Mobile Electronics Magazine July 2023

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12// What’s Happening: Taking Time

At KnowledgeFest, owners and managers discuss letting go and pinpointing personal priorities to help a business grow.

26// On the Show Floor: Turning Up the Heat

In sunny Florida, vendors gathered to showcase the latest solutions at KnowledgeFest Orlando this past May.

38// Real World Retail:

A Greater Understanding Freeman’s Car Stereo—a multi-store chain based in Cornelius, North Carolina—continues to pivot in order to better serve the needs of its local demographics after decades in business.

48// Learning From Leaders: The Answer is Always Yes

Rising to the challenges of a new role and part ownership of Lucas Lighting is how Steve Rogers plans to close out his nearly 40-year career.

54// Strategy and Tactics: Showroom Refresher

Learn how strategic showroom design can draw in more customers, increase efficiency and close sales faster.


Freeman’s Car Stereo has seven locations in South and North Carolina, with its main location in Cornelius, NC. Open since 1979, this business has experienced many shifts and changes. At one time, it had at least thirteen stores. The company—headed by CEO David Wall—was named Retailer of the Year (MultiStore) at the Industry Awards banquet in Las Vegas, Nev. in February.

Volume 55 Issue 5
Retail News 58 Installs DEPARTMENTS
Editor’s Forum
Feedback ON THE COVER:
Rosa Sophia MANAGING EDITOR 978.645.6466 Chris Cook EDITOR-AT-LARGE CREATIVE LAYOUT AND DESIGN Contributing Editors Jamie Sorcher and Laura Kemmerer Published by Chris Cook PRESIDENT 978.645.6434 Richard Basler DIR. TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS 978.645.6449 Tony Frangiosa CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, MEA AD INDEX Alpine Electronics 5 Firstech-Momento .................... 63 HKI USA - SounDigital 36, 37 HKI USA - TURY ................... 50, 51 JBL 17 Kicker ................................. 3 KnowledgeFest Education 11 KnowledgeFest Dallas ................. 9 KnowledgeFest Events 57 MECP ................................ 61 ME-TV 47 Meyer Distributing...................... 7 Pixel Technologies 19 SiriusXM .............................. 10 Snap Finance 25 Sony.................................. 43 TM mobile electronics association 12 2 Mobile Electronics July 2023
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told it’s healthy to relinquish a little bit of control, but how do we actually do it?

I always hear a few chuckles when I tell people, “I was a waitress for an hour and a half once.” But, looking back, I can see why the restaurant owners couldn’t retain good employees. During my one-time shift, the owner came into the back and screamed at the staff because the iced tea was low. She looked right at me and demanded an answer. “I’ve only been here for an hour,” I said. “No one’s taught me how to make it yet.” Once she left the kitchen, I deliberated for a few minutes before going to the front to hand in my apron. When she made sure to let me know I wouldn’t be paid for the hour, I told her it was fine. I just wanted to leave.

While there’s a lot we could say about this situation—the toxicity, the treatment of employees—it’s also an example of a business owner trying to control everything and failing. Instead, she probably accomplished the opposite: Chaos.


Wanting some control is normal, but not necessarily healthy. Attempting to control everything can lead to dissatisfaction and disorder. It’s not possible to maintain control of every situation. It also leads to increased anxiety and a damaging level of criticism toward others.

The restaurant owner I described was probably overflowing with high anxiety. Of course, this doesn’t excuse the behavior.

As James Smith noted in this month’s What’s Happening column, “I started letting go and realized the employee was doing it better than I was. Just because it was my way, doesn’t mean it was the best way.”


Without being able to relinquish some control, a one-person business will likely stay that way. The first step is to surround yourself with a strong team who can operate the store without your constant presence. This will allow for more time spent with loved ones and more opportunities to explore your interests outside of work.

How can we let go of the reins, just a little bit? Are we afraid to, and if so, why? If your business needs more reliable processes and procedures in place, now’s the time to work on it.

At KnowledgeFest, Owner & Manager Roundtable discussions touched on letting go and delegating tasks. This sounds easy, but what happens when the very idea of relinquishing control causes you anxiety? It takes a lot of inner work and self-observation to see and acknowledge our own weaknesses.

If you’re a business owner or a manager who is having difficulty letting go and delegating tasks, it might help to meditate on what’s within your control and what isn’t.

The goal is a healthy business with happy employees. In order to work on letting go enough to delegate tasks, it helps to ask a few important questions:

How can I let go of the reins, just a little bit? Am I afraid to, and if so, why? If your business needs more reliable processes and procedures in place, now’s the time to work on it.


Ask yourself whether or not the task you’re about to do is something that one of your team members might handle instead. For example, would it best to have an employee put together a new showroom display, instead of doing it yourself?

Sometimes, as Smith noted, we think our way is the best way. This isn’t always the case. Scheduling regular team meetings and asking for input will give everyone a chance to share ideas and suggestions. If letting go of some control in your business has caused you anxiety, how have you dealt with it?

Please reach out: I would love to hear from you and share your feedback with the industry.

4 Mobile Electronics July 2023
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commodity: Industry

“Never up-sell. Sell down, if needed. You never know what budget is in the customer’s mind.”

-Paul Howard, Don’s Auto Trim, Indianapolis, Ind.

“Take the time and post consistently on social media. This has allowed me to connect with my customers during the installation while also building a social portfolio that showcases your daily work and skills. Over time, this produces a scenario where you have created trust with a new customer before you’ve even spoken to them.”

- Thomas Shafer, Blossom Installations, Bartonsville, Penn.

talk about

“The best advice I could give to another retailer or installer would be to keep expanding your skillset. Too many people get stale and think they are doing things the best way possible. Many times, that’s just not true. We attend the GoFast Dealer Expo and Remote Start Summit twice a year. We attend at least one KnowledgeFest annually, whether it’s Las Vegas, Dallas or Orlando. I’ve been to both MasterTech Expos. While that seems like a lot, I’ve grown and expanded my skillsets beyond what I thought possible years ago. We’ve also been able to offer many more services to our clients, and ultimately, we made record sales the past couple of years.”

- Mike Hungerford, KarTele Mobile Electronics, Waterbury, Conn.

 feedback 6 Mobile Electronics July 2023
Time is a precious
allocating time to training and building online portfolios to forge connections and increase revenue.
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Mobile Electronics Industry Retail Sales Report

Industry Retail Sales Report

The Mobile Electronics Association reports specialty retailer performance for the second quarter of 2023 as compared to 2022. Here are the findings.

SECOND QUARTER (Q2) 2023 vs. 2022

Key Observations


• The average dollars per transaction have decreased 25% from first half of 2023 as compared to first half of 2022.

• The number of transactions has decreased 13% from the first half of 2023 as compared to first half of 2022.

• The first six (6) mont hs of the year saw decreases year over year every month.

