United States. And so they’re deploying all sorts of incredible work in Estonia and Kosovo and Rwanda. And so Smart City Expo World Congress has been convening these thought leaders since 2011.
Rico [05:12 ]: So, with the mayor of Atlanta talking – sort of getting it set up here in Atlanta. Now – you’re gonna – eventually it’s gonna be a three-year deal on this one.
Aarti [05:25 ]: Yeah. We – our goal is to really plant ourselves in Atlanta, right? That’s the temple event for the United States. And it’s hosted in Atlanta, but it’s actually a national event. And part of the reason for that is because a lot of the people from the public sector in the US can’t justify, or really afford, sending their CIOs to Barcelona. And so they’re missing out on a lot of the sharing of best practices that are happening, especially, you know, the Nordic countries are so ahead of us on circular economy and sustainability. People are working on cyber around the world. And so we really, genuinely felt that this conference is a national conference. And if you’re a CIO from South Dakota or Minnesota, you have the same challenges that most cities do, and we’d love to have them come and learn.
Rico [06:16 ]: So, and if I understand correctly too, there is – smart city is not just about corporations or upper or middle class people that can afford an iPhone ring or something like that. It’s really bringing it to an equitable position, right? All the people on the street, if you will, can feel the effects of a smart city. That’s what this theme is, I guess, for Atlanta?
Aarti [06:42 ]: Yeah. So our theme is – let’s redefine the term ‘smart’. People ask me all the time – the most inevitable question is, “What is a smart city?” And I did a presentation for the state department a few weeks ago, and my response was, increasing quality of life. And so, what does that mean? How do you use the data to increase quality of life? So my dear friend, the mayor of Helsinki – he says his goal is to give every citizen one hour back in their day. And if you come from that premise, right – you think about – so if you knew your train was gonna be 20 minutes late, you may take a bus, you may take a bike, you may do something else, right? So how you make those choices so you can go home and spend more time with your family? And that’s how we look at what makes a city smart is how we’re deploying the technology. I’d love to just give you a few examples. I know you’ve got a bunch of questions. So, NYU Langone, and he’s gonna be one of our speakers, Dr. Gorovich, did a study on population health, and the health of cities. So it’s affordable housing, transportation, the actual health. In a few cities, and one of the cities was Providence, Rhode Island, I believe. Again, we have 250 speakers, so if I’m missing something let me know. But one of the things he realized was absenteeism was a really big issue in Providence. So what do you do with that data? Well, the mayor ended up putting washing machines in the public schools, right? That is how you create equity. That is where you say, we’re gonna give every child the opportunity to learn, and we don’t want them to be ashamed that they can’t come to school, and we’re gonna make sure that they have a safe environment from which they can prosper. That to us is equity. Other examples of that are – you know, there are all these amazing energy-generating pavements that are being used in stadiums and universities. So you generate energy off of the foot traffic. Well, why don’t we put that on a basketball court in the Bronx? You want people to understand what the 21st century is gonna look like, and they think it’s robots and they think it’s automation. It’s also – let’s meet people where they are, and that’s how this conference is designed. And that’s why we’re redefining the term smart.
Rico [09:02 ]: That’s cool. Because lots of people think it’s Amazon delivering their stuff by drone. They can’t wait for that because it would be easy, I guess. delivery within an hour or two, right? Or an AI machine that would be able to almost predict what you may want in the next two hours. But I like that idea. And it’s not too far flung out to say that it could happen within years as opposed to within a decade or two.
Aarti [09:29 ]: It’s about a year. And I think what we’re doing is helping mayors in cities understand that it’s literally right here, but your constituents have to understand it. We have to meet people where they are. So, like, you mentioned drones. Drones can be scary to some people, and it also can be helpful in the sense where you reduce congestion on the streets. Right? So there has to be a balance, and that’s the key. That’s why the integrated approach to cities is so important. I think what happened in the past – it was like the smart water meter, the smart parking meter. And those are really important, but if they’re not interoperable, a city ends up not knowing what the right hand’s doing with its left hand.
Rico [10:10 ]: Does that almost mean that you want, sort of a, you know, this – the UI, right? Universal integration, right? That’s the problem with a lot of these smart devices. You have the apple iHome, or you have the iHome, the Apple Home, you have all these devices – Alexa and stuff. Can they integrate together? Can we – is there a highway that we can all go on, if you will?
