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January 2019

me-mag.com

The People Have Spoken Showtime Audio thrives on great reviews & niche business opportunities

PLUS

The Best of ‘18: Top Stats That Impacted Our Industry New! The Difference Makers: Marketing Pros Goes Beyond the Sale Tactics: Sound Wave Customs’ Show Strategy


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Volume 38 // Issue 1

Articles 14

54

FEATURES 14// What’s Happening: MECP in the Year Ahead

18 Retail News / Who’s Who 54 Installs

As the only nationally recognized certification program for the mobile electronics industry, MECP intends to reenergize its efforts in the coming year and encourage more technicians to seek higher certification levels.

Departments

26// Real World Retail: Showtime Audio Raises the Bar

6 Editor’s Forum 8 Feedback 12 Helpful Stuff 58 From the President

With a positive store culture and a welcoming atmosphere, Showtime Audio is a toprated shop in Illinois that specializes in building custom show cars and attracts clients mainly via referrals and reviews.

38// Difference Makers: Marketing Professionals, Inc. Founded by George “Doc Thunder” Reed 40 years ago, Marketing Professionals is taking care of business in a flash. As president of the company, Pete Daley is bringing it into 2019 with the same dedication and perseverance on which the business was founded.

44// Strategy & Tactics: The Show Must Go On Sound Wave Customs has learned to harness the power of local events by thinking creatively. Learn how you can draw new clients, build relationships, and increase brand awareness by interacting with your community.

48// Tech Today: Measuring Audio Product Performance Why do audio products sound different, and how can we examine the differences? It is crucially important to compare audio products under controlled conditions to quantify their performance. Here’s how. On the Cover COVER DESIGN: Manny DeJesus Featured on this month’s cover is Showtime Audio of Chicago, Ill. With the majority of its business coming from referrals and word of mouth, the shop has managed to attract some big names, including actors, athletes and television personalities. The team’s policy of open communication and their goal to make every customer as comfortable as possible demonstrates their dedication to the industry.

4  Mobile Electronics January 2019

Ad Index Accele Electronics….................................... p. 2 & 3 Audison….................................................................p. 41 Aurigin: Hybrid Audio Technologies.........p. 47 DD Audio…................................................................p. 9 Directed..................................................................p. 23 Firstech: Drone Mobile................................ …p. 59 Harman: Infinity..............................................…p. 31 HD Radio…............................................................ p. 43 Hertz….................................................................... p. 40 InstallerNet…........................................................p. 39 JL Audio…...............................................................p. 33 JVC….........................................................................p. 35 Kenwood…................................................................p. 7 Metra Electronics: Axxess..........................…p. 21 MEA: KnowledgeFest…...................................p. 37 Orca: Focal…............................................................p. 11 Orca: Foca/Illusion/Mosconi….....................p. 17 Pioneer Electronics......................................... …p. 5 SiriusXM...............................................................…p. 12 Sony......................................................................…p. 25 VAIS Technology…..............................................p. 13 Voxx Electronics............................................... p. 60


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The Pioneer AVIC-W8400NEX, AVIC-W6400NEX and AVH-W4400NEX in-dash receivers feature Apple CarPlay™ compatibility that works wirelessly, specifically designed to support a cable free connection between your iPhone® device1 and your car. All three units also support a wired USB connection for Apple CarPlay in case you need to charge while you drive or use additional smartphone connectivity options.

PIONEERELECTRONICS.COM/CAR TWITTER.COM/PIONEERUSA FACEBOOK.COM/PIONEERNORTHAMERICA INSTAGRAM.COM/PIONEERCARAUDIO YOUTUBE.COM/PIONEERELECTRONICS Read all safety instructions in the product documentation before use. Distracted driving can result in serious injury, or death. Only use a function when it is safe and legal in your location, pay attention to the road and your surroundings, and obey all traffic rules. Apple CarPlay requires iPhone 5 or newer with the latest version of iOS. Apple CarPlay, CarPlay, iPhone and the works with Apple CarPlay logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries. PIONEER and the Pioneer logo are trademarks of Pioneer Corporation. ©2018 Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc.

1

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editor’s forum

Lonely at the Top? It Doesn’t Have to Be

Our industry has great resources for owners. And we’re going to tell their stories. You’ve heard the term about either running a business or a having a business run you. It’s a simple concept to say and spread around…if you’ve never run a business. But if you are a business owner, you know that the two are not mutually exclusive. There are times—many times within the same day—that you go from one to the other and back again. The reason? Because everything comes in packages. The energy, passion and drive that it takes to start a business comes part in parcel with the ingrained need to perfect every aspect of that business, even if you have other people assigned to those tasks. You’ve learned to trust your own instincts; that’s what got you here. But as a business gets bigger or more complex, and bigger decisions need to be made, your instincts get overshadowed by the need for more information. And frustration arises because it may be information that comes from experiences you don’t have. So what’s next? Stubbornly move forward and take chances that could put your business (and the livelihoods of everyone who depends on the business) in jeopardy? Or do you put your pride aside and ask for help? If you are at this crossroads right now, I will tell you that, in this industry, we are fortunate. We have a lot of avenues to find peers who have been in the same positions and are willing to share their opinions and experiences. But sometimes this isn’t enough. One person’s experiences may differ from yours because their customer demographic, price points, or business structure may be markedly different from yours. Or, it could be that another person’s opinion is simply his or her opinion and may not take all of your specific factors into consideration. Business owners who have successfully staved off being sucked into the

6  Mobile Electronics January 2019

day-to-day minutiae tell me that they count on advisors who regularly visit several retailers. By working with these retailers to solve their problems, they form experience-based, educated conclusions on best practices and mistakes to

“So what’s next? Stubbornly move forward and take chances that could put your business in jeopardy? Or do you put your pride aside and ask for help?

avoid. And with each retailer they visit, their experience becomes more valuable. In our industry, these retail superheroes lead regular lives as traveling sales representatives, distributors, trainers and consultants. It’s just that they go beyond representing their clients to invest time and efforts into helping their customers become successful, one challenge at a time. These are the people and companies that Mobile Electronics is celebrating in 2019. For the past five years we’ve done what has always been considered a no-no in the editorial world: We wrote stories about individual manufacturers. It didn’t matter if they were advertisers or not. The criteria we used is that they had the potential to become great business partners with you. Our goal with these articles was to take you beyond the product to show you how they do business, to help you make the decision on creating a long-term partnership. Hence, the original articles were named “Behind the Scenes.” Two years ago, we transitioned the article to a more specific aspect of a manufacturer’s business—one that dealt more

with post-sale services. “The Support Team” highlighted the often-overlooked individuals who are on the front lines with your staff, assisting with installation, troubleshooting, problem solving and warranty resolution. And in this process, we learned that many of you found this part of the business just as valuable—if not more—than the product itself when determining a vendor partner. This month begins the next evolution. We’ve termed the new article series “Difference Makers.” Even with two businesses that have great locations, qualified staff, great product lines and strong management, they may be going in two different directions. Their differences in profitability, store culture, repeat business and finding new revenue streams can come down to a little extra help from the outside. They commiserate, offer advice, suggest tactics and resources, work with staff, and even roll up their sleeves to help with special events. And they come through in a pinch. Our article series starts with a company that has won Rep of the Year from our magazine for the past four years. I’ve seen firsthand how Pete Daley and his staff invest in their retailers, and it’s led to phenomenal accomplishments. There are many more such stories out there, and we want to tell them. I am excited about this new article and want to hear from you about the “helpers” who have made the difference in helping you run a fulfilling business— instead of the other way around.


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 feedback

Keep it Simple

ADVERTISING SALES Kerry Moyer 978.645.6457 • kerrym@mobile-electronics.com

EDITORIAL Solomon Daniels Editor-in-Chief 978.645.6463 • solomond@mobile-electronics.com Rosa Sophia Managing Editor 978.645.6466 • rosas@mobile-electronics.com Creative Layout and Design: Manny DeJesus Contributing Editors: Jamie Sorcher, Joey Knapp and Laura Kemmerer.

Published by TM

mobile electronics association

Technicians and retailers recommend setting clear project expectations and ensuring a direct line of communication between the front of the store and the back, to avoid any misunderstandings between salespeople and installers. “Make sure your salespeople stay in contact with installers. Customers who come in for the installation service and find out they have to spend more money due to additional labor (because the salesperson didn’t know) is an avoidable situation.” Bradford Miller, Raytown, Mo.

Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • chrisc@mobile-electronics.com Kerry Moyer, VP Strategic Partnerships 978.645.6457 • kerrym@mobile-electronics.com Solomon Daniels, Dir. Media and Communications 978.645.6463 • solomond@mobile-electronics.com Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • richb@mobile-electronics.com Tony Frangiosa, Chairman of the Board, MEA

“Don’t be afraid to venture into other markets! Be accepting to new products and brands. The industry will change with or without you.” Patrick Roberts, Allcomm Wireless Inc., Birmingham, Ala. “Set clear project expectations with no hidden tactics. People will pay for excellent service.” Jerimy Smith, Best Buy, Nashua, NH “Do not be afraid of the ADAS category. Be the Aftermarket ADAS Specialist in your market.” Steve Witt, Driver Safety Technology, Huntington Beach, Calif. “The biggest piece of advice I have pertains to technicians. I know things get wild in the bay sometimes. Generally when things are running at their peak, it’s easy to get frustrated when running into issues. Just remember to try to keep it simple. Don’t forget your basic troubleshooting when problems arise. A lot of time we will skip over something simple thinking that can’t be the problem, only to have to return to it two hours later and realize that we just wasted all of that time being stubborn.” Bradley Charboneau, Best Buy, Oklahoma City, Olka.

