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March/April 2021

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FRONT LINES How can businesses guard against potential economic downturns? Retailers and industry experts discuss best practices

PLUS: Making the Change: Dave Elkin of DOW Technologies shares strategies and lessons learned

Safety First: Here are 10 essential safety tips that will help increase your business’s efficiency


Volume 53 Issue 2

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

12 FEATURES

ARTICLES

12 // What’s Happening: Guardians of 12-Volt

18 Retail News

How can retailers protect businesses during times of potential economic distress? Industry professionals discuss ways of guarding business interests and diversifying to ensure longevity.

54 Installs

28 // Real World Retail: Devil in the Details

4 Editor’s Forum

Apicella Autosound aims to provide detailoriented perfection in integration and tuning, which has led to fast-paced growth year over year.

58 From the President

DEPARTMENTS 6 Feedback ON THE COVER:

40 // Learning From Leaders: Going Small Pays Off Big

Landing the right job at a family-owned company turned into a 25-year stint at DOW Technologies where David Elkin continues living the dream.

44 // Strategy & Tactics: 10 Practices for Safety and Efficiency

Review essential safety techniques and improve efficiency at your shop with these recommendations from top industry professionals.

50 // Tech Today: Vehicle Safety: Dashcams and DVR Systems

Educate your clients on how they can protect themselves and their vehicles with dashcam and DVR systems.

2  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

The team at Apicella Autosound in Stony Point, NY has honed in on tuning and high-end car audio systems as its main niche. While they dabble in other categories, much of the revenue comes from big builds, attracting more and more clients who want fully integrated systems which match OEM design. The business continues growing year-over-year. Cover Design: Ana Ramirez

mobile electronics association

Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • chrisc@mobile-electronics.com Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • richb@mobile-electronics.com Tony Frangiosa, Chairman of the Board, MEA

Ad Index

Alpine Electronics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 AudioControl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 DD Audio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Escort. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Firstech - Compustar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Harman - JBL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 InstallerNet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 JVC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Kenwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Kicker. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 KnowledgeFest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 KnowledgeFest - Orlando . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 MECP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Metra Electronics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Orca - Focal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Sirius XM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Sony. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 SounDigital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38,39 Vais Technology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Vision Zero. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Voxx Electronics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35


TRIPLE THREAT The Alpine Halo Display Family is BIGGER than Ever!

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EDITOR’S FORUM CAN YOU SAY YOU TOOK A RISK AND BLAZED A TRAIL THAT’S NOW PRODUCING GREAT REWARDS? IF YOU ARE A BUSINESS OWNER IN THE MOBILE ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY, THIS IS PROBABLY VERY TRUE FOR YOU.

ARE YOU A TRAILBLAZER?

if you haven’t already, it’s time to take the lead, bring your vision to reality and use it to help others.

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Our industry is made up of amazing people who saw an opportunity to improve the driving experience. Beginning with the first AM radios in automobiles, FM radios in the 50s, and then the addition of formats such as 8-track, cassette, CD in the 80s, the mobile electronics industry sought to innovate with each decade. Today, technologies such as satellite radio, security and convenience and vehicle safety (ADAS) are commonplace. Who knows what we’ll see next. Regardless, we all get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Especially those of us who seek to improve the sound quality and technology in automobiles, thereby changing the driving experience forever—and for the better. Bringing our dreams and visions to fruition Can you say you took a risk and blazed a trail that’s now producing great rewards? If you are a business owner in the mobile electronics industry, this is probably very true for you. Starting a business takes a special talent to turn your dream into reality. In this industry, it can take much more than just a good head for business. It takes vision and tenacity. Success usually starts with an idea based on a desire to become a leader in a specific area. Many people have dreams, but the true mark of an entrepreneur separates dreamers from those who work to fulfill their vison. Those who’ve called this industry home for many years can attest to the fact that changes in technology have driven many great innovations to keep customers coming back for more year after year. Enduring a trial by fire You’ve probably heard the saying that no good deed goes unpunished. Some trials will arise from mistakes made, others

4  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

from outside forces which take you by surprise. When someone discourages you from moving forward, or provides less than sound advice, remember what led you to starting your business in the first place. Never let disappointment stop you from doing what you love. Taking your lumps and learning lessons Regardless of lessons learned, mistakes made have surely put a dent in your ego. This can be a good thing because it tends to humble you, forcing you think through issues known to cause problems. Learn from it and move on! Plan for success using what you learned to make your business better. Standing on your own Now that you’ve learned from mistakes, you know how to feel more confident in your abilities. You should be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. The feeling you get from knowing you can endure challenges and come through them stronger is a great reward that should manifest as growth. Remember, it’s your vision that makes you the person you are! You don’t need to look to others for your success story. Telling your story to help others Because you’ve learned so much, I challenge you to take the next step and share your experience with others. What you’ve learned is valuable. This is how many industry professionals have become teachers at events such as KnowledgeFest. Consider the opportunity to teach. It can be very rewarding. If you decide you want to help others, let me know. I will do my best to get you connected to the best education team in the industry: KnowledgeFest instructors.

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 feedback

When a business begins growing quicker than anticipated, additional tasks can stack up, leading to much longer to-do lists. Focus on one thing at a time to avoid overwhelm, while continuing to plan ahead. 6  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

“Offer brands that aren’t selling you online.” James Norton, Norton Car Stereo, Florence, South Carolina “We have seen a boom on the social media side of things. Consumers aren’t going to shows right now, but they still have an interest in car audio, so they’re going to places where it’s at—and it’s on the Internet.” Dean Beyett, Five Star Car Stereo, Clearwater, Fla. “We’ve had to adjust in so many different ways this year. We were having a hard time with inventory. We were fortunate to have stock, so for the first six months, we were okay, but then we knew the product was running low because other dealers were calling us, and we started getting low. We have been busier than ever. It’s been a bit overwhelming. The minute we hear there’s product available, we try to buy as much as we can.” Ron Venable, Traffic Jams Motorsports, Buford, Ga.

“If you keep getting overwhelmed by everything you have to do, whether it’s jobs, orders, quotes, or whatever, just stop looking at the entire list and take it day by day. This doesn’t mean it will be easy or take away from the stress, but all you can do is one day’s worth at a time— so focus on that until you start catching up. That might mean several late nights, turning down other jobs, placing orders afterhours or just doing same-day orders on your phone for specific things you need for specific jobs only. I suck at this and always feel so far behind and think everything is just going to fall apart because of it, but I’m still here, still making it, doing the best I can. I have to focus and try. I need another hand at the shop badly. I just do what I can and keep looking for help without thinking I can’t do it without the help.” Graeme Wyatt, Impact Tint and Tune, Tyler, Texas


 stats

Hot Rides Top Auto Makes by Revenue:

2020 was a busy year for the industry. Here are the top automaker brands seen in the install bay, and the top categories.

Top Auto Makes by Transactions:

Ford 2. Toyota 3. Chevrolet 4. Jeep 5. Honda 6. Dodge 7. Nissan 8. GMC 9. RAM 10. HYUNDAI

Top Five Categories by Revenue:

Head units 2. Speakers 3. Amplifiers 4. Remote Start & Security 5. OEM Integration Products

Top Five Categories by TRANSACTION:

Installation Kits 2. Speakers 3. Headunits

4. Remote Start & Security 5. Amplifiers

8  Mobile Electronics March /April 2021


TM

SAVE THE DATES FOR 2021

June 25-27

Orlando, FL

August 27-29

Dallas, TX

October 8-10

Indianapolis, IN Produced by TM

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Register Today Not an MEA member?

