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8-2-2017, Mobile Electronics - This year's class of Top 12 Installers includes veterans like Chris Pate of Mobile Toys and relative newcomers like Miguel Vega, with the top prize of Installer of the Year up for grabs to all. 

Chris McNulty

Driven Mobile Electronics

Chantilly, Va.

Years installing: 25

Other duties: All of them. I am essentially a one-man show with some bookkeeping help and some install help at the shop, as needed. I do all sales, ordering, marketing and more.

Proudest moment, besides this award: Being asked, then asked again, to present at KnowledgeFest.

Biggest mistake ever made as an installer: Leaving a car in neutral, whose emergency brake was inoperable, in the parking lot. It eventually started to creep and rolled into a fire hydrant in the parking lot.

Three favorite activities besides work: That's obvious. I like to embarrass myself [by] making rap videos.

Biggest influence with regard to expertise, professionalism and work ethic: John Brettle.

Vision of life five years from now: I'd love to bring in a few employees to unload some of my burden at the shop, on the sales floor especially, allowing for more family time. My daughter will be in college or performing as a dancer somewhere else at that point, and I'd hate to have to miss those moments in her life.


Chris Pate

Mobile Toys, Inc.

College Station, Texas

Years installing: 24

Other duties: I am also the head project designer, engineer, fabricator, chief product specialist, teacher/training specialist and one of the owners. As a project designer, I am tasked with working with clients to design installation concepts and interiors that excite our clients. As an engineer, I am required to design and machine most of the parts we use in our installations.  This requires the use of engineering software packages like AutoCAD 2017, Solidworks, CorelDraw and Mach3 Mill. I machine all my custom parts on our Shopbot PRT96 3-axis CNC and our Universal VLS 60 Watt laser. I build custom interiors and panels that encompass audio, video and vehicle design cues that make the driving environment enjoyable and fun for our clients. As our chief product specialist, I have to stay on the forefront of technology in our industry and relay that to my fellow employees. I do this by attending KnowledgeFest, CES, SEMA, traveling to France and Asia to visit vendors, as well as countless hours of research and testing on new products. My favorite duty is being a teacher and trainer at our stores. We have a priority as elders to the younger generations to train the next generation of installers. I do this by holding monthly trainings after hours and going over new fabrication and installation practices. [I am also] owner and chief bottle washer at Mobile Toys, Inc. This requires me to talk to reps and coordinate our employees. I run the install bay at our College Station location as well as coordinate projects with our Bryan store.

Proudest moment, besides this award: My proudest moment to date in my work career was being named the Runner-Up for Installer of the Year in 2016 by Mobile Electronics magazine. Although I did not win, it lit the fire in me that has driven me this year to push the envelope. I have worked harder, smarter, faster and better than I ever have. This award is what ignited that flame to pursue excellence.

Biggest mistake ever made as an installer: The biggest mistake I have made as an installer is waiting too long to make changes and expand my skill set. I could have done what I am doing eight years ago when I moved back from Tulsa (where I managed the install bays at Car Toys of Tulsa). I chose to stay safe in the practices I was comfortable with at the time instead of learning more advanced techniques like what those I've acquired in the past three years. Those years feel wasted and I'm now trying to make up for lost time. Fellow installers should never get comfortable, never stop learning, and listen to the people around them. There is always valuable information to be ingested into your mental toolbox.

Three favorite activities besides work: I enjoy collecting gems and minerals from all over the world. We have a vast collection that includes crystals, minerals, fossils, a two-million-year-old Russian black bear claw, and even a prehistoric crocodile jaw. I have also sung lead vocals in a touring rock band for the past 20 years. Although I don't tour as much as I did 10 years ago, I still enjoy writing and recording music. My favorite pastime of late has been training and mentoring younger installers. Whether it’s on the Internet, Facebook or at a training class, it has become my priority to help nurture and bring forth the next generation of installers.