• After all this, despite economic pressures, the industry has still experienced growth when compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic).

 stats
Q1 DOWN 9%
FIRST QUARTER (Q1) 2023 vs. 2022 2023 vs. 2022 BY MONTH
HALF 2023 vs. 2022 vs. 2019
mobile electronics association
Data owned and provided by the Mobile Electronics Association. © 2023 Mobile Electronics Association
AND UP AS COMPARED TO 2019 10% 8 Mobile Electronics July 2023

You Will Own Nothing: Your War with a New Financial World Order and How to Fight Back

New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur Carol Roth shares what would happen if a new financial world order took hold—one in which global elites own everything and you own nothing. The catch? Somehow you are still happy. When Carol Roth first heard this prediction from the World Economic Forum for 2030, she thought it was absurd. After some research, she found that a number of businesses, governments and global elites share a utopian vision of the future in which everyone has what they need, but no one will own anything. Just a quick look at declines in home and car ownership coupled with global inflation and government spending demonstrates trends of a new world emerging. This book reveals how the agendas of Wall Street, world governments, international organizations, socialist activists and multinational corporations work in conjunction to reduce the power of the dollar and prevent millions of Americans from taking control of their wealth. Learn how to protect your hard-earned investments for the future.


Gran Turismo


Ready, set, rev your engines. Heading to movie theaters next month, August 11, “Gran Turismo” from Sony Pictures was inspired by the PlayStation video game. It’s also based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills won a series of Nissan competitions to become an actual professional racecar driver. The biographical sports drama stars Orlando Bloom, David Harbour and Archie Madekwe.

 helpful stuff

AM for Every Vehicle Act


FM radio stations, numbered 88.1 to 107.9, offer music when you’re on a drive. Conversely, during your morning commute, you might use AM radio, stations 530 to 1700, geared to talk, sports and religious programs. Due to better audio quality, FM became much more popular than AM back in the 1970s and that’s never changed. Recently, AM radio listenership has dropped to such low levels that many major automakers removed it from some or all of their new vehicles entirely, particularly for electric vehicles. BMW, Ford, Mazda, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo are in this camp, but in late May, Ford changed its plans and will have AM radio for its 2024-model vehicles. Some say it’s because AM waves travel farther than FM, making the removal of AM radio a safety issue. All of this has developed into a legislative proposal: The AM for Every Vehicle Act would require that new vehicles offer AM radio for no additional fee. Additionally, any automaker that produces a vehicle without AM radio, prior to the bill potentially becoming law, must disclose this to consumers.


Up The Volume: A Blueprint For Amplifying Your Car Audio Business On Social Media

Drewbie Wilson’s powerful guide for digital transformation includes the following: understanding the crucial role of social media in today’s car audio industry; discovering tried-and-true strategies to connect with your target audience; navigating the complexities of various social media platforms; learning how to convert likes and shares into tangible sales and more. The reader will also learn the importance of sharing educational, entertaining and offer-driven content, along with developing a robust and engaging online presence that resonates with the target audience. Cranking Up the Volume is a blend of industry-specific knowledge and universal marketing wisdom—perfect for car audio pros who want to kick their social media strategy into high gear.



12 Mobile Electronics July 2023  what’s happening

At KnowledgeFest

At KnowledgeFest Indianapolis, the Mobile Electronics Association announced that KnowledgeFest would be shifting its east-coast focus from Orlando to Atlantic City, taking place June 7-9, 2024. The last KnowledgeFest Orlando—this past May 19-21—was complete with numerous classes on management, sales and the technician side of the business. Once again, education sessions on the show floor drew a crowd.

A popular class was “Tactical Social Media Marketing for Busy Businesses,” led by Drewbie Wilson, who brought along his new book, Cranking Up The Volume: A Blueprint For Amplifying Your Car Audio Business On Social Media. [Editor’s Note: Read more about the book in this month’s Helpful Stuff column.] This course was

Orlando, owners and managers discuss letting go and pinpointing personal priorities to help a business grow.

followed by “Making Purpose-Built Social Media Content,” presented by Dean Beyett and Fernando Lopez.

Dan Bowman of Titan Motoring in Nashville, Tenn. presented on “Adding Revenue Streams Through Diversification,” and James Smith discussed the importance of stepping beyond the comfort zone to grow a business.

A common thread throughout many of the classes—including an Owner & Manager Roundtable, hosted by Mobile Electronics Association president Chris Cook—was delegation, and how important it is to let go, just a little bit, and allow a company’s processes and procedures to guide the day-to-day.


On the panel at the Owner & Manager Roundtable were business owners Ata Ehdaivand of Absolute Electronix and Jon Lackey of Blvd Customs of Lakeland, Fla. Attendees discussed issues and opportunities and learned from one another’s

experiences. Other attendees included Thomas Schaeffer of Blossom Installations in Pennsylvania; Jayson Cook of Columbus Car Audio in Columbus, Ohio; Mike Bartells of Extreme Audio in Va.; Adam Devine of Devine Automotive Concepts in Naples, Fla.; and James Smith of ACT Audio in Vernon, Conn.

Smith recalled realizing some years back that he was working all the time: “I saw I had to change how I approached the business,” he said. “I read the book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber, and it’s basically about the benefit of stepping out of your business and watching it grow. I still want

14 Mobile Electronics July 2023  what’s
During the Owner & Manager Roundtable, attendees discussed challenges they faced at work and how to overcome them. A big part of the focus was how to increase efficiency at the shop and make the most of the time allotted.

to install—and I still do—but the point is, I don’t have to.”

Smith’s greatest challenge was time, he said. “I was embedded in the business. I have a TV in the garage so I can watch the front door. The phone’s ringing. I didn’t have time to sit down and figure it out.”

He recommended The E-Myth Revisited, along with the coaching program, which can be found at: Each cost, he said, is an investment in the business. “Then I joined Apex Mastermind. You go to events and meet people from other businesses, get together and get ideas. You get pumped up. It helps keep the excitement going.” Smith began these endeavors about four years ago, adding that his business has doubled. He’s also grown a lot personally, to the point that he was able to go on vacation without Wi-Fi, letting his staff handle the store.

Above, Jason Kranitz of Kingpin University leads a fabrication demo on fiberglass, fillers and sanding. Below, Brian Mitchell of Liquid Trends Modesto teaches a hands-on class on OEM integration on the show floor.


Panelists and attendees agreed that time is the most important commodity. Ehdaivand noted that he chooses to take his time in the morning—something that’s he’s prioritized as his company has grown. “The reason,” he said, “is that it’s the hardest time to get. I let my guys do their job. If I don’t want to do something, I pay someone else to do it.”

His job, he added, is to be the owner. “It really depends on what I want to do,” he said. “Your team will take it and run with it. They’ll stumble, and you have to be there to help them up, but they’ll handle it.”

Smith agreed that he cherishes his time in the mornings. Attendees were asked, “What’s your priority?” Letting go and learning to delegate allows a business owner to prioritize what’s most important to them in their personal lives. “As business owners, we can get caught up in the business and forget about our loved ones,” Smith said. “We say we’re doing it for them, but we might not be there for them.”

Those present agreed it’s hard to reach that level of letting go, but it’s essential: “It’s hard to hear someone doing a sales presentation and not jump in. It takes a lot to pull back and stop.”


For anyone concerned about the future of their business and its growth, Ehdaivand said, “Trust in what you’ve done,” adding, if a business owner does the best they can to create reliable

processes and procedures, then employees will be able to handle tasks without the owner or manager’s intervention. “It has to be streamlined. Trust that you’ve done the right thing.”

When someone mentioned having a hard time letting go, Smith said, “Sometimes you have to pull the plug and see what happens. Then you might find yourself looking back later and saying, ‘Wow, this is better.’ Figure out what you want most out of life and your business.”