Join today at mobile-electronics.com  9


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BOOK: Serendipity: Utilizing Common Unexpected Events to Improve Your Life and Career BY DR. NEIL J. FARBER

According to author Dr. Neil J. Farber, serendipity can be a gamechanger. “Most people go through life believing that unexpected, fortuitous events that often bring fame and fortune happen to only a lucky few individuals,” he writes. “The truth is that unexpected events frequently happen to all of us. They may not bring tremendous fame or fortune, but they can be recognized and utilized to significantly improve one’s professional and personal life.” In his book, Farber explains how to understand the different types of serendipitous events, how to become more aware of serendipity, how to bring the event to a successful conclusion and what to do with the result if it’s profitable—or when it’s not.

PODCAST: Renegades: Born in the USA AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY,

What happens when you bring Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen together? You get two regular guys talking about a whole range of topics. Drawn from one-on-one conversations at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey from last July to December, the eight-part series is a discussion of life in the U.S. from two masters of the form. “In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys,” Obama says. “We still share a fundamental belief in the American ideal. Not as an airbrushed, cheap fiction or an act of nostalgia that ignores all the ways that we’ve fallen short of that ideal. But as a compass for the hard work that lies before each of us as citizens.” Note: Obama and Springsteen largely avoid politics and stick to personal stories. It’s about their lives, music and an enduring love for America.

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 What’s Happening

Guardians of 12-Volt

Industry professionals discuss ways of guarding business interests, diversifying to ensure longevity and protecting businesses during times of potential economic distress. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

With the pandemic came uncertainty, product shortages and plenty of online training. While business at many shops is currently booming, some retailers express growing concern for a potential economic slump. Jason Kranitz of Kingpin University in Las Vegas, Nev., who was featured on the February cover of Mobile Electronics magazine, said he feels a recession could be on its way. “Right now, people are getting stimulus money,” he said, adding that a lot of the recent retail business feels like the “easy

12  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

money” of the ’90s. “It’ll dry up, and shops will have to find business again.” Brandon Green of The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo. agrees this is a possibility, but he noted that well-prepared businesses will likely continue to manage as they always have. “Even things like vehicle and technology changes already separate businesses that really go out and market themselves and educate themselves, from those that don’t want to learn or put in effort to improve themselves,” he said, adding, “I think we’ll be

fine.” Retailers and business owners agreed that being able to adapt to changes is key. Staying Focused on Core Values Vernon, Conn.-based A.C.T. Audio has recently learned that pinpointing core values—and continuing to revisit them during company meetings—helps maintain a straightforward trajectory, and also improves store culture. Shop owner James P. Smith said the business has seen a lot of recent change,


Gaurdians of 12-Volt

including an expanding staff and ongoing renovations. “I’m also trying to develop a way to put outside perspective on a company. This is a process I want to try to develop,” he said, adding that he hopes it can also help other shops. “Every day we come in and walk past things that need to be addressed, but we don’t necessarily see or notice them. We might be blinded to issues with employees because of our relationships, or we’re putting things on the back burner.” Recently, he recorded video while walking through the store, and then reviewed it. “In the video, I’ll see things I had to fix that I had forgotten about,” he said. “We’ve become so immune to our surroundings. What process can we use to review that, and bring it to the forefront to take care of it more promptly?” Essential to a well-managed business, he said, is discovering one’s core values. Smith advised identifying them and then writing them down. Then, most importantly, “You have to hold yourself and your employees accountable.” He added that he reviews the business’s core values with employees during a monthly store meeting.

“You always want to review your core values, because they can change as you grow. I recently added ‘communication’ to our list. As our business grows, communication becomes more important between me and my employees,” he said. “It also doesn’t hurt to evaluate your employees once a year or even more to make sure they’re also adhering to your core values. Just because they were when you hired them, doesn’t mean they are a year later. And if they aren’t, why aren’t they?” Choosing to adhere to core values has drastically changed and improved the overall culture of his business, Smith said. “We’re all on the same page now. We’re moving forward faster than ever, and we enjoy the days even more, because we’re all in this together.” A.C.T. Audio follows the core values of integrity, growth, truthfulness, communication and professionalism, which Smith said have definitions according to the store’s mission and vision for the future. Instead of worrying too much, he tries to focus on his strategy. “When COVID19 first started, some business owners slipped, and others were proactive in trying to move forward,” he explained.

“When I found out my state was going to shut down, I called every estimate in the books and said, ‘Get your car here and I can get it done during the shutdown.’” This resulted in a month’s worth of work that helped the shop pay the bills. “When things like that happen, I assess the situation and decide on the best course of action.” Supplementing Income with Fleet Work and Diversification For Joey Knapp of Pinnacle Autosound, work has been about the same. “We do cars, boats and golf carts.” Additionally, he added, the business picked up two new types of jobs: “We are building tech displays for a local bank. They wanted to make a center where clients could communicate on tablets with customer service to set up new accounts. They couldn’t find any contractors to do it, and someone I knew who worked at the bank suggested me. I’ve done two banks so far, and we have more lined up.” For another company, Knapp made tablet holder stands with an integrated thumbprint reader for employees. “That also helped push us to our best year so

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 What’s Happening

far,” he said, adding that he didn’t actively seek out these jobs, but was hired due to his connection to people in the local community. With plenty of fabrication tools on hand, Knapp added that he sees a lot of opportunity for diversification into other projects. “There’s so much I could do with the laser in terms of marketing,” he said. “I even made Christmas ornaments for a local art gallery for fundraising. If things ever slowed down more, I’d start pushing into that area.” Keeping ideas like this in the back of his mind, he said, helps him to be prepared. Tomas Keenan of Break Free Academy in Dallas, Texas, said he’s always been a proponent of diversification as a way to protect one’s business interests and to expand. “If you haven’t considered getting involved with GPS tracking or a service-based business attached to necessary industries, you need to do it,” he said, recommending 12-volt shops service mandatory industries. “Can we help HVAC companies, for example? Food delivery trucks? Larger companies like Amazon and UPS? The answer is in fleet work.” When Keenan worked in retail, he said,

14  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

a customer might be quoted $10,000 for an audio system. “They would almost fall over in shock. Now, in the commercial industry, you’re dealing with a fleet of 100 trucks and the owner says they want to install backup cameras.” Keenan said when he told them how much it would cost, they paid without even flinching. “It’s all perspective,” he explained. Smith agreed, adding that fleet work is a great way to supplement the store’s income. “If we go into a recession, fleet work isn’t going away. We still need freight transportation across the country, school buses and emergency vehicles.” A.C.T. Audio—with its recently created branch of the business A.C.T. Audio Fleet—has been installing cameras in an auto parts retailer chain in New England and GPS tracking in fleet vehicles, Smith said. Preparing for Change Keenan advised business owners ensure they have funds stashed away. “If people think a recession isn’t coming, I think they are wrong. That’s just my opinion,” he said, adding that he also feels cryptocurrency will gain more traction in the near future.

While Kranitz and Keenan both anticipate a potential slump, industry professionals are continuing to prepare for any eventuality. Knapp explained that while he does plan ahead, he tends to be more reactionary in his thinking. “I don’t have enough insight to do mass-planning,” he said, adding that he’s been keeping more product on hand because of this year’s backordering problems. Although business may drop off once things go back to normal, he noted he still feels his shop will be better off than it was before. COVID-19 led to an uptick in business from new customers—people he wouldn’t have met if not for the pandemic. Diversifying and staying prepared is always good advice, no matter the situation the industry faces. Sales trainer Del Ellis said he’s always been a believer in diversifying. “There’re so many things out there you can do,” he said. “If you can’t beat them, join them.” An unwillingness to change, he added, will be the downfall of any business. “You definitely want to diversify to protect yourself.” Tony Dehnke of 12volt Biz said that he could see business declining once people