Aarti [10:36 ]: And so one great way to look at that, Rico, is – so a few years ago, the city of Columbus won the big smart city transportation – the smart city challenge that was issued by the DOT. And I think 83 cities applied, and the reason Columbus won is because women couldn’t get to the hospital on time to deliver their babies. And they came from a very human issue and decided that if they won the grant, they would then adjust how their roads and their emergency response and how their police operated. So when you think about integration the way you just said it, how do we take a human problem and then get everybody to participate on that highway so that we can clear it? And so what happened was they ended up changing their bike lanes and their emergency response. And they ended up addressing climate issues, right? Because now they put in electric buses, and they created bus lanes. So the city started to move better, the environment was better, but it required everyone to come together and do that. So the interoperability doesn’t actually have to be between the technology. It actually has to be between the groups that are workin to solve the problem.
Rico [11:47 ]: And would you say that, I think some people think you have to invest a lot. Some cities would have to invest a lot to get there. But maybe that’s not the case, right? You have infrastructure money anyway. To spend it wisely makes more sense, no?
Aarti [12:03 ]: Yeah, so I think financing is a major issue in the US because we don’t have public partnership models as robust as the rest of the world. Like, Canada and Australia are leading the way in those places. I think the US also has a lot of procurement issues and, like, how do you get from pilot to deployment. Those are all issues we’re covering at the conference. And so, you know, financing mechanisms are key, and I think a lot of the private sectors looking to help figure out new models.
Rico [12:38 ]: So who would you say are the – some of the key players that will be speaking at the expo?
Aarti [12:45 ]: That’s my favorite question – I have literally 250 speakers, and so many of them are people – you know, of course, we’re so honored to have the CEOs of Cox, the CEO of Suntrust, the CEO of the Atlanta Braves, and all for different reasons. The CEO of Cox is working on his commitment to sustainability and innovation. HE’s funded tech stars, he’s funded carbon lighthouse – or invested in carbon light house. The CEO of Suntrust is so focused on financial inclusion, public private partnerships. The CEO of Atlanta Braves is obviously also focused on public private partnerships – think about all of the technology that’s advancing consumer experience inside a stadium, right? So we have all of them – we’re thrilled. We’ve got TI coming in to talk about the importance of – you know, how do you drive economic development within our communities, and he’s doing an incredible job that way. We have John Hope Bryant who will be in conversation with TI. But then we also have a woman named Veronica Scott who runs the empowerment plan. Who created a jacket for people who are homeless that turns into a sleeping bag.
Rico [13:54 ]: Oh, wow.
Aarti [13:55 ]: We’ve got such extraordinary entrepreneurs and innovators. We have a guy who basically has created a coral that regenerates or is helping to regenerate coral reefs. We’ve got, you know, obviously the best of the best soft bank robotics. We’ve got Block Rock coming to talk about social impact. We’ve got Cisco and we’ve got Southern Company – our founding partner. And they are doing extraordinary work to enable the infrastructure for a city to be smart.
Rico [14:25 ]: Yeah, will some of these companies be part of the exhibitors also?
Aarti [14:29 ]: Yes. We have 50 plus exhibitors. My colleague Adam Lennon has done an extraordinary job. We’ve got two tiny houses. We’ve got eight different EV/AV vehicles. We actually have the first autonomous, electric truck in the world by Einride. Know that we’ve got drones, and I know that we’ve got Bird doing an activation. So when you think about – you asked earlier in the podcast about, you know, what to expect. I mean, the conversation is so comprehensive. It’s micromobility, but it’s also building a workforce that’s not just the future of work, but how do you build dignity into the future of work. We talk about economic mobility. I think for us, in reframing the narrative, we wanna talk about not just autonomous, electric and micromobility. We want to talk about social mobility, economic mobility. We want to talk about human capital alongside venture capital. And we want to make sure the infrastructure is equitable while it’s intelligent.
Rico [15:39 ]: That’s exciting. I think that, you know – I have a kid that goes to some high school who just started last year, right? And I own a magazine called Peachtree Corners Magazine, and our next story in the next issue is about technology in the school and how that works. That’s the high school that has four days of school and one digital day. And doing online work.You know, it’s interesting to see how young people use technology. And in the easiest way. Because they’re growing up in that environment and don’t know different. So how – are there any exhibits or anything along the way that you can talk about that?