16 Mobile Electronics July 2023  what’s happening
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what’s happening

He also noted that delegating tasks made him uncomfortable at one point because employees wouldn’t necessarily do things the same way he did. “I started letting go and realized the employee was doing it better than I was. Just because it was my way, doesn’t mean it was the best way.”

He added that, instead, he created a set of parameters. “It has to be within that, and have this result,” he explained. “How you get there is up to you, as long as it’s efficient.”

During the panel discussion, Cook asked, “When you look at where you are now, after the challenges you’ve faced, do you look at your business and your opportunities differently?”

Panelists agreed—yes. Smith said the growth of his employees has been a significant change. “I’ve been able



Along with its booth on the show floor in Orlando, where the company showed off its latest series of shallow woofers, Sundown Audio also presented a training—the company’s second time teaching at a KnowledgeFest event. Administrative director Bryan Chamberlain taught the class. “This was my first time teaching. It went very well. The training focused on the step-by-step process of reconing our subwoofers,” he said, adding that the company feels it’s a great service retailers can offer to their clients. “It allows for faster turnaround time and more profitability for dealers when they handle rebuilds and exchanges on their end. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

During the training, an SAv.2 15-inch D2 and an old Xv.2 15inch D2 subwoofer were both reconed. “Both go together very differently,” Chamberlain noted. “Demonstrating how to recone both of those woofers mostly covers a broad spectrum of all our woofer lines, which is why I chose those two.”

Miss the training? Looking for a refresh? View the entire session, “How to Recone a Subwoofer,” at Sundown Audio’s YouTube channel:

18 Mobile Electronics July 2023 

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what’s happening

to change my perspective and look at things from an outside point of view,” he said, adding that he’s been able to help his team members improve as a result. “While my salesperson worked, I listened in, suggesting changes. Before, I was too busy in the back.”

Of paramount importance is the owner or manager’s relationship to the team, which builds trust. “You have to get to the level where the business itself is its own entity and will survive past you,” the panelists agreed. “That’s when you have something that’s truly valuable.”

20 Mobile Electronics July 2023 


In Orlando, all KnowledgeFest attendees received a Pit Pass to try out Cordell Racing’s simulation on the show floor. Before driving, attendees checked in with the three sponsoring vendors—Sony, Sirius XM and DOW Electronics. The fastest lap time won two tickets to any NASCAR race in the country, as well as a NASCAR driving experience. The first place winner also received a Sony 9500. The second place

winner was given a 6000, and the third place winner, a 3000. Additionally, Sirius XM offered tool bags and tuners to go along with the products, as well as a gift card, while DOW provided Sony amplifiers and speakers to go along with the other prizes. Winners were announced by Chris Cook, president of Mobile Electronics Association, at the Sony booth on the show floor on Sunday afternoon.

22 Mobile Electronics July 2023


Business and Avoid Burnout:


Kimberly Trainer, owner and the leading business mind behind Car-Tunes, Inc. in Greenville, Miss., knows a thing or two about burnout. (Editor’s Note: For more on this topic, read the June 2023 What’s Happening piece entitled “Keeping an Open Mind.”)

Trainer has been in the mobile electronics industry for over 22 years, and most recently, she’s been dealing with the same struggles many businesses face: fewer staff and longer hours. For her, she said, the key to addressing burnout is investing in improving efficiency. “One way I avoid burnout is by investing in anything that will save time and make things more efficient,” she explained. “Tools, software and services make everything more enjoyable and show your staff that you care about making their job easier and more productive.”

Trainer gives every employee their own iPad. This causes a sense of ownership, as they’re personally responsible for their equipment, and, she noted, not one has been lost to date. “The iPads are bookmarked with appropriate destinations for installation information, manufacture tech chats/help lines, wire diagram apps, and ProDemand, Trainer says. “This eliminates wasted time scrolling and getting distracted on a personal cell phone for information that may not be accurate.”

The same technology is also used for digital vehicle check-ins, which keeps all the data together and easy to access. These iPads also streamline the ability to share in-progress photos with the client.

Additionally, POS software has also been a huge lifesaver, she added. “We have created modifiers [on the iPads] for each installation procedure that include any


and all items that could be necessary for that particular procedure to be completed. It’s just tap, tap and choose which items are needed to create the estimate. This is a huge time saver.”

Trainer advised businesses to invest in interactive displays for the sales floor, which puts all the information right in front of the customer—especially in a way that’s easy for them to understand. “This allows for a quicker yet complete professional presentation for each and every customer and when they receive a personal demonstration that surrounds them with a concert-quality sound experience—most customers have probably never heard anything close to that—emotion takes over and it so much easier to seal the deal.”

But everyone needs downtime, too. Trainer also prioritizes ensuring that team members can catch on the day-to-day

work, like creating estimates, extra cleaning, project sketches and more. This also helps keep employees happy, as their days are more balanced, and they enjoy their time at work more.

Further cushioning efficiency with a consideration for downtime, Trainer no longer schedules installation appointments on Saturday unless absolutely necessary. “This ensures quality time for everyone on the sales floor and assures closing on time for a well-deserved weekend,” she added. Ultimately, it’s all about a healthy balance.

“Delegating tasks lets others know they are part of a team that counts on them. This makes everyone feel included and valuable to the business. Passion is easy,” she said, adding, “I have always had a list for the next project or improvement to keep everyone looking forward to our continual growth.”

 retail news 24 Mobile Electronics July 2023
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In sunny Florida, vendors gathered to showcase the latest solutions at KnowledgeFest Orlando this past May.


Focal presented a new booth design at KnowledgeFest Orlando, where the company also showcased the Focal P60 Speaker and Tweeter Kit, which is compatible with Porsche 911, 2019 and up. The limited-edition kit was designed to celebrate this year’s 60th anniversary of the Porsche 911. It includes two 8-inch speakers, two 4-inch, two beryllium tweeters and one center channel. Additionally, once the equipment is installed, the sleek case—which comes with a set of keys—becomes a piece of carry-on luggage. This case was also designed to fit perfectly in the luggage storage space under the hood of the Porsche.

26 Mobile Electronics  On The Show Floor


This three-in-one Smart Charger can be used as a fully adjustable power supply and a battery maintainer. Two models are available for system maintenance or to do a quick charge—one at 50 amps, and one at 120 amps. This charger will work with any type of battery.


At KnowledgeFest Orlando, AudioControl officially launched three new product lines, including the Space Series—slim subwoofers in 10and 12-inch. Designers focused on keeping the essence of AudioControl



The DSP 600.4D, 150 watts by 4 and 2 ohms, is one of Cicada Audio’s best-selling products, featuring Bluetooth-controlled full DSP. This product can be used as a source on a bike that doesn’t have a radio. It is offered in a compact chassis that can fit in the front fairing of any motorcycle.


Dynamat has updated all of its packaging, and now presents the 18-inch Dynamat Xtreme Squared, which the company said will be much easier for installers to work with due to its size. It is shipped flat to maintain its integrity. It is thin, flexible and easy to cut; offers strong self-adhesive; dissipates heat; improves stereo sound quality; and reduces road noise and vibration.


Pixel Technologies is a manufacturing partner for Sirius XM. The company manufactures rugged antennas for motorcycles, UTV powersports, trucks, RVs, and marine and commercial applications. This marine antenna, good for long-distance and off-shore applications, is Sirius XM-certified. It is a 10-inch mast antenna that comes in black and white. It also comes with a 30-foot attached cable that is waterand erosion-resistant, and it fits on a universal adjustable ratchet mount. Available now.

