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Volume 36 // Issue 5
40 FEATURED STORIES 14// What’s Happening: 2017 Industry Award Winners Share How They’ve Grown At KnowledgeFest Indianapolis, during the Town Hall meeting, owners and installers were asked how the Industry Awards process impacted their businesses and professions. In this issue, more owners and installers express how they’ve grown and what they learned as a result.
30// Real World Retail: Certified Autosound and Security In Vancouver, British Columbia, Certified Autosound’s biggest challenge has been building a name for themselves, but as they spread the word about their fourth location—just opened this month—they’ve become a recognized name in the industry.
Accele Electronics...................................... p. 2 & 3 AAMP Global : PAC ..............................................p. 7 Alpine..........................................................................p. 5 AudioControl........................................................p. 23 Directed: Viper.....................................................p. 37 Firstech : Momento..........................................p. 59 Harman : JBL...........................................................p. 9 Hybrid Audio........................................................p. 37 InstallerNet ......................................................... p. 25 MEA : Connected Car Show ........................p. 39 Orca : Focal.............................................................p. 13 Rockford Fosgate................................................p. 11 SiriusXM ................................................................ p. 12 Sony ........................................................................ p. 19 VAIS Technology................................................p. 22 Voxx Electronics............................................... p. 60
40// The Support Team: AudioControl Customer service, technical support and engineering work in tandem at AudioControl, where someone always answers the phone during business hours and any company team member can assist with tech support. Technical product director Brandon Cook discusses how every call is handled thoughtfully and with care, ensuring any issues are resolved in a timely manner.
44// Strategy & Tactics, Peer Series: Branching Out In the second installment of the Peer Series, Jon Kowanetz of Handcrafted discusses strategies for mindfully expanding your business into new categories.
48// Tech Today: Side-by-Side Vehicle Installations Looking for something new to get into this summer? David MacKinnon takes a look at side-by-sides, or Utility Terrain Vehicles, and makes suggestions regarding how shops can get involved in audio installations for UTVs as an additional category. On the Cover
COVER DESIGN: ANA RAMIREZ
Featured on this month’s cover is Certified Autosound and Security of Vancouver, British Columbia. The company has focused on growth with the intention of becoming known as one of the best mobile electronics businesses in Canada. Their determination and tenacity has led to the opening of a fourth location as of May 2018, with the hope that they will continue to expand and give back to the industry.
4 Mobile Electronics May 2018
54 6 Editor’s Forum 8 Feedback 10 Statistic 12 Helpful Stuff 14 What’s Happening 20 Retail News/ Who’s Who 26 Hot Sellers 30 Real World Retail 40 The Support Team 44 Strategy and Tactics 48 Tech Today 54 Installs 58 From the President
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facebook.com/MobileElectronics â€‚ 5
You Said It … Did They Get It? Managers, make sure the words that are comin’ out of your mouth get the results you expect. I’ve always been fascinated by how people listen, and why we have barriers to communication. You’ve seen the scenarios where a group of people pass a message from one person to another, and by the time it’s gotten to the last person, it’s completely different. Here’s the reason: If you think of the message as steak, then think of every person passing it as adding their own seasoning to it. Our seasonings are based on the filters we run the message through, and those filters are made up of our own experiences. For instance, you want to give an important store tour tomorrow, so you ask your shop manager to make sure Joe the installer puts some extra effort into cleaning after closing. The shop manager perceives Joe as messy, and so he “seasons” your message by telling Joe, “This what I’ve been talking about. Your workspace is always a mess. The boss told me to tell you to sweep this entire floor from top to bottom tonight.” Now, Joe thinks you are unfair for punishing him with extra work. Or, an employee is concerned because he hasn’t been performing well. The manager calls him in to give him a task. Instead of listening, he is focusing on every word and inflection to determine if the manager is angry, or if the task is the result of his performance. As a consequence, he either misses half the
“You can blame the employee, but you’ve heard me say it a bunch of times: If it happens to you, it’s your fault.” message or performs the task poorly because of a bad attitude. These are very real scenarios that corrode your store culture. You can blame the employee, but you’ve heard me say it a bunch of times: If it happens to you, it’s your fault. Communication isn’t about the telling; it’s about the receiving. If what you are trying to communicate has not been received in the way you intended, then you didn’t do your job. Communication is an investment: the more important the goal, the more effort that’s needed. Here are five practices that will improve how you communicate.
6 Mobile Electronics May 2018
1. Provide more information. Many managers think an employee should just do what is asked because you said so. Sometimes you’ll need to provide some backstory; just enough so that the person understands how his or her task fits into the big picture. I know a lot of managers are hesitant to do this because they feel it erodes their authority in having to explain themselves to a subordinate. But the result is you have an employee who is more invested in the task, and more important, very clear on the instruction.
2. Pick the right time and method to provide direction. If you tell someone something while they are in the middle of something else, the chance is that they will only get half the message. That’s why meetings are important. They allow you to give instruction at a time when you have everyone’s full attention. That said, if you do have to give orders on the fly, try a combination of breaking the person away from their task temporarily, and writing down the particulars so they have something to reference. 3. Ask the recipient to paraphrase. Paraphrasing, or providing a quick summary of what was said, is probably the most powerful tool in proper communication. It usually starts with the phrase, “So what you’re saying is…,” followed by a brief but (hopefully) accurate summary of what you told them. If it’s important, don’t hesitate to say, “Okay, so tell me what you’re going to do, just to be sure we’re on the same page.” 4. Create a communications culture. If you’re not doing it already, plan regular staff meetings. Make management available at certain times to take private input. Praise in public. Let the staff know what the store goals are on a weekly and monthly basis. And most important, give your staff feedback.
5. And if you are giving feedback, here are the words you don’t say. “I feel,” “you seem to,” “never,” and “always” should not be a part of any feedback you give to staff members (or worse, to your spouse!) The first two are inaccurate and leave room for argument, and the last two are simply not true. 6. One of the most positive aspects of a workplace is when employees know what’s expected of them. People who aren’t confident in what they are supposed to be doing have significantly less job satisfaction. Put the extra effort in on the front end to get more efficient communication and a stronger store culture.
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WILLING TO CHANGE, READY TO LISTEN
ADVERTISING SALES Kerry Moyer 978.645.6457 • email@example.com
EDITORIAL Solomon Daniels 978.645.6463 • firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Layout and Design: Ana Ramirez Contributing Editors: Jamie Sorcher, Joey Knapp, Laura Kemmerer and Rosa Sophia.
Published by TM
A willingness to communicate is key. Additional training increases receptiveness to change, according to Keith McCumber. While being open to new ideas can be difficult, it’s necessary, said Ricardo Rangel. “It is hard to try to listen to new ideas without being judgmental about them. […] With time, and getting used to attending different KnowledgeFest [conferences], I’m getting used to listening to new ideas, and becoming less afraid of trying all or some part of them with an open mind, understanding that even with a different context there might be more that we as an industry share than I would realize in the first place.” Ricardo Rangel, Monster by Rangel, México City, México “We have learned that more training makes staff more receptive to the changes necessary to grow. We like it so much that we made our very own classroom. We invite highly trained industry professionals to visit us to keep us up on the latest and greatest ways of selling, installing, fabricating, customer service and ownership issues. We are in communication with others to be aware of options that could help our customers and our bottom line. We advertise a lot—not on price, but on what we carry, who we are and why they would want to visit us over other places in town or on the Internet.” Keith McCumber, SoundsGood Auto, Coquitlam and Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada “Planning stuff takes the stress out of situations. Even for the recent show we did, we set up a booth in our parking lot the day before. This allowed us to work out the details in advance. Planning and clarity makes all projects smoother. A little communication goes a long way to a successful outcome.” Jessie Walker, Tunes-N-Tint, Lakeland, Fla.
8 Mobile Electronics May 2018
mobile electronics association
Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • email@example.com Kerry Moyer, VP Strategic Partnerships 978.645.6457 • firstname.lastname@example.org Solomon Daniels, Dir. Media and Communications 978.645.6463 • email@example.com Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • firstname.lastname@example.org Tony Frangiosa, Chairman of the Board, MEA 1) Title of publication: Mobile Electronics. 2) Publication No.: 957-170 6. (ISSN# 1523-763X) 3) Copyright © 2017 by the Mobile Electronics 4) Date of filing: Oct. 1, 2017. 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/Ted Goslin, 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 2017. 6. a) Total no. copies (net press run) Average: 10,237 Single Issue; 12,826. b) Paid/Requested mail subscriptions Average: 6,039, Single Issue: 7,346. 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: 6024. e) Non-requested distribution by mail; Average: 3,860 Single issue: 4,973. 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: 4,973. 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
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The Self Search: Top 4 Attributes at Work Owners and staff say they are good at most aspects of their careers, though there are a few areas that could use improvement. SATISFACTION WITH CURRENT WORK ENVIRONMENT
50 40 30 20 10 0
FOUR MOST POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE WORKPLACE 1. Positive Culture
3. Ability to Express 4. Quality of Tools Opinion and Equipment
FOUR MOST POSITIVE ASPECTS OF PERSONAL PERFORMANCE 1. Being a Team Player
2.Being motivated to go beyond the minimum
3. Speaking up when there is an issue
4. Finishing things on time
10 Mobile Electronics May 2018
Neither Satisfied or Disatisfied
FOUR ASPECTS IN THE WORKPLACE MOST IN NEED OF IMPROVEMENT 1. Management Structure
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FOUR ASPECTS OF PERSONAL PERFORMANCE MOST IN NEED OF IMPROVEMENT 1. Workplace neatness / organization
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The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After Midlife BY JONATHAN RAUCH
Growing old is not easy. It is shocking when you hit that 50-year milestone—trust me! But the good news is you’re going to be happy as you move forward. Happiness follows a certain path and after a slump, we hit our stride again. This warm, engaging book is an enlightening observation of how our lives evolve as we age. It draws on cutting-edge research to show how happiness follows a U-shaped trajectory from our 20s into our 40s, or what Rauch calls a “happiness curve.” There’s a decline from the optimism of youth that lands us in what’s often nicknamed the midlife crisis. Rauch argues that this isn’t really a crisis at all; it is a natural stage of life and an important one. By shifting priorities toward compassion, it gives you added tools for wisdom and gratitude to win the third period of life. Rauch himself was in a slump, and he examines how the ordeal reboots our values and even our brains for a rebirth of gratitude. The Happiness Curve helps you find your way through the forest of midlife, demonstrating why we must help friends and family through it. According to Rauch, it is not a journey we should walk alone.
Sites To See:
The Connected Car Show (in conjunction with CE Week New York) HTTP://CONNECTEDCARSHOW.COM
The CE Week New York event is moving over to the massive Jacob K. Javits Convention Center this year, and that means more exposure and bigger crowds. The Mobile Electronics Association is launching a new show that will be co-located with CE Week. The Connected Car Show is set for June 20 to 21 and will bring awareness to the changing vehicle technology trends on both the OEM and aftermarket sides and showcase new technologies whether they are factory- or aftermarket-installed. A slate of seminars will examine the future of automotive technology. This show complements MEA’s KnowledgeFest tradeshow series. Check out the details and plan to be there!