8  Mobile Electronics January 2019

1) Title of publication: Mobile Electronics. 2) Publication No.: 957-170 6. (ISSN# 1523-763X) 3) Copyright © 2018 by the Mobile Electronics 4) Date of filing: Oct. 1, 2018. 5) Frequency of issue: Monthly. 6) No. of issues published annually: 12 7) Annual subscription price: $35.00. 8) Periodical postage paid at Lawrence MA and additional mailing offices. 9) Complete mailing address of known office of publication: 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 10) Complete mailing address of the headquarters or general business offices of the publisher: 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 11) Full names and complete mailing address of Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor: Publisher: Chris Cook, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845; Editor/Managing Editor: Solomon Daniels/Rosa Sophia, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845 12) Owner: MERA, Mobile Electronics Retailers Association, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 13) Known bondholders, mortgages, and other security holders owning or holding 1% or more of total amounts of bonds, mortgages or other securities: None. 14) Tax Status: Not applicable. 15) Name of Publication: Mobile Electronics. 16) Issue date for circulation data below: October 2018. 6. a) Total no. copies (net press run) Average: 10,237 Single Issue; 12,826. b) Paid/Requested mail subscriptions Average: 6039, Single Issue: 7346. c) Paid sales through dealers, etc.; Average: 0. Single issue; d) Requested distributed by other classes of mail: Average: 435, Single issue: 520. Total paid and/or requested circulation; Average 6039. Single issue: 7346. e) Non-requested distribution by mail; Average: 3593 Single issue: 4223. Free distribution through other classes of mail: Average: 0, Single issue: 0. f) Non-requested distribution outside the mail; Average: 267. Single issue: 750. g) Total non-requested distribution; Average 3860, Single issue: 4973. h) Total distribution; Average: 9,899. Single issue: 12,319. i) Copies not distributed; h1) Office use, leftovers; Average: 338. Single Issue; 507 j) Total; Average: 10,237. Single issue; 12.826 Percent paid and/or requested circulation; Average: 61.01%. Single issue 59.63%. 17) POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Mobile Electronics, 85 Flagship Drive Suite F, North Andover MA 01845-9998


Top Stats of 2018

 stats

Here’s the editor’s pick of what mattered most last year, summed up in a word. WORDS BY SOLOMON DANIELS

The Subject: Are You Top Dog in Your Territory? (March 2018) The Stat: Day -to-Day Competition The Word: Confidence

We’ve got the edge We are conquering heroes We slug it out daily They are out in front Other We take what we can get

39% 29% 17% 6%

6%

5%

Heck yeah! Despite the size disadvantage indicated by 50 percent of respondents in a previous graph, 63 percent said they were edging out or beating the pants off their competition. Stores and individuals are taking advantage of peer groups and education resources to stay at the top of the game. - SD

The Subject: Top 4 Attributes at Work (May 2018) The Stat: 4 Aspects Most in Need of Improvement The Word: Truth

1. Management structure 2. Investment in training 3. Benefits package

4. Performance feedback

Employees need more than dough to stick it out at a job. Management structure at No. 1 speaks to being heard and treated fairly. Training shows a desire for confidence and improved expertise. Only then does Benefits come into the picture, followed by Feedback—which would be my No. 1 choice. - SD

The Subject: How Good is Your Team? (April 2018) The Stat: 6-Month Turnover The Word: Culture Store culture is the big buzzword now, as it should be. The two stats here show the benefits of having a welcoming, challenging and supportive workplace. Half a year is enough to know if a staffer will work out, or if a workplace is the right fit for an employee. Being happy and fulfilled goes both ways. -SD

3% Two

34% One

This is a great stat compared to the fear of the Internet that plagued retailers two years ago. More than half have adjusted in-store tactics to entice visiting customers to buy in store rather than couch click. That only comes from telling a story that builds confidence in you rather than the product. - SD 10  Mobile Electronics January 2019

16% One 66% None

Staff Terminated

The Subject: Compared to Two Years Ago (October 2018) The Stat: Number of Customers Lost to Showrooming The Word: Evolution

7% Three or more

74% None

Staff Who Quit

51% FEWER

15% MORE

32% SAME AMOUNT

2% OTHER


facebook.com/MobileElectronics  11


 helpful stuff

Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—and How You Can Too BY CHRIS HOGAN

Chris Hogan’s path led from football to finance. An All-American college football player, he ended up working as vice president of a company that helped clients manage all phases of their businesses. He soon recognized that many families, marriages and children were being affected by money issues. He wanted to make a difference and things fell into place when he met Dave Ramsey. Hogan’s career path took a new direction and today he is regarded as an expert on subjects like mortgages, healthcare and investing. In his newest book, he shares the formula for financial peace. Hogan and the Ramsey surveyed over 10,000 millionaires in the U.S. and discovered how these people reached their financial status. The surprising answer? Many of us either have the tools already, or we can learn them to achieve our financial goals.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About it BY MICHAEL GERBER

The new and revised edition of this bestseller by Michael Gerber will guide you in growing your business. The “E” in E-Myth stands for entrepreneurial, and Gerber quickly points out that most businesses aren’t started by people with tangible business skills. They are started by what he terms “technicians” and, in the end, it is why 80 percent of small businesses fail. Gerber walks readers through the steps in the life of a business from infancy to adolescence to maturity, reveals how to apply lessons of franchising to any business whether it’s a franchise or not, and outlines the distinction between working on your business and working in your business.

Everything You Love To Hear. Right Here. Kelly Clarkson on

SiriusXM subscription sold separately by SiriusXM. © 2018 Sirius XM Radio Inc. Sirius, XM and all related marks and logos are trademarks of Sirius XM Radio Inc. All other marks, channel names and logos are the property of their respective owners. All rights reserved. 12  Mobile Electronics January 2019


Podcast - NPR: How I Built This WWW.NPR.ORG/PODCASTS/510313/HOW-I-BUILT-THIS

Ever wonder how Airbnb happened or who started Burton Snowboards? Guy Raz dives into the fascinating stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies and the innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists who started them. Recent episodes featured Jake Carpenter, who in 1977, at age 23, wanted to design a better version of the Snurfer, a stand-up sled he loved to ride as a teenager. What he created helped launch an entirely new sport along with building the largest snowboard brand in the world. Another recent episode featured Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb. He shared how he and his co-founders went for it despite overwhelming feedback that their concept would tank. Also in the spotlight is John Mackey, a 1978 college drop-out who scraped together $45,000 to open his first health food store and went on to co-launch Whole Foods Market. Segments run anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes—a small investment of your time and a great way to get motivated!

Service: Jackson Hewitt® Tax Service WWW.JACKSONHEWITT.COM

With 2019 underway, a sobering thought is getting your taxes ready to be filed. It can be challenging to do on your own, so finding a professional tax preparer makes sense. For small businesses and for those who are self-employed, there are extra deductions that can potentially be taken including expenses for travel, computer, cell phone, Internet and even business gifts. Everyone’s situation is different, but your chances for the best refund may include hiring a professional. Jackson Hewitt has 6,000 locations nationwide with 3,000 in Walmart. Their offices are open late and on weekends.

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 what’s happening

MECP in the As the only nationally recognized certification program for the mobile electronics industry, MECP intends to reenergize its efforts in the coming year and encourage more technicians to seek higher certification levels. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

One of the goals for 2019 and beyond is to increase the number of certified technicians, and to re-energize the program as the only certification standard for the industry, according to Kris Bulla, a consultant for MECP. Currently, there are four different certifications available—Mobile Product Specialist, Basic Installation Technician, Advanced Installation Technician and Master Installation Technician. More than 2,700 individuals are presently certified, with most certifications in the Basic category, according to data from MECP and the Consumer Technology Association. “The Basic Certification is for someone who has little to no experience in the bay, someone who is looking to become employed in a job that requires certification, and wants to continue working in the bay and needs the education,” Bulla said. “Advanced or higher is the level where we want everyone to be.” More is expected of each level, Bulla added. “A Master Technicians could run or manage a shop if they don’t already, or they might have the opportunity to move into a manufacturer or a distributor position with this type of certification. The Basic and Advanced guys in a shop where a Master technician works will typically

14  Mobile Electronics January 2019

go and get help from them if they can’t figure something out.” It’s important to continue moving up, Bulla said, and the goal for the coming year is to increase efforts to encourage technicians to move beyond the Basic level. “I think that understanding that Basic is an entry-level certification will help them understand that they should be higher than that after a year or more in a shop environment,” he explained. When it’s time to renew a certification, the entire test has to be taken again, Bulla said, adding, “Part of the advantage of the higher-level certifications is the four-year certification length, versus the two-year Basic level.”

Rewriting the Basic Certification Guide in 2019 The guide for the Mobile Product Specialist certificate was recently rewritten and launched as of the first of October, 2018, according to Bulla. “You can purchase any of our Study Guides to study, or use them as reference manuals on day-today installations. “For the Mobile Product Specialist and Basic guides, the books are just about all you’ll need to study and prep for the test,” Bulla said. However, the Advanced and Master levels require experience in the bay that the guide doesn’t necessarily cover.

Bulla noted that the general routine is to rewrite or revise the books about every four years. Jayson Cook, a store manager at Columbus Car Audio in Columbus, Ohio stated that he recently purchased the new Mobile Product Specialist study guide. Having been a salesman for 20 years, Cook stated that he is glad a certification is available for salespeople. “I need to spend some time on that,” he said of the study guide. “I like that they’re doing something for salespeople in the industry, because I don’t think salespeople get enough credit.” Bulla stated that the Basic guide rewrite will start in 2019. “I have already reached out to get some Subject Matter Experts. These SMEs are people across the industry who have a specific expertise in one or more areas, and we utilize them to write parts of the study guide or exam. That way we always have the most knowledgeable in the industry producing the content for these guides and exams.” Rewriting a complete guide can take about eight to 12 months, Bulla noted, and MECP will begin the efforts on the Basic guide right after CES in January. “A new Study Guide comes out a month before the exam. For those who have already been studying and are ready to go on the previous guide, this gives them


MECP in the Year Ahead

e Year Ahead time to take the older exam, or to get the new guide and brush up before taking the new test.” Cook added that he hopes to see more awareness among consumers regarding what MECP has to offer. “I think we as an industry need to step back and say, ‘What can we do to get MECP more credit and more validity with the consumer?’”

Raising Awareness of MECP Certification Among Consumers While still in the planning stages, Bulla noted that he’s working with the CTA marketing team to try to redevelop messaging moving forward. “We will be exploring doing more in the future to raise awareness of the program,” he said. “We also want to encourage the retailers and technicians themselves to talk about MECP. We have a retailer kit that we send out for anyone who has MECP certified technicians on staff. It’s a sign and banner they can put up in their store. That’s one of the core reasons ASE Certification became so popular on the automotive repair arena, because of the signs and banners in

repair facilities where people had their cars being serviced. A lot of people don’t realize we do that, and we are trying to raise awareness of that, too.” Due to the daily emergence of new vehicle technologies like car to car communications and hybrid and electric vehicle advances, new subject matter trajectories are always being entertained. “These guys will have to know how to interact with and integrate with new technology. We want people to know we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

Education and Real-Life Experience Both Essential for Improvement Certification makes a good installer better, according to Ernie Hartman, technical services manager at AAMP Global. “It makes someone who is dedicated to the industry a little bit more passionate and a little bit more knowledgeable. You’re not going to be able to pass an MECP exam and be an expert overnight,” Hartman said, adding that he began working in the industry in 1993, but didn’t get involved with MECP until 2008. He has since written content for three

study guides and three exams, he said, and has contributed to the Advanced Guide, Master Guide and recently released Mobile Product Specialist guide. In the past, he led training classes through AAMP specifically to help 12-volt professionals prepare for certification. “Studying and taking the test taught me a lot of things that were very fundamental that I never learned when I first started,” he said. “It teaches you the ‘why.’ If you understand things at a fundamental level, in the end you can troubleshoot better, design better, and just have an overall better grasp of what you’re doing.” Brandon Green of The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo. noted that real-life experience, and the information available through MECP certification, are both valuable. “I think people who don’t think it’s worth anything, don’t want to put the effort into it,” he said, “which is fine if their store works for them. I think it’s worth putting the effort in and having more credentials to back you up.” Green is currently Master Certified. He doesn’t require his employees to get certified, but he stated that he’s considering it for the future. “I want it to be something they facebook.com/MobileElectronics

15


 what’s happening want to do and want to work toward,” he added.