28 Mobile Electronics July 2023  On The Show Floor


This year, Sundown Audio presented the brandnew SML Series of subwoofers, available in 10- and 12-inch, with dual 2- and dual 4-ohm models. This subwoofer is the shallowest design from Sundown, intended to have deep bass. All of the terminals are on one side. Everything is designed and made by Sundown Audio. Specifically for small, sealed enclosures, these subwoofers would be idea for a truck, or for anyone who wants to conceal their subwoofer.


ZZPLAY—the ZZ-2 CarPlay and Android Auto solution—converts the factory system into a smart device, allowing the driver to use apps on their smartphone with the vehicle’s factory controls. This offers USB A/V playback, front- and rear-view camera input and dynamic parking lines. It also comes with a three-year warranty.


At KnowledgeFest Orlando, RDV Technologies announced new Tesla-style radios and radio upgrades for the Bentley Continental, Infinity Q15 and Q17 and the Maserati GranTurismo. These plug-and-play upgrades all come with a three-year warranty, faster, more responsive processors, digital AC control, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto and camera inputs. The user can also stream video directly from a SIM card if they wish to avoid using a Wi-Fi hotspot.



The Optim8 DSP processor offers eight channels of highlevel input with up to 30 volts, which makes it ideal for integrating into an OEM system, according to the company. It has six channels of RCA input and built-in power, offering 50 watts by six, 150 by two, or 300 by two at 2-ohm. It also has eight channels of preamp output and comes with a controller to manage presets, volume and subwoofer level control. A setup wizard makes it easy to configure, with fully adjustable crossovers for each channel. Most importantly, it offers auto EQ setup: The vehicle can be automatically tuned in just a few minutes using a microphone kit, or an app available for the iPhone 10 and up, eliminating the need for an RTA or any additional equipment. Available now.


MECP recently launched the Security and Convenience Specialist Course and Exam, geared toward industry professionals whose main focus is remote start and security. Additionally, MECP will soon be launching a core-specific Audio Specialist certification. This follows upgrades to the testing platform, which has increased functionality and made it faster.


The Proscenium Line Output Convertor does more than a simple convertor, according to Metra Electronics: It allows the user to manage frequencies and change settings without having to add additional switches. Displayed at KnowledgeFest Orlando were the PR-LOC4.4-PRO and the PR-LOC2.4-PRO. Both offer four channels, 40 volts max input and PRO bass boost.

 On The Show Floor 30 Mobile Electronics July 2023


Along with its popular seatback system, VOXX Electronics also offers single- or dual-monitor systems, both of which can be controlled via VOXX Link. The Universal Seatback System is the evolution of the overhead Smart TV Systems. Consumers may choose whichever product best suits their needs.


At KnowledgeFest Orlando, Andy Wehmeyer of Audiofrog explained the use for a binaural head the company displayed at its booth: “It is primarily used for making audio recordings in which we want to capture the sense of space in the environment where the recording is made, so we can experience it when we listen to it played back over headphones,” he said. “This would be good for people who build SQ systems in their shop and do build logs.”

While people can see the photos, they can’t necessarily listen to the vehicle—unless the creator posts a small video made using their phone. However, Wehmeyer said these videos aren’t adequate. “It doesn’t cap ture anything. But if you put this head in the driver’s seat, you could put on headphones and even hear the imaging in the car.”

While its primary use is making spa tial recordings, the head could be used to sell audio systems, he added, noting that the audio demo could be included on website build log. “This will help car audio people hear what recording spaces sound like.”



The new Nuclear and Plutonium product lines from Ground Zero are like siblings, almost identical, in that they utilize the same magnet structure. The changes will be found in the cone material and the goal of each line. The Nuclear products— good for daily listening, with a smoother response and softer sound—have a Kevlar fleece hybrid weave, according to the company. It’s great for the everyday driver. On the other hand, the Plutonium line offers more detail-oriented sound quality for higher-end builds.


The Mobile ES XAV-9000ES is a smaller version of the 9500ES. The new model offers all the same features: High-resolution, HD screen, full audio resolution and fivevolt preouts with a 6.75-inch screen.


Some of JVC’s new line of marine products are available now, and others are shipping soon. Shown here is a multi-purpose rugged subwoofer that is IPX6 water resistant and features 21-color illumination. It has a peak power of 1,300 watts, 300 watts of RMS power and a mounting depth of 5½ inches. It comes with an RF remote control with 98 feet of range.

32 Mobile Electronics July 2023  On The Show Floor


In the company’s booth at KnowledgeFest Orlando, Pioneer Electronics encouraged attendees to sit in on Friday and Saturday trainings. The trainings took a closer look at the latest Pioneer products. Attendees learned about the latest NEX in-dash receivers, the Pioneer Smart Sync app and the latest dash camera offerings from the company. Class attendees were also automatically entered to win a flagship Pioneer Dash Camera system.


Before heading to KnowledgeFest Orlando, the DOW Social Club toured the J.C. Newman Cigar Company. According to senior vice president Dave Elkin, this marked the fourth Social Club Event, which is held in a different city and with different vendor sponsors each time. This year the event was sponsored by Sony Car Audio, Rockford Fosgate, Alpine and Metra Electronics. Mobile electronics retailers and manufacturers reps gathered to enjoy comradery and cigars.



A full line of Jeep products from DS18 was on display at KnowledgeFest Orlando, including upgrades for factory speakers, sound bars, subwoofer boxes, harnesses and more. The goal? To offer solutions which make it easier for retailers to close sales with Jeep customers.


This Maestro-compatible DSP from Arc Audio features six inputs, eight outputs and 37-band EQs, suitable for both cars and motorcycles. The small size allows for easy installation almost anywhere, while offering full-power output. Instead of being a micro-DSP with limited features, this product has some of the most powerful features available, according to the company.

 On The Show Floor 34 Mobile Electronics July 2023

Representatives from 12V Dashboard answered questions on the show floor at KnowledgeFest Orlando about the company’s offerings. More information is available on the Dashboard every day, and it is continually being updated and streamlined to best serve the needs of retailers everywhere.



At KnowledgeFest Las Vegas this year, Freeman’s Car Stereo of Cornelius, NC was named Retailer of the Year in the MultiStore category. In 1979 when John Freeman first opened the business, he’d already been installing radios and equipment in his garage for friends. Today, the CEO of the company is David Wall, who started out as a technician in 1996, worked for the company for about seven years, left and came back in 2011 as a store manager.

“Then I became a regional manager,” he said, adding that he’s handled just about every aspect of the business at some point in his career.

Recently, he noted, Freeman’s has been setting records when it comes to sales. At one time, the company had as many as 12 locations, and then some were closed. In 2000, Wall said, they saw record-breaking sales. But in 2020 and 2022, that record was broken across all seven stores. While much of its revenue comes from car audio, Freeman’s also has a growing marine audio category, and works with remote start, motorcycle audio, car and truck accessories, window film and home audio.


The company’s longevity can be credited to a willingness to pivot, according to Wall, who said Freeman’s has also been repairing amplifiers and OEM radios since about 1990. The repair center is located about three miles from the company’s main location in Cornelius. At one time, the business had as many as five technicians working solely on repairs. Today, Jason Gibson runs the

department and has been with Freeman’s since 1999.