Biggest influence with regard to expertise, professionalism and work ethic: Picking one would be impossible, so I will narrow it down to three. Jeremy Carlson has helped pioneer the use of machines and automation in the everyday install bay. I came up learning these practices and looking for ways to intertwine them. Jeremy's advice has been instrumental in that. He influenced me to look past the title of installer and realize that we are really engineers and should approach our projects in that manner. Secondly, I would say JT Torres for his exceptional ability to connect, teach and help our industry. Watching him over the past three years has motivated me to join that same cause and help our industry learn and grow. My third choice is Gary Biggs. He is the first installer/fabricator to actually sit down and show me how to design and execute a complete idea in an automotive environment. It is because of his help and guidance while I was working in Tulsa that I have become the designer/builder I am now.

Vision of life five years from now: I would like to continue to grow as an installer/designer/fabricator and engineer. I want to learn new techniques and pass them on. It is my priority to begin training many fellow installers to help them grow and expand their skill sets. To be a part of the generation that helps train the next and to help close the gap in our canyon of qualified installers would be an honor.

Read the rest of the feature HERE.

What’s Happening December 2018

With an increased media presence, a bigger exhibit hall and education sessions added in Spanish or with translators, the second year of KnowledgeFest Long Beach is projected to be even more successful—with the goal of making it an international event.

Words by Rosa Sophia


The first KnowledgeFest Long Beach took place in 2018, attracting over 1,100 attendees, and the second is scheduled for February 23 to 25, 2019. It is anticipated to have roughly the same amount of manufacturer trainings—60 hours—along with 30 to 40 hours of educational sessions.

Chris Cook, president of the Mobile Electronics Association, stated that he anticipates a significant growth in retailer attendance along with more interaction in education sessions. “Our first year was great, and our second year should be even better,” he said. Because more exhibitors are expected, the conference will be taking place in a much larger hall.

“We sold out the space last year,” Cook said, adding that it made sense to choose a larger hall in the Long Beach Convention Center for the 2019 event. “The hall we’re moving into is about 65 percent larger than the hall we used last year,” he noted.

With the completion of the first event came lessons learned, which will be applied to the second Long Beach conference. Also expected is an increased... Read the rest of the story HERE.







12-11-2017, Mobile Electronics -- The end of the year brings many tasks for a retail shop. Decisions are made about the success or failure of product lines, promotions used throughout the year, employee growth versus areas for improvement, hiring, firing, profit versus loss on the year and hundreds of other micro issues that can stress out even the most seasoned business owner.

In 12-volt, there are enough categories of product alone to make a person's head spin. That's why for the second year in a row, Mobile Electronics magazine sent out a job satisfaction survey to help retailers identify issues they might be having related to employee satisfaction. This was done not only to help take away the stress of finding out these things themselves, but had the intention of helping take a major category off of their plates when planning for next year.

Each portion of the survey was broken into sections that focused on a different topic. The 47-question survey included questions on career development, work engagement, compensation, relationship management and work environment.

Career Development

The first topic the survey focused on was career development. The majority of those surveyed in total (46 percent) were owners, while lead installers came in second at 11 percent and the installation managers and regular installation technicians came in tied for third at around five percent. Around 30 percent of those who answered about their satisfaction regarding professional growth agreed with being satisfied, while around 19 percent disagreed with 23 percent remaining neutral on the topic.

The neutrals came in even stronger when asked if they are pleased with career advancement opportunities available to them. Around 35 percent of workers were neutral while around 19 percent both agreed and disagreed with the statement. This statistic shows that the majority of those surveyed believe career advancement is limited but may likely not be upset about that fact given the popularity of the jobs themselves. The top answer for how involved employees feel in their work was to strongly agree at being very involved. Similar questions about getting excited to go to work and the level of effort employees are willing to give at work each day were resoundingly affirmative.

Compensation is often a sore spot for many Americans these days, with 12-volt retailers split down the middle on whether they feel fairly compensated. For many in the survey, their love of their work keeps them happier than the pay they receive, which includes business owners.

"As an owner, shop compensation is a bit different than if you are a tech. Everyone always wants more one way or another but as an owner I am happy with my salary," explained one surveyed retailer. "As far as the business as a whole, I mainly just want for the shop to make enough money to pay all of my guys, cover all bills, and make a little bit more each year to invest back into the shop. I don't ever plan on getting rich owning my shop I just want to be comfortable and not stress over paying each bill or employee."

