Mobile Electronics Magazine October Issue

Page 1

Sept/Oct. 2020



In just two years, and with only one man at the helm, Devine Concepts has created and continues to nurture an unparalleled boutique experience in southwest Florida

PLUS What’s it Take to Win?

Top professionals discuss commitment to craft and the personal flair that’s necessary to win an Industry Award

In Focus: Which backup camera is right for your customer? Toy Time: Retailers discuss capitalizing on an increase in marine, ATV and motorcycle audio buying trends


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Volume 52// Issue 09


20 20 Retail News/Who’s Who 54 Installs



6 Editor’s Forum 8 Feedback


Ad Index

14// What’s Happening: Aiming High

12-volt professionals discuss what it takes become the recipient of an Industry Award—and how candidates can work to stand out among the rest.

28// Real World Retail: Devine Concepts

By cultivating brand recognition and providing a boutique experience for clients, Devine Concepts continues to grow year over year as a one-man shop specializing in radar, safety and car audio.

46// Strategy & Tactics: Making Waves

Retailers have seen increased spending on marine audio, ATV and Jeep categories due to the pandemic. Here’s how shops can capitalize on these categories and expand offerings.

50// Tech Today: Backup Cameras in Vehicle Safety Systems, Part 1

Which backup camera system is best? Understand purpose, placement and specifications to help deliver the best possible solution to your clients.

On the Cover COVER DESIGN: Ana Ramirez While narrowing in on the finer details, Adam Devine of Devine Concepts seeks to provide a high-quality, memorable experience for customers. As he enters his third year in business, Devine hopes to hire a staff so he can focus more on developing and expanding his footprint in southwestern Florida.

4  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

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editor’s forum

TAKING TIME OUT FOR A PANDEMIC THIS YEAR CONTINUES TO BRING NEW BEGINNINGS TO OUR INDUSTRY— AND ENDINGS. When the year began, many of us celebrated. We may have taken time to reflect on the past year and our performance related to both failures and accomplishments. For some reason, we tend to view the first of January with a renewed sense of commitment to our future selves. As the year progressed, we discovered life might not be unfolding the way we hoped. While pondering global issues is great for an evening of pontification on Facebook, it’s far from what each of us has endured over the past few months. I don’t believe any of us could have predicted or even imagined these unusual circumstances. As of this writing, Yelp disclosed that, as of the end of August, over 160,000 businesses indicated they’ve closed. That was down from the 180,000 that closed at the very beginning of the pandemic. This represents a 23 percent increase in the number of closures since mid-July. In addition to monitoring closed businesses, Yelp also considers the businesses whose closures have become permanent. That number has steadily increased throughout the past six months, reaching nearly 100,000, representing 60 percent of closed businesses that won’t be reopening.

additional income from stimulus-related unemployment benefits. While that has since dried up, the increase in sales have not. In fact, they continue to increase despite industry shortages, continued restrictions and unemployment numbers. It seems that our industry continues to benefit partially from pent-up demand and from an influx of new customers who are spending on vehicle technology rather than concerts or theme parks. And with reduced air travel, people are upgrading for family road trips.

UNTIL WE ARE ALL ABLE TO MEET ONCE AGAIN FACE-TO-FACE, I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE THE TIME TO ATTEND AS MANY WEBINARS AS YOU ARE ABLE. ALSO, TAKE THE TIME TO PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL SOMEONE AND ENCOURAGE THEM. There have also been other new beginnings. New terms have entered our conversation: social distancing, flattening the curve and community spread. None of them should appear on your favorites list. In addition, we have learned to Zoom, or use video conferencing and webinars, instead of meeting face-to-face. This new trend is being used to attend schools, have government meetings, and for our industry, provide continuing education.

We have also witnessed businesses scaling back, filing for bankruptcy protection, and closing for good on a scale that few have seen before. Names like Brooks Brothers, Gold’s Gym, Neiman Marcus, JC Penny and Hertz, to name a few, have all filed for bankruptcy protection. Regardless of who you are, chances are that scaling back and business closures have affected you in some way. I am thankful that very few in our industry have had to close. The reports we received revealed a handful of specialty retailers that haven’t made it through the pandemic.

This shift in socialization has allowed our industry to stay connected despite having to miss events like KnowledgeFest, SEMA and even CES. On a more regional level, some distributors have used Zoom-like technologies to host events with good success. I have personally spoken as a panelist, keynote and presenter at countless events. I can tell you firsthand that while I appreciate the opportunities, I truly miss the face-to-face presentations which allow greater interaction with the audience. But for now, I am thankful for every opportunity to connect with other industry professionals regardless of the challenges that webinars present.

However, in the midst of tragedy, our industry has flourished. Many businesses had to temporarily close at the beginning of the pandemic. Some were able to operate as essential businesses, but with limited opportunity since many potential customers were staying home. But the vast majority reported that once they’d reopened, business not only went up, but way up. Many attributed this initially to stimulus checks and

Until we are all able to meet once again face-to-face, I challenge you to take the time to attend as many webinars as you are able. Also, take the time to pick up the phone and call someone and encourage them. As you do, you will find that all of us have a story and all of us have learned lessons that will be part of some great conversations when we all can meet again. Until then, stay safe and healthy!

6  September/October 2020



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 feedback


EDITORIAL Rosa Sophia Managing Editor 978.645.6466 • Chris Cook Editor-at-Large Creative Layout and Design: Ana Ramirez Contributing Editors: Jamie Sorcher and Laura Kemmerer

THE PRESSURE’S ON As the sales boom continues, retailers recommend leaving gaps in the shop’s schedule to help account for any installation that might go beyond the estimated time. “Stick to it. The more you put in, the more you’ll get back.” Jaime Palafox, Agoura Autosounds, Agoura Hills, Calif. “This is a new environment. If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s stock those shelves to the max. I’ve never run out of stock before—until now—and the demand is there.” Darren Thomas, Audio Works, Newark, Del. “Remember to try to leave gaps in your schedule to allow for job overruns. It’s so busy that we’ve been scheduling too tight, and this can really throw your appointments off if one car goes over your estimated time.” Bryan Nobuyuki, The Best Guys, Concord, Calif. “Focus on the quality of sale and fulfill the customer’s needs based off what they tell you. That has created tons of repeat customers who know we’ll go the extra mile for them. Use the tools at your disposal—the DM-RTA is an excellent tool. Once you show the customer a live video of pink noise with a mic in the car, then you know what you’re working with and what they’re missing. It’s a great way to start a system design. But, overall, keeping the customers’ needs above anything else has ensured us some great tickets compared to our pre-COVID days.” Pedro Rodriguez, Car Toys, Frisco, Texas

8  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

Published by TM

mobile electronics association

Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • Tony Frangiosa, Chairman of the Board, MEA 1) Title of publication: Mobile Electronics. 2) Publication No.: 957-170 6. (ISSN#1523-763X) 3) Copyright © 2019by the Mobile Electronics 4) Date of filing: Oct.1, 2019.5) Frequency of issue: Monthly. 6) No. of issues published annually: 127) Annual subscription price: $35.00. 8) Periodical postage paid at LawrenceMA and additional mailing offices. 9) Complete mailing address of known officeof publication: 85 FlagshipDrive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 10) Completemailing address of the headquarters or general business offices of the publisher:85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 11) Full names and completemailing address of Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor: Publisher: Chris Cook,85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845; Editor/Managing Editor:Solomon Daniels/Rosa Sophia, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 0184512) Owner: MERA, Mobile Electronics Retailers Association, 85 Flagship Drive,Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 13) Known bondholders, mortgages, andother 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 ofPublication: Mobile Electronics. 16) Issue date for circulation data below: October2018. 6. a) Total no. copies (net press run) Average: 10,237 Single Issue; 12,826.b) Paid/Requested mail subscriptions Average: 6039, Single Issue: 7346. c) Paidsales through dealers, etc.; Average: 0. Single issue; d) Requested distributed byother classes of mail: Average: 435, Single issue: 520. Total paid and/or requestedcirculation; Average 6039. Single issue: 7346. e) Nonrequested distribution bymail; Average: 3593Single issue: 4223. Free distribution through other classesof mail: Average: 0, Single issue: 0. f) Non-requested distribution outside the mail;Average: 267. Single issue: 750. g) Total nonrequested distribution; Average3860, Single issue: 4973. h) Total distribution; Average: 9,899. Single issue: 12,319.i) Copies not distributed; h1) Office use, leftovers; Average: 338. Single Issue; 507j) Total; Average: 10,237. Single issue; 12.826Percent paid and/or requestedcirculation; Average: 61.01%. Single issue 59.63%. 17) POSTMASTER: Please sendaddress changes to Mobile Electronics, 85 Flagship Drive Suite F, North AndoverMA 01845-9998

 stats


Remote start season is an especially busy time for many shops. For our most recent survey, we asked you—the industry—to tell us what you’re expecting this season. Here are the results.