“We still do repairs for individuals and other dealers all over the country,” Wall added.

He went on to say that positive store culture is a major factor in the company’s steady growth. “I worked under different leaders and I learned the tone is set by leadership.” Wall aims to consider the business from the perspective of being an employee, to always remember how he felt as a technician. “I’ve tried to make

Retailer of the Year
WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA Freeman’s Car Stereo—a multi-store chain based in Cornelius, North Carolina— nurtures an employee-focused business built on a solid foundation.
38 Mobile Electronics July 2023

things better—anything I didn’t like when I worked here before,” he added. “We’ve done a lot to try to center the company around the employees.”

Once a month, Wall leads a sales and management call with front-end staff. During this time, the mission statement is reviewed, which he said includes a focus on positive store culture. Over the years, store hours have been adjusted and team gatherings prioritized. The business used to be open Sundays, Wall said. “We stopped doing that. We were






TYPE: Traditional Retail



60% Car Audio

12% Marine Audio

8% Remote Start

5% Motorcycle Audio

5% Car and Truck Accessories

5% Window Film

5% Home Audio



David Wall


Jason Gibson


Brian Furr


Tim Richards


Robert Palmer


Travis Grimm


Stan Kozlowski


Robert Yates


Joel Matthews


Tim Dela Rosa


Josh Crain


Ronnie Cochran


Chien Phan


Matt Elledge


Lovell Garner


Erin Costello

open until seven at night, and we pulled that back to six.”

The team gets together for Christmas, as well as picnics during warm weather. In 2019, they started taking trips together. “Over 20 of our employees have gone to SEMA, MasterTech Expo or KnowledgeFest,” he added. “We try to make Freeman’s a fun place to work, and we facilitate our employees to better themselves. We focus on fulfillment and work-life balance.”

While the flagship store in Cornelius is the largest location at 15,000 square feet, there are still only three or four technicians in the back at a time. “We have multiple stores with fewer people, and I think this reduces any difficulty in communicating,” he said. When a team is smaller, Wall feels that everyone stays on the same page a lot better.


Wall is the strategic buyer for Freeman’s Car Stereo. With so many years in the business, and such familiarity

40 Mobile Electronics July 2023
Some of the Freeman’s Car Stereo team attended this past year’s Industry Awards at KnowledgeFest Las Vegas, where they were given the Retailer of the Year - Multi-Store award.

with local areas, he said he’s developed a good sense of demographics. As a result, each store is slightly different, and the categories perform differently at each. For example, the Cornelius location is close to Lake Norman, attracting a lot of marine work. The team also handles on-site work at marinas and docks.

The Gastonia location works with wheels, tires, lift kits, full suspension and leather. Also, Wall noted that customers can request window tinting at five of the business’s seven locations. The company

has mobile technicians who handle dealer expeditor work. Wall said the staff’s knowledge of local demographics and markets helps inform his decisions when he sets product mixes. When there are changes in the economy, or the emergence of a new trend, he takes time to carefully observe consumer behavior in each area. He said he’s able to discern whether a trend or an issue is external or internal. “I can look at two stores and see why store A is doing well, but B isn’t,” he explained. “I can draw insights from that comparison.”


The company’s top vendors include Kenwood and JL Audio. During marine audio season, Wall said JL Audio sells best. “We started with them in 1998,” he said. “When I started in 1996, we already had Kenwood. The company enjoys a very positive relationship with both.” Top-selling products include Kenwood head units, such as the DMX-1057, which boasts a higher-definition screen. Wall said he is looking forward to Kenwood’s new motorcycle audio line, as well as new amplifiers from JL Audio that work in both car and marine audio. Freeman’s Car Stereo has also been able to take advantage of in-person trainings: “Sometimes you have multiple dealers get together, but with all of our stores, we have over 30 people at a training. They’ve been kind enough to offer us those trainings.”

The traditional sound room in the Cornelius location makes the store unique, according to Wall, who said customers enjoy the experience.


According to marketing director Erin Costello, Freeman’s Car Stereo uses Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, to help decide whether or not a marketing campaign is working well. “There are a lot of examples that would fit into our definition of a well-performing campaign, but my favorite one is our local SEO (search engine optimization) campaign that started in 2017 and will continue as long as search results are important to driving business,” she explained, adding that initial goals included getting the company to rank number one on Google in as many keywords as possible.

“There are many factors that go into optimizing local SEO, such as creating relevant website content that matches valuable keywords, optimizing business listings and building a website with a great user experience,” Costello said. “We approached this campaign using all of the keywords relevant to us. But we started with the task of trying to increase our five-star Google reviews because we saw the most opportunity there.”

The plan, she noted, was to start emailing surveys to customers. “We asked about their experience and asked them to leave a review. First, we had to collect email addresses from every customer in order to make that happen which we did by incentivizing our employees.”

The surveys, she said, had the added impact of helping to identify and often resolve any issues, which improved customer experience and retention. “By gathering more email addresses, we were able to boost our email marketing campaigns. What started as a way to boost local SEO snowballed into a full scale and holistic customer retention and marketing campaign.”

After starting with a small handful of Google reviews, the company now has over 2,000 companywide. “Our average today with seven stores is 4.7,” Costello said, adding, “In many ways, we surpassed the goal considering how many other marketing and customer service benefits sprang from it.”

The Cornelius store is in a very affluent area, according to Wall, who said these customers tend to prefer faster and more efficient processing. As a result, Freeman’s has become proficient at doing business through email, offering text communication and text-to-pay services. Clients are able to drop off in the morning and pick up keys afterhours via key lockers. “Some of our business is totally sight unseen,” Wall said. “We talk via email, send a link to our products and sometimes we’ll close the deal without ever having met the customer.”

In the past, Freeman’s focused on bringing the customer into the store, but now, Wall feels things are changing. “If you don’t give them the information they ask for, they will find it somewhere else,” he said, adding that affluent customers may find in-store shopping something of a hassle. “If they can handle it all via email, it makes doing business easier.”

42 Mobile Electronics July 2023 Retailer of the Year


Clients are qualified the same way via email as they would be in person, according to Wall, who said the staff will often request photos if they have questions about the vehicle. “We’ve gotten pretty good at handling those interactions,” he said, noting that very specific questions are asked when it comes to sound and tuning preferences.

While it may seem unusual, Wall said, Freeman’s Car Stereo sells a lot of mid- to higher-end systems remotely. “We’ll set it up based on what they’re hoping to accomplish, or what type of music they listen to,” he explained. “A lot of times, they’ll take delivery. If they have questions or need something tweaked, they may stop back in, but we have a pretty good success rate.”

By making processes easier and more streamlined, clients are traveling from

44 Mobile Electronics July 2023 Retailer of the Year
Despite having such a large space at the flagship store in Cornelius, the shop employs only three or four technicians in the back at a time. Communication is streamlined and everyone is able to stay on the same page much easier.

farther and farther away to have work completed. Freeman’s seven locations range from a 30- to a 90-minute drive from each other, according to Wall, who added that some customers have brought cars from over 500 miles away. “We regularly have customers travel over two hours,” he said. “We do quite a few boats from the North and South Carolina coasts, too.”

For businesses that might be interested in doing more via email and text, Wall advised being thorough in both questions and answers: “I think if we stumbled at all before, it’s because we were too brief. No one wants to read a dissertation in an email, but you have to have a process that you follow.”