Aarti [16:20 ]: Well, you talked about young people and I’m so glad that you brought them up. For us, smart city is defined by every generation. So we actually have a Harvard debate, diversity council scholars, four high school seniors coming in to talk about how they envision the future of cities. We have people with disabilities being represented. We have the top – we have top disability commissioners in the country from Chicago, New York and LA coming to talk about – what does it mean to build an inclusive city? And the reason I bring it up is because, in New York City, the – to cross the street, it’s about 22 seconds, which is based on a 22 year old, white male. Now, think about the fact that, if you have a disability, or you’re a parent with a stroller, right? The city wasn’t designed for it to be accessible. And so, we have the youth, we have a lot of – we’re really focused on gender issues. Women leading smart cities. And we’re also making sure that minority communities are represented. And, just to go back to your STEM question again, I think the key for us is, you know, kids especially have new ways of learning and acting. And they’re almost like, they get to leap frog into the future, right? They don’t have the legacy issues that we do when working with technology. But when they find a real, life way of experiencing it, they’re inspired. So, like, a lot of kids in hip hop, for example, they learned about Nipsey Hussle Smart store out in LA. What happened to Nipsey was tragic and all of those things, but he – a lot of innovation is coming from these young people in the streets, and if we can harness them in a way that’s safe and exciting so it’s like, when they’re learning STEM, they can see the real life application for it, that’s a lot more exciting.
Rico [18:21 ]: I would think. And you’re right, I mean, they’re using technology at this point, so they’re not afraid of it. You have older people, and I’m sure in the cities across this country, there are a lot of older people, if you will, that are in positions of power. And I saw this when Congress originally – I think it was about a year ago – one of the communities talked about security online with Google and Facebook and stuff, and the questions they were asking were so out of pace with the real world. It was scary that these people actually – you would think that if given the right questions to ask. It just didn’t sound right. And so those are the people that have to be convinced that smart technology can be a great investment over a period of time. And they shouldn’t be looking short term, and the United States is very local oriented, as far as cars, right? We built our highways after World War II, I mean. If you look at Europe and other countries – Kyoto and other cities around the world – they don’t have a lot of cars, but they also have a lot of bikes. There’s a human traffic a lot different from – very different from here. Manhattan – I used to live in Brooklyn – in Manhattan, you wouldn’t want to cross the street because that bike is riding fast by, or that yellow cab was gonna, you know, cut the traffic or something. So, technology is a big thing. As far as the cities go, as far as the young people go in this building, are there other things we should be looking forward to at this expo?
Aarti [19:58 ]: Yeah. Well first of all, the opening at Peachtree Corners is very exciting, right? That speaks to everything that we’re doing because – to have the, I believe, it’s the second 1.5 mile autonomous test track in the country in Georgia. And basically, they’re saying, for free, we invite all these innovators to come and test their pilots and their innovations. I mean, that’s what people are looking for. And to have it powered – the 5G powered by Sprint. I mean, if we’re gonna get these kids inspired and take them out of the classroom and be able to have them demo their work, then that’s really important for us. And I think that’s what’s happening in the rest of the world is – you know, you talked about urban planning and cities and, you know, we just have to have a design of what we want our cities to look like. And have people move in that direction.
Rico [20:53 ]: I think so, too. It does take foresight. I know that when the city first started, that they had in mind that doing this – developing a smart city. So, they really put into their budget. They had forethought about doing that. And they had also an understanding, Brian Johnson city manager, the mayor and the council – an understanding that you want to be able to provide this environment – Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners – in a free way. Because it does provide economic impact on the city as well. So, you know, there is that. But I think being able to get ahead of this, because a lot of other cities will be looking at doing the same thing now, in the next decade or so. I mean we have Michigan that’s planning now. And so it’s exciting to see all of that, you know? You have Tesla moving forward with all the stuff they’re doing.
Aarti [21:47 ]: And the rest – I mean, you asked about some of the other people. I mean, one we’re really honored by is, first of all, the support from the private sector and the public sector. But we have almost ten mayors coming from across the country, and I – mayor of Honolulu to the mayor of Denver to the mayor of Montgomery, the mayor of Newark. And they’re all so different, and yet they have the same challenges. And to see how they’re addressing them, to see how they’re – I mean, we have the President of the US Conference of mayors – Mayor Barnett of Rochester Hills. And he, like so many other mayors, are excited about autonomous mobility because of the fact that – you know, most people don’t frame it this way. Autonomous mobility is going to help move people with disabilities and the elderly. And think about the impact that that will have in those communities, right? So they’re already embracing the innovation. The US Conference of Mayors – their platform is infrastructure, innovation and inclusion. And those are their three pillars. And the mayors are really rallying around it.