Does your store sell remote starters?

What’s your preferred brand of remote starter?

10  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020



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SITE TO SEE: Google Business Now Claiming your business on every review site is one of many important steps when it comes to managing your local business in today’s digital world. One to consider is Google My Business. Your Business Profile on Google gives you a presence and helps your company show up when it matters most: the moment customers are searching for your business, products or services. With a Google My Business account, you can also see and connect with your customers, post updates to your Business Profile, and see how customers are interacting with your business on Google.


If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that office work can be successfully managed virtually. Microsoft Teams will help maintain camaraderie among coworkers and ensure projects move forward. Teams allows you to chat, meet, call, learn and collaborate. For meetings, there’s a convenient online “join” option so team members can be part of any pop-up meetings or brainstorm sessions from wherever they are based. Turn video on so your team can interact face-to-face and feel more connected, or just use the audio feature. There’s no doubt that people miss connecting when working remotely, but this brings teams together and creates opportunities for everything from daily check-ins to virtual huddles.


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There are a lot of major characters from the 1984 hit movie, “The Karate Kid,” which make a return in this highly rated Netflix series, “Cobra Kai”—including Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and John Kreese (Martin Kove). Obviously the focus is karate, but another big aspect to the show are the cars! Check out the 1947 Ford Super Deluxe convertible, a 1991 Pontiac Firebird and a 2009 Dodge Challenger. This is a binge-watcher’s dream with episodes just about 30 minutes each. Definitely worth a look!

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 What’s Happening

14  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

Top industry award winners agree that in order to win an award, a candidate must show dedication to craft, and they must add a personal flair to their video presentation to set themselves apart.

Aiming High

Demonstrating Enthusiasm

12-volt professionals discuss what it takes become the recipient of an Industry Award—and how candidates can work to stand out among the rest. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA Upholding high standards and being a mentor to younger people in the industry are important aspects to being an industry award winner, according to Matt Schaeffer, who was named Installer of the Year in 2016. He added that applicants learn a lot simply going through the process. “It’s about organization, patience and commitment,” he said. “That’s what helps you get through. Right now, we’re trying to keep up with demand.” Schaeffer, who is lead fabricator at Sound FX in Lewes, Del., noted that the COVID19 pandemic has sparked a great deal of demand. “People are bored, looking for things to do, so I think that’s why we’ve seen an uptick in sales and installation. I do 360 degrees of the whole process— sales and installs.” Everything is a learning experience, every day, Schaeffer said. As a candidate in the industry awards, “you’re forced to see your progression or where you were the prior year. Hopefully, you see an evolution from project to project, because

you’re learning how to do things differently, how to be more organized.” For Schaeffer, this was the best part of the whole process. When it comes to choosing whether or not to put your name in the running, he added, “At a minimum, it’s the best thing to help you progress because you’re forced to evaluate yourself.” This will show the applicant his or her growth year after year—which can only contribute to personal and professional development. “People who go through this process will acquire skills they didn’t have before,” he added. Evolving Within the Process While Schaeffer developed photography and videography skills while working through his own candidacy in the industry awards, Ethan Blau of Sound Wave Customs in Virginia Beach, Va. said his business still utilizes strategies learned from other award winners—including Schaeffer. Both Blau and Schaeffer

Elias Ventura, Top Sales Professional of Safe and Sound Mobile Electronics in Manassas, Va., said that three factors stand out to him among the ranks of industry award winners: “I feel like someone who wins an award is passionate about the work they do, whether they’re a tech or a salesperson,” he explained. “They represent the industry in such a way that anything they do is exemplary. Not that it has to be done a certain way, but it represents and exemplifies our industry to the fullest.” Ventura added that leading by example is another trait of an award winner. “In addition, you have to be driven and motivated to do the job. When I was looking at videos in the past, what stood out to me was the excitement level, the enthusiasm,” he said, adding that he feels candidates should demonstrate excitement for what they do in their video presentations. “If I’m looking at a sales pro candidate’s video and I feel like I’m getting sucked into their excitement or their ‘wow’ factor, then they’re doing their job drawing me in,” he said. “Having a little bit of flair and excitement definitely draws in the viewer.” While there are many quality videos that provide lots of information, Ventura said that the videos which stand out to him are the ones in which the candidate has projected excitement which in turn energizes the viewer.


 What’s Happening agreed “the devil is in the details,” and the awards process is about showcasing “who you are” both personally and professionally. Among other awards, Sound Wave Customs was named Retailer of the Year for a single store in 2018. “You’re putting yourself under a magnifying glass, and you’re looking at your own flaws. It’s hard to do.” He recalled Schaeffer’s photography class at KnowledgeFest, adding that Sound Wave Customs still implements techniques he learned in the class, such as watermarking photos. The process, he added, helped him grow as a business owner. “It’s helped me improve as a person, and improve my company and how we implement techniques,” he said. “Developing relationships is also an important part of business. Those relationships can help your business grow, and theirs. We have lots of partnerships with vendors, distributors and other shop owners.” Because of that network, Blau said they can call on one another for help, for a part, or for information. The awards process also sparked a competition between Blau and Ata Ehdaivand of Absolute Electronix in Rockville, Md., when the two decided to find out who could make the best-looking customer restroom. “We did it to make things better. It made our companies better,” Blau said, adding that becoming a candidate for an award is not just about winning—it’s about improving as a professional and taking a closer look at all facets of an individual’s progress or a business’s presentation. “You can’t lose focus with that,” Blau added. “You have to do it for the right reasons.” Demonstrating Commitment and Passion Tim Baillie of F7LTHY Fabrications, formerly Trick Factory, in Coquitlam, British Columbia, was named Installer of the Year for 2019. He feels the award has helped add credibility to the shop, and it’s especially helped with upper-end clients. Baillie was prepared to teach classes this year, he added, but COVID-19 interrupted the plans. As a fabricator, Baillie does a

lot of CAD work, using Fusion 360 and 3D printing. He continues to learn more every day. “I’ve been working with Fusion 360 for going on a year now, and I probably know about one percent of what a knowledgeable person knows about the software,” he admitted. “I’m always trying to expand my horizons. We just got into resin 3D printing, which is a different material that produces finished products right out of the printer.” Recently, Baillie has been working on prototyping and creating one-off items for custom builds. As of this writing, a Land Rover Discovery is in the shop getting a bespoke interior which has required “a lot of prototyping skills,” according to Baillie. Additionally, the team used the 3D printer to build an unusual taillight with various planes and angles for a custom Chopper. “The learning curve is pretty intense,” he added. Baillie noted that he is very detail-oriented in his work. Some of the details his shop includes are so small that clients might not see them unless they’re directly shown. “It all goes back to reinforcing credibility, demonstrating quality and showing dedication to my craft,” he said. Applicants should make their video presentation personal. “The install portion of the video is very minor in terms of the points being awarded. Just spending the time to make the video quality a bit better is huge,” he added. While video quality is certainly not a main factor in deciding winners, he said, “If you want it, you have to put time into it and

16  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

demonstrate your effort.” Baillie, Schaeffer and Blau all recommended that candidates start working on their presentations as soon as the awards for the year have been presented. In an ordinary year, Blau noted, this would be just after Dallas KnowledgeFest. Start putting together content. Ask yourself, Baillie said, “Is there something in this build I can use for my video? If you want to win, work at it.” Navigating Challenges and Maintaining Standards After increasing his skills in videography, Schaeffer eventually reached the point where most of his clients are acquired as a result of the videos he posts online and some come from great distances. Most recently, a Jeep was shipped from Russia and is receiving a custom audio build and off-road accessories. The client found the shop after he saw a video Schaeffer posted about a job he’d completed. “Everything is handmade and built for this vehicle,” Schaeffer said, adding that his specialty is integration into OEM design. He said his installation philosophy and focus on integration hasn’t changed. “I would hope other installers [and award winners] wouldn’t change their philosophy, either, but my skills and thought processes have had a natural progression. Evolution is important in any field. If you’re committed to winning, you’re forced to be better and push harder.” Candidates need to be committed to work hard throughout the year. “Anything that’s worth winning or worth doing takes

Aiming High


 What’s Happening

What’s it Take to Win? “Answer all the required questions. No matter how good your video is or how entertaining it may seem, you first have to give the judges exactly what they asked for. From there, try to focus on relaying your own style and personality. Separate yourself from your competitors somehow. Sell yourself to the judges.” Robert Kowatch, Top 20 Sales Pro for 2019, Perfectionist Auto Sound, Anchorage, Alaska “Be honest. The staff of any store has to share not only the goal for the store, but also have a personal willingness to be better. You can’t ‘make’ someone want to be more than what they feel like they can be.” Ata Ehdaivand, Top 50 Installer, Absolute Electronix, Top 12 Retailer, Best Online Presence for 2019, Rockville, Md. “Let the passion for your work shine through. Also, be yourself when presenting your work and be polite. Keep building up our industry.” Miguel Vega, Top 12 Installer for 2019, Titan Motoring, Nashville, Tenn. “The three most obvious aspects it takes to win an industry award is dedication to customer service, professionalism and growth. It involves continuing year-to-year to present the new skills you’ve learned and how you have honed the skills you already possess. Most importantly, it takes the will to want to compete against yourself to be better in your craft every year.” Cameron Powell, Top 50 Installer, LIS Audio, 2019 Top 50 Retailer, Spring Hill, Kan.