MECP Study Group and Other Resources Provide Support For those who are working toward earning their certifications, Bulla recommended a few resources. “There is the MECP Study Group on Facebook, which has me and other guys in the industry who will help guide those who have questions,” he said. He also suggested reading The Loudspeaker Design Cookbook by Vance Dickason. Although it is an older publication, he said, the fundamentals in the book are important. “Something we hear all the time is,

The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo. displays a sign in the store window to show that MECP Certified technicians are on staff. The sign is part of the retailer kit provided by MECP to mobile electronics shops.

‘I don’t need the certification. I’ve been doing this 20 or 30 years,’” Bulla added. “But the test covers a large swath of technology and education, and while they might be really good at radios or remote starts—and they’re probably really good at what they do—they may not know the reasons behind it.” A technician might excel at installing certain products, Bulla said, but he might not know why the problems are occurring if something is not working as expected. “We are trying to give these guys the education that will help them more quickly diagnose issues, resolve problems in a more efficient manner, and get them to a solution faster,” Bulla explained. “The very common situation involves a guy who always does things a certain way,

16  Mobile Electronics January 2019

and has been in the industry 20 years, and he’s on Facebook saying, ‘Hey, I can’t figure this out, what’s up?’ A Master Technician may come in with a troubleshooting method or a question that he may have overlooked it because he never experienced it before.” Real-world examples are available in the study guides, he noted. “We don’t have hands-on training because we don’t have the capacity to do that. We rely on entities like Installer Institute, Mobile Technical Training and Mobile Solutions for hands-on experience, and we often recommend those types of organizations,” Bulla said. “For the book reader, we do bring up actual real-world experiences on how this stuff applies to a vehicle and how to test it properly. We describe the situation, and we give the step by step instructions.” Another statement Bulla hears from people is, “‘Anyone can read the book and pass.’ This is not typical, especially beyond the Basic level. There is hands-on experience and vehicle familiarity needed to some extent for the higher-level certifications.” Some institutions can administer tests, Bulla noted. “We assign one or more of their trainers to be a proctor. The proctor can administer the test for anyone who doesn’t work for them or with them,” he said. “We will also certify proctors who might be distributor reps, or company reps who interact with retailers. It’s in their best interest to make sure the guys they deal with are certified, because it can reduce their product return rate and increase customer satisfaction when their product is installed correctly.” Hartman noted that the tests are timed, and each test has a maximum time allotment of three hours. “The Basic has 150 questions. The Advanced test has 150. And the Master test has 200 questions and you still only get three hours.” If people ask Hartman questions about certification, he said, it’s usually: “What should I study? What should I focus on? What’s the best way to prepare?” His first piece of advice is to avoid reading the book from start to finish. “It’s not meant to be read like a novel. It’s more of a reference material. I recommend first taking

the practice test. At the back of each section, there are 10 questions that relate to that section. I tell people to go through and answer those questions right out of the gate.” This gives those who are studying a chance to get a sense of the material they’re already familiar with. “Then, go back and study what you don’t know,” Hartman added. “Practice tests are available online (https://cea.eitprep.com/subscribe/) for the Basic, Advanced and Master exams,” Bulla said. “The Mobile Product Specialist practice test will be online soon.”

Certification Demonstrates Dedication to Improving Oneself At The Car Audio Shop, Green said, the certifications of the shop’s technicians are displayed on the wall. “We give a brief overview about it to our customers. We compare it to the ASE and let them know what it means in our industry, and we give our clients a bit of insight,” Green said, adding that it means nothing to some customers. “For others, they definitely like seeing that you’ve put forth an effort to make yourself better and learn as much as you can. They feel it’s important when you’re working on their car that you have knowledge—that you don’t just know how to get your hands dirty, but you also take the time to read the books and take the tests.” Although Cook said that no one has ever come into his shop and asked whether the technicians are MECP certified, he added, “It’s not that the certification isn’t valid, but it needs to have more weight. I think all of us as an industry need to do better when it comes to raising awareness.” Cook stated that he hopes to see MECP continue to grow, “because it is our industry certification,” adding that he feels manufacturers could do more to help increase visibility, too. “Years ago, when I first started, I remember seeing certifications hanging up at all our locations and we would talk about that,” Cook said. “No one knows what it is now. Our job as shops and shop


MECP in the Year Ahead

owners and employees is to build that awareness, but the value also needs to be clear. I also think the Basic Certification is too basic. A Basic Certification is cool for a guy who’s new, but we aren’t pushing them to be Advanced or Master—and maybe that’s our problem.” Hartman hopes to see more manufacturers supporting MECP certification in the future, too. “I would like to see more training, more classes and more people offering to help people study for MECP tests,” he said. “It can be very daunting to someone who has never done it before. If more 12-volt companies got behind MECP and promoted it and put the logo on their packages, it would raise consumer awareness and people would walk into shops asking for that, which would lead the shop owners to want to get their guys certified.” At AAMP, Hartman stated that he always makes it a point to promote MECP as much as possible. “When I was promoted to my current position, I made it mandatory for all my guys to be MECP certified,” he added. “All of my tech

In the past, Ernie Hartman of AAMP Global led training classes designed to prepare technicians for MECP Certification exams. A balance of studying and hands-on experience in the bay is necessary to advance to the next level. support representatives have to hold at least a Basic Certification, and the engineering techs have to hold at least an Advanced Certification.” Hartman said he initially got involved in MECP because the person who’d first trained him in the industry took the

MECP exam and failed. It made Hartman curious about what it would take to earn the certification, and after becoming certified, he later became a contributor. “They’re always updating and changing with the industry,” he said. “The process is always evolving.”

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17


 retail news

WORDS BY LAURA KEMMERER

Shop Starts Towel Donation to Help Local Homeless For many, the upcoming holiday season means receiving gifts, but most importantly, being generous with others. For Perfectionist Auto Sound & Security, located in Anchorage, Alaska, this meant doing something unusual: starting a towel drive to help out a local homeless shelter. “We always do coat drives and food donations and we do everything we can,” said shop owner John Schwartz. “Amari [Schwartz’s daughter] likes to go down and do community service and donate her time at [...] a shelter for abused women. She was there and she was talking about the coat drive and they said, ‘That’s awesome, but what we really need are towels.’”

18  Mobile Electronics January 2019

Schwartz went on to note that many homeless people already had their winter gear, but the shelter itself does not have enough towels. “We’ve collected about 300 towels already. We’re going to jump between the towels, jackets, gloves and try to help people out,” Schwartz said. “Anchorage is about 300,000 people and we have a pretty high homeless rate. We don’t have a lot of shelters or a lot of resources, so we try to help them.” Schwartz emphasized that there was no time limit; people can always give. He went on to note that beyond the customary coat drives, donating time to the shelter or helping by doing things is the best way to get involved.

“It’s hard for them to promote hygiene and cleanliness when they don’t have towels, and usually when they have them, people take them and don’t give them back,” said Amari Schwartz. “They said there’s shampoo, conditioner and body wash that no one’s using because they can’t dry off.” Last year, Schwartz helped out a café that catered to the homeless by asking them directly what they needed. As a result, he went out and bought several hundred turkeys and hams. “Getting out there and talking to these places to find out what they really need is important,” Schwartz said. “Then you know your donation is directly impacting the cause. That’s where the benefit is.”


Industry Professional Hopes to Bring Mobile Electronics to TV If you work in this industry, you’re likely very passionate about your job, and Dan Ungaro of Carrollton, Texas-based Soundscape Car Audio is certainly no exception. In his dedication, he hopes to bring the world of mobile electronics to a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime. In the first season, Ungaro and team member Pierce Barrett tackle a heavyduty job for a 2004 Chevy SSR. Ungaro also goes to an event to talk about the evolution of the industry with other industry leaders. “We’re trying to create a show that’s respected by the industry and entertaining to the public,” Ungaro said, going on to note that he had started working on the idea for the show six years ago. There have been a number of changes during development, and it was only within the past year that progress was made toward the current iteration. The team is now working on the road portion of the show, which takes them to a number of a different shops to demonstrate how people do things differently in the industry.

Ungaro added that, so far, the biggest challenge has been finding funding. “We don’t want to find funding within audio because we want to be able to be neutral through our shooting process and the shops we visit. Trying to find funding for something like this, which appeals to a niche market, is not an easy thing to do.” As for featuring the work on the 2004 Chevy in the first season, Ungaro noted that it was a customer job that came

into the shop and allowed Soundscape to show off a comprehensive build. So far, response from the industry has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Ungaro noted. To help with promotion, he and other team members have been doing Facebook Live videos, as well as posting to YouTube. While Ungaro would like to release the first episode early next year, a lot of work has yet to be completed.

facebook.com/MobileElectronics   19


 retail news

Who’s Who

Faces in the Industry

Justice “JAX” Berry LIS Audio Spring Hill, Kan. Position: Co-Owner and Sales Years of Industry Experience: 4 Hobbies: Downhill mountain biking What you’re really good at: Making the sale and delivering the finished product to the client.

Klifton Keplinger

Shop Helps Raise Money for Multiple Sclerosis Charity The seasonal thread of giving continues with CJ Silvey, of Puyallup, Washington-based Foss Audio & Tint. Silvey was personally impacted by a close friend, someone he had known since high school, being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The charity Silvey is working with is called Can Do Multiple Sclerosis. Silvey discovered the charity through skiing, one of his favorite hobbies. Once that happened, he signed up and formed a team to get involved. Silvey has been involved in the audio industry for over 20 years. He stated that Chris Bennett of AudioControl helped out by donating products for a silent auction and event held at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort, to help raise money for the charity. The

20  Mobile Electronics January 2019

charity ski event ends with a memorial ski run to honor and remember those who have lost the battle with MS, Silvey stated. Financial donations will be accepted year-round. Silvey’s end goal is to raise $6,500, though he put himself down for $4,000. He has also been raising awareness for the charity over Facebook and Instagram. Social media has proven a vital resource for fundraising. “As a retailer, or being on the retail side, if you give back to your community, your community supports you,” Silvey said.

Hybrid Audio Technologies Evansville, Ind. Position: VP, Marketing Years of Industry Experience: 15 Hobbies: Audio and photography What you’re really good at: Pushing myself and others out of the comfort zone, to see things from different perspective.

Cameron “Chimpo” Powell

LIS Audio Spring Hill, Kan. Position: Co-Owner and Fabricator Years of Industry Experience: 7 Hobbies: Skateboarding and ink drawings What you’re really good at: I would say I excel in custom fabrication and client satisfaction. I love “wowing” the client!


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 hot sellers

STARTING THE NEW YEAR RIGHT

Retailers discuss product warranties, MECP certification, and features and benefits with customers when selling remote starts, safety equipment and audio this season.

