Mobile Electronics Magazine - October 2022

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October 2022




SWEET SPOT AMP Customs in Pocatello, Idaho opened its doors right before the start of the pandemic, with extra emphasis on powersports. Business hasn’t slowed since.

AT THE FOREFRONT: KNOWLEDGEFEST DALLAS Interactive sales trainings, an energetic show floor and the mobile electronics industry in the age of EVs dominated the discussion at KnowledgeFest this past August.



The super-retro “Boujeep” 2019 Jeep Wrangler has everything—style, comfort and functionality.



Considering selling? Before you decide, Jon Kowanetz advises asking yourself these ten questions.

Volume 54 Issue 10 ADVERTISING SALES


978.645.6466 Chris Cook E D I T O R - AT - L A R G E




12// What’s Happening: Inviting Abundance

20 Retail News

Attendees at KnowledgeFest Dallas gathered to discuss professional and personal growth, once again taking education and preparedness to the next level.

22// On the Show Floor: Building the Buzz

Retailers and exhibitors focused on growth and education at KnowledgeFest Dallas, aiming to improve customer experience and bring the best opportunities back to the shop for clients and staff alike.

54// Strategy and Tactics: Ten Questions to Ponder Before You Sell

Thinking about selling your business? First, consider these factors.

2 Mobile Electronics October 2022






Editor’s Forum



mobile electronics association


978.645.6434 Richard Basler DIR. TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS


978.645.6449 Tony Frangiosa CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, MEA

With foosball, friendly conversation, customer education and stellar demo vehicles, AMP Customs has gained the confidence and support of local clientele.

Is your path to fulfillment cluttered with uncertainty? Take a few pointers from these industry leaders and entrepreneurs.

Published by

58 Installs

42// Real World Retail: Game On

50// Learning From Leaders: This Year’s Pocket Primer of Lessons Learned

Contributing Editors Jamie Sorcher and Laura Kemmerer


When AMP Customs first opened, owner Brian Kleinsmith wasn’t sure they’d last. After all, the business began offering its services right before the COVID-19 pandemic, and quickly had to close for a month. When it reopened, though, it was clear the shop had found its niche. Today, it’s continually booked out two to three weeks, growing fast and looking forward to future expansion.

Alpine Electronics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 AudioControl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 myFirstech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 HKI USA - Ground Zero . . . . . . . . . . . . 36, 37 JVC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Kenwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Kicker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 ME Industry Awards. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 KnowledgeFest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 MECP. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 ME-TV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Pixel Technologies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 SiriusXM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Snap Finance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Sony. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17






– E D O S I P E NOV. 8


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E D I T O R ’ S



THE FUTURE IS NOW As always, when faced with evolving technological changes— in this case, electric vehicles—the best thing to do is keep up and keep learning. Although the number of electric vehicles on the road today is actually smaller than you’d think—less than one percent—it’s important to consider how these technologies will change the way the 12-volt industry moves forward. At KnowledgeFest Dallas this past August, Chris Cook of Mobile Electronics Association hosted a Connect2Car panel for manufacturers to discuss the topic. While listening to the presentation, I couldn’t help but think of my own exposure to electric and hybrid vehicles: When I first enrolled in automotive school in 2010, EVs weren’t yet in the curriculum, but the school knew they had to get students thinking about what was to come. While it wasn’t enough, we attended an introductory session on electric vehicles, presented by an outside trainer who used our drivability instructor’s Prius as his demo vehicle. At the time, I thought a lot more people would be driving electric cars in the near future. Yet, the number remains small because there are still issues with the technology, such as charging, whether or not power grids can sustain a larger number of these vehicles and cost that’s often too high for the average person.


At KnowledgeFest Dallas, Steve Greenfield of Automotive Ventures predicted a certain level of tension around any shop or individual who wants to work on EVs. “They’ll want rights to be open so they can integrate technology and get schematics to work on these things,” he said. His next statement reminded me of my experience in college: “Can I touch these cars? Will they kill my technicians? What’s the safest way?” It’s likely, he said, that OEMs will encourage consumers to go to an authorized repair shop to get work done. Of course, more questions continue to be raised around Right to Repair laws. Will repair shops have access to these vehicles, or will more stringent certification be put into place by governing bodies? According to Greenfield, some anticipate about half of new car sales might be electric by 2030, and while there are concerns around lithium mining and the global powers that control production, manufacturers are already setting all-EV goals. It’s important to note, he said, that some electric vehicles won’t be as good as others, and more funds will be allocated to building additional charging infrastructure. During the discussion, attendees and panelists talked about long commutes, which only make sense if a car can be charged quickly. The

4 Mobile Electronics October 2022

power grid will have to catch up in order to accommodate more electric cars. It seemed like the main concern was charging. There are also questions around cost to charge and how that might change. For now, an electric vehicle—even a Tesla—might be a tough sell for someone who does a lot of driving. The takeaway: It’s still a new technology and there’s a lot to be worked out. Our industry has an opportunity to be at the forefront of this evolution.


Phil Cantu of Mobile Toys, Inc. in College Station, Texas said it’s important to be honest with the customer if your shop is new to EVs: “There are things we have to figure out, and we have to make sure we’re giving [the customer] the best product possible,” he said. “If it’s not realistic, it’s not—and we have to be honest with them.” If the customer wants to continue, he added, explain what it will take and stay in communication with them throughout the process. After all, every technology was new at one time and required some level of research for technicians to understand it and work on it. Once my short-lived college class on electric vehicles ended, many of my fellow students—including myself—walked away feeling a much larger sense of fear for the prospect of working on these vehicles. If the instructor was trying to get us interested, he didn’t succeed. Instead, many of my classmates walked away determined to never touch them. Looking back, we were witness to a very real issue we deal with as any technology changes: Learning new technologies can feel overwhelming, and some of us just don’t want to deal. Even the instructor, tasked with passing on this knowledge, might have been doing so half-heartedly. As always, education remains the key to facing uncertainties. Like most of us, I first became interested in automotive as a child: I spent summer afternoons building model cars. In my teens, I remember feeling a certain level of trepidation around working on real cars. I decided the only way I could overcome that trepidation was by learning, so I committed myself to learning everything I could about my own car. Maybe, someday, a kid will say, “Hey, my great-great-grandmother drove her own car! Can you believe it?” Who knows. Regardless of where things end up in the future, committing to education continues to be the best way for all of us to move forward.

 feedback

LEARNING WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT Retailers consider organization, pinpointing priorities and teamwork as methods for helping to contribute to the longevity of the 12-volt industry.

“[Even for] smaller shops, I still think having three meetings a week is important. If you’re an owner and you have a right hand, that might be an end-of-the-day meeting, but the point is that you need to be communicating with your team, no matter how big or how small. What’s happening? What are the priorities? Do what works best for [your company size]. What comes up first is what’s left over from last week, and the expectations. What vehicles are coming in from a farther distance? These are the expectations [for these projects]. The people who work with you can say, ‘These are the problems.’ We are out the door at six now. [Organizing these issues] has helped us get there.” - Philip Lindsley, Titan Motoring, Nashville, Tenn.

“No one cares about the map. They want the treasure. They don’t want to take the long road to get there. When I buy something, I don’t need to know everything, I just want it. I expect you [as the salesperson] to tell me what I need. Don’t overcomplicate it. Some people want the technical information, but I’m not that guy. I think the majority of the people who come into our stores aren’t that way either.” - Jayson Cook, Columbus Car Audio and Accessories, Columbus, Ohio

“If you view other audio shops as your ‘competitors,’ you might want to do some market research. There’s such a need for reliable, educated, quality work in our field, that it’s insane to even think about competing when we still have so many clients to properly educate. Right now, it’s about bringing up the overall standard—which means bettering yourself and your shop—and helping new clients understand the practicality of adding a new audio system. [Viewing another shop as your competition is] a distraction to your personal growth. I know shop owners and other audio techs, whom I talk regularly, who love to help each other out. Locally and nationally. There’s more than plenty to eat at this table. We have to bring up the standard together. Those who don’t will be left behind.” - Cameron Powell, LIS Audio, Spring Hill, Kansas

6 Mobile Electronics October 2022

 stats TM

Mobile Electronics

INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE 2022 v/s 2021 Quarterly Retail Sales First Quarter

Second Quarter

Third Quarter

mobile electronics association

The Mobile Electronics Association reports specialty retailer performance for the past three years and its forecast for the fourth quarter and coming year.

