Mobile Electronics Magazine December 2021

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December 2021

me-mag.com

Crafting a Legacy The best of the best continues to build a legacy to inspire and motivate future generations: Hearty congratulations to the Top 50 Retailers and Installers, and the Top 20 Sales Pros.

PLUS: Long Time Coming:

Stocking Up:

While a client took additional time to decide, A.C.T. Audio in Vernon, Conn. waited patiently to upgrade a Polaris Slingshot.

GNC Customs and Stereo West Autotoys shares how they’ve managed inventory shortages.


Volume 53 Issue 12

ADVERTISING SALES sales@mobile-electronics.com

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

Published by TM

22

mobile electronics association

Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • chrisc@mobile-electronics.com

FEATURES

ARTICLES

12// Industry Awards: Raise a Glass to the Best of the Best

18 Retail News

Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • richb@mobile-electronics.com

Congratulations to the Top 50 Installers, Top 50 Retailers and Top 20 Sales Professionals, who continue to demonstrate a commitment to innovation and service.

54 Installs

Tony Frangiosa, Chairman of the Board, MEA

52 From the President

Ad Index

22// On the Show Floor: Creative Solutions

DEPARTMENTS

From lighting to sound quality, each product displayed at KnowledgeFest Indy presented the answer to a problem—demonstrating manufacturers’ commitment to helping retailers find creative solutions for their clients.

4 Editor’s Forum 6 Feedback ON THE COVER:

28// Real World Retail: Staying Tuned

Auto Sound was founded 50 years ago by Ronald Needleman, Sr. Today, it operates on the same high standards, facing today’s challenges with skill and flexibility.

38// Learning From Leaders: Audiopipe Rides a Wave of Success

With an early intro to car audio, a love for Latin music and a strong work ethic, founder Gonzalo Palenzuela’s focus has always been loud and clear.

Auto Sound of Plainville, Mass. has reached a major milestone, celebrating 50 years of growth in 12-volt. The company continues to expand, now fine-tuning its offerings at three locations. Cover Design: Ana Ramirez

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Alpine Electronics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 AudioControl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Escort. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 MEA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 ME Awards. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Firstech - Compustar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Harman - JBL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 JVC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Kenwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Kicker. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 KnowledgeFest -Las Vegas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 MECP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Metra Electronics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Pixel Technologies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Sirius XM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Sony. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 SounDigital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36,37 Vais Technology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51


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EDITOR’S FORUM

There’s no better way to work on yourself and on your business than by acquiring knowledge and using that knowledge to set actionable goals.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP In the New Year, let’s resolve to learn from our mistakes and revitalize our businesses’ processes and procedures. You may have heard the phrase, “Do the next right thing.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to say many of us faced big questions about the stability of our businesses, perhaps acknowledging concerns about the viability of our personal and professional goals. Sometimes a crisis makes us realize we didn’t plan well enough from the beginning. Perhaps we relied on old, faulty procedures, promising ourselves, “I’ll work on it as soon as I get the chance.” But when a challenge arises—even something as unanticipated as what we’ve seen in the past two years—it has the tendency to reveal our weaknesses. How will we cope with these issues in the coming year? Learn to set actionable goals Business owners must empower team members to contribute and offer perspectives to help everyone grow together. All of us, regardless of our expertise, have seen failures and pitfalls throughout our careers. Rather than dwell on our mistakes, we must ask ourselves, “How can I do better next time?” It helps to break down larger goals into smaller ones. When life seems uncertain, goals will help lead us through. Even if your ideas seem lofty now, remember they’re attainable. Never stop learning During the past year, we held three KnowledgeFest events, packed full of educational opportunities for retailers, business owners, technicians and fabricators. Most recently, we were in Dallas, where we saw classrooms brimming with students eager for knowledge.

4  Mobile Electronics December 2021

There’s no better way to work on yourself and on your business than by acquiring knowledge and using it to set actionable goals. At KnowledgeFest and in this magazine, we often mention other resources. Here are some books we recommend that will help you set goals and navigate challenges: • Start with the Vision: Six Steps to Effectively Plan, Create Solutions, and Take Action by Steven and Rob Shallenberger • Goals: How to Get the Most out of Your Life by Zig Ziglar • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey • The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right by Gorick Ng • No Regrets Living: 7 keys to a Life of Wonder & Contentment by Dr. Harley Rotbart • Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles for Pivoting Through Disruption by Will Page You aren’t alone: Let’s face these challenges together While the industry is thriving, we can’t assume we’ll always have customers. In order to adjust to daily changes, we must grow our skillsets, work on our businesses and plan for the future. We must be lifelong students. As you look toward the New Year, what are your goals for the future? Let us know your thoughts when we see you in Las Vegas, February 18-20, where we’ll be celebrating the accomplishments of our top-tier industry colleagues. As we move forward into the New Year, don’t be afraid to face your resolutions with determination, perseverance and a renewed sense of hope.


The Elevated Standard

electronics.sony.com/mobile-es ©2021 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. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice.


 feedback

Pinpointing Priorities It’s time to get clear on processes and procedures: These industry professionals share their perspectives on goal setting and closing the sale.

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“I don’t sell parts. I sell me. I sell value.” Carlos Ramirez, NVS Audio, Roselle, NJ “This is reverse-engineering a goal: You have to have that vision. You have to document it, put it down on paper. Once you have that end goal in place, what steps should you be taking to get you there by the date and time you put on that piece of paper? It’s kind of similar to doing an install, isn’t it? Step by step. Who here has put 95 percent of the vehicle together and [realized they] forgot something? Every one of us. I want to empower you guys to write down your goals. Don’t hold back on whatever that massive goal is. There’s no reason why you can’t have amazing things in your life. You have to get clarity on what it is you want, and work toward it.” Tomas Keenan, author of Unf*ck Your Business: Stop Business Self-Sabotage by Getting Clear on Your Core Values NOW

“When it comes to selling yourself, think about your customer: Do unto him as you would wish someone in a similar position would do unto you. Now, what does that look like in practice? It’s you wanting your customer to like you. That starts by you liking your customer in return. Not all customers are likable. But if you can take a customer who is angry, and you can turn them around—if you can take someone who’s really sour and make them sweet, that’s a customer who’s attached to you for life.” Vinnie DeStefano, Sales Trainer



 stats

IN THE BAYS FOR 2021 2021 STELLAR YEAR FOR THE INDUSTRY. HERE ARE THE TOP AUTOMAKER BRANDS SEEN IN THE INSTALL BAY, AND THE TOP CATEGORIES. TOP AUTOMAKES BY REVENUE:

TOP FIVE CATEGORIES BY REVENUE:

TOP AUTO MAKES BY TRANSACTIONS:

1. HEADUNITS

FORD

2. AMPLIFIERS & PROCESSORS

2. CHEVROLET

3. SPEAKERS & SUBWOOFERS

3. TOYOTA 4. JEEP 5. HONDA 6. DODGE

4. OEM INTEGRATION PRODUCTS

5. REMOTE START & SECURITY

7. NISSAN 8. GMC 9. RAM 10. KIA

TOP FIVE CATEGORIES BY TRANSACTION:

INSTALLATION KITS 2. HEADUNITS 3. SPEAKERS & SUBWOOFERS 4. REMOTE START & SECURITY 5. AMPLIFIERS & PROCESSORS

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TM

mobile electronics association

Technology

Education

Information

Partnerships

Media

Supporting the Industry to Deliver an Exceptional Customer Experience The Mobile Electronics® Association believes a strong, growing specialist channel is critical to the future of the automotive aftermarket industry. We are committed to providing channel support that includes education, access to information, technology, and media. We believe industry growth depends on our members investing in their businesses in order to make them better and stronger, while delivering an exceptional customer experience. Contact us today to become a Mobile Electronics Association member.