Alpine iLX-F309 Halo9

Pioneer AVH-2330NEX

Submitted by: Autumn Davis, Visions Electronics, Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada Main Selling Features: “High-end OE, European style.” Primary Objection: Price and additional parts required. How to Overcome: “Put value and focus in the design, product name and features. Explain that in order to maintain vehicle data integrity and functionality that vehicle specific integration modules, harnesses and trim bezels are required.”

Main Selling Features: “Understanding that this piece will be the foundation for their system, not just a radio, from the crossover to the backup camera.” Primary Objection: Additional parts required and labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “We show the value of only having to return to add on something new. We offer a bonded and insured installation, done right the first time.”

22  Mobile Electronics January 2019


Sony XAV-AX5000 7-Inch CarPlay InDash Unit

Helix DSP Pro MK2

Submitted by: Scott Keirns, H&K Sound, Jackson, Ohio Main Selling Features: “Ease of use.” Primary Objection: Price.

Main Selling Features: “The sound quality.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “Show the customer the differences, with and without, by demonstrating the product.”

AudioControl D-6.1200 6-Channel DSP Amplifier

iDatalink Maestro RR Interface for Aftermarket Stereo Integration

Submitted by: Ethan Blau, Sound Wave Customs, Virginia Beach, Va. Main Selling Features: “All the features and performance packed into one chassis, backed by the AudioControl standard five-year warrant.” Primary Objection: “Truly none. We have done very well with this product and our customers truly see the value in it.”

Main Selling Features: “Customers like the capability of retaining OEM functions while upgrading and integrating.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “They are more willing to purchase once they know they won’t lose any OEM functionality.”

Compustar FT-DC3 Remote Starter and Security Controller Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “We aim to demonstrate the value of the product, but we also show the customer the value of the actual service and installation for that product.”

Kicker Key 4-Channel Amplifier Main Selling Features: “The ability of the amplifier to process time correction and signal processing will help to reshape the soundstage in the vehicle.” Primary Objection: Availability, not having enough on hand.How to Overcome: “Explain that nothing we have is going to do what the key amp can do.” facebook.com/MobileElectronics   23


 hot sellers

Viper DS4+ Remote Start

Submitted by: Tom Emerson, Best Buy, Roswell, Ga. Main Selling Features: “The onboard Bluetooth capability, available transmitter options, and the expandable, easy to upgrade nature of the system are all aspects that seem to resonate with every single customer, every time.” Primary Objection: Price, compatibility and additional parts required. How to Overcome: “First of all, I explain the benefits that come along with the product: In this case, the lifetime hardware warranty through the manufacturer, and the lifetime workmanship warranty on the installation through my company, as well as citing the rock-solid reputation of the brand. Secondly, I always explain that due to the technologically complex, highly computerized, and increasingly proprietary nature of modern-day vehicles, vehicle-specific parts along with specialized software and technical expertise is required to seamlessly and reliably incorporate new technology into a vehicle.”

JBL BassPro 11-Inch Powered Subwoofer System Submitted by: Aaron Joseph, Horizon Audio, North Canton, Ohio Main Selling Features: “It mounts to the hub of your spare tire. You don’t lose any trunk space!”

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www.sony.com/car ©2018 Sony Electronics, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Sony and the Sony logos are trademarks of Sony Corporation. Android Auto works with devices using Android 5.0 software or higher. Some devices may not yet support Android Auto, see the Google site for the latest list of compatible devices. Android Auto and its logo are trademarks of Google Inc. Apple CarPlay works with iPhone 5 and newer phones. Apple CarPlay and its logo are trademarks of Apple Inc. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice.

facebook.com/MobileElectronics   25


real world RETAIL

Showtime Audio RAI

With a positive store culture and a welcoming atmosphere, Showtim specializes in building custom show cars and attracts clients mainly WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

26  Mobile Electronics January 2019


ISES the Bar

me Audio is a top-rated shop in Illinois that y via referrals and reviews.

A

lthough he was originally from Chicago, Jerry Villa’s family moved to Los Angeles when he was young. As a result, he was exposed to LA’s car culture at a young age, and found himself drawn to the world of 12-volt. “I had an older cousin who was into car stereo, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Villa said, adding that he watched his cousin work and tried to learn from him. “We moved back to Chicago when I was 16 and I was still into it.” At 19 years old, Villa went to Mobile Dynamics in Canada and took a two-week course in car audio and fabrication. Over the years, Villa has attended many trainings, including KnowledgeFest, Mobile Solutions, Kingpin University and the first Fish Camp, put on by Dave “the Fish Man” Rivera. “[Fish Camp] really opened my eyes in terms of fabrication,” he added. “We were already doing fabrication, but [Rivera] took it to a whole different level that we’d never done before.” Villa opened Showtime Audio in 2002. Currently, the shop has five people on staff, including Villa. Although the team is known for the spectacular show cars they build, they don’t impose limits on themselves. “We’ll do everything from change a fuse to build you a half-a-million-dollar show car,” Villa said, adding that the team approaches every job with the same positive attitude. “A long time ago, before I was in car audio, I went to a shop to get some work done and they treated me very badly because I was young and didn’t have a lot of money,” Villa said. “I decided that if I ever opened a shop, I would treat everyone the same way because they still work hard for their money, so they deserve the same respect as anyone else.”

Education is a Collaborative Effort at Showtime Audio The first time Villa went to KnowledgeFest, he went alone. After discovering how helpful it was, he went back, this time with one of his technicians. “The third time I went, we closed down the shop and all of us went together,” he said. Training is a collaborative effort for the staff because they always compare facebook.com/MobileElectronics   27


real world RETAIL

FAST FACTS Showtime Audio

www.showtimeaudiochicago.com Location: Chicago, Ill. Number of Stores: 1 Facility Square Footage: 8,500 Store Type: Large-scale boutique Number of Employees: 5

KEY STAFF Owner: Jerry Villa Office Coordinator: Nydian Villa Lead Fabricator: Alex Caballero Lead Technician: Jeovani Rojas Social Media Director: Damaris Vargas

MAIN FOCUS 40% Car Audio and Fabrication 30% Fleet Work 20% Driver Safety 10% Window Tint

Most traditional advertising methods are unnecessary for the shop. Word of mouth and referrals attract clientele such as actor Mel Roberson. notes, Villa added. “Every Saturday, we do a training at the shop, either on something new we want to learn, or something that might have given us trouble during the week.” During morning meetings, the staff stands in a circle in the middle of the sales floor and they go over the previous day. “We talk about whether we had any mistakes, what we did well and what we need to improve.” Although the staff is not all MECP certified, Villa bought books for everyone. “We’re all studying. I used to be certified a long time ago, but I haven’t been in a while. Since I started going to KnowledgeFest, I decided I had to get certified again, so we’re all going to take the test together.”

28  Mobile Electronics January 2019

Even some of the office staff wanted to be part of it, Villa added. “They said they want to learn about it, too.” The atmosphere is one of collaboration and open communication. Employees get to choose whether they are salaried or paid by the hour. A basic skills test demonstrates whether a potential new hire has the necessary knowledge, Villa said. “Then we have an interview and we try them out for a couple days to see how they fit into our store culture.”

Open Communication at Daily Meetings Minimizes Issues When it comes to specific issues with employees, Villa said, the first step is coaching the employee. “I try to take

them aside and first find out what the actual problem is and if we can fix it. If it’s a training issue, we train them so we can rule that out. If the problem continues, then we know it’s a choice—not that they weren’t trained properly, or that they didn’t know what they were supposed to do. We try to do everything we can before we fire someone.” However, Villa added, this is a very rare occurrence because the shop has a low turnover rate. For the most part, the staff has been a part of the store for a long time. “Two have been with me for 16 years, the length of the company, and the other two have been with me six and four years.” While the shop does not have a standard procedure manual, this is something Villa is working on. “We do have procedures for installations, and we go over things like that in the morning meetings. We are working on a procedure manual and we hope to have that in the future.”


For now, encouraging open communication helps to minimize any issues. “The guys know what our standards are.” If not, Villa said, they address any problems at the morning meeting—right away. “We don’t let it get out of hand because we always go over it the next day.”

Sharing Successes and “Two-Second Improvements” Encourages Unity

Nydian Villa serves as the business’s office coordinator.

Jeovani Rojas is the lead technician at Showtime Audio.

Morning procedures are structured toward making improvements, Villa said, adding, “We have a lot of reviews, so we share what we call a ‘Raving Fan.’ Every day, we try to read one of our Raving Fan reviews as a group. We also do improvements. I pay for half an hour of time for them to either improve something in their own life, or in the shop.” This “two-second improvement,” he added, can be anything: “Cleaning something up, building something to increase efficiency, or organizing. They need to do that every day. All of us have to do it every single morning. We come in early to do the meeting, and then the two-second improvement and cleaning, so we’re ready to open.”

Pimpin’ a Ride for the Steve Harvey Morning Show “We did an event for the Steve Harvey Morning Show where we pimped out a car for a grandmother of four. That was what she wanted. We did another TV host’s car, and then his TV production company called us. We thought they knew about each other, but they didn’t—it was a total coincidence. They had found our reviews without realizing we’d already done their boss’s car. They asked us if we would donate some time and gear for another project, a show they were doing. “We also did Steve Harvey’s Mercedes Sprinter. We met him because his driver came to us for some repairs, and he became one of our good friends. He talked to Steve, and we ended up doing a build for him. Connecting with people, no matter what, led to something really great.”

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real world RETAIL

A Rep Who Goes Above and Beyond

As social media director, Damaris Vargas is the in-house photographer and manages the business’s online presence.

Upon entering the shop, visitors discover an open floor plan that invites them to explore. Sometimes the improvement involves sharing something new they learned at a training. “If they learned something the night before on a car that kicked their butt, or they just learned something interesting on their own, they can share it with the rest of the staff.” Any new piece of information that might be helpful in the future is stored in a file labeled “Tech” in Evernote. “We

30  Mobile Electronics January 2019

store diagrams, sketches—anything we want to remember that might have been difficult, or something we want to be able to access or revisit down the road.” “Along with holidays off, we also give them their birthdays off,” Villa said, although most of them choose not to take the day off. “My wife works with me, too, and she buys them a cake with candles and their favorite food for lunch. She

“Mike Lewis from Echo Sales is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him for 16 years. We started in the business almost at the same time. I was working at a shop and he started as a rep. He was good to me even though I was a nobody, and I never forgot that. We’ve been friends ever since. “He knows his product, he answers his phone, he genuinely tries to get stuff handled for me if I need it. He usually comes down for our events. We take quite a few cars to shows, and we need people to watch the cars, and he’ll do that for us. He also comes to the shop and holds trainings for us.”

makes a big deal out of it, so they’ll come in to work anyway.” It’s important to do things together, Villa said. “Sometimes, on a Saturday if it’s a longer staff meeting, we’ll go out for breakfast as a team to change things up a bit,” he added. “I’ll also take individuals out to lunch if they’re going above and beyond.”