2022 v/s 2021 Monthly Retail Sales

Fourth Quarter Forecast




















15% 16% UP

4% 2018 v/s 2017

2019 v/s 2018

2020 v/s 2019

2021 v/s 2020


2% 2022 Forecast for Q4 and Year Q4




Historical Data

2022 V/S 2021 FORECAST







22% 16% Data owned and provided by the Mobile Electronics Association. © 2022 Mobile Electronics Association 8 Mobile Electronics October 2022


18 16% 18 % DOWN



29 %


 helpful stuff SITE TO SEE

The National Transportation Safety Board WWW.NTSB.GOV Speeders, beware! The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending a new vehicle system that could stop lead-foot drivers. The technology recognizes speed limits and either issues visual or audible alerts when a driver is speeding, or prevents vehicles from going above those limits. The first place testing the speed-limiting technology is New York City with its fleet of 50 vehicles. After more than 20,000 deaths on US roads this year alone, the NTSB has called on the federal government to start incentivizing car makers to put speed-limiting systems in new cars, according to a report. It will be up to automobile manufacturers whether or not they introduce the technology.


Bonneville Salt Flats TRAVELNEVADA.COM/EVENT/BONNEVILLE-SPEED-WEEK If you’re visiting Utah, check out one of the fastest auto, truck and motorcycle racetracks in the entire world: Bonneville Salt Flats. Racing—and breaking land speed records—happened at Bonneville before it even became a real track. The first-ever land speed racing record was set here in 1914. Bonneville didn’t gain world-renowned popularity until the 1930s when land speed racing pioneers Ab Jenkins and Sir Malcom Campbell set new records of 301 miles per hour. The fastest speed recorded at Bonneville was set by Gary Gabelich with the rocket car Blue Flame, topping out at 622 miles per hour in October of 1970. Today, Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week is a popular event for racers and spectators. It begins on a Saturday, then ends the following Friday. Put it on your calendar for next year: August 5-11, 2023.

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SEMA Launch Pad SEMA.ORG/LAUNCHPAD If you’re headed to SEMA next month—Nov.1-4 at the Las Vegas Convention Center—take a moment and check out the legendary competition that gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their automotive-related inventions to a panel of industry leaders for a chance to win a grand prize package valued at $92,000. The panel of celebrity judges will be mentoring 15 semifinalists, who were selected back in June at the SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, Calif. Semifinalists will attend the SEMA show in November, where they will each receive a complimentary booth in the SEMA Launch Pad Pavilion. The top five finalists will appear on stage and the winner will be crowned at the SEMA Industry Awards Banquet. In case you miss it, the competition will be featured in a nationwide TV special airing after the SEMA Show.


Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away BY ANNIE DUKE There’s plenty of information about how to go after a job, but what about getting out? Business leaders may struggle to abandon a new app or a product that just won’t work. In our personal lives, we persist in long-term relationships or careers that no longer serve us. Why? According to Annie Duke, in the face of tough decisions, we’re terrible quitters, and it’s significantly holding us back. This book will help you get good at quitting. Read stories of elite athletes like Mount Everest climbers, founders of leading companies like Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack and top entertainers like Dave Chappelle. Duke explains why quitting is integral to success, as well as the strategies you need for determining when to stay and when to walk. Whether it’s a make-or-break business decision or a life-defining personal choice, mastering the skill of quitting will help you make the next best move.


 what’s happening

12 Mobile Electronics October 2022


ABUNDANCE Attendees at KnowledgeFest Dallas gathered to discuss professional and personal growth, once again taking education and preparedness to the next level. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA


nteractive sales trainings, a presentation by Automotive Ventures and a Connect2Car panel geared toward exhibitors were just a few of the new experiences for attendees at KnowledgeFest Dallas, August 26-28. On Friday, Chris Cook of Mobile Electronics Association opened the show with a keynote presentation to cover recent industry data. As reported in Stats in Mobile Electronics magazine, profits across the industry are slightly down for the first half of 2022, according to Cook. However, a lot of businesses continue to enjoy increased profits. “We are still outperforming 2020 and 2019,” he said. “As an industry, we have been blessed with business I don’t think anyone was expecting. We all came through [the pandemic] and a lot of us picked up new customers.”


 what’s happening

Adam Devine of Devine Concepts taught classes on 3D printing and efficiency, telling attendees, “There’s always more you can learn.”

In the first six months of 2022, Cook said some retailers have reported greater inventory stability. He noted the industry is still experiencing growth, “and I think we’re poised to continue.” He reminded attendees to join KnowledgeFest Group on Facebook if they hadn’t done so already—a good place to stay updated throughout the year and during shows. Educational opportunities throughout the show included classes taught by Dan Bowman and Philip Lindsley of Titan Motoring in Nashville, Tenn.; Wayne Harris of Term-PRO and Term-LAB; and Jason Kranitz of Kingpin University, to name a few.

THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY On Saturday, Steve Greenfield of Automotive Ventures presented during Connect2Car sessions for exhibitors. Chris Cook and a panel of industry professionals were in attendance to discuss and answer

14 Mobile Electronics October 2022

Interactive trainings such as “The Sales Pro Challenge” brought real-life experiences into the classroom, encouraging students to consider difficult sales situations from various perspectives. Here, Robert Kowatch of SoundShield works with a participating salesperson.

audience questions. Topics included the state of the automotive industry, along with the future of electric vehicles and the impact on the aftermarket. Five years ago, according to Greenfield, it was believed by some that by 2022 “half the cars would be fully autonomous.” Of course, this hasn’t played out. As technology moves forward, governmental bodies

discuss how to handle regulating them. Commercial applications will be witnessed, though, Greenfield added. “You’re going to start to see convoys of 18-wheelers where there will be a human in the first one, but not in the others,” he explained, adding that this will be managed by robotics and automation to alleviate labor shortages, but 15

 what’s happening

Presenters at KnowledgeFest Dallas brought a myriad of education sessions to attendees, on topics such as selling accessories, improving photography skills, audio tuning and much more. From left to right, front row: Robert Kowatch, Fernando Lopez, Adam Devine, Kevin Hallinan, Brian Mitchell, Chris Cook. Left to right, back row: Vincent DeStefano, Dean Beyett, Jason Kranitz, Drewbie Wilson, Andy Wehmeyer and Richard Basler.

“we’ll also see the risk of unemployment for workers.” Another thing we’ll start to see is a growing reliance on subscription services and consumers being upsold on software additions, he said. “On an EV, when you see zero miles left, they never draw to the minimum capacity because it would damage the battery. If you get stranded, instead of calling for roadside assistance, you might unlock 50 miles of driving for a one-time charge of $100. People are now being conditioned to pay for everything by subscription.” Even the braking dynamics of a Tesla, he noted, can be updated using software. The implication, he explained, is that a chunk of warranty work will go away when some of it’s being done through over-the-air updates. This means OEMs will make more money on subscription services. During the presentation and

16 Mobile Electronics October 2022

“Do you believe in you? Until you’re ready for that commitment, nothing else matters.” – Drewbie Wilson

following discussion, there was some doubt raised over whether or not half of all vehicles on the road will be EVs by 2030, which is the current projection, according to Greenfield. The availability of chargers, the speed of charging and cost are currently major factors. Phil Cantu of Mobile Toys, Inc. in College Station, Texas said that when he first worked on an electric car—a Tesla Model X—a lot of questions were raised about how to integrate and ensure safety features remained functional. Cantu advised the best thing to do is keep learning and networking. “There’s a vast community online,” he said. “We get to hang out with each other a couple of times a year. We keep in touch with people we trust [for information].” As always, whether or not it’s profitable depends on the scope of the work, he said, adding, “Everything required some research when it was new.”

SALES PROS AGREE: KEEP ESTABLISHING VALUE A new arrival at KnowledgeFest, Drewbie Wilson of Break Free Academy, and author of Crushing the Day: A Simple Guide to Success in Business and Life Through

Meet the XAV-9500ES, the oversized doorway into outstanding in-car audio-visuals.

The Elevated Standard ©2022 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.


 what’s happening


It’s important to know your value per hour, according to Drewbie Wilson. He advised listeners jot down whatever amount of money they took home last year. “Divide that by 2,000 hours, assuming you work 40 hours per week,” he said. “Factor in 52 weeks per year with a two-week vacation. If you made 100 grand last year, when you break that down, you’re worth $50 per hour. When I was asked about that, it made me think: ‘Am I really only worth $25 per hour?’ That’s kind of sad.” He challenged attendees to consider why they aren’t valuing their time the way they should be. “Do a time study. This helped me understand how much time I was wasting each day,” he said. “From the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed, take ten minutes at the top of every hour to write down everything you’ve done in the last hour. Break it down into categories. Are you working out? Factor in taking time to get ready for your day. How much time are you spending on personal development?”

18 Mobile Electronics October 2022

Service to Others, presented the principles he’s written about in his book. He recommended devoting time to building relationships, either personal or professional. “Build a relationship that brings fulfillment,” he said. “What can I offer this person? What can I provide with no expectation of anything in return? That’s what [creating] abundance is about.” Consider the tasks handled every day, he said, and ask yourself the value of that task. “Can you pay someone else to do this so you can focus on something else? It’s your time and intentionality that creates the life you want.” Employees, he added, don’t leave a place if they enjoy working there. “People quit managers, not jobs.” He challenged listeners to consider the “why” behind their relationship-building efforts. “If you’re a business owner, are you taking care of your team? You’re a leader. It’s your responsibility for them to be successful. You want to improve. You want a better business. You want to make more money. The money buys you more time, which is the one resource we can never get back. So, we need to be very intentional with it.”