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 What’s Happening

start spending more money on flights, concerts and other entertainment instead of RVs and “staycation” vehicles, which has been a recent trend. “However,” he added, “at the same time, people may really like their upgrades and want to keep doing them. This might be the challenge for our industry: How do we stay in touch with all the clients”—including the new ones who emerged to spend stimulus money—“to remind them of what we do and how much they love the results?” Working On the Business The Car Audio Shop’s revenue is only slightly down from the previous year because COVID-19 prompted a monthlong shut-down, according to Green. The business continues expanding. “I’m feeling positive and hopeful that everything will go well,” he said, adding that he expects services at his new, second location to remain pretty much the same, although the location’s demographic is slightly different. “The new place gives us about 1,800 more square feet, and it’s set up differently,” he said. “It’ll be good for the events

16  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

and the clubs we sponsor, once we can get back to that. It’ll allow us to do more in the community we support.” During KnowledgeFestWest.Live this month, MEA President Chris Cook interviewed Dave Elkin of DOW Technologies and asked him about product shortages and the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry. Elkin stressed the importance of staying professional and prepared. He advised business owners to work on their businesses—not in them. “It’s nice to have a customer in the shop today, but you have to always think of how you’ll bring the next customer in tomorrow,” he said. “Look at your business through the eyes of your customer. Does your shop look inviting? Would you send your wife or your mom there? Manage your actions to make changes you need to change. Network with folks locally, build relationships, and make sure you get your messages out.” The industry continues to deal with product shortages, and Elkin also highlighted the trend of spending money on recreational vehicles. “I think we’re seeing a lot of technology we put in everyday drivers extending to those other vehicles.

Shops should be prepared to be able to handle all types of installations in a variety of different vehicles, because I think that trend is going to continue,” he said. Blind spot radar and similar technologies have recently become available for motorcycles and RVs, according to Elkin, who said safety and convenience is on the rise. But in these uncertain times, what’s the best advice? “Take the time to hone your skillset,” Elkin said. “Understand inventory turns and when it’s time to start dropping prices, or get things out of the barn. Sometimes you have to take a loss to monetize the value of sitting inventory so you can spend it on something that will turn faster. Don’t lose your passion. Find the balance between personal and professional life. That look a long time for me to learn,” he added.


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 retail news

A.C.T. Audio Stays Busy and Highlights the Importance of Vision WORDS BY LAURA KEMMERER Like a number of other mobile electronics shops throughout the pandemic, A.C.T. Audio, based in Vernon, Conn., has celebrated an upsurge in business. But with the increased demand for skilled labor, shop owner James P. Smith had to make a call about how he handled business. He learned the hard way that sticking to one’s vision is critically important, especially when it comes to hiring and training personnel.

18  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

Smith noted that the increase in business required the addition of a salesperson to the team because it was getting difficult to provide a high standard of care for customers. Stephen Ferriss was brought on board, marking the first in a number of new hires. “Stephen applied, and we really liked his core values which aligned with ours. He has zero industry experience other than some interest in the topic,” Smith said. Ethan Deer recently transitioned

from apprentice to tech, and Xavier Roman is the shop’s new apprentice. Learning to Identify Issues and Recognize Limitations Recognizing the need for outside help perspective to help take A.C.T. Audio to the next level, Smith had a friend come in and offer an overall assessment, which helped him identify things the business needed to do better, like following up with customers. “She pointed out a lot of things I already knew, but because she highlighted those things, it made me realize how important it was and how I needed to stop ignoring it,” he explained. “It’s so easy to keep putting things off. I think we all do it in some form or another in our lives.” When his friend wrote down each detail, Smith said it brought the issues to the forefront of his mind. “I needed to hire another salesperson because we have to take better care of our customers. So far, it’s proving to be a value because we have better follow-up, and in the end we will make more money.”


James learned that recognizing limitations enforced by factors like lack of personnel was also critically important. Certain things like making sure displays are fully functional and seeing to other, finer details were too much for one person to handle. Lesson Learned: Keep Core Values Top-of-Mind Beyond going through the review process for A.C.T. Audio, James also had to jump at the opportunity to take on fleet work. A.C.T. previously did side work on fleet vehicles, initially starting the work to subsidize the retail side, but eventually the work was left behind due to booming retail business. After taking over the business in 2019, Smith once again reached out to fleet companies. One in-progress project called for installing cameras in buses, with work amounting to one bus per tech a day. In total, a bus takes around 10 hours to complete. “[We] went to Pine Plains, New York, and did 39 buses. The owner of the company said they liked what we did, and

they were looking for a team who could do more,” he said, adding the company asked for more people. “At that point, I couldn’t keep taking away from A.C.T. Audio to support a long-term project, so I decided to open A.C.T. Audio Fleet and separate the two businesses because of liability and finances,” Smith said. “I hired some people. I went to Job Corps of America, got a couple graduates, got employees in NY who were automotive technicians, went to NY and trained them for two weeks myself. The buses could only be done overnight, so it was brutal for me because I come home and go to bed and get up early. It was a rough two weeks.” He went on to hire seven new employees, with two quitting and another two being let go. The entire endeavor nearly crashed and burned, according to the owner, and he attributes this to not following his core values. By listening to recommendations from an outside company that offered to train employees for A.C.T. Audio Fleet, Smith went against the hiring process he uses for his store.

“I felt uneasy. I should have listened to my gut, but I continued forward,” he said, adding that the issue has since been sorted out, and qualified employees have been hired. Smith emphasized the importance of listening to one’s instincts, adding that if he’d done so, he might not have lost money on employees who were improperly trained. As of this writing, Smith anticipates additional staff joining the team soon. The shop continues expanding the garage and building a woodshop, while Smith is also working on a book about how to go from being a tech to a CEO—and hopes to present a class on the topic at an upcoming KnowledgeFest.

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 retail news

Selling to Gun Hobbyists Increases Shop Revenue, Draws Clientele WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA During the pandemic, it became difficult for gun hobbyists to find ammunition, according to Graeme Wyatt, owner of Impact Tint and Audio in Tyler, Texas. To help meet the demand, Wyatt said his shop began stocking items and making posts on social media. Soon, they created a sign for the store to advertise the new offerings, and began making weekly posts online. “We were spending on average two to three hours a day dealing with ammo sales,” Wyatt said, adding that although customers have appreciated the service, the markup on the items is high and the shop isn’t able to make much from the sales. “We only make two to five dollars a box. We can’t buy like bigger stores can,” he said, noting many customers are just happy to find the product. In fact, the added product has brought many new customers in—people who might not have otherwise stopped in Impact Tint and Audio. “We hardly have to spend anything to get the word out. It’s brought a huge influx of potential customers into the store. They come for the ammo, but they look around, ask questions, get pricing and sometimes they go ahead and get jobs done on their vehicles while they’re here.” While Wyatt noted that selling ammunition is probably unusual for a 12-volt shop, it has nevertheless made an enormous impact on business. “And it’s made our name very well-known in the east Texas area,” he added.

20  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


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 hot sellers

Stylin’

Clients add window tint and lighting for a stylish flair, while retailers continue selling tried-and-true car audio products and backup cameras. 22  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


LLumnar Stratos Window Tinting High-End Window Film Main Selling Features: “This product has superior heat rejection qualities.” Primary Objection: Price. How to Overcome: “The overall quality of the product, and its high performance along with a warranty, helps to sell it.”

ZSTAT Car Audio ZAB250 Amplifier Submitted by: James Norton, Norton Car Stereo, Florence, South Carolina Main Selling Features: “This is an amazing line that is very profitable and protected. I love ZSTAT’s business model.” Primary Objection: Learning curve. How to Overcome: “We show them the products in their application, we allow them to listen in their vehicles.”

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 hot sellers GTR Lighting Ultra Series 2 LED Headlight Bulbs Submitted by: Graeme Wyatt, Impact Tint and Audio, Tyler, Texas Main Selling Features: “Customers like the lifetime warranty, and the control they’re able to have over the light. The product allows you to put light exactly where you need it.” Primary Objection: Price and labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “Product price is generally understood once the customer hears about the lifetime warranty. Labor cost is just something that we say you are more than capable of doing yourself but in many cases you are going to need to drop the entire bumper.”