Even after winning an award, a shop or individual should continue improving and upholding the standards of the award, according to Ethan Blau, who said he’s considering redoing his business’s showroom yet again.

hard work,” he said. Goal-setting is an important part of the process, Blau noted. “If you have to ask for votes, it’s also pushing you beyond your boundaries, and you’re talking to fellow professionals at the store and manufacturer level,” he said. “Maybe you’ll develop a business relationship with them. Maybe they’ll call you for advice or looking for a part. You wouldn’t have made that call otherwise.” The awards process forces candidates to network, which he stated is a very important part of business growth. “It strengthens everyone. It’s not about popularity. You have to look at the bigger picture.” When the candidate wins, the award must be marketed to the consumer as well—not just to the industry. “I think we have to get better with that industry-wide,” Blau said, adding that businesses should use the awards to show customers their level of dedication and commitment to the industry. Developing as Industry Professionals Award winners must still continue bettering themselves, according to Blau. “I still work just as hard every day to improve. My best advice is to look at the last six months or year of installs. Take a look at your showroom. Try to be better

18  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

each year. Especially with the events of 2020—and business has been up over 100 percent for us—I’ve been focusing on improving and looking at redoing the shop and showroom again for the third or fourth time,” he said. “I want to keep raising the bar.” When Baillie recently acted as a judge in the process, he said the presentations that stood out most to him were the ones that touched on the personal side of the candidate. “That’s what I pushed in my own video,” he said. “For me, it was my health story, losing 250 pounds, fixing myself. It’s important to set yourself apart.” When Baillie spoke with a couple candidates who didn’t make the grade, he advised one individual to take a look at their video. “The answers were very cookie-cutter. He basically gave the same answers as everyone else. Those who had heartfelt reasons and personal stories scored better.” Common answers, Baillie said, include comments about “doing a quality job” or “making customers happy. You have to say something different and it has to be heartfelt and genuine.” Schaeffer said it takes patience and commitment to win. Candidates should always be themselves when presenting their answers in video format. “Try to articulate who you are, and showcase your work the best way you can,” he said, adding, “Don’t change for the camera.”

Aiming High


 retail news

Car-Tunes, Inc. Revamps Business Location with Installation Bays WORDS BY LAURA KEMMERER

To improve business workflow, CarTunes, Inc., located in Greenville, Miss., recently began construction on additional climate-controlled installation bays. According to shop owner Kimberly Trainer, the additional space will allow for housing long-running custom jobs, and in turn, the business will repurpose a section of the pre-existing install bays into a dedicated fabrication room. “This will allow us to add additional router lifts and have a full-time saw table to save time while creating custom parts,” Trainer said. “It will also give us additional space to keep more of the larger materials and supplies on hand. Once construction is completed, an updated paint job to the existing storefront and parking lot reseal and striping will finish off the curb appeal.” The construction is brand new, but will remain connected to the existing building. Most importantly, it will allow the shop to take on larger projects, housing them inside the building. For example, if a boat requires a project that takes days

to a week, it can be kept safely inside the building, giving the customer additional peace of mind. “The entrance door for the vehicles will be 16 feet tall and 16 feet wide,” Trainer said, adding that the new building will be able to accommodate larger boats, 18-wheelers, farm equipment and RVs. In the past, the team had to work on large projects outdoors in the weather. “It can be scorching here,” she added. “It limits productivity when you’re overheated. Bringing that into a climate-controlled environment, you can still work on whatever you’re working on without having to worry about the elements. That will be the biggest benefit.” To carry out this work, Trainer did her due diligence and planned well in advance—up to a couple of years ago, in fact. She eventually found the right contractor who could do all of the work needed, and went about establishing a floor plan. Especially with accounting for building within city limits and the necessary measures, the key to success is

20  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

taking the long view and giving yourself more than enough time to prepare. Even with the pandemic and the disruptions it brought, Trainer has been able to keep things moving. Currently, Car-Tunes only has the foundation completed. The shop is waiting on construction to begin due to some measurement readjustments. Though this means some delays, Trainer emphasized the importance of never wanting to rush. “I’d rather take my time. It’ll be a process, but it’s begun,” she said. “Our customers are excited.” As it stands, the bays currently in place do not have air conditioning. Moving ahead, however, once everything is completed, a secondary construction project will commence, which will provide an air-conditioned fabrication area as well. “We won’t have to waste time changing and shifting gears for different projects,” Trainer said, adding that different jobs will be handled simultaneously. “We won’t have to worry about debris or interference from one project to another.”

Extreme Audio Expands Business with Batch of New Hires Extreme Audio, based in Manchester, Conn., has been in business for over 30 years and recently celebrated the addition of several new team members in order to expand the business. According to Robert Lewis, the president of Extreme Audio and someone who has been in the industry as long as the shop has been open, four new staff members were hired over the past several months, including a motorcycle technician and others. Lewis commenced the hiring process shortly before the pandemic hit, but even when everything was turned upside down for so many businesses, he found the talent that was best for Extreme Audio. During recruitment, Lewis brought on Joe Melendez, a former Best Buy employee, as a repair technician; Mark Duval, who has extensive experience with motorcycle, as a motorcycle technician; and Adam Thomas, former owner of ACT Audio, in Vernon, Conn., as a technician. Extreme Audio also welcomed Joshua Cain to the team, who was brought on to help with sales. Lewis also expressed his gratitude for the hard work of Shawn Plantamuro, who has been with the business for over 20 years. Plantamuro has a proven track record of excellent customer service and a commitment to a high quality of work. According to Lewis, Thomas and Duval have both been in the industry for over 20 years, and Melendez has been in the industry for around five years. As of writing, both Melendez and Thomas have been with Extreme Audio for eight months, and Cain, as the shop’s newest salesperson, has been with the business for around three months. On top of all of this, Lewis is also moving to purchase the building where Extreme Audio is located. The president added that so far, 2020 has been his busiest year to date. Extreme Audio has also kept apace with the changes necessitated by the pandemic, including sterilizing surfaces and implementing other procedures to make sure everyone stays safe. Lewis also noted that, in terms of business, this year they’ve worked on a lot of boats as well as motorcycles. Additionally, since Cain started, Lewis noted that he’d seen a 30 percent increase in sales. “In the past few years we have acquired new lines, such as JBL, Infinity, Focal and DC Audio,” Lewis said. “Of course, [we also have] our lead lines that we have carried for many years: Alpine, Kenwood, Sony [and others]. Extreme Audio has also joined M.E.S.A., and it has been a great asset to our business.”


Faces in the Industry

Steve Jergensen Company: Race Sport Lighting City: Ringwood, Ill. Years of Industry Experience: 20 Hobbies: Boating, fishing and traveling. What you’re really good at: Troubleshooting and problem solving

Rommel Miranda Company: Car Audio, Radio & Security City: Charleston, SC Years of Industry Experience: 20 Hobbies: Cooking What you’re really good at: Micromanaging

Scott Macormack Company: MBA Audio & Custom City: Selwyn, Ontario Years of Industry Experience: 25 Hobbies: Snowmobile racing. What you’re really good at: Speaking with customers.   21

 hot sellers

AN IDEAL FIT Kenwood DDX9906XR Double-DIN Head Unit with Wireless CarPlay Submitted by: Mark Delia, Sound FX West Warwick, West Warwick, Rhode Island

Main Selling Features: “Our customers enjoy wireless CarPlay.”

Primary Objection: Price and additional parts required.

How to Overcome: “We continue preaching value and ease of lifestyle.”

Features, advantages and benefits lead the way, while retailers help clients find the product that best fits their vehicle and their lifestyle. 22  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

2019 New Product Award Runner-up

Discover the Sony XAV-AX8000 large display digital media receiver with anti-glare screen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto™ support.

3-way adjustable display mount for installation in a variety of vehicles.

Adjust up/down

Adjust in/out

Anti-glare screen reduces reflection in vehicles where sunlight may shine on the display.

Adjust tilt With new anti-glare screen

Traditional screen Š2018 Sony Electronics, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Sony and the Sony logos are trademarks of Sony Corporation. Android Auto works with devices using Android 5.0 software or higher. Some devices may not yet support Android Auto, see the Google site for the latest list of compatible devices. Android Auto and its logo are trademarks of Google Inc. Apple CarPlay works with iPhone 5 and newer phones. Apple CarPlay and its logo are trademarks of Apple Inc. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice.

 hot sellers Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX DVD Receiver

Main Selling Features: “Our staff’s knowledge of all the product categories we carry helps convince customers to buy.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “We focus on explaining FAB—Features, Advantages and Benefits.”