Often, he said, many of us hit rock bottom but we still have one person who always supports and believes in us. The question is, he added, “Do you believe in you? Until you’re ready for that commitment, nothing else matters.” Sales trainings culminated with “The Sales Pro Challenge,” held Sunday afternoon and moderated by Chris Cook, with a panel of award-winning sales professionals. Present to offer insights and act as judges were Jason Kranitz of Kingpin Car & Marine Audio, and Amari Schwartz and Robert Kowatch of SoundShield—all previous recipients of the Mobile Electronics Sales Pro of the Year Award. The interactive class brought attendees into various aspects of what a salesperson faces while interacting with challenging clients, and offered strategies on how to overcome issues and close the sale. Participants shared their greatest sales challenges and the judges picked top challenges for a role-playing contest. Participants then broke into groups to discuss, and one person from each group was appointed to present on their approach to making the sale. The workshop brought real world retail experiences

into the classroom, offering attendees the opportunity to consider each situation from different perspectives. At the end, Cook presented on what could’ve been handled better by salespeople. “Keep establishing value,” he said in response to one presenter. “Forget what the competitors say. [Remind yourself] ‘My customers come back to me time after time because—’ Ignore the competitors and follow the value of your own business.” Critiques were offered on what salespeople could’ve done better during their role-playing experiences. During the assessment, Cook reminded attendees that when it comes to scheduling a job, the customer isn’t interested in the issues of the business or the problems of the salesperson; they just want the job done. “Your timing issues aren’t theirs,” he said. “The customer doesn’t want to know your problems. Their problems are more important to them.” Cook also advised approaching the initial introduction differently: “When someone comes in, greet them and say, ‘What kind of car do you drive?’ Don’t even ask what they came in for. Ask them

if they have a few minutes. They might’ve come in for a backup camera, but now you’re getting them interested in a stereo.” They might not buy that day, he added, but they’ll remember. “Assume they came in for whatever your best product is, and then work your way down from the top.” At the conclusion of the role-playing and discussion, the judges named Adam Devine of Devine Concepts in Naples, Fla. the winner of the contest.

BUILDING AN ATMOSPHERE OF ABUNDANCE During the education sessions, Devine presented a class on 3D printing. During Cook’s keynote address, Devine commented on the class, stating, “There’s always more you can learn.” Additionally, he taught a class on efficiency, passing on what he’s learned over the years as someone who started out running a one-person business. Educational sessions and manufacturer trainings were well-attended throughout the weekend, with additional focus on professional and personal growth. Wilson also taught “Social Media Mastery for the Everyday.” Both presentations

offered strategies and inspiration to listeners. “I want to inspire you to become the greatest version of yourself,” Wilson said. “Crush the day before it crushes you. I say this to myself every morning because I know how easy it is to wake up, look at your phone and be disappointed by bad news. It’s easy for that to put a damper on your day. When you start out like that, every problem throughout the day makes your day worse.” Wilson advised creating routines and intentional strategies to spark transformation in both personal and professional life. Every day, he said, write down the things you’re grateful for. “If you wake up and grab your phone [in the morning], what if [instead] you took five minutes to think about the things you’re grateful for?” he suggested. “Consider that gratitude.” Once you’ve begun the day with gratitude, he said, when a deal falls through or a distraction occurs, it will be much easier to cope with. During his presentation, Wilson encouraged attendees to think about what they want to leave behind. What kind of legacy will be left to one’s children, and their children? “Don’t just leave wealth to your kids. Within four generations, it’ll be gone. Leave a legacy instead—something they can strive for,” Wilson said, adding, “Leave them something that makes them think bigger.”


 retail news

Car Shows Draw New Business for



20 Mobile Electronics October 2022

In September of last year, Car Audio Depot in Modesto, Calif. hosted its first “Show Your Ride” event at its location. According to owner Randy Leibenson, all types of vehicles were welcome—everything from boats to classic cars and lifted trucks. The event included food and a raffle, with all the proceeds going to a local animal rescue organization called Pioneer Horse Rescue. Car Audio Depot plans to hold a car show every year, and the next one is planned for November. Sales manager Jorge Deras, together with Leibenson’s daughter, Juliette, planned and executed the event, which attracted more people than anticipated. Leibenson said Deras is a relatively new member of the team, having started just after the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We were deemed essential because we do Intoxalock,” Leibenson said. “I took on this young man who’d never been in sales before. He was washing dishes, and now he’s my top sales guy.”


Deras noted it was difficult planning the first car show. They did so well promoting it that more cars showed up than anticipated. “When we only had spots for so many, it became an issue,” he added. To compensate for this, he said they opened up the shop’s back parking area, and people also parked in front. To the business’s surprise, a local news station showed up to interview them and they were featured in Good Day Sacramento. “We got a lot of exposure,” Deras added. “We had shops from a couple of hours away calling and saying they saw us on the news. We also got a lot of new customers. It gave us a chance to show off our custom work and the audio we’ve done.” What would they have done differently, though? Deras said, next time, they’ll use a larger venue.

Shop: Car Audio Depot Location: Modesto, Calif. Years of Industry Experience: 38 Hobbies: “Boating.” What You’re Really Good At: “Leadership.”


Shop: Car Audio Depot Location: Modesto, Calif. Years of Industry Experience: 2 Hobbies: “I enjoy boating, and we go to a lot of truck meets.” • What You’re Really Good At: “I’m eager to learn. I love learning new things. I started not knowing anything. I couldn’t even tell you how to put an audio system together. Now, I like explaining things to customers, trying to get them comfortable and take care of them.”

 On The Show Floor

BUILDING BUILDING BUILDING BUILDING BUILDING BUILDING BUILDING THETHETHETHETHETHETHE BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ Retailers and exhibitors focused on growth and education at KnowledgeFest Dallas, aiming to improve customer experience and bring the best opportunities back to the shop for clients and staff alike.

SMARTSTART DEMONSTRATES OPPORTUNITY TO DEALERS AT KNOWLEDGEFEST With the goal of raising awareness of its program offerings, SmartStart discussed how retailers can become part of the network. The company also displayed its kiosk, pictured on the left in the image, which can be set up in any participating business. Those who require an ignition interlock device can use the kiosk to find a location where they can have the product installed. Any business in any industry can earn money by hosting a kiosk. For retailers who install the products, SmartStart will provide the cart and equipment and handle the marketing.

DYNAMAT CONTINUES TO RELEASE CUSTOM KITS More custom kits are being added to the Dynamat line-up. Models include the new Ford Bronco, F-150, Dodge Charger and even the Model 3 Tesla. While the Tesla doesn’t come with engine noise, Dynamat has created a kit for this car that solves its issues with exaggerated road noise. New products will be released in January. 23

 On The Show Floor

SOUNDSHIELD CONTOUR SOUND SEALING SPEAKER STRIPS SoundShield’s newest product is a waterproof speaker strip kit. These six strips are made of acoustic foam and will help to couple the panel to the speaker so the sound projects more into the vehicle. The strips come in premium packaging to help demonstrate value to the customer. Currently, SoundShield is expanding globally. Keep an eye out for a brand-new product, which will be released in time for SEMA.

RDV AUTOMOTIVE SHOWCASES INTEGRATED CARPLAY INTERFACES RDV Automotive specializes in catering to a higher-end vehicle market, including vehicles such as Rolls Royce and Bentley, as well as more mainstream vehicles like Audi and Mercedes. Solutions are also offered for Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and GM. At KnowledgeFest, the company showcased its fully integrated wireless CarPlay interfaces. The interfaces also incorporate backup camera and front camera inputs. They come with a three-year warranty.

24 Mobile Electronics October 2022


CALL: 720-583-3835 // EMAIL:

 On The Show Floor


PRECISION POWER HDHU.9813RG PLUG-AND-PLAY HEAD UNIT This plug-and-play head unit comes pre-programmed, designed for the Harley-Davidson Road Glide, model years 1998 through 2013. While retaining factory handlebar controls, it offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth. Road Glide owners can easily upgrade from a single-DIN to a double-DIN-style display with a seven-inch screen.

26 Mobile Electronics October 2022

Designed with ease-of-sale in mind, this combination package from Audiopipe includes a 12-inch subwoofer enclosure, a micro class-D MOSFET amplifier and an amplifier installer kit. Audiopipe created this kit in response to personnel shortages during COVID, to make it easier and more efficient for retailers to close the sale.

LUCAS LIGHTING MX SERIES HEADLIGHT BULB Lucas Lighting is known for hardy bulbs that have a ten-year life expectancy and a three-year warranty. At KnowledgeFest, the company displayed the MX Series bulbs, designed for difficult fitment applications. These bulbs don’t require any mounting adapters. The design also prevents glare from affecting oncoming vehicles when properly installed and aimed.