Ground Zero GZCF 6.5 SPL 6.5-Inch Weatherproof Motorsports Coaxial Speaker Main Selling Features: “These speakers are weather proof and they handle a ton of power. They play loud—and lower— than most weatherproof speakers in the same class.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “A live demo usually succeeds in selling this product.”

24  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


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 hot sellers Diamond Audio MP654 COAQX Horn 6.5-Inch Speaker Submitted by: Paul Klein, 702 Motoring Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nev. Main Selling Features: “This speaker is designed for usage on Harley-Davidson motorcycles and produces sound levels that are beyond satisfying.” Primary Objection: None. How to Overcome: “We never have any objections to the price, labor costs or anything else associated with this product.”

Echomaster PCam-10L-N License Plate Camera Submitted by: Darren Thomas, Audio Works, Newark, Del. Main Selling Features: “This is our number-one add on to every radio sale. Myself and the sales guys have a 75 percent close rate on this add-on, and it’s one of our most profitable items with install.” Primary Objection: Labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “It’s wired, and would be most beneficial to do at the same time as the radio install.”

26  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


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FOR MORE INFORMATION AND A TEST DRIVE PLEASE CONTACT SHAWN SPEDDING 816-385-1944 Shawn.Spedding@harman.com facebook.com/MobileElectronics   27


real world RETAIL

28  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


DEVIL IN THE DETAIL

Apicella Autosound aims to provide detailoriented perfection in integration and tuning, which has led to fast-paced growth year over year. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

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real world RETAIL

FAST FACTS Main Location:

Stony Point, NY Number of Locations:

ONE

Square Footage:

2,200 Type:

Garage / Boutique Number of Employees:

FOUR

MAIN FOCUS 90% Car Audio 8% Radar and Laser 2% Remote Start

KEY STAFF Owner: Nick Apicella Technician, Fabricator: Damian Kevin Mullings Technician, Fabricator, Laser Design: Matthew Kim Apprentice: Kyle Dunn

Stony Point, New York-based Apicella Autosound began by catering mainly to hobbyists, according to owner Nick Apicella. Now, the shop is drawing a wealthier clientele which he noted tends to have full confidence in the team when it comes to letting them guide the project. While the shop still does custom work with competition-style sound quality builds, the majority is now focused on OEM integration. Until about two months ago, the staff consisted of only Apicella and technician Kevin Mullings. The shop now has a staff of four. Apprentice Kyle Dunn started out as an enthusiast who often called the shop for advice. The newest addition, Matthew Kim, moved from Oregon to join the team. About 90 percent of the business’s projects consist of car audio, with smaller percentages in radar, laser detection and remote start. “We do a few remote starts a week,” Apicella said. “Kevin is very skilled at remote starts and alarms, but we don’t make an effort to do a ton of them.”

30  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

Tuning is the shop’s main money-maker. From High-End Cars to High-End Sound When he was younger, a journey to purchase a high-end subwoofer from a dealer in Manhattan opened doors for Apicella. “One of the employees was also into skiing and snowboarding,” he said. “We knew some of the same people. I went home and emailed the owner to ask if they were hiring.” Although the business didn’t want to hire someone who lacked experience, the owner offered to bring him in as an apprentice and teach him the trade. He soon discovered he was more interested in creating high-end sound than he was in the type of car he was working on. “I spent winters filming snowboarding,” he said, adding that he would snowboard every day and get paid for it. Usually, he would find work by the springtime—but in 2017, he said, he didn’t have a job lined up. As a result, he decided to install out of his parents’ driveway. Apicella posted

on forums and Facebook groups using photos of previous work. Fortunately, he added, a lot of people already knew him and had confidence in his abilities. Although his parents weren’t happy with the setup, he forged ahead. That spring and summer, he said, “I only had three days off in six months.” Finally, in November of 2017, he found a warehouse location and rented the front half. The owner was using the other half for storage. The space was quite small, he said, adding, “I could only fit a basic tool box, a router table, a table saw, and one car.” The business started with a client base of hobbyists and large builds that took two to three months at a time. “At first,” he added, “I was just a kid renting out a space and getting paid to have fun.” But as the business grew, he rented more of the available space, and hopes to eventually expand further by renting more space in the current complex. Then, he would build an area in which he could demonstrate DSPs, as well as a place for customers to sit, watch television or make


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real world RETAIL

Zero ROI From Facebook and Instagram Boosting Apicella said boosting posts on social media had no positive impacts for the business, adding that he feels the shop might be too specialized for this type of advertising. The goal had been to attract more remote start business, but it didn’t work very well. “I talked to others who marketed that way [for advice],” Apicella said. He also spoke with his local Compustar rep. Then he carried out an ad campaign on Facebook. “I think I got over 120 messages before a customer actually came in,” he explained, noting that numerous messages came in asking questions like “How much is it?” or “What is this?” When Apicella attempted to get further information from them, they never responded. “They almost seemed like fake profiles. I won’t try it again at all, unless something were to change in my business— but I can’t picture it.”

The shop prides itself on tuning and integration. Shown here is the microphone array used in tuning, which interfaces with programs such as Systune Pro and Smart.

32  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


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real world RETAIL

High Output and Quality Sound

coffee. He added that he hopes to have a “more traditional shop feel,” while focusing on high-end work. “Or maybe we’ll just be more well-known. Recently, that’s how it seems to have gone—and very quickly, too. There’s no end in sight.” Reaching Clients On a National Scale Apicella’s posts on social media led to a business that tends to attract clients from hours—or even states—away. Even while working out of his parents’ driveway, he said, clients came from a minimum of two to three hours’ driving distance. Some of Apicella’s clients have come from California, South Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut and New Jersey. “But very rarely,” he said, “from the local area.” Posting on social media, forums, and maintaining a Google listing are the shop’s main avenues for marketing. The business no longer boosts social media posts, instead relying on organic growth to reach a target demographic. “We take a lot of high quality photos of our work and we do a build log for each install,” Apicella said, adding that he’ll post this online and go into detail about the process and the purposes behind some product or design choices, so potential clients get a sense of the staff’s capabilities. Almost all of the business’s clients say they found them on social media, on their

34  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

website, or they’d been following the work for some time. Building a Demo Vehicle—and a Solid Reputation Currently, the shop has no showroom. Apicella has an office that’s about nineby-twelve feet. Until a few months ago, he said, most of the business’s sales were based on customers’ already-instilled confidence in them. The sale begins with either phone or email discussion, and a consultation starts in the office and continues with looking at the client’s car. The shop’s demo vehicle, a 2019 Volvo S60-R Design, is relied upon for showing customers what’s possible. Apicella decided to make the installation in the demo vehicle versatile so it could be tailored to each type of client the shop generally attracts. The demo car offers two separate sound systems that can be utilized depending on the client: an OEM-style sound system, and a separate custom high-end system. Both systems, he added, incorporate a Helix DSP Ultra with “two outputs to a Helix D12 DSP amp that will power the OEM-style system. It’ll power the door speakers, rear speakers, rear deck speakers and then a set of six Mosconi pro amps will power the kick panel, tweeter, midrange in the pillar as well as the center channel and subwoofers.” He added that the shop’s been closing more

Apicella Autosound relies on two main vendors: Audiofrog and Audiotec Fischer. “Both put their faith in me before I even had my own shop and allowed me to be a dealer because they saw my potential,” Apicella said, adding that he can call their sales reps— including Doug Dobson and Frankie Mark—at any time for assistance. The first year Apicella went to KnowledgeFest, he noted Mark “introduced me to a ton of people.” For each and every install, the shop uses Audiotec Fischer’s Helix DSPs or DSP amplifiers, according to Apicella, who added the products’ “capabilities are unmatched in our industry.” The V EIGHT MK2 and V TWELVE are favored products which are space-efficient, he said. “You can hide them anywhere. They’re perfect for OEM integration installs.” Apicella noted that he often couples them with the Audiofrog GS8ND2 dual voice coil 2-ohm subwoofer. Combining these products provides “a ton of power,” he said, recommending this if a customer is looking for quality sound and high output.


