As the VP of Sales of MPS™, Fred Lin is always committed to developing and managing relationships which have resulted in successful long-term partnerships and client experiences.
In this episode, join Andy as he gets to know more about Fred as well as a new sound masking product and some news about the acoustic panels.
Welcome to Episode 2 of Privacy Matters by Speech Privacy Systems. I am Andrew Vawter, your host. Welcome to the second episode!
We are excited to get this one rolling again. This podcast is designed for our reps and dealers and so anybody who partners with us we want you guys to continually be learning more about our company our people our products our processes just everything so that we can better engage with the people out there that do want to partner and work with us.
And so today I've got Fred Lin our V.P. of sales with me and we're going to be exploring a few things together talking about our EcoPrivacy acoustic product as well as some new products coming in the sound masking side of things. We will talk about some best practices and some success stories and then also to get to know Fred a little bit better on a personal level. And so let's just jump right in Fred. Thanks for being here with me. You came on as VP Sales back in September 2018. Is that correct?
Correct. Yeah, I came on board late March so almost a year. Then, around September, October, November, we made a few changes. I don't remember the exact dates.
So of course not. We didn't make a huge fanfare about it we right. I've got to work right. (Fred: That's right.) Okay. So you know since that time we've we've been doing a lot of strategies building the team and changing some positions and kind of putting people in the best seat that they're capable of performing in. So before we get at all that tell me a little bit more about your background. Like where. Where did you come from? What brought you here things like that.
Sure. I’ve done a lot of different things. I actually have a Finance degree from the University of Texas. But I never really liked the numbers. I’ve been a commercial property manager in the past. I’ve had my own businesses in the past. Recently, I was a dealer or sales rep for an all-steel dealer here locally in Dallas. I’ve been also with an AV dealer as well, that was just prior to coming here.
Excellent. So you’ve got a lot of experiences that’s been really translatable. It sounds like I know I've been working with you so I would agree with that. But you know that's all those different experiences have given you a pretty good insight into how our dealers think what they value at least when you were on that side of the fence you know exactly what you valued and so that's been a good guy. (Fred: I understand their world that's for sure.) Exactly. So you know you came on as V.P. of sales in September and then we really spent the rest of the year obviously trying to move the ball forward but also strategizing for 2019. And do we need to make some structural changes doing to make some changes there and so we've been actively doing that and really pushed into this year with we've got some new sales added. And we've kind of I guess the best way to define it is we've narrowed everybody's focus I think in the past we were much broader. People had a whole lot of ground to cover. And so we've beefed up our sales force and then narrowed what each person gets.
Can you tell us more about why we made those changes and what’s gonna be the result of those changes?
Sure. Basically, we took a look back you know where we want to grow and where we want to be. And so, we did make some changes we added some more salespeople to support that. And really like you mentioned, it's a matter of being able to narrow the focus of each salesperson so they can better serve our dealers and our reps. Yeah, we've always been known for our great service but we do want to always continuously improve on that. And so those changes were made to help with that and then also to help our you know grow our company as well. In other markets in and be able to really develop strong relationships with our dealers and our rep partners.
Excellent. Yeah. So, I mean we're in the infancy stages of that. A lot of people doing new positions getting to know new people so as far as communicating this out to our reps and dealers. You might have a new person you're working with or you know a new person within our company is calling on you and that's all by design. We're trying to put the best people in the best position for their success and for our success. And so, I just want to get that word out to everybody that they're minor changes but you know most the key players are still in the company. So of course, if you just want to chat with somebody you can always still get a hold of them in and catch up. But that's really the new structure and a little bit about our strategy. Let's kind of delve into some of our new products because that's driving a lot of any strategy or opening up new conversations. I mentioned the last podcast that we are going to ask more questions and we're really starting to see the blending of the two solutions together. There are so many opportunities for that to take place and so that naturally means let's talk about our acoustic panel line first Ecoprivacy. You know we're going into 2019 were already in the third month already. So, we've got a product that is consistently growing for us. But what we're really trying to do is figure out what are the best ways to get this into our hands and the kind of fastest way that solves the biggest problem that they have and things like that.
Can you tell us more about how the overall plan for our acoustical products this year?