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12 Mobile Electronics May 2018
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There are so many cool podcasts out there, but it can be overwhelming trying to find what you want. Subcast is a platform for smart radio stations that stream on Alexa, iPhone and Android. With its curated podcast radio stations, it will be easier than ever to find your favorite programs and find new ones without hours of endless searching. The more you listen, the more Subcast learns both your favorites and your dislikes. Also, there are audio controls for episode skipping, sharing and for the car. It’s an easy podcast interface designed for listening while you are doing other things.
Backed by the science of Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (or EPOC), national fitness chain OrangeTheory’s heart rate monitored training is designed to maintain a target zone that stimulates metabolism and increases energy. It is what they call the afterburn. With locations all across the country, OrangeTheory provides the benefit of a group workout with the attention of an experienced personal coach. It is suitable for a hardcore athlete or a newbie to the gym.
14 Mobile Electronics May 2018
2017 Industry Award Winners share how they’ve grown
Award-winning installers such as Christerfer Pate and Miguel Vega, along with retailers like Absolute Electronix and SoundsGood Auto, agreed that winning a place among the Top 12 helps to raise the standards of the industry as a whole, encouraging 12-volt professionals to strive for excellence in all aspects of their careers. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA
Each year, the Industry Awards encourages owners and installers to take a look at their careers and how far they’ve come, showcasing their achievements in front of their peers. Taking such a deep look at one’s business and profession reveals many factors to success, as well as areas where competitors can improve. “If you can work really hard and you’re willing to put in the hours, you can reach your goals,” said Christerfer Pate, 2017 Installer of the Year, Retailer of the Year Runner-Up of Mobile Toys Inc., College Station, Texas. How did the process of competing in these awards affect personal growth for installers and owners, as well as growth within their businesses? Regarding the awards and working toward the win, owners and installers shared their feelings about how the process changed them and spurred development within their personal and business lives.
Nicholas Frazier, Top 12 Installer, iNNovative Concepts, West Springfield, Mass. “[Because of ] the experience I have had in the industry—continually striving to grow as a technician, just reaching that level of confidence, the way my installs are done, the quality of my work—I felt like it was time to throw my hat in my ring. It’s been 12 or 13 years that I’ve been installing.” Frazier has been the owner of iNNovative Concepts for about three and a half years now. “The whole process of answering the questions [for the awards application] gave me time to reflect internally
Miguel Vega, Top 12 Installer, Titan Motoring, Nashville, Tenn.
[about] myself as an installer and how I contribute to the industry, [and] the need for any of us—especially those in the Top 12 and Top 50—to contribute more to the industry, to want to compete at that level and provide installations that meet ever-growing and increasing standards. “Putting together the Top 50 and Top 12 videos made me think about how I contribute and what I can do to further contribute to the industry, and more broadly, how much [anyone in the Top 12 or Top 50] are looked upon as a source of standards, as other people [in the industry] strive to do what we do. “I am somewhat of a shy person, so getting my name recognized and out there has helped me to be more outgoing and more social with other installers and shops and people in the industry. As far as my business, being able to use the awards as a means of showing how my install quality has been recognized in the industry as a
whole really helps clients have trust in my work from the get-go, and drums up more higher-end jobs and business that way.
Miguel Vega, Top 12 Installer, Titan Motoring, Nashville, Tenn. For about six years, Miguel Vega has been installing professionally. “The first time that I competed was two years ago, and my goal was just to try to be in the Top 50,” he said. “Somehow I got a bunch of support from friends and people in the industry, and I made it to the Top 12. I’m not sure I was ready for it, but it was an experience that I really enjoyed. “Something I noticed is that you have to go back and see the process of your career. I saw pictures from way back when I started and the things I was doing back then, and I saw the process of myself [and how I got here]. That helped me a lot to see that I was doing something right in my career. The way I started in this business was facebook.com/MobileElectronics
I DEFINITELY HAVE SEEN AN UPTICK IN BUSINESS WITHOUT A DOUBT. I THINK THERE’S OPPORTUNITY THERE FOR WHOEVER WINS. YOU HAVE TO GO OUT AND BE WILLING TO PUT THE HOURS IN AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.” – Christerfer Pate, 2017 Installer of the Year, Retailer of the Year Runner-Up, Mobile Toys Inc., College Station, Texas by hobby. It was my hobby and then I finally found a job in a whole different state. I was in Florida, and a friend found me a job in Pennsylvania, so I moved from one state to another to start working in this industry. We have to follow our goals in life. “As a personal growth, I think that a lot of people see you as an example. Every bit of work you put out there, every install, has to be a type of work that is a good example for everyone else. A lot of people have more attention on the stuff you do [as an award winner], and I could say it can feel like a bit more pressure, but in reality it’s not, because it makes you better. Here at the shop, it helps a lot because when your customers realize the person who is going to be working on their cars is a top installer, they feel really confident that the person who will be working on their car knows what they are doing.”
Sound Wave Customs, Top 12 Retailer, Virginia Beach, Va. The owner of Sound Wave Customs, Ethan Blau, has been in the industry for about 13 years. Sound Wave Customs has been open for a little over five years. “The thing I love about the industry is that we’re all competitive, some more than others, and that’s human nature, but I think it’s such a great thing because it pushes everyone to become better. That’s what I take away. I think everyone is a winner. “Yes, someone takes home one of the nice trophies, but there’s so much more that I take away for my shop and my staff. It drives you to do more. I have a
16 Mobile Electronics May 2018
lot of close friends in the industry. We give each other little pokes here and there [about the videos we’re making], without telling every detail. It pushes us [to be better]. “It’s not just temporary, for the award video, to try to win. We’ve improved from the awards in every aspect of business. Incorporating policies and procedures, and different benefits for the staff. “Sometimes life in general is so fastpaced, especially being a small business owner. There’s family on top of that. When you look deeper at yourself and your business. Some people don’t want to [do it], because they are camera shy, but you want to push yourself to be uncomfortable because that’s how you experience new aspects of life or business. “A couple of years ago, when we were pushing for Top 12 and didn’t make it, I [learned something about myself ]. I tended to hoard stupid stuff because I thought I would sell it somewhere or I might need it. My guys would tell me, and I would say, “You guys are crazy, this is worth so much money, we might need this,” but at that point I was paying extra just for the space it would take up. “I finally bit the bullet and ended up throwing out a lot of stuff. I think I got an extra dumpster and threw a bunch of stuff away that I could have maybe sold for $5, $10, $20 here and there, but that’s only if it would sell. As far as business, I’ve paid more attention to keeping track of sales performance numbers. “Customer retention was big a couple years ago, and we did a lot more
Nicholas Frazier, Top 12 Installer, iNNovative Concepts, West Springfield, Mass.
customer retention stuff, emails and phone calls. I could associate it with the awards, but it’s not only the awards. We do a customer appreciation barbeque for our bigger clients. Everyone is invited and we do it on a Sunday when the store is closed, some people bring their vehicles and [play music]. They were helping to cook out, the store was open but we weren’t selling anything. We’re on our second or third year doing that, it should be about two months from now. We just reach out to these people whether it’s personally, Facebook or email, and it was partially due to the awards [that we started this]. “Now, you’re in an industry limelight and you’re paid more attention to. There’re people who write to me for advice. I just had a gentleman [contact me] who does mobile audio—doesn’t have a storefront, but he was asking me for advice. I answered to the best of my
2017 Industry Award Winners share how they’ve grown
Keith McCumber, SoundsGood Auto, Top 12 Retailer, Burnaby, BC, Canada
ability. There have been a couple other people who have reached out to me since then. “I still ask questions. I still don’t know it all. I still look up to a lot of people and we trade information and it’s more than beneficial. We’re all still human, but you want to be upheld to a higher standard and you keep that because you want the industry to keep growing. My customers are happy for me. Here in Virginia Beach, we have [a Top 12 store], and there aren’t many places that can say that. “[Customers] think it’s important. They don’t know [about] the whole industry, but they think it’s cool and they are proud of it. It’s on our shirts, hats, fliers. We use it for branding and marketing. It’s not to brag, but at the same time it’s who you are, and [customers are] trusting their vehicles with us, and spending their hard-earned money with us.”
Absolute Electronix, Top 12 Retailer, Rockville, Md. Not only is Absolute Electronix a Top 12 Retailer, but owner Ata Ehdaivand is also a Top 12 Installer and Trusted Tech. “I wanted to improve myself. In order to
improve yourself, you have to put yourself out there,” Ehdaivand said. “Until I actually competed, I didn’t realize how much I needed to learn. There are a lot of people who are just as passionate about this business. I don’t think there’re a whole lot of industries where you can actually get to know every single person. [You can get] pretty close to knowing everyone—all the movers and shakers know each other and we’re able to work as a group to move the needle to where we want it to be. It’s a very unique situation that we have in this industry. The people who have some influence can have influence on the entire industry. “My business changed because I have more credibility [after winning]. We have what’s called the Brag Wall in my store. All the awards and plaques are in one place. Any kind of pat on the back we got, we put it up there. It makes people feel comfortable that they’re going to a leading edge store with their purchase. Personally, the amount of ideas that you can share—the top guys are doing all the right things. It’s the little things that are making a huge difference [in the industry].”
Christerfer Pate, 2017 Installer of the Year, Retailer of the Year Runner-Up, Mobile Toys Inc., College Station, Texas In the industry for 25 years, Christerfer Pate felt that the business had really begun to grow and change. “I feel everyone does fantastic stuff, but what we were doing was innovative, as well as the way we approached it,” he said. “Tons of guys get fantastic results, but I felt like the way we do things is innovative, and the way we approach design is innovative. And that’s what made me feel like I was ready to go after that. “I was in a touring rock band—a singer in a rock band. [I have always felt] if you want to be good at something, you have to spend at least 10,000 hours on your craft. In doing what we did, it’s really a two year process. To do it the right way, it’s a two year process. You’re going to put more work in than you ever have, thousands of hours honing your craft. And I feel like we did that. “I include my crew because it’s a group effort. One guy wins it, but I have a great group of guys I work with. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have won. Realizing you can work really hard and facebook.com/MobileElectronics
Ethan Blau, Sound Wave Customs, Top 12 Retailer, Virginia Beach, Va.
attain your goals is the biggest thing that’s solidified for me. If you’re willing to outwork everyone—and I feel like we outworked everyone. We are going to do that all the way to the very end. We didn’t stop. “I definitely have seen an uptick in business without a doubt. We are way up for this year, probably 40 percent up. We do great business here all the time. We average 1.5 million per year and we’re way up for the first quarter. I think there’s opportunity there for whoever wins. You have to go out and be willing to put the hours in and make it happen. “We’ve had a lot of opportunity at things, but it requires working late hours and putting in the time and continuing to progress. You have to continue to innovate after winning and get better at what you do. How do we do better and be more innovative than [we were before]? It’s affected us in a positive way for sure.”