Mobile Electronics® • info@mobile-electronics.com • 800-949-6372


 helpful stuff

BOOK: The MeTail Economy: 6 Strategies for Transforming Your Business to Thrive in the Me-Centric Consumer Revolution BY JOEL BINES

Today’s consumers have revolted against the marketplace status quo, and they’re demanding a voice in the products they buy. These digitally-empowered consumers have changed the traditional power dynamics of retail into “metail.” This shift of power means the customer is in charge. Bines, one of today’s top retail brand thought leaders, offers innovative methods to connect with the me-centric consumer and shows how to thrive in this consumer revolution. He delivers examples of companies that have failed to address it, and those who’ve figured it out, clearly illustrating how the traditional dynamic has inverted and why it matters for business survival. Learn six proven models you can use to cultivate and serve highly-informed customers in the “metail” marketplace.

SITE TO SEE: King of the Hammers WWW.ULTRA4RACING.COM/RACE/66

Held in the remote reaches of Johnson Valley, California, the King of the Hammers calls itself the “toughest one-day off-road race in the world.” The event, which has now grown to be a series of races that combine desert racing and rock crawling, draws tens of thousands of spectators to Hammertown, a pop-up city in the middle of a dry lake bed in California’s High Desert. For 2022, Hammertown opens January 27 and closes February 5. Not only is the race tough, so is watching it. In 2007, two friends founded the race by mapping it out on a napkin in a bar. Visit the website, get all the details and put this on your calendar to start the New Year.

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BOOK: Play Nice But Win: A CEO’s Journey From Founder to Leader BY MICHAEL DELL

How does a college dropout become the renowned founder and CEO of one of America’s largest technology companies? In 1984, Michael Dell had a fledgling PC business. Thirty years later, at the pinnacle of his success as founder and leader of Dell Technologies, he was embroiled in a battle for his company’s survival. What happened next would either ensure its legacy or destroy it. This book is about the battles to launch the company, to keep it, and to transform it. Dell recalls mentors who showed him how to turn his passion into a business, and competitors who became friends, foes, or both. Play Nice But Win is a survival story, proving that while anyone with technological insight and entrepreneurial zeal might build something great, it takes a leader to build something that lasts.

PODCAST:Today, Explained Available on Apple, Google and Amazon WWW.VOX.COM/TODAY-EXPLAINED

News comes in so fast it’s hard to follow, but host Sean Rameswaram guides you through the most important stories. A recent episode touched on the deadly aftermath of the recent tornadoes in six states. Most people get about eight minutes’ advance warning, but this podcast episode explored how scientists need to confront more of these storms head-on. Tune in for more hot topics.

AND THE WINNER IS... LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 20, 2022

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 Industry Awards

Raise a Glass to the Congratulations to the Top 50 Installers, Top 50 Retailers and Top 20 Sales Professionals, who continue to demonstrate a commitment to innovation and service.

Best of the Best 12  Mobile Electronics December 2021


Raise a Glass to the Best of the Best Matthew Kim Vanguard Automotive Design StonyPoint,NY Alan Lindgren Speed of SoundLLC Memphis,Tenn. Callum Martin AV-DC Pty Ltd Panorama,Australia ColinMcAndrew MobileSolutionsofCalgary Calgary,AB Brian Mitchell Liquid Trends Modesto Modesto,Calif. Marty Adamschek Andres Electronic Courtenay,BC

Nicholas Frazier iNNovative Concepts Wilbraham,Mass.

Melinton Benavides Speed of Sound Technologies Milford,Conn.

Michael Fulton The SoundShop IndianTrail,NC

Danny Camacho Amplified Autosports St.Petersburg,Fla.

Chris Gliemann Vanguard Automotive Design StonyPoint,NY

Phil Cantu MobileToysInc College Station,Texas

Roop Gossal Inc Ridez Surrey,BC

Dan Castro The CarAudio Shop HighRidge,Mo.

Gary Greenslate The CarAudio Shop HighRidge,Mo.

Arturo Ceballos Audio by Art SanAntonio,Texas

Clifford Glen Henlin B’s CarStereo Elyria,Ohio

Ian Churchill CarToys Tumwater,Wash.

Isai Hernandez Laketown Speed and Sound Draper,Utah

BJ Curcio Broken Silence Custom CarAudio Greenwich,Conn.

Christian Herrera NOLA Sound Solutions Harahan,La.

Marcus Darden DES of Wilmington Wilmington,NC

Justin Hosek Hi-ProAudio Victoria,Texas

Adam Devine Devine Concepts Naples,Fla.

Michael Hungerford KarTele MobileElectronics Waterbury,Conn.

Jesse Mitchell Safe and Sound Manassas,Va. Cole Morris Custom Enclosures CarAudio Bristol,Va. Joseph Norton The Audio Shop Fayetteville,Ark. Chris Ott SpeedofSoundTechnologies Milford,Conn. Jeremy Owen Highdown CarAudio & Security Worthing,AB RyanOxenhorn Ox Audio Cheltenham,Pa. JaimePalafox Agoura Auto sounds AgouraHills,Calif. WilliamPearsall DES of Wilmington Wilmington,NC DavidPhillips The Sound Shop IndianTrail,NC CarlosRamirez NVS Audio Roselle,NJ JoshuaRiesland facebook.com/MobileElectronics

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 Industry Awards Coastal Audio VirginiaBeach,Va. AngelRivera Laketown Speed and Sound Draper,Utah OscarRodriguez J’s Tint & Car Audio Dallas,Texas HeberRuiz Mr.Sound Aurora,Colo. DustinSanteler Lakeside Audio Conroe,Texas AaronSchildknecht SolarPro Tint n Tunes Warrensburg,Mo. CJSilvey FossAudio & Tint Puyallup,Wash. Jason Singer BlueChip Audio Englewood,Colo. James Smith ACT Audio Vernon,Conn. Austin Thorne Tunes-N-Tint Lakeland,Fla. Dalton Trainer Car-Tunes,Inc Greensville,Miss. Mike Walker Efficient Integrations Republic,Mo. Dustin Winn Dreamworks Motorsports Roxboro,NC Andrew Woodward Elevated Audio Denver,Colo. JairoZuniga NVS Audio Roselle,NJ

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ACT Audio Vernon,Conn. Adrenaline Autosound Clayton,NC Advance Electronics Winnipeg,MB Amplified Autosports St.Petersburg,Fla. AudioSourceInc Columbus,Ind. Blvd. Customs of Lakeland Lakeland,Fla. Brian Reimer Audio Winnipeg,MB B’s CarStereo Elyria,Ohio California Audio West Valley City,Utah Cartunes Atlanta Atlanta,Ga. Car-Tunes,Inc. Greensville,Miss. Clear Vibrations Inc Quakertown,Pa. DES of Wilmington Wilmington,NC Devine Concepts Naples,Fla. Elevated Audio Lakewood,Colo.

Explicit Customs Melbourne,Fla. Extreme Car AudioLLC Marrero,La. Foss Audio & Tint Tukwila,Wash. GNC Customs Goshen,Ind. Greg’s Custom Audio, Video & CarStereo Pikeville,KY Hi-Pro Audio Victoria,Texas iNNovative Concepts Wilbraham,Mass. JC Audio Jackson,Tenn. JML Audio of St.Louis Fenton,Mo. KarTele Mobile Electronics Waterbury,Conn. Kartunes Auto Stereo and Alarm Seaside,Calif. Lakeside Audio Conroe,Texas Laketown Speed and Sound Draper,Utah LIS Audio SpringHill,Kan. MobileToys Inc CollegeStation,Texas


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 What’s Happening Mobile works Tint works SantaMaria,Calif. NVS Audio Roselle,NJ Ocala CarAudio Ocala,Fla. Prestige CarAudio & Marine Metairie,La. Rainier Audio Lakewood,Wash. Rolling Audio Roseville,Calif. Sanford Sound Sanford,Maine Sonic Sound Arlington,Va. Sound Evolution Houston,Texas Sound Investment Columbus,Ohio Sounds Good Coquitlam,BC Sudbury CarAudio Sudbury,ON The CarAudio Shop HighRidge,Mo. The Sound Shop IndianTrail,NC TierOne Motoring Oaks,Pa. Titan Motoring Nashville,Tenn. Traffic Jams Motorsports Buford,Ga. Tunes-N-Tint Lakeland,Fla. Tune-Town Sandusky,Ohio Vanguard Automotive Design StonyPoint,NY

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Te’Vonn Bailey Exotic Sound & Tint Salisbury,Md.