Sure. I mean it is, all the listeners know where I hope. They know we did launch this product summer of last year you know and so we've gone through some growing pains you know just launching it for me out what really makes sense for the dealers, the customers and where the demands are. So part of the plan for 2019 is really developing products that are going to make it easy for the dealers to sell and talk about you know and to the products that have gained a lot of traction and attention are desk dividers, the screens as well as hanging panels. Along with that, we are continuously developing new marketing materials. We have to help support the sales of those products and all of our acoustic products. We've got a cool rather than having a train set for you guys. A pretty cool color wheel that's being developed. It should be available in the next few weeks as well to send out to you. So there's a lot of things in the works and we're excited about this product. We think there's a lot of potential for it. We know there's a lot potential for it. We've already seen that just from the activity so far and it really is very complementary with the sound masking. So it should be a simple solution as simple talk track for you know for the dealers and reps to have that conversation with their users.
And I really like the way you pointed out that, you know the two main problems we have lots of different knock ceilings walls desks all sorts of things. But you pointed out two that seem to be really resonating with our furniture dealers. Is the desk screens and the hanging panels you know the kind of room dividers or partitions that hang down their decorative but they create some space separation. I think you're right we're seeing people latch onto those because there are things that they're already talking about and selling and they incorporate well with the solutions and products that our dealer base is already introducing and selling. So, of course, we can do many more things but you know I think the focus is the key here. How do we help the partners that really need you know better solutions that they can add to their portfolio or swap out for an acoustical product that has a dual function and I think that's we're really seeing that?
But one of the questions I get asked a lot and a lot of our people do and I know you know this is can we delve a little bit deeper into what specific problems do these acoustic panels solve. What are some of the pain points that an end-user a customer may have that we can address with these products?
Sure. Well, really there are 2 pain points that come to mind. One is an echo, the panels are designed to absorb echo reverberation if there's a space you know where let's say there's a lot of glass or open ceilings you know a hard floor you know stained concrete floors and the sound bouncing around the panels to absorb. All that echo so it helps with conversations you know meetings video conferencing that those sorts of things. They also help with the visual privacy as well because you know when you think about privacy and we think about you know our company now historically it's always been acoustic related but now these panels help us with visual privacy because people do get distracted. You know if you're working in a benching system and you have people sitting across from you next to you, movement causes distraction. Same thing with hotel rooms or conference rooms with all the glass you know you're in a fishbowl you're looking at seeing who's walking by. People are looking and seeing what's going on you know so the panels do help with minimizing those visual distractions as well.
That's a great point. I think it's a perfect opportunity for us to kind of share a success story about what we recently did. We had a customer at one of our dealers here in Dallas who had a lot of really nice-looking conference rooms and hotel rooms all with glass fronts even glass corners right. So like two of the four walls are glass. They were having obviously acoustical issues in there. They were having echo problems when they used the conference phone and things like that. It wasn't great. So that was something we could help them with. But an interesting addition we made to that was we hung some acoustic panel that hangs from the ceiling in front of those glass walls and we left the middle part of it solid. So like we cut some decorative unique looking things around the outsides but left the middle solid right at the height of where everybody was sitting. So what that did for them as they can all sit in that conference room and have a meeting and they're not constantly visually distracted by people walking down the hallway. And then we also in another sense removed the reverberation of the space. So it really interesting, you know it was one of those things we got into this product into the solution to help on the acoustic side. And we're starting to really see that people have other, let's say privacy problems that end up being visually related and we can also address those. So that was one of the ones we were pretty excited to get the feedback from the client about how much more usable those rooms became for them. So that's definitely something we want to be sharing with people that we can address. You know a lot of people want to know there's a lot of competition out there with acoustic panels. We could list off all the different companies and then I always hear of a new company that I never heard of before that also doing it. So that tells us that there's certainly a market for this. If there are lots of companies doing it.
What would you tell our reps and our dealers are some of the reasons that they should work with us or sell our products instead of some other company.
