Seismic Autosound in Novato, Calif. was a one-man shop until long hours and the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a creative merger
Retailers Undeterred by Shortage Despite continued product shortages, retailers are finding creative solutions to serve their clientele.
PLUS: Map it Out: Business owners discuss the planning strategies they rely upon to get them through everyday challenges.
Seeing Clearly: Jon Marlow of Brandmotion talks new tech, introducing the Transparent Trailer system
Volume 53 Issue 7
ADVERTISING SALES firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITORIAL Rosa Sophia Managing Editor 978.645.6466 • email@example.com Chris Cook Editor-at-Large Creative Layout and Design: Ana Ramirez Contributing Editors: Jamie Sorcher and Laura Kemmerer
Published by TM
mobile electronics association
Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • firstname.lastname@example.org
12// What’s Happening: Sourcing the Sound
18 Retail News
Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • email@example.com
Tony Frangiosa, Chairman of the Board, MEA
56 From the President
During continued product shortages, how are retailers meeting the needs of their clients?
26// Real World Retail: Sketching the Future
At the start of the pandemic, one-man shop Seismic Autosound seized the opportunity to change course in search of ideal clients and a better work-life balance.
4 Editor’s Forum
36// Learning From Leaders: In a League of His Own
ON THE COVER:
Kris Bulla was born to educate, train and teach. Now he’s revitalizing the MECP program, encouraging technicians and sales pros alike to strive for excellence.
40// Strategy & Tactics: Business Planning Basics
Facing pitfalls? Here are 5 ways retailers can learn to be more prepared for unexpected twists and turns in both life and business.
46// Tech Today: The Mission of Brandmotion
Jon Marlow of Brandmotion discusses how the company is focused on creating a safer driving experience for everyone on the road today.
2 Mobile Electronics July 2021
Cover Design: Ana Ramirez Bryon Jankow and Marty Barry are fine-tuning the details of their new business partnership. As they work toward their goal of expanding and adding on to the shop, both are enjoying a better balance of work and personal life. The biggest difficulty? Like many other shops, it’s finding staff.
Alpine Electronics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 AudioControl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Cobra. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 MEA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Firstech - Compustar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Harman - JBL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 InstallerNet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 JVC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Kenwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Kicker. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 KnowledgeFest -Dallas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 KnowledgeFest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 MECP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Metra Electronics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Orca Focal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Sirius XM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Sony. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 SounDigital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34,35 Vais Technology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Vision Zero. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
W E N THE PLACE TO LEARN ABOUT
©2020 STILLWATER DESIGNS
T FROM THE PROS O H GET TIPS . .. AND SOMETIMES
0 p.m :3 7 t a s y a d s e ch LIVE Tu
o) i d u a Wat r e k c i k @ ( k o o b e c a F . ) R c i E t a n a f r on KICK e k c i k @ ( e b u T u o or KICKER Y kicker.com #kickeraudio #livinloud @kickeraudio
Before you consider joining, you should ask yourself a few questions, such as: What do you hope to get out of being a member? What are you able to contribute?
JOINING THE CLUB THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT WAYS TO GET INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY & NETWORK WITH FELLOW PROFESSIONALS. LET’S EXPLORE THEM. WHICH OPTION WORKS BEST FOR YOU? Clubs, groups and associations are either exclusive, inclusive or both. Before you consider joining, you should ask yourself a few questions, such as: What do you hope to get out of being a member? What are you able to contribute? Does the group conflict with other groups you’re involved in? Do the rules make sense and are you willing to abide by those rules? And lastly, why do you want to be part of the group? You’re probably seeking information, or even a sense of belonging. If you find value in it, then join and participate. Types of Organizations and How to Navigate Them Group leaders will state the purpose of the group and control the direction of the content. For example, a Facebook group will usually have a stated purpose and rules of engagement. Most groups allow for free exchange of information with little restrictions. Most will ask members to refrain from advertising or promoting themselves, as this does little to further the overall purpose. When groups allow this type of posting, the content often devolves and loses its intended purpose. One reason for the popularity of social media groups is the ease of engagement. Most only require you to meet certain qualifications. Once connected, you can share your thoughts, comment on posts and offer assistance to other members.
Vendor Groups and Industry Associations Vendor groups are usually private Facebook groups, but some vendors offer them with special login credentials on the company’s website. These groups are almost always exclusive to customers of the vendor, and meant to be used to obtain and share information and find technical support. This type of group can be very helpful. Beyond that, dealer-to-dealer communication can be very valuable as it relates to a specific product or installation technique. Trade associations in our industry provide a big tent environment allowing for many smaller groups to be formed. Some associations provide services to members in areas specific to their business interests. An association may also have several social groups allowing members to connect on specific topics. Associations tend to be inclusive because they allow for many people in various areas of the field to be represented. Guidelines are set for membership types, and usually the member must demonstrate affiliation to the trade. This generally includes a code of ethics required to maintain good standing within the association. Consider Exploring Cross-Industry Groups If you are looking for a way to connect with others, look for opportunities to become involved in cross-industry groups. These groups usually exist in associations and are made up of participants from various associations in related industries. Becoming involved in this type of group will expose you to other industries and experiences. If the opportunity arises, seize it. It should be considered high-value. [cont. in from the president, page 56.]
4 Mobile Electronics July 2021
THE ONE. THE ONLY.
des ACR-1 d Inclu ash
991,283 HAPPY BASS ENTHUSIASTS (AND GROWING) AudioControl’s engineers changed the world of mobile audio bass forever with The Epicenter. Nothing comes close to adding natural, musical bass to your favorite tracks. Once you’ve heard The Epicenter’s glorious and frankly magical low frequencies fused with your music, it will become suddenly clear - there is only one: The Epicenter. audiocontrol.com/the-epicenter/
Copyright © 2021 AudioControl Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.audiocontrol.com | 22410 70th Ave W, Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043 USA | (425) 775-8461
When the Shelf is Half-Full Product shortages have encouraged retailers to be more mindful about which products they have in stock, and how they can pivot when they’re running low.
“I’m not sure if the chip shortage will impact our DSP in the near future, but we’ve been fortunate to stay busy despite having just about zero head units on hand—both single- and double-DIN. Part of that is reliance entirely on Kenwood for head units, our preference for eXcelon over other brands we’ve used in the past. We have a few 10.1-inch units on hand, and we’re moving those. We do lots of DSP, integration, nicer speakers and amps and processors. We are booked a month out, but the shortages sure hamper some sales....” Rod Birch, Car Audio Innovations, Inc., Roseville, Calif. “Early on, I relied on the fact that I typically keep a lot of inventory. But a year into these product shortages, I’ve begun trading inventory I have with other dealers for things I need. Once I don’t have enough inventory to trade, I guess I’ll figure out something else. Odin Mattes, Earmark Car Audio, Plano, Texas
“We’ve been doing okay, with shortages on some of the more popular brands and models, of course. We also normally keep a decent stock on hand, so we had some time to react. As many shops have done, we brought in some second tier models to fill in. We’ve gone to MSRP on many models that were underpriced, anyway. There’s no reason to leave money on the table when you have a limited supply, and there’s a demand to fill. We also do a lot on commercial and fleet work so we’ve been able to stay busy.” Ray Baldwin “I mostly deal with GPS tracking, mobile DVRs, and telemetric/usage data (engine hours, metered service, pulse counts and structural sensors). We’ve been told to expect six to 10 delays, and 20 to 60 percent price increases. We ordered all the product we can afford to get our hands on. Also, 3G networks shutdown in October, so there is an additional crunch on 4G devices as companies rush to replace soon-to-be-useless devices. Shawn Brodoski, DFM Car Stereo, Ukiah, Calif.
6 Mobile Electronics July 2021
KnowledgeFest Orlando Last month, we gathered in the Sunshine State for a debut show—and a greatly anticipated return to in-person events. We asked the industry what they thought, and here’s what they had to say. How likely is it that you would recommend KnowledgeFest to someone in our industry?
Since 2006, how many KnowledgeFest events have you attended?
How helpful was the content presented at KnowledgeFest Orlando?
How would you rate the value for the money of KnowledgeFest Orlando?
How well did KnowledgeFest Orlando meet your expectations?
Overall, how would you rate KnowledgeFest Orlando?