In the past, he added, the company made the mistake of not answering customers’ questions, which Wall feels is the result of fears—such as the fear of being undersold by a competitor.

“You can’t live by that fear anymore. Someone else will give them the information if you don’t. Times have changed. The more transparent we can be, the better.


In the past, Freeman’s Car Stereo designed marketing campaigns around events such as Valentine’s Day or Back to School.

“For us, they just didn’t get much traction,” said Erin Costello, adding that the company aimed to create fresh promotions that would keep them top-of-mind.

“We wanted to identify key products to promote and integrate them into the artwork— usually social media posts, display ads, email marketing and website graphics,” she said. “We never printed POP for these more minor campaigns.”

The campaigns, she added, wound up being mediocre at best.

“They failed in that they were not exciting enough to drive business to the stores or online the same way the bigger sales did.”

The staff then chose to focus on the more successful campaigns.

“The value of the offers, change of products on sale and promos proved to be more compelling to our customers than very frequent sale themes,” she said. “I also think the focus on categories, like ‘Amp and Sub Sale’ or ‘Marine Bundle Sale,’ for example, has been more powerful because it gives the customer focus and direction which streamlines their decision-making process.”



We have more educated consumers than ever before,” he said, adding, “This also builds confidence in our services.”

While he considers increased sales an accomplishment, Wall said he feels it’s a byproduct of customer care and employee morale. While attending MasterTech Expo in Mesa, Ariz. this past year, he overheard a Freeman’s Car Stereo employee complimenting the business:

“He’s been with us since 1993, and he said this is the best it’s ever been. That really touched me,” he said, adding, “He

didn’t know I could hear him. I send out employee surveys, but they might not want to say what’s on their mind. When you hear an unsolicited endorsement, it makes you feel good.”

If a business creates the right environment, he said, “You’ll attract better employees.” Wall advised ensuring the fundamentals are in place before anything else: “If you just focus on revenue, you might miss the mark. But if you focus on the foundation, everything else will fall into place.”

Once a month, Wall said, he shares with the staff what the business’s Google reviews look like by location. “We started doing this maybe five years ago. We were in poor shape there, so we started working on a strategy to get our Google reviews up. It ended up creating some accountability. When we’re dealing with customers, we think about more purposefully,” he explained. “It shapes our behavior and helps us offer a better experience.”

Surveys sent to clients always ask if there’s something that can be improved upon, or something the client is unsatisfied with. “We’re being proactive, and they are more likely to let us fix it instead of just not coming back.”

Freeman’s focused on having quality reviews—not just a higher quantity. “It shaped our whole customer retention plan.” Additionally, Wall said, every car gets a mirror hanger which features his direct contact information.

“The technician hangs that up and knows the client can reach me,” he said, adding, “Our staff has good intentions, but all these things make us more intentional in our actions. We think things through more when we know there’s accountability.”

46 Mobile Electronics July 2023 Retailer of the Year
CEO David Wall feels that smaller staffs at each store help to keep everyone on the same page. Pictured, left to right: Jason Gibson, Brian Furr, Tim Richards, Robert Palmer, Travis Grimm, Stan Kozlowski, Robert Yates, Joel Matthews, Tim Dela Rosa, Josh Crain, Ronnie Cochran, Chien Phan, Matt Elledge and David Wall. Not pictured: Lovell Garner and Erin Costello.

Rising to the challenges of a new role and part ownership of Lucas Lighting is how Steve Rogers plans to close out his nearly 40-year career.


At the end of 2021, Steve Rogers had a big decision to make—a pinnacle career move. After 36 years in the car audio industry, working in retail sales; in the install bay; as a rep; and in many other positions, he was faced with the opportunity to lead a company’s national sales team. He noted that he keeps himself open to all possibilities.

“Sometimes to my detriment—but in general, my answer to most things in life is yes,” he said, adding, “If you don’t open yourself up to the unexpected, and listen to people who know more about a subject than you do, then you will limit yourself whether it’s in your personal or professional life. Nothing great ever happened to me from saying no.”

 Learning From Leaders
48 Mobile Electronics July 2023

Doing Something Meaningful

Rogers was introduced in December of 2020 to Mike Hong, who had a retail store called Audio Design in Silicon Valley. Hong expressed frustration at not being able to find a quality lighting product line for his business, and he had to abandon the category even though customers regularly requested it.

Hong had also said that his mother, who lived with him, got a ticket for driving too slowly on the interstate. She told him she’d been driving slower because she couldn’t see very well in the dark. Hong decided to use his engineering and 12-volt background to find a better lighting solution, so he studied bulbs, housings, LED technology and more. After creating some designs, he sought a manufacturing partner and began selling the product in his store.

When other dealers heard about the bulbs, they expressed interest in buying and selling them in their own stores. At first, the bulbs were branded Audio Design. But in 2020, Lucas Lighting— named for Hong’s son—was founded.

The company launched just before COVID-19 caused worldwide shutdowns. As a result, the lineup was only shown once, at KnowledgeFest Long Beach, before travel stopped.

Hong knew the company had great potential, but he needed someone to handle national sales. He offered the position to Rogers, who said, “I’d never been a national sales manager, but after some deliberation, I said yes.”

He noted he’d reached a pivotal point in his career: “I would probably only do one more gig, so it was a critical decision,” he said, adding, “I wanted to do something

meaningful, to help create something. I wanted to take all of the things I’d learned about the right ways and the wrong ways to do business, and put it all together.” While he had to take a crash course in lighting technology, Rogers said he’d always been technically inclined.

As a kid, he was curious about how things worked. He took things apart and tried to put them back together again, he said, adding, “Much to the dismay of my parents.”

He recalled saving up to purchase his first set of home speakers. “Because of my nature, I started tinkering with those and picked up a book at the library on crossovers and learned how they worked. Then, I built my own.”

His interest led him to try things in his first car, a Ford Fairlane Futura. “I did so much on my own car that I eventually

After reaching a pivotal point in his career, Steve Rogers accepted a position as national sales manager with Lucas Lighting.

49 The Answer is Always Yes

Learning From Leaders

got better at it and did some work for my friends. The local stereo shop took an interest, saw what I was doing, and asked if I wanted a job. I said yes.”

When the opportunity came to join Lucas Lighting, he said it was perfect timing. Three months into the relationship, he was offered the opportunity to invest and become a partner. “And again, I said yes.”

Always Invest in the Right Tools

When he was first starting out and he moved into sales from the installation

side, he felt he had limited success. “I wasn’t very skilled in those early years so most of the success I had was simply because I was passionate, and I could get other people excited,” he said. “But I had no idea what the structure of a sale was.”

Rogers said he had no training in how to ask qualifying questions or how to overcome objections. “It made me realize that what you need to be successful in any career is the right tools,” he explained. “You need to fill your ‘belt’ with tools and the right skills, so that when a job needs to be done, you can

just reach into the belt and handle it.”

This is something Rogers said he had to work on over the years—adding tools to the belt. “I was fortunate that, at some point, someone took an interest in me.”

He went to work for Audio King in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where manager Dave Sindt hired Rogers as a salesperson and became a supportive mentor.

Of working as a salesperson, he said, “I’ve met people who are naturally charming, but being a professional salesperson is much more than that. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s a learned skill.”