Sure, well you know one of the reputations we have is our great service in our quick turnaround time. So we've had 10 years of experience with that on the masking side that's carrying over to the panel side as well. We're making things simple so the entire process is simple for our reps and our dealers as far as getting quotes, getting product order and getting the product installed. We are trying to simplify things and make it easy for our sellers. And then along with that, the cost is always a factor. We know some of our competitors are pretty pricey. We've had conversations with the dealer sales reps who have lost opportunities because you know the options they had provided were too expensive or we're about to lose opportunities and then we're able to come in with us as a valued engineer option or second option and then you know rather than lose that opportunity. You know actually gain an opportunity and a pretty high margin and then also we have great programs so that's always helpful.
Excellent. Most salespeople want to know that. Yeah well, that's a really good point too to you know we're trying to simplify the whole game. We've really tried to do that with sound masking and now we're trying to incorporate that with our acoustic panels and it's really interesting you said that because we're noticing that a lot of competition out there is requiring an insane amount of information you know minimums all these things that you know they've got to come onto a consultation and all these things that are you know on the surface not bad. Those are probably helpful things to get down to the specifics but just in today's day and age it makes it difficult. And so we're really trying to simplify that entire process and make it easy for people. So I'm glad you said that. You know one of the things that we want to make sure our reps and dealers understand is we're new at this. You know we've been doing acoustics and electronics for so long that getting into this visual space where every little detail from the visual side of it matters much more than with the sound masking. We welcome feedback so you know the one thing that we don't want is to have our partners out there feel like we're missing something. Maybe it's a piece of hardware or it's a finish or it's just something that they saw someone else does and they wished we would do it. That type of feedback is extremely valuable to us. You ever add a thought on that.
Oh definitely, I mean you guys are our eyes and ears out there on the streets. I mean you're out there you know customer facing so you have a better sense of we do as far as what's out there, what's gaining traction attention, where people's customer's pain points are and what they like they dislike. So, you know, help us help you know what we don't know. So, we definitely want feedback. And definitely on the panels are the masking as well not just product and our processes, our people or our company as a whole. You know to tell us what we can do to do more differently and better for you. We want to help support you in every way possible.
I appreciate the way you said that. Yeah, we had Speech Privacy Systems for everybody listening. Our culture is very much around improving getting feedback and doing things better. And when we try not to be entrenched in the way we do things we just really try and be open to continually getting better. So that's kind of our monitor around here. So let's transition into sound masking a lot of people know us because of our sound masking and have worked with us for years with that. And so, this is not a new thing but we do have some new products coming out this year that we feel pretty excited about. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we're gonna be putting a new product into a space that allows our people to be more competitive and again back to that word simplifies everything.
What new products do we have coming this year? If you could tell us about that and maybe anything that you want to share with our partners about it.
Sure. The product that's going to be out really pretty darn quickly very soon is a compact a masking system. It's basically a simple plug and play controller. The nice thing is that it has a touch panel and doesn't require any software so it is easy to use. It's really great for spaces smaller than you know about less than 5000 square feet. It fills a gap where you know when you don't need a data sensor and it's a small space this fits in that category and that price point as well is just simplicity for end-users to be able to use.
Yeah, that's not what we're most excited about. Obviously, it's a little bit less expensive than our smart controllers that do adaptive and have the software and everything like that. So it's going to save money and hopefully make those smaller projects more competitive we'll say. But I'm most excited about the fact that it's just simple you plug it in you turn it on and it's got a touch screen that we all are used to. And just up and down arrows and just a couple really simple easy to use menus and I think that's really going to help the end-users that maybe do have small spaces and aren't interested in making it too overly complicated. They can very easily get this going.
You did mention that it fits into that space. Is it going to replace other controllers you think or is it mostly going to kind of fit in its own unique space?
I think it'll fit its unique space. I mean it you may not need the V.A. 24 because this can fill that gap. So it just really depends on the application. You know what that end-user needs you know the size of the space what they're really requiring. You know this kind of if it's between you know two different existing controllers.
Okay. perfect. So, we'll just we're going to leave that expertise up to our account managers as you reach out to them for quotes and suggestions. Certainly, if you're a dealer rep and you have a suggestion you know, hey they want this to be just down and dirty so easy you know let's go with that make those requests to us. But we're definitely gonna want to push it because I think it just really helps simplify some of that backend process of once a client is on board and it's like here's your three steps and you're good to go. So, we're obviously going to want to push that as well. I just wanted to make that aware you're going to get an email blast here very soon from our marketing department about all the ins and outs of it, you know spec sheets images all that stuff and we'll be we'll be good to go.