For Classification Purposes, survey respondents are:
40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 8 Mobile Electronics July 2021
APP: TikTok WWW.TIKTOK.COM
You’ve probably heard about TikTok, but maybe you haven’t braved this short-form video-sharing app yet. Now’s the time! This social media platform used to offer 60 seconds to promote or talk about anything, and just recently they bumped it up to a whopping three minutes. This could be perfect for expanded content like showing off a build or showroom walk-throughs. The app, which has about 100 million monthly active users in the U.S., is easy to navigate and lets you add trending effects and sounds. Bigname retailers are already in on this including Chipotle and Dunkin’ Donuts, plus the NBA and NFL. Videos are not supposed to be overproduced, so it’s worth just shooting some footage, having fun and seeing if yours has what it takes to go viral
BOOK: Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life BY WILLIAM GREEN
Drawing on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with many of the world’s greatest investors, financial journalist William Green’s new book demonstrates that the keys for building wealth hold other life lessons as well. As Green discovered, the wealthy have talents that extend beyond the financial realm. For example, most of them are mavericks who question traditional wisdom. They maximize their odds of long-term success in markets and life, while also minimizing any risk of catastrophe. Not only can the greatest investors teach us how to become rich, but how to improve the way we think, make decisions, assess risk, avoid costly errors, build resilience and turn uncertainty to our advantage. This book will not only arm you financially, but professionally and personally, too.
plus get 3 Months Free of our best package with subscription activation via rebate. SCAN HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION. Create Pandora stations
Visit siriusxm.com/TourSave50 for Offer Details. Minimum subscription term required.
BOOK: Indy Split: The Big Money Battle That Nearly Destroyed Indy Racing BY JOHN OREOVICZ
You’ll be racing to finish this book about one of the world’s most famous sporting events— the Indianapolis 500. Political infighting within the industry led to a 12-year “Split” from 1996 to 2007 between competing forms of Indy car racing, ultimately halting the sport from achieving its full potential. But the dysfunction started way back in 1945, when a businessman named Tony Hulman rescued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from potential redevelopment. Over the next 75 years, the Hulman-George family used the Speedway to carve out a top position in American auto racing. Stewardship of the IMS often brought the family into conflict with Indy car competitors. The Split forced fans, sponsors, broadcasters and participants to choose sides, creating confusion and tremendous damage. The Split was finally resolved in 2008, and the struggle was resolved in 2020 when Roger Penske acquired IMS and the IndyCar Series.
PODCAST:The Smoking Tire THESMOKINGTIRE.COM/PODCAST
Matt Farah and Zack Klapman sit down with automotive icons, pro drivers, comedians and other friends to discuss automotive industry news, racing, projects and whatever else comes to mind. These 90-minute-ish episodes, once weekly, cover lots of ground. David Patterson (better known as That Dude in Blue) is an automotive YouTuber who focuses on driving modified cars and reporting on automotive news. Jason Cammisa is the host of the shows “Know it All,” “Icons” and “Revelations,” which air on Hagerty’s YouTube channel. His latest video analyzes the history of the iconic BMW M3. In one episode, he discusses what it took to film that incredible video and what he thinks of the new M3.
SOURCING THE SOUND During continued product shortages, how are retailers meeting the needs of their clients? Business owners discuss methods they’ve utilized to complete projects and keep customers coming back. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA
lthough states are lifting restrictions as vaccinations increase, product shortages remain an issue, causing business owners to rethink inventory management strategies. Brandon Green of The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo. stated that the shortages have “drawn out” projects since items are either on backorder, or they aren’t arriving as quickly. Shops including LIS Audio in Spring Hill, Kansas and A.C.T. Audio in Vernon, Conn. have also sourced products elsewhere. James P. Smith of A.C.T. Audio said he’s reached out to the Mobile Electronics Syndicate and other online groups for assistance, such as in the case of a recent project that required speakers which were on backorder. “It would’ve been a couple months. We reached out to the Syndicate, and someone had a pair,” he said, adding, “It cost us a little more, but we got them.” Smith noted that the customer was given the option to wait for them to come into stock the usual way, or pay a little more to get the project done sooner: “He chose to pay more.” Pandemic Leads to Semiconductor Chip Shortages The Car Audio Shop has managed product shortages as best they can, according to Green. With products on backorder, it’s taken longer to finish jobs. Currently, the biggest culprit are head units. When demand for electronics went up during the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities couldn’t keep up with the production of chips, according to an article published in USA Today entitled, “Everything you need to know about the chip shortage that’s plaguing automakers.” Green said radios have been the most hard-to-come-by product. “We’ve had a couple speaker and subwoofer issues. For the most part, we’ve been able to adjust from one brand to another and use a different product and keep customers taken care of and happy.” The team will let the client know that if they want a radio, they won’t be able to get it right away.
12 Mobile Electronics July 2021
“We do a deposit and we let them know when the backorder arrives and we schedule it from there,” he explained. “We’ll also build off a factory system to circumvent some of those problems.” Much of the time, clients at The Car Audio Shop prefer to maintain an OEM look and feel. Green and his team are able to build off the factory radio with processors and amplifiers, so there’s no need to source a head unit. He added that he anticipates the radio shortages to continue for the foreseeable future. “Our industry isn’t at the top of the food chain in terms of getting chips,” he said. “I would expect it to probably continue throughout the year.” Smith echoed Green’s assessment of the situation, noting, “Ford has trucks waiting for chips,” along with other industries that also require them. Justice Berry of LIS Audio recalled that when the pandemic first began, it was just taking longer to get some products. “But it would still be there. We would contact our distributors, our direct contacts, and we still had delivery dates on products,” he said. “In January, February, we started seeing we wouldn’t be able to get some things, and we weren’t sure when.” Since then, he said, there’ve been continued shortages in stereos as well as entry-level to mid-tier speakers, amplifiers and subwoofers. “The higher-end stuff stayed around because people were buying lower-end, but then it got to the point where we couldn’t even get 10-inch JVC Kenwood units within a specific timeframe.” Retailers Seek Alternative Ways to Meet Demand LIS Audio clients have been seeking to update stereos to CarPlay or Android Auto. According to Berry, it’s been difficult to obtain those units. The shop doesn’t ordinarily stock much product, but because it’s been hard to get items in a reasonable amount of time, owners Justice Berry and Cameron Powell have had to recommend places where clients can source products themselves. The shop relies on social media and its demo
Sourcing the Sound The shop stocked 100 percent more inventory than usual, with another 100 percent on scheduled backorders. “Finding inventory at the last minute is very time consuming and uses valuable company resources,” he added. “We would rather be way overstocked than waste time searching for product and potentially lose a sale due to not having an item.” Berry said the shortages will probably affect how LIS Audio views stocking in the future, adding that they may prepare for it a little more than they have in the past. “We’re still a boutique shop,” he said. “I don’t think it will have a major effect on how we run our business because we haven’t really slowed down. We’re still moving, but our clients’ wait times are longer and we schedule out farther so we can get the product.”
vehicles to show off product to potential clients. “We still like to get our customers in and out regardless of the profit margin because doing the business will bring more business in the future,” Berry added. The Car Audio Shop doesn’t stock a whole lot, either, according to Green, who added that pre-pandemic he’d already begun to build up a little more inventory than usual. “We’re not a big high-traffic area. We aren’t moving a lot of boxes, so it hasn’t been as much of a fight for us as it has been for others,” he said, noting that most of the shop’s clients are content to put down a deposit and wait. At one point, he said a customer wanted a particular Kenwood radio that the shop’s distributor didn’t have in stock, so the client ordered it on Crutchfield and brought it to Green and his team to do the installation. Jeff Cantrell of Jackson Car Audio in Jackson, Tenn. said his team has made
an extra effort to be aware of what’s in stock when estimating the cost of a job. If there’s something they need that isn’t available, he added, “Trading product with other dealers has helped us a few times throughout this situation.” However, JC Audio started preparing for shortages in mid-2020, so the business hasn’t seen as much of an impact. “There were and still are instances where we’ve had to schedule things out further than we normally would because of an odd part here or there that was not available,” Cantrell said. “The main thing we saw this with was dash kits and JL audio Stealth boxes,” and marine products were especially difficult. “Being prepared early saved us a ton of headaches and time,” Cantrell said, adding that unlike other shops, JC Audio hasn’t been short on head units. “We’ve placed scheduled orders monthly since last fall and have received plenty to get us through, even in a time when business is up over 30 percent year-over-year.”