SoundsGood Auto, Top 12 Retailer, Burnaby, BC, Canada Keith McCumber, owner of SoundsGood Auto, has attended many training sessions in which he stated he’s been shown “things I never would have caught onto myself. Quality of service, quality of installation, bringing standards up to a place we would be proud of,” he said. “In 2005, we opened up a shop and the front showroom was 10 by 12. We
18 Mobile Electronics May 2018
Charles Brazil, First Coast Auto Creations, Top 12 Retailer, Jacksonville, Fla.
had a desk. It was a closet. It was mostly installation. The evolution from there to where we are today—so much has changed, so much growth, so much professionalism. When I looked at other shops, I felt we had something different. Top 12 seemed like a shoe-in. “[I discovered] that people really like to be led. Becoming a true leader has changed everything for me. When I [learned to] become an effective leader, people wanted to do anything they could to make SoundsGood the best. I had been talking a lot to Marcel Newell, and got him to come and redo the showrooms we had just moved into, so the new spaces we have are pretty inviting and super friendly. Almost space-age like in some instances. You really feel like this is a car stereo shop that’s on the next level. “Marcel, Del Ellis, Jason Kranitz, Ken Ward—they are some of the mentors I have even today. I talk to them quite often about a more effective way to lead my people, to give my consumers the best options available and to become one of the best in my field. “The culture has grown. SoundsGood [is] a place where pride grows by doing something really cool or neat or above the norm, to offer our customers something far superior. “On a personal level, I feel looked up to by the people who work with me. It’s not just my employees, but my vendors and my customers. We
have the write-ups on the wall to show customers we’re not just another fly-by-night car stereo shop, we’re accredited. The admiration I get from that makes me want to do more and more. “I wouldn’t be in the place I am today without my mentors pushing me to become one of the best car stereo shops in Canada.”
First Coast Auto Creations, Top 12 Retailer, Jacksonville, Fla. Owner Charles Brazil stated that he felt his store was ready to compete because of their installation values and customer service. “We have the ability to offer world class service,” he said. “The process allowed me to realize the strengths and weaknesses of the operation. [It] exposed a lot of holes that needed to be filled on the operations side, but also [showed] how strong we are in services. It has reinforced the vision and direction of the business. “From a business perspective, it has made me invest even more in the shop. We are adding more tooling in the form of automation, adding another display for auditioning, and focusing on selling our brand to clients. “On [the side of ] personal growth, It shows you the person you are. By that, I mean, the kind of employer you are. “And more importantly for me—it has allowed me to see what kind of employer I want to be.”
2017 Industry Award Winners share how they’ve grown
NOW G! N I P P I SH XAV-AX5000 Bezel-less 7” touchscreen panel gives you a seamless display with simple touchscreen controls, so you can safely focus on driving.
www.sony.com ©2017 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 workswith 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.
WORDS BY LAURA KEMMERER
DSP AUDIO AND VIDEO REMODELS STORE, INSPIRED BY KNOWLEDGEFEST Attending KnowledgeFest can be a game-changer for any mobile electronics shop, but for Maryland-based DSP Audio and Video, attending the conference both upped the business’ retail game and inspired a complete revamp of the store. “It all started with KnowledgeFest,” said shop owner Eddy Lamour. “We went to Dallas in 2016 and it was because we wanted to basically get ourselves out of being an average shop. We saw sales flat and not really improving like it has been for the past eight years or so. We also were concerned we would start declining and have to shut down like a lot of shops have.” Lamour’s takeaway from the
20 Mobile Electronics May 2018
conference was finding answers to questions related to Internet business promotions, remodeling the store with Five Access. Lamour also trained with Del Ellis. “We did a complete remodel,” Lamour said. “We gutted our showroom and rearranged the furniture. We tore down the old bathroom and put in a new one. We went all out. We didn’t have air conditioning in this building, so we added it. We did a lot. “The showroom has new floors, [and] we have a seating area where people can work with a granite countertop, and a nice bathroom. It’s very comfortable here. It changed the whole atmosphere of the shop. Our average ticket went up
as well.” In light of the remodel, DSP Audio and Video acquired a number of new displays—namely from Five Access, as well as one for OEM integration that has not been touched yet. “I didn’t find a product for it. I wanted to get the right match for our store. I went with Helix, and that’s going to go on there, but that display isn’t done yet.” Otherwise, Lamour has a window tinting display, a CarPlay display and others. As things move forward for the business, the marketing plan hasn’t changed much, though now there is more of a focus on using Instagram over Facebook. “More people seem to respond to Instagram,” Lamour said.
AUDIO LINE FOSTERS SHOP LOYALTY THANKS TO VERSATILITY, CUSTOMER SUPPORT In order to reach higher-end clientele, Georgia-based Markland Designs of Atlanta started carrying Hybrid Audio Technologies. Shop owner Erick Markland said getting involved with the product was a good way to start creating revenue. “Even with entry-level customers, they can get into the Mirus line or the Imagine line,” Markland said, adding that to him, it was “really a no-brainer” because of the line being so versatile. “You’re covered from the entry-level installations to the super high-end.” Markland also added that the support from the product line had been top-notch, noting that he has been able to get in touch with the CEO of the company directly in the past. “I wish that was something you could do with a lot of companies,” Markland said. “I’m definitely proud to be a Hybrid Audio dealer.”
Tunes-N-Tint Wins Local Side-by-Side Show
Entering specialized shows can be a good way to attract customers looking for that kind of work, and for Florida-based Tunes-N-Tint, this proved to be the case. “The local power sports dealer [Fun Bike Center Motor Sports] hosted a custom truck and side-by-side show and event, and they approached us about bringing in some of our custom vehicles, since most of their vehicles are stock and their customers add on toys after the fact,” Tunes-N-Tint Operations Director Joe Cassity noted. “So we contacted one of our customers and brought out his side-by-side four-wheeler and Jeep. His side-by-side took first place.” The side-by-side is a Can-Am Maverick, with 8-inch kicker speaker pods facing toward the rear, four 6-inch speakers in a canopy and a pre-existing customer radio. There are custom-mounted RGB halos on the front of the vehicle, as well as custom changing light underneath the vehicle and interior lighting. Even though the show only happened in mid-April, within the following week Cassity had seen an increase in customers asking about the kind of work that went into the side-by-side. “Every time we do a niche event like this—we do a quarterly bike event now—we definitely get more traffic flow in that niche,” Cassity said. facebook.com/MobileElectronics 21
22â€‚ Mobile Electronics May 2018
Wet Audio and Accessories Freshens Image with Showroom Revamp Even though online presence and engagement remains important, keeping a shop’s appearance up-to-date is one of the essential components to attracting business. For Wet Audio & Accessories, located in Columbus, Ohio, this meant updating the showroom. Shop owner Wes Tyson noted that business had been down recently, and while that might not be directly connected to the showroom’s appearance, he felt it was time for a change. “I can go back and think about when I started my shop, and all the time and effort I put into it as far as making the showroom look good,
taking care of customers, things like that,” Tyson said. “You have to step back, go back to that or you just get stale, you know?” In the showroom update, Tyson redid the ceilings black, put in different LED lighting, vinyl flooring that looks like wood and redid the walls, among other things. Tyson also set up TVs to highlight certain products. The work has largely been completed, but there are still some minor details that need to be attended to. While customer numbers have not yet changed significantly, people are definitely taking notice, Tyson said.
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Faces in the Industry Brandon Brown SoundsGood Auto Burnaby, British Columbia Years of industry experience: 30 Hobbies: Travel, eating foods from around the world, walking on the best beaches in the world. What You’re Best At: Problem solving
Santa Rosa Cartunes Website Redesigned for Additional Functionality Keeping a shop’s physical image fresh is important, and so is keeping the online presence just as up-to-date. For California-based Santa Rosa Cartunes, this meant updating the website’s functionality to allow customers to book appointments directly. According to shop owner Michael Meza, customers will be able to look at the prices for window tinting and put in a deposit. Then they will be able to put in three different times for appointments and a shop employee will call them schedule it. “We wanted to lead people and help them find exactly what they are there for if it’s something specific,” said website designer Nicole Meza. “It gives you two options: if you want to browse on the homepage, you can, or if you are there for something specific, you can click ‘I’m here for something specific’ and it goes into categories. And you can shop by price range. It’s built to help people find exactly what they want.” Once the customer clicks on an option, each item has its own page with further information, including features and prices. The shop’s website also features manufacturer information, “so the customer has more, and to improve the SEO on the back end of the site,” Nicole added. “The more information you have, the more it applies. It helps your SEO. We have all the pricing online.” Ease of use often means increase in use, and streamlining the shop’s website might do exactly that. “If you take all the complication out if it, they will want to buy it,” Michael Meza noted. “[People] want it easy. They just want to do it. The whole goal was to make it easy.”
24 Mobile Electronics May 2018
Keith McCumber Columbus Car Audio and Accessories Columbus, Ohio Years of industry experience:3 Hobbies: Car audio. When I’m not at work talking about car audio, I’m at home researching car audio. Watching YouTube videos of other people’s projects, working on my own projects and helping friends with theirs. What you’re best at: Being honest with my clients when I have made a mistake, and helping them get the products they are seeking.
Matt Ell Stereo King Salem, Oregon Years of industry experience: 20 Hobbies: Being a husband and father. What you’re best at: Building rapport and educating clients.
P P ORT
F T N GS HI
www.InstallerNet.com • 800-444-1644 facebook.com/MobileElectronics 25
DEMONSTRATING VALUE AND EDUCATING CUSTOMERS Some retailers provide extended warranties or credit programs to encourage customers to buy, but the bottom line is that education and demonstrating value help them to make their purchasing decisions when it comes to this season’s popular products. Pioneer MVH-1400NEX Digital Multimedia Video Receiver with 6.2-Inch Capacitive Touchscreen Display, Apple CarPlay, Built-in Bluetooth Submitted by: Rocco Guglielmello, Mobile Electronics Inc., Ramsey, N.J. Main Selling Features: “What hits home with customers is the ability to listen to their needs and work up from there.” Primary Objection: Learning curve, and additional parts required. How to Overcome: “No pressure, just professional suggestions.”
Pioneer CarPlay Deck AVH2330NEX
AudioControl D-4.800 Amp/Processor
Submitted by: Matt Ell, Stereo King, Salem, Ore. Main Selling Features: “CarPlay and Android Auto are made available at a great price point.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “I take the time to educate them on the complexities of modern vehicles. That way, they understand what it takes to do the job the job properly.”
Submitted by: Brandon Brown, Columbus Car Audio and Accessories, Columbus, Ohio Main Selling Features: “The ability to really fine-tune the sound to your liking, as well as increasing overall volume all in one package.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “Offer a basic auto EQ over extensive tuning.”
26 Mobile Electronics May 2018
Viper DS4+ Digital Security Remote Start System Submitted by: Eric Trouts, Custom Trim of America, Akron, Ohio Main Selling Features: “Ease of operation and Bluetooth smartphone control.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “Demonstrate value in the product as opposed to the standard system.”
PAC Amp Pro Interfaces Submitted by: Mike Schwitz, Sound Connection Inc., Waite Park, Minn. Main Selling Features: “This product makes integrating with new vehicles easy and painless.” Primary Objection: None. How to Overcome: “Customers aren’t excited about this product, but it is necessary in many cases.”
K40 Radar Detector RL360di, Front and Rear Radar Detection System Custom Installed Submitted by: Anonymous Main Selling Features: “No more speeding tickets for people who love to drive their performance vehicles.” Primary Objection: Learning curve. How to Overcome: “Most people don’t know that a custom installed radar detector is even possible. They always assume it’s something that hangs on your windshield.”