Kicker Dual 12-Inch L7R 2-Ohm Enclosure

Submitted by: Kimberly Trainer, Car-Tunes Inc., Greenville, Miss. Main Selling Features: “This enclosure produces big bass output and looks amazing. Kicker’s enclosure design pays attention to all the details, both cosmetically and in sound quality.” Primary Objection: Size / Color / Style How to Overcome: “It is a large enclosure that may not fit every vehicle. We also stock the single version, which is a perfect compromise for smaller cars, and the slim version works well for all trucks.”

Rockford Fosgate P300-10 Punch Single 10-Inch 300Watt Amplified Subwoofer

Submitted by: Dave Clews, 12volt Dave’s Audio, Pottsville, Pa. Main Selling Features: “This product is easily removed if a customer requires additional space.” Primary Objection: Additional parts required and labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “We simply explain what needs to be accessed to install the product safely.”

24  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020   25

 hot sellers Alpine iLX-W650 Digital Multimedia Receiver

Submitted by: Matt Kouyoumjian, Luxury Details, Southborough, Mass. Main Selling Features: “This product is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it has Bluetooth and USB. It’s very simple and really easy to use.” Primary Objections: Missing features. How to Overcome: “If a customer is looking for a CD player, we can recommend another Alpine unit.”

Pioneer DMH-WC6600NEX Digital Multimedia Receiver

Submitted by: Floyd Seal, Empress Audio & Marine, Pascagoula, Miss. Main Selling Features: “Our customers like the large screen.” Primary Objections: Price. How to Overcome: “The high price is our main objection. This product is not for everyone, but we still try to show it to everyone!”

Race Sport Lighting RSUKIT RGB Underbody Premium Kit

Submitted by: Steven Jergensen, Ringwood, Ill. Main Selling Features: “Right now, customers are simply happy that our products are in stock.” Primary Objections: Price. How to Overcome: “This is the most durable RGB underbody kit on the market and it has proven track record. It’s worth the cost and it’s in high demand.”

26  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020   27

real world RETAIL

28  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020


By cultivating brand recognition and providing a boutique experience for clients, Devine Concepts continues to grow year over year as a one-man shop specializing in radar, safety and car audio. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA   29

real world RETAIL

FAST FACTS Main Location: Naples, Fla. Number of Locations: 1 Square Footage: 1,600 Type: Boutique Number of Employees: 1 MAIN FOCUS

54% Car Audio 24% Safety and Blind Spot Detection 22% Radar and Laser KEY STAFF Owner: Adam Devine

In Naples, Fla., Devine Concepts celebrated its two-year anniversary this past July. Its owner—Adam Devine—spent most of his career working various positions in big box stores, moving in and out of the install bay for 16 to 17 years, he said, adding that he served in numerous managerial positions. He attended Mobile Dynamics in 2000, and became MECP certified, which he’s continued to maintain throughout his career. “I’m glad I was in all those positions, because it makes me more of a wellrounded business owner now,” he said, adding that each position required him to step outside his comfort zone, which he feels is essential to personal and professional growth. Devine’s parents helped get the business going, he said. “While I was doing a remodel on our location and getting

it ready to open, my dad went around to dealerships, barbershops, sandwich shops, mechanics, college campuses, car shows—anywhere with a bulletin board— and shared flyers and business cards.” His father also attended Cars and Coffee events to help spread the word. The business utilized signs at intersections, car magnets and anything else that could increase brand visibility. Currently, Devine is the only employee at his roughly 1,600-square-foot establishment. “I have plans to hire,” he said. “My goal is to pay off my start-up costs before I hire someone. We’ve done very well in two years, and I’ve already paid off close to 60 percent of my start-up costs.” According to Devine, gross revenue doubled in the business’s second year, and he foresees it doubling again. He said he’s able to keep an eye on the

30  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

front while working in the install bay, and he listens for the door chime in order to greet customers in a timely manner. “I would say we did that in big box, too,” he added. “You’re covering a whole department as one person. If you’re working with a client already, you let the customer who just arrived know you’re with someone, and you’ll be right back. I use the same practice here.” Still, he said, “I’m at a point where I’m juggling sales, estimates, invoices and trying to get installs done. I know I will need someone soon.” Creating a Memorable Experience for Visitors Part of initially setting up shop involved constructing displays in the showroom, which took just over four months. There are four of them which were made in-house—one for Audiofrog,










Copyright © 2020 AudioControl Inc. All Rights Reserved. | 22410 70th Ave W, Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043 USA | (425) 775-846


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Added Support During Inventory Shortage The radar and laser category does well at Devine Concepts, and Radenso is one of the shop’s key vendors. Devine said the shop also carries a vast selection of other brands, including AudioControl, Audiofrog, Hertz-Audison, Phoenix Gold, Rockford Fosgate and Sony. Devine said all his reps are very supportive and often willing to respond to calls or texts past business hours. “Patrick Eiland from MAG Sales is my Audison, Hertz and Rockford rep,” he said. “When the inventory shortage started during the beginning of the spread of COVID-19, I had pre-ordered equipment for a BMW 3 Series. We got the door speakers, and we couldn’t get the subs.” Freight was stuck at the port, and UPS wasn’t picking up. Despite this, Devine said Patrick reached out to other Audison dealers across the country, obtaining the two subwoofers Devine needed from a shop on the east coast and one on the west coast.

32  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020














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Devine Concepts Amps Up its Hashtag Game

“What are my clients into?” Devine said he asked himself, right before he decided to experiment with social media tagging. Because he has so many clients who own exotic or luxury vehicles, he began to think outside the box when it came to figuring out the best way to reach his shop’s target demographic. “Some of my clients are into golf. They like Rolex watches and designer clothes. I’ll use hashtags for the interests they may have on their profiles,” Devine explained. “I’ve gotten way more clientele seeing my posts by focusing on their interests and who they are,” rather than just using hashtags for different audio brands or services the shop offers.

one for Hertz-Audison, one for Phoenix Gold and one for Rockford Fosgate. Besides radar, Sony head units are a number one seller due to safety features and convenience. “I bring them to the Hertz display, or Audiofrog, and I put on Spotify Premium and I ask them what their favorite song is and I let them hear it,” he said, adding that the client gets to enjoy the experience without the shock of first seeing the price. Devine’s many years of experience in sales have taught him that price tags only serve to “shut down” a potential client’s ears. “I don’t price anything in our showroom,” he said. “I think the client should have someone working with them, explaining the product and catering to them. We walk them around and make recommendations based on their interests.” Devine gets excited about the industry, he said, and his clients recognize it. “There’s consistency in many of my Google reviews,” he added, noting that he’s driven to create an experience the client will never forget. “I treat every client the same. They get a demo. We talk about accolades, education, my background, MECP Tech of the Year, Mobile Electronics Top 50 Installer in 2019. And they get a tour of the install bay, the fabrication area and the wood room. They get to see everything.” Quality is a main focus: “Everything in the vehicle gets soldered, TESA taped, and all materials are OEM-grade and match everything,” Devine explained. “Anything mounted is drilled and tapped out, or we’ll use Nutserts and stainless

34  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

steel hardware. Everything is done to the caliber of the manufacturer or better.” Often, these jobs result in lengthy five-star reviews on Google, Devine said, adding that one client took about 60 business cards and said he would hand them to everyone in his Porsche club. Radar and laser clients receive scheduled consultations. The goal is to sit down with the client and properly educate them, explaining why the shop installs to such high standards, and why their services cost more than other shops. DragonEye Laser Gun Demos Help Close Sales Radar and laser remains the shop’s most lucrative category, and Devine has built this up using strategic marketing. “I wanted to capitalize on radar and laser because it matches my local demographic,” he said. “Right around the corner from me is Gulf Coast Motor Works, and the dealership is all exotics.” These buyers don’t care as much about audio, he explained, adding that what they really care about is avoiding speeding tickets. Just before shutdowns in March, Devine Concepts took part in the Naples Motorfest in February, an annual car show for luxury and exotic vehicles. The shop has sponsored the show for the past two years. Devine added that he brought a new shop-owned Mercedes demo vehicle with fully stealth Built-In radar and laser to the show. “Jason and John from Radenso came and helped run the booth,” he said, adding that they also had a DragonEye laser gun on hand in order to demonstrate to visitors what was possible.

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Zero ROI from Paid Facebook Advertising People may be ignoring ads on Facebook, Devine said. “When they’re scrolling through their feed, it might not be the most opportune time.” The business spent a couple hundred dollars on Facebook and Instagram ads, he said, noting that there was no discernable return on investment. “Maybe we got two new followers and about 2,000 insights, but it didn’t translate into growth. For me, just sticking to consistently posting and using good hashtags gives us more exposure.”