Training is also a major issue for employees, with nearly a quarter of those surveyed believing they don't receive adequate training from their company. One owner said, "We need to do a better job of training people. That’s on me!!" Another added, "I want to go to training to advance my skills but it must be on my time and my money." In contrast, over 50 percent of respondents believe they do receive proper training, including both in-house and training at industry events. 

Read the rest of the article HERE.

2-1-2017, Mobile Electronics -- For 50 years, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), has delivered on its promise to showcase the latest in electronic technology. In the summer of 1967, its first year, the event hosted 117 exhibitors featuring transistor radios, stereos and black and white televisions. The next four decades saw innovations like cassettes, CDs, DVDs and plasma televisions take center stage. Today, one concept has dominated the show floor like no other: a fully connected life, harnessing the power of handheld digital devices and pursuing the dream of autonomous driving.

For the 12-volt industry, many of the innovations on display at this year's CES in Las Vegas won't have much of an impact on a retailer's bottom line. However, in the North Hall, which houses the automakers and 12-volt industry manufacturers, there were a number of trends that could have a significant impact in the near future.

Connectivity and autonomous driving were promoted with purpose with companies like Ford, Hyundai and Toyota, all eager to showcase what the roads will look like in the future. Connected driving products on display, such as Alpine's wireless CarPlay head unit, offered a more practical view of that future. Chris Cook, president of the Mobile Electronics Association, discussed the impact connected driving will have for the entire automotive industry in the Connect2Car panel during the four-day event.

"Consumers want to be able to connect their device with the car confidently. By 2020, 250 million cars will be connected to the Internet. What does this mean? It means the vehicles will be connected to the Internet and everything else. This is a good thing for all of us," Cook said. "Consumers are demanding to be in the forefront of the vehicle. When they're picking up their used Mustang, they usually want more than the OEM offered at the time it was sold. They want the latest technology. So to connect with confidence, automakers are responding. They are working to upgrade new vehicles with the latest aftermarket technologies."

With the safety category being one of the primary catalysts for this trend (all new light vehicles in 2018 will require backup cameras by law), automakers and the aftermarket are pushing for ways to fully integrate the latest technology into cars for an all-in-one solution. That doesn't account for the rest of the vehicles on the road, which average 11 years in age.

For all those in attendance, the aftermarket's response to consumer demand and OEM competition seemed clear: innovate.  

An Integrated Necessity

Regardless of the excitement generated by a new concept car or gadget, time has proven that the demands of consumers are what drive a successful innovation of new products. One category that the aftermarket has jumped on this year is high-resolution audio, which is more easily attainable for the average listener than ever thanks to an innovation in DSP technology.

Several companies have announced new DSP amplifiers that are designed to work as solutions for OEM sound systems. The Kenwood eXcelon XR600-6DSP is designed to capture signals before they reach the factory amplifier, resulting in cleaner output and retention of factory notifications, according to the company. The device works in cooperation with the iDatalink Maestro AR integration module, which links into the CAN bus of specific vehicles.

"I'm looking for the new products and looking forward to seeing some of the OEM stuff like built-in technologies and what we need to do to integrate with them," said installer Shaughnessy Murley from Visions Electronics as he began to walk the show floor. "I think OEM integration is going to be a necessity moving forward. You get in there, unplug the factory amp, plug their module in and then it's a blank slate. Integrating telematics in the vehicle will be a big thing, too."

Audiocontrol has also joined the OEM integration trend by making three of its recent products compatible with the Mastro AR. The DM-608 and DM-810 processors and the newly announced D6-1200 six-channel amplifier are all compatible with the ADS product.

"Hats off to ADS for what they're doing. For somebody who wants to keep the door chime muted without blowing your ears out, it'll make the interface that much easier," said Chris Kane, National Sales Manager of Audiocontrol.