Alpine 9-inch In-Dash Digital Receiver iLX-F309 Submitted by: James Halter, Stereo and Video Center, Tyler, Texas Main Selling Features: “Large screen that can fit in pretty much any radio opening.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “Show them the features and the fact it is a large screen that can fit where others won’t.”
hot sellers Sony XAVAX100 CarPlay / Android Auto Submitted by: Eddie Lamour, DSP Audio and Video, Wheaton, Md. Main Selling Features: “It’s all about what it can do for my client in terms of safety and convenience.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “I always sell our company first.”
Kenwood DMX7704S Multimedia Touch Screen with CarPlay / Android Auto Controls Submitted by: Aaron Spencer, The Audio Video Connection, Dixon, Ill. Main Selling Features: “Ability to integrate their smartphone into their vehicle.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “We offer lower-priced alternatives as well. Typically once the customer compares the two, they are happier spending the additional money.”
JL Audio VXi Amps with DSP Submitted by: Keith McCumber, SoundsGood Auto, Coquitlam & Burnaby, British Columbia Main Selling Features: “It fits in your car, gives you fantastic performance and more power!” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “If you want what you want, then the price attached shouldn’t factor into it as much as you are saying. We can give you what you want, but at this price. Would you like that on our extended credit program?”
Sony Basic CD Receiver with AUX and USB CDX-G1200U Submitted by: John Schumacher, Audio Solutions StL, St. Louis, Mo. Main Selling Features: “Low price with features available.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “[Explain] that I can’t control the pricing of parts and labor required to install the product needed for the vehicle in question.”
28 Mobile Electronics May 2018
JL Audio FiX 82/86 TwK DSP Submitted by: Anonymous Main Selling Features: “Aftermarket sound with a factory look—new cars need these products to retain functions.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “Price comparison to head unit swap, or comparison in sound.”
Viper DS4+ Digital Security Remote Start System Submitted by: Eric Trouts, Custom Trim of America, Akron, Ohio Main Selling Features: “Ease of operation and Bluetooth smartphone control.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “Demonstrate value in the product as opposed to the standard system.”
Hertz H8DSP 8-Channel DSP Submitted by: Shaughnessy Murley, Visions Electronics, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada Main Selling Features: “Able to contour the audio experience for every client’s tastes.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “After I demonstrate the differences before and after application of processing, the majority of customers aren’t concerned with the increased cost.”
XKGlow KSCARADVANCE High Quality Underbody Kits Submitted by: Anonymous Main Selling Features: “Most advanced with blue tooth and smartphone integration.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “I explain the value of the product rather than the price.”
real world RETAIL
30â€‚ Mobile Electronics May 2018
Aiming for the Top
Certified Autosound in Vancouver, British Columbia is a fast-growing chain with goals to open multiple locations over the next several years and reach the top of the market in their local coastal area. The challenge? Expanding the business’s reach to make Certified a highly recognized brand. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA
n the west coast of Canada, Certified Autosound and Security is probably the largest independent mobile electronics retailer in the area, according to Chris Cope, one of the owners of the business. But few people knew it, he said, and so the challenge was to raise awareness of the brand. “We sat at the dinner last year in Dallas [at KnowledgeFest] and no one knew who we were,” Cope said, adding that there are nowhere near as many car audio stores in Canada as there are in the U.S. “I wanted people to know who we were and know us for quality.” Because everything is so spread out in Canada, and the population is lower, Cope has a specific challenge on his hands: How can the business make more people aware of its existence? Certified Autosound and Security began as Cope’s store in Maple Ridge. As individual store owners, Chris Cope and Pat Lee decided to form a partnership and together purchased the Abbotsford location. “Our buying power and marketing carry more impact on the industry than when we were individuals,” Cope said. “He started the Chilliwack store. We took over a powerhouse in the Abbotsford
store. It’s between both our stores.” They’ve owned the Abbotsford location for just over a year together, and have seen profits increase dramatically. “It’s gone from 1.6 million the year before we bought it, and this year with our procedures and policies, we upped the profit there by almost 100,000 bucks.” The Abbotsford location received a large renovation to match the Certified image. “We set new procedures for checking vehicles in and out and making it a business instead of a token car audio shop,” Cope explained. The goal was to make the business look like a high-end dealership to attract a higher tier of clientele. Both owners go to all four stores. The newest store is the Langley location, which is open as of May 2018. Lee and Cope focus on being outside of the stores for promotional opportunities and giving back to the industry. The presence of their regional manager makes this possible. “I taught four classes at KnowledgeFest,” Cope said. “Pat and I don’t want to stop at a car audio shop. We want to give back to the industry and build it up so it can sustain itself. Right now it’s an industry that’s not really growing, but it should be. More people should be able to give back.” facebook.com/MobileElectronics 31
real world RETAIL FAST FACTS Certified Auto Sound and Security www.certifiedautosound.com
LOCATION: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada NUMBER OF STORES: 4 ADDRESS: #2 2139 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford, BC V2T 4H6 FACILITY SQUARE FOOTAGE: 5,000 STORE TYPE: Traditional Retail / Boutique NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 16
KEY STAFF OWNERS: Chris Cope and Pat Lee MAPLE RIDGE MANAGER AND INSTALLER: Tyler Neault ABBOTSFORD MANAGER: Nick Pocklington CHILLIWACK MANAGER: Seann Ernest REGIONAL MANAGER: Carter Bogaerts
MAIN FOCUS: Car / marine audio: 40% Safety and convenience: 40% Remote starter / alarm: 20%
The training classes held recently in Indianapolis provided a lot of insight and inspiration for Cope regarding how much information can be shared. Cope and Lee each have their own strengths. “He runs day to day operations and billing. I’m in charge of marketing, branding, negotiating deals to get best prices,” Cope said. “I’m the public speaker of the two of us. It’s great to have a partnership. Our strengths and weaknesses are opposite each other.” As the business continues to expand, this is the goal for business partners Chris Cope and Pat Lee: to continue to raise awareness for the brand that is Certified. To do this, the company utilizes various tactics from staff uniforms to specific customer service strategies. The company is also focusing on reaching a wider female audience through targeted marketing.
32 Mobile Electronics May 2018
Building a Place Where People Want to Work Creating a positive business culture is essential to keeping everyone happy. Cope stated that Certified prides themselves in making sure employees are satisfied. Even if they need more staff members, they never advertise. It’s not the image they want to portray. “We have staff who stay a long time because of the benefits,” he said. “Their pay is the highest in the industry, in my opinion. They love working here.” Only two employees ever left, and the reasons came down to culture. All employees are expected to adopt the business’s culture. “Culture is very big in our company. Culture and relationships come first,” Cope said. To support this focus, there are lots of team-building activities and
holiday parties. All 16 employees and their families attended the last Christmas party. “We rented out a hall, gave away prizes,” Cope said. Employees were able to win trips for two. “We like to take care of our staff and that shows and it helps us be at the top of the industry.” Certified is also closed for every long weekend, despite the fact that few businesses do this. Even though such weekends can be great for sales, Cope said that Certified values time spent with family, and so having that time off is more important to them. “We don’t burn guys out or have huge turnover. I truly believe we keep them because of that,” he added. With Top 12 installers on the team, as well as others who are capable of attaining the title, Cope wants to ensure that any incoming employees
Certified Autosound, Chilliwack location. The challenge and goal for Certified Autosound is to make the brand more recognizable. Between all four locations, branding and pricing are kept consistent.
Aiming for the Top
VARIED TO MEET CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS “The type of store varies across our company. Abbotsford is a traditional retail store with a bigger showroom and still tons of room, whereas Chilliwack is a boutique, with a smaller showroom—400 square feet with a big bay. Maple Ridge also a boutique. “Langley [open as of May 2018] will be a boutique-type. We want to spend more time with one client rather than rushing them out the door. We are building our company around that image. “Abbotsford and Chilliwack have more drive-by traffic. Probably like 5,000 cars
continue to adopt their business culture. “If they don’t adopt our culture, they won’t be a good employee. We are looking for really long-term guys,” he said. One such employee has been with Certified for about a year, having come from a big box store where he spent 10 years. “He doesn’t want to be anywhere else but here. It’s cool to hear stuff like that. They want to be here,” Cope added. “We have created this culture everyone adapts to and loves working at.” Rather than cross-training employees, the business has dedicated technicians and salespeople—with the exception of Tyler Neault at Maple Ridge, who is a store manager as well as a Top 12 Installer. If sales goals are met, salespeople are rewarded and the staff takes part in fun activities. “There’s a bonus structure for
the techs, as well,” Cope said. “Once they get over a certain amount, they get paid $10 more per hour, per build, roughly.” The technicians are guaranteed 80 hours for every two weeks. Job interviews are very in-depth and the company is very transparent about what they expect. Certified has an employee handbook that outlines their expectations, including uniforms, vacation, sick time and more. A tech in training shadows another tech for two weeks, and then the new employee is shadowed by an existing tech to ensure everything is being done according to company standards. “I just hired someone who is new to the industry. He’s going to be in our dealership division and he has worked for dealerships, so he knows that side, but has never done car audio,” Cope said. The new hire will
drive by every day. Maple Ridge, probably 10 cars drive by each day. We’re big into dealership work at the smaller stores, so that keeps us rolling. Two of our stores, there’re lots of walk-ins, and two are more geared around dealerships and higher-end hot rod stuff. Customers who find us online or know about us already, that’s what it takes for them to find the other two stores. [We do] bigger builds [at those locations]. “[At] bigger stores, 100 people walk by per day. Smaller stores, two people might walk in. If they find us without knowing about us, it’s by accident. We have to do a really good job on our marketing and our reach. We do really well at that.”
be trained by the regional manager on dealerships, and he’ll also go through product trainings. According to Cope, he’s eager to learn. “He asked me every brand to go home and research it. He starts in just over a month. We’ll get him set up with our sales reps to get him trained on the products.” Monthly staff meetings allow them to cover any issues being dealt with. Trainings are handled whenever there’s a need, but there’s no particular schedule. If there’s a new product they’ve never worked with before, “we get our techs involved and we talk about it and come up with a standard,” Cope explained. “That’s how we do in-house trainings.” Often, a technician will take the lead by going off-site to a training program, then returning to share what they’ve learned with the rest. “We send a few facebook.com/MobileElectronics 33
real world RETAIL Certified Autosound gets the best return on their investment from car shows. They attend both larger shows and smaller community car shows. They spend a lot of time talking to show attendees, who often end up making a purchase—even if it’s much later down the road.
guys off to Mobile Solutions or Kingpin University, and they come back and train the rest of the guys. We pay them to go and they pass it on. We’re fortunate that they want to make everyone better, and everyone who doesn’t go wants to learn. We are going to bring as many people as we can to KnowledgeFest Dallas this year.” Employees are salaried, and they are given a bonus profit share each month. Salespeople are also responsible for keeping the showroom clean, and they handle all warranty submissions and follow-ups. Each store has two technicians, and one is usually a fabricator. One tech tends to take more of the custom jobs, while day-to-day jobs will go to the other tech. A dedicated wood room houses everything needed to do the job, and the shops are designed
34 Mobile Electronics May 2018
Aiming for the Top
RADIO CAN STILL BE AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING TOOL “We started the radio campaign last Christmas. We have people coming in the door, and without even asking them, [they tell us] the only reason they’re here is the radio ad, and [they say] what a great job we’re doing. It was cool to see that and have that reaction from more than one person, voluntarily announcing that to sales staff. Probably for every one that does, though, there’re 20 that didn’t. “We focused on [local stations]. That had a big part in making it successful. The
around car audio so that everything is kept clean and carefully organized. “Quality control all comes from our policies,” Cope said, adding that the tech who does the job doesn’t check out the vehicle when it’s finished. Instead, one of his peers handles the check-out process to ensure everything is up to standards.