The Industry is Maintaining its Forward Momentum Smith stocked up on radios early on, he said, adding that the inventory is beginning to dwindle. But he underscored the most important component in dealing with product shortages: “At the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to communication with the customer. People are usually understanding if you’re communicating and giving them options,” he explained. Furthermore, the shortages have actually assisted A.C.T. Audio in closing sales. “If people say, ‘I’m going to have to think about it,’ we tell them, ‘Just so you know, there may not be any radios in stock,’ and people are willing to put down deposits to hold the products,” he said. “We’ve used that to our advantage.” Smith added that he’s working on implementing other business ideas to stay prepared in case of an economic recession. “If the aftermarket automotive accessories dwindle, hopefully the fleet division stays strong,” he said. The Car Audio Shop has also adjusted prices whenever necessary, and keeps in close contact with distributors and manufacturers in order to sell what’s available, according to Green. The business has also been occupied with working on its second location, along with building a Sony
Distributor & Manufacturer Support During Product Shortages
While putting extra effort into considering what’s in stock when estimating a job, JC Audio has also tried to stay ahead of shortages by placing scheduled monthly orders.
14 Mobile Electronics July 2021
While The Car Audio Shop has been short on radios, according to owner Brandon Green, the business has been able to source what they need through industry support. “For the radios, we have Sony and Kenwood eXcelon,” he said. “We have a few other audio lines—Hybrid Audio, MSC and Arc Audio. We’ve had issues getting Kenwood subwoofers, but we’ve been able to switch to Hybrid or BLAM.” Green added that the business’s distributors have helped them find products. “R&D here in St. Louis helped us get things in if they didn’t have it. DOW Technologies is our Sony distributor, and if they don’t have it, no one else does. They’ve been good about keeping us informed of what they have, or what’s coming and when to expect it.” Additionally, LIS Audio has started using Infinity and JBL Audio products, which Berry said he and Powell really like. “It was a new product one of our local distributors picked up, and it was available and cost-effective. We’ve had some good results,” he added. Things at JC Audio in Jackson, Tenn. are stable, according to owner Jeff Cantrell. “Inventory inflow seems to be improving week by week on the more difficult items such as head units and dash kits,” he said. “Enclosure manufacturers such as JL Audio and MTI Acoustics have implemented scheduled production measures and are sticking to them pretty well, so we are able to better predict delivery times and schedule jobs accordingly.”
What’s Happening demo car. “We want to have that ready for KnowledgeFest Indy, so that’ll be fun,” he added. Cantrell said he expects availability to continue to remain low during the next six months. After that, he anticipates a slowdown in consumer spending, “improving the stock situation during that time.” The year, he said, has been overwhelming in terms of the increase in business, and he’s looking forward to taking time to relax. “We’ve started a renovation in our installation bay, and we are working on that as time allows,” he said, adding, “Fresh paint, improved lighting, new toolboxes, better organization for improved workflow, and new tooling are some of the items on the agenda.” The 12-volt industry, Berry noted, has managed to keep up its momentum. “We haven’t had the stoppages that other industries have had. It’s just me and Cameron, so we’ve taken the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and our clients protected from COVID, and we don’t have a lot of people in and out of our building,” he said, adding the LIS Audio has always been appointment-only, which has helped from the beginning in managing clients and projects during COVID-19. “We’ve opened up to new brands simply because if we can’t get what we’ve been using, we have to find a product that’s comparable to make sure the client is happy.” Overall, retailers continue to report high sales and continued demand. While Berry believes things will eventually get back on track, he added, “When [manufacturers] are catching up, will the demand be the same?” He said LIS Audio will “keep pushing forward,” and continue to create ways of staying relevant, no matter what.
16 Mobile Electronics July 2021
A.C.T Audio stocked up on radios early on, but is now seeing dwindling numbers. The business has also utilized industry connections via Mobile Electronics Syndicate to help source, and other online groups.
Besides offering the usual 12-volt categories, Car-Tunes, Inc. also sells musical instruments.
Car-Tunes, Inc. Increases Average Ticket,
Projects Record Year Words by Laura Kemmerer 18 Mobile Electronics July 2021
ar-Tunes, Inc. is reaping the benefits of being flexible while planning ahead: According to shop owner and president Kimberly Trainer, the average ticket has gone up. The trick lies in being able to provide customers with everything they need under one roof, and by responding to the inventory shortage with the addition of products from companies like Sony, resulting in more money spent per ticket. Trainer also anticipates that this will be another record year, even beating out 2020. Cont. on next page
Building Addition Increases Productivity & Efficiency
Car-Tunes Inc. recently completed its new installation bay, pictured here. “We are still working on the finishing touches, including additional storage, flooring and a few other odds and ends, but it is fully functional with an additional bathroom and air conditioning,” Trainer said, adding, “This makes for a huge work productivity increase especially in the steamy summer months here in the south.”
retail news “We were in the middle of building a new installation facility onto our business, and we have transitioned into the new area, and it has definitely made a very positive impact on our business. We were honored with Retailer of the Year last year,” she said. Customers are willing to travel some distance to leave their vehicles, including boats and motorcycles, with the shop for an extended period in order to get the work done. Trainer also noted that Car-Tunes is booked out at least two months. Other than the appeal of having everything customers need under one roof, Car-Tunes is also likely to experience organic growth in its customer base. Trainer emphasized that she believes the business is also creating a new generation of customers. “We still have something we want to do, always,” she said, adding, “but in our new installation facility, we now have a vehicle lift to make installs easier, quicker and more efficient—when we’re doing lighting installs, for example.” In already-existing bays, Trainer said the staff is beginning a new addition, which will become a permanent fabrication room, “so everything can be contained in one area.” She noted that consistency has been key for Car-Tunes’ success. “I think a lot of people feel the world is changing in all these different ways, but we have tried to stay as consistent as possible throughout the pandemic and continue to grow and respond with new ideas and new ways of doing business,” she said, noting that these methods encourage customers to do business with them.
Brian Muenter Shop: Auburn Car Tunes Location: Auburn, Calif. Years of Industry Experience: 27 What Your Really Good At: “DSP tuning.”
James P. Smith Shop: A.C.T. Audio Location: Vernon, Conn. Years of Industry Experience: 18 Hobbies: “Riding motorcycles, camping and CrossFit.” What Your Really Good At: “I’ve become really good at being a leader and creating a culture here. Putting emphasis on this vision has created a likeminded team that has propelled my store forward.”
20 Mobile Electronics July 2021
Shop: Cardinal Sales Location: Indianapolis, Ind. Years of Industry Experience: 38 Hobbies: “Attending live concerts.” What Your Really Good At: “Fixing broken turntables.”
THE FULL PICTURE Every category counts: From security to audio to power management, retailers continue to find creative ways to meet the needs of their clients. 22 Mobile Electronics July 2021
Drone Mobile DR-X1 Max Remote Start and Security Submitted by: Kimberly Trainer, CarTunes, Inc., Greenville, Miss. Main Selling Features: “Customers love the convenience of controlling their vehicle’s remote start, security and GPS tracking right on their smartphone or apple watch. I just pull out my phone and show them my vehicle info on it and say this is literally one of my all-time favorite products we sell. I use it every day!” Primary Objection: Subscription Required How to Overcome: “Starting at only $3.99 a month, the subscription cost is a bargain for the features and convenience this product provides.”
RedVision by Redarc Total Vehicle Management System and Manager Battery Management System Submitted by: Callum Martin, AV-DC, Adelaide, South Australia
Main Selling Features: “This is a power system controller for camping and off-roading. It’s the most expensive product in its field! It is made in South Australia where our shop is located, and it offers a high level of flexibility and capability. Redarc as a brand has an exceptional reputation for quality and reliability.” Primary Objection: Price, size, color and style.
How to Overcome: “We sell correctly. A basic DC-DC battery charger suits some users better, is easily fitted in more vehicles, and it’s cheaper. The Manager unit offers a higher level of performance and functionality which can usually only be accomplished by combinations of multiple products. It’s a logical sell which doesn’t attract much of a push-back.”
Rockford Fosgate R2-750X5 Prime Series 5-channel Amplifier Submitted by: Jack Rogers, Santa Maria, Calif.
Kenwood eXcelon Reference DNR1007XR Digital Multimedia Receiver With Navigation Submitted by: Joey Knapp, Pinnacle Autosound, Lake City, Fla. Main Selling Features: “Clients love the large screen and how fluidly the piece operates. We have sold these to older clients looking for something easier to see, as well as younger clients who are looking for something cool. As long as there are no objections to the cosmetics of the unit in the client’s dash, the piece sells itself.” Primary Objection: Size / Color / Style. How to Overcome: “We will typically reference newer cars that feature the floating screen to help normalize the idea of a larger, protruding screen in the dash.”