In addition to the OEM integration trend, manufacturers focused efforts on what makes the 12-volt industry stand apart from OEM offerings. It discovered that clients are still eager to upgrade their sound systems to the best on the market, especially if high-end, high-resolution products are affordable. Sony's solution was on display in a demo vehicle featuring its RSXGS9 high-resolution single-DIN head unit and GS1621C component speakers.

"With the hi-res frequency range, you're basically getting more head room in your music. You don't get the sharp cut-off in the higher frequencies at 20K-ish. We've got about 60K going through this. It's a really good-sounding, smooth system," said Kris Bulla, National Product Trainer, Sony Car Audio. "We're all about hi-res this year. This GS system is the hi-res that you want to hear. It provides studio-quality sound."

Read the rest of the story HERE.

6-1-2017, Mobile Electronics Magazine -- As a 12-year-old, Jeremiah Mojica loved music. Like most kids his age, he was looking for something to become enamored with. He became a musician. As a bass player and guitarist, Mojica played everything from Hard Rock and Metal to Reggae. Soon enough, as he worked at his parents' retail store, GNC Customs in Goshen, Ind., he found he liked something even more: car audio.

"Our parents had a business in 2002 and we wanted to specialize in something. It was a hobby at first. We had the radio shop and I wanted a stereo in my car. I wanted something loud and cool," Mojica said. "I was a teenager at the time. It segued into us wanting to be a better shop and me being a better installer."

During an early install at the age of 14, Mojica, who had little experience up to this point, had just finished installing a system for a client when the man approached him with a request. "I didn't know what I was doing. When I was done, the guy asked if I could make it cleaner. From then on I realized that there's more. There's always been more," Mojica said. "The insecurity of it shows that I know I can be better. It's important to know that you can try and mess up but just start over and try to do something different again."

As a Top 50 Installer, Mojica has his chance to show the industry the results of that early mistake, which includes further education at an installation institute in Orlando, Fla., as well as an MECP certification. Beyond that, Mojica knew the value of continuous improvement, which allowed him to find his own voice as a fabricator.

"I like to have a plan before I go in. I do some sketches before I start and ask a client what they want to do with their vehicle. It doesn't make sense to do a crazy truck build if they're using it for groceries," Mojica said. "Every part of an install that I do is an extension of who I am. I'm meticulous but also very easy going. I love Metal music but also love Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. I knew that when I was younger I wanted to be artistic and express myself in some way. That's why I started with music, so I can express myself. I didn't realize that being a fabricator does the same thing."

Read the rest of the story HERE.

As revenue increases in many shops and facilities, manufacturers respond to meet demands. Here’s how some companies continue to face the pandemic and its impact on mobile electronics retailers.
Words by Rosa Sophia
In the June issue of Mobile Electronics magazine, retailers shared their experiences during the pandemic and discussed skyrocketing sales. To help minimize the spread of the virus, Alpine Electronics of America instituted a mandatory work from home policy, according to Mike Anderson, the company’s vice president and GM. Alpine wanted to ensure the health and safety of their team members. “This was a huge adjustment for our employees, most of whom had never worked from home,” he said, “but they quickly learned new ways of communication and task management.” Anderson said Alpine faced the same questions as retailers: “Were we an essential business? Were we able to remain open? We closed our warehouse for two days while attorneys gathered enough information to make us.... Read the rest of the story HERE.
While businesses have struggled throughout the pandemic, many are now thriving as some areas begin to reopen. Retailers discuss this boom in sales, and how long it might continue.
Words by Rosa Sophia
During the spread of Coronavirus, businesses continue taking precautions to protect staff and clients. Local response varies across the nation. Out of 75 retailers surveyed recently by Mobile Electronics magazine, 53 percent (40 businesses) have said they remained open despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty percent closed but recently reopened, while a small percentage of businesses—about 15 percent—remain closed as of this writing.
Mitch Schaffer of Mobile Edge in Lehighton, Pa. said his business was shut down for a little over two months because Pennsylvania closed all non-essential businesses. “We may have been able to justify staying open because we did Intoxalock installations, but it made more sense to shut down just for the safety of our employees,” Schaffer said, adding that acquiring financial funding through small business programs was a bit of a challenge. “For those of us who had to shut down, that money was a real lifeline.” During the second round of funding, Schaffer said Mobile Edge received financial help to alleviate the burden. The store reopened on May 22.
During the shutdown, Schaffer said.... Read the rest of the story HERE.
What's Happening for March 2020 - Deep in the Heartland
10 Ways to Make Yourself a Better Salesperson
How can salespeople up their game? Top Sales Pros Jayson Cook, Amari Schwartz and Elias Ventura discuss strategies for self-improvement on the sales floor.
Words by Rosa Sophia
Amari Schwartz, who works in sales at Distinctive Ride in Wasilla, Alaska, said she first thinks of knowledge and qualifying the client when she considers improving sales. “I believe to be successful and efficient, a salesperson needs to have product knowledge, install knowledge and knowledge on consumers’ buying habits,” she explained. “I have seen a lot of sales lost because of lack of product knowledge. I have also seen an equal amount of money lost because of misquoted labor charges.” In 2018, Schwartz was named Sales Pro of the Year by Mobile Electronics magazine.
Elias Ventura of Safe and Sound Mobile Electronics in Manassas, Va.—who was named Sales Pro of the Year in 2016—stated that he always self-reflects on things he could be doing better. “There are times on the sales floor when I forget the most basic, key, ‘sales 101’ things I should be doing,” he said. “It happens to the best of us.”
#1. Qualify the Client - Schwartz said a salesperson can’t...Read the rest of the story HERE.