52 Mobile Electronics July 2023
Rogers said the company’s message to dealers is simple: Factory headlights are often inadequate. Businesses should have success selling lighting if they simply ask customers, “Do you want to see better while driving at night?”

The only way to offer service to a customer, he said, is to understand the customer’s lifestyle and what will improve their life. “That is where the value is,” he said, “and that is how you earn a customer’s respect and loyalty, by improving their life.”

It’s impossible to learn this, he added, if the salesperson is the only one doing the talking. “Until you learn to listen, you won’t master sales. If you’re talking at a customer 80 or 90 percent of the time, then you are not having a discussion— you are giving a lecture.”

Offer Quality Support and Training

At KnowledgeFest, Rogers said company reps typically ask attendees if they sell lighting. “We ask everyone and we usually get one of three answers. The first: ‘I tried. It was a nightmare and I don’t do it anymore.’” This, he said, was Mike Hong’s situation: It was the right idea, but the first products Audio Design tried to sell didn’t meet customers’ expectations, so Hong designed his own. Rogers said they’ve managed to bring a number of

retailers back into the lighting category.

The second comment the team often hears, according to Rogers, is this: “I don’t know anything about it or why I would want to sell it.” Using this as an entry-point, Lucas Lighting can help retailers get into the category through training and support.

The third comment: “‘I love lighting. I make good money, and my customers thank me for putting it in their vehicles.’ This is what we want everyone to say,” Rogers said, adding, “and it’s why we get up every day.”

It’s no secret that electronics dealers today sell much more than they did in the past. “Embracing new categories is key to survival,” Rogers explained. “Our message to our dealers is simple: We know the headlights are inadequate and people can’t see well at night. Look at the cars coming into your shop for other jobs, and ask the customer, ‘Do you want to see better at night?’” From this inquiry, he said, businesses will have success.

In November of last year, Lucas Lighting entered into a joint agreement

with Lucas Automotive, the longest continuously operating automotive manufacturer in the world. The similarity of their names? Mere coincidence, according to Rogers.

“We went for our first in-person meeting with them at Automechanika Dubai,” Rogers said. “We recently had a group meeting in Madrid. We will expand our business through the rest of North America this year and into other markets worldwide toward year’s end.” The two companies spent nearly a year and a half discussing possibilities for working together both in the U.S. and abroad.

With such a big shift on the horizon, Lucas Lighting is undergoing a branding change to unify its logo and marketing message with other Lucas Automotive markets.

“We don’t want to confuse customers, but it is necessary and will be of great help as we work with them to grow the name in the U.S.,” he noted, adding, “I want to make Lucas the most respected brand in the category, and make sure it remains a premium product.”

53 The Answer is Always Yes


Learn how strategic showroom design can draw in more customers, increase efficiency and close sales faster.

At KnowledgeFest Las Vegas, attendees enjoyed a first-time presentation by Kimberly Trainer of Car-Tunes, Inc. in Greenville, Miss., together with Jody Culbertson of 5 Axis Innovations, based in Waukesha, Wis. [Editor’s Note: Read more in the Learning From Leaders column in last month’s issue.] The two shared tips and strategies for improving the look, feel and atmosphere of any showroom.

Trainer, who has been in the industry for over 20 years, said it helps to think of potential customers as houseguests: “When you’re getting ready for a party, you’ll go around and clean the house. That’s how I approach the showroom.

Make everything look nice and presentable,” she said. “You have visitors every day. We want them to have the best experience. We want them to be comfortable. Picture your showroom. What kind of emotion do you want people to feel when they come in? You want them to have a positive experience.”


After observing that many attendees were doing triple-duty as business owners, salespeople and technicians, Trainer pointed out that showroom improvements would “do a lot of the work

and save you a lot of time.” The goal, she noted, is to use the showroom to close sales faster. “I like to start with the basics. We’re thinking of our own businesses, but one of the coolest things about being here together is sharing what each of us has tried. There might be things we’ve never thought of before. When you talk to someone about how they use that space, you really learn a lot.” Some business owners may feel they don’t have enough space to work with, but Trainer said there are plenty of creative solutions for showrooms of various sizes.

She challenged attendees to consider the senses upon re-entering their stores.

 strategy & tactics 54 Mobile Electronics July 2023

She noted that it’s important to reduce clutter. A messy counter, for example, might send a message to a potential client that the shop’s technicians might also leave a mess in their car. “What does your store smell like? Is it clean? Do you take the garbage out regularly?” An easy and inexpensive way to ensure a fresh scent, she added, is to use Glade plug-ins. “We have an arsenal of Febreze odor-eliminating spray under the counter.”

Additionally, whenever products are switched out from the sound board, Trainer said something has to replace it immediately—whether it’s another product or an attractive placeholder to conceal the hole. Trainer noted that, often, vendors will supply these covers for free. “If you have wires showing somewhere, the customer will expect them to show in their car,” she said. “They’ll start looking for things that might be wrong.”

She also advised retailers to hide any extension cords, which can be an easy thing to forget. While keeping electrical cords neat and tidy also relates to fire safety, Trainer noted, “You don’t want customers tripping on things, either, adding to that potential for liability. They’re also ugly and you shouldn’t have to see them.” If anything is dirty or dusty, she said, “Clean it up. It doesn’t take much effort.”

Also, modern lighting can completely change the atmosphere of the showroom,

“making everything look different, fresh and clean.” The right lighting, she added, can make visitors cheerful and happy. “We updated and added lighting around our displays. It will bring more attention to that product,” she explained. “It’s like subliminally showing customers what they need to look at. This will close sales quicker.”

Trainer also said the store shouldn’t be silent, but the music shouldn’t be overpowering, either. “If it’s silent, they might want to leave and won’t give you an opportunity to go through your presentation,” she added. “On the other hand, it could be just as bad if you play something that might be offensive to people.” To find “the sweet spot,” Trainer said Car-Tunes uses instrumentals from popular songs on Spotify. “We play music that has no words.” Modern music, she noted, might have curse words: “That might be okay for some customers, but others will walk out the door.”

The first impression is important: “You only get one chance. What’s their view from the door? What can they see? How can you entice them to follow that path so they get the best exposure of everything you have?” she asked. “It might not be what they thought they came in for, but they might become interested.”

Culbertson recalled a recent visit to Game Stop with his nine-year-old.

Because of the layout of the store and its clean appearance, he said they found what they wanted and were finished shopping in 15 minutes.


Trainer and Culbertson went on to stress that the showroom provides an intimate and personalized shopping experience. “We want people to feel special,” Trainer said. “Encourage interaction and make that personal connection. Do you have interactive displays?” She explained there’s a lot that can be done to improve upon displays a business has already invested in.

“You should have props in your store. Yesterday, Dalton [Trainer] and [Chris] McNulty talked about fabrication. What if you took one of those beautiful acrylic adapters we keep in the install bay and had it in the showroom? People can see it and touch it. It shows off that beautiful design. They’ll ask, ‘What is this?’ It’s a perfect opening to talk about the customized things you can do. You’re showing them something they’ve probably never seen before.”

Radar detectors are also sold at CarTunes, where a radar gun makes for a good prop to encourage discussion. “This is something you can have in your store that more than likely people have never seen,” she said. “You can get one for about $129 and give them a quick demonstration. Now they’ll think about that demonstration every time they see a cop car.”