SSR DISTRIBUTORS ANNOUNCES DEALER SHOW IN HOUSTON, TEXAS, NOVEMBER 13, 2022 SSR Distributors represents 50 major brands and invites dealers to join them at their Dealer Show on Sunday, November 13 in Houston. Attendees can anticipate product trainings, prizes and giveaways, food and snacks. SSR will also be offering product deals to those who attend. RSVP by October 15: Go to and search for SSR Distributors Houston Dealer Show. Visit whhb4f for a group hotel rate. 27

 On The Show Floor

GROUND ZERO DEMONSTRATES HYDROGEN LINE-UP Rob Reilly’s Volkswagen was displayed in the HKI booth in Dallas, where it showed off Ground Zero’s Hydrogen line-up of products. In the back of the vehicle are the company’s newest subwoofers, which offer a lot of power in a small diameter shallow application. The Hydrogen speakers are also brand new and share the same basket as the Uranium speaker. Hydrogen offers an attractive, great-sounding, affordable option for everyday customers.

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

 On The Show Floor

RYDEEN BSS2LPBC RADAR BLIND SPOT DETECTION SYSTEM Rydeen demonstrated its 360-degree camera system in a demo vehicle on the show floor. It offers front and back, rearview mode and blind zone detection. It records all around the vehicle. No cutting or drilling to a bumper is required, and it also works with metal bumpers.

JVC CW-DR1040ML MARINE MOTORSPORTS SUBWOOFER This IPX6-rated easy-to-install marine motorsports subwoofer has LED lighting incorporated into the grille. It’s an all-in-one solution with a remote in the box to control the LEDs. If more than one subwoofer is used, prewired harnesses are available to easily connect them to play them together.

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SIRIUS XM SXV300 CONNECT TUNER AND MARINE/RV ANTENNA This tuner and antenna combination connects easily to any Sirius XM-ready RV or marine stereo receiver and has multiple mounting options. It also comes with a “season suspend” option: If the customer pays for a year of service, but only uses it for two or three months out of the year, service can be turned off for the rest of the year, and turned on again when ready. There’s no need to pay monthly if it’s not being used. Additionally, this product comes with a $70 rebate and three months of free service.

LINKSWELL LITE 12.1-INCH TABLET T-STYLE RADIO The Linkswell Lite is designed for customers who prefer a simpler, less technical option: The user is able to connect their phone and use this product for navigation, music and more. This is ideal for customers who want a larger screen, but don’t have the need for anything extra.


 On The Show Floor

SONY XAV-AX6000 DIGITAL MULTIMEDIA RECEIVER The latest radio from Sony Car Audio features a 6.95-inch capacitive anti-glare touchscreen. Sony has incorporated the latest technology into this new piece to provide seamless integration into the vehicle. Wireless CarPlay and wired or wireless Android Auto provide easy connectivity to the user’s phone. The iDatalink Maestro integration provides display and control of available features in Maestro-compatible vehicles using a Maestro RR or RR2. A micro-HDMI input allows a video source to be played on the screen, and a 14-band Graphic EQ with 6-channel time alignment through 5-volt RCA pre-outs provide control over the sound. A three-year warranty is included to provide extra peace of mind for consumers.

PRV AUDIO X SERIES AMPLIFIERS The SQ800.4 from PRV Audio X Series of amplifiers is a small, compact amplifier featuring four channels. It measures 6.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches long, and two inches tall. It is bridgeable, and capable of 500 watts in each bridge channel. The SQ2000.4 is compact, as well, with four independent gain knobs for each channel.

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DOW TECHNOLOGIES SEEKS RETAILER FEEDBACK, AIMS TO HELP SMALLER BUSINESSES GROW At KnowledgeFest Dallas, DOW Technologies sought to connect with its dealers regarding programs that could help them grow and better serve their clients. One example of what DOW already offers is its Smart Ship flat rate shipping program. At $50 a month, retailers can take advantage of free shipping and same day delivery, ordering only what they need, when they need it. Drew Fischer of DOW Technologies said, “Some companies do a volume incentive rebate. That can hurt the retailers because the biggest retailer in the area has a competitive advantage and is able to buy product cheaper.” Whenever DOW offers a rebate, he noted, “Everyone gets the same price. That’s important to us—to support all businesses, not just the largest.” 33

 On The Show Floor

DIAMOND AUDIO WATERPROOF MICRO DIGITAL SIGNAL PROCESSORS An 8-channel version of the 6-channel Diamond Audio waterproof micro DSP is coming soon. The six channel is available now. These products can be easily integrated into any motorcycle, car, boat or powersports vehicle. Currently, Diamond Audio has new speakers in development— stay tuned!

AUDIOFROG G62 COAXIAL SPEAKER Audiofrog offers three lines of speakers, with the G Series serving as entry-level. The G62 coaxial speaker should be available this coming winter and was designed to go with the G60S component system.

34 Mobile Electronics October 2022

KICKER KMXL MARINE HLCD COAXIAL SPEAKERS These marine speakers feature integrated, multicolored LED lighting with a hornloaded tweeter in the center. They offer a higher output than other Kicker coaxials, and come in 6.5-, 6- by 9- and 8-inch. The 6.5-inch model comes with a shorter cone and will work well in a Harley-Davidson faring. The 6- by 9-inch model also features material over the horn to prevent water from entering. Available later this year.

SOUNDIGITAL DEMONSTRATES POWERSPORTS AMPLIFIERS IN 2016 ROAD GLIDE This 2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide features both SounDigital and Ground Zero products. The build contains all EVO PS SounDigital powersport amplifiers with vibration resistance. The 800.4 EVOX runs the Ground Zero GZCT20N Pro competition horn tweeters; the 2000.4 EVOPS runs four Ground Zero GZCM8.0N Pros; and a 2400.1 runs the subwoofers. Brand new Ground Zero Hydrogen flat 10’s were installed in each saddle bag. Leigh Landriault of HKI, and Dirty’s Custom Cycles and Audio of Conroe, Texas, completed the build. 35

GZCF 165NEO-PRO → → → → → → → → → → → → →

High-power full range loudspeaker for active use 4 + 4 Ohms 300 / 100 Watts (Midwoofer/Tweeter) Klippel® optimized High efficiency (SPL) Coated paper cone High-efficient neodymium motor 38 mm / 1.5” CCA voice coil Aluminum cast basket Wave shaped textile surround Push terminals 25 mm / 1”PEI compression tweeter Incl. protection capacitor for the tweeter

GroundZeroAudioUsa GroundZeroUsa


→ High-power SPL subwoofer with shallow installation depth → Klippel® optimized → Efficient ferrite magnet → Durable U-shape rubber surround → Massive aluminum cast basket → Paper sandwich cone → 4-layer copper voice coil → High-roll U-surround → Chrome-plated push terminal → 2 x 2 Ω - 600 / 1000 Watts (RMS/SPL)

 On The Show Floor

WET SOUNDS UTV ROOF DESIGNED FOR POLARIS RANGER XP 1000 2014-2023 Wet Sounds prioritized sound quality first when it designed its UTV roof for the Polaris Ranger. The roof was built around the speakers, with a 12-inch subwoofer. It features a built-in Sirius XM head unit. The roof can be quickly and easily installed, and there’s no need to customize anything. The unit features 600 watts of power and a plate that pops out for additional add-on speakers. It comes prewired, and the speakers are pre-loaded.

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KINGPIN UNIVERSITY ANNOUNCES NEXT ROUND OF CLASSES In late September, Kingpin University worked on a theme vehicle in “Next Level Fabrication: The Rat Rod SEMA Build.” The car will be in Diamond Audio’s booth at the next SEMA show. On October 15 and 16, Kingpin University hosted Sales Pro Elias Ventura for the “DNA of a Sales Pro” sales training. October 29-30, “Mastering the Motorcycle Market” will show attendees how to sell motorcycle audio products and how to understand the difference between a bike and a car in terms of sound quality. Visit to learn more and register for additional upcoming classes. 39

 On The Show Floor


40 Mobile Electronics October 2022

Marcus Vasconcellos, the owner of this 2019 Triumph Speed Triple S, is a Kenwood Product Specialist. He installed four of these 1080P cameras on his motorcycle with the goal of demonstrating what’s possible with the product. “You don’t have to press play, update or download anything. All you do is start riding and it starts recording,” Vasconcellos said. “A lot of people enjoy capturing what they’re doing. This system involves a one-time installation connection. Put the components where you want and it’s continually rolling.” The camera has three record modes. Constant loop recording captures up to four hours of footage on the included 32GB SD card, but it can also be expanded up to 256GB, which Vasconcellos said offers up to 40 hours of recording. Additionally, G sensor recording allows the user to review their driving performance. “The G sensor will pick up impact. It will take and lock that recording and protect it. If someone runs into you, you don’t have to think about getting that recording,” he explained, adding, “the system will protect that image from ten seconds before to five seconds after, even if the battery is dead.” The third record mode is manual: “Maybe you see an elk jump a fence. You can tap the button and it’ll block seven seconds before and after to protect the file,” he said, adding that it’s very simple to use and connects via Wi-Fi. “The idea is stealth. We don’t want to take away from the aesthetic of the vehicle.” There are many applications, he added. The cameras can be used on lawn equipment for landscapers, ATVs, boats, RVs or side-by-sides. For his motorcycle, Vasconcellos chose to place a rear camera in the front so it would capture him while driving. The boxes in the back run the components and house the SD cards. The Kenwood Motorsports Cam app allows the user to adjust images and view files on the system. “It sets the files up by front and rear, the date it was recorded and how long the video is. I can also download it to my phone,” he said, adding, “There aren’t a lot of places to hide things on this bike, but it was a clean installation.”