Expanding the Brand Through Diverse Marketing With four stores, Certified is diverse in its marketing approaches, and their biggest return on investment comes from car shows. The company is present at larger local events, as well as smaller community hot rod shows. They also participate in the Vancouver Boat Show. “We build a boat for that every year,” Cope said. The boat is then displayed in the booth of the dealer that sponsors it,
helping to promote both the manufacturer and the Certified brand. Building such relationships helps each company when it comes to exposure and raising awareness for their individual brands. “[It] will make both our companies better,” Cope added. Certified has cemented its place in the market, and as a result, only three to four percent of sales is spent on marketing collectively between the Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Maple Ridge locations. The primary outlets used to promote the business to new customers, other than word of mouth, include radio, Facebook and car shows. This generates brand awareness. When it comes to existing customers, Certified doesn’t do mailouts of any kind. “It’s not the image we’re going for,” Cope said. “We don’t want to pester our clients. Existing
goal is: how much more traffic can we drive in the door with this marketing strategy? We definitely saw a rise in foot traffic. “The reason I went with these two stations is that the statistics [said] 60 percent of the listeners were women, so we really geared our marketing around that, [focusing on] convenient features, remote starts, stuff the whole family can see value in. Stuff that makes mom’s life easier. We geared our stores around catering to women. The times we advertised were focused around when they’d be driving the kids to school and when they’d be picking them up. We met our goals. I wouldn’t do anything differently. It was a great success.” customers see us at the car shows a lot, and we take the time to talk to the guys.” Often, they end up making a purchase, even if it’s much later on. Existing customers receive a follow-up call at the one month, three months and one year point after their purchase. In the next couple of months, the company will also begin sending out birthday cards to existing clients. “We’re pretty steady throughout the year on marketing,” Cope said, explaining that the only changes that happen in their seasonal marketing approach is based on content—remote starts in winter and marine audio in summer, for example. “We use 1sixty8 media and we are finalizing the next few months of run-up for written articles and build posts,” Cope said. “All the rest continues throughout the year.” facebook.com/MobileElectronics 35
real world RETAIL
Their latest will be a digital campaign through the same company that handles their radio ads. “We sponsored their radio station’s cruiser that goes out to events. It has our logo on the side,” he said. The biggest difficulty is always tracking the success of a particular marketing campaign. To find out how their clients discovered their company, salespeople at Certified are trained to ask, “How did you hear about us?” The answers are tracked using a worksheet so the business can monitor their marketing efforts. Radio is their best tool for attracting female clients, according to Cope. Many businesses have tried radio advertising and find it doesn’t work for them. But for Certified, this is one of their strongest marketing tactics. They advertise on local stations that
36 Mobile Electronics May 2018
air within the range of their business locations, mainly soft rock and country stations. The majority of the listeners are female, Cope explained, so that’s how they target that particular market. “We want the image of the industry to change. We have quite a few female customers come in and say they are surprised how nice it looks. [They’re surprised] our managers and sales staff are dressed nicely,” Cope said. “It’s not hoodies and shorts and playing gangster rap. That’s how we keep our image separate and we do build boats and we write articles for products and post them to drive traffic. We do a ton of targeted advertising.” They try to relate to the experiences people have getting into a cold vehicle in the morning, and dealing with their kids at the same time. Heated
seats were big sellers in the winter. To advertise screens for the backs of the seats, Certified aired an ad featuring kids shouting in the background. “Everyone goes through it. As soon as they hear that, they’re listening.”
Professional, Friendly and Welcoming to Customers Certified Autosound prides themselves in their customer service. Their transparency and openness builds trust between them and their clients. “People want to come here because they will be taken care of on the customer service side,” Cope said. The larger Abbotsford location features a comfortable customer lounge with a coffee maker, work stations so people can work on their laptops while waiting, and four 55-inch television sets with independent cable
Aiming for the Top boxes. “We never have more than four people waiting,” Cope added. Bottled water is also provided, free, with Certified branded labels. The company also offers rides for people whose vehicles will be in the shop for a longer period of time. The hope is that they become lifetime customers. The company’s standard phone greeting—professional and friendly—welcomes customers, as does other such practices that include uniforms and regular cleaning schedules at each store. Each shop has a dedicated customer restroom, and everything is kept neat and tidy. “We want people to be comfortable,” Cope said. “Everyone gets offered water before we even talk about buying anything.” With a focus on selling the brand, salespeople begin by educating the customer on what makes Certified different and how their experience will be unique. Prospective clients are given a tour of the facility to show off clean, organized spaces. Furthermore, the client is also introduced to the technician who will be working on their vehicle, further building trust. “Our pay structure takes the pressure of the sale away,” Cope said. “They aren’t paid on commission. We aren’t the discount guys. You come to us because of the continued service before and after the sale.”
Secure It, Find It, Keep It!
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Security and GPS Systems
Focus on the Brand: If You Do the Job Right, the Money Will Follow While Certified was in the midst of rebranding their third store, they were awarded Top 12 Retailer for a chain, and Cope said this award made their company better. “We want to be the best. We want to win Retailer of the Year,” he said. With this goal in mind, they’ve been pushing hard for the last eight months, aiming to make the cut. “Pat and I taking on rebranding three stores and creating this culture based around our name and goals has been a huge accomplishment,” Cope said. In the future, they facebook.com/MobileElectronics 37
real world RETAIL The importance of family is an essential value at Certified, where stores are closed for every long weekend to give employees much-needed time with their families or loved ones.
hope to open multiple locations, and they intend to do it seamlessly and smoothly because of the procedures and policies they’ve crafted to ensure the business has a stable foundation. When Cope took a class he was disappointed with, he decided that he could have taught it. And later on, he was asked to teach a class with Jason Kranitz at Long Beach. It went so well that Cope continued and taught other classes. “I taught four classes at Indy,” he said. “It’s been a big factor, having that feedback and drive. We get a reason to focus on something, we will achieve it at the highest potential.” Certified Autosound and Security has gone from being a little-known business to being known by just about everyone.
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However, the biggest issue when it came to expansion was ensuring pricing was cohesive. It was important that Certified have the same pricing at each location, so they created a billable time sheet that breaks down 90 percent of the jobs. This helped Certified overcome this issue. Because of how isolated they are—tucked away from the majority of the industry—creating a recognizable brand was essential to their success. “Retailer of the Year award is more than just being a good retailer,” Cope said. “People have to know about you.” Certified continues with their main focus this year: they want to win Retailer of the Year. Cope said he thinks it will happen, but “if we
don’t deserve to win, we won’t win,” he added. They’ll do their best to get there. “The rest is out of our hands.” Over the next five years, Cope envisions many more locations on the horizon, with him and Pat being less involved in the day-to-day and more involved in expanding their reach. Their mission statement reflects their values: family first, business second, keep it simple. Money is last on the list and simply a byproduct of caring for customers. When it comes to doing business, reputation and transparency are essential. Certified cares more about the brand than making a dollar. “If we do our job right,” Cope said, “we don’t have to worry about making money.”
Aiming for the Top
at CE Week in New York City Jacob K. Javits Convention Center | 655 W 34th St, New York, NY | June 20-21
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Wednesday, June 20
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Session One - Personalization: Upgrading the Connected Car
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mobile electronics association
The Support Team
BAND OF BROTHERS
Headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, an established music and tech hub, AudioControl functions with a tight-knit tech support team focused on keeping the human connection WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER
40 Mobile Electronics May 2018
There is a distinct sense that nothing ruffles technical product director of AudioControl Brandon Cook—a good thing since he’s in charge of engineering, customer service and technical support for a well-established brand in the car and home audio business. “We need to make sure that our products are continuously being updated, are cutting edge and exceeding our customers’ expectations,” he said. Based in Washington, and in business since 1977, the company self-proclaims it isn’t big, nor very small—just made up of a group of obsessive audio experts, not to mention some of the best engineers on the planet. Put all of those credentials together and it’s no surprise that technical and customer support for end-users, dealers and installers is taken seriously. Everything begins with product development, but it is the ongoing communication between the engineers and the technical
BAND OF BROTHERS
AudioControl has been in business since 1977 and claims it is made up of a group of obsessive audio experts along with some of the best engineers on the planet.
support team that ensures AudioControl dealers receive the most efficient gear and have access to the most knowledgeable resources. “We have that critical feedback loop with technical support to engineering and then back to technical support and then onward to the dealer,” Cook said. Above all, the way any interaction is handled, Cook added, is thoughtfully. “How we conduct ourselves with technical support and with customer support is about empathy,” he said. “What is going on out there with our dealers and end users is of utmost importance to us. Our products are there to give each of them a great experience in their car or in their home…and when you have a component that isn’t behaving properly, or there is a technical issue that needs to be resolved, that is a big deal for both us and the customer.” Interestingly, there is no 800 number at AudioControl. The main number is
all that anyone needs to know. While it may seem old-fashioned, Cook said a lot of folks do call in directly to ask for assistance. The number (425-775-8461) is published on all of the company’s literature, web site and product manuals. “One of the best things about AudioControl is that basically anyone who answers the phone can assist with tech support,” Cook said. “We have an amazing crew to handle this— and what may surprise you is that we don’t have voicemail during office hours, so if a person calls in they will get someone on the phone who can help them immediately. But there is no delay. If you call in, you will be assisted right away.” There is a voice mailbox, however, for after hours. “We have a great deal of sensitivity when a dealer calls in with a ‘pressure,’” Cook said. “A pressure is when one of our dealers has a paying customer in front of them where they need to deliver a product and it needs to be perfect. So we are right on it to get everything resolved. In general, there is a lot of technical troubleshooting that we have to do since a system these days can have a wide range of components. We tend to have a big database of manuals for components that are from other manufacturers as well our own so that we can best assist with integrations with our dealers.” In addition to fielding phone calls, AudioControl manages its fair share of emails. “When an email comes in we turn it around in just a couple of hours,” Cook said. “We respond as soon as possible.”