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Inoperable Website Contact Form Results in Less Clients Last fall and into the winter, Apicella said the website’s contact form wasn’t working, and he wasn’t aware of it. Work dwindled. “One day in February, I got a Facebook message from someone who wanted to know why I wasn’t answering my emails,” he explained, adding that the potential client said he’d used the website’s contact form to reach out. In the past, clients contacted the shop at least twice a week using the form. “We had nothing lined up. I couldn’t sleep. I was panicking,” he said. “What would I do if I didn’t have a job booked?”

The shop’s demo car, a 2019 Volvo S60 R-Design, with custom A-pillars housing Focal Utopia M drivers. The demo car has two different fully functioning systems.

Matthew Kim’s Tesla Model S is also used as a demo car at the shop. It features a custom fuse holder, amplifier and DSP rack, custom A-pillars and sail panels with Focal Utopia M speakers, all of which Kim installed himself before moving to New York.

36  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

Apicella’s website technician corrected the problem, only to discover at least 50 emails had been held up by the problem. And by this point, the majority of those clients had gone elsewhere.


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sales since they began using the demo car. Because there’s no showroom, sometimes a customer visit appears more like a hang-out than a sale. While Apicella is the main person the customer first interacts with on the phone, Mullings is involved once the customer arrives. Recently, a client who owns a highend landscaping company in Greenwich, Conn. brought in a Range Rover. “He looked online and said our shop was the only one that made him feel comfortable,” Apicella said, adding that this was directly related to the business’s website. “I have built a brand which reflects my ideal client. I suggested he sit in my car and listen. It was an install style that looked and sounded like what he wanted, so I think that sale was a direct result of the demo car.” Focused on Tuning and Continued Growth Apicella Autosound continues to grow. In the business’s second year, revenue doubled from the first year. “This year, the third year, has been almost doubling from the second year,” Apicella said. Despite the impacts of COVID-19, business has been very good. He noted that he feels the industry should focus more on improving tuning quality, and advised industry

professionals to “do some searching” if they feel they need to work on their tuning skills. “A lot of people in the industry seem to want to learn. They train and study,” Apicella said, adding, “But do they apply the information?” He underscored the importance of a willingness to ask questions. Having money saved and maintaining a wait list of clients is important to him. “Right now I’m booked out for the next few months. I still worry at night.” However, he said, a long wait list can also pose problems because customers might shy away: “They don’t always want to wait that long.” While members of the staff all have the same skills, he noted, each of them specialize in different areas, such as wiring or fabrication. Recently, Apicella Autosound’s biggest accomplishment was its increasing demand. In the coming year, Apicella hopes to devote more time to marketing and keeping up with sales and client follow-ups. Because of the increasing workload, he noted that small tasks sometimes slip from his grasp: “I might forget to send something to the accountant, for example.” Nevertheless, he said he feels strongly that “what we’re doing is working—I just want to do it better.”

As the team honed in on making builds as perfect as possible, Apicella refused to settle for anything less than exactly what he was looking for in highend sound deadener. When his preferred source closed its doors, he decided to create his own product and find a suitable manufacturer. Apicella’s side company—ResoNix Sound Solutions—was born, and he’s owned the company for about a year and a half. When the product comes in, he has a special area in the shop to store it, and hires someone to come in and package and ship the orders. His intention, he said, was never to start another brand. To his surprise, the company has been growing. Orders vary, he added, noting, “One week we might have no orders. Another week, we’ll have 12. It varies, and winter is slower.” On average, the business receives about six orders per week. But most importantly, Apicella said he has the ideal sound deadener to provide to his clients.

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real world RETAIL

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P OWE R @ 1Ω: 4 X 3 00 WR M S

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B R I D G E P OWE R @ 4Ω: 2 X 3 9 6 WR M S

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 Learning From Leaders

Going Small Pays Off Big Dave Elkin addresses the crowd while accepting DOW’s Fourth Distributor of the Year Award at KnowledgeFest Dallas 2019.

Landing the right job at a family-owned company turned into a 25-year stint at DOW Technologies where Dave Elkin continues living the dream. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER

Part of a unique brotherhood of workers who have built their career with one company, Dave Elkin, senior vice president of sales and product management, found his perfect match with DOW Electronics—now DOW Technologies—right out of college. “I was bitten by the car audio bug when I was 17 or 18 years old, like a lot of young men,” he explained. After a stint at McGraw Cellular, formerly Cellular One, where he served as a regional trainer, Elkin made a strategic move. “It’s 1995,

40  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

I’m 25 years old, and an opportunity came about at this little place called DOW Electronics. I decided to give it a whirl.” As it turned out, the choice was career-making. Elkin got into the company and had a chance to do a little bit of everything. “The fortunate thing about working for a small family-owned business is you’re asked for input in a lot of areas,” he said. “You wear a lot of hats. You see things from many different angles. You understand every aspect of what it takes to run a business.” He

added that the experience provided a 360-degree view—and it was probably the best business education he could have possibly received. Learning to Adapt and Grow Just as Elkin’s career has evolved over the years, so has DOW, which has been in business since 1959 and owned by the Yodis family since the early 70s. “I have technically worked for the grandfather, the father and now the son,” Elkin said. “And on March first, the company


Going Small Pays Off Big

You wear a lot of hats. You see things from many different angles. You understand every aspect of what it takes to run a business officially changed its name from DOW Electronics to DOW Technologies.” Elkin explained that the previous name limited the company because “it wasn’t what we were really about anymore.” Previously, the company sold replacement television parts and other products, so the word “electronics” made sense. Now, though, DOW Technologies focuses more on solutions and providing services—offerings beyond physical products. “‘Technologies’ just fits us a lot better,” he added. According to Elkin, the company started out distributing television parts in the heyday of TV repair shops. In the days of VCRs, camcorders and related products, all of which the company sold, they were able to get involved with Dish Network in its early phases of the small satellite launch, Elkin said. “We were a C-Band distributor, big 8- and 10-foot dishes, for years. Then we moved into the small dish category.” Energized and capitalized by the small dish business, DOW was positioned for its next steps. The owners continued to think about the long haul and invested back into the company, he recalled. “Back in 2012, we started thinking that while we were a very big satellite distributor, there were other things happening,” he said. “It was this whole world of connectivity and people were becoming more and more reliant on their cell phones and apps.” Technology had evolved into using cell phones to control music through car audio speakers, he said, or even controlling different components in the home. “It got to the point that smart home controls were rooted in smartphones,” Elkin continued. “We decided to

expand and extend our reach into other areas.” Today, Dow sells TVs and smart home electronics, 12-volt products, UCaaS services and more. “We sell some different platforms,” he said. “To break it all down, what Dow is really good at is selling to the independent dealer.” The company’s main imperative, he said, is keeping the independent dealer in mind. To assist in this, they built a number of value-adds within the company to support this mission. “We understand that most of our dealers are smaller mom-and-pop shops with folks who wear a lot of hats. They’re probably sitting at the kitchen table at home late at night doing payroll or placing their orders,” Elkin explained, adding that they began honing in on “what we could do to help support them and make those tasks as easy as possible for them.” Don’t Forget To Be Remembered Keeping the lines of communication open is an ongoing job, regardless of the pandemic. “We want to make sure dealers know what’s here for them,” he said, adding that while they have a team of salespeople, much of the work this year has been conducted from the office. In a typical year, the company’s sales team works both inside and out in the field. “They’re responsible for territories, but they work as a team.” Outreach means a significant amount of outbound calls are made every day, according to Elkin. “We’re big on KPIs and making sure that actions to create the sales volume we need are done every single day,” he said. “If I have nine sales guys and each one is responsible for 30 outbound calls to a new set of dealers

every day, then we’re touching almost 300 dealers each day.” The calls, he said, might revolve around orders the dealers have already made, pushing different manufacturers’ specials or promoting a product of the week. “I wish more dealers would take advantage of the services we have to offer,” Elkin said, adding that the services are varied: The team at DOW can assist in social media messaging, design vehicle wraps or even rework a company logo. While marketing efforts today for companies most likely include social media, Elkin said it’s important to keep messaging consistent, and to be sure it doesn’t get lost. “There are lots of ways that companies reach out to customers these days,” he said. “They’re trying to build a following and create enough content that doesn’t always revolve around selling a product that’s on special.” Content needs to be engaging to the customer, he said. This means companies have to think carefully about the information they provide. This could be information about a new technology that might entice customers to buy the product at a future date. “You’ve got to stand out and you’ve got to be remembered. Everybody is looking to sell something.” This means dealers have to provide an experience for customers, focusing on more than just selling a product. Control Only What You Can And these days, with many companies still struggling to stay afloat after a challenging year, one of the biggest lessons is one of the simplest. Elkin advised retailers to focus on what they can control. Many in the industry, he said, have had to