Justin Red MobileSoundSystems Arlington,Texas

Kristin Bouldin DES of Wilmington Wilmington,NC

James Skaggs MobileToysInc—CollegeStation,Texas AnthonySt.James

Wesley Conrad B’s CarStereo Elyria,Ohio

SoundCrafters,Inc SouthDaytona,Fla.

Stephen Ferriss ACT Aud io Vernon,Conn. Brandon Gasmund Tune-N-Tint Lakeland,Fla. KevinJuarez Sonic Sound Arlington,Va. Robert Kowatch Perfectionist AutoSound & Security Anchorage,Alaska Joshua Landau JML Audio of St.Louis Fenton,Mo. Tyler Parry BoomersAudio Tulsa,Okla. Brett Payne TrafficJams Motorsports Buford,Ga.

Alex Stowe Speakerbox Madison,Ala. Henry Sudit Henderson’s CostaMesa,Calif. Parish Tanner OcalaCarAudio Ocala,Fla. Quenton Taylor WrightRestyling Calgary,AB Craig Timmerman SafeandSound Chantilly,Va. Ben Turansky ClearVibrationsInc Quakertown,Pa. Dustin Williams MobileToysInc CollegeStation, Texas


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 retail news

GNC Customs Plans Ahead to Handle Scheduling and Inventory Shortages WORDS BY LAURA KEMMERER Ask any retail store owner and you’ll likely hear about inventory problems, backlogged orders, and the search for additional talented personnel. Like many other leaders in the mobile electronics industry, Josh Mojica, general manager for GNC Customs in Goshen, Ind., has had to contend with these difficulties. According to Mojica, the business used to be called Golden Comfort—back when it was a jewelry store that sold furniture. The name was changed when the business expanded more into electronics. “As we grew the electronics department, we didn’t want it to be called Golden Comfort. We decided to work under the name GNC Customs,” Mojica said. “But my parents still have the

18  Mobile Electronics December 2021

furniture department. Our building as a whole is about 9,000 square feet. Our garage bays are 2,000 of that. We have a small showroom, we have the furniture showroom, and we have a warehouse.” Mojica explained that at GNC Customs, it’s very much a family environment. Letting employees go is difficult, and turnover has stayed consistently low in the business’s history. Having a team which leadership can trust and rely upon is essential for managing a healthy schedule. Even with the best planning, a project can take longer than forecasted. For example, GNC Customs recently installed new headlight bulbs in a Mercedes. However, replacing the bulbs meant removing the tires and fender

liner. When the shop didn’t have the proper parts, adapters were needed. “I schedule light to plan for things like that. We’ll schedule eight to 10 cars and it’s hard. Life is unexpected,” Mojica said. “It’s one thing if someone just comes in for a dash kit, but when someone’s coming in for a consultation on a build, you can’t stop what you’re doing to spend an hour or an hour-and-a-half with someone.” “We’re trying to get consultations to appointment-only. We’ve contemplated going to appointment-only across the board, and we really should’ve made that move when we reopened after the first few months of COVID,” he explained. “We closed for two months. We didn’t switch,


and now I’m wishing we had because it would’ve been a great time to transition.” Treating the staff well, and maintaining a good work-life balance, is the main focus of scheduling. The shop is open five days a week, rather than the six it had been some years previously, and while there are some late nights, it doesn’t happen all the time. As for managing inventory with crunched supply chains, Mojica expressed gratitude for having the cash to stock up. “I’ll order things and sit on it because I know we’ll need it,” he said. And this is what it really comes down to: planning, planning, planning.

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 retail news

Stereo West Autotoys Expands Brand Consideration to Manage Shortages Stereo West Autotoys, with two locations in Omaha, Neb., has addressed concerns with inventory shortages by broadening their consideration of lesser-known brands. Open for 48 years and a family-run business, Stereo West Autotoys is helmed by general manager David Hampson and his father, Brian Hampson, the business’s owner and creator of The 12v Dashboard, a 12-volt lookup tool recently unveiled at KnowledgeFest Indy. As the business gets into the swing of remote start season, they continue to provide tonneau covers, truck accessories, under-seat subwoofer boxes and side-steps, among other essentials. “Getting product right now is a huge challenge,” said David Hampson. “Backup cameras that are factory-integrated is a huge market right now. We’ve

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never seen it grow as much as it has in the past couple of years, especially with backup cameras being a mandatory safety item on new vehicles. Every parent wants their kid with [an older car like a] ’98 Honda to have one, because their 2020 Escalade has one, so they want one on their kid’s car. I think the mandate is encouraging it.” Most of all, being able to secure head units continues to be one of the biggest problems. To remedy this issue, Stereo West has brought on some brands that the business doesn’t always carry but are still quality—like Jensen Mobile. “It’s hard to have the reputation of Kenwood or Pioneer as a head unit brand, so I think a lot of smaller brands get swept under the rug more than they should, and they’re really good head units. We love Jensen,” Hampson said.

Effective planning has helped the business to have at least some head units on the shelf at all times, but he emphasized that it’s still been an incredibly difficult challenge. “Our distributors have said they’re shocked at the amount of inventory we do have, and I think we’re good at keeping stock on the shelves, but when we do get low we’ll sell an integration piece instead of a head unit,” Hampson said. “Maybe they just want CarPlay, so we sell them a ZZ-2 piece instead of a head unit. That ends up being pretty profitable in itself anyway, sometimes more than a head unit.” The key here, like for so many other businesses dealing with the same inventory struggles, is planning ahead. “If you don’t have stock until the day of the job, you won’t have it,” he added.


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 On the show floor

Creative Solutions From lighting to sound quality, each product displayed at KnowledgeFest Indy presented the answer to a problem— demonstrating manufacturers’ commitment to helping retailers find creative solutions for their clients.

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VAIS Technology Fiber-Optic Lighting This new fiber-optic lighting system from VAIS Technology allows you to easily install lighting throughout a car. Simply make a hole anywhere in the panel, run the fiber-optics to it and plug it into the box for results. It also offers Bluetooth integration. Use a phone to choose from thousands of colors, as well as the level of light intensity.

AudioControl Epicenter Micro The Epicenter Micro is about a third the size of a traditional Epicenter. It has high level and low level inputs, and all the features of an LC2I Pro Line Output Converter, including built-in load-generating devices. Despite its smaller size, it is a full-fledged Epicenter. The Micro was specifically designed and coated for the powersports market. Additionally, it comes with the ACR 4, a dual concentric knob to combine two knobs into one. The outer ring of the knob controls the Epicenter effect, and the inner ring controls overall sub volume.

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 On the show floor Car Keys Express Product Display The Car Keys Express product display allows customers to choose from the most common car keys available. A programmer is included in the box. However, the blade must be cut, so this display is ideal for a shop that will be incorporating a key cutter. Car Keys Express has a main focus: Getting retailers into the car keys market by making car keys simple and affordable. Through the retailer, customers will pay 40 to 70 percent less than they would at a dealership—and that’s with the shop making at least a 50 to 60 percent margin.