If the bell on the front door chimes while Devine is working on a vehicle, he heads to the front of the store to assist the customer, then returns to the install bay.

36  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020


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Devine built four displays for the showroom which took over four months. The displays are for Audiofrog, Hertz-Audison, Phoenix Gold and Rockford Fosgate. The only display not built in-house is a marine display.

Additionally, when Devine attends Cars and Coffee events, he’ll demonstrate the radar and laser system in the Mercedes. He added that clients will come in with laser jammers that were installed using double-stick tape. “Radar is the number one most incorrectly installed piece of 12-volt,” Devine said. “I make sure to educate potential clients at car shows, and I show them what a good radar install looks like. We use the laser gun to see if we can demonstrate how the product holds up. I’ll gun their car. Then I let them gun me in my car. They try to get a speed from the front or the back, and when they can’t, it’s the easiest sale I could ever make.” After these demonstrations, Devine said clients show up at the shop—fast. “When they learn the six grand they spent two years ago is doing nothing for them, they’re quick to fix it,” he added.

He noted that he’s had clients come in with jammers that were installed behind the grilles, and while it’s aesthetically pleasing, the functionality of the product is decreased by 85 percent. “You’ve got a paperweight. I show them how it can be done the right way.” Ensuring No Client Has to Settle for Less Top-down selling is the main strategy employed at Devine Concepts. Finances and budget are discussed after Devine demonstrates the products to the clients. If a client finds they enjoy a more expensive selection of products, Devine said he will recommend doing the installation in stages. “Keep the additional $800 you would have spent in your pocket, and let’s start with the speakers you like,” he added. “I don’t want someone to settle. When they come in and have a great experience and a great demo, and they

38  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

know they enjoyed a particular product, but they decide to sacrifice it and step down to a lesser product so they can put everything in at once—that doesn’t make sense.” Helping the client find what’s best for them is Devine’s goal, and often, the offer of doing the installation is stages makes his clients very happy, he noted. Recently, a customer came in with a Chevy Silverado that had been broken into, and he wanted a new alarm system. Devine discovered the factory alarm hadn’t worked during the break-in because the siren and horn honk had been disabled. The vehicle didn’t really need a new alarm system, Devine said, so he talked him out of the installation. “I ended up discussing other options with him. He’s a contractor who uses his truck to go to job sites,” he said, adding that the customer was holding his phone



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in his hand while driving in order to use navigation. The interaction led to the installation of a Sony radio with Apple CarPlay and a backup camera. “He ended up turning around and spending $3,000, and doing his truck and his wife’s Tahoe,” Devine concluded. “Sales is about taking the time to really listen to the client,” and find out what they need. “They don’t always know what’s available.” When it comes to jobs that take a lot of time, Devine said his customers are usually okay with it. “Most of my clients seem to have multiple vehicles,” he said, adding that retailers should never judge by appearance. “I can have a client come in tattered clothes, and he has a $300,000 car.” Always Willing to Try New Things Most of his time is devoted to the business, according to Devine, who will work long hours whenever necessary. “I knew when I opened my own business it would involve two to three solid years of nonstop work,” he said. “Some days I might not leave until one a.m. I’m married to

my business. It affords me the opportunity to put 100 percent of my energy and focus into this and not compromise it.” Still, Devine hopes that the next five years will see the business developing into something that “almost runs itself.” With a new Ferrari dealership opening up down the road, he anticipates continued growth. His goal is to hire a staff. “The nice part is, coaching and training a staff is engrained in me from my years in retail,” he added. “I had 130 associates under me and six supervisors. You have to teach these people to care, and to hit revenue goals, services goals and more.” Devine hopes to see the business expand, eventually opening a larger location with multiple bays. He also wants to offer any additional services which the business has yet to delve into. “And that’s why I continually coach, teach, train and develop myself—so if I can’t find the tech to hire who knows how to do it, I can train them,” he explained. Devine advised other business owners and 12-volt professionals to step outside their comfort zone and try something

40  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

new, adding, “Your only limitation is yourself.” According to Devine, this is what has helped him become a “better installer, better fabricator and better business owner.” Last year, Devine taught himself how to weld. Expanding his knowledge of CNC and lasering has also been a focus. Most recently, he taught himself how to sew after purchasing an industrial sewing machine. “I started learning how to do diamond stitch, custom upholstery and custom headliners.” A big build recently required French seams on armrests. “I’ve never done it before, but it turned out great,” he added. “The factory look is the goal for most of our builds.” Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either, Devine said. “Network with peers. Reach out to those who are experts. You have to have the humility to ask for help. If you can do that, you’re only going to get better at what you do.” The secret to continued growth at Devine Concepts is to have a plan, he said, adding, “Now it’s full steam ahead.”


 Learning From Leaders

The Next Step

Michael Roberts of JVCKENWOOD discusses product development, sales and marketing strategy and how he sees the industry moving forward in a time of uncertainty. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER

42  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

The Next Step

If you’re going to be successful, you need to have a website with your product on it. You have to have your store in order. You need to do installs. And you have to be involved in social media

Like many in the 12-volt world, Michael Roberts, VP of Sales & Marketing for JVCKENWOOD, got his start in the business at an early age—and, also like many, he never left. “I grew up in a family business,” he said. “My dad owned Columbia Audio & Video. At the time, they were one of the top 10 retailers in the business. They sold home audio, TVs and eventually car audio. Early on, both my dad, Richard Roberts, and Norm Rozak, my dad’s partner, were early influences.” But before joining the family business, Roberts went to work for his dad’s competitor. When he was 16, he said there were two stores in the area—Apple Tree Stereo and Sound Track. “One day, my dad said jokingly, ‘Why don’t you get a job at Sound Track?’ He was just messing around, but I put on a suit and that’s what I did.” Roberts recalled the conversation upon arrival: “They said, ‘Your dad owns Columbia. What do you want to work here for?’ So, I actually started working for my dad’s competitor for a little over a year before going to work with my dad and brother in the family business. When the manager I worked with at Sound

Track went to work for Loyd Ivey at MTX, he reached out to me,” he said, adding, “I went there and met Loyd. He was certainly an influence, too.” A Time of Transformation During his career, Roberts gained perspective working in retail, for manufacturers and a content provider—Sirius satellite radio. In 2001, both XM and Sirius were scheduled to launch, but it didn’t happen for either company on time as planned. “Back in the 90s, someone from XM called and wanted to have a meeting with me,” Roberts said. “At the time I was at Kenwood and they had me fly out to Washington, D.C, [where XM’s HQ was based]. We met at a hotel and they had this PowerPoint presentation.” Roberts said they were planning to launch rockets into outer space and would be broadcasting radio back to earth. “It was really early on—again, they only had this PowerPoint—and I remember thinking ‘yeah, good luck with that.’” Roberts noted that he loved working for Kenwood, but when he left to work at Delphi, “It was just a difficult time personally,” he explained. “Delphi was based

in the Midwest and that’s where I lived. I had been traveling like crazy with Kenwood, and so part of the reason was that. Of course, satellite radio was intriguing to me.” When he gave his notice at Kenwood in 2003, he said, “We had a rep meeting in an auditorium at this big hotel in California. I launched this promotion we were having, told everyone I was leaving and was being replaced by Keith Lehmann, and then I departed the meeting.” Delphi, it turned out, was an incredible opportunity for Roberts. “They were the hardware guys that launched XM. It was so busy—the sales, the calls. At a certain point, I left there and went to Sirius,” he said, adding that the two companies merged and he became the VP of sales. “It was the longest merger in U.S. history—565 days. I started about two months before Howard Stern joined Sirius. It was a really interesting time.” Selling With Integrity Roberts also had the chance to be his own boss when he opened Optimum Sales and took on the role of an outsourced VP of sales. “I went into   43