Making Clients Comfortable Encourages Them to Return When customers enter the store, “we ask what brought them in,” Villa said, “and if they say something like, ‘just looking,’ then we invite them on a tour of the shop. We show them around. We also have bottled water with our logo on the label, and we offer them water. We try to make them comfortable with us.”


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real world RETAIL

At daily meetings, employees discuss the previous day, sharing both negatives and positives as well as discussing improvements. The policy of open communication ensures that any issues are dealt with and resolved in a timely manner—as a team.

Advertising Remote Starts Led to a Dead End “We tried to lower our prices and compete, and I feel that failed because it wasn’t us. It wasn’t our style. We don’t do many remote starts, so we did a lot of Facebook ads for remote starts. We tried a bunch of different ad template styles, trying to reach different people, and the main incentive was obviously a lower price. The type of clientele we attracted just weren’t our clients. They did not understand or appreciate what we do, so it didn’t work for either of us.” they feel the need to do things for us,” he said. “One of our clients consistently gives us season tickets to baseball games. My guys have never been tipped so much at any other shop in their life. It’s amazing what happens when you connect and take care of people.”

Showtime Audio participates in several charities, including Ice Cream for Breakfast—a children’s charity that benefits kids who are suffering from long-term illnesses. Potential clients get a full tour of the shop, including the install bay. “We’ve had a lot of clients who say, ‘You know how long I have been doing this? And no one has ever shown me their shop.’ I am always blown away by that. It’s like those open kitchens where you get to see your food being made. That’s what I equate it to.”

32  Mobile Electronics January 2019

The shop has an inviting layout, and Villa said this was done on purpose so it’s easy to see everything that’s going on. The team’s greatest success, he added, rests in how they treat their clients. “I know it works because our clients pay for their jobs, but they still bring us food, or beer for the guys. We’re probably the most expensive shop in Illinois, but

Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Brings Consistent Fleet Work Showtime’s main focus is high-end custom work, including DSP tuning and integration. “We also work with peer-topeer car sharing services—fleet work,” Villa said. An app on a driver’s phone allows them reserve and rent a vehicle anywhere in the city. “You walk up to it, you swipe a card on the windshield, and it unlocks and lets you get in and drive away.” The concept grew in popularity, Villa said, “And now there’s about five or six companies like that in Chicago with


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real world RETAIL

From left to right: Alejandro Caballero, Damaris Vargas, Jeovani Rojas, Jerry Villa and Nydian Villa.

34  Mobile Electronics January 2019


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Charity for Comer Children’s Hospital “We do a charity every year for the Comer Children’s Hospital of the University of Chicago. They ask for toys for the kids, so we offer $50 off if customers bring some new toys for the kids toward the remote start. We have a box in front of the store with a poster that we make for it. We even have clients that just give us money to buy toys. “We do that charity because that hospital saved my nephew. He had 13 surgeries before he was one year old, and they saved him. They were really good to him. So we do this every year to give back. He’s doing well now.”

According to store owner Jerry Villa, the business is fortunate to have had some big-name clients. Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks is pictured here with Villa.

similar platforms.” Showtime Audio installs trackers and control systems in these fleet vehicles. The systems track the cars, the mileage, lock and unlock doors, and enable and disable the starters. Drivers who wish to rent out their own vehicles can become a part of the fleet, and Showtime installs the necessary electronics, Villa said, adding that anyone with the app can rent the car from wherever it’s parked. “They are a great account for us. It depends on the day, but they are good for maybe five cars a day in our bay.”

36  Mobile Electronics January 2019

Car Shows and Yelp Reviews Bring Business to Showtime Since the shop’s main focus are custom show cars, the team is a regular participant in local events. Every March, the shop is present at World of Wheels, a car show that displays a lot of hot rods and muscle cars. The shop also participates in a lot of other local car shows. While clients do come in and say they discovered the shop at a car show, it’s usually delayed, Villa said. “It doesn’t happen right away. We don’t see those

clients until winter, when they can’t use their cars because of the weather.” The shop tends to be busier during the summer. “We don’t do the volume that other shops do. We’re working on it and trying to be better at it,” Villa said, adding that part of this is due to the fact that their prices are higher. The shop has never done any largescale advertising. “Yelp has become huge for us. We are the number one rated car audio shop in Illinois, and we have been since their inception.” Growth on Yelp is the result of pure happenstance, Villa added, stating that when customers began to come into the shop and say, “I saw you on Yelp,” he initially didn’t know what it was. “At the time, we only had five reviews, but they were all five stars. We have about 135 reviews now. It was really cool because it was organic. We weren’t trying to do that—it just happened.”


The INDUSTRY Comes to READY FOR THE NEW WORLD

TM

KnowledgeFest is the premier learning and product showcase event for the mobile electronics industry If you own or work for a shop as an installer, fabricator, manager or sales professional, you need to get to the Long Beach Convention Center February 23-25 to take your career to the next level! More than 75 brands are on hand to demo newfor-2019 products and answer your questions on applications, function and sales strategy. Even better: over 80 workshops, taught by the industry’s most successful and talented professionals, focus on your specific job function to improve your skill, efficiency and profit-earning potential.

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February 23-25, 2019 Long Beach Convention Center

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August 9-11, 2019 Dallas Convention Center

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March 15-17, 2019 Indianapolis Convention Center

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 Difference Makers

ALL

IN THE

FAMILY Founded by George “Doc Thunder” Reed 40 years ago, Marketing Professionals is taking care of business in a flash. As president of the company, Pete Daley is bringing it into 2019 with the same dedication and perseverance on which the business was founded. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER

Call it karma how Pete Daley happened into a car audio career. As part of Marketing Professionals, Inc. for the last 12 years, he has held the reins as president of the company for the last five, but it could have gone much differently. Born and raised in Chicago, Daley moved to Texas in 1988. “When I got my first vehicle, I was a DIY guy and had a really nice install in my truck,” he said. “I was buying Rockford, my first radio was an Alpine, and I had Boston Acoustic speakers. “I got offered a job for this new company and went to fill out the application. When I drove up, my stereo was on—not super loud, but moderate—and there was this guy smoking a cigarette outside the store that I was potentially going to work for. He started asking me questions and then he told me he wanted to hire me. I said, ‘No, I’m here to fill out an application because this other person wants to hire me.’ He kept saying, ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it.’” As it turns out, the company Daley ultimately went to work for was Incredible Universe, a Tandy company. “The store didn’t even have a name at the time,” Daley said. “It was just a project [conceived by Tandy’s CEO John Roach]. So, here I was, 17 years old, and before we even opened, the store manager left

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and went back to his old job. They were looking for a store manager so I threw my name in the hat and ultimately did six million a year in our car audio/cell phone department for the three or four years that I was there. I’ve been doing this ever since.”

Straight Shooters With a Narrow Focus Marketing Pros covers Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas and carries just a few select lines. “We’re very narrow,” Daley said. “When I first started, we had 14 different factories. We weren’t very important to all of them. It was small checks here and there. Now we push our retailers to be important to their vendors. They should not be that diversified. So, that being said, we only have three vendors. Currently we have Kicker, Metra and Orca [Focal, Mosconi and Illusion.]” One of the company’s core values is about face time. “It’s about getting out there and traveling to better understand the environments our retailers are selling to and who their customers are so we can figure out our fit and how we can support them.” Accountability is another tenet of the rep firm. “You’ve got to fall on the sword,” Daley said. “If you screw up, then you screwed up. You have to make sure you take care of it. Having everyone’s best

interests involved is important. We’re the middle man between the retailers and the vendors. We need to make sure that everybody is taken care of appropriately. We need orders for the vendors and customer service and product reliability for the retailers. We have to be that buffer. Sometimes the vendor isn’t the nicest vendor and sometimes the retailer isn’t the nicest retailer. We have to be there to buffer that.”

Traveling to Connect In-Person With Retailers What differentiates Marketing Pros from other rep firms, according to Daley, is a key business practice the company upholds. “It goes back to travel,” he said. “A lot of rep firms are really just telemarketers. They’re not traveling. Our rep firm does upwards of 150 sales stops a month—either overnight stays or day trips—but it means we’re engaged with our retailers during the good months of the year and the bad months of the year.’ The firm pays for the reps to travel, Daley said. “By paying for their hotels and paying for their fuel, it means that sales don’t have to be up for them to get their butts out there in the field,” he explained. “When sales are up, they still need to be out in the field. So no matter what, the benefit of Marketing Pros is that we travel. The drawback of Marketing Pros…is that we travel.”


All In the Family

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 Difference Makers Marketing Pros Inc. Roster George Reed: The legendary “Doc Thunder,” founder of Marketing Pros (1979), and Lifetime Achievement award winner for MEA in 2017. Reed’s long-time commitment of traveling to service the company’s partners and provide stellar customer service has taught the team how to have long-term success as a field rep.

Reps Kevin Knox: His strong technical knowledge, along with his prior experience in retail store management and organizational skills, has earned Knox the respect of his retail partners. The firm is excited to have him back for his second tour with Marketing Pros. Servicing out of New Orleans. Jim Wehling: One of the strongest field reps in the country, Wehling’s attention to detail and killer customer service separates him from all others. With one of the largest population bases in the firm’s territory, his hands are full. He has been with Marketing Pros for over five years and is based out of San Antonio.

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Mike Penny: Penny’s deep relations with his retail partners, and his vigor to travel to see every major account in his region monthly, keeps him at the top of the list to do business with. His consistent travel in Oklahoma and Arkansas keeps him busy in the hardest Marketing Pros region. Mike has been with Marketing Pros for 16 years and is servicing the region out of Oklahoma City. Pete Daley: He started 12 years ago and has evolved to running Marketing Pros as president for the past five years. His technical knowledge separates him from the competition. Daley is based out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Administrative Staff Kristin Daley: Since 2015, Daley handles most of the backstage accounting for data entry into the Rep Firm Software used to compile reporting and sales numbers. Pete Daley is her husband of over 25 years. Stephanie Reed: Reed handles almost exclusively the commissions in the Rep Firm Software. She resides near George Reed, and helps with extra administrative projects when they arise.


All In the Family

promotions, a follow-up from a previous call report, service items we need to take care of, or policy changes, but at least we have an agenda. We have a script to follow which is our organizer that we use. We take elaborate notes because with as many stops as we do, it can be hard to remember everything by the time you get back to the office.”