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 Learning From Leaders

go through standard operating procedures and look for areas in which efficiency can be increased. “Find your strengths and focus on those areas,” he said, adding, “It’s senseless to focus too much on things that are out of your control.” Since everyone is dealing with product shortages, for example, Elkin said this means changing the way retailers set their expectations with customers. “We have to position ourselves in the sales environment so that we’re not overpromising.” Including variations in the weather and winter storms, it takes over a week-and-a-half to ship a product from California to Florida, he said, offering an example. “There are so many variables in getting business done that you can’t get hung up on things that are out of your control. Focus on what you can control, and focus on what you do well. I’m not a big believer in changing a strategy just because someone else is doing it,” he added. A Handshake or Fist Pump Elkin is a frequent trade show attendee. He said he hopes that in-person gatherings can continue in the near future,

42  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

and sees these events as an integral part of the marketing mix for retailers and manufacturers. He also admitted to feeling fatigued from all the webinars this year. DOW recently attended the first virtual KnowledgeFest in December. “My 12-volt managers and sales guys were involved. I didn’t go around and chat with the different vendors like I would normally do at a physical show,” Elkin said, adding that slower breaks during the day at a trade show often involve socializing and doing some business with vendors at other booths. “But when you’re on a webinar,” he said, “it’s so down to business that you lose that personal touch.” The sales team has already been discussing when they’ll head out on the road. “We’ve talked with dealers to gauge their comfort level, and we also have to be concerned with the safety of our employees,” he explained. “Our in-house counsel keeps us updated on the vaccine status and what the states are doing.” While the phone has been effective, Elkin said it doesn’t come close to making up for a face-to-face meeting. “Nothing is more personal than being able to visit dealers on a regular basis,” he said. Some dealers who have brick-and-mortar stores prefer that in-person visit, while others don’t necessarily have a physical location, Elkin noted. “They might work out of a van. They don’t necessarily have showroom space. When we have face-to-face meetings, it might be in one of our offices, a hotel or a Starbucks.” Regardless, he said, everyone is looking forward to “shaking hands or fist-bumping or elbow-pumping or whatever it might be.” For now, he feels grateful to be able to channel his passion into a job he loves. “We get to stay on the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and sample products before anybody else,” he said, adding, “That’s living the dream.” And when he’s not in the office? Elkin is out driving his 1968 SS Camaro a couple of times a week. “My first car in high school was a 1969 Camaro. I loved that car and hated to get rid of it when I did.” When the opportunity came up to buy another one, he said he jumped at the chance. Whenever the weather’s nice, “the guys at the office know I’m probably showing up in that car,” he added.


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 strategy & tactics

Review essential safety techniques and improve efficiency at your shop with these recommendations from top industry professionals. 44  Mobile Electronics March /April 2021


TEN PRACTICES FOR SAFETY AND EFFICIENCY WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

Certain best practices in the shop are worth reviewing, especially safety techniques. At KnowledgeFest.Live in December, Jason Kranitz of Kingpin University, together with Chris McNulty, gave a presentation on the theory and demonstration of shop safety techniques. They discussed routers and table saws, as well as the utilization of jigs, shields and other safety devices. Kranitz stressed how important it is to avoid becoming complacent in the shop. He emphasized safety issues “especially when working long hours. You’re tired, and you don’t realize you’re doing something wrong.” While focusing on safety in the woodshop, Kranitz talked about templates and jigs, which can be made of various materials. In this month’s installment of Strategy & Tactics, we take a closer look at some of the safety techniques discussed, as well as some other tips offered in the Industry Best Practices workshop presented by Brandon Green of The Car Audio Shop and Josh White of Auto FX.

The Industry Best Practices workshop for technicians and fabricators drew a big crowd at KnowledgeFest Dallas in 2018.

#1: Never Take Shortcuts Kranitz told viewers there’s no such thing as shortcuts. “If you try to take a shortcut, or do something without the proper technique,” he said, “you’re only creating what I call ‘long-cuts.’” Shortcuts often make for added work and mistakes that must be corrected, which means the task will take twice as long as it would’ve had the technician started out using the correct method. #2: Always Precut Before Using the Router Precutting your product is important, according to Kranitz. “If you have a circle, for example, and you aren’t cutting that in or out—once that catches on the bearing, it can bounce around, smash your finger, damage the product or even hit you in the eye.” To underscore his point, he stressed again and again that it’s possible to lose fingers if safety isn’t kept top-of-mind. “If you don’t precut,” he said, “your part could be destroyed, and then you’ll

have to go back, start over, and precut anyway. Take every safety precaution possible.” Don’t take chances, he advised, adding, “In these situations, you might feel like you got lucky, but the next time could be the time you get hurt.” #3: Wipe Templates After Use Dust collection on templates will affect efficiency and safety, Kranitz said. All templates should be properly

cleaned—not just wiped on a handy t-shirt. “Your template can be plastic, PVC, acrylic or wood, but you still have to wipe the template, or the fine dust will be there,” he explained. “You want to make sure you completely clean it so you have a good mechanical bond. Otherwise, when you go to router, it’ll slide off and you’ll have to start over.” He noted this is also a safety issue: “If it slides, you could get your fingers caught on the router bit.”

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 strategy & tactics #4: Always Double-Back Template Tape When using template tape, Kranitz advised, “Make sure you double-back it. If I have a long rectangle and lay down template tape, and it’s already rough-cut, the template can still move,” he explained. “Double-backing it will stop any kind of movement. Always double-stick any time you’re using templates.” #5: Essential Proper Use of a Router Bit Since a router is used in fabrication on a daily basis, Kranitz said it’s important to stay focused and maintain proper use. He said he begins cutting at the six o’clock position, then goes counter-clockwise to completely router the rest of the part. “Make sure to use the proper router base, too,” he added, noting the importance of taking every precaution to stop the material from dragging or pulling. #6: The Proper Use of a Table Saw Kranitz recounted work-related accidents he witnessed at previous places of employment, and said, “When someone cuts themselves on a table saw, it’s usually because they’re doing something they shouldn’t be doing, or they’ve become complacent. I’ve heard many times, ‘I don’t need a guard—I’ve been doing this for years.’ When you’re cutting anything under an inch, you have to remove the guard. We get that. However, it’s rare that you have to cut something at less than an inch.” If this is the case, Kranitz advised considering another method. “In that case, is there a better tool available? If the table saw is the only option, the guard comes off,” he added. “But we don’t want to use our fingers or we’re asking for problems.” The answer to this, he said, is to use a push stick. “And if you aren’t comfortable with it, learn to get better using it.” #7: Essential Table Saw Safety Tips Always keep a sharp blade on the table saw. Additionally, make sure the blade is appropriate to the material being cut. According to Kranitz, these essential points in table saw safety should always be followed: •Do not try to stop the blade while it’s moving, no matter how slow it’s moving.