Race Sport Lighting Drive Series V2 The Drive Series V2 is a high-performance premium piece, which is made to match the size of a regular halogen bulb to avoid any fitment issues. The product is also packaged with CAN Bus decoders, sold with the item instead of separately to provide an all-in-one solution. No additional parts are needed. The Drive Series V2 also has a high lux output and antiglare focus cups. Sold in attractive retail packaging.

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Vibe Audio Makes its First Appearance at KnowledgeFest In 2020, 12v Electronics—a Chicago, Ill.-based distributor—was chosen to be the USA distributor for the popular UK-based car audio brand Vibe Audio. Vibe Audio made its first KnowledgeFest appearance in Indianapolis. The company’s line of products include speakers, amplifiers, subwoofers and subwoofer enclosures, installation supplies and much more. According to 12v Electronics, Vibe Audio’s products complement the distributor’s other offerings, “and fills other markets we were previously unable to service for our specialist brick-and-mortar retailers.” Vibe Audio is currently well-stocked in 12v Electronics’ Chicago warehouse. Dealers can reach out to: sales@vibeaudiousa. com. “With the current issues of product shortages and delays, sourcing Vibe Audio from the UK has been a blessing,” according to 12v Electronics representatives. “They have ample product in stock and we are not seeing the transit delays that are an issue on so many other products.”

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 On the show floor Audiopipe 7-Band Parametric Graphic Equalizer This EQ has a high-low converter built into it. It can be connected to a factory system, unlike other EQs on the market. The user is able to keep their factory head unit and add whatever products they wish, fine-tuning the EQ to the acoustics of the car and their listening preferences. An accompanying app provides a simple way to adjust the music, with userfriendly images that go along with the settings. Available now.

Arc Audio A10 Woofer The Arc Audio A10 Subwoofer offers dual-2 or dual-4 for maximized impedance for the accompanying amplifier. It can handle 250 to 300 watts. The product is high-quality and competition-ready.

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real world RETAIL

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STAYING TUNED

Auto Sound was founded 50 years ago by Ronald Needleman, Sr. Today, the business operates on the same high standards, facing today’s challenges with skill and flexibility. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

I

n September of 1971—50 years ago—Ronald Needleman, Sr. opened Auto Sound in his home garage, focusing only on dealership work. Ron Needleman, Jr. was born September 21 of the same month, and since the family can’t quite recall the exact date the business opened, they celebrate its founding on Ron’s birthday. Today, Auto Sound has three locations: Plainville, Mass. serves as the company’s corporate office and warehouse, managed by Ron’s brother Paul. Ron Needleman, Jr. is the manager at the Middletown, Mass. location, which has about 5,000 square feet. The newest location is in Scarborough, Maine.

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real world RETAIL

FAST FACTS MAIN LOCATION:

PLAINVILLE, MASS. NUMBER OF LOCATIONS:

THREE

SQUARE FOOTAGE:

10,000 TYPE:

TRADITIONAL RETAIL NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES:

FORTY

MAIN FOCUS

25% CAR AUDIO

KEY STAFF OWNERS:

The business has about 40 employees and a high rate of retention. Fourteen of the team members have been with Auto Sound for over 20 years. About 75% of its revenue remains rooted in dealership work, with a team of mobile technicians who are on the road doing installations. “We do a lot of remote starts, moonroofs, leather interior, car audio and mobile video, tonneau covers and running boards,” Needleman said. However, due to recent shortages in vehicles at dealerships, he added that Auto Sound has seen a doubling of retail business while dealership business has shrunk. “More people seem to be keeping their cars and upgrading them,” he said, “rather than buying a new car—because they just can’t find a new car.” Needleman, Jr. said between all three locations, they might work on 30 to 40 cars per day. Before the increase in retail sales, it was about 20 to 25. He added this also depends on the time of year. During the winter, the number of cars double due to remote start installations.

30  Mobile Electronics December 2021

“We used to do lower-ticket items, but CarPlay [units] have doubled ticket prices on a typical car radio installation,” he said. Celebrating 50 Years of Car Audio Over the years, the business has gone through many changes while remaining true to its core of dealership service. During the 1990s, the business had seven stores but over the years, the family decided to consolidate the locations into three larger retail spaces. Ron Needleman, Jr. recalled his father’s beginnings in the industry, stating that he attended Northeastern University to become an electrical engineer. His father’s work at Automatic Radio designing car radios led to his realization that car audio was growing faster every year. Recognizing the need, Needleman, Sr. partnered with Bernie Feldman to open Auto Sound. The two men were partners for about five years, said Needleman, Jr. Audio VOXX then invited them on-board, and the two companies have been closely partnered ever since. Both

RON NEEDLEMAN, JR. & PAUL NEEDLEMAN ADVISOR:

RONALD NEEDLEMAN, SR. GENERAL MANAGER, MIDDLETON:

RON NEEDLEMAN, JR. GENERAL MANAGER, PLAINVILLE:

PAUL NEEDLEMAN

GENERAL MANAGER, SCARBOROUGH:

JEFF THERRIAULT PRESIDENT:

HOWARD HONIGBAUM ACCOUNTS AND HR:

BETH KRESSLER

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS:

ANDY SUSSMAN

TERRITORY SALES MANAGERS:

RON DEMOURA, ED DEAO, JEFF MITCHELL


STAYING TUNED

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real world RETAIL

“What Would Dad Do?” Ronald Needleman, Sr. has been retired for 20 years, though he remains Auto Sound’s key advisor. Although Ron Needleman, Jr. and Paul Needleman are the official owners of the business, they often ask themselves, “What would Dad do?” “We are always mindful of this question,” said Needleman, Jr. “We stop to think, ‘What would Dad do in this situation?’ He’s just a phone call away if we want to run something by him.” Needleman, Jr. shared a number of key lessons he’s learned from his father over the years, lessons which other retailers can apply to their own businesses. Chief among these lessons is, “Listen to your team. Try to be a part of that team as much as you can. Just because we own the company doesn’t mean you won’t find us cleaning the garage or vacuuming the showroom,” he explained. Additionally, one must never take customers for granted: “Treat every customer like they’re your only customer,” he said. “Dad was always huge on going out of his way and bending over backward to make sure every customer had an outstanding experience.” Happy customers, he noted, tell their friends—and so do unhappy customers. “Dad also taught us never to settle,” said Needleman, Jr., adding that no matter how good business is, there’s always something to work on, something to improve. “Owning a business is about continuing to grow and improve through education. Education might be learning about new products, but education can also be about learning more every day about your customers and their needs. Never stop learning.” 32  Mobile Electronics December 2021


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A LEGACY O F

T U N I N G

E X C E L L E N C E

PXE-0850X

PXE-X09

“Alpine’s processors have the power to create a fully active system on a budget, providing a high level of performance at unheard price points.” - Zach A. from Palm City, FL

facebook.com/MobileElectronics  33


real world RETAIL Feldman and Needleman, Sr. worked for Audio VOXX while running Auto Sound. “My father ended up the vice president of engineering,” he said. “He designed radios made to fit into certain cars and look like a factory radio. He traveled all over the world and found manufacturers to build the products he was designing, while running Auto Sound with my mother answering phones out of our home.” To celebrate the momentous anniversary, Audio VOXX hosted a party at its corporate headquarters in New York. Ronald Needleman, Sr., Ron Needleman, Jr., Paul Needleman and Howard Honigbaum—Auto Sound’s president—flew up to attend. Needleman, Jr. noted that he’s learned a lot from his father. “Working with him from a very young age helped us see how he did things firsthand,” he said. One thing they learned from his father, according to Needleman, Jr., is the importance of building a team of great people. Also, “Don’t be afraid to admit that while you might excel at certain things, you have other people to support you in areas where you might not be as strong.” Expanding to Meet Needs Following continued requests from dealers in Maine looking for moonroofs

