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Mobile Electronics August Issue, 8-2-2016 -- With inevitable constant change in the automotive sound industry, retailers must always explore creative new ways of keeping their businesses prosperous. Author Johnny Rich said, “The future is certain. It is just not known.” As new ways of meeting goals are examined, retailers shape their own futures. One way of doing this is via co-branding, which offers an option for financial security, among other benefits.

Steve Beagelman of SMB Franchise Advisors has over 25 years of experience in the franchise industry. He is a Certified Franchise Executive and has worked with brands such as Rita’s Water Ice, Hollywood Tans and Saladworks. “You have to choose a partner who’s willing to be somewhat flexible,” he stated in regards to selecting a company to co-brand with. “If your brand is too strict and rigid, it’s hard to make a co-brand situation work. You need what I call two willing partners to work together.” Recently, one notable company within 12-volt has chosen to co-brand with franchising brand, Tint World. Such a decision can be a difficult one, and depends on whether such a relationship would be fruitful for both parties. What are the benefits—are there any downsides?

A Changing Market

At SEMA in 2008, Auto Sound Specialists of Union City, Calif. learned about Tint World, but at the time, things didn’t work out. “We realized it would be a nice fit, but it wasn’t the time for us,” said Kenny McCardie, owner of Auto Sound. “Their infrastructure we didn’t think could support us being in Northern California. Even at that point, we identified that the basic idea definitely fits what we do here. We kept an eye on them from 2008 until present. A few years ago they opened in Northern California. That's when we realized it was time to reconsider.”

McCardie acknowledged that everyone is struggling. Co-branding can be a good solution depending on a company’s needs. “A lot of times as independent owners, we think ‘it's my way,’ and are reluctant and almost afraid of change,” McCardie said. “But we're living in a changing world and economy. We need to make the adjustments.”

With co-branding can come a whole host of benefits including financial stability, improved marketing and technical support. Beagelman of SMB Franchise Advisors added, “It is certainly very synergistic—you already have a staff, already have customers coming in, why not offer an additional product line?”

McCardie pointed out the car audio electronics industry has been shrinking. “Instead of being afraid of the change, working with other organizations will help us grow. So many doors will open because we have the help of a larger company,” he said, pointing out more of the benefits. “As a small business, there's only so much we can do.”

According to Anthony Foley, the Franchise Development Director at Tint World, they’ve developed solutions for marketing and IT support, and also help franchisees understand business management. Tint World has been open since 1982 and the corporate office is located in Boca Raton, Fla. “Every individual business is different,” he said. “Every owner has a unique spin on how they want to enter the business and get customers. We understand that. We all have a unique perspective on how businesses need to run. We know what business owners are looking for. We know what makes their businesses operate in a fluid fashion. We've been in their shoes.”

Tint World aims to make business more automated for the franchisee and places special focus on the core profit, according to Foley.

“How do we help them drive more revenue more efficiently?” Foley said. “How do we help them drive more business? Cover conversions, key performance indicators—that gives us a good barometer on where business is and where we need to go. Where are you now and where do you hope to be?” This is an important question business owners must ask daily, and the answer is subject to change as the business evolves. Each retailer chooses the best ways to further their own goals. For some retailers, such as Auto Sound Specialists, co-branding can be a good solution. For others, remaining independent might be the better choice—this all depends on individual needs and aspirations for the future.

Read the rest of the story HERE. 

11-9-2016, Mobile Electronics -- The spring and back-to-school seasons present car audio retailers with prime times for promotions, but savvy business owners know that generating business is easiest when you have ways to attract customers any time of the year.

Sound-offs, Show & Shine events, Glow-Offs, and Cruise-Ins are just some of the many ways that retailers can build a place in the community and keep folks engaged in the 12-volt world.

Some retailers are also finding that working with a charitable organization to donate a portion of proceeds can add another level to an event and build a place for their company in the local or regional area.

Earlier this year, GNC Customs of Goshen, Ind., hosted their 12th annual Mid-Summer Mayhem. The family event, held every August on a Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., included a bounce house, games for children, and a hot dog eating contest. It featured an SPL competition and 2x points IASCA SQ event. There were over 100 competitors, over 100 door prizes, and 50 trophies. More than 350 people came out for the annual show.

It was also the first year that the retailer chose to donate proceeds to a charity, The Center for Healing & Hope, which provides affordable healthcare to the uninsured.

But it started out much smaller. “How it came to be is really funny,” said Josh Mojica, general manager of GNC Customs, who owns the store with his two brothers, Jeremiah and Jared. “Back in 2002, when we established the business, the tuner scene was growing after the whole Fast & Furious movement. My brothers and I were drawn to that and we started a cruise night in the parking lot every Thursday night.”

The cruise nights started after hours. “We closed at 6 p.m. and started the cruise-in at 7 so that at a certain point, the cars could turn on their lights,” said Mojica.

After successfully hosting those events for a year, it was time to take things to the next level. “We wanted to do something a bit more special,” Mojica said. “We wanted to add in a cookout and make it an appreciation-type event even, although we had been in business for some time already."

The plan was for a modest event with 20 to 30 cars. “But one of our regular attendees at the cruise-ins thought we were having a full-blown car show,” said Mojica. “So word started to spread. Soon a local radio station began mentioning it. At the same time there was a local Spanish radio station that was growing, and this guy got them to mention it, too—that we were doing this car show. Well, at that point, we figured we needed to do something more than a cookout—we actually needed to a do a car show. We put together some gift certificates, did some judging, and gave out awards. That turned into what has now become Mid-Summer Mayhem.” 

By the third year, GNC added trophies. The event was growing, but so were the expenses with everything being funded by the store. “We were giving out trophies, we were still doing food, and still drawing about 30 to 40 cars,” said Mojica. “But the show was getting bigger. We began looking to other businesses to help support the trophies and for door prizes. With a larger event, we needed to offset some of the costs to us.”  

Motivated For More

Fast forward to what the event has evolved into today and Mojica credits Knowledgefest for the motivation. “Going to Knowledgefest for the first time changed our business,” he said. “It opened our eyes to what other people were doing. We started implementing more and making our vendor relationships stronger. We started leaning on our vendors and manufacturers to give us some things to give away.”

A challenge for next year is where to hold the event. This year it was held in the parking lot right in front of the store, but since it is a shared space with some new potential businesses moving into the complex, it could mean limited room. “We actually outgrew the space this year and had to shut down registration,” said Mojica. “There were 20 to 30 cars outside of the car show itself trying to get in but we couldn’t fit anymore.”

No matter the location, one thing that remains in effect since even the earliest days of the event—the store will not be open for business the day of the show. “We are not here to sell anything so it wouldn’t hurt us if we took it off site,” said Mojica. “It won’t affect business.” Still, a big benefit to having the show in the parking lot is being able to take folks in and at least show them the operation. “For someone who isn’t familiar with us, we’re able to take them in and give them a tour,” said Mojica.

So how do you get an event like this going? According to Mojica, the first step is simply looking at the calendar and setting a date. For the last few years, GNC has chosen the first weekend in August. The timing has been beneficial in a number of ways.

“We participate in another big local show—it is the largest show in the area—and we have a booth there,” said Mojica. “We figure it’s a great place to start promoting our event. We make up a flyer. On it we put the details about the car show—the hot dog eating contest, that we’ll be giving stuff away, and that there will be a jumper for kids.”  

Read the rest of the story HERE. 

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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