3-8-2017, Mobile Electronics -- There are many components that make up a sound system. There's a head unit to handle music, navigation and Bluetooth functions, tweeters for the high end, coaxials for the mids and a subwoofer for the bass. To send the signals, an amp, preferably with DSP, is used to maximize the audio output to those speakers. Finally, it requires a skilled installation technician to bring all the components together to create a cohesive sound system.

The same could be said of the types of products and services a 12-volt shop sells to its customers. And like sound systems, there are many different products one could choose from to create a shop's offerings. While a standard car audio shop might focus mostly on selling the standard "deck and fours," some stores have had to expand their offerings to keep up with new technology and declining car audio sales.

During his 25 years as a mobile electronics business owner, Alan Binder came to learn this modern truth well, leading him to diversify his business in multiple directions. Seeing a steady decline in his car audio business forced Binder to look into other revenue sources for his chain, Progressive Mobile Electronics. Binder transformed his chain into a diversified example of how a 12-volt business can find its niche in a variety of categories, including window tinting, breathalyzer installations and emergency equipment product and installation.

Retail U-turn

After selling his share in a successful restaurant chain that employed over 7,500 employees, Binder decided he wanted to take the money he'd made and fund a different kind of business. It ended up being Progressive Mobile Electronics, a chain of stores in San Diego, Calif.

Since buying the company in 1991, Binder expanded beyond just car audio with a several categories. "90 percent was pure retail and 10 percent was dealer business going to install radios and speakers in cars on those lots. By May 2016, 55 percent of the business was retail, 35 was emergency equipment and the other 15 percent was window tinting."

Binder admits that the emergency equipment business is a great place for retailers to make revenue thanks to the business model available in that area. "That's a business that will be there forever. Police, fire, FBI, DEA, sheriffs and Homeland Security are included in that category. We concentrated on undercover vehicles," Binder said. "The problem is that the barriers to entry can be quite high. It's not the cost of getting in, but it's being able to find the right contact in these government institutions that's very difficult."

To gain initial entry into emergency vehicle work, Binder recommends making friends with a local government agency like a police department. If you have a particular goal in mind, it doesn't matter which agency you start with since the field is very close-knit.

"People who work in the sheriff's office will talk to people with the police, who will talk to people in the FBI. They all know each other. Once you're in with one of them, you can get in with the others, but it's difficult to get in with the first one," Binder said. "It's also difficult to become a dealer with those necessary equipment brands. Federal Signal, Code 3, Whelan, Soundoff Signal—they have their dealers and protect their dealers very well. Initially, you'll pay a lot more to a distributor than you would direct, so your margins are going to be minimalized. You'll have to get in with a 10 to 15 percent mark-up when you're used to a 25 to 30 percent mark-up. You also have to have skilled labor to do this work since consistency is of the essence."