real world RETAIL

GAME ON GAME ON GAME ON With foosball, friendly conversation, customer education and stellar demo vehicles, AMP Customs has gained the confidence and support of local clientele. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA


ince opening its doors in April of 2019, AMP Customs has quickly grown into a profitable business serving the community of Pocatello, Idaho. When the shop acquired its current location, owner Brian Kleinsmith set to work on the remodel, creating three different areas to showcase car audio, marine and powersports. AMP Customs currently shares the building with a custom interior store from which it recently acquired additional space. “We started with a tiny desk by the front door, a couple of things from Memphis and one tiny bay,” he said. “Right before COVID-19 started, we began expanding, taking down walls and making more shop space.” Along with a dedicated area for long-term jobs, AMP also has a 16- by 32-foot outbuilding that serves as an attachment to the back of the shop and houses all the woodworking materials. “I ordered it and had it delivered here,” Kleinsmith explained. “It showed up as a shell, and we insulated it and installed heat and air conditioning.” When the business had to close down for a month due to COVID, he admitted he didn’t think they’d reopen at all. “Then I reopened on a Monday and that day we sold $40-$50,000 worth of products. It hasn’t slowed since. We’ve been booked out two to three weeks for three years straight.”


The business’s vision is rooted in Kleinsmith’s previous industry experience, during which he learned how he wanted to conduct himself when he eventually opened his own shop. He also credits

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real world RETAIL


MAIN FOCUS 55% Car Audio 35% Powersports 5% Marine Audio 5% Home Theater


OWNERS: Brian Kleinsmith SHOP MANAGER: Andrew Green ASSISTANT SHOP MANAGER: Bryan Torres INSTALLATION TECHNICIANS: Kayden Brannon and Collin Williams

AMP’s achievements to a solid strategy based on knowledge of the local market, and his belief in the importance of building connections and relationships with both customers and teammates alike. While AMP Customs handles a lot of car audio, Kleinsmith said he wanted to put additional emphasis on motorcycles and side-by-sides when he first opened. This insight came from his previous experience in another shop where not a lot of attention was being given to the powersports category. “I knew there would be a hole there,” he said, adding that he began by visiting local powersports dealers to see how they handled aftermarket installation. When he learned it wasn’t something that was really being done, he decided to emphasize it. “I got a lot of gear. It was scary because I didn’t know if we’d sell it, but people kept coming in.” With American Falls Reservoir, Lake Walcott and the Portneuf River nearby,

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The full Memphis build in this 1988 Nissan hardbody is a real head-turner, frequently attracting passersby. The demo vehicle has garnered a lot of attention for AMP Customs. (Look for it in an upcoming edition of Installs here in the magazine!)

Kleinsmith saw plenty of opportunity for growth in the category. Additionally, he added, Salt Lake City isn’t too far. Fishing and duck hunting are also popular local sports, which leads to an increased demand in truck accessories. “I’m an archery and rifle hunter, myself,” Kleinsmith said. “We also work on RVs to get them ready for [longer-term

use]. Campers and RVs have been great for solar panel [installation].” He added that clients are looking to put them in the mountains for a longer period of time without having to bring a lot of gear with them. “That’s opened up quite a bit because you’re adding fridges, solar panels and built-in coolers.” AMP Customs also follows strict processes and procedures for installation and caring for vehicles, according to Kleinsmith. “When we connect wiring into any compression fitting, we use ferrules,” he said. “We use heat shrink, and I plan to get it with our logo on it, to give it a special touch.” In the future, the team also plans to incorporate the shop’s logo onto speaker plates using a laser engraver.



The team at AMP Customs not only works well together, but they’re also friends outside business hours. Pictured from left to right: Brian Kleinsmith, Andrew Green, Bryan Torres and Kayden Brannon.

Every vehicle is vacuumed after it’s worked on, and any panel that’s been touched is wiped down with Windex and a microfiber cloth. “Even if we just installed speakers, we also wipe down the radio and make it look brand new because it gives the customer a better feeling. Then we park it, backed in, in our customer delivery area.” To help build confidence in the work and demystify the process, the team will send clients progress photos of the build every day. After every sale, no matter how big or small, Kleinsmith goes out to the vehicle with the customer and demonstrates the product. Follow-ups are also a must.

“I’ll check in after a week. Then I give them another couple of weeks and a technician might call and say, ‘Hey, I just wanted to make sure you’re doing well with everything. Let us know if you have questions.’ Sometimes there are questions, and we encourage them to stop by and we’ll help them out.”


While AMP Customs will install equipment a customer brings in, Kleinsmith said that when the equipment doesn’t work or isn’t the right model, the conversation becomes an educational experience

While AMP Customs does big business numbers, it operates with a small business atmosphere, according to Kleinsmith. Close partnerships with supportive vendors help further the shop’s goals of creating memorable customer experiences. Memphis Car Audio, Kicker and Diamond Audio are just three of the vendors AMP works with. Just recently, an executive from Memphis Car Audio visited the showroom. “We have very good relationships. They give back to the dealers so we can make more money,” Kleinsmith said. “If it comes to questions regarding how I can buy the best from this brand to get the best discounts, based on season or year, I will ask the reps.” Jake Roberts of Memphis, he added, is based locally and has been very helpful to AMP Customs. “Lately we’ve been doing a lot of bikes, and the Diamond Audio HXM marine speakers have really impressed a lot of people,” he said. Additionally, one of the coolest things that’s garnered a lot of attention has been AMP’s work on fiber-optic headliners. “We take out the headliners and we have an upholstery shop next door we work with,” Kleinsmith explained. “Multi-color or two-tone vinyl is sewn together with fiber-optic wrapping in the sew. We wrap the headliner with that, put fiber-optic heads on the end of it, and you have almost a limousine feel with this really cool wrapped headliner.” After completing the first headliner, Kleinsmith noted the shop has received a lot of inquiries. 45

real world RETAIL


When the shop delved into another category—motorcycle audio—they didn’t have a lot of experience, so Kleinsmith said they made a deal with a customer: “When he first came in, I told him I wasn’t an expert, but I would like to be. I said if he’d like to be a part of this, I would give him a good deal.” The team installed several different systems on the customer’s Harley-Davidson, giving him a chance to try them out on the freeway and decide which one he liked best. “Experimenting opened up what would work best based on what the customer was looking for,” Kleinsmith said. “From there, we’ve worked on maybe 50 motorcycles.” Often, he added, “You have to pay to learn.” Expressing to the customer “we aren’t perfect, but let’s learn together, usually works pretty well.” This year alone, the shop has completed about 20 motorcycle projects, about 15 side-by-sides and a bunch of boats.

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for the customer. Recently, a customer brought in a Kicker amplifier and subwoofer he’d purchased on Amazon. “I talked with him a couple of months ago about what he could get, but he bought the wrong match-up. When he came in and I explained it to him, you could tell he was thinking he wished he would’ve just bought it locally,” he said.