All right so let's finish up here with just a little bit more about Fred Lin. You mentioned that you started in March, so you've been here for almost a year now almost exactly a year. (Fred: Right. We'll have a big party in a couple of weeks.) Yeah, it's going to be surprise parties all anybody. But I'm going to ask this to every but every guest that we have, but in your time here Speech Privacy, have you done any other roles within the company previously?
I actually haven't. (Andy: Kind of already in the area.) Yes. So, when I came on board, I was a territory manager for the West region which was you know the states West of Texas since we had our change in strategy toward the end of last year we moved some people around some roles and so now I'm responsible with the entire country. (Andy: So yeah, I'm nothing like enjoying your time on a plane.) That’s right.
What is your favorite thing to do when you're not at Speech Privacy?
It's a love-hate thing. I don't know my favorite is the right word but I do exercise quite a bit. Lately, I've gotten into triathlons more specifically Ironman. I did my first one last April and I'm training for another one this April so it's eight weeks away. And for those not familiar with Ironman, it's a silly event. It's a one hundred and forty points six-mile race, two-point four-mile swim followed by a hundred twelve miles on a bike followed by a full marathon which is twenty-six points two miles. (Andy: It's awful.) Yeah. I'm like I say it's a love-hate. It's a love-hate thing and I'm eight weeks away from for my second one. And so right now if I'm not working that's pretty much taking my time and a lot of training and then sleep.
So an interesting side note that I know, I want you to share with everybody is you sort of train last year for your first ever triathlon and you did not know how to swim.
This is correct. So, peer pressure is good in some ways so I have a friend to sign up for this event. And I was interested in doing it and I figured, hey since I don't know how to swim, I'll either learn or I'll drown. (Andy: So, it's a good motivator.) It's a good motivator. It's not cheap to enter either so there is money on the line and pride and everything else and yeah.
Well. that's amazing, that impressed me. I remember you told me that I was like, holy cow I'm not sure I could do that I think I would just steer towards things that I could do and also not die. So, my last question if you had all the money in the world and you can't say quit Speech Privacy and leave us high and dry. But if you had all the money in the world what would you do?
So that means while I'm working here. (Andy: Yeah. You start to work here, unfortunately). But wow that changes. (Andy: You can take a long vacation. How about that?) All right. Yeah, I'll take a sabbatical for a while. I'm sure part of that decision would involve my wife's input as well. But I know a new house would be in the works and my daughter has input that house would be large enough to include some land for some horses and then working in some traveling, definitely. (Andy: Where’s probably your favorite place you'd like to visit.) I'm a big fan of mountains so I kind of like you know hugging trees and hiking and just being up there. I'm not so much of a beach person because I'd rather not sit still. I can say I'd like the water more now since I can swim. So that's less of an issue. (Andy: So, it's not a death trap.) Right. Exactly, but while lying on the beach doesn't do a whole lot for me I'd rather be a little bit more active.
Okay. So like the Himalayas would that be your dream to go to like Nepal or something like that. (Fred: That be kind of cool. Be cool. Sure.) Now I'm now I'm answering your question about it. (Fred: That’s right.) What you know just anything else you want to share with the folks out there that you want them to know about you or about us as a company before we close this podcast.
No, we've covered quite a bit, just want to thank everybody for you know their efforts working with us, selling our product, being supportive of Speech Privacy Systems. Again, we welcome feedback to appreciate everybody's business and appreciate you're listening to the podcast and hopefully you will continue to listen to future podcasts.
Absolutely and that's my cue to request that you subscribe to the podcast because we'll be doing these about every week. So if you're able to subscribe and get these updates and then listen to him as we as we post them that will definitely help our reps for sure just constantly stay connected to what we're doing, what we're trying to accomplish and then also secondary to that if you have any topics any questions anything you want to hear or think maybe it would be beneficial for everybody out there. Please email, call us you know whatever you gotta do to get the word to me and to Fred that way we can put it on our schedule that we can cover it and make sure that this is a valuable 20 minutes for everybody. That's all we've got. We'll see you in the next episode. Thanks for listening.