24 Mobile Electronics May 2021
Main Selling Features: “This product offers a simple solution to add on power and volume for customers who want to keep things simple. It’s great for those who want more out of a factory system. I love this amp.”
Primary Objection: Price, learning curve, labor cost to install
TAKE ORIGINAL JBL PRO SOUND ON YOUR NEXT BIG OUTDOOR ADVENTURE. CRUISE X delivers high-output distortion-free audio. MARINE rated to hold up when things get wet.
COMPLETE FOUR-SPEAKER AND AMPLIFIER KIT 80 Watt 4-Channel Amplifier IPx5 Marine Rated Bluetooth Smartphone Control 360 Degree Locking Ball-Joint Bracket System
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND A TEST DRIVE PLEASE CONTACT SHAWN SPEDDING 816-385-1944 Shawn.Spedding@harman.com facebook.com/MobileElectronics 25
real world RETAIL
26 Mobile Electronics July 2021
SKETCHING THE FUTURE
At the start of the pandemic, one-man shop Seismic Autosound seized the opportunity to change course in search of ideal clients and a better work-life balance. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA
real world RETAIL
FAST FACTS Main Location:
Novato, Calif. Number of Locations:
ONE Square Footage:
BOUTIQUE Number of Employees:
TWO MAIN FOCUS 40% Radar 40% CAR AUDIO 10% SAFETY 10% Expeditor / DealershiP
KEY STAFF OwnerS: Bryon Jankow and Marty Barry Marty Barry (pictured at left) and Bryon Jankow chose to merge their businesses when it became clear that the one-man shop approach wasn’t working for either of them any longer. They have been business partners for a little over a year.
eismic Autosound has partnered with Custom Mobile Electronics in Novato, Calif., merging the two businesses into one. Bryon Jankow, owner of Seismic Autosound, and Marty Barry of Custom Mobile Electronics discussed their respective situations and arrived at the same conclusion: The one-man shop approach wasn’t working for either of them anymore, and they wanted a better work-life balance. Becoming business partners made the most sense. “I was working alone. So was he. It was 70 to 80 hours a week, non-stop, and that takes its toll after a while,” Jankow said. “Marty’s shop already had the type of clients I wanted to attract. It was a no-brainer for us to team up and take stress off each other, and move forward from there.” Seismic Autosound moved from
28 Mobile Electronics July 2021
Concord to Novato, to Barry’s location, which has been well-established in the area for the past 20 years, and together, they expanded to about 4,000 square feet. Now, the shop is open five days a week and they both have time to enjoy a personal life again. Jankow recalled the Bay Area going into lockdown for COVID-19 just as his lease ran out. The two have been business partners for just under a year, but they’ve kept their respective shop names the same. “For now, it’s just been about bringing everything together,” he said. “We’re trying to add staff so we can focus on the expansion, but it’s been an uphill battle. Finding people is really difficult.” While Jankow specializes in fabrication, custom work and tuning, Barry handles much of the sales and administrative work for their joint venture.
High-end audio is the main focus in the boutique shop, and the business also works with local Ferrari, Mercedes and Porsche dealerships. Radar is a big category, too, and backup cameras are a popular add-on for the shop’s clients. Bringing Art Into the Everyday Before entering the 12-volt field, Jankow worked as an illustrator for a company that made manuals for the automotive industry showing exploded views of car disassembly. He went back to school for fine art and architecture. Jankow stated that his skills as an artist continue to inform his work, and he’s acquired an instinct for envisioning a project layout in his head. When a client requests it, he’ll provide a sketch, he said. “For the most part, though, our clients give me the freedom to do whatever I want to do. They tend to
SKETCHING THE FUTURE
NEXT-LEVEL PROCESSING POWER 16-CHANNELS OF PROCESSING POWER IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND
• OEM Integration
Alpine’s NEW 16-Channel Hi-Resolution Digital Sound Processor
• Onboard RTA & Signal Generator • Smartphone and PC control
real world RETAIL
Search Continues for Skilled Technician to Add to Staff
By educating customers on sound processing and why it’s important, Jankow and Barry are able to lead them to the right product so they get exactly what they need.
trust us. A lot of them are more than willing to take our word for what we think is good for the vehicle.” He emphasized the importance of continued training to stay up-to-date with ever-changing technology, and said he enjoys KnowledgeFest classes and manufacturer trainings. “We’ve been unable to take part in most of that this year, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it,” he said. “KnowledgeFest Live has been a great tool. It’s key to find the time to get involved in that.” Demonstrating the Importance of Sound Processing Jankow uses his Volkswagen e-Golf as a demo car. The car features Focal components, Mosconi products and two BLAM subwoofers, along with a Gladen amp. Although Seismic Autosound is no longer an Orca dealer, he utilizes the car’s system to demonstrate what’s possible. “What we’re really showing them is
30 Mobile Electronics July 2021
sound processing and how important it is,” he said, adding that the shop sells mainly Audiotec Fischer brands. “[We aren’t demonstrating a] brand. We’re showing them how an active set-up works. Most of our clients are into midand upper-level sound.” Sometimes when a client comes in, the shop is able to use a current almost-completed project for a demonstration, if it’s similar to what the individual is looking for. As far as a display board goes, Jankow said he feels it isn’t a real representation of what’s going on in a car. While the shop won’t be building a showroom, they will be incorporating a seating area for visiting clients where tower speakers can be demonstrated. The business’s standard is OEM or better, according to Jankow, who added that the easiest thing to improve upon are the materials. “Factory speakers are just a paper cone and a thin plastic shell. We’ll use heavier plastic,” he said. “We
Barry and Jankow hope to add team members soon, but Jankow said they’re having difficulty finding candidates in their local area. “We’re looking for someone who knows how to do the wiring properly— someone who can handle themselves around an expensive car. Once we can do that, we can start to focus on where we’re trying to take the business, and continue with the renovations.” The hope is to find someone who already has industry experience. “We need someone who can hit the ground running, because we’re stretched thin now,” he said. “We need someone to help lift the burden. If I’m trying to build an enclosure or fabricate a new place to put a speaker, that person would be handling the wiring. We want to be able to find that balance between work and personal life.
SKETCHING THE FUTURE
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.
real world RETAIL
Local Automotive Businesses Help Attract Referrals
mount amps, processors and components to a sturdier base that gets bolted to the car. We use sound dampening, too. The average person may not know how much it helps the vehicle, so we try to explain that to the client and tell them what it does for their audio system.” Even a basic install includes some sound dampening. “We try to under-promise and over-deliver. We want to make people happy.” Most of the consultations are scheduled rather than walk-ins. “We sit down and talk with them, educate them. A lot of people think they need a giant system to make their car sound good, but that’s not the case anymore. We can make something sound great with just an amp and a DSP,” he said, adding, “They don’t have to spend money on things they don’t need.” Creating Transparency and Building Trust Jankow said he sees a solid future for a boutique store that offers customers
32 Mobile Electronics July 2021
an experience they’ll always remember. Thinking back, he recalled earlier days of retail in 12-volt when shops sold from “walls of radios,” and said he feels the traditional retail store has had to evolve and become something different. “With online sales the way they are,” he said, “that kind of business model doesn’t seem to work as well.” While word-of-mouth is the primary way the shop attracts customers, Jankow said he’s been trying to figure out the best way to provide quality content on social media. One of the ways they connect is by posting behind-the-scenes photographs of builds. “We want people to have a reference regarding the work we’re trying to do,” he said. “I think it gives us a level of transparency. That’s the battle in terms of setting yourself apart from someone else.” Someone might post final build photos online, for example, “but behind the panel, it looks like spaghetti. We like to show clients how we wire things. It’s
Simply due to close proximity, the shop interacts with other automotive-related businesses and all of them support each other. “We’re located in an industrial area with other automotive shops around us,” Jankow said. “There’s a mechanic next door, and a body shop next door to them.” The body shop, he added, does a lot of custom work. If a client at the body shop mentions they are interested in getting a stereo system installed, the body shop will send them over. Similarly, Jankow said, “If one of our clients has an accident, we’ll refer them to the body shop.” The business is largely reliant on word-of-mouth marketing.