Figuring It Out With FAQs AudioControl has also found that plenty of people like to have the option of digging in to solve some things for themselves. In that case, they can easily reference the well-stocked Knowledge Base on the AudioControl web site. Overseen and updated by Technical Support Specialist Steve Hass, it is a comprehensive well of information. For instance, there are car application diagrams, a Car FAQ (with answers to questions including: How do I set AccuBASS? What does the summing function do? How does the EpiCenter work?), and
DM Processor and Matrix DSP car amplifier FAQs. “It is updated every other day or so,” Cook said. “We look at the frequency of questions that come in, we condense those down and then we provide the answers. It is continually reviewed so that comments and posts on Knowledge Base are accurate. We make sure to stay on top of whether there needs to be a clearer explanation or more elaborate response to something because in some cases an issue is a little more complex.” Started about four years ago, Knowledge Base has become an integral part of the company’s technical and customer support. “Prior to that we had FAQs that were located on our previous website and we developed it from that.” Cook noted that there have been thousands of hits on certain articles. Additionally, technical videos on YouTube have reached tens of thousands of views. For Cook, who has been with the company 12 years, the video component is critical to the mix and is gaining in importance. “The first video we did might have been around 2008,” he said. “Depending on the issues, there were a few primaries we really wanted to get out on our matrix and line drivers right away. Now there are more ideas coming up every day and we have some new efforts to communicate better about even more subjects on YouTube and on our website.” An upcoming initiative will be creating chapters in vignettes for particular components. “Basically this means that when you’re watching a video you will be able to navigate to the portion of the video that you want to see instead of having to watch information that you don’t need at that time.”
No Room For Walls At AudioControl headquarters, production facilities are right on the other side of the main office walls. Customer service and technical support—situated downstairs—are located in the same room. It is also the same space where accounts payable/receivable and order entry are based. “Even facebook.com/MobileElectronics 41
The Support Team The production facilities are based at the company’s main headquarters. Once a product is shipped out, Cook is mindful of the ongoing partnership that must be maintained with the dealers.
the CEO is part of that office group,” Cook said. “We have six people dedicated to tech support and then our sales guys can jump in on calls if things get really busy.” Chris Bennett, who heads up sales for the car audio products, pitches in when he is not on the road, according to Cook. “He does trainings continually which are typically standing room only presentations,” Cook said. “I also go out to work with dealers directly to get in a bit more detail on the engineering side and to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening out there. It’s important to make sure the product road map is aligned with what everybody wants to see.”
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The engineering team includes five people at the headquarters who all sit upstairs. Additionally, there are people in eastern Washington and another person based in Los Angeles. “We have technical support communicating directly with any of the engineers including myself at any given time so there is no soft wall,” Cook said. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, don’t bother the engineers,’ or anything like that. All of our development is done right here so if something comes up more than once in the field, generally there will be a conversation between technical support and engineering. We examine it, replicate it and try to figure out what is going on.”
Keeping Connected In addition to efforts in-house and out in the field, Cook said that being at industry events and trade shows is also an important part of tech support. “We will be at all of the KnowledgeFest [shows] and we will be at SEMA,” he said. “We’re at some distributor shows, regional trade shows, and then there’s CES where we have a big presence.” Social media has also been another way to interface with dealers, installers and end-users. “Facebook is something we watch all the time,” Cook said. “It is pretty active. There are some installer-based and dealer-based car audio groups on Facebook that some of our team belong to
BAND OF BROTHERS
(l to r) Alex Camara CEO; Steve Haas, Customer Service/Technial Support Manager; Brandon Cook, Technical Product Director; Dan Spore, Graphic Design; and Erik Aandal, Customer Service.
and then we have our own dedicated Facebook page. We do have Instagram, but it’s not as heavy. Facebook is our main social media platform.” While social media, email, and the website are all solid options for support, Cook said the phone is one of the fastest and easiest ways to resolve an issue. “If someone has been bumping into something for a couple of hours, they’ve gone on the website and read the manual a couple of times, and they feel like they are on their own or isolated, that is not the idea that we’re going for,” he said. “We want folks to pick up the phone if they’re having trouble or at least send us an email. We are very responsive with that. Or they can hit us up on Facebook. With OEM integration and multi-zone audio, all of this stuff can be very complex. It is getting more complex everyday with software interfaces. There are just a lot of moving parts with any type of integration.” If the tech team cannot resolve something or if an issue is escalated, it lands in Cook’s lap. “Our testing is
very key,” he said. “Any one of our engineers is working through their product from a product design standpoint and then it goes through the testing process. It comes over to me and I do the primary alpha testing. It then goes to tech support and then for further alpha testing. At that point, it goes out for beta review. Theoretically we have gotten all the kinks worked out by that time. We want to make sure when it does ship out there are no surprises. We get feedback from our beta testers and then we ship the product. But I am the bridge right there on primary alpha testing so basically I need to know how every single product works—and I have a talent for finding very odd bugs. Generally I can break it…and if I can’t break it, then I feel confident that the guys in tech support are going to have a good time with it and the beta testers are going to have a good time with it. There’s no way for any one person to have a complete view.” At the end of the day, Cook said it really comes down to human interaction. “We need to provide the tools so
that people can find the resolutions by themselves if they want to, but more importantly we need to promote the idea in the industry in general that all of this is about a partnership with the dealers,” he said. “We want to make sure they know that we are their partner. We’re not just building product for them to buy. It is a partnership between the dealer and manufacturer, and we need to keep up these human relationships. We want people to pick up the phone and give us a call or send us an email rather than resort to the depersonalization that we see with other means of tech support.” According to Cook, what makes his job enjoyable is that he has a tightknit group that works well together without any red tape or cumbersome rules. “We don’t like the word ‘policy,’” he said. “It is an easy thing to hide behind. We shut that down immediately. What we are here to do is make great products and make sure there is an experience so that when it gets out in the field it’s as great as it can be.” facebook.com/MobileElectronics 43
strategy & tactics
How to mindfully expand your business into new categories.
WORDS BY JON KOWANETZ
We have been hearing about it for years in Facebook groups, trade shows and in the columns of this very magazine, and now we are seeing it reflected in our own P&L reports—the decline of the core car audio business. Like it was for me, that very part of the business is surely what ignited your passion so many years ago and kept that flame burning through all the late nights and early mornings while you built a career around it. But now, as we think about the average customer who walks through our doors, we see less excitement over sound quality than connectivity, and more discussion over product prices than specifications.
44 Mobile Electronics May 2018
Now, if you’re anything like I was a year ago, you’re probably wondering, “Is this flame slowly flickering out?” While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, the broad answer is yes, it is flickering out. There’s still time to place some tinder around it and allow that flame to light some new fires, but you need to choose carefully! When the profit center that you built your business around starts to erode, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a popular new category that promises revenue growth and new customer acquisition. Before you take on the challenge and expense of entering an entirely new category, there are some things you should take into consideration so you can make sure this venture is one that pays long dividends, rather than a short-term
fix that leaves you in need of another. In 2007, I started Handcrafted Car Audio out of the garage of my home with a focus on creating highly customized and personalized audio systems for audiophiles. This was my passion, my specialty and an experience that I wanted to bring to my community. Through years of hard work and strict adherence to high quality and customer service standards, we created a name for ourselves as the premier destination for car audio for more than two million people in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona. This notoriety grew exponentially and parallel to our revenue, year after year, until eventually they both started to level off as the size of that market shrunk. We realized we needed to put more of an emphasis on the other services
BRANCHING OUT we were capable of offering, instead of leaving them to the customer to ask about. So, we started displaying and actively selling products in the categories of remote start/security, parking safety systems, portable device integration and radio replacement. Predictably, given that these categories are generally expected to be offered by a car audio store, we enjoyed more exponential growth, leaving the plateau behind. This continued for a while, providing the revenue we needed to improve the business, attract the right team and perfect our policies and procedures. But, about two years ago, after a second year spent on a new plateau, we found ourselves at a crossroads. We could either find new areas outside of our comfort zone to generate new revenue, or find comfort on the plateau we had climbed to. While both options had their merits, we chose to enter some new markets—but not without carefully considering four very important questions.
Does this new category fit your company business model? The most important thing your company has to offer, and cannot afford to lose, is its identity. It is this identity, this thing that you do better than anybody else, that a customer recognizes when he or she chooses to spend his or her money with that business instead of any one of the multitude of options readily available. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to this as the “Hedgehog Principle” in reference to a story in which a hedgehog need only employ its very unique ability to roll up into a spiky little ball to fend off countless attacks from other animals. Identifying your company’s “hedgehog,” perfecting it and keeping it as the focus of your business, Collins says, is one way to take your company from a good one to a great one. For a long time after reading this book, I thought that my company’s hedgehog was car audio and the associated products specifically. As such, we were kind of stuck. But as time went on and we got more and more feedback from satisfied customers, I realized it is the way we go
about selling and installing the products in these categories, rather than the categories themselves, that define our hedgehog. It was the high standards of customer service and installation integrity that we had perfected so many years ago that made us special, and so, any category in which we could apply those skills was one that fit our business model.
What is the current health of this category within your market? Now, after the way I answered that last question, you might be saying to yourself, “Well, then you should be involved in every category, right?” Not necessarily, because identifying whether or not a category fits neatly into your business model is only half of the equation. You still need to identify whether or not your business model fits neatly into the market for that category. As we started looking into categories to expand into, we narrowed it down to four: motorcycle audio (yes, we considered this a new category), off-road vehicles, truck accessories and window tinting. We spent a lot of time researching these categories, calculating potential profit margins on their various products, amount of labor hours associated with installing them, their popularity in Google searches and around town as well as which other businesses
in our area were performing well, and which were not performing well, in this category already. The information that we gathered during this research was critical because it would have been easy for us to get involved in a new category in which we would not succeed without this information, especially when you consider that our only qualification so far was “can we do it well?” Our research showed us that we were already doing quite well in search results for motorcycle audio and there were very few serious players in our area, mostly just motorcycle repair shops that installed audio on the side. Profit margins were high and associated labor
strategy & tactics hours were decent as well. Off-road vehicles and UTVs in particular are huge in our area, and so is the competition! Within two miles of our location, there are four businesses that specialize in offroad vehicle performance and customization, which led us to believe that there would not be much market left for us in this category. The margins were low, but the labor to perform some of custom installations were very high, as long as we could attract that customer. Once we started looking into truck accessories, we realized just how easy it is to get this product. There were a lot of businesses around town offering this very broad category to their customers and the margins were pretty low. However, since most of the products could be drop shipped the next day, and they made great add-on sales with little specialized knowledge required, this seemed like a fairly easy category to get into. Window tint in Arizona is a necessity, just like remote starters are in the northeast, and room for us in this market was never a question. Profitability in this category is very high, but so is the efficiency and quality required if you want to compete seriously in the Arizona window tint market. None of us knew how to tint. So, after answering this question, we had rearranged our list of potential
new revenue streams to look more like this: motorcycle audio, truck accessories, window tint and off-road vehicles in order of most to least likely to be a successful venture.