34  Mobile Electronics December 2021

and leather interiors, Needleman, Jr. said he bought a box truck and hired an installer, sending him up to install at dealerships. “When it got busier, we opened a small garage in Westbrook, Maine, which didn’t have a retail store,” he said. This past year, the shop expanded into a much larger facility with a retail showroom in Scarborough, according to Needleman, Jr., who added that the location has about 4,500 square feet of space. The team expects the Scarborough location to attract even more business in the near future due to in-process land development bringing in mixed-use retail, condominiums and homes. “We’ve already started getting more business,” he added. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the business has kept its focus on selling quality service rather than brands or products. When something’s unavailable, Auto Sound will offer another product of equal quality. “If someone’s looking for a Viper and we don’t have it, we’ll recommend a Prestige,” he said, adding that because of the business’s longevity, its client base trusts them. Auto Sound, he added, stands behind its products. In the end, “You’re selling yourself and your services.” Where necessary, the business has had

Detailed Quotes Aid in Closing Sales When customers call and request a quote, the team asks for vehicle and contact information. Then, Needleman said, a quote is created that resembles an invoice. Since implementing this detailed quote system at the start of the pandemic, close rates have increased overall. Needleman, Jr. said the team chose that particular time to make the change because they had the time to try something new. Every product is included in the quote along with links to further resources. “They can look at each part so they fully understand what we’re doing,” he explained. “People will call back a week or two later and book it. They give us the quote number. We make sure we have product and we book the appointment.” Needleman feels the new quoting process informs customers and inspires them to trust Auto Sound. “Most people don’t want to do the installation themselves. And most people who come in or call are ready to buy from us.” Additionally, Needleman said the shop uses 12Volt.Biz Toolbox for scheduling customers. The software sends the customer a text to confirm, then a reminder before the appointment. “Afterward, they get a text asking if they’re satisfied and it sends a link to give us a Google review,” he added. “It’s very effective, and we do get reviews that way.” Overall, the best marketing comes from Facebook. Andy Sussman, director of operations, handles marketing for the company and manages the website, where at least 10 to 15 quote requests come in every day from prospective clients.


STAYING TUNED

to alter its buying patterns. Fortunately, when the pandemic began, Needleman, Jr. said, “we had a feeling, so we started buying more. We’ve been stocking retail products, and we’re heavily loaded with CarPlay pieces and remote starters.” Because they were able to stock up, Auto Sound has had other businesses reach out via Facebook groups. “People will ask for certain items,” Needleman, Jr. said. “I’ll share them when I can, but we also have to make sure we have enough.” One brand the shop never carried until now is BOSS Audio, which Needleman, Jr. said they brought in within the last year to fill in some of the void. “We’ve had good luck with them, but we aren’t selling them to audiophiles,” he said. “If someone just wants CarPlay and they aren’t looking for a high-end system, it works well. We aren’t selling as many of them as we were six months ago, because we’ve gotten more Alpine and Sony recently.” The team has also had to source product through other channels: “I’ve ordered on eBay and Amazon because Metra Electronics or a distributor doesn’t have something specific. You find yourself buying from different places just to make the sale,” he said, adding, “You reach out and find it where you can.”

Add-Ons Continue to Increase Ticket Sizes The typical ticket at Auto Sound is around $5,000. Needleman, Jr. said the majority of their clients aren’t looking for high-end systems, though the shop sometimes builds custom enclosures. Auto Sound offers “Winter Packages,” which include heated seats and remote starters. Depending on how busy things are, Needleman, Jr. said they’ll offer a discount when these items are bundled. “Add-ons provide us with additional revenue. If you’re selling a radio with a back-up camera, or any other small add-on, you’ll get a lot of additional revenue.” Another popular add-on to a remote start installation is CarLink, to start the car from the user’s cell phone. “Sometimes if we’re doing a sunroof, we’ll add a wind deflector on the top,” he said. If a relatively new salesperson needs assistance with a more complicated job, they’ll hand it over to Ron or Paul. Most team members stick to their specialties, but will branch out into other categories depending on the individual. Auto Sound welcomes those who want to learn more and expand their skillsets, Needleman, Jr. added.

Foreseeing a Bright Future in 12-Volt Although the COVID-19 pandemic and inventory shortages brought a lot of uncertainty, Needleman, Jr. said the Auto Sound team is pleasantly surprised with how well things have gone. Retail sales are up as much as 75 percent. “The future looks bright,” he said. “Because of the shortage on new cars, we were able to focus more on growing our retail business.” What’s the bottom line for a business? It’s simple, according to Needleman, Jr.: “Do a good job,” he said, adding that his father instilled in him the importance of community and word-of-mouth. Because of the longevity of the business, many clients find the shop through a friend or another business. Car dealers will tell their customers about Auto Sound, and existing customers will post about the business online. “It’s amazing how many people know our name. In the old days, it was real talk around the dinner table, or at neighborhood BBQs,” he said, adding, “Today, with social media, it’s great to see someone post a simple question like ‘Where should I get a remote starter?’ and see all these random people reply to the post with links to our company.” facebook.com/MobileElectronics  35


real world RETAIL

16 00.1

7.1 in

5.3 in

1

2

P OWE R @ 4Ω: 1 X 6 97 WR M S

P OWE R @ 4Ω: 1 X 1056 WR M S

P OWE R @ 2Ω: 1 X 1056 WR M S

P OWE R @ 2Ω: 1 X 16 00 WR M S

P OWE R @ 1Ω: 1 X 16 00 WR M S

P OWE R @ 1Ω: 1 X N /A

O P E R ATI N G VO LTAG E: 8V – 16V

O P E R ATI N G VO LTAG E: 8V – 16V

C U R R E NT D R AW (M U S I C): 62A

C U R R E NT D R AW (M U S I C): 62A

C U R R E NT D R AW (MA X): 125A

C U R R E NT D R AW (MA X): 125A

R E C O M M E N D E D F U S E (M U S I C): 70A

R E C O M M E N D E D F U S E (M U S I C): 70A

TOTAL E F F I C I E N CY: 8 9%

TOTAL E F F I C I E N CY: 8 9%

DAM P I N G FACTO R: >2000

DAM P I N G FACTO R: >2000

F R E Q U E N CY R E S P O N S E (-3dB): 5Hz – 25kHz

F R E Q U E N CY R E S P O N S E (-3dB): 5Hz – 25kHz

S N R: 94dB

S N R: 94dB

C R O S S OVE R LP F: 50Hz - 500Hz

C R O S S OVE R LP F: 50Hz - 500Hz

S U B S O N I C: 5Hz - 3 0Hz

S U B S O N I C: 5Hz - 3 0Hz

TH D + N (10% R ATE D P OWE R): 0.1%

TH D + N (10% R ATE D P OWE R): 0.1%

TECHNOLOGY VA S - V I B R AT I O N

DT M - DY N A M I C

U LT R A

A B S O R P T I O N SYS T E M

THERMAL MANAGEMENT

C O M PA C T P C B

MASSIVE

36  Mobile Electronics December C O N N2021 E C TO R S

L O W B AT T E R Y CONSUMPTION


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3 000.1

9 in

5.3 in

1

2

P OWE R @ 4Ω: 1 X 13 07 WR M S

P OWE R @ 4Ω: 1 X 19 8 0 WR M S

P OWE R @ 2Ω: 1 X 19 8 0 WR M S

P OWE R @ 2Ω: 1 X 3 000 WR M S

P OWE R @ 1Ω: 1 X 3 000 WR M S

P OWE R @ 1Ω: 1 X N /A

O P E R ATI N G VO LTAG E: 8V – 16V

O P E R ATI N G VO LTAG E: 8V – 16V

C U R R E NT D R AW (M U S I C): 121A

C U R R E NT D R AW (M U S I C): 121A

C U R R E NT D R AW (MA X): 242A

C U R R E NT D R AW (MA X): 242A

R E C O M M E N D E D F U S E (M U S I C): 140A

R E C O M M E N D E D F U S E (M U S I C): 140A

TOTAL E F F I C I E N CY: 8 6%

TOTAL E F F I C I E N CY: 8 6%

DAM P I N G FACTO R: >2000

DAM P I N G FACTO R: > 2000

F R E Q U E N CY R E S P O N S E (-3dB): 5Hz – 25kHz

F R E Q U E N CY R E S P O N S E (-3dB): 5Hz – 25kHz

S N R: 9 0dB

S N R: 9 0dB

C R O S S OVE R LP F: 50Hz - 500Hz

C R O S S OVE R LP F: 50Hz - 500Hz

S U B S O N I C: 5Hz - 3 0Hz

S U B S O N I C: 5Hz - 3 0Hz

TH D + N (10% R ATE D P OWE R): 0.1%

TH D + N (10% R ATE D P OWE R): 0.1%

CTA-200 6 C O M P LIANT

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SOUNDIGITALUSA

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 Learning From Leaders

Audiopipe Rides a Wave of Success 38  Mobile Electronics December 2021

With an early intro to car audio, a love for Latin music and a strong work ethic, founder Gonzalo Palenzuela’s focus has always been loud and clear. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER


Audiopipe Rides a Wave of Success Growing up by the water can be inspiring. Seeing the vastness of the ocean, appreciating its beauty, and learning to respect it as a force of the nature has given many a creative motivation. It did for Gonzalo Palenzuela—and it even gave him the name of the company he would ultimately establish. Gonzalo’s interest in the business grew from his father’s involvement: His father was a distributor who started working with Pioneer Car Audio in the late 1960s. “He was a distributor for Puerto Rico initially and then opened up an office in Miami,” Palenzuela said. “I grew up with Pioneer Car Audio and I even got a chance to stay at the president’s home in Japan.” He learned a lot as a kid while visiting Pioneer headquarters, he said, and getting a chance to experience Japanese culture. “It was interesting to see their management style,” he added. “They were persistent and dedicated, detailed in everything.” While studying for a major in international finance and marketing, Palenzuela worked for his father’s business in the parts department. “We distributed parts for Pioneer, Zenith, Casio and TDK,” he said, adding that he got to know the parts and accessories business very well. The Inspiration of Sound and Sea Toward the end of his sophomore year, the person managing the parts department left and Palenzuela was the logical choice to take over. He noted that he kept attending classes in mornings and evenings while running the department. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Palenzuela recalled all the big companies going direct rather than using distributors. “I decided to create my own brand,” he said. “I was just finishing college at the University of Miami. I decided to create Audiopipe.” When it came time to pick a name for his new venture, he drew on the inspiration of the ocean. “I like surfing, the waves, the ‘pipe’ is the perfect wave,” he explained. “I liked how it sounded. There’s also the ‘pitch pipe’ in sound, and that’s kind of the idea behind the original Pioneer logo.”

From 1969 until 1998, the Greek letter Omega—the symbol of electrical resistance—and a tuning fork made up the Pioneer logo. Tuning forks and pitch pipes are both sources of a reference pitch. Drawing from the inspiration of these terms, and of the vastness of the ocean itself, Palenzuela called his new company Audiopipe. Learn to Understand Business From the Ground Up Palenzuela said one of the best ways to understand business and be successful is to learn from the ground up in the “smaller corners” of a company. “Personally, I don’t know how you can do it without that,” he said. “It’s very difficult to pull off if you haven’t done the grunt work, coming in and then managing a business.” One of Audiopipe’s employees—who also came up in the old-school way—is one of Palenzuela’s fraternity brothers, John Messer. “He started working here helping out, first in the warehouse and then with invoicing, and he became our national sales manager. He’s been here more than 32 years,” Palenzuela said. “And he is still with us today.”

A high level of commitment to learn about all areas of a company, even the less-visible ones, will help a person understand how a business operates. “What we are seeing now with this latest generation,” Palenzuela said, “is that they have a tendency to want to skip all those little steps along the way.” Get to Know Industry Trends Since the company’s launch there have been plenty of ups and downs. More recently, Palenzuela said the pandemic has had an intriguing impact on younger folks. “Certainly keeping up with the styles is always challenging, but that’s part of the fun, too,” he said, “so I wouldn’t say that’s today’s biggest challenge.” Instead, he noted, the biggest challenge relates to the latest generation. “I call them the Uber generation. They really didn’t care for the car,” he explained. “It took the pandemic to get them interested in the car again.” For these folks, he continued, it was just easier to call an Uber. “I don’t see it necessarily with my own kids, but with their friends.” He didn’t observe the same rush to get a driver’s license that he recalled from his own teenage years.

Gonzalo Palenzuela (right) and Julio Rodriguez (left) representing Audiopipe at an event in Chicago about 12 years ago.

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 Learning From Leaders

Audiopipe exhibited at KnowledgeFest Dallas this month, with representative Julio Rodriguez present to discuss the company’s product lines with attendees.

In the younger generation, he saw less of an interest in getting a car, or in different styles of vehicles. “There just wasn’t any of that excitement. My daughter is now 22, but I saw that with her and her friends a lot more than with my son who is now 16,” Palenzuela said. “His friends are more excited about cars. I want to say that the pandemic played a role in that. All of sudden the car is your private space and these kids see the value in that. And they want to make the car cool with audio.” The industry has certainly benefitted from this shift. Anyone in the car audio business has seen the spike in sales, Palenzuela said, adding, “We will see it continue because of that factor: Younger people are giving more importance to the car again.” It was definitely a major milestone for Palenzuela and those of his generation. He said he bought his first car when he was 16, adding, “Oh, it was horrible. I had a Buick station wagon with wooden panels. It was not a cool car.” While he

40  Mobile Electronics December 2021

didn’t particularly care for the exterior, he didn’t do a thing with the interior either—no car audio upgrades. “I was going to school and working,” he said, “It’s one of those things: When you’re in the industry, you don’t necessarily buy what you sell or use what you sell. But I certainly helped all of my friends with their systems.” Seek Creative Ideas in the Field While the last 18 months have restricted travel, being on the road has been one of the most rewarding aspects of Palenzuela’s role at Audiopipe. “I certainly enjoy all the travel in my career,” he said. “I often go to Puerto Rico since we have a distribution center there. My travels also take me to Asia, but those trips can take a beating on you. It’s not the same thing as flying two or three hours somewhere.” One of the biggest benefits of traveling, he said, is the opportunity it affords him to maintain personal connections. “It is tremendously important,” he said. “A lot

of our distributors have those open house events which were fantastic because you got a chance to be one-on-one with guys handling your product. They would tell you the good, the bad and what could be improved, or they could share new ideas. I miss that immensely. All of that went away with the pandemic. And we have missed that personal connection. It was huge.” Traveling to Puerto Rico, Palenzuela said, is also important because it’s a source of many new ideas. “We specialize in producing the Latin sound,” he said. “Speakers that reproduce percussion and voice, very loud and very clear.” He noted that he enjoys the Latin sound, but also listens to a wide variety of genres. “I like everything,” he said. “Heavy metal, classic rock and reggaeton. I was a huge Eddie Van Halen fan growing up. I also love punk rock. Berlin, Blondie, Violent Femmes. And I love Bad Bunny. Recently I saw him in concert.” Palenzuela noted how much music around the world is coming out of


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 Learning From Leaders

Puerto Rico. “Even clubs in Germany and Spain—it’s amazing how much of the music they’re playing is out of a small island in the Caribbean.” But the initial inspiration and focus for the design of Audiopipe’s speakers came from the distinct sound of Miami, Latin and Reggae. Palenzuela noted the unique, popular mix of Puerto Rican sound captured by “the Pittbulls of the world.” “I remember traveling to China with my colleague Julio Rodriguez (also known as JRod), and he was saying to me that Pitbull was local, just a Miami guy,” he said. “And as we’re getting off the plane and walking through the Shanghai airport, what’s playing on the sound system—Pitbull! And I said to him, ‘Nope, he’s not just a local guy anymore.’” Endeavor to Control Your Destiny Moving forward, Palenzuela is keeping an eye on the interests of younger consumers. One of the company’s newest products is geared to a younger generation and was recently introduced at SEMA. Because the younger