The bidding process can be quite rigorous as well, according to Binder, with up to 50 or 60 pages of documentation often needed due to the high level of consistency required. But thankfully, once a shop is in the system, they're in for good.

"Every store in the stereo business has the ability to be in this business. Particularly in small towns with a police department. I've seen police departments send vehicles over 200 miles from L.A. to San Diego to get done," Binder said. "It's just the difficulty to get into the business." 

Read the rest of the story [HERE].

5-2-2017, Mobile Electronics -- It may be true what they say—third time's the charm. In its third year, KnowledgeFest Spring Training has set a new record for attendance with more than 800 attendees and 32 exhibitors. The event, held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind., took place April 9 through 11 and featured over 29 hours of educational sessions, 39 hours of manufacturer trainings and over 14 hours of exhibit time on the show floor.

The original intent of the show was to highlight manufacturers' newest products to prepare retailers for the selling season. Categories highlighted at the show included car audio/video (amplifiers, speakers, subwoofers, DSP, sound deadener, monitors), remote starts, alarms, OEM integration and the growing safety category. Companies on the floor ranged from long-time attendees like VOXX and Kenwood, to returning brands like Savv Mobile Multimedia, makers of headrest monitors.

The popularity of the event has centered around its diverse offering and ability to reach retailers who may not have the resources to attend other shows like KnowledgeFest in Dallas.

“There were two drivers behind our creation of this event: First, to offer our retailer members the opportunity for training and networking; and, second, to offer our manufacturer exhibitors the opportunity to meet with their retail accounts east of the Mississippi, the mobile specialists they’re not seeing in January in Vegas," said Chris Cook, president of the Mobile Electronics Association. "Exhibitors we spoke with on-site at space selection for our 2018 events were pleased with the traffic they received, both in their booths and their training workshops. We received strong commitments from exhibitors to come back to Indy next year and to participate in our new Spring Training Long Beach.” During the town hall presentation, Cook announced that MEA was adding a third KnowledgeFest event for 2018 at the Long Beach Convention Center in southern California, February 23 through 25.

Also at the town hall, Cook provided a ballroom full of retailers, installers and manufacturers a glimpse into the overall popularity of 12-volt products for the past three years with the industry conducting around 4,500 transactions a year, with the average amount between $104 and $113 per transaction.

Cook stressed the importance of keeping up with new technology in each category in order to better educate customers and make sales. According to automotive data from the SAE Group, the connected car will play a key role in the near future with 380 million vehicles set to be connected in the next four years. Even with these advancements, the aftermarket has an opportunity to surge ahead through innovations in established and emerging categories, according to Cook. "What are you doing to get ready?" he added.

Tech Fest

One highly talked about portion of the show was the manufacturer trainings, which included product tips and tricks from top companies like Alpine, Escort, K40, AAMP Global, VOXX and Metra, among others. To keep things fresh for retailers, who may already know a fair amount about most products, some companies went the extra mile and created focused classes offering something that could only be learned at this particular show.

Metra, for example, took its attendees to school with its "Metra/Axxess 101: Back to the Basics" course. The class went over basic installation techniques on the company's most popular products. During the JL Audio training, "OEM Integration Made Easy With FIX and the All-new Functionality With TUN Software," individual simulation consoles were set up to help retailers learn the process for producing a clean, flat audio signal with the company's latest software products.

Even for those companies that focused on general information for product lines, retailers were still able to gain a great deal from the experience due to the sheer amount of information retailers must retain to remain experts in their field.

"I'm a Sony dealer and I have most of the product in store already. But the way Kris Bulla breaks it down is really helpful. And he's new with them," said John Schumacher of Audio Solutions StL. "They went through the whole lineup, features and product line with general information. There're things in there you forget, certain features on certain SKUs. It's always good to refresh yourself."

The DD Audio training discussed the company's recent work building 30 enclosures as an experiment to understand different applications of the enclosures in different vehicles.