46  Mobile Electronics March /April 2021

TECH TIPS: Threaded Inserts and Magnets

Brandon Green of the Car Audio Shop demonstrated examples of threaded inserts in use in a Bentley during the Industry Best Practices workshop session at KnowledgeFest.Live. He showed two enclosures. “We used two different types of threaded inserts to mount these together and to mount the subwoofers into the box itself so everything was completely serviceable.” “Here are examples of a metal amp rack we did in a 4Runner,” Green said. The rack is shown above. “This uses If you use a blade shield, this prevents that. •Do not wear loose clothing. This can pull you in if it gets caught. •Do not cut on the table saw while wearing gloves. This adds baggy material. •Do not put liquid containers or drink containers on the metal surface. It will leave rust rings. This surface should be as smooth as possible. •If the surface is dirty, use your sander on it, lightly with 400 grit sandpaper. •Wax the top of the table saw. It will ensure materials slide through easier, and it won’t bind, making for a safer cut. #8: Always Wear Safety Glasses and Proper Ear Protection During his presentation, Kranitz stressed the importance of wearing safety glasses and proper ear protection. “I’m very particular about my ears, and so I got them tested. I have good hearing, but I don’t want to be doing this as a career and one day find I’m unable to enjoy it,” he said, adding that headphones don’t count as hearing protection. If an OSHA

different materials, composites and metal, using threaded inserts to mount it. This is similar to the Bentley,” he added, noting that the build was designed in such a way that it’s easy to remove and re-install. Green added that The Car Audio Shop had to do additions to the build, and each time they removed it, it was easily put back together. “This also shows examples of wire-running,” he said. Josh White of Auto FX stated that he keeps magnets in stock. “We recommend keeping at least two different sizes on hand,” he said. “You can stack these two-high, as well, if you need more pull. They are really good for non-structural trim pieces that you might want to hide so no fasteners show. There are a couple of tricks out there.” He noted Car Audio Fabrication as a good resource for tips on using magnets in a build. Green added, “Be sure to sand them down before you glue them, too, or the glue won’t hold indefinitely.” representative sees technicians wearing headphones instead of proper hearing protection, Kranitz noted they will fine the shop. “While those of you who use headphones might want to argue this point, this is a safety issue,” he said. “When I’m running a router and I hear a different speed I’m not used to, I will notice the bit is loose or the bearing is loose. If you can’t hear that because you’re listening to music on your headphones, there’s an issue.” Furthermore, he added, if something happens and a coworker attempts to warn you, but you can’t hear them, this can make for a dangerous situation. “I also like to wear an apron because it keeps my work clothes cleaner, and it’s more efficient because I can put my tools in it,” he said. #9: Create a Separate Design Area Some might be tempted to do all the work in the same area, Kranitz said. “There’s nothing worse than having to move all that, scooting it out of the way.


TEN PRACTICES FOR SAFETY AND EFFICIENCY

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 strategy & tactics It’s dangerous if it’s on the same table as the saw. Put everything in its place.” The shop should have a designated area for a design table complete with pencils, pens and measuring tools, as well as anything else necessary for assembling, building or layout—including template tape, he added. #10: Safety and Productivity Go Hand-in-Hand Also during KnowledgeFest.Live, the popular Industry Best Practices for Technicians and Fabricators workshop was presented by Brandon Green of The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo., Josh White of Auto FX in Tacoma, Wash. and Adam Devine of Devine Concepts in Naples, Fla. The presenters touched on some of the same points discussed in Kranitz’s class, emphasizing the fact that safety and productivity go hand-in-hand. They also discussed fabrication basics and wiring of electrical components. When it comes to the router, Green said, “Be productive and efficient. Use industry standards. Learn from others in the industry by networking online, and attend fabrication trainings.” Following up on some of the discussion in Kranitz’s safety class, Green added, “You want to make sure the piece you’re working on is fully secure. It should be adhered well and solid.” The other presenters echoed this advice, while White added, “Get organized. And make sure to keep whatever you use frequently in-stock.”

48  Mobile Electronics March /April 2021


TEN PRACTICES FOR SAFETY AND EFFICIENCY

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 tech today

Vehicle Safety: Dashcams and DVR Systems Educate your clients on how they can protect themselves and their vehicles with dashcam and DVR systems. WORDS BY DAVE MACKINNON

Equipping a car or truck with a dashcam or Digital Video Recording (DVR) system goes a long way toward improving how that vehicle is operated. Whether it’s for a personal application or in a corporate environment, if the driver knows everything he or she does is being recorded, the chances of aggressive or dangerous driving will be dramatically reduced. Better driving behavior directly translates into reduced accidents. What is a Dashcam? A dashcam is a compact digital video recording system designed to be mounted to the front windshield of a vehicle. These compact all-in-one systems have a wide-angle camera that faces forward to record what happens in front of the vehicle while it’s in operation. Most dashcam solutions include a microphone that will capture audio from within the vehicle or the sound of screeching tires, car horns and so forth. Some systems include a secondary camera. This second camera may be placed on or near the top of the windshield to record motion and behavior

50  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

inside the vehicle or on the rear window of the car, truck or SUV to record what happens behind the vehicle. These systems are tied into the ignition circuit of the vehicle so it begins recording audio and video as soon as the vehicle is started. Most manufacturers provide cameras with a cigarette lighter-style power plug, but some offer a dedicated hard-wire harness with power and ground connections. What is a Digital Video Recording System? While a dashcam is a type of digital video recording system, a true DVR solution typically involves a dedicated control module that would be mounted under a seat or in the cargo area. These systems typically have inputs for up to four cameras. Premium models might have inputs for door pins, seatbelt status, turn signals or brake lights. Whereas a dashcam is typically designed as a consumer-grade product, a dedicated DVR system is targeted at commercial applications and requires professional installation and configuration.

Accelerometers and GPS Information The majority of mobile electronics retailers will focus on mid-level to premium dashcam models. As such, many systems include a built-in three-axis accelerometer and a GPS antenna. The accelerometer captures G-force information as the vehicle is operated. Peaks in forward or rearward G’s can indicate heavy acceleration or braking. High lateral G-forces indicate high-speed cornering or aggressive maneuvers. Many recording systems include built-in event triggers that are configurable to mark incidents of high G-forces for easy review at a later date. When equipped with a GPS antenna, two crucial pieces of information are captured: vehicle speed and location. The location information allows the person reviewing the video footage to pinpoint the vehicle’s location on a map. Most software suites provided with a dashcam or DVR automatically overlay the vehicle location onto an image from Google Maps or a similar service. Many dashcams will embed the longitude and latitude coordinates along with the vehicle speed and the local date and time right into


Vehicle Safety and Blind Spot Monitoring, Part 2

The TE-CDVR-G from iBeam is a commercial-grade four-channel Digital Video Recording system that includes a GPS antenna. The lockable front panel prevents operators from removing the SD memory card, so the captured data is secure.