“There’s a lot of detail that goes into electronics and sound—it’s more than just buying something and hooking it up.” When another customer caused issues for the shop, AMP Customs came away with a better idea of which potential clients they didn’t want to accept. The customer had come to AMP having had a bad experience at another shop, which



Kleinsmith said influenced the exchange from the beginning. “We were fixing an already-installed system. He approved our work. When he picked up his car, we sat down to go over the invoice,” Kleinsmith said, adding that the customer pointed out a $16 fuse holder, claiming “I can buy this on Amazon for $12.” The situation demonstrated to the team a few red flags to be aware of, and today, Kleinsmith said that if a similar

client came in, he wouldn’t take the job. “This is what I learned from it: Cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I,’ even if you think this person will be your best friend,” he said. “If I had documented things a little bit better, or put [every detail] on the estimate and printed it out for him, and maybe even had him sign it, that might have helped.” The situation motivated the shop to further prioritize education and reconsider its own processes. Often, he said,

While traditional marketing attempts haven’t really worked, Kleinsmith said the best marketing has been related to brand awareness—in other words, ensuring people recognize the AMP Customs logo. From the beginning, Kleinsmith began using the company logo as often as he could. “I began with a vision in my head. I came up with the logo and put it everywhere in the showroom. We also have stickers, t-shirts, license plates and keychains. I get 50 [keychains] for $29,” he said, adding that people frequently come into the store and say they’ve seen the logo in so many different places that they decided to come in and check the place out for themselves. Additionally, Kleinsmith ensures the business is highly visible on the Internet by spending about $200 a month to boost Facebook posts. “When they come in and they’ve already seen the name 50 times, it won’t be as hard for them to buy,” he explained. “We also get one to two messages a day on Facebook. A lot of them are just questions about remote starts, and 10 percent or so turn into sales.” AMP Customs also does a lot of golf cart upgrades, according to Kleinsmith. A customer who lives by a golf course allowed the shop to put in a yard sign that read, “Upgrade your golf cart to lithium.” From that one $29 yard sign, “we received ten phone calls.” Other local signage advertises different categories, and Kleinsmith changes the focus every month. He added that he doesn’t really do product sales anymore. “I have a sign advertising remote starts right now, and the rest is branded with AMP Customs and what we do,” he said. “I feel you don’t have to blow your product out to flood the market. It’s all about brand recognition.” 47

real world RETAIL

The foosball table is one of the most important aspects of the AMP Customs showroom, bringing the team together to bond and decompress. Frequently, clients come in to play a game or two, indirectly exposing them to everything else the shop has to offer.

telling customers the importance of supporting local businesses won’t necessarily sway them from purchasing on the Internet. “But if there’s any manufacturer failure or warranty issue with a product, you don’t have to wait,” he said. “You don’t have to file a claim on Amazon and wait for the replacement. The headache isn’t there. You’re getting the knowledge of the people who can do the work.” While Kleinsmith acknowledged a retailer will never be able to convince every Internet shopper, providing that education may cause them to change their minds at a later date. “Down the road, they might look back and say, ‘You know, he really knew what he was talking about. Maybe I’ll go back.’”

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Most importantly, the customer is paying for the team’s knowledge: “For example, it’s about knowing the ins and outs of tagging the correct disarm wire on a GM platform, so the customer doesn’t have horn honking when they remote start,” he said. “It’s those details that make the experience better for the client.” To ensure employees are up-to-date on products and procedures, the team takes part in weekly in-house trainings. “Every Tuesday and Wednesday, myself and the shop manager will get an employee and have a half-hour training.” Sometimes the training is a refresher of something the staff is already familiar with: Recently, Kleinsmith re-trained two employees on the store’s Point-ofSale system. “We went over everything in

the program as if they were new employees,” he said, adding that they learned things they didn’t know or had forgotten, and were able to increase their speed in writing up a customer. “They feel more comfortable now, too.”


AMP Customs prides itself on its team environment and positive store culture. According to Kleinsmith, building this environment was paramount to him because of negative experiences he’d had at previous workplaces. “Without my past experience, we couldn’t be doing what we’re doing now,” he said, acknowledging these essential lessons learned. The team works closely together, so closely that they often text in the evenings after work. “We all know what we can do and how fast we can do it,” he said, adding that the



team has a 15-minute meeting every morning at 8:45. “We eat breakfast together and we plan.” Part of ensuring a positive environment is keeping everyone informed, he said, adding, “When you include employees in the business more, they’ll feel pride in their work. They’ll put more quality into [what they do] and they’ll be here longer.” Another secret to the business’s success, he added, is foosball. A foosball table emblazoned with the AMP Customs logo sits in the showroom, and there’s another one on the way. Kleinsmith said the team plays so much foosball that they’ve gone through three tables. The game is a bonding experience, as well as a way to blow off steam during a tough day. “We play probably ten games a day,” he said. “At lunchtime, we’ll spend an hour on it. After work, we might play for another hour. Sometimes, if we’re having a rough day, we’ll take a few minutes to

play a game. The table is very important— almost as important as our showroom displays. It connects us and gives us the chance to decompress.” The customers get involved, too, he said: “It brings them in with no pressure of buying anything. They want to talk and play foosball.” It builds rapport, he explained, adding that it increases the customer’s comfort level and often leads to a purchase. At a previous job, Kleinsmith said the team pitched in and purchased a table for the store owner. “We got hooked,” he said. Since then, “I’ve probably played 10 to 20 games a day for the past ten years.” When he opened AMP Customs, one of the first things he did was get a foosball table. Building a sense of fun and comradery has been essential to the store’s positive culture. Customers often come in and challenge the team to a game. “I even posted on Facebook, ‘Come down and beat me at foosball and I’ll take ten percent off your purchase,” Kleinsmith said, adding that no one’s accomplished it—yet. In the near future, AMP Customs plans to epoxy the floors and countertops, placing the company logo in the middle of the shop floor. The team just wants to grow: Five years from now, Kleinsmith said he hopes they’ll be working out of a larger facility. My dream,” he said simply, “is to expand.”

While AMP has some displays in the showroom for demonstrations, Kleinsmith said he uses a 2006 Toyota Scion demo vehicle to show customers what’s possible with bass. The shop also boasts a Quadzilla with Kicker QUAD L7 12-inch subwoofer enclosures. The 1988 Nissan hardbody, with its full Memphis build, often attracts passersby who’ve never even been to the shop. The Nissan was acquired when the shop first opened, while the Scion came into the picture in the middle of last year. “A customer might never want that much bass, but when they know we can do it, they become comfortable enough to get as much as they’re after,” Kleinsmith said. He recalled another customer who’d come in with the wrong JL Audio products. He wanted SPL-level bass, but was sold the wrong item for the job. “I sat him in our Scion and explained what we built it for. He said that’s what he’d wanted from the beginning. We did the system for him, and when we were done, he said, ‘My next car, I’m only coming to you.’ The Scion changed it for him, he told us, because he didn’t know what was possible.” Before he discusses anything on the showroom, Kleinsmith starts with the Scion and the mini-truck. “They might not buy today,” he said, “but they’ll tell their friends they saw an eight-wheel mini-truck with 12 speakers in it.” 49

 Learning From Leaders

THIS YEAR’S POCKET PRIMER OF LESSONS LEARNED Is your path to fulfillment cluttered with uncertainty? Take a few pointers from these industry leaders and entrepreneurs. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER

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hroughout the year, we have the privilege of conducting engaging conversations with executives, entrepreneurs and inspirational icons who have a passion for the 12-volt industry. These industry leaders didn’t always walk a smooth path before arriving where they are now. It’s their lessons learned that form the foundation of this column. In this issue, we highlight some of the gems from the past year’s interviews.

This Year’s Pocket Primer of Lessons Learned

Keep Learning and Applying Knowledge

In his role as owner of Omaha, Neb.based Stereo West Auto Toys, Brian Hampson still found the time, desire and energy to launch his passion project, an Internet portal called 12vdashboard. To learn more, visit The project began as a way for Hampson to maintain the valuable knowledge stored in a technician’s head so that it remained with the store even after a tech moved on. The database is filled with information on everything from uses for dash kits and harnesses, to OEM amplifier locations. In 2010, when Hampson stepped into the role of CEO, a few technicians left the business—not all at once, but over the course of time It got him thinking. “When a good tech left, they would take some

very valuable information with them—in their brain,” he said. “So now we’re not just losing this great guy, but we’re losing all the information he accumulated and acquired while he was working on all the jobs he did. He’s not around anymore, so you can’t ask him ‘Hey, what fits in this car?’ or ‘How do we make this thing work in the Jaguar again?’” The tech, he said, has those answers. “That’s what I was trying to figure out,” he added. “How do we come up with something to salvage all that knowledge?” Hampson started his career at ground level. Looking back, he guessed it was his attention to detail that led a store manager to promote him to installer. Then, he went to every training he could. “It’s important to absorb as much information as you can from all sources and from every job along the way,” he

said. “If there was a training available, I went to it, took notes and studied. It’s about taking the information you gain back to the store and applying it.”

Understand What Drives You

While money is important, it won’t lead to happiness and it won’t necessarily keep you in a career. Rich DeSclafani, owner of Pompano, Fla.-based RDV Automotive Technology, made choices motivated by something else he holds in high regard: Passion. “Having enjoyment and passion for what you do is extremely important,” he said. “It’s important to recognize the difference between making money doing something you don’t really enjoy or making less money, but being happier day-to-day. That puts you in the position to grow, to become more successful, or to 51

 Learning From Leaders

“That’s the biggest challenge—getting over your own mental hurdle. You can’t fear change and be too scared to take some chances. No risk. No reward.”

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expand into something else because you’re doing something that’s right for you.” DeSclafani noted that he focuses on what makes him happy and how he can grow. “Growth is a very important consideration with any job or company,” he said. “Identify what you enjoy doing and then evaluate the opportunities.” Don’t get distracted by “short money,” he added: “Don’t focus on money that’s right in front of you rather than looking at what the situation will be a year or two down the road. What’s the potential for you to move ahead?” Fear of failure can hold people back, he said. “That’s the biggest challenge—getting over your own mental hurdle. You can’t fear change and be too scared to take some chances. No risk. No reward.” After learning different aspects of the 12-volt industry, DeSclafani had the confidence to move ahead. “I knew I had to learn all aspects of everything industry-wise to get where I

wanted to go,” he said. “That’s how you become a successful businessperson. Learn every aspect of what you’re doing so you understand everything from the point of view of the installer, salesperson, manager, owner, shipping department, engineers, tech support, research and development—all of it. I dabbled in everything in order to have a handle on what I needed to do to get where I wanted to go.”