SKETCHING THE FUTURE
something I would look for if I were a customer.” The shop doesn’t receive many requests via social media, though, and clients are more likely to reach out via the contact form on the business’s website. Jankow said a number of the clients are repeats. “They can afford to buy one or two or three cars a year,” he explained. “They’ll put radar in and take it out a year later, putting it in the next vehicle.” Keeping An Eye On Company Growth Finding time and staff to help lift the load—these are the only slow-downs in the shop’s current forward progression. “That’s the biggest hindrance right now,” Jankow said. We’re trying to get everything accomplished between the two of us, as far as the work goes, so we can pay the bills and pay ourselves.” With another team member, he said, they’ll be able to continue with plans for expanding and building out the business. The renovation work has already begun. “The main focus right now is getting the fabrication room finished, built up, and getting the front of the business finished,” he added. The company is also looking forward to eventually incorporating a CNC, though Jankow added he does have a laser and 3D printer. “We have to work on fine-tuning how we use those tools.” One of his aims is to continue learning CAD so they are able to design and develop things in-house. Although they have the clients, he said, they need to continue honing skills to ensure they deliver the desired results. “We want to get better at what we do,” he added. The goal? The business hopes to be
considered at the top of its field. “We’re finally at a point where we’ve gotten our situation mostly figured out and we’re starting to move forward. The build-outs will be our biggest accomplishment, and it’ll allow our new shop to become what we’re trying to become, a lead in the area.” Fine-Tuning the Work-Life Balance Jankow considers plain old hard work to be the main reason for the shop’s current accomplishments. “When you’re a one-man shop,” he said, “it’s great to have support from family and friends who are looking out for you and accept the hardships you’re putting on them, starting from nothing, trying to build a reputation and a following. Trying to keep a business afloat and trying to keep your personal life afloat, too—that’s the hardest part.” He advised other business owners to always be fair to themselves as well as to the client. “You can’t give everyone 150 percent all the time. It’s okay to give them 110 percent. There are a lot of shops out there that will take a customer’s money and give them poor service,” he said, adding, “If you’re giving your customers 110 percent, then you’re already ahead of your competition.” Now that Jankow has been able to nurture his personal life, he said he’s enjoying his hobbies, taking up golf and hanging out with his two Pomeranians. “I’m originally from Detroit. I love my hockey, too.” Most importantly, the new business partnership has allowed him to spend a lot more time with his wife, he said, adding, “It’s been nice for us to get to know each other again.”
Audiotec Fischer: The Preferred Brand for Audio Products Before merging their businesses, Jankow and Barry had both already been selling Helix and Audiotec Fischer products through MSC America for about three years. The radar category usually focuses on Escort, and the shop prefers the sound quality offered by BLAM speakers. “We can call our reps from MSC any time. They are always available. You need people like them on your side,” Jankow said. “People love Helix—it offers big power and a DSP in a small package. A lot of the cars we work on don’t give us a lot of space, so the small footprint is good.” Jankow stated that he looks forward to integrating the new Audiotec Fischer CONDUCTOR one-touch remote control into upcoming builds. “It’s super cool-looking, it’s small and it looks like it’ll integrate into just about anything,” he said. “It allows you to change colors, and you can match any color in the car and switch between sound setups.”
real world RETAIL
1200.4 7.1 in
P OWE R @ 4Ω: 4 X 13 0 WR M S
P OWE R @ 4Ω: 4 X 19 8 WR M S
P OWE R @ 2Ω: 4 X 19 8 WR M S
P OWE R @ 2Ω: 4 X 3 00 WR M S
P OWE R @ 1Ω: 4 X 3 00 WR M S
P OWE R @ 1Ω: N /A
B R I D G E P OWE R @ 4Ω: 2 X 3 9 6 WR M S
B R I D G E P OWE R @ 4Ω: 2 X 6 00 WR M S
B R I D G E P OWE R @ 2Ω: 2 X 6 00 WR M S
B R I D G E P OWE R @ 2Ω: 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): 49A
C U R R E NT D R AW (M U S I C): 50 A
C U R R E NT D R AW (MA X): 9 9A
C U R R E NT D R AW (MA X): 101A
R E C O M M E N D E D F U S E (M U S I C): 6 0A
R E C O M M E N D E D F U S E (M U S I C): 6 0A
TOTAL E F F I C I E N CY: 84%
TOTAL E F F I C I E N CY: 82%
DAM P I N G FACTO R: 200
DAM P I N G FACTO R: 200
F R E Q U E N CY R E S P O N S E (-3D B): 5H Z – 22K H Z
F R E Q U E N CY R E S P O N S E (-3D B): 5H Z – 22K H Z
S N R: 8 8D B
S N R: 8 8D B
C R O S S OVE R H P F: 45H Z – 850H Z
C R O S S OVE R H P F: 45H Z – 850H Z
C R O S S OVE R LP F: 45H Z – 850H Z
C R O S S OVE R LP F: 45H Z – 850H Z
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 P OWE R R ATI N G
34 SOUNDIGITALUSA Mobile Electronics JulySOUNDIGITALUSA 2021
YOUR MUSIC. YOUR POWER.
SKETCHING THE FUTURE
M OTO R CYC LE
S LI N G S H OT
Water Resist ant
O F F-R OAD
Learning From Leaders
League of His
Kris Bulla was born to educate, train and teach. Now he’s revitalizing the MECP program, encouraging technicians and sales pros alike to strive for excellence. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER
36 Mobile Electronics July 2021
In a League of his Own
he plan was to follow in the steps of his grandfather and his father and design cars for a living, according to Kris Bulla of MECP. His grandfather, he said, designed cars for General Motors. “My dad was a production engineer for GM,” he noted, adding that he’s the first person on that side of his family to not work for GM. Bulla headed to college with dreams of designing cars, but hit a wall. “When I got to school, they told me I’d never be able to do that,” he said. “I might be able to design a part, but that’s it.” Because of the way vehicles are designed and built in the modern age, he added, “If you want to design them, you’ve got to have a particular expertise in a field like switches or user interfaces. If I pursued that kind of career, I felt I would be going down a tunnel, if you will, for a certain expertise, and I might never get out of that tunnel.” In today’s world, Bulla said, he would’ve wanted to be like Elon Musk, someone who designs a whole vehicle and has engineers build it. “That’s what I wanted to be. Not just some guy working on a switch in a car.”
Richmond, Va. to oversee Circuit City’s tech support nationwide. “I did that for a couple of years,” Bulla said, adding that he went on to build vehicle databases for information such as wiring and schematics. “I was just a car guy the whole time. That allowed me to be aware of the technology happening in cars, and it kept me in the mix.” Cultivating such a background set him up for the role he recently stepped into—owner of the Mobile Electronics Certified Professional (MECP) program. “I’ve been involved with the MECP program since 1999, so it’s been quite a long time. Over 20 years,” Bulla said. “It was on a volunteer basis to go in and help create the content for the physical study guide books and exam questions. Through the 2000s and early 2010s, that was the primary association I had with the program.”