Rico [22:53 ]: You know what I like about this, Aarti? Is that you’re providing – the expo is not just, alright you have a lot of speakers, you have a lot of exhibitors. But it’s also providing a place for people to meet, to brainstorm, really. Because they’re gonna be talking about all sorts of things, and I know from experience and from listening to others that you start one way, and you wind up somewhere else, right? So mobile, mobility, having an autonomous vehicle – can that happen in five years or ten years? Maybe the delivery aspect of autonomous vehicles. Maybe the non person in the car, if you will. The pizza delivery for lack of a better way of looking at it, may happen sooner than, let’s say, a passenger riding for, you know, without having a steering wheel, practically. Like in, was it Blade Runner was the movie? So, I mean, that – that part might be a little further out, cause you have to build 5G –
Aarti [23:48 ]: Not as far out as you think, which is really the fascinating part of it. We’re not Dubai, where we have drone taxis, you know? Because they can sort of put up whatever they want in the air. But I will tell you that in conversation with former FAA advisors, they will tell you it’s right around the corner, and I’m sure, you know, Elaine Chao – Secretary Chao – she likes to use the word “self-driving”, not driverless. And they are, you know, putting in policies for that. Because you think about the stretch of roads across America, right? Just the trucking, like – you can – that’s why we have the first autonomous, electric truck to join us. I mean, they’re – it’s not that far. They’re changing FAA regulations for drones. Is it a little awkward? Yeah. Like, I was sitting outside of a friend’s place. There was a drone overhead, and I felt quite upset. Like, I felt so violated. But at the same time, if there is a way to start maximizing the air and, you know, creating more public space on the ground, that’s interesting. So, I don’t know the ramification.
Rico [24:54 ]: No no no. I agree with you. There are so many aspects to it. You have counties, you have cities, you have states, federal government – federal highway, state highway, state streets. I mean, there’s so many regulations that have to come into bear on this. And then the technology, like Sprint, I mean. There’s only certain amount of places that 5G enabled Sprint, right? Enabled areas and Sprint is one of the companies doing it. But one of the companies doing it with us in Technology Park, where our track is at. And so, because you really can’t have autonomous vehicles without that 5G –
Aarti [25:29 ]: Right, with the infrastructure.
Rico [25:30] : So, just a lot of stuff. A lot of interesting – it’s almost like sci-fi in a way, but it’s really not because it’s almost like near future, what’s gonna happen.
Aarti [25:39 ]: Right, right. And I think it’s so important communicating that to the public. They should feel part of it. That’s why I used the basketball example, like, if they understood the technology could benefit them – yes, there’s a lot of issues around it. I’ll be the first to say, predictive analytics, the criminal justice space – things like that are major issues. But, you know, the one thing Europe has is GDPR, which we don’t have in terms of privacy, which, you know, scares people. And rightfully so. So I think that there are issues around that. But, you know, part of this is what you said. It’s to have a dialogue, for people to understand and to reframe their thinking. And to help people understand that they, too, have a role in the 21st century.
Rico [26:22 ]: Yeah, I think as much as Americans believe that we’re exceptional to a degree, and that we sort of drive technology or the future in some way, there’s a lot of different thinking outside the US. Right? Europeans, with their privacy – and some of the American companies are adopting anyway, because they know it’s gonna come this way. And then you have a place like Japan with robotics because of their aging population. Now, how do you handle that, you know? People think robots like arms and legs, but it doesn’t have to be. Could be a box, I mean, it’s whatever it needs to be. So great stuff. If someone wants to be able to attend, this is over the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th?
Aarti [27:05 ]: No, it’s the 11th, 12th and 13th and the Georgia World Congress Center. Tickets can be purchased at www.SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com. I literally just dated myself because your child would just say SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com, and I put the “www” in front of it. And, but you know, they can reach out to us at info@SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com. We’re happy to answer any questions. If people would like to attend the exhibit or are just curious, we love to engage and have them be part of this community.
Rico [27:41 ]: What about – can they follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook?
Aarti [27:49 ]: Yes, at @SCAtl and #SCAtl, I believe, are the handles. My team might kill me that I don’t know that off the bat, but I do believe that those are it. And maybe you could post it when you post this.
Rico [28:06 ]: I think you are right. I think that is correct. And in fact, in the show notes, when people are listening to the podcast on this and on YouTube, I’ll have it in the links below, so feel free to look through that. And I’ll tag the Facebook page when this is up and going.
Aarti [28:22 ]: Perfect. And can I just – yes. And I’ll send you a link. Perfect, great.
Rico [28:29 ]: So I’m gonna sign off, but you hang in there with me, Aarti. Thank you everyone for being with us. This is an interview with Aarti Tandon, CEO and co-founder of Smart City Expo Atlanta. My name is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, publisher of Peachtree Corners Magazine. Find us at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.
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- Introducing Barbara Joy Jones, DO from GMC Primary Care & Specialty Center