Always Finish What You Start

Wayne Harris, president and CEO of WHE—which includes Term-PRO, Term-LAB and the dB Drag Racing Association—has just about done it all. After becoming a winner and a celebrity on the car stereo competition circuit, he headed up research and development at Rockford Fosgate and then formed his own company. “I left college when I was within 12 hours of graduating,” Harris said. “A few years ago, my wife asked me why I hadn’t gone back to school to get my degree. She

This Year’s Pocket Primer of Lessons Learned

sensed I was looking for a challenge. So I did it. I graduated in 2020 from University of Texas Arlington, the school which I originally attended, and I enjoyed it so much that I signed up to do a master’s degree in educational technology. I have applied for another master’s in computer science at University of Texas at Austin.” CES 2020 was the 35th consecutive CES show for Harris. Unfortunately, COVID19 interrupted. “Even though it’s a huge industry now, it started out as a small collection of individuals who have now percolated into positions as presidents of companies,” he said. “But there is a huge social element to CES, and maintaining those relationships is invaluable.”

Perseverance and Goal-Setting Are Keys to Growth

Considering his success in sales, it’s hard to believe Greg Delgado started out as an installer. Today, he heads up the Corona, Calif.-based GCH Automotive

Systems, which manufactures navigation, cameras and other 12-volt accessories. Delgado also holds seven patents. Deciding to strike out on his own was achieved by setting realistic and manageable goals. Delgado had $700 to buy a stereo. He bought the parts to rebuild and recondition it, then sold it on eBay for $1,400. “I took that money, bought two more stereos and parts, and then sold those, and I continued to do that,” he said, adding that he stayed in his garage and would only come out after five p.m. The next morning, the pattern would repeat. “I didn’t have an office when I started out,” he said. “I made 2,700 phone calls in the first month. I was making an average of 90 phone calls a day—and these were good quality calls.” With dedication and planning, revenue grew quickly from month. In May of 2010, he made GCH Automotive Systems official. “Today, we do business all over the world as a

manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor, designer and consultant.” For those considering starting a company or undertaking any venture, Delgado said there’s one thing above all else that counts, echoing Rich DeSclafani. “Money is not the primary thing. The catalyst is the passion,” Delgado said. “You must have passion and determination to succeed. You can’t just throw money at the wall and expect to succeed. Money is just the mechanism to start the engine. The engine is passion. Without it, you’re not going anywhere.” Find something you love. Delgado added that if you don’t love what you do, “figure out how you can associate what you love to do with what you’re already doing.” Making the two mesh, he noted, is the most difficult part. “It’s very difficult to get up in the morning, wash your face, take a shower, and then drive off to a job that you hate,” he said. “No one wants to do that.” 53

 strategy & tactics When the news broke, it became obvious to me how many business owners are struggling with the same decision. I know I couldn’t have made my decision without the wisdom, experience and knowledge of others, so I hope sharing what I have learned throughout this process will help you decide which way to turn, if you’re at your own crossroads.


TEN QUESTIONS TO PONDER BEFORE YOU SELL Thinking about selling your business? First, consider these factors. WORDS BY JON KOWANETZ

When I started a business in early July of 2007, many people told me I was crazy. It was the beginning of a financial crisis, which would bring many already-established businesses to their knees. But, as I opened the garage door at my home business, I didn’t know any of this was about to unfold. I just knew I was at a crossroads in my life after the shop where I was working closed down, leaving me demoralized and with two options: I could walk away from the industry in which I had been perfecting my skillsets for over 10 years and do something new, or I could continue in a similar direction, but choose a new destination, something I could take pride in. I would soon become a father, and I knew I had to provide a stable life for my daughter, but I also knew I had to provide a good example for her to follow. So,

54 Mobile Electronics October 2022

I chose to follow my heart, setting out to create a mobile electronics business that would focus on thoughtful qualification of customers’ needs, meticulous installation standards and creative fabrications designed to look and function like an options package from the manufacturer. Handcrafted Car Audio grew from a sole proprietorship into a financially successful, award-winning business in a beautiful facility, with a loyal and enthusiastic following. Fifteen years later, I found myself at another crossroads. Having been through another major financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, I asked myself in which direction I wanted to travel this time, while heading into the second half of my life. Sure, I could buckle in and keep going. Or, I could make a change. My daughter is 12 years old now, and has learned a lot from my example. She has even come up with her own business ideas! I love to watch her follow her heart and grow, so once again, I chose to do the same. While it was clear I was making the right decision, it wasn’t easy to come by.

There were many times over the last 15 years that I considered closing the doors. If we’re honest, I bet we’ve all felt that way at one point or another for surprisingly similar reasons. Finding and keeping good help, the ebb and flow of business, unexpected damage claims and expenses are just a few of the many stressors that keep business owners up at night and on the verge of throwing in the towel. However, as with most things in life, making permanent decisions in the depths of temporary emotions is rarely a good idea. It’s important to step back and ask yourself, “Why do I want to sell my business?” Are you ready for the next chapter, or are you just avoiding the responsibility of making some difficult changes? This is a deeply personal question that only you can answer. But it’s critical that you answer it now, in the early stage of this process, before you get carried away. Remember, there will come a point of no return. Have you done everything you can to address the problems in your business? Can you see yourself looking back and thinking, “If only I had…”? If you answered no to the first question and yes to the second, I suggest you take a step back and reevaluate. But if you answered yes to the first, and no to the second, then you’ve come to a peaceful acceptance that it’s time for you to move on.


It’s fun and easy to get carried away thinking about the life that might await you after you sell your business. But those things only await you if your business does, in fact, sell. As objectively as possible, ask yourself if your business is actually salable.

Ten Questions to Ponder Before You Sell

The award-winning business’s present location opened in 2014. Before attempting to sell a business, owners should be their own customer— viewing everything from someone else’s perspective as objectively as possible.

Be your own customer. Would you buy this business? How well does it run every day without you? How pervasive is the company culture? Are you constantly having to reprimand employees, or does everybody know and execute their duties with autonomy? Does the place look like someone loves it? Is your inventory accounted for? Are your books straight? How is your reputation? Be honest with yourself. If you don’t like your own answers, now is the time to address those issues.


Depending on the size of your business, you may very well be able to get away with the simple three-to-five-times-net-income valuation method. But if your business has a lot of valuable elements to it other than its profitability, such as your location, your online and in-person presence, the build-out of the storefront and the tooling, then you should spend some time itemizing these things and estimating their value. When I first started considering selling Handcrafted over three years ago, I put together a 15-page document that detailed all of these things and more. The value of a great presentation cannot be overstated here. Another option is to hire a broker to handle this for you. A broker can create a formal, detailed valuation based not only on all of the information you provide, but also based on what similar businesses have actually sold for. This often yields a

much more realistic number than what creators of these businesses tend to come up with. Whichever way you go, be sure to take a step back and ask yourself if the price is right.


With every buyer I spoke to, my biggest concern was how my employees would be taken care of under new management. I discussed just about every scenario I could imagine with the dozens of potential buyers I spoke to over the course of seven months. I only gave serious consideration to buyers with whom I felt my team would be happy. I did all I could to ensure my concerns were satisfied. What are your non-negotiable terms of sale? Will the new owner be required to honor warranty claims of past customers? Are there vendor relationships that must be maintained? On the other hand, are they at liberty to change anything they want? Being clear about these expectations from the start will help the sales process go smoother.


Though you’ll pay more in taxes, receiving the payment for your business in one lump sum gives you the ability to move on quickly to whatever comes next for you, without having to worry if the business is going to be able to fulfill the commitment of monthly payments for the

next few years. However, if you’ve found the perfect buyer and a lump sum payment just isn’t possible, you can always offer owner financing. You’ll benefit from the extra income of finance charges in exchange for the risk of carrying the loan on your own. Lastly, there’s also the option of a third party loan. Provided your buyer can qualify, this option can offer the best of both worlds—a lump sum payment for you and a much lower interest rate and monthly payment for the buyer. As with all financial matters, though, consult with your accountant.


If you’ve gotten to this point without changing your mind, then you are ready— but your business might not be. If you’re behind on credit card reconciliations, bill payments to vendors or physical inventory counts, now is the time to get all of it squared away. Maybe you need to give the place a new coat of paint, a good cleaning or fix a broken display. Before putting your business up for sale, you need to make sure any serious buyer can come in and look at your books, your whole operation and see themselves walking right in and conducting business. Wouldn’t you want the same?