 Learning From Leaders

companies and helped them with their sales team,” he said. “I would do it on a fractional basis.” One of his first clients was a $200 million aerospace company. “The folks there were engineers—not salespeople. So, I helped them put their CRM together, trained them and conducted weekly sales meetings. The next day I would be at a food company and the next day at a robotics company.” He learned, he said, that a lot of salespeople aren’t really salespeople. They were simply put into that position. “I connected with a company called Integrity Selling and got certified as a sales trainer with them,” Roberts went on. “As part of my efforts with each company, I would work with them and teach this course on how to sell with Integrity. It was a great program and I learned a whole that from that.” Developing Highly Effective Products Now back at JVCKENWOOD all these years later as VP of Sales & Marketing, Roberts is enjoying a bit of a homecoming. He’s been involved in one of the company’s key product launches as well as identifying new areas of opportunity. The company took a bit longer to come out with a floating screen, he said, “because we wanted it to be the best with the most up-to-date technology.” The

product has a 10.1-inch screen and offers top-of-the-line features. “For instance, if you took an iPad and put it in your car, it would be a little difficult to operate because of sunlight and reflections,” Roberts said. “With our Optical Bonded Hi Resolution display, we created a model where we were able to significantly minimize the reflective light while maximizing the viewing angle.” He added that stability was another factor that had to be considered. “When you have a 10-inch screen floating in your car, it needs to be very stable as you’re going over bumps and experiencing all the vibrations associated with a vehicle,” he explained. “We had to take that into consideration, which is why our unit is a double-DIN. We’ve also become heavily involved in drive-cams. We have four right now. That’s been another area of growth for the company.” Providing a Path to Profitability for Retailers Aside from providing amazing products, the company works to provide retailers with a path to profitability, which means dealing with unauthorized retailers and price integrity. “In the past, we serialized product,” Roberts said. “We would put an electronic serial number on the back of a head unit so it couldn’t be peeled off. However, it can be

44  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

more difficult trying to add those serial numbers to speakers, amps and other products.” They found a way, he added, to put serial numbers in multiple places, including inside the product itself. “You can go on the Internet right now, type in a model and see that our authorized retailers and sellers are within MAP,” he said. “This ties back to predictable profitability. As a retailer, you have to think about that when you’re picking your lines. We search the Internet on a daily basis, purchase product and trace it back to the original purchaser.” Finding New Ways to Build Connections With so many ways to communicate these days, including text, email, Zoom and phone calls, Roberts still prefers old-school face-to-face meetings when it comes to establishing new relationships. “If you have already have a relationship with someone, it’s a lot easier to do Zoom calls,” he said, adding that it’s much more difficult dealing with a new customer or trying to drawn in new customers in this fashion. “It can be more difficult when you don’t know the person. Part of having a good meeting with someone is to quickly understand what’s important to them, and a face-to-face is going to offer much clearer communication,” he added.

The Next Step For starters, he said, in a face-toface meeting, you’re able to read body language and facial expressions more effectively. It also allows you to determine what kind of personality someone has and what’s important to that person. “For example, if you meet someone in his office, you can take a look around and immediately get an understanding of what’s important,” Roberts explained. “Some guys have certificates and achievements framed on the wall, but someone else might have all kinds of pictures of his family instead. So, yes, face-to-face is super important especially when you’re trying to get new business.” He added that trade shows are very important, too. “I’m sure we’ll get back to them, but things won’t ever go back to normal,” he said. “It will be something in between where we are now, and what it used to be.” Using Three Factors to Strengthen Brand Visibility With a chance to meet so many dealers over time, Roberts said that a multi-channel strategy—a website, social media and a well-kept store—are the basics that will keep a business going strong no matter what. Even through a global pandemic. “If you’re going to be successful, you need to have a website with your product on it. You have to have your store in order. You need to do installs. And you have to be involved in social media,” he said. Stores which have been successful throughout the pandemic, he added, are businesses that have carefully covered all these factors. Roberts warned that if retailers neglect even one aspect of this triad, it will limit the amount of business they do. “Having said that, there’s a large retailer that I remember had a website, but didn’t keep it updated with the latest information and promotions,” he said. “I ended up telling him not to do it because other stores were updating the information and promotions on their sites all the time. There was no benefit for a customer to go on his site, look at it and see nothing current, and in many cases pricing was too high.” Customers wouldn’t even bother to walk into his store, he said.

“Either do it and do it right—or don’t do it, because then it’ll hurt you. Multi-channel is a help when things shift and change,” Roberts said. “It helps you adapt. If you just have a retail store and a pandemic hits and you’ve got no social media, now you’re trying to figure that out. Customers can’t come into your store, so you have no way to communicate.” A Ticket to Ride Not surprisingly, when Roberts isn’t on his day job, he can be found outdoors hiking, biking or just enjoying the open space. He said he’s interested in anything that has to do with an engine, and he’s an avid boater. Roberts also owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a Polaris UTV. “I love anything outdoors—just being outside in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “I recently bought an electric bike. I had no idea how much open space there is out here in Phoenix to ride.” Roberts

said he enjoys bike paths that wind along local canals. “Sometimes I’ll listen to music while I’m out riding, or I’ll listen to audio books. And other times,” he added, he just spends his time deep in thought. Listen to the recently launched Learning from Leaders podcast hosted by Chris Cook, president of MEA. The episode featuring Michael Roberts, VP of Sales & Marketing for JVCKENWOOD, aired August 7, 2020. Roberts discussed insights on everything from his first job to the last thing we could’ve ever expected—a global pandemic. The Learning From Leaders magazine feature builds upon the podcast, bringing additional information about business, sales and more to our readers. Follow this link to learn more and subscribe to the podcast: ‖ ‖ 626.336.3836

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 strategy & tactics

While some shops have seen steady business overall, others report increased focus on marine and powersports. Retailers discuss strategies on selling these products, and how to keep these services top-of-mind. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

Some 12-volt retailers have reported increased customer spending in marine and powersports categories, according to a recent survey by Mobile Electronics magazine. Some have compared revenue increases to Black Friday spending. Vibe Car Audio in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, has remained steady throughout the pandemic so far. There was a brief period in the beginning when things were slow, according to Christopher Labonte, who works as an installer and fabricator for the company. Labonte added that the shop has definitely seen an increase in marine category spending. “Marine was about 25 to 30 percent of our revenue this summer,” he said. Labonte noted he’s also seen an increase in Harley-Davidsons. “We did about 21 to 22 Harleys with full systems.” Different categories feed into each other, he said, adding that customers often add other offerings. “I just finished a job on a 2020 Acura TLX. He came in for radar detection. He saw wheels he liked on another car, so he got those. Then he asked about audio. His bill came to about $25,000.” This August at Vibe was better in terms of revenue than last year. “The month before that, we were on par. [September] we project 20 percent above last year. I

think people held on to their money a bit. Now they’re spending more.” Kimberly Trainer of Car-Tunes, Inc. in Greenville, Miss. agreed that spending is likely up due to the pandemic. “They’re purchasing things that are more of an investment,” she said, pointing out that powersports vehicles can be enjoyed for many years to come. “I think they’re pleased with what they’re choosing to do with their money”—which means retailers can view increases as opportunity to help customers find more of what they want. Rely on Established Relationships For shops that want to expand their offerings, Trainer said it’s easier than it used to be. “We’ve been here 36 years. I’ve been owner for 19 years. We’ve always had these products, and we expanded our offerings as they changed,” she explained. “If you’ve never done marine or powersports, seek manufacturers you already do business with and see what products they have that would help you step into the category in a comfortable way.” She advised retailers take “baby steps” and utilize already-established relationships to learn more about the specific products they want to focus on. “It used to be there were only certain manufacturers that had the equipment, and you didn’t know where to begin,” Trainer added. “Now, there’s so much available.”

46  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

Understand Products and Demonstrate Knowledge The first step in expanding any category, Labonte said, is “Get to know the product. Get to know the boats.” At Vibe Car Audio, most clients bring boats to the shop to have the team take a look and explain what’s possible. On a few rare instances, Labonte said they’ll go out to see a boat at a marina, but the shop charges extra for the service. “Bringing the boat in can seem inconvenient,” he added, “but it adds value because you can look at it with them. You can point out areas where you can add a sub, or another set of speakers, or indicate where the amps can go.” He also noted that when a customer takes the time to bring a boat to the shop, it increases the chances they’ll choose to leave the boat there and have the team at Vibe complete the install. Create a Showroom Strategy In 2018, Car-Tunes did a store remodel that focused on the showroom, and laid out displays in a strategic manner, according to Trainer. “Now we have a much larger dedicated marine display,” she said. She noted that motorcycles and other powersports often get mixed in with boats when it comes to showroom displays, so she focused on separating these categories and giving

Making Waves them equal exposure. When the team realized the issue, Trainer got in touch with 5 Axis Innovations and requested a custom display for motorcycle equipment. As a result of the display, motorcycle audio sales have increased. “The customers are able to visualize it and hear it,” she said. The display features a motorcycle graphic with products such as a head unit, speakers and amps placed exactly where they would be on a real motorcycle. The background shows a winding road which inspires clients to visualize themselves in that type of environment. “By the time they hear everything, they might have come in wanting two speakers, and now they want an amp as well.” Revisit Basic Sales Techniques Considering the psychology behind sales is important, according to Trainer, who said she attended a seminar that discussed body language as it pertains to interaction with customers. The speaker at the seminar discussed potential differences in how various age groups greet each other, she said, adding that “it was supposed to help us know how to interact on the sales floor.” Trainer discovered that some customers may not prefer direct eye contact. “If you stand beside them, [psychologically] you’re on their side,” she said. “We look at the display together so they aren’t nervous and [potentially] not listening to what you’re saying. You’re on their team. Something that simple can change the interaction.” The strategic layout of the Car-Tunes showroom helps ensure clients are exposed to products or categories they might not otherwise see. “We try to keep anything that might come up in conversation in the same general area so we can easily suggest additional options,” Trainer said. “If you’re standing there and you look around, you’ll see the motorcycle display, and they might say, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about getting a bike.’ Marine is next to it, followed by lighting. You can take a couple steps to the side and bring the customer around the store, showing them what goes along with various products.”