"It took well over a month. We found that listening to different genres of music affected the customer's enclosure and power amount allotted," said Kevin Doyle, a representative of the company. "The training is more general, focused on all models of our subwoofers."

Read the rest of the story HERE.

11-8-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Back in 2010, there was a collective mindset bubbling in the minds of 12-volt retailers across the country. Margins weren't sustainable at their previous levels due to challenges with educating the general public about all products and services available. The buzz soon built into a roar, resulting in the formation of the Mobile Electronics Specialists of America, known best as M.E.S.A. 

"It was formed by a handful of retailers that were looking to be part of a buying and marketing group. They all had the same marketing needs in trying to get customers in the door and all ran similar sales," said Ryan Gunter, executive director of M.E.S.A. "As long as you don't have overlapping territories, why can't we all just share? The goal was to maximize their efforts and spread across the country to match the high tide, raising all boats."

The group began with a core group of 10 members and has grown to include 135 members today. With only one retailer allowed per territory, growth is limited, but continues with over $269 million in sales to date and 261 store locations covering 43 states. Membership is broken into different levels, with the Platinum level requiring sales of $1.8 million a year and above, while the Gold level requires a minimum sales of $700,000 per year.

2017 marks the sixth year of the M.E.S.A. Summit, which took place in Denver, Co. The event began in the organization's second year with two primary goals, according to Gunter. "For all of us to get together to share best business practices. 'What are you doing different from what I'm doing?' The second was for our member partners to have face to face meetings with our members and bring opportunities for Q4 buys for the year," he said. "A lot of our retailers in the past were not very promotional because they assumed they couldn't compete with big box and online retailers. But with the marketing materials we provide members, they are now more involved in Black Friday sales. It gets people really engaged just before you go into Q4, gets them loaded up with product for the holidays, then leads into tax season. It's become the place that our members go. The majority of them don't go to CES anymore; they get more out of the summit than they get from CES."

This year's event featured its first ever show floor to allow vendors to feature new products in the hopes of both educating retailer partners and selling the latest product to them in time for the holiday season. Having been in the business since the 1980s, when he started his career as a product specialist for Kenwood reps, Gunter has a deep understanding of what both retailers and vendors need from each other.

"I noticed the retailers were looking to put together a buying group and I knew all the guys because I called on most of them, except the east coast as I was mainly a west coast guy. Manufacturers needed someone who's been on the vendor side of things and understood their point of view in working with a retailer," Gunter said. "The thought was, 'If we want this to be a success long-term, it has to be a win-win for both vendor and retail partners. Otherwise, someone will not feel they are getting their fair share. It's been a great blend to make it a win for both sides."

Meeting of Minds

Unlike other trade shows, the M.E.S.A. Summit is unique in how attendees interact. Rather than use classroom settings, the majority of the educational opportunities are one-on-one, vendor-to-retailer or retailer-to-retailer. Attendees would gather in a meeting hall that housed around 150 people, which was filled with round tables, where they could interact freely with each other. The structure, while loose, offered topics to discuss based on a universal theme, which changes each year.

"The main thing we focused on in general this year was reminding our members to work on their business because we get caught up working in our businesses and not on them," Gunter said. "Make the time to work on your business and not get caught up so much on the day-to-day."

Among the attendees this year was Dean Magnesen, owner of Sound Warehouse of Utah, former Mobile Electronics Retailer of the Year. Being one of the first members of the buying group, Magnesen has a deep connection to the organization and belief in its core values and benefits to 12-volt business owners.

"The original enticement was it being a buying group that was independent. We were built by the factory—whatever discounts we earned, we took. The entity didn't take the profit, the dealer did," Magnesen said. "Then it got to the buying group with best practices, with only one member per market. I thought that was a great idea. We're all willing to share with each other. As a group it grew into a very powerful marketing arm too. We're not just a buying group. We're a buying, best business practices and marketing group."

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Words by Rosa Sophia

Each year, the Industry Awards encourages owners and installers to take a look at their careers and how far they’ve come, showcasing their achievements in front of their peers. Taking such a deep look at one’s business and profession reveals many factors to success, as well as areas where competitors can improve.