Bulla worked with Todd Ramsey, the previous administrator of the MECP, until Ramsey left in 2017. Bulla was then contracted in 2018 to help restore the program. Under the Consumer Technology Association, MECP was in need of a fresh start, and Bulla added that he was able to identify areas that needed improvement. “It was old-school with thick textbooks. Trying to schedule and then take an exam somewhere was just a ridiculously perplexing endeavor,” he said. “There was very little accessibility for the average user to get certified.” While the CTA was excited about his ideas, Bulla realized he didn’t have the resources or the time to make real changes. COVID-19 was yet another setback. “It literally shut down all of our testing because all the testing centers had to immediately close,” he said. “So we had no test generation for six months.” Bulla suggested that he could take over the program from CTA, and negotiations began. Under the Certification Systems Technology Co., Bulla became the owner in December 2020. Since then, he’s rewritten content and put everything online. Instead of having to carry around physical books, everything can be accessed via phone, tablet or computer. “You can take an automated proctored test on the same device,” he said. “It’s now available on six continents.” Keeping the Industry Relevant There’s been an evolution in education, according to Bulla, who said the MECP program is more relevant than ever before. “There used to be a real
From Tech Support to MECP Bulla found his way into cars, but a bit differently than he’d anticipated. He started at a local Circuit City as an installer, then ended up an assistant manager and then manager of sales and installation. Before long, he headed to
Learning From Leaders
educational gap,” he said. “You would start working for a shop and not know how to do things. It was anybody’s guess on what kind of training or mentorship you would get within a shop—especially if it was a small one. If it was a one- to three-man operation, they might not have time to concentrate on doing something like that.” This can cause a shop to place less of a focus on education, he noted. “That’s part of why the accessibility of this program is so ideal right now. Installers can spend 15 minutes a day going through the content, getting up to speed and then eventually accomplishing things on their own time at their own pace instead of trying to memorize it all and then go take a test.” In the past, he said it was more important to get an education of the basics. Today, a technician needs to know a lot of different things in order to successfully work on a vehicle. “It’s not just about how to fuse a wire properly or how to mount something in a car. You have to understand there are a thousand different ways the door panel and other panels are attached to the vehicle, and you have to successfully know how to remove those so you’re not affecting an air bag system,” he said. He went on to point out the many different types of electrical systems in vehicles today. Depending on what the car’s equipped with or how modern it
38 Mobile Electronics July 2021
is, he said, a technician could easily damage a circuit if they aren’t certain what they’re doing. “If you accidentally destroy a computer in a car, you’re out a few thousand dollars. It’s not like scratching a panel in the old days. If you had to repair or replace it, then it might cost a few hundred dollars. Now you’re talking $3,000 to $4,000 if you destroy an air bag, computer or a harness in a car,” he explained, adding that what it comes down to is continued education. With the new online platform, MECP content is always up to date. “Any new technology that hits vehicles, or the products we’re putting into vehicles, is updated. The format of the program is an annual renewal instead of every two to four years like it used to be. This ensures everyone is on top of their game and paying attention to the content that’s being updated.” Listen, Learn and Stay Focused When he isn’t dealing with the MECP program, Bulla serves as head coach and president of his own consulting company, Bulla LLC. He is also the National Product Trainer for Sony Car Audio. About 10 years ago, Bulla joined forces with Chris Cook to help redevelop Mobile Electronics Assocation’s KnowledgeFest events. In 2016, he joined DOW Electronics as a sales rep in the
southeast, then received the Sales Rep of the Year Award from MEA. “Everything I do revolves around talking to people and teaching them,” Bulla said, adding that he’s also coached soccer and football for over 30 years, giving him additional insight into teamwork and goal-setting. The key to successfully educating people is finding the right way to get the information across. “Whether it’s five people in a small online meeting, or a couple hundred people in a KnowledgeFest class, you’ve got to find a way to present the information correctly.” Having already started his own coaching company, Bulla said he knew his latest venture with MECP was the right thing to do. “For me, a light bulb went off,” he said. “It made sense.” For anybody thinking of starting their own business or striking out on their own, Bulla offers this guidance: Zip your lip and listen. “If you do this before you start your own company, you’ll find out if you actually need to start your own company,” he said. “It will give you clarity, but even after that, you still need to follow this rule.” It’s essential to listen to feedback all around you, he said, adding, “Then tackle the things you can effect. You always want to keep moving forward. Stay focused on the ball and the end goal.” Spoken like a true coach.
GET CERTIFIED Now completely online! Visit mecp.com to start your certification course. Completely new learning and certification website you can access from any device with an Internet connection. Your progress is always saved online so you can resume your course, or take your exam, from anywhere. Learn at your own pace, on your own schedule. Manage your MECP Profile online, and use the “Portable ID” for easy proof of certification.
MECP installation technician certification will prepare you with the proper knowledge and procedures to install products safely and correctly.
MECP MECP MECP MOBILE ELECTRONICS CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL
MOBILE ELECTRONICS CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL
MOBILE ELECTRONICS CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL
Get your MECP Product Technology Specialist certification to be better prepared to answer your client’s questions, and to sell new technology and car modifications more effectively.
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.
strategy & tactics
BUSINESS PLANNING BASICS Facing pitfalls? Here are 5 ways retailers can learn to be more prepared for unexpected twists and turns in both life and business. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA When preparing for the future, retailers agree it’s best to have a plan—and a backup plan in case the first option doesn’t work out. James P. Smith of A.C.T. Audio in Vernon, Conn. said it’s best not to look at pitfalls in life as failures. “Look at it as a lesson,” he said, noting that it’s important to sit down and extract knowledge from the experience. “Then it becomes more of a success because you know what not to do in the future. You can analyze your mistakes and see how you need to change your mindset or your behavior—whatever the situation is—to keep moving forward.” Smith said when he makes a mistake, he uses it as an opportunity to learn, to keep something similar from happening in the future. The debut KnowledgeFest Orlando took place June 25-27, and on Sunday, Smith taught his first class, called “Getting Out of Your Own Way: From Technician to CEO.” In it, he covered understanding core values, creating standard operating procedures and how best to delegate tasks. Smith detailed how he went from partnering in a business in 2011 to purchasing A.C.T. Audio in 2019, and what he learned along the way. He asked attendees to consider whether or not they’re able to truly enjoy their financial freedom, or if they’re just working all the time. Smith said he was once the owner of a job rather than the owner of his business. “Some of you might own a job instead,” he said. “You’re working 12-hour days. You’re always on call and putting out fires. I had to rebuild my foundation because everything was in my head. The more I exited my business, the better my business got. I always thought was the opposite: I thought I needed to be there.” The more business owners can learn to let go and delegate, he argued, the better the business will be.
40 Mobile Electronics July 2021
#1: Get Familiar With Your Core Values One brief year ago, Smith said he was working long hours, seven days a week. “I was a technician during the day and a business owner and administrator at night,” he said, adding that he’s a firm believer that if you’re a business owner, you should be focusing on your personal life, too. “I believe a business is a reflection of the owner, and you can only take a business as far as you can take yourself. If I’m unorganized, my business will be. If I’m moody, my employees probably will be.” Smith advised retailers to begin by ensuring they are in a good place mentally, adding, “If you’re trying to grow your business, I think people forget how important that is.” In seeking one’s core values, Smith recommended the book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, as well as Unf *ck Your Business: Stop Business Self-Sabotage by Getting Clear on Your Core Values NOW by Tomas Keenan. “[Defining your] core values is about finding what’s important to you and implementing that in your store,” Smith said. “My core values are growth, trustworthiness, integrity, professionalism and communication because that’s what is important to me and that’s what I want in my store. Defining your core values and documenting them is important so your employees know [what those values are].” Smith added that core values often change. “You can learn to make decisions using your core values, you can hire against them, and this will make your business better because everyone will be like-minded and moving in the same direction,” he said, adding that even the type of customers the store attracts should be aligned with the business’s core values. “That’s where you have to learn to say no if a customer doesn’t fit your core values,” he explained. “Make all your decisions using those values.”
BUSINESS PLANNING BASICS
Tomas Keenan, author of Unf*ck Your Business, presented a class at KnowledgeFest Orlando. James P. Smith also recommended the book to all those who attended his workshop session.
At LIS Audio, standard operating procedures cover every aspect of the sale all the way to the end result, thereby preventing any potential miscommunication.
Until he wrote down each procedure for A.C.T. Audio, James P. Smith said everything was in his head, which meant employees didn’t know what was expected of them.