Vibe Car Audio saw an increase in the marine category this summer, and even completed a custom build for local boat manufacturer Bratt Jet. The increase in the marine category is expected to draw additional customers via word-of-mouth.

The last stop, she added, is always remote start and security because once the customer has nice equipment in their car, they want to keep it safe. “Next, we might look at radar detection.” The showroom itself is laid out in a self-explanatory fashion so that everything flows visually from one thing to the next. “Most people don’t know what’s available, and we will say, ‘Here’s the exact solution for what you’re describing,’ and they respond to that.” The layout of the showroom, she added, is conducive to “instant interaction.” Car-Tunes utilizes a casual approach to sales which matches their demographic and the way the locals prefer to interact. “Years ago, I had the opportunity to go to an Eddy Kay sales training seminar. I can’t tell you how many things I instruct our salespeople to do that I picked up from that training,” she said, recalling a popular example Kay used: “He said if someone calls you up and says they want to stop by your house, when you get off the phone, you straighten up a bit. When you have a showroom, you have people coming over every day. So, you always want to keep it neat, clean and show your best. That’s how we approach sales.” The sales process itself, she added, begins before the customer even arrives. “Once we get past the introductions and the pleasantries, we do show them our best products first,” she said, adding that she always ensures the best products available are on display. “Not only does the customer see the best option—and

that way, we do sell—but it also makes the next best option a better seller.” The policy at Car-Tunes is to show the best first, be cognizant of customers’ body language and ensure salespeople are interacting in a way that makes the customer comfortable. Trainer said Car-Tunes is able to offer numerous choices for every budget. “One customer might have $1,000. Another might have $500. We have a solution for them,” she said, adding, “We offer payment plans, too, so if they come in with something in mind, we can make it happen.” Ensure Clients Know What’s Possible For Sound Wave Customers in Virginia Beach, Va., owner Ethan Blau said one of the shop’s most effective advertising tool is their “on hold” line which informs customers about services and offerings they might not be aware of. “We use OnHold. com. I change the recordings once a quarter, sometimes more, sometimes less,” he explained. If a customer calls and has to be put on hold while salespeople deal with other customers, the person waiting on the phone will hear about other services the shop offers. “It’s 50 bucks a month,” Blau said. “You tell them what you want them to say, and you can change it for the seasons. The recording often sparks a new conversation with the client.” Additionally, if times were normal, the shop would be doing motorcycle and boat shows. Blau said they’ve even sponsored a   47

 strategy & tactics

Increase in Off-Site Marine Audio Estimates Inspires Policy Change

As salespeople demonstrate to customers what’s available, the strategic layout of the showroom at Car-Tunes helps lead the conversation.

Tunes, Inc. is intended to take clients on an explorative journey through the shop’s offerings. The Harley-Davidson display separates motorcycle audio from marine and powersports, and has helped to increase revenue in this category.

fishing tournament in the past. “Invest in a display for your showroom,” Blau said. “Market the service. Be knowledgeable. It’s worth it to bring more diverse offerings into your business and more income. After all, people who have boats also own cars.” Labonte said he feels Vibe Car Audio’s motorcycle audio and marine sales definitely increased as a result of spending during the pandemic. Recently, a local boat manufacturer—Bratt Jet Aluminum Boats—enlisted the shop’s help in doing a full audio upgrade for a client. The manufacturer usually does their own audio systems, but the client wanted a custom job. Every panel had to be fabricated from scratch, he said, adding that the project was a challenge. “The owner of the boat manufacturer said in the 20-plus years he’s been building custom boats, he’s never seen or heard anything this well-done in a boat,” Labonte added. The shop anticipates this will lead to more opportunities in the future, and the manufacturer may hire Vibe to build a

demo boat. Labonte expects marine jobs may increase because word-of-mouth will draw more customers. “This season raised awareness for what we can do,” he added. Each client who came in with a boat looking for a radio ended up adding products to the ticket. Recalling the 2020 Acura, Labonte said the shop wants to show it off, so the client agreed to let them display the vehicle in the showroom over the winter. Vibe Car Audio mainly utilizes Facebook for marketing, posting photos of boat projects. Once, Labonte said, there were five boats in the shop, four of which stayed overnight for larger projects. About 80 percent of the business’s leads come from social media, and the showroom displays help invite conversation. “When we talk to clients, for example, if we notice their wheels are a little old, we let them know what we can offer,” he said, adding, “We always have an opportunity to upsell.”

48  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

Sound Wave Customs in Virginia Beach, Va. has seen an increase over the previous year in marine and motorcycle audio, which owner Ethan Blau attributes to the pandemic. “People want to go out on the water or in the wilderness and enjoy life, and that’s been encouraged during the spread of COVID-19,” he said. The increase even caused Blau to change a company policy this past Spring. “I used to do free estimates on boats within 10 to 15 miles. Some boats are too big to bring by the shop. Those customers are still important to us, but the downfall is you’re gambling because you might not get the job even after driving all the way out there,” he explained. Because of the increase in requests, the shop began charging an hourly shop fee, which Blau feels will weed out anyone who isn’t serious. “You’re not going to spend $150 for an estimate if you’re not serious in the first place,” he added. “If they do end up spending a significant amount, you could always put that cost toward the labor if you really wanted to. That’s a business owner’s discretion. If they never call you back after you provide the estimate, you didn’t waste your time and you made some money.”

Making Waves   49

 tech today

Backup Cameras in Vehicle Safety Systems, Part 1 Which backup camera system is best? Understand purpose, placement and specifications to help deliver the best possible solution to your clients. WORDS BY DAVE MACKINNON The importance of offering accident prevention solutions to your clients can’t be overstated. Not only is this a potentially profitable category, but many products are also great add-on sales to solutions like a new multimedia receiver. The first topic we’ll cover in greater detail will be backup camera solutions. Defining the Purpose of a Backup Camera System We should take a moment to consider the goal of a quality backup camera solution. First and foremost, we need to contemplate the information we are

trying to convey to the driver. They need to know if there is an object behind the vehicle or in its path that needs to be taken into consideration. These criteria require that we not only choose a camera with a wide enough field of vision, but that the camera is installed in a position that will provide adequate information. Finally, we need to make sure the client will be able to see the image with enough detail so as to make the camera system upgrade worthwhile. Backup Camera Specifications and Considerations When selecting a backup camera for

50  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

your clients, there are several specifications that need to be considered. The first aspect to examine is the Field of Vision (FOV). This specification describes how wide or narrow the lens is, and subsequently, how much information will be visible in the image on the screen. For good quality cameras, separate horizontal and vertical numbers are provided. Higher numbers mean the camera will see further to the sides of the camera body. Cameras with an extremely wide FOV may add distortion to the edge of the image. This characteristic is called barrel distortion, and it results in vertical lines at the edge of the image being

The angle between the two straight lines on the horizontal plane (Blue) describes the horizontal field of vision. The angle between the two straight lines on the vertical plane (Green) describes the vertical field of vision.

curved like the sides of a wine barrel. Some extremely high-end camera solutions use signal processing to correct for distortion in the lens and optics. Camera Placement Matters When it comes to camera placement, we need the system to convey as much information as possible to the driver. Mounting positions that are low to the ground change the way we see objects. We can’t judge their distance from the vehicle as easy as viewing from a higher angle. Yes, there are some limitations based on the design of the car or truck, but given the option, mount the camera as high as possible and aim it down. We should also talk about aiming the camera. If you have chosen a fixed-base camera for the installation, then check that it works well with your selected location. There is no point in showing the client four to six inches of the rear bumper on the car when he or she could be seeing objects or people that are approaching the vehicle from the sides. Light Sensitivity and Exposure Considerations We often forget that we are dealing

with a camera. As such, it has to be able to produce a good, clear image under a variety of lighting conditions. In terms of low-light sensitivity, you will see three common specifications: 3 Lux, 1 Lux and 0.1 Lux. The unit Lux is a measurement of illuminance. It’s equal to one lumen of light over an area of one square meter. For example, a cloudless day has a Lux of 35,000 to 95,000 Lux. Most office spaces have a Lux of between 300 and 500. A clear night with a full moon may be as bright as 1 Lux. Under these conditions, most of us can still see everything around us. A clear night with no moon could be as dark as 0.005 Lux. Under these conditions, it’s very hard to see. The difference between a camera that can produce a clear image at 3 Lux and one designed to work at 0.1 Lux is significant. This information is handy when explaining the cost increase associated with a high-quality camera. You may also want to demonstrate how low-quality cameras add a lot of noise to a camera image in low-light conditions. Something much harder to quantify is how quickly a camera adjusts to changing light conditions. When a vehicle is backing into a space that’s half-illuminated

by the sun and half in a shadow, you may not be able to see what’s in the dark area. To evaluate a camera, you can connect it to a multimedia receiver or monitor and point it at a wall about three feet away. Shine the light on your phone at the wall in the middle of what would be the center of the camera image. Watch how slowly (or quickly) a low-quality camera adjusts its exposure as compared to a high-quality solution. Some cameras include white or infrared LED light emitters in the housing to improve their ability to see under dark conditions. These solutions are great for closed spaces like the interior of a cargo van, in the engine compartment of a boat or in a fifth-wheel trailer. It’s worth noting that IR illumination results in a black and white image. You will want to let your customer know that before purchasing. Backup Camera Resolution As painful as it seems to say, camera resolution is not necessarily a deciding factor in choosing the right camera for a client. If a camera with a resolution of 720 by 480 pixels has better low-light sensitivity and faster exposure adjustment,

 tech today A camera mounted low to the ground lets you see oncoming vehicles well, but makes it harder to judge your distance from objects.