The TE-DVR1080 from iBeam is a cost-effective dashcam solution that records at 1920x1080 pixels. The camera has an integrated two-inch color display that makes alignment and configuration easy.

the video stream. With this information, anyone reviewing the data after an incident will be able to pinpoint where the vehicle was headed and how fast it was traveling. Benefits of Mobile Video Recording in Reducing Accidents In both consumer and commercial applications, drivers who know everything they say or do is being recorded are less likely to drive aggressively or engage in dangerous behaviors. For families in which children are using a parent’s vehicle, knowing Mom or Dad can see everything they do dramatically reduces the chances of reckless or careless driving. Drivers may choose to let a car pass and then change lanes behind them as opposed to accelerating to get in front of another vehicle. In terms of emergency braking,

Pioneer ND-DVR100 is a compact dashcam that includes a built-in accelerometer and a GPS receiver. It can capture video at up to 1920x1080 pixel resolution at 27.5 frames per second.

commercial vehicles like vans, pickup trucks and delivery vehicles typically take much more distance to stop than a car. If a vehicle is loaded with cargo or equipment, those distances can increase by 15 to 30 percent. Even a slight reduction in vehicle speed can dramatically reduce the distance required for the vehicle to stop. This speed reduction can prevent accidents or reduce the severity of those that may be unavoidable. In commercial applications, reports from several suppliers indicate that at-fault accidents are reduced by as much as 50 percent after a video recording and driver coaching system has been implemented. This reduction in incidents saves the company time and money wasted on repairs, lost revenue due to vehicle downtime and expenses related to workman’s compensation claims. In a short amount of time, the reduction in accidents could

reduce insurance costs. In short, a DVR system can pay for itself. Additional Benefits of Dashcams and DVRs While reducing accidents is the focus of this series of Tech Today articles, there are additional benefits of video recording solutions that should be discussed as they are part of the sales pitch you’ll provide a potential client. Sadly, there are hundreds of cases of fraud that take place each and every day. Common cases are vehicles backing into a car when stopped at a light in what’s known as a staged rear-ending. Sideswipe scams involve someone changing lanes and hitting your vehicle, but claiming you changed lanes into theirs. There are also countless pedestrian-based scams where someone crossing the street will pretend you hit them when coming to a stop at a

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 tech today Many DVRs and Dashcams include video review software that allows for easy analysis of driver behavior, vehicle location, speed and g-forces. When used in conjunction with a driver training system, these solutions can reduce accidents and vehicle operating costs.

red light. Having a digital video recording system installed on a vehicle can provide valuable evidence that can easily exonerate the driver from these falsified claims, and in many cases, turn the tables into a fraud charge against those making these false accusations. Camera System Installation Suggestions With so many camera options available for dedicated commercial DVR systems, it’s crucial that you or your installation team test the cameras you intend to use in each specific location before you begin the installation. The first step is to ensure the camera covers the entire field of vision that needs monitoring. Some camera companies play games with specifications, citing diagonal viewing angles instead of horizontal and vertical. Next, you’ll want to make sure the camera will fit in the space you intend. Make sure the camera is protected from damage during normal vehicle operation and that all cabling can be routed safely

52  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

and securely. Last, ensure the camera you plan to use offers appropriate image quality in high-contrast and dark conditions. Some cameras will wash out bright scenes or add significant amounts of noise to the video feed when it’s dark. Capturing video requires storage. Pretty much all DVR solutions record continuously in one-, two- or five-minute files. There are a few things to consider in terms of storage media. The SD or microSD used to capture video will be in use the entire time the camera is in operation. Old files are replaced as new files are created. As such, it’s recommended that you use high-quality, name-brand or manufacturer-specific storage media. The last thing you want is for the client to have missed an important piece of information due to a card error. Different recording systems offer options in terms of resolution, compression and sometimes bitrate. Decreasing the resolution or bitrate allows the system to save more information, but

you sacrifice image quality and detail. If the operator is hoping to see a license plate or read a phone number off the side of a vehicle, it’s best to keep the quality settings as high as possible. In order to maintain adequate storage time, look for recording solutions that will work with 128 and 256-gigabyte cards. Get Serious About Vehicle Safety Solutions The market for collision-avoidance systems is growing month by month as consumers become educated about the available products and solutions. Likewise, manufacturers are adding new and innovative products that use cutting-edge technology to make driving safer. If your business is serious about collision avoidance and accident prevention technologies, make sure it’s listed on the Vision Zero website at www.vzan.org.


It's all about saving lives

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 installs

The build in this 2019 Camaro SS—complete with JL Audio, Focal and Audiofrog—created a truly immersive experience for a client seeking a reflection of home audio in the car. Submitted by: Brian Schurg, Extreme Audio, Inc., Mechanicsville and Midlothian, Va. 54  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


When a client brought this 2019 Camaro SS to Extreme Audio, Inc.—with locations in Mechanicsville and Midlothian, Va.—the goal was to achieve a high level of sound quality and quantity, according to Brian Schurg. The car had recently been built by a local hotrod shop, so it was equipped with a very powerful engine. Schurg and the team used extensive sound deadener from SoundShield. “This customer is really into music, both at home and in the car, and he wanted to have something he could enjoy,” he said.

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 installs Other than the sound deadener, the following products were installed: • JL Audio VX600/6 • JL Audio VX600/2 • JL Audio HD750/1 • JL Audio VXI-HUB • JL Audio DRC205 Control Knob • Focal Utopia M 3-Way Front Speakers • Audiofrog GS693 Rear Speakers • JL Audio 10W6 Subwoofers To create the tweeter pods, 3D scanning and printing was used. And for the pillars and subwoofer enclosure, fiberglass / MDF. There is also a gauge pod in the vent below the driver’s speakers that incorporate both 3D printing and laser. Finally, the amplifier cover was made with a laser and features the Camaro flag icon, resulting in a sleek integrated entertainment system.

56  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021


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From The President

WHEN THE BARN IS EMPTY How to sell without crucial inventory. The best thing to sell is what’s in the barn. Selling things you don’t have or may not be able to get will leave you and your customers feeling, well, upset at the least. At this time, it should be no surprise that our industry is facing critical shortages of key products. When I say no surprise, I mean to say that by now you have figured out this is a problem that isn’t going away in the short-term. What do you sell when the barn is near empty? It’s always the same answer. Sell what you have in stock. That’s much harder to do than it sounds. Customers want what they want and changing that can be futile.

Review What You Have

I have spoken to many suppliers who feel it will get worse before it gets better. This is a good time to review other categories that you may have been thinking about, but avoiding in the short-term. 58  Mobile Electronics March/April 2021

In time of inventory shortages, it makes sense to monitor your inventory to the point that you and your team know what is available each day. Make sure to review what you have and decide how best to position it for sale each day. With so few head units available, you may want to take the time to review your top sellers and create a list of alternatives that may make sense to your customers. You should also be in close contact with your suppliers. Knowing what they have access to and when is critical to your success.

Understand the Pipeline This is where having great relationships with your suppliers makes the difference. If you’re the type who just buys from whomever at the lowest price, you may be in for more of a wait than you planned. However, if you have spent the time and effort to cultivate great relationships with your suppliers then you will most likely be at the top of their list. Regardless of your relationship status, you need now more than ever to understand the issue at hand and take a crash course at how best to secure your inventory.

Redirect to What’s Available Sounds simple, right? We all wish it were that simple. When a customer comes in

with a product in mind, they often decided on it using recommendations from others or online reviews. When they have already researched what they want to fulfill a specific need, it may be near impossible to get them to change their minds. For example, if they want CarPlay and you don’t have it, they will be left unfulfilled. However, if they were looking to upgrade their sound you may have a chance. Look for ways to add to their OEM head unit even if it is shortterm. In other words, you may want to plant the seed to add to their system in the future by replacing the head unit. Trying the same with a determined CarPlay buyer may be your only option. You should also redirect and find out what other upgrades may be on their wish list. Show them what you have to sell in other categories that may be of interest. You may find that you can have the sale today and plant the seed for tomorrow.

Plan for Further Shortages This isn’t what anyone wants to hear. I have spoken to many suppliers who feel it will get worse before it gets better. This is a good time to review other categories that you may have been thinking about but avoiding in the short-term. If you’re not committed to selling ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) this is a great time to jump in. Safety is selling very well right now because many people hitting the road for vacations as opposed to flying. Other hot categories such as motorcycle and powersports are great crossovers. If you’re in an area that is popular for boating, then the marine category is ready and waiting. Regardless of your current category status, now is the time to expand especially if those categories have better inventory positions. As an industry we have been blessed with increased consumer demand for what we sell and install. Make sure you are doing everything you can to capitalize on the opportunity.


Profile for Mobile Electronics

Mobile Electronics Magazine March/April 2021