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October Issue Feature: The Big Job

10-19-2016, Mobile Electronics -- You're an independent retailer. Your staff of three operates a small but profitable shop in your middle-class community. The work is good but so far there've been no jobs that have overwhelmed you or taken your attention away from your regular duties of installing speakers, decks, amps and the like. That is, until now.

Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, know that you aren't the only one to deal with it. Rob Paterson, co-owner of 2016 Top 50 Retailer, Sound Auto, in Hamilton, N.J. experienced it first-hand when a client brought in his RV in the hopes of adding a few extra bells and whistles to spice up his weekend joy ride. Several visits and thousands of dollars later, the job was done and the small, three-man operation had won over the client, created a memorable build and managed to balance the massive, two-year job with the rest of their workload. That begs the question: How did they do it? The answer: Very carefully.

Randy Lumia had the idea of getting a few upgrades done on his 28-foot RV. The client arrived on a Saturday and asked about technology, amenities and items that could give him bragging rights during fishing and camping trips with friends, effectively creating a "Man Cave On Wheels."

"We have 14-foot-high bay doors as part of a 3,000 square foot facility. 90 percent of it is bay space; we had 12 cars in here at one point," Paterson said. "Without the ability to have this thing inside, I never would have taken this job."

The sales staff discussed a variety of upgrade options while Lumia stressed the importance of leaving room for future upgrades as the budget would allow. After about an hour or so, he drove off and the salesman was left to contemplate possibilities for the camper. A couple weeks went by before the customer's return. During that time, he had the A/C unit replaced, a new generator installed, found an interior person and ordered all of the materials, installed new wheels, tires and brakes. From that point on, it was clear to Paterson and his two-man crew that this would be a serious project.

"You've got to step back and get the larger idea. With a large job like this, if it's not done in 20 baby steps, you've got a hot mess," Paterson said. "You've got 20 lines going to the battery. But if you plan it at the offset, you can plan a power distribution set up. Plan four steps ahead. Get an accurate idea of what the scope is."

Although the practice of properly planning for a big job is something Paterson is accustomed to, the same can't be said of all retailers, who face different issues as large projects come in.

The Start of Something Big

With over 33 years of experience working for companies like Alpine Electronics, VOXX Electronics and now, president and chief technology evangelist of American Road Products, Steve Witt brings a plethora of information with him on all aspects of mobile electronics. But since his current company sells safety products like backup sensors and collision avoidance products, which are installed by a partner company he works with called Premiere Services, Witt is well-versed on what it takes for retailers to handle large-scale projects like fleet builds and large vehicle installs.

"To find and prepare for a big job, whether it be a single vehicle or fleet of vehicles, there are multiple steps a retailer should follow. First, plan the scope of work with your team. That includes getting the complete custom requirements on paper, assigning tasks to the most appropriate employee based on knowhow and creating a task management timeline. That can be something as simple as a whiteboard in the install bay. It doesn't have to be a big document with charts," Witt said. "Then, brief the customer with that plan because what will happen is once you regurgitate to the customer additional needs, requirements or wants could come out that could increase the sale."

As it turns out, that's just what happened to Paterson, albeit in a more scattered timeline. The build took place in several stages, which were planned one step at a time, considering neither the shop nor the customer knew there would be more than one stage. The first stage of the build consisted of upgrading the windows and door locks from manual to electric. The team also added a radar detector, alarm, remote start, a Morel GPS, a JL Audio XD three-channel amplifier and Pinnacle Baby Boomer subwoofer (which pulled double duty for both the front end and lounge areas). The bunk area was equipped with two 32-inch TVs on swing-out arms, an Onkyo eight-channel receiver, Blu-ray player, sound bar and surround speakers. A 19-inch TV and speakers were installed in the rear bedroom to round out the entertainment center aspect of the build.

Getting the customer to sign off on the plan was easy for Paterson given his extensive experience, customer rapport, and the customer having done his research online prior to seeking Paterson out. Once the first phase was complete, the customer was billed on that work and the job was seemingly done—or so they thought.

Read the rest of the feature HERE.

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