Mounting a camera above the license plate on a trunk or hatch offers a good balance of width and a sense of depth.

then it’s likely a better overall solution than a camera with a resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels. Many clients will react positively to seeing lots of detail in the image, especially if they have a higher resolution display like those found in the Kenwood XR or some Pioneer Multimedia receivers. We aren’t looking for grains of sand, just people and objects we want to avoid. As always, go for substance over style and flash when delivering solutions to your clients. Camera Durability Considerations Another measure of the quality of a backup camera can be gauged using its operating temperature ratings. You will see many solutions that work from -22 to +175 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower (colder) temperatures on the bottom and higher

temperatures on the top can tell you a lot about the quality of the image sensor and electronics inside the case. You will want to look for a camera that has an International Protection (IP) System Marking of at least 67. The two numbers that follow the IP letters describe a product’s ability to oppose the ingress of solids (dust) and liquids (rain and slush). IP67 means that a product is dust-tight and can withstand temporary immersion in water at depths up to one meter for 30 minutes. An IP68 rating indicates a product can withstand extended immersion in water. Camera Features Add Flexibility Lastly, we’ll talk about camera features. Some cameras are designed to provide normal or mirror-image output options to make them compatible with backup,

52  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

blind-spot and front-mount installations. In most cases, the installer selects one mode or the other by cutting a wire loop near the power supply. Another popular option is for the camera to add a guideline overlay to the image to help the driver determine if the vehicle is straight and how close it is to an object. Installers will want to spend some time making sure the camera is adjusted perfectly for this information to be accurate. Don’t Skimp on Backup Camera Quality In the same way that we don’t trust no-name amp kits from the Internet to be true to their word in terms of specifications, it’s our duty to make sure the safety solutions we install on our clients’ vehicles are of good quality, reliable and able to do their job. If you are interested in expanding your safety system sales opportunities, we invite you to register your store(s) with Vision Zero to be a Preferred Retailer and get listed on the site. There is no cost to submit a request or to have your store listed. Follow this link for the application: preferred-retailer-application/ In the next issue, we’ll take a look at integrating backup cameras into your clients’ vehicles.

Dave MacKinnon has worked in the mobile electronics industry since 1988 in almost every capacity, including roles as a Retail Salesperson, Installer, Sales Representative, Technical Trainer and Product Development Manager for some of the largest car audio companies in the world. Dave started his writing career in 2000 as the Technical Editor of a Toronto-based car audio magazine and has reviewed more than 450 products. Formally trained as an Electronics Technician, Dave is considered an industry expert when it comes to explaining how mobile audio components work, and he has crafted thousands of articles to share that knowledge. He’s currently the Head Writer for 1sixty8 media and the Editor-in-Chief at

It's all about saving lives

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 installs


54  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

The team at Vibe Car Audio has combined high-quality design with functionality, ensuring this Lexus LS400 will slide down the highway in style   55

 installs

The first F40th Focal audio kit in Canada was installed in this 1995 Lexus LS400, according to Christopher Labonte of Vibe Car Audio. “Our client said, ‘I need this in my life’ as soon as he saw it. The budget was moderate, but I still wanted 56  Mobile Electronics September/October 2020

to do a little extra in the trunk to show off the Focal design,” Labonte said, adding that the client plans to redo the doors in the future along with changing the interior color and other incorporating other vehicle modifications.

Labonte celebrated the Focal design using the shipping crate the products came in. The subwoofer enclosure was constructed using layers of Baltic birch to match the grain of the speakers. The exterior sides were left untouched to show the rawness of hand-routering, while the inside of the enclosure has a more finished appearance.

LED lights were added to brighten the enclosure through the one-inch thick clear plexiglass, which causes the subwoofer to appear as if its “floating.” The lighted amp rack consists of two layers of acrylic with the middle etched plexiglass lit by LEDs, with hand-polished birch serving for each base. The other parts of the shipping crate were used as a display to help tell the story of this special Focal kit.  57

from the President

COME TOGETHER One industry, association and purpose. A little over ten years ago—November 4, 2009 to be exact—I stood on a stage at the SEMA Show with a few other industry leaders to announce the purchase of MERA (now MEA) and that we would be re-launching a new KnowledgeFest on October 10, 2010 (1010-10) in Dallas, Texas. At that launch, we played a fitting tune: The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Why that song, you ask? It was the prelude for our mission to unite a very fractured industry. It came from a strong desire to create an association that brought a group of talented albeit underrepresented individuals together for a common purpose, to improve upon each other and the industry in the process. To create an association with benefits that either saved or made our members money. One that focused on great education opportunities and provided highly relevant information, thus empowering our industry to thrive.

Bringing Benefits to Specialty Retailers Back in 2008, the association dwindled to less than 100 members, no longer able to support the trade event that had been held every year since 1993. Knowing this, we set out to relaunch KnowledgeFest. Looking back, it was a great accomplishment and a good first step to creating something that provided a learning environment for the benefit of the entire industry. However, an event was not the only thing to revive. Next, we set out to review the offered benefits from the association and decide how best to move forward with value for our members. Our goal was to create an association that provided benefits to assist specialty retailers with technology and services. We added the industry’s best-known point-of-sale and scheduling software, Total Sales and Scheduling (TSS), to our arsenal. Then we added a long-time standard for vehicle fitment and wiring information, the Mobile Automotive Information Database (MAID). Both were transferred from our parent company, InstallerNet. These two technology offerings provide high value to our members. To date, most of our members use them. Soon after, we added websites and in-store signage solutions to round out these offerings. However, this was only the beginning.

Nurturing Continued Growth Year Over Year Next, we sought out partners to provide great member benefits that met or exceeded our standards. One of those partners is the Member Savings Program. Our partnership provided benefits that save members thousands of dollars per year through the buying power of a group purchasing alliance made up of over 150 associations. In an effort to present our members to consumers, we created a consumer-focused website that provides members with a listing including their location, hours of operation, company slogan

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and links to website and social media sites. Check it out at www. Take some time to review the benefits, and you’ll find discount shipping programs, savings on payroll processing, free registration to KnowledgeFest events, professional business coaching and Mobile Electronics magazine. These are just some examples of the many cost-saving and money-making

we can provide top-notch education, networking opportunities and business services designed to advance professionalism and profitability for all of the industry’s stakeholders. benefits of being an MEA member. Today, MEA is over 1,000 members strong. Your mobile electronics (trade) association consists of manufacturers, retailers and service providers of automotive aftermarket technology products. Through our coast-to-coast offering of KnowledgeFest trade shows and conferences, we can provide top-notch education, networking opportunities and business services designed to advance professionalism and profitability for all of the industry’s stakeholders.

Providing Top-Tier Education Our publication, Mobile Electronics magazine, is the industry’s #1 resource with more than 18,000 digital subscribers. The monthly publication acknowledges top retailers, installers and suppliers through the annual Mobile Electronics Industry Awards. Finally, KnowledgeFest provides a three-day event with emphasis on experience, learning and connecting with others in the mobile electronics industry. These events provide you with the best opportunity to learn from other successful industry professionals at either Long Beach, Calif., Indianapolis, Ind., Orlando, Fla. and or Dallas, Texas. When it comes to the Mobile Electronics industry, many of us who’ve been around a few years will tell you that when it comes to organizations looking to represent this unique group of people, there have been a few that properly represent all stakeholders. Know that the Mobile Electronics Association will always be here to lead the industry though both the good times and the not-so-good times. I look forward to hearing from you on how we can service you better. Please feel free to contact me or any of our team to learn how you can reap the benefits.














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Articles from Mobile Electronics Magazine October Issue