A Strong Belief in Surviving and Thriving George “Doc Thunder” Reed founded Marketing Professionals Inc. in 1979. Reed’s long-time commitment of traveling to service the firm’s partners and offering extreme customer service for all is what sets him apart. Another area that sets Marketing Pros apart from many other rep firms, according to Daley, is its commitment to call reports. “Everybody hates paperwork and it’s a pain in the ass, but call reports allow us to plan out our week, our sales day and our sales stops,” Daley said. “It means we have an agenda. It might be

On office days, the file folders come out along with the organizers. “Then we’re able to follow up on those action items,” Daley said. “Most people don’t do call reports because it adds so many layers of work. However, if there is a discrepancy from the vendor or with a retailer, we have notes to document it.” Above all, Daley appreciates what it takes to build a business. “The retailers and vendors are our partners,” he said. “We live and die by them all doing well. As a rep firm we try to help the retailers achieve success. It could be by guiding them to the SKUs that they need to buy

Pete Daley joined Marketing Pros 12 years ago and has evolved to running the company as president for the past five years. He is a contributor for MECP study guides, and a proctor for them as well. or maybe we’re teaching them how to be better fabricators, tuners or installers. One of the reasons we have been successful and won the Mobile Electronics award [Rep Firm of The Year 2014-2018] is that we are engaged. The retailers we service are loyal to us and believe in us. I use that word—believe—a lot but it’s true. You’ve gotta believe. As much as we have these negative individuals who worry

audison.eu

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 Difference Makers about the Internet or Amazon, it’s about self-preservation. It’s our job to make sure that each one of our retailers is successful, survives and thrives.”

To Work With Marketing Pros, Retailers Must Want to Evolve For vendors who want to work with Marketing Pros there is some criteria to meet. “We have had many lines over the years and honesty is important,” Daley said. “That means good or bad. It might be ‘Hey, we’re having some inventory problems,’ or ‘We have to increase pricing,’ but no matter what, we need honesty. I’ll use Orca as an example, but Kicker falls into that category as well. Once we get onboard with honesty, you start feeling like a family. When you feel like family, you want to work harder for that family.” Retailers, too, need to come to the table with something to work with Marketing Pros—basically just one essential. “First and foremost, we truly believe that we have the best vendors in the market, so if a retailer wants to be part of the best team, they have to do their part to make it so,” Daley said. “Retailers have the power because they have a lot of choices. The only prerequisite is that they’re willing to learn. They have to be willing to adapt.” The standards for success, Daley added, include inventorying product and demonstrating it, while aptitude is needed in the back of the house as well as in the front. “They have to want to evolve. It’s not going to be an ’84 Cutlass showing up every day. You might get an ’18 Dodge Ram with a fancy integrated data system that needs to be reckoned with in order to have a decent, successful sale,” Daley said. “The mistake so many guys make today is thinking that if they sell the high-end of everything—amps and speakers—that it’s going to sound good.” But this might not be the case, he added. “It’s like a recipe. You can have the best ingredients, but if you overcook it, undercook it, under-season or over-season, it’s not going to taste its best. We have to figure out with our retailers what kind of chef each one of them is, so we can help them have a good result every time.”

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Pete Daley and George Reed pose at KnowledgeFest with Kevin Knox, Jim Wehling, and Chris Cook of MEA.

Trainings, Events and the Coming Year With some major changes in the marketplace over the last few years, Marketing Pros made the decision to not be a stocking rep. “We used to be back in the eighties,” Daley said. “But every stocking rep firm in our four states has gone out of business. We have had at least five go out of business and some distributors. In the smaller markets, it can be successful. In the larger markets, it’s not.” Daley estimated the firm services a population of about 40 million in its territory. “As you go into the MINK states, there isn’t a lot there. Just-in-time inventory is important to those guys. If you stock, then the other issue is you also become a competitor to the distributors,” Daley said. “Kicker is based out of Stillwater, Oklahoma and Metra has a warehouse here in Dallas, so of our three vendors we have two supply chains that are in close proximity. Orca is the only that is three days out for us but most of our retailers can manage that.” When it comes to trainings, events and other support, Marketing Pros offers a full complement. “A few of us are very technical with events,” Daley said. “I used to do 15 to 20 trainings a year, but it has been reduced since I began managing the company. I was doing the whole thing— pulling out the temporary projector screen—but it was all about sales training, no product.” Product trainings, however, are done quite often. “We do 40 or 50 trainings and events a year,” Daley said. “There are more of them during the warmer seasons—tent sales, Heat Wave custom car shows, and the Lone Star Throwdown [truck show]. Obviously, we have KnowledgeFest in our backyard, too.” At the end of the day, Daley summed it up like this: “If you’re not learning, you’re dying,” he said. “So if retailers are

unwilling to get the training or unwilling to attend the training—whether it’s at a remote site or at their store—those retailers that fight it are the ones that traditionally struggle.” Those who attend events, he said, whether it’s a training or an event like KnowledgeFest, will understand. “When you’re with a group of retailers and installers who all want to be better, you start to feel like that, too. Training is super important, but when we go out in the field, we do mini trainings all the time,” he said. “If we have a new amplifier from Kicker, we’ll get out there with the sales sample and do a mini training. It may only be this product that we’re talking about, but it still happens.” Unfortunately, Daley said, the retailers who want the quality trainings are just a small percentage of the entire retailer base. “It may be that just five to 10 percent of the retailers out there truly understand,” Daley said. “The rest of them are just trying to move boxes. I get that, because my job is to move my vendors’ boxes to my retailers’ stores, so I understand—but sometimes the stores just don’t have the passion to be in the industry. To some it’s just a job.” As Marketing Pros heads into 2019 with Daley at the helm, it seemed like a good time to ask him to name a New Year’s resolution. He said, “I would love to have George Reed retire. He is the one who taught me how to be a good sales rep. Now you can be a good salesman, but it doesn’t mean you’re a good sales rep. And just because you’re a good sales rep, it doesn’t mean you’re a good manager. George is sick and of the age to really enjoy his time. It would be special. Will it happen in the next six months? The answer is no. Everybody knows George. He is super stubborn so he will ride it out. I have always told him, of course, that I want him in the picture as long as possible. But he got us here.”


All In the Family

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 strategy & tactics

Show MUST GO ON

The

Sound Wave Customs has learned to harness the power of local events by thinking creatively. Learn how you can draw new clients, build relationships, and increase brand awareness by interacting with your community. WORDS BY ETHAN BLAU

I am the owner of Sound Wave Customs located in Virginia Beach, Va. and this year’s Retailer of the Year. When I was asked to write a segment for this section of the magazine, I had multiple topics rush to mind. I chose this topic first and foremost because I feel it is not widely discussed as much as it should be. I hope these ideas and suggestions help some of you explore new realms and grow this industry in your local markets. Since opening Sound Wave Customs, I have always been a firm believer of local and in-person marketing as well as brand awareness. To me it is the best and most personable approach to clients and business relationships. I would rather spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars getting in front of

44  Mobile Electronics January 2019

people who will be my current and future clients—and even fans—than throw it away on a radio or television advertisement that might go in one ear and out of the other. Such advertisements are nowhere near as memorable for your clients as real experiences.

Begin by Researching Your Local Demographic Not every event or show will be great, or even have any ROI (Return on Investment) for your shop. Every demographic and client base will be different depending on your specific area, which means the events and shows hosted in your area will also be different depending on location. For Sound Wave Customs, our first experiences with local shows and events was trial and error. This is the case with

most marketing tools, investments and tactics in business. The methods that work great for my company and my area might not work as well for you. I would recommend beginning by doing some minor research as well as just jumping in and testing the waters. Additionally, things don’t always turn out the way you expect. Your idea might make total sense to you, but it might also work out differently than you anticipated.

Be Prepared for an Unexpected Outcome Here is a perfect example of a series of events that didn’t work out for my business. I came up with the idea of setting up vendor booths or sponsoring huge concerts at our local venues. We do audio upgrades, and these consumers are spending their hard-earned money to go


The Show Must Go On

see their favorite artists at these huge and expensive venues ($20.00 for lawn seats and upwards of $300.00 for the front row, as well as $8.00 bottles of water and $14.00 domestic beers). Maybe these music lovers would be interested in what we have to offer. Even though we had a ton of response and feedback at the booths we participated in or sponsored, we had minimal to zero ROI. The only positive thing I can say about these multiple attempts (yes, I tried more than once with numerous music genres) is that we did have great brand awareness and that is never a full loss. However, I have not done another concert venue again since.

Consider Going Beyond the Typical Car Show Car, truck, motorcycle, boat and powersports shows work great and we continue to do these year after year. We always try to outdo ourselves with the sponsorship level, booth set-up, and events that we host within the shows. But sometimes it’s the small things that we fail to consider, like the lawn and garden show, the pool and spa shows, the tattoo conventions, the beauty and jewelry shows, and more. You might be saying, “Why?” Because those are all working class citizens who have a means of transportation. They all have good to great income, and they all have liquid assets. Guess who is not catering to those massive groups of individuals and families? You and your local competitors. It sounds crazy right, but is it? Some of the best events we continue to do every year are the events that do not specifically cater to the 12-volt client. But discussing who our clients are is a whole different topic.

Events Offer the Potential to Reach Thousands of People Some of the local shows we participate in or sponsor have upwards of 10,000 to 80,000 attendees in a matter of one to three days. That is huge. Pause and reread that sentence. If you spoke to one quarter of those people or passed out business cards to half of those people, the ROI and the

At the Coastal Virginia Auto Show, Sound Wave Customs teamed up with Jason Ewing and “Mad Mike” Martin from MTV’s Pimp My Ride, who were present to meet fans and sign autographs. From left to right: Mad Mike, Ethan Blau, Jason Ewing and Bob Mickonis, Operations Manager of Sound Wave Customs.

When higher-end clients are invited to bring their vehicles to an event, Sound Wave Customs will sometimes enter the car into the show. The excitement makes it seem as if a completed custom project has been re-delivered, and it’s an experience the client will always remember. market awareness in itself is phenomenal. The thing I personally love the most is when we get to personally speak to these potential or future clients about their specific applications, wants and needs. You may spark their interest in conversation. Just shaking their hand and letting them know you exist goes a long way. Not to mention we always provide demo vehicles, custom builds, products, displays, manufacturer representatives and even raffles or giveaways in our booth. To have visitors come and see your knowledge, passion, work, products and brands you carry, as well as types of services you offer, is a truly great

opportunity that other forms of advertising like radio, TV and billboards cannot offer whatsoever. Here are some additional strategies to help you make the most out of a local event.

#1: Invite Some of Your Clients to Bring Their Vehicles There are many ways to cater to the masses. Sound Wave Customs utilizes local shows to develop new relationships, and we continue to build on existing ones. Trying to get new clients into our shop isn’t the only goal. When we do new shows or even repeat shows year after year, we invite our facebook.com/MobileElectronics   45


 strategy & tactics

Local shows can attract thousands. Prepare in advance by promoting your presence at the event months and weeks ahead of time. higher-end clients to bring their vehicles that we have built or worked on to show and display. Our clients are not only flattered by the invitation, but they are more than happy to do it for free. Not only does it truly make them feel special, but at some of the larger car shows we participate in, we will enter those vehicles in the show and most of them will walk away with an award of some sort. The excitement is priceless and makes us feel like we re-delivered a huge custom project to them all over again. Plus, it’s not only attracting new clientele, but building a stronger relationship with current clients on that basis alone.