42  Mobile Electronics December 2021

generation prefers to operate things from their smartphones, he said, Audiopipe is gearing their designs in that direction. “Our latest DSP is controlled on your phone, and you can do a million things with it. You can see your voltage, and it has all sorts of controls on it. It’s fantastic.” While they were present at SEMA and recent KnowledgeFest events, Audiopipe is skipping CES despite having been a regular exhibitor there in the past. “It’s just such high technology,” he said. “Imagine someone who owns a retail store going there—so, yes, you see the driverless cars, but what are you going to do with that? You can’t sell that.” For that reason, other venues make more sense for the company. “The installers are at SEMA. The guys who are getting their hands dirty. They’re the ones visiting the show and talking to us. It reminded us of CES 30 years ago.” Being at the right shows and connecting with the right folks is what will drive

things forward in 2022. “In business, it’s all about relationships,” Palenzuela said, noting that a willingness to do whatever you can for others will keep them coming to you, rather than the competition. “And if they want to go to your competitor, you at least want a heads-up. You want to work with people who are giving you a full scope of what’s happening in the market, so you’re not out in left field.” Looking back, Palenzuela is content with the choices he’s made. He’s especially happy with one decision in particular that’s given him more control over the future of his company: Audiopipe owns its own factory, and according to Palenzuela, the company is probably one of very few in the United States that can make this claim. “In the mid-to-late 90s, most of our parts were coming out of one factory in Shenzhen. The owner of that factory wanted to retire, so I bought that factory from him, and it’s been a huge advantage,” he explained. “When I go to a retailer and they tell me they have an idea, in two weeks I can turn it around and have a sample for them to test. That’s huge.” Even during the pandemic, as dealers ask for one model more than another, he said it’s easy to switch what’s happening at the factory and move to the model that’s in higher demand. “It’s made us very successful for the last year and a half,” he added. He’s left nothing to chance, sticking to the game plan he created back in high school. “My father worked with Zenith and I saw how big box stores controlled or dominated finished products. If you weren’t a big box store, it was hard to compete. I knew early on that I wanted to be in car audio—something that was specialized—where you needed an installer. If not, I would never be competitive in electronics.” This level of specialization, he said, was something big box stores could touch on the surface—but they couldn’t go deep. Certainly never as deep as a specialized manufacturer or retailer. “I always knew car audio was what I wanted to do,” he said.


Audiopipe Rides a Wave of Success

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 strategy & tactics

Business Best Practices

At KnowledgeFest Indy, Chris Cook of Mobile Electronics Association discussed goal-setting, community involvement, team-building and much more. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

At KnowledgeFest Indianapolis this past October, Chris Cook of MEA led a casual discussion on business best practices, touching on topics such as annual reviews and delegating tasks—which can be complicated depending on a business’s specific situation. The main takeaway was to “always stay focused and never stop learning,” according to Cook. “I like to look at how people in other industries are doing things, too,” he said. “I like to make a goal to learn something new every day.” Brandon Green of The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo. led the workshop with Cook, helping in roleplay situations to demonstrate issues. For him, he said, delegating tasks to employees can be one of

44  Mobile Electronics December 2021

the most difficult aspects of running his business. It can be hard, Green said, “to step back and allow them to do their job, and trust them to do that job.” Cook noted that while no team member will ever do a job or a task the same way the owner or manager would (each person is different, after all), “It’s still taking a lot off your plate.” While everyone handles tasks differently, Cook noted, “It’s getting the job done,” letting owners work on the business instead of in it. Here are five strategies drawn from the discussion, which business owners can discuss with their teams and begin applying today.

#1: Make Sure You’re On the Same Page A business owner should always be on the same page with their team, so the group can collectively discuss issues and how to solve them. “In trying to get your business and employees on the same page, there’s a reason to try to reach the finish line,” Cook said. “You can’t keep adjusting goals. You have to put a line in the sand, own it and move forward with it.” While it can be adjusted when absolutely necessary, Cook noted that both team members and clients are seeking stability: “It helps [find stability] if we’re all trying to reach the same finish line, and trying to help the same people the same way.” To ensure everyone’s on the same page, Cook advised focusing on the business’s primary mission, which everyone on the team should already be familiar with. Additionally, make sure what you’re saying in your personal life matches your business life. “As soon as people find your Facebook page, you’re being judged by what you say. Avoid getting personal online,” he added. “Ignore all the outside noise. Find what works for you. What works for you may be different than what works for other people. Then, work to exceed the goals you set.” #2: Set Attainable Goals It’s important that goals be attainable. Larger goals can be split into a number of smaller ones, with milestones marked along the way to help keep a business on track, according to Cook. “If your goal is to double revenue, and you have a couple of years to achieve that goal, you have to have a strategy in place to achieve it,” he explained. “You have to have markers in place, and you have to get to each one. Each marker is a check-point.” Green said The Car Audio Shop is aiming to double its revenue by 2024. “We’re constantly working on growing the business so we can do that. That’s a long-term goal,” he said, adding, “Our short-term goal is getting the second shop completely set up.”


Business Best Practices An important aspect of goal-setting, he noted, is that a date has to be set. “You have to set a time, otherwise you’re never going to get there.” Cook agreed, adding that goals can always change, too. “You might have a vision, and one goal just doesn’t fit that vision. Sometimes you have difficulty because you’re working on it by yourself,” Cook said, using cost-savings as an example. “Sometimes in cost-savings, a big company will announce they cut staff. Their revenue is higher. But soon enough, they have disgruntled employees, a labor shortage, and things start breaking down.” When he owned his own business, he noted, “I hired the right amount of people

to do the work and then worked to reach the next level.” He added that doubling revenue is a structural change: “You can’t double your revenue with what you have. [For example] at this point, I’ll need another employee. At this point, I’ll need another system. Every time you try to grow your business, there’s a structural change.” This is why splitting a large goal into multiple, smaller goals makes a goal more realistic to attain. A business should always be trying to reach the next level. “That’s where goal setting makes a difference,” Cook said. “If you have no goals, you’ll achieve nothing—no growth.”

#3: Learn Problem-Solving Strategies Connecting with other business owners and learning how they handle operational processes can help offer insight, according to Cook, who recommended getting involved in some kind of local community leadership group. “I got involved early on in Toastmasters International, which helps you learn public speaking, but I also met a lot of other business owners from my town, and we were able to develop partnerships,” he said. “Find something that helps you, but also gives you that opportunity to network in your community.” Learning and applying problem-solving strategies can be difficult, he added, because of time constraints. A business may have a problem they need to solve, but the owner hasn’t had the time. That’s where delegating tasks to employees can help free up time for the owner to work on the issue at hand. “Pose the issue to your employee or employees. Offer them lunch if they sit and think about this topic,” Cook suggested. “Then, have them come to you with whatever they think is the best solution. It gets them engaged in your business and offers you a different perspective.” While the brain-storming session may or may not help solve the problem, the owner is still getting team members involved to help do the work, which will have a positive impact on team-building. During the session, Cook invited audience members to share and discuss any issues they were facing in their businesses. One attendee said that during the vehicle check-out procedure, his team members often missed something, like checking over a door panel. He grappled with how best to face this problem. Cook cited photo documentation and systems put in place that help make check-in and check-out easier, such as a computer program the attendee was already utilizing. Then he suggested creating incentives to motivate employees to follow all the steps. According to Cook, he implemented a “points system” that proved useful. “The installers got different levels of points for different things they installed,

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 strategy & tactics

and then they would be rewarded outside of their regular pay,” he explained, adding, “They got zero points if they didn’t complete vehicle check-in and check-out. That’s an incentive, and the points are easy to do.” He advised starting with asking employees directly, “‘What do you guys think we could do to make this work?’ Once you involve them, getting to 100 percent is easier.” Instead of separating oneself from team members and dealing with problems alone, Cook urged owners to ask for help: “Create a system to do it right every time.” Assigning employees to crosscheck each other’s work, he said, can be a good solution. “They’ll take five minutes, try everything out and make sure it’s working.” #4: Understand Employees Are a Business’s Greatest Asset Cook defined the concept of “available bandwidth” as whatever a business owner is able to handle: “When you go over your available bandwidth, you’ll start frustrating your customer and your employees and they’ll be looking for other work,” he said, adding that it’s important for business owners to know their limits. If a business owner doesn’t know his or her own limits, Cook stressed the business will run the owner into the ground.