Working with a broker will cost you money, but it will also relieve a lot of pressure. They have a network of investors 55

 strategy & tactics

Ten Questions to Ponder Before You Sell

Handcrafted Car Audio began in Jon Kowanetz’s home garage in 2007.

The second location for Handcrafted, acquired around 2010, offered more space to grow.

looking for opportunities, and all they have to do is put your business in front of these people. There is a downside, however: You won’t have as much opportunity to control how the business is presented to these buyers. Most brokers I spoke to would only work with mid- to large-size businesses. Since most businesses in the 12-volt industry wouldn’t apply, working with a broker might not be an option for you. My personal and professional connections generated every potential buyer I spoke to. Put the word out there to certain individuals who can get the ball rolling: People will start talking about it, and the word will get around. Be aware that any online connections come with their own implied amount of privacy—or lack thereof. Ensure you inform professional and personal connections closest to you about your plans, before they find out from someone else.

I’ve spoken to other business owners who already have secondary or even tertiary businesses going. I’ve heard from some who have big ideas they feel they can’t get off the ground until they cut this weight. I’ve consoled others who are just so stressed that they can’t focus on anything other than putting out the next fire. Whichever camp you’re in, you would do yourself and your loved ones a big favor by making some time to consider what comes next. That way, when you do take the first step out of your business, you can do so with peace of mind.


While I had many ideas I wanted to explore, I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do after selling my business. Although it was out of character for me to make such a big decision without having all of the details figured out, I was okay with the uncertainty in this scenario. I knew my personal and financial situation would allow me to take some time to figure it out and I knew that time was what I needed. However, if my situation required me to find replacement income right away, then I’d probably be writing my résumé right now instead of this article.

56 Mobile Electronics October 2022


The process of finding a qualified buyer can be a little bit like online dating and, having done my fair share of that, I was prepared for the repetitive getting-toknow-you talks, poor communication and even ghosting. It can be exhausting, but just as with dating, you can find your special someone much sooner, with less stress and more mutual respect by knowing what you’re looking for ahead of time and being willing to walk away from anyone who doesn’t measure up. It’s unlikely you have very much free time. The last thing you want to do is waste what little time you do have, so don’t hesitate to ask up-front questions about the deal breakers: What are they looking for? What is their financial situation? How long do they see this lasting? Do they want to have kids? Wait…


I’ve been told that post-sale I might feel lost, out of my routine and I might even second-guess my decision. As of this writing, it’s been about ten weeks since the official transfer of ownership and I don’t feel any of those things. Instead, I feel peace and possibility. But I am sure that’s only because of my process—the same process I’ve laid out for you here. It’s a painstaking process, but the benefit of looking at a situation from every possible angle before coming to a conclusion is that once I do make the decision, I am solid on it. After more than three years of deliberation, I know that I have made the right choice for myself, my family and Handcrafted. Whether you plan to retire, start a new job, focus on another businesses, or take time to figure out what’s next, my final piece of advice is to take some time to do the things you love, whether they produce anything of substance or not. Do what makes you feel grateful to be alive. Do what you never had time for prior to selling. Do the things that wouldn’t have been possible without all the hard work you put into building your business. Show yourself gratitude. Me? I climbed mountains, slept on my paddle board in the middle of glacial lakes, surfed, made new friends, spent time writing, resting and enjoying some stress-free time on vacation with my daughter. What would you do?

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 installs

Modern Classic Each look at this retro Jeep build reveals stunning details. SUBMITTED BY RICK BOTTOM, RICK BOTTOM DESIGNS, MENDOTA, ILL.

Due to the seamless design and ornate detailing of the “Boujeep” 2019 Jeep Wrangler, passersby often do a double-take, assuming it’s a special edition from the factory. The vehicle was showcased at KnowledgeFest Indy this past year in the Kenwood booth, demonstrating electronics by Kenwood eXcelon.

58 Mobile Electronics October 2022

The products featured in the build include a DMX706S head unit; XR-601-1 sub amp; XR-1701P front and rear 6.5-inch component sets; XR-401-4 four-channel amplifier; XR-1202 12-inch subwoofer; CMOS-320 back-up camera; and STZRF200WD HD dash camera with GPS. The build also has a Metra dash kit and

speaker pods, Raptor interconnects, an iDatalink Maestro interface module and an XS Power battery. When Mobile Electronics magazine spoke with Bottom at KnowledgeFest Indy, he said the Jeep was bound for the next SEMA show. The vehicle, he noted, is his 43rd SEMA build since 1996. Most 59

 installs

importantly, he built the Jeep as a daily driver for his wife. “We met at an audio show thirty years ago,” he said. “In the early 90s, audio was really happening. That’s how we met, and we’re still playing with cars.” He said he loves “retro builds,” and his wife likes the color combination of white and tan. The design made for a newer vehicle with an older feel. The 98 interior pieces consist of sealed and painted plastic. Bottom noted that he spent about two hours on each small plastic piece. The custom upholstery was completed by Gary Dunow. “It was a lot of work,” Bottom added. Each detail appears original to the vehicle. Even the hubcaps are new but designed for a 1957 Thunderbird. “We machined the center to accept an early 1970s grille medallion,” he said. “That alone was a project.” As for the sound system, Bottom said he aimed for a “natural” sound with equipment that wouldn’t take up a lot of space. “The speakers are in stock locations, but the sound bar is heavily modified. It came with a four-inch and a tweeter. It now has a 6.5-inch and a tweeter, but it still looks factory,” he explained. “In the back, we have Class D amplifiers.” The amplifiers fit perfectly into a factory storage space, and a Jeep grille emblem was designed for the door. The cargo space floor is real white oak, painted with additional binder to let the grain show through. “These things take so much time. It’s hard to say how long. I worked on it when I could. It was intense,” he said, adding, “I like building stuff that people can imagine in their driveways—not something that’s so outrageous you’d never really drive it.”

60 Mobile Electronics October 2022



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Who’s at the top? It’s time to vote.

The next phase of the competition features voting by industry professionals and consumers to narrow the semifinalists list down to finalists. Voting will begin Thursday, November 3, 2022.”

In 2023 we seek to recognize and honor those in the industry who best exemplify the professionalism, business ethics, service and expertise we want consumers to think of when they do business in our industry. Candidate companies and individuals have submitted video nominations for the Mobile Electronics Industry Awards and will be narrowed to a list of finalists after a selection and voting process. In certain award categories, finalists submit materials that are then judged by a select panel to determine a winner. In other categories, final voting tallies determine the winner. All winners are announced at a special awards ceremony, held the last day of the Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) KnowledgeFest tradeshow and conference in Las Vegas February 5, 2023.

WHAT ARE THE CATEGORIES? Each award is categorized as either retailer, vendor, or industry support role. Retailers are recognized as: Installer of the Year, Retailer of the Year, Salesperson of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Additionally, there is special recognition in the form of Retail Performance Awards and a Customer’s Choice Award. There are Top Vendor Awards in the following categories: Autosound & Processing, Accessories & Materials, Infotainment & Multimedia, Security, Safety & Driver Assistance and Marine (formerly Powersports & Marine). Launched last year were two new categories: OEM Integration and Lighting. New for 2023 is Motorcycle & Powersports. Additionally, the Vendor Support Tech of the Year award was introduced last year. To support both vendors and retailers, recognition also comes in the form of Distributor of the Year, Sales Representative of the Year and Rep Firm of the Year. Judges appointed by the association reviewed videos and selected winners, comprising the Top 50 Installers, Top 50 Retailers and Top 20 Sales

62 Mobile Electronics October 2022

Professionals. The complete list of winners will be posted at the official Industry Awards website: Winners will also qualify as semi-finalists for the top honors of Retailer of the Year, Installer of the Year and Sales Pro of the Year. Top 50 Installers award recipients can also opt to run for 2022 Trusted Tech, an award given to professional installers who excel more from an electronics standpoint than a design standpoint. The next phase of the competition features voting by industry professionals and consumers to narrow the semifinalists list down to finalists. These categories are joined by other categories of which industry professionals vote to select top suppliers, reps and rep firms, distributors, and expeditors, as well as the new vendor support tech award. Voting will begin Thursday, November 3, 2022.

JOIN US FOR THE INDUSTRY AWARDS IN LAS VEGAS The process will wrap up at the Mobile Electronics Industry Awards where we’ll recognize top-performing retailers, installers, brands and industry affiliates for their work and representation of the industry. The winners will be celebrated at a special ceremony held at the conclusion of the KnowledgeFest trade show and education conference. This season, the ceremony will take place on the last day of KnowledgeFest Las Vegas held at the Paris Hotel & Convention Center February 3-5, 2023. Though the competition is currently ongoing, we want to take this opportunity to congratulate our Top 50 and Top 20 winners. These are major accomplishments and represent your hard work and growth over the past year. It’s great to see our industry members continue to strive to be the best and set examples for their peers. For more information on the Mobile Electronics Industry Awards, please visit