#2: Build Rapport and Partner With Local Vendors Another benefit involves building new or even existing relationships with other local vendors that participate in these events. We partner with local vendors that continue to send us customers, and vice versa. We have a huge locally owned off-road truck and accessories retailer in the area that we continue to build rapport with. We try to get vendor booths side by side, as we share a lot of the same builds. We are involved in interior fabrication, audio, safety, security and convenience upgrades, and they handle off-road accessories, tires, wheels, suspension and more. I am also a firm believer in building relationships with local companies that

46  Mobile Electronics January 2019

offer vehicle upgrade or performance options that can recommend you for what you specialize in. It truly goes a long way and helps add to your list of clients within your market, and it also increases brand awareness. What better way to get new clients, when you have a rapport with the top local companies in your area?

#3: Collect Contact Information at Events for a Follow-Up Make sure to collect as much information at these events as possible, whether that means adding to an email list, getting a customer’s contact information from a raffle you’ve held, or offering a 10 percent coupon to track ROI. There are many ways to do this. No matter how you handle this step, it is very important to get contact information and follow up with potential clients who have visited your booth.

#4: Include Charitable Events and Give Back to the Community Supporting a good cause goes a long way. As a local business in a very small niche industry, we have to stand out and give back to our local communities and charities. Not only is it good for the charity or charities, but it is also great for branding, market awareness, building rapport and building new and existing relationships with clients, friends, local businesses and your community.

#5: Remember to Promote and Dream Big

Using flyers and signage, we make sure to promote our presence at these events in our store and on social media to draw as many people as possible. I hope everyone reading this can get a new and refreshed outlook on promoting this industry in your local markets, as well as ideas of how to go about it. I will leave off with a personal story of the most recent local show we were involved in and how we grew not only as a veteran sponsor and partner of this event, but as a company as well.

Coastal Virginia Auto Show a Success for Sound Wave Customs The last big show Sound Wave Customs participated in was called the Coastal Virginia Auto Show. This was the fourth year of the event and we have been involved since its inception in 2014. This event is unique as it caters to all realms of aftermarket vehicles, including off-road, motorcycles, classics, customs, movie cars, boat and powersports, and more. This year we wanted to go all out and try to make our presence not only locally known, but in the surrounding areas as well. We marketed the show in the leading months and weeks. We were lucky enough to get some national help with the talents of “Mr. Pimptastic” himself, Jason Ewing, and “Mad Mike” Martin from the hit TV show Pimp My Ride.


The Show Must Go On

Before planning a show, do some research about your local demographic. Like any marketing tool, participating in events can involve a lot of trial and error. Jason is currently with iDatalink and Mike is with Galpin Auto Sports. We also had the help of the talented Greg Boylan of Specialty Marketing, and Tommy Henshaw of Signature Marketing Group. We had their assistance with promotion and in-person to work the event, as well. We also had the help of Opus Marketing, Orca Design & Manufacturing and AudioControl. We had some awesome giveaways for the show. Powerful marketing and advertising came from the fact that we had the talent of Pimp My Ride in our booth. Fans, along with past and future clients, were excited to meet their favorite custom car guys from TV. It was truly exhilarating. The booth itself was 80 by 40 feet and housed six vehicles, including a Sea-Doo and an Indian motorcycle we upgraded and customized at Sound Wave Customs. We had two tents equipped with a celebrity backdrop and autograph table. We even had our custom graphics designer, Jeff Ballance, draw up some event t-shirts that Jason and Mike could autograph for customers and fans alike. Mad Mike personally fabricated an award for Most Pimped Out Ride in the show. Jason and Mike both had a celebrity pick for another award and judged a pin-up girl contest. Sound Wave Customs was the premier sponsor of the event and we truly outdid ourselves, going beyond any previous year or event. The entire Sound Wave Customs team helped in every angle from ideas to

concept, and then to reality. The show is hosted by a locally owned and operated media group, so we also got to go to the radio station and record custom commercials for this event, as well as host the official after party. The show was both fun and beneficial for our business.

Once again, the sky is the limit for a local event and what you can get out of it. Always dream big, and try and try again. I wish the best of luck and much success to everyone this New Year. Let’s keep this industry relevant and strong as ever, and prove the naysayers wrong.

facebook.com/MobileElectronics   47


 tech today

Why do audio products sound different, and how can we examine the differences? It is crucially important to compare audio products under controlled conditions to quantify their performance. Here’s how. WORDS BY DAVID MACKINNON

Over the trio of decades that I’ve been in the mobile enhancement industry, I’ve seen, touched and heard thousands upon thousands of different products from hundreds of companies. I lived through the neon speaker wire and tweed-finished installs of the late ’80s, the shiny fiberglass and neon of the ’90s and the layered look of the late 2000s. In that time, I’ve had the honor to audition, judge (through IASCA) and formally review more products than I can remember. I consider myself fortunate and downright lucky. When I was reviewing a lot of gear, my favorite listening sessions were with amplifiers. I’d amass a half-dozen amps from different companies and head to my friend Brad’s house to listen to them

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back-to-back with his Gallo Acoustics speakers and Conrad-Johnson CD Preamp. Unbeknownst to me at the time, listening to multiple amps in a single listening session afforded me a unique opportunity to not only experience each product but also to directly compare the performance of all the products in the test group. The test reports stood on their own, but the listening experience was incredibly valuable in learning how to audition audio products. Thank you to Sound Wave Customs of Virginia Beach, Va. for providing build photos for this article.

Head to Head Battles About five years ago, I was talking to a friend about a line of supposedly premium amplifiers and mentioned I hadn’t

formally auditioned one of their high-end solutions. He offered to let me borrow one of his and sent it over a few days later. I took the amp home and wired it into my reference system and sat down for a listen. It was very nice to listen to. The sound was warm, smooth and inviting. After about a dozen tracks, I started to pack everything up when I realized I should immediately listen to the same tracks on my reference amp. So, that’s exactly what I did. The differences were stunning. My reference amp was what I would consider transparent. Percussion was violent and detailed. Vocals were natural and crisp. Most importantly, the sound didn’t seem to be warm. The music sounded more like a live performance and less like listening to it on a stereo


Measuring Audio Product Performance

MEASURING AUDIO PRODUCT

PERFORMANCE system. This experience sparked a fervor to figure out why audio products sound different.

Measurements Versus Listening I’ve heard dozens of people state that measurements can’t tell you what something sounds like. For example, If you look at an RTA measurement of a car audio system, you don’t know if it images well. In fact, you can’t even tell if both the left- and right-side speakers are playing. If someone provides a directivity plot (that shows frequency response relative to the microphone direction) you can get a sense of where the sound is coming from. There are impulse response graphs that will give you an idea of how different frequencies arrive at the listening position and measurements that characterize the reflections of a listening environment. In the case of amplifiers, speakers, source units and processors, I think the reality is that most companies and publications don’t offer enough measurements to let educated enthusiasts form a valid opinion. Let’s talk about a few amplifier measurements that can provide a unique insight into the design and performance of a product. We are all used to seeing frequency response graphs. They show you the output of a device relative to a flat-response test signal. The objective

The frequency response of one channel of a high-quality Class D amplifier. is to quantify the upper and lower frequency response limits of the device and ensure that the performance is smooth and flat through the region where you’ll be using the device. If everything in the graph is smooth, then you’d expect that the amp will sound pretty good. The problem with a response graph is that it doesn’t show you how different frequencies interact with one another.

How Come Nobody Talks About Distortion? When I was coming up through the ranks and learning my craft, I used to think that distortion was something that only happened when you pushed an amplifier to the point of clipping. If you were looking at a sine wave, the tops and

bottoms of the waveform would be flat due to the rail voltage limitations of the amp. We have all heard distortion caused by clipping. It makes your music sound garbled and messy. The reality about distortion is that it happens even at very low audio levels as well as when you attempt to get more power out of your amp than it was intended to produce. Before we discuss when and why distortion happens, we need to talk about what distortion is. Distortion is caused by the non-linear behavior of components in a circuit. Even something as simple as a resistor adds a microscopic change to the signal that passes through it. Think about all those electronics bouncing around randomly inside the device. Yes, it’s small, but it exists. facebook.com/MobileElectronics   49


 tech today 400Hz and 800Hz output. Harmonics in higher frequencies are likely buried beneath the noise floor (background noise) of the amp.

It’s Not Warm, It’s Distortion!

A theoretical representation of how Harmonic Distortion works. Intermodulation distortion is created by the interaction of two signals. It’s the mixing of multiple tones to produce sums and differences. The most popular test for Intermodulation Distortion (IMD) is to play two tones, typically at 19kHz and 20kHz at equal levels, and measure the spectral output of the device. The first thing to look at from a perspective of IMD is the creation of a signal at 1kHz—the difference between 19kHz and 20kHz. Likewise, there also will be new signal content at 18, 17, 16 and maybe 15kHz on the low side of the stimulus signals, and 21, 22, 23 and maybe 24kHz on the high side. The presence and audibility of these side-band signals depends on the amount of IMD the amplifier design produces. Passing a signal through a transistor or MOSFET to amplify a voltage involves a lot more electrons and presents the chance for different responses to different amplitudes and frequencies. Again, the changes in a well-designed circuit may be minute, but they still exist. With that said, each part of your amplifier, from the differential input op-amps on the input stage, through the crossovers, the driver stage and the output stage each offer the opportunity to muck up the audio signal. Distortion is the addition of information that was not present in the original signal. There are two key kinds of distortion: Harmonic and Intermodulation. Harmonic distortion is the creation of multiples of a frequency. Say you feed a 50Hz tone into an amp. You may get a very small amount of 100Hz, 200Hz,

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The examples above demonstrate that what we get out of a device may not accurately represent what we put into it. For Harmonic Distortion, low-frequency content creates higher-frequency harmonics. For Intermodulation Distortion, high-frequency content can create significant lower-frequency information. So, how does this translate into our listening experience? Think about what someone is talking about when they describe a device as warm. In most cases, they are referring to the presence of more information in the mid-bass region. If we are listening to a band with a vocalist, guitarist and drummer, there will be a lot of musical energy through the entire audio spectrum. Each instrument or word comprises its own harmonic content. This is what makes one person sound different from another or an upright bass sound different than a guitar, even when singing or playing the same note. If your amp produces harmonic distortion, then it adds more high-frequency content to that signal. In extremely

A theoretical example of Intermodulation Distortion in a moderate-quality solid-state amplifier.


Measuring Audio Product Performance

An extremely high-quality Class AB home audio amplifier reproducing a 50Hz sine wave.

A high-quality vacuum tube home audio amp reproducing a 50Hz sine wave.

generalized terms, tube amps add moderate amounts of even-ordered harmonics while solid-state amps add small amounts of odd-ordered harmonics. Again, that’s a gross generalization and the reality depends on the design. Here are comparisons of three significantly different amplifiers and their behavior when fed with a 50Hz test tone. You can see that the 50Hz test signal produces significant additional output in the 100 to 200 Hz region. In the case of the vacuum tube amp, even though the level is more than 40 dB below the test signal, it would change the overall tonal balance of the instrument or voice. For the solid-state Class AB and Class D amps, the harmonics are 110dB and 85dB below the original signal, and would likely be inaudible. If you read high-end home audio reviews, then you’ve perhaps encountered a comparison discussion of vacuum tube

A high-quality home audio Class D amplifier reproducing a 50Hz sine wave.