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“Right now, with business being up and labor short, it’s tough. But if you keep the same procedures, you’ll only do so much business. You only have a certain amount of bandwidth.” Owners should also be aware that their employees are their greatest assets, because without them, the business’s level of success wouldn’t be as high. He challenged attendees to consider what they do to care for their team members. “What are you doing to retain them and improve their abilities? [Are you asking] for feedback, for help in solving problems?” Cook recommended helping employees to hone their skills by encouraging continued education, such as training classes. “Assign them a book you think might be helpful to them,” he said. “If you’re helping them grow as a person, you’re investing in them. When you invest in someone, you generally get a return.” #5: Celebrate Results With Your Team When a business owner has involved their employees—creating a positive store culture, a team that’s invested in the business—positive results abound. Cook recommended celebrating milestones, even if it’s just beer and pizza at the end of a rough week. He asked Green to share how he celebrates the successes of his employees at The Car Audio Shop, which

has a relatively small team. “Sometimes I’ll give them a bonus,” Green said. “Or we’ll go out to eat. I might give someone a day off. Everyone is different, so you can’t do the same thing and expect every employee to enjoy it.” Cook said when he owned his business, he used to take one of his employees to lunch every other week. “Lunch seems like a small thing, but one-on-one time with the boss can create a special bond” that will motivate the employee and get them further invested in the business. “It gives them a chance to open up,” Green added. Cook agreed, noting that when an employee opens up to the business owner, a different perspective is shared. “You’ll get a different outcome from the work they do. Don’t forget the reward.” Cook advised not letting everything go until an annual review: “If you’re going an entire year before you sit down with a person and allow them to express themselves, that one yearly review will have a lot of pent-up frustration,” he explained. The Car Audio Shop only has three employees, according to Green, so certain techniques and strategies—such as lunch with the boss—may work better for a smaller shop than a larger one. One workshop attendee stated that with 21 employees, he finds annual reviews especially difficult. With a large group, Cook acknowledged that even staggering the annual reviews month to month would still be stressful. He suggested recognizing an individual’s accomplishments in front of everyone else when the staff is gathered together for a meeting. “It motivates the person you’re recognizing, as well as the others,” he said. “It’s the simplest motivator. Also, don’t underestimate buying lunch for the team on a busy day. That’s a motivator, too.” Finally, Cook and Green agrees that every business owner—and every person—should strive to be better than they were yesterday. “Focus on what you can add,” Cook said, “and learn from the mistakes you made yesterday.” After all, he noted, “Your mistakes are good teachers.”


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HOW TO CLOSE A DEAL Business Best Practices

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CHECK YOUR CERTIFICATION STATUS AT MECP.COM/VERIFICATION CONTACT US AT MECP@MECP.COM The Mobile Electronics Certified Professional (MECP) program is the only internationally recognized program of its kind. facebook.com/MobileElectronics  4753 facebook.com/MobileElectronics


 installs

SUBMIT

.T. AUD MITH, A.C M E S P. S

IO, VERN

TED BY JA

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 installs

The owner of this Polaris Slingshot took a year to deliberate before making his move. Now, this sleek machine is ready for anything. Sometimes it can take a while for a client to make a decision. James P. Smith, owner of A.C.T. Audio in Vernon, Conn. said the owner of this Polaris Slingshot took a year to come to a decision before he returned to the shop and got the job done. “The Slingshot has a Sony 7K head unit,” Smith said, “along with a Diamond Micro4VS powering four MP654’s—two in the front and two in the rear.” Additionally, the vehicle was outfitted with an XK Glow KS-Moto-Advanced, and an XK Glow XK-wheel kit, along with a Viper GPS tracker. A Micro 1V2 powers two Diamond DMD subwoofers in the rear. “The client actually came back and added more subwoofers,” he said.

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HOW TO CLOSE A DEAL

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From The President

We know you have choices for your industry education. Just know that we welcome all in our industry regardless of your other affiliations.

KNOWLEDGEFEST REFLECTIONS A tough but rewarding year in review while looking forward to 2022. Reflecting on the past is great for review and to help plan for a better future. When it comes to education for our industry, 2020 was a tough year, allowing only one opportunity to get together in person way back in February of 2020 at our Long Beach, Calif.event. Looking back, I will tell you that rescheduling and cancelling KnowledgeFest events was heartbreaking for me. Some may think I am just referring to the loss of income for the association, but that’s not at all the case. The heartbreak came from knowing that you count on us to provide a great educational event to help you grow your business. But even more than that, the loss of face-to-face networking we’ve all come to value and enjoy. The isolation was grueling. The endless virtual meetings, although sometimes helpful, just didn’t replace hanging out with industry friends as we regaled in our personal stories of both failure and success. The Return to KnowledgeFest As an association, and with the blessing of many committed exhibitors and attendees, we decided to move forward with our 2021 events regardless of the perception of failure or success. We did this after hearing from many of you who just wanted to get back to some sense of normalcy. So did we. We understood that the number of exhibitors and attendance would be smaller than previous pre-pandemic totals. We also knew the event would be different with new safety protocols in place due to national, state, and local guidelines. With that, I am happy to report that none of our attendees or exhibitors reported any health issues because of holding these events. The blessing came when many of you thanked both us and the exhibitors who supported these events for forging ahead. Despite lower attendance numbers, exhibitors said they had very attentive participants in their training sessions, they were able to spend quality time with their accounts, and they built new relationships. Many attendees noted they were we didn’t cancel. They shared how much KnowledgeFest means to them, relaying stories of

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the great ideas born out of past events that changed the course of their business and personal successes. These stories mean so much to us. This is what keeps us moving forward with our mission to educate, inform and empower the industry for continued growth. As an industry, we can look toward the future, knowing we enjoyed three successful events in 2021. Anticipating a Year of Connection We now look toward 2022 with great anticipation, and we’ll continue with four exciting and unique events. Starting February 18th, we will return to Las Vegas, no longer relying upon others such as CES or SEMA to host our industry. You may ask, why is this important? From our view, it allows us focus on our profession without the distraction of other unrelated areas. It provides us with a place to call home. An event that centers solely on what we do and how we do it. No other industry event can provide this level of focus for us. KnowledgeFest 2022 is poised to provide the best education, networking, and mobile electronics industry-specific exhibitors without equal. KnowledgeFest is your event! And we will always do our best to make sure we deliver the content and exhibitors to motivate you to participate. We know we are not the only game in town, and that’s okay with us. We know you have choices for your industry education. Just know that we welcome all in our industry regardless of your other affiliations. We will always be a place you can call home. KnowledgeFest has over 25 years of proven success as the original and best place to provide for all your business education needs. As you plan your year, make sure to have one or more KnowledgeFest events on your schedule. Las Vegas, February 18-20 (Mobile Electronics Industry Awards on the 20th); Indianapolis, April 1-3; Orlando, June 10-12; and Dallas, August 26-28. I hope to see you this year, and I look forward to your great stories of growth and transformation.


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