Can your company get what it needs to be able to perform well in this category? Once we had identified what our hedgehog truly was and completed all of our market research on the categories we were interested in, it was time to look at what we need to be able to maintain our high standards of customer service and installation integrity as we enter these new categories. The questions to ask include: Are we appropriately staffed for this, or will we need to hire new talent with a specialized skillset? Are the products sold through distribution, or will we have to commit to a large buy-in to be able to fill the needs of the market? Do we have the tools and machinery necessary to perform the installations, or will we need to invest money to make this happen? This is a very important question to ask. Not doing so could result in your company jumping into a new category because you feel you can do it well, make money at it and be competitive, but still fail because you didn’t take into
consideration the investment you would need to be making. The product mix in the off-road/UTV market is very vast and was completely foreign to all of us. Some of the products we were interested in did require buying in, but we wouldn’t need any specialized tooling or machinery until we reached the level of wheels, tires and suspension, and one of our team members was very excited about this category! As I stated before, none of us were qualified to tint vehicles, so even though we knew we could buy the film through distribution, we lacked the technical expertise and the specialized tools to compete adequately in this very saturated market. Truck accessories was kind of a no brainer. It was all available through distribution and required little to no specialized knowledge or tooling to succeed. Being so closely related to car audio, motorcycle audio required only that our sales staff familiarize themselves with the various motorcycle models and our installation technicians with how to disassemble them. While the product that we wanted to offer in this category was available through distribution, the only way for us to be competitive on price in this market was to be a direct dealer. Therefore, a buy-in would need to be made in order to get that product. This new information did not change the order of the categories for us because the vendor we chose for motorcycle audio wanted more of a presence in our store already. Making a deal was easy. Truck accessories would be a simple add-on to existing sales. We knew we could be trained on window tinting when we were ready and we were content just learning about the off-road/UTV market for the time being.
Can your company afford to enter this market with a strong marketing presence? When you are new to a category and trying to make your presence known within its market, there are a lot of expenses you will incur, and you should take them into consideration when choosing which category to enter. Especially those categories in which there is
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already a lot of competition, you’ll need to invest some money in effective advertising so that the customers within that market will take notice of you and give you a shot at earning their business. Where this money is invested is entirely up to your marketing plan, but simply telling existing customers that you now offer this service won’t cut it. Once you do attract that new customer, however, you need to make sure you have the appropriate displays and signage to accurately demonstrate and communicate to that customer what you have to offer and how it can help fulfill their needs. Finally, you may need to invest some money into additional training, tooling or equipment to perform the installation of these products, as discussed above. Motorcycle audio was still the clear winner after this question, given that we were already doing very well in Google searches for this category and did not need much specialized training or tooling to perform the installations. All we needed was a simple display to showcase the products. Truck accessories was entirely new for us, so it would require some advertising budget, but the displays were free from our distributors and there was no training necessary to do these jobs well. Window tinting and off-road/
UTV failed every part of this question for pretty much the same reasons. They were entirely new to us and had not been marketed at all. We had no displays to help qualify customers on product selection and we required specialized tools and knowledge to be taken seriously in these categories. After conducting this very thorough, but necessary, research into which new categories we were going to expand into, we decided to first attack the motorcycle audio market with everything we had while doing our best to offer truck accessories to every truck-owning customer that we saw while we got our displays up. Once we had gotten a strong foothold in the motorcycle audio market, which took only about six months as Arizona has a very long riding season and large market, we set our sights on window tinting. I personally went to the Window Tint School in Florida to get a firsthand knowledge of how a quality tint job is done, which mistakes to look for, and how to price this service appropriately within our market. Shortly after this, we hired a professional tinter and started selling tint to everybody we could at an average of $450 per vehicle. Since this category was quickly taken on by a new employee, we went after the off-road vehicle market hard in the beginning of
2017 with a heavy focus on the very popular Toyota 4 Runner. With a fully equipped demo vehicle to show what we could do, we have taken off in this new category, expanding our skillset into installing custom front and rear bumpers, modifying fenders to accept snorkels, securing roof racks, tents and other overlanding gear and creatively wiring off-road lights to be weather proof and look like a factory option. In other words, we were hedge-hogging the heck out of the offroad category! I know that this seems like a lot of work. I realize that it does take some of the excitement out of jumping into a new category just because it sounds like fun! I am also very aware that if you follow this approach, you may end up choosing a different category than the one that you had hoped for. But if you do, it will be because it makes sense for your business, you can be competitive in your market and you’ll be able to acquire and afford everything you need to succeed and be profitable. And that was the goal, wasn’t it? This approach worked so well for us that we decided to drop the ‘car audio’ from our name in mid 2017 in favor of the much more inclusive and appropriate title of Handcrafted Auto, Marine and Off-Road. What will your new name be? facebook.com/MobileElectronics 47
Get ready for summer with tips and tricks for the upcoming outdoor season. WORDS BY DAVID MACKINNON
When your friend and coworker calls for help, the answer is always yes! Joey Knapp is tied up in California building amazing audio systems in Acura NSX and Lamborghinis. He asked me to help out with this latest Tech Today article. He is starting a new series entitled “Summer Fun” in which we will be looking at installations in various summertime vehicles. In this issue we are going to look at a few of the
48 Mobile Electronics May 2018
options available to add sound systems to a side-by-side vehicle. As always, we’ll take into account the importance of thoughtfully planned and executed installations as we work through each area of the upgrade. We would both like to thank Mike Bartells and his team at Extreme Audio in Midlothian and Mechanicsville, Va. for providing supporting images for this article.
What is a side-by-side? Depending on which part of the country you are in, side-by-side vehicles may be something you see every day on the way to work—or, for us city folk, something our friends with cottages talk about. A side-by-side is also called an SxS, or UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle). It is a combination of a golf cart, a John Deere Gator and a UTV. Most UTVs are less than 65 inches
Summer Fun: Side-by-side vehicle installations Battery.JPG - The owner of this 2017 Polaris RZR 1000 had a pair of Odyssey batteries and a True UTV-SB1-16 Smart Isolator installed before dropping the vehicle off to Extreme Audio
wide and feature a seating position like a car with a steering wheel on the left and foot pedals for braking and acceleration. The SxS is typically quite tall to allow for excellent ground clearance. This added height makes them more prone to roll-overs when cornering aggressively. As such, they all include a strong roll cage to protect the driver and passengers. This roll cage can serve as an excellent location to mount speakers and to upgrade lighting solutions.
Electrical System: Alternators Unlike a car or truck, the electrical system on a UTV is fairly simple and limited in current delivery. Many vehicles include a stator instead of an alternator that provides 40 to 50 amps of current. Just like a car or truck, the vehicle itself needs that current to operate the engine management computer, ignition system, instrument cluster and factory headlight system. Thankfully, numerous companies offer high-output alternator kits for all the popular side-by-side vehicles. These kits include 60- to 75-amp alternators and all the brackets and cable required to install the system on the vehicle.
A JL Audio MBT-CRX Bluetooth Controller / Receiver mounted in the dash of the RZR 1000 makes it easy for the client to select music from his smartphone.
Electrical System: Batteries The next consideration for the electrical system would be the battery. Powersports vehicles are often left unused for weeks or months at a time. This can cause batteries to become discharged if not properly maintained. Unless the owner has a high-quality desulfating battery charger and conditioner like the CTEK CT5 Powersport or XS 0.8, chances are the battery may need to be replaced before you begin the installation. For those of you who install a lot of remote starters, you may have a battery tester on-site. If not, it might be worth looking into adding one to your arsenal of tools. Make sure the battery is good before you start the installation. If it isn’t, an upgrade like the Odyssey Extreme and Performance Series is a great option.
Electrical System: Dual Battery Solutions If your client will be listening to the sound system without running the engine on the vehicle, seriously consider adding a secondary electrical system with an isolation solenoid or relay. Once the client stops the vehicle, the sound system can run from the second battery for as long as it lasts. When it’s time to head home, the factory battery will allow the vehicle to start and begin the process of charging the secondary battery. The last thing you want is for a client to be stranded because he or she was enjoying the sound system you installed.
Source Unit Options When it comes to source units, you need to consider that the radio is going to get dusty, dirty and maybe even wet. As such, a weather-resistant marine source unit is a good choice for a conventional solution. Fusion, Aquatic AV and Clarion all have some great marine source options. If the client does have room for a full-sized radio, then a mechless solution might be perfect for them. These radios are typically much smaller and are available in compact rectangular and round shapes from Rockford Fosgate, JL Audio, Wet Sounds, Clarion, Infinity, MTX and Fusion. facebook.com/MobileElectronics 49
tech today A pair of JL Audio water-resistant marine amplifiers power the RZR 1000 audio system.
The last option is to forego a source unit altogether and use a Bluetooth receiver to drive the sound system. The JL Audio MBT-CRX and MBT-RZ, the Wet Sounds WW-BT-UR and the Wirez BTR-M are popular options to let the client use his or her smartphone as the source for the sound system.
Source Unit Installation Considerations One thing to keep in mind when working on a UTV is the potential for water damage. Many off-roaders like to ford creeks and streams in their vehicles, plow through swampy terrain or simply play in the mud. Keep this in mind as you make your source unit suggestion. If the vehicle is going to be two feet deep in water or mud, you will want to choose a source unit that is weather resistant on the front and the back. For those who perform a lot of marine installations, you will be familiar with the wire loop concept. When you are installing a source unit or amplifier, run the wiring from the device downward before it goes up.
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This prevents any water that gets into the harness from feeding directly into the device.
Side-by-Side Vehicle Amplifiers Chances are pretty good that you will be installing at least one amplifier on your client’s vehicle. Depending on how they will use the vehicle, you may need to consider a completely water resistant amplifier solution like the JL Audio MX-Series or the Wet Sounds STX Micro units. If you can choose a mounting location that will keep the amplifier dry, then a marine amplification solution like the Rockford Fosgate Punch and Power Series amp, the ARC Audio Moto and KS Mini amps, Kicker KM or KXM amps, Fusion, Wet Sounds, Memphis Car Audio or the JL Audio M or MHD amps will work great.
Amplifier Installation Philosophies Just as with a boat, you aren’t going to want to mount amplifiers to a piece of MDF or plywood. Wood isn’t going to handle the moist/damp/wet conditions that side-by-side vehicles
Amp mount.JPG - The amplifiers are mounted to a sheet of ABS plastic that has been cut to fit the area under the hood of the vehicle.
encounter. If you are on your install game, you will have ABS, Acrylic or HDPE sheets in stock for making speaker mounting adapter rings for cars and trucks. These materials are the perfect choice for an amp rack for your client’s little off-roader. The mounting brackets and amplifiers should be mounted using stainless steel hardware. If the vehicle is going to get dirty, you may want to opt for simple hex-head bolts instead of Phillips, Torx or hex-head cap screws. If you are affixing stainless bolts into stainless nuts, a dab of anti-seize is a good idea. If that sound counterintuitive to preventing the hardware from coming loose, look at nuts with nylon locking inserts.
Amplifier and System Wiring Once you have the head unit and amplifier locations chosen, you are going to need to run wiring. A side-byside is as rough an environment as we encounter, so making sure that every electrical connection is both electrically conductive and mechanically secure is crucial. Regarding connections, it’s best
Summer Fun: Side-by-side vehicle installations The JL Audio SB-POL-RZG2SPKR/MX650 Stealthbox speaker enclosures bolt into the kick panel area of the RZR and include illuminated MX-Series 6.5-inch coaxial drivers.
to use closed-face ring terminals where possible to reduce the chance of corrosion. For extra peace of mind, once the wire is crimped into the terminal, filling the connection with solder can further prevent the chance of corrosion. Finally, covering the entire assembly with adhesive-lined heat shrink tubing is the icing on the cake and not only provides additional corrosion protection but adds physical support to the joint. Electrical connections to the source unit, amplifier, speakers and factory wiring share similar challenges and can all benefit from reliable soldered connections and proper protection. Securing the wiring to the vehicle is also important. You can use nylon or ABS cable ties to hold bundles of wire together and secure them to the vehicle. Being a bit overzealous with the ties can help to prevent the harnesses from buzzing and rattling as your client bounces down the trails. Many of you are unabashed fans of automotive grade cloth tapes. These PET cloth and fleece tapes are a fantastic way to bundle wiring and prevent vibrations and damage. Keep in mind your application. You will want something that will secure wiring, but you don’t want it to trap moisture when things get crazy.