#2: Maintain a Standard Operating Procedure Justice Berry and Cameron Powell— owners at LIS Audio in Spring Hill, Kan.—both have backgrounds working at big-box stores. Berry said he feels they handle standard operating procedures in a similar way to larger businesses. “We are big on having a procedure to cover us,” he said, “and we don’t want any miscommunication with our clients at the end of our process.” Every job begins with a check-in sheet, and ends with a check-out. The shop also obtains signatures from clients before they begin working on a vehicle. “We also get a signature from them in order to put their vehicles on our website and social media pages,” Berry added. “We want to keep the same high standard across the board.” Smith said when he took over ownership of his business, he knew what he wanted from his employees, but the processes were only in his head—they weren’t written down. “Everything I expected of them was in my head, and I never took the time to write it down,” he said. “I started realizing it was really a mess because no one knew what was expected of them.” While he added that a business owner can relay a verbal message, it doesn’t always stick. “I had to stop, back up and rebuild the foundation and create standard operating procedures. I took what was in my head and put it on paper, and gave that paper as an employee handbook to my employees.” This, he said, holds employees accountable, and the procedures are reviewed during staff meetings. “Once that was done, I was able to trust my employees more because they knew what was expected of them, and it was in writing,” he added. “Creating standard operating procedures is very important. Once you have them, you’ll stop putting out so many fires. When I first started doing this, I didn’t like it at first, but the more I got into it, the better it got. Now my employees know exactly what to do.” #3: Do It, Document It, Delegate It In his presentation at KnowledgeFest, Smith noted that if a technician is trying
strategy & tactics to step into more of an administrative business role, “It’s okay to go back and be a technician on certain projects.” He underscored the importance of “do it, document it, and delegate it,” adding, “I worked on a project. I documented what needed to be done, I got familiar with the process and then I delegated it. This way, if there were problems or questions, I knew how to deal with it. In delegating it, I was able to say exactly how I wanted it to be done.” Ordering products in his store, he added, was one such task that he had to let go of, document, and delegate. “This concept applies to any aspect of the store. Document it, set your standards and put it on paper. When you delegate it, you have to expect mistakes from people. If possible, you will want to use the mistakes to redefine the documentation to prevent the next person from making the same mistakes.” Eventually, he said, a business owner should be able to delegate someone else to handle the documentation for the store. #4: Always Have a Backup Plan Backup plans are essential, according to Jeff Cantrell of Jackson Car Audio in Jackson, Tenn., who said that a backup plan allows a business to continue normally in case of an interruption, “due to many of the factors we’ve all experienced over the last year.” The staff and client should be aware of the backup plan, he said, so that if something goes wrong, it won’t be as big of a deal and everyone will know what to expect. “We’ve not experienced as bad of a situation over the last year as some have,” Cantrell said. “Some have had things happen that are completely out of their control and for them, I have sympathy. Others, however, had the same opportunity as the rest of us, to start placing scheduled orders last year, but chose not to for one of many reasons, and are now suffering the consequences of their unpreparedness.” And without an overall plan to refer to, Cantrell said, “It makes for a bumpy ride. Tracking customer orders, vendor
42 Mobile Electronics July 2021
BUSINESS PLANNING BASICS
mobile electronics association
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. facebook.com/MobileElectronics 43 Mobile Electronics® • firstname.lastname@example.org • 800-949-6372
strategy & tactics
Through trial and error, business owner James P. Smith learned the importance of planning, delegating tasks and standard operating procedures. He shared his findings at KnowledgeFest Orlando during his class “Getting Out of Your Own Way: From Technician to CEO.”
purchase orders, and inventory receipts is one of the foundational elements to proper workflow in your business.” He added that if these items aren’t carefully managed, a business will project a messy and unprofessional atmosphere. “Every team member is responsible for doing their part in keeping the system running efficiently,” he added. Smith said no business should go without a plan—or a backup plan. “A lot of times, they say to jump and build a parachute on the way down. As technicians, we sometimes want to wait until things are perfect, or we feel comfortable.” Then, he noted, it’s too late. “I feel a lot of people forget to tell you when you’re building your parachute on the way down, you need to build your back-up, too.” If the first plan fails, what’s next? The backup plan comes into play, Smith said, “And you need to know when to bail. I feel as though you should always set a course of action that you want to take, and try to anticipate any failures you can think of and what you would do,” he said. “If something happens, what will you do?” When that situation occurs, he
44 Mobile Electronics July 2021
added, “You’re ready to go, and you can pivot into the next opportunity.” #5: Think Critically About Your Business Model LIS Audio normally maintains a low inventory, relying on efficiency and positive relations to satisfy clients, according to Cameron Powell. He added that he feels the business “prepares for the worst, but plans for the best.” Ever since the business was first founded, LIS Audio sets up appointments for consultations and takes deposits to schedule projects. Powell noted that retailers shouldn’t be afraid of thinking critically about their business models, and should be willing
to “change the business model to fit the times, or spur of the moment.” Staying on top of changes within the industry, he said, has worked well for the shop. “As long as we keep communication open, we’re honest with our clients and we stay up-to-date, we won’t have complications.” Berry and Powell continue to respond to clients’ needs and interests. Most recently, the shop has been looking into manufacturing enclosures tailored to the shop’s clientele. To do this, they’ve been looking through tickets to get a better idea of the type of vehicles they work on the most. “We’re also looking at what most people ask us about,” he said, adding that they’re trying to come up with an answer to that, which would include a basic package, mid-tier and higher-end offerings. Being willing to change with the times and respond to customers’ needs is key for retailers. Smith said he had to start over when it came to his own business. “It’s hard to let go. The more I stepped out and let things go, the more my business grew,” he said, adding, “If you don’t have roots, the tree will collapse.”
BUSINESS PLANNING BASICS
The Mission of Brandmotion
Jon Marlow of Brandmotion discusses how the company is focused on creating a safer driving experience for everyone on the road today. WORDS BY DAVE MACKINNON
ince 2005, Brandmotion has offered automotive safety technology solutions that reduce accident risk and improve the driving experience. Brandmotion’s commercial sales manager, Jon Marlow, said the company’s goal is to enhance people’s lives “by using technology to provide information that will reduce accidents and make driving more enjoyable.” Improving the comfort level of the driver is based on providing information that enhances confidence, which is a unique approach to
46 Mobile Electronics July 2021
solution development. Brandmotion is a spin-off from Johnson Controls, which is a Tier 1 supplier that’s manufactured products like leadacid and Lithium-Ion hybrid vehicle batteries for automobile manufacturers. As mobile electronics professionals, we are accustomed to rear-vision cameras and reverse sensors as safety solutions for parking and maneuvering applications in a typical discussion about automotive safety products. However, Brandmotion has separated itself by offering unique solutions designed to assist with other aspects of
the driving task and experience. Providing More Than Just Backup Cameras The Transparent Trailer Rear Vision System, for example, combines Brandmotion’s FullVUE replacement rear-view mirror with a wide-angle commercial-grade rear vision camera. This system is a rear vision solution for any application in which the driver can’t see out the back window. If someone is towing a trailer or camper behind a pickup truck, operating an RV or driving a box or work truck,
The Mission of Brand Motion having the Transparent Trailer system in place provides a clear view of what’s behind them at all times. “Our Transparent Trailer technology is intended to be in constant use while driving,” Marlow explained. “The image displayed on the FullVUE mirror allows the driver to see cars, trucks and motorcycles approaching from behind in both their lane and adjacent lanes. That information, combined with the standard side-view mirrors, provides accurate and reliable information about when it’s safe to turn or move over.” He went on to point out that the system maintains all the typical benefits of a rear-vision camera system, which helps prevent back-over accidents and expedite the parking process. He also said there are no latency issues between what’s happening and the image on the camera because it is a hard-wired system—not a wireless solution. From the vehicle operator’s point of view, the scenario “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” doesn’t exist if the Transparent Trailer system is in place. Likewise, the stress level of drivers who aren’t experienced in hauling a trailer or driving a large vehicle with no conventional rear-view mirror will be dramatically reduced by this safety vision system. Presenting this as more than a safety solution is a key part of the demonstration process for a potential client. Retailers can use words like “anxiety” and phrases like “stress reduction” to help clients to connect emotionally to the benefits of this product. Transparent Trailer opens opportunities for mobile electronics retailers to approach commercial and recreational vehicle retailers and repair centers with a unique solution with clearly tangible benefits. City buses, heavy-duty fleets, school buses and truck and van rental companies are also great opportunities for this product. The Transparent Trailer system is available in two versions. The TRNS-2110 system includes a FullVUE rear-view mirror, a wide-angle industrial-grade camera and all the cabling required to install these components. A high-quality
The FullVUE 9.66-inch mirror includes a 1920 x 320-pixel display, two video inputs and digital video recording (DVR) capabilities. The touchscreen display allows the driver to pan the image view to optimize it for driving or parking/maneuvering applications.
trailer disconnect cable is part of the kit to ensure a reliable and easy-to-disconnect way to leave the trailer behind. The TRNS-2100 system includes the same display and cabling but works with your choice of camera solution. Active Accident Protection Products While discussing the importance of safety systems and how those products interact with the driver to prevent accidents, Marlow shared some information about the importance of combining active and passive safety solution strategies. “According to a recent survey,” he said, “the addition of a backup camera has shown to reduce accidents by only five percent. Installing a stand-alone parking sensor system reduces accidents by 17 percent What’s interesting is that adding both of these technologies to a single vehicle has demonstrated a reduction of 42 percent.” An active safety product like a parking sensor or radar-based blind-spot monitoring system uses technology to reduce the driver effort required to obtain important information. With a backup camera, the driver must choose
to look at the camera image, then process the information he or she sees. With a sensor-based system, the driver can continue to focus on maneuvering the vehicle correctly, knowing they will be alerted to the presence of an object. Combining a sensor-based warning system with the maneuvering benefits of a camera system to ensure vehicles are centered in a parking spot, parked close enough to a curb or wall, or when attempting to connect to a trailer is the ideal all-around solution. As retailers, this information is incredibly valuable during a presentation about upgrading the safety technology on clients’ vehicles. Offering Outside-the-Box Thinking in Safety Solutions Brandmotion offers premium camera and sensor-based blind-spot and parking products to suit almost any application. The company’s parking sensor systems work in forward and rear-facing applications and include rubber inserts to make the sensors compatible with metal bumpers along with traditional plastic bumper covers.
tech today Another system Marlow discussed was Brandmotion’s RDBS-1400 radar-based blind-spot monitoring system. This product includes a pair of ultrasonic sensors that mobile electronics retailers can install behind the rear bumper cover on cars and SUVs. The system not only monitors beside and behind the vehicle when driving, but it also switches to a cross-traffic alert mode when the vehicle is backing out of a parking spot.