This Class AB amplifier produces a 1kHz tone that is about 80dB below the 19 and 20kHz test signals. This 1kHz would be inaudible. The side-band distortion is extremely low as well, peaking at -120 dB relative to the -6dB test tones.

amps versus solid-state amps. The writers will always say the tube amps produce even-ordered harmonic distortion and solid-state amps produce less-pleasing odd-order distortion. Debate after debate has raged on the Internet that this only matters when the amp is driven hard. The reality is quite the opposite. The distortion exists in some amount at all drive levels. Now let’s look at how these three amplifiers fair in terms of their Intermodulation Distortion performance.

Not All Amplifiers are Created Equal These two simple tests tell us a lot about the distortion characteristics of these amplifiers, and subsequently how and why they sound different. Please, don’t take this comparison of technologies to demonstrate that all Class AB amplifiers sound better than all Class D

amps and vacuum tube amps. I’d take a well-designed Class D over a poorly or even moderate-quality Class AB amp any day, and one of the vacuum tube amps I have reviewed remains one of the most enjoyable listening experiences I have ever encountered. What I want you to take away from this is the understanding that there are good, mediocre and bad products in every category in our industry. I’ve tested source units that suffer from significant IMD and THD and I’ve listened to them compared to units that measure favorably. The difference IS audible. Signal processors have the same characteristics. Some are very transparent while other seem to blur the sound. Guess what? Speakers do it, too! I had a great Facebook Messenger conversation with a store owner a few weeks back, and we were talking about different speakers. He asked what I thought facebook.com/MobileElectronics   51


ďƒŽ tech today

This Class D amp doesn’t fare as well. You can see the side-band and 1kHz difference are at about -77 dB. The levels are very low, but you can see how much distortion is created.

Our vacuum tube amp noise floor becomes very visible in this test. The sidebands and difference distortions are only down 50dB from the test signals.

Fundamental, second-order and third-order distortion measurement of the JBL 4367 home loudspeaker. Source: JBL 4367 White Paper. about a specific brand and I told him that in every case when hearing them, I thought the midbass region sounded bloated, over-emphasized and unnatural. He replied that he felt that the emphasis gave the systems a warm sound. Speakers are notorious for evenand odd-ordered

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distortion, especially at high drive levels. Problems with changes in suspension compliance, magnetic field strength and inductance can wreak havoc on the output of any kind of speaker. Think about what happens if the suspension of a speaker is more compliant as the cone moves rearwards as opposed to forwards. What if the magnetic field strength changes relative to position, and is stronger moving backward as opposed to forward? Most speakers suffer from significant changes in voice coil inductance based on cone position. This change in inductance changes the high-frequency response


Measuring Audio Product Performance

The first graph shows that the 30-year-old subwoofer under my desk causes a lot of rattles and that relates to the midrange driver causing noise at 2200 Hz.

The second image is with the mic in the same position, but with the volume turned up a little bit. This increase in output level (by about 8dB) dramatically emphasized the distortion at 2200 Hz (which I can hear as buzz) and showed an issue around 170Hz. of the driver and produces significant Intermodulation Distortion. Will either of these (very common) scenarios result in linear cone motion at all drive levels and in both directions? The answer is a resounding NO. I have yet to see a mobile audio company publish distortion measurements of their speakers. Perhaps it’s because they don’t know these measurements exist. Perhaps it’s to prevent consumers from directly comparing the performance of their solutions with other brands. I stumbled

across one such distortion measurement graph a few years ago on the JBL Synthesis home and pro audio website. I was window-shopping for things I can’t afford and reading some of their information sheets and white papers. Being ever-so moderately geeky (ahem), I was interested in the distortion-reducing designs used in the woofer and tweeter of their 4367 speakers—a design that comes highly recommended by a few people whose opinions I respect. Seeing a graph in their white paper that included second- and third-order harmonic distortion measurements blew my mind. As we mentioned earlier, if you don’t have something to compare a graph to, it can be difficult to determine if there is a problem. So, I’ve attached included two distortion graphs of the little sound system I use on my desk. The first graph shows that the 30-yearold subwoofer under my desk causes a lot of rattles and that relates to the midrange driver causing noise at 2200 Hz. The second image is with the mic in the same position, but with the volume turned up a little bit. This increase in output level (by about 8dB) dramatically emphasized the distortion at 2200 Hz (which I can hear as buzz) and showed an issue around 170Hz.

Listening to Learn and Learning to Listen I am fortunate to have made a career in the mobile electronics industry, and to have auditioned products from so many companies. What I hope you take away from this article is that it’s crucial to compare products under controlled conditions to quantify their performance. If you are interested in a great audio-related book, check out Floyd Toole’s Sound Reproduction – Loudspeakers and Rooms. There’s a lot of great information in there and some interesting words of wisdom. I’ll leave you with a specific quote from the book: “Only when you compare one thing with another do you start to realize what differences there may be. And if you do a simple A vs. B comparison, and both A and B both share the same problem, you won’t hear that problem.” facebook.com/MobileElectronics   53


 installs

SUBMITTED BY: CAMERON POWELL, LIS AUDIO, SPRING HILL, KAN.

This unique Shelby Cobra prototype belongs to JC Fisher, a singer in The Texas Tenors group. The car began its life as a 2011 Ford Mustang GT. It was recently modified by Retrobuilt Motors of Nixa, Missouri. Once the body and performance modifications were complete, the owner contacted LIS Audio to bring the audio system up in performance as well. The team of Cameron “Chimpo” Powell and Justice “JAX” Berry went to work transforming the audio system worthy of this special car. Power for the speakers and subwoofers comes from an Audio Dynamics 6-channel amplifier. The front stage consists of two sets of Audio Dynamics 3200 series component speakers. Low end reinforcement comes from a pair of 12-inch Audio Dynamics 1100 series subwoofers in dual ported enclosures. To help reduce any panel resonances, the LIS crew applied Hushmat throughout the car. The highlight of the build is the trunk. Trim panels wrapped in black vinyl are accented with silver highlights and two-tone lighting. The floor of the trunk highlights not only the Audio Dynamics amplifier, but also the nitrous oxide bottle. Above the floor opening is another larger opening for the two Audio Dynamics subwoofers. This opening is similarly trimmed in silver. Once the audio upgrades were complete, the car went on tour to various national shows and a stop at SEMA. Everywhere the car goes, it turns heads and ears.

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facebook.com/MobileElectronics   55


ďƒŽ installs

SUBMITTED BY: JOE CASSITY, TUNES-N-TINT, LAKELAND, FLA.

Tunes-N-Tint of Lakeland, Fla. has been working to increase their sales in the motorcycle and powersports category. To help promote their work in this segment, they outfitted a cargo van with interior shelving to hold tents, tables, displays and marketing materials, all geared toward this market. This made it easy for the Tunes-N-Tint crew, led by Joe Cassity, to travel to motorcycle and powersports events in their area. The promotions have been working and the shop has seen an uptick in related sales. The most popular audio upgrades Tunes-N-Tint installs are the Rockford Fosgate Harley-Davidson kits. The larger kits include custom grilles for the saddlebags that allow the addition of six- by nine-inch speakers to be installed in the lids. In addition to the audio upgrades, the team has also installed quite a bit of accent lighting. To further promote their facility, Tunes-N-Tint often sponsors audio and lighting category trophies at local motorcycle shows. Not only does this benefit the event sponsors, but it also positions Tunes-N-Tint as the local experts in motorcycle audio and lighting.

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facebook.com/MobileElectronics   57


from the President

Great Expectations for 2019 Begin the New Year with hope for your future and the future of your business. What have you done today to make your business better for tomorrow? Your business need not be defined by what you did yesterday. Don’t let past mistakes define your future. Learn from, then let go of the past. It really should be defined by what you do today and then strive to repeat those successes going forward. It may be hard to make such bold statements when you remember your past failures. Learning from your own past takes reflection and will serve to produce wisdom that only comes when you have truly experienced failure.

Analyzing Your Past Take a hard look at your business and yourself. Define a period for review. As we are already in the New Year, your review period should be 2018. Start by making a list of all the things that went wrong. Your list should include specific goals that were not achieved. Add any significant failure(s) and then call out what you think was the main reason for failing to achieve your goal(s). Don’t wallow in this, but take time to properly reflect so you can understand what went wrong. Review each failure. Think about what could have been done to avoid them, then document this information as if your revelation post-letdown was a success based on what you have learned. If you’re having trouble coming up with a solution, make a note of it. Don’t be afraid to phone a friend for advice. Once you have your list complete, organize it and rank them by what it may have cost your business. This ranking should take more into account than just the hard cost. For example, if one of your goals was to be successful with social media marketing and you didn’t properly execute on this strategy, then you rank it based on what you didn’t achieve in business growth. Next, it’s time to create a plan.

A Plan to Succeed After proper reflection, your next step it to formulate a plan to succeed. This plan differs from your overall business plan as it focuses on areas you have identified for improvement. Take the list you created that outlines your failures. Focus on what you could have done better to achieve what you desired for your business. Remove anything you no longer want to achieve or have decided may not work. Each goal should be measurable. This will ensure you set your business up for success. Choose a review date and then write it all down.

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Put Your Plan to Paper Writing seems like a lost art these days, but there is something great about putting your plan to paper. A written plan is something that can be posted in an area that allows you and your team to remember and review every time you glance at it. It keeps it top of mind. If you are going to achieve anything great, a plan to get there and markers along the way will provide a constant reminder of a plan that was created with reflection and careful thought. To finish, write out what success looks like when you achieve your goal. It is important to know when you meet or exceed the challenge. When you do, make sure you share it!

Share Your Experience Sharing with your team and others in your circle is key to growth both personally and professionally. Make it a point to meet with your entire team and share both failure and success. Take this time to review where you fell short of goals. Listen to teammates as they can provide valuable feedback. Each of you can share what you will do together to make this year more fruitful. During this meeting, take some time to highlight both individual and team accomplishments. Put a date on the calendar for your next review. Don’t let another year pass without reviewing how your business is measuring up against your new goals.

Don’t Give Up Regardless of your circumstances, don’t give up! If you discover that you and your team are lacking in one area or another, maybe it’s time to learn from others. A trip to a KnowledgeFest event comes to mind (shameless plug intended). We have heard from many retailers that were on the brink of collapse. As a last resort, and many times on the advice of a friend, they attended a KnowledgeFest event and received the much-needed information to restore their business.

Happy New Year! That’s right. I said it. Happy New Year. And it will be, if you take the time to invest in your team, your business and yourself. Not sure if you are looking forward to 2019, but I can tell you that I am looking forward to it with great expectation and a highly successful year for our industry.


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Mobile Electronics Magazine January 2019  
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