Culbertson recommended sound dampening displays—a product that’s often difficult to explain, but once a customer sees it and touches it, they begin to understand. Interacting with the product will lead to customers seeing the value in it and requesting it for themselves.

“Sound dampening is our number one display,” Culbertson said. “Whatever display you buy, you’ll pay it off in a month just on the volume you get back. Our challenge is giving a consistent demo because everyone has their own way of doing it. This way, the customer gets the same demo every time they hit a button.”

Showroom Refresher 55


Culbertson asked attendees to consider the number one brand in their store. After a pause, he said, “It’s your brand. That’s what matters. There is a lot of credibility in the brands you carry, but at the end of the day, the only brand that matters is yours.”

Trainer agreed, noting that the CarTunes logo is everywhere in their store: “We sell great brands, and they’re all different, so you want to bring them under your brand.”

Many businesses, she noted, have stopped using business cards. “I like to give them something they can put in their hand and take with them,” she said. “It should have your picture on it. When you’ve given them a card with your face on it, it will help them remember you. We take a photo of every person on our staff and put them

on a card and we hand them to our customers.”

When it comes to logos, images should always be high-resolution. “If there’s a log you have that you’d like to tweak, or that’s too low-resolution, [you might spend between] $150 to $300. It won’t cost you thousands. It gives you accessibility when you’re creating ads or t-shirts, so the images are all ready to go,” Culbertson explained, adding that he’s seen low-resolution, blurry logos that are simply too hard to read.

Trainer noted that perhaps having a blurry logo is worse than having none at all: “People notice those details,” she said.

Trainer and Culbertson both reminded attendees to talk to their manufacturer reps for assistance. “If you go to your vendor and say you want to sell more of their product, they will say, ‘This sounds fantastic!’ They’ll help you

find a way to pay for that new display. This is where a good relationship with a manufacturer’s rep will come in handy because it’s a win for everyone.”

Culbertson noted he’s heard from retailers who say a fresh, new display makes them more professional. “You’re showing them exactly what that product can do,” he said. “You can talk for 20 minutes and they may not understand it. But with an interactive display, they’ll get it in 10 seconds.”

When designing the showroom, Trainer said, think about creating a desire for customers to want what’s being sold. “The stronger the desire, the quicker it’ll sell and the more they’ll spend. When we play music, you can see the emotion come over them. People start dancing and smiling,” she said, adding, “Create an atmosphere—a mood that will make that person want to purchase.”

 strategy & tactics 56 Mobile Electronics July 2023
Showroom Refresher
After the showroom design presentation at KnowledgeFest, Kimberly Trainer went back to her store and decided to take some of her own suggestions. She worked with Jody Culbertson on brand-new graphic designs for Car-Tunes, Inc.’s RaceSport Lighting display, along with a subwoofer display—shown here—featuring the store’s logo in each pedestal.


Bright lights, a sleek starlight headliner and a full SQ build easily drew attention to this 2018 VW Passat Wagon at KnowledgeFest Orlando.

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This 2018 VW Passat Wagon features both SounDigital and Ground Zero products, and was on display in the HKI booth at KnowledgeFest Orlando May 19-21. It features a Ground Zero DSP 4-8XII audio processor; two GZ Radioactive 25SQ tweeters; two midrange GZ Radioactive 80SQs; a SounDigital 800.4 EVOX2 amplifier; and a 2400.4 EVOX2 amplifier. It also has two midbass GZ Radioactive 165SQs, and two GZ Radioactive 250-D2 FLAT subwoofers. Sound deadening GZDM DOORKIT PRO was installed in the front door, and GZDM 3750AB-SILVER in the trunk.

“I had this car for a while, and audio was the only thing I hadn’t messed with,” said David Phillips of The Sound Shop in Indian Trail, NC. “HKI was looking for someone to display something in the booth, and they reached out. We also built the Honda they had in their booth last year.”

Other than the audio build, Phillips said the VW features air ride, 20-inch European BBS wheels and mirror-tinted purple windows. “The seats also have purple stitching, and it has a starlight headliner. We did a lot of lighting,” he said, adding, “I like lights.”

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Back to Basics

Yes, I know you have heard it before and will continue to hear it until it sinks in. Many businesses are built on the idea that passion will propel you forward regardless of your plan or lack thereof. While a passion for what you do is essential, it is rarely enough to establish a successful business. To achieve success, you must first define what success will look like when you get there. Many of us look at others’ success and try to build towards that end. However, a true foundation for your business should be a product of your creation, not a copy of someone else’s success.

The basics are important, so let’s define them:


You must define the guiding principles that will drive your business. These include your vision, mission statement and goals Are they still relevant? This is where you define what success looks like. Does your business measure up to what you defined? If not, take the time and make the corrections. Then make sure to communicate them to your team.


Without your team there is little you can do to succeed. If you attempt to do it all you will never grow beyond your own abilities. Hire the right people. Those that share your vision and are willing to contribute to greater success than you can achieve on your own. Take good care of them. Your people are your business’s greatest asset.


How you do what you do. Policies, procedures, position titles and responsibilities and so on. Properly defining these will provide a solid reference when situations arrive that require a decision. Operational guidelines should be written and shared amongst your team. When proper expectations are set, your business will run smoother.


You must have income! What products and services are you selling and how much will your business make when they are sold? Define a product mix that is in line with your goals. Make sure your services are properly valued and priced as such. Leave your emotions at the door and look for brands that are in line with your business needs. Review your market and set your pricing accordingly.


Get the word out! You may be the best in your market, but that is not enough. To get people calling, emailing, and visiting your business requires great effort. Your participation in local events, charities and community groups should be a priority. Getting known in your market will go a long way to building your business.

There are also many marketing avenues available. These include having a professional website, email marketing services and social media.


Learning should be part of your strategy. Attend local vendor training when available. Attend KnowledgeFest and other relevant trade events. Call other business owners for ideas that you could implement. Join and participate with industry associations that are focused on your business.


Make time to research new technologies and business processes that could benefit your business. Look outside the box. Read business publications outside of our industry. Should you find a great idea, try it in your own business and see if it produces a better result than your current procedure.


Measure your progress. Build a dashboard that provides insightful information. Any system will work. A whiteboard, daily notebook, spreadsheet, or software that allows you to measure and compare results. When you define your vision, mission, and goals, you set in motion what you define as success for your business. Is your goal to become a million-dollar a year business? Then define what it will take to get there and track your progress along the way. You should always be able to provide an answer to this question: Am I on track with my goals? If you know the answer you are positioned to succeed.


Providing it will make or break your business. Your strategy should be focused on being competitive in your market to become the market leader. Challenge your team to be the best they can be and leaders in their areas of responsibility. If you are challenged to lead, then take an educational leadership course such as Dale Carnegie. Your leadership is critical to your success and should be taken seriously. Listen to your team members by having regular meetings. Be a decision maker and direction setter. Your drive and passion will be infectious, causing those around you to be motivated to succeed as well.

Now that you have a better idea of some key business fundamentals, you can look at your situation to determine if you should tear down and rebuild some processes. Many procedures tend to evolve out of the need to fulfill a desire or demand. You may also find that you are doing things right and can share your success stories with others. Regardless of the outcome, as a business owner it is always good to set aside time to review your business. You will be glad you did!

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While a passion for what you do can be essential, it is rarely enough to establish a successful business.”
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