A popular rear vision camera upgrade option is the Brandmotion 9002-1005, which is designed to replace the tailgate handle on 2014 through 2018 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks.
Brandmotion offers an add-on third brake light option for Jeep Wrangler SummitView camera systems called the SUTV-8894. The solution is compatible with JK-chassis Jeeps.
The radar-based RDBS-1500 blind spot monitoring system includes a cross-traffic alert mode that can help prevent accidents when backing out of a parking spot.
If your client ventures off-road, the SummitView system acts as a spotter to help them avoid dangerous obstacles and stay on the trail.
48 Mobile Electronics July 2021
Vehicle Specific Solutions Offer Factory-Installed Integration Marlow pointed out how professional technicians strive to integrate vehicle upgrades to make them look and function as if they were installed in the factory. “Brandmotion offers an extensive array of vehicle-specific safety solution upgrades to help simplify this task,” he said, adding that the list includes backup cameras for Ford, Ram and Chevrolet/GMC pickup trucks and Jeep Wranglers and Gladiators. The company also provides harness and camera solutions that work with the factory wiring in many of these applications. Interface solutions for Chrysler/ Dodge/Jeep, Ford and General Motors vehicles allow the image from these cameras to be presented on the factory-installed display-radio screen—just as it would with a factory-installed backup camera. Brandmotion has dubbed their multi-camera systems SummitView and markets them to off-roaders and adventurers looking for a way to check trail obstacles and gauge approach and departure angles without having to exit the vehicle. SummitView products are available for Jeep applications and include a 185-degree rock camera. Infrared cameras that can see in absolute darkness are another option. Universal systems are available for UTV applications and have a seven-inch quad-camera display with video recording capabilities. If you are a mobile electronics retailer with a goal to specialize in vehicle safety solutions, it’s worth taking the time to carefully review the unique product solutions available from Brandmotion. Their philosophy differs from the typical safety solution provider and gives you
tech today a new arsenal of solutions to improve your client’s safety and comfort. You can learn more about their products by visiting the www.brandmotion.com website. They have Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Brandmotion/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/brandmotion/) pages, as well as YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/brandmotionvideo/videos) with an extensive array of product information and installation videos. I want to thank Jon Marlow for talking with me about the unique products Brandmotion offers and sharing the company’s unique approach to vehicle safety solutions.
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 editorin-chief at BestCarAudio.com.
Brandmotion has developed a unique blind-spot monitoring solution for Ford pickup trucks called the RDBS-1520.
Brandmotion’s 9002-3003 Universal parking sensor system includes a distance display and provides audible warnings when an obstacle has been detected.
The FullVUE 9.66-inch mirror includes a 1920 x 320-pixel display, two video inputs and digital video recording (DVR) capabilities. The touchscreen display allows the driver to pan the image view to optimize it for driving or parking/maneuvering applications.
50 Mobile Electronics July 2021
It's all about saving lives
Sign up for our Dealer Locator today at vzan.org/signup facebook.com/MobileElectronics 51
52 Mobile Electronics July 2021
By incorporating and integrating a Memphis Audio sound system into this 1972 Chevrolet Impala, Car-Tunes, Inc. balanced original classic design with quality sound. SUBMITTED BY KIMBERLY TRAINER, CAR-TUNES, INC., GREENVILLE, MISS.
ar-Tunes, Inc. recently completed a Memphis Audio system in a 1972 Chevrolet Impala for a customer who was looking for a clean, loud system to complement his classic car. “We have a lot of patient customers who don’t mind waiting,” said shop owner Kimberly Trainer. “This guy was fantastic to work with, and he really enjoyed the results.” Only MESA OFC wire and premium accessories were used, according to Trainer, who added that the project was completed by the shop’s head installation technician, her son, Dalton Trainer, who is also a Top 12 Installer. The project began with a Kenwood eXcelon receiver featuring a CD player, USB, AUX, BT and five-volt outputs in the factory location. Other products included a MESA M-Power MP1500 battery with a custom fabricated tray under the hood, and two additional MESA M-Power MP950 batteries hidden in the trunk area for maximum power flow to four Memphis VIV Amplifiers including two VIV2200.1 for subwoofer power and two VIV400.4
54 Mobile Electronics July 2021
for mids and highs. “The kick panels for the Memphis MOJO Pro 6.5-inch speakers (MJP62) and MOJO Pro Tweeters (MJPT) were fabricated and wrapped in black vinyl to match the vehicle’s color scheme with an additional MOJO Pro 6.5-inch (MJP62) retro-fitted in the dashboard factory location by using a custom speaker adapter,” she explained. The rear deck was built and wrapped in black vinyl. Memphis MOJO Pro 8-inch speakers (MJP82) were installed, along with MOJO Pro Tweeters (MJPT) and the Chevrolet logo was incorporated in the design. The logo was also incorporated in the trunk as a 3D silhouette using carpet, vinyl and wrapped MDF with magnets for easy removal during any future servicing. Racesport RGB LED accent lighting was also installed in the side panels around the recessed amplifier racks. “It was a pleasure to deliver this one-of-a-kind Memphis Audio project along with a large bag full of Car-Tunes, Inc. swag to our excited customer,” Trainer added.
P P ORT NTENT CO
F T N GS HI
www.InstallerNet.com • 800-444-1644 facebook.com/MobileElectronics 55
From The President
Mingling With the Group Joining up? Consider what’s best for you—an inclusive or exclusive setting, and how to decide. [Continued from Editor’s Forum, page 4.] An exclusive group has certain rules or requirements. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you should know before attempting to join that you might not be approved for membership. Groups like this are usually meant for a very specific field or interest. On the other hand, an inclusive group allows many to join regardless of affiliation with other groups. They tend to focus on greater participation, allowing for varied thoughts and opinions. Both group types serve a purpose.
A group that helps you grow both personally and professionally will invite you to express your thoughts or opinions without consequences.
56 Mobile Electronics July 2021
GROUPS CAN BE BOTH INCLUSIVE AND EXCLUSIVE An association tends to recruit from a larger base, allowing it to be considered inclusive of all interests. Once you are a member, there may be groups within the association that are both inclusive and exclusive. The difference is that there’s usually a path for any member meeting certain criteria to become involved in an exclusive part of the association. For example, the association may have a leadership board that requires the member to meet certain criteria, and either be nominated or appointed to serve for a specific period. DECIDING WHERE YOU BELONG It’s easy enough to just join everything that interests you. That said, go back to the first part of this article and review what you want to get out of your association with specific groups. Are you looking for some precise information? Maybe you just want a sense of belonging. That’s reason enough to join and network with others. To really get the most out of it, make sure you take the time to participate in any in-person events that others from the group might attend. Face-to-face networking tends to build better relationships, thus providing you with a longer-lasting and more fruitful experience.
HERE’S WHAT THE BEST GROUPS HAVE IN COMMON A group that helps you grow both personally and professionally will invite you to express your thoughts or opinions without consequences. Members will debate the issues and share relevant and helpful information. They won’t focus on who’s the best, or who’s not so good. They will lift up rather than tear down others. Good leadership in any group will help focus on your personal growth as an individual. If you feel the group lacks quality leadership, don’t shy away from speaking up. You never know—you might be the leader the group is looking for. Yes, some groups may compete for your attention and membership. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is a problem with a group that shuns others who might not be like them. Don’t get caught up in this type of group. It can be harmful to both you and others. Look for groups that encourage you to be yourself. Over time, you should notice the groups that don’t shun others are the ones which allow you to be a member without hampering your ability to participate in other groups. NEED HELP FINDING THE RIGHT PLACE FOR YOU? I know many leaders with integrity in our industry. If you’re looking for a good group, ask your sales reps, your vendors, and even the Mobile Electronics Association. We will be glad to help point you in the right direction. And if you can make the journey, any KnowledgeFest event will put you in front of other likeminded professionals in our industry who can point you to great groups that will help you grow.