Side-by-Side Speaker Selection When it comes to picking a speaker solution, you will want to look at a marine speaker solution. UTVs are used outdoors, so the speakers will be directly exposed to the sun. A product with an ASTM D4329 rating means that the speakers have been exposed to high levels of ultraviolet light without experiencing accelerated degradation. What does this mean? The plastics and rubber used to make the speakers will not crack, chalk, yellow or fade as easily as products that don’t use UV resistant materials. If you are mounting speakers that come in an enclosure—be it plastic or painted fiberglass—you will want to make sure the enclosure shares the same UV resistant materials and design. The second and perhaps most important consideration is to offer your client a true marine speaker.
There are a lot of speakers out there with marine cosmetics (white) that don’t have a weather resistant design. If the speaker is a conventional coaxial design with its tweeter on a post, the key item to look for is a flexible seal between the woofer and the post. Without this, water, debris or dirt could get into the motor structure and cause rubbing and eventually lead to corrosion. Another important feature of a marine-specific speaker solution is a way to prevent water from collecting at the button of the grille assembly. When the speaker gets wet, you will
want any water that hits the cone to drain away completely. Almost every brand has marine speakers available in varying performance and price levels. Keep in mind that the UTV is a noisy environment and the driver and passengers will (or at least should) be wearing a helmet. The bottom line, the system is going to play at high volume levels. Choose a speaker that is matched to the amplifier’s power production capabilities and ensure that the sensitivity controls on the amp are set in such a way that the client can’t overdrive the amp significantly. facebook.com/MobileElectronics 51
tech today The JL Audio SB-POL-RZG2R/10TW3 Stealthbox mounts behind the rear firewall of the RZR 1000 and includes a mesh grille to replace the cover of an access panel in the center of the vehicle.
UTV Speaker Solutions Powersport speaker systems are one of the fastest growing segments of our industry. Rockford Fosgate, JL Audio, Kicker, Memphis Car Audio, SSV Works and MTX all manufacture vehicle-specific speaker and subwoofer installation products for UTVs. These companies and many more offer universal speaker pods that work well as rear speakers in UTV applications. If there is a speaker kit readily available for your client’s vehicle, that solution will likely offer the best bang for their buck regarding performance. Companies offer dash, kick panel and front roll-bar speaker pods for the front and speaker pods and custom enclosures for rear speakers. Another option is an overhead speaker panel that replaces the roof on the vehicle. These roof solutions often include a mounting location for a source unit or additional lighting. Keep in mind that you would be adding a significant amount of weight well above the vehicle’s center of gravity. A roof solution may negatively affect the vehicles handling and safety.
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Another popular audio system solution is to install a Bluetooth sound bar on the roll cage cross bar in front of the driver. The Stealth 10 Ultra HD from Wet Sounds, the MUDSYS bars from MTX, The Bazooka Party Bar and similar products from JBL, Infinity and Memphis Car Audio make adding a sound system quick and easy. The majority of these solutions include a Bluetooth receiver for A2DP audio streaming and feature a built-in amplifier. All you need to do is mount the bar and run power to it. If the UTV came with a sound system, you may be able to use existing speaker locations with a drop-in upgrade or modify them to house a larger speaker. Don’t forget about water and UV exposure when you are constructing new speaker mounts or modifying existing solutions.
The Importance of Adding a Subwoofer As with a car or truck system, adding a subwoofer to a UTV is a great way to improve the overall performance of the system dramatically. The subwoofer reproduces low-frequency
information at much higher output levels than component and coaxial speakers. Of equal importance, having a subwoofer in the system alleviates the need for the smaller speaker to try to reproduce information below 80Hz. As such, this reduces cone excursion and subsequently reduces distortion. The bottom line is that a system with a subwoofer can play louder, sound better and potentially last longer than one without. Just as with speaker pods, many companies manufacture vehicle-specific subwoofer system for UTVs. These enclosures typically include a shallow-mount subwoofer and are designed to bolt to the vehicle with minimal modifications. Depending on the vehicle, these subwoofer systems may fit up in the dash or under or behind the seats. Keep in mind that adding a subwoofer is going to put a significant load on the vehicle’s electrical system. You will want to ensure that everything is up to the challenge of providing another 10 or 20 amps of current.
Summer Fun: Side-by-side vehicle installations
Selling Your Client an Audio System Upgrade The ideal situation would be to have a UTV in your showroom that features the products you sell and demonstrates the capabilities of your team. Combining a little custom work with some bolt-in solutions will give your clients a taste of what’s available for their vehicle. If you want to give your clients several options to choose from, here’s a little trick. Install a six-channel DSP with externally selectable presets. A unit like the ARC Audio PSM is perfect for this application because it is extremely small and the circuit boards have a conformal coating that resists corrosion. Set up three systems so that the client can choose from a Good, Better or Best type of system.
Here are some system examples that will provide a dramatic improvement at each step.
Preset 1 – Source unit, amplifier and front speakers set for full-range operation. Preset 2 – Source unit, amplifier, front and rear speakers set for fullrange operation with 0.5 hours of system tuning. Preset 3 – Source unit, dual amplifiers, front and rear speakers and a subwoofer with one hour of tuning. Of course, you could add the subwoofer to preset two and increase the tuning time to create a fourth option.
If buying a UTV is a bit much (and for most of us, it most certainly would be a considered a huge investment), you may be able to work out a deal with a local powersports dealership. Talk to them about letting you keep a vehicle in your showroom. If they sell the vehicle, they pay you for the gear and work, then bring another vehicle to replace it. This is also a great way to establish a relationship with the dealer for lighting and accessory upgrades.
Kick the Season Off with a Bang! The snow is finally done, and for those in central and northern climates, our clients are getting out their boats and four-wheeled toys. Make sure you are ready for the season with a display of powersports products in your store. facebook.com/MobileElectronics 53
SUBMITTED BY : OSCAR RODRIGUEZ, OSCAR’S AUDIO DESIGNS, CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS
Not every vehicle that comes to a new car audio facility is there for a complete system. Sometimes the client just needs prior work freshened up. That’s the case with this 2012 Transformers Edition Camaro that rolled into Oscar Rodriguez’s shop, Oscar’s Audio Designs. The owner of the Camaro previously had an audio system installed in the car, but now wanted a new look. Capitalizing on the Transformers theme, Oscar chose to take the design of the trunk up a few notches. The floor of the trunk now features a large acrylic accent piece that has a Transformers inspired vinyl graphic. Parts of the graphic were cut away to reveal lighting underneath. The trunk lid was also modified to have the same design on a similar piece of acrylic. The vinyl on this piece was similarly cut to allow lighting to be exposed. The final parts of the transformation were new side pieces for the enclosure and amplifier. These pieces were redesigned to include even more lighting for a spectacular look.
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SUBMITTED BY: TONY PASQUINI, AUTOMODS, SARASOTA, FLA.
The owner of this 2017 Ferrari 458 Italia chose wisely when he selected Automods to help protect his car from unwanted speed detection. The Automods team, led by Tony Pasquini, developed a comprehensive plan to protect the car from both radar and laser. The protection centers around the Escort 9500ci Platinum system. The front of the Ferrari is protected from laser attack by two laser shifters mounted in custom fabricated housings. The housings were painted with automotive grade paint and were mounted in a way that allows undetectable removal. The rear of the vehicle is protected from laser reading by a similar pair of laser shifters. These were both mounted in
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a single housing that flanks the license plate. The same automotive grade paint was used to paint the rear housing. In the interior, the client is alerted via a display from the Escort system. The Automods team integrated the display into the rearview mirror. When the system is powered down, the mirror looks stock; when on, the display is visible. The coolest part of this installation is the integration of the control unit for the Escort system. The team came up with a two-motion system for hiding the controller. In the blink of an eye, the console-mounted controller goes from visible to hidden by a sliding door. Check out the video on the Automods website to see it in action!
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from the President
A LIFE OF LEARNING There are many ways to learn new strategies and absorb knowledge during lectures and trainings. Continually putting these tactics into practice as you study new processes is essential for personal and professional growth. Not knowing how to do something can leave you feeling less than adequate. That feeling is compounded when it’s your job to know it. Knowledge truly is the power behind your success, and there are many ways to learn. If you are like most of us, learning is a result of just figuring it out on your own and using every available resource to find a solution to your problem. Taking the solitary approach can be satisfying, but you may have to endure several mistakes before you find what works best. This takes time and money and depending on your situation, may cause others to doubt your ability. And, you won’t get the benefit of learning from the mistakes of others. Regardless, if you’re attempting to learn something new at a lecture, class, or training, or trying to find a better way with your current process, knowing how best to absorb knowledge will help you reach your goals.
LISTENING Learning by hearing allows you to pick up the experience of others and put into practice what you have heard, or to learn from their past mistakes. Hearing someone tell their story helps you relate personally, although just hearing it may not be enough. If the presenter is less than descriptive, you may be left to your own interpretation of what you have heard when implementing this newfound knowledge. This can lead to mistakes that leave you less that satisfied.
SEEING IS BELIEVING Seeing how it’s done is the next step after listening to an explanation. A visual representation can make all the difference. While hearing may leave you wondering, when you see it done step-by-step, you have a better chance of figuring it out for yourself. Watching video representations of a process will get your further down the road of understanding. But seeing may not leave you fully believing. There is still room for some interpretation.
MODELING OTHERS In my opinion, there’s nothing better than a live demonstration, and modeling what you have seen and heard with the
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instructor. This allows real-time questions and answers to cement your understanding. Think about the last time you participated in a learning process that was hands-on. You heard the instructor and saw their presentation. Both were most likely helpful and provided a great foundation to let you model the process with the instructor and others who may have provided input. When you left this environment, you were ready to put your newfound knowledge into practice.
PRACTICE UNTIL YOU’RE PROFICIENT This new knowledge requires practice. Take the time to repeat the process until you feel you have become proficient. Once you have mastered the strategy you’ve learned, you can take some creative license to make it your own. Be cautious in your quest to make it yours. Making it your own should never include shortcuts that diminish the quality. Ensure your modification to what you’ve learned does not sacrifice quality. Your reputation is not something you want to have to rebuild. Remember, your work not only represents your business, it represents our industry.
PASSING ON WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED Learning from your peers is only the beginning. Now that you have learned from others and added your own ideas, consider passing your knowledge on to others. Passing on what you have learned will help others embrace the perfection you have mastered. When you take time to teach, you will find another level of learning. Teaching is a rewarding endeavor. The peer to peer learning process is the foundation of KnowledgeFest and why so many come to learn and leave the event energized and ready to conquer challenges in their own businesses. Make every effort to learn something new every day, week and month. Never let your quest for learning be put on the shelf. And make every effort to be part of any learning experience offered. If you have not attended a local dealer or distributor training, or made plans to attend KnowledgeFest, now is the time. Go with a mission and goal to learn what you lack, share the knowledge and become the professional you were born to be.
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