“If you can work really hard and you’re willing to put in the hours, you can reach your goals,” said Christerfer Pate, Top 12 Installer of Mobile Toys Inc., College Station, Texas.

How did the process of competing in these awards affect personal growth for installers and owners, as well as growth within their businesses?

Regarding the awards and working toward the win, owners and installers shared their feelings about how the process changed them and spurred development within their personal and business lives.


Read the rest of the story HERE.

With a focus on revitalizing the Industry Awards, the yearly ceremony has been moved from Dallas to Las Vegas. Past award winners share their perspectives on an evolving tradition.
Words by Rosa Sophia
For the last three years, KnowledgeFest has held an event in Long Beach, Calif. But on February 18-20, 2022, the show and the Industry Awards will take place in Las Vegas, Nev. The choice was made to revitalize the awards ceremony and processes, and to make the awards more reflective of a full year of recognition.
Elias Ventura, who was awarded 2016-2017 Sales Pro of the Year and now works as the Mid-Atlantic territory manager for SounDigital and Ground Zero, said the move is a welcome one. “I think a change of scenery and structure is necessary, especially with all the present chaos,” he explained. “Having something to look forward to is important. Vegas is a perfect place for the show, and I think a little shift was needed.”
Past Winners Work to Refresh the Industry Awards
Members of the Industry Awards committee—including Ventura—meet to “make sure the process is very fair, and that we move forward in a modern way of doing things,” according to Jeff Smith, director of training at AAMP Global.
He added that it’s important to.... Read the rest of the story HERE.
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In-person training events and trade shows have shifted to online platforms in the wake of COVID-19. Retailers discuss pros and cons of education in a cyber setting, and their hopes for the coming year.
Words by Rosa Sophia
Due to COVID-19, some decisions regarding meeting with retailers have had to be made on a case-by-case basis, according to Mike Lewis of Echo Sales. The company is a rep firm covering seven states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. “Under normal circumstances, our business is set up to call on independent accounts,” Lewis said, adding that they also host trainings to support retailers. This year, he noted the company started to stock more inventory themselves, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because of all the backorders.
According to Lewis, Echo Sales has had to approach their day-to-day business in a hybrid fashion. “A couple of months ago, they removed some local restrictions, but we were still being cautious,” he explained. “We were only visiting accounts with specific needs. I was focusing a lot of my travel around afternoon and evening trainings. Now we are back in more of a hybrid again, not traveling as much, and I’ve put offers out to do Zoom meetings, but most conversations have been on the phone.” There are certain things, he added, that must be done in-person—for example, it’s necessary to visit a new account to see the store. “If we do go somewhere, though, we’re very specific about what we’re doing.”
A year ago, the company moved into a new facility with a dedicated in-house training space, but because of COVID-19, only one training has.... Read the rest of the story HERE.

Words by Rosa Sophia

In part one of this two-part installment, industry experts—including Andy Wehmeyer of Audiofrog and Rob Wempe of Elettromedia—share their experiences with DSP and discuss how the industry has struggled with adapting, and how they might improve for the future.

If store owners are uncertain where to begin when it comes to DSP, they should first examine their business and decide how they are going to use it for their own purposes.

According to Andy Wehmeyer of Audiofrog, DSPs are becoming very accessible now, with models available under $200. “Everyone can afford to stock these products whether they know how to use them or not,” he said. But how does a business know where to begin with DSP, and how can technicians begin to educate themselves and problem-solve to integrate audio signals before they are passed to the factory amplifier?

Wehmeyer recalled his first experience with DSP in 1992. “That DSP system was designed to make it easier and to help us do a better job of optimizing the acoustic performance in the car after installing speakers,” he said. “That was the beginning of our ability to delay a signal from a speaker that is closer to us so it arrives at the same time as one farther away.”

Such an advancement made it possible for the car to have a good center image, Wehmeyer explained. “That system in ’92 included a head unit and you had to install the whole system to have the DSP,” he added. “Once DSP was included in factory audio systems, then they were using the same tools we were using. At the beginning, the DSP was included in the factory amp but the audio signal that went from the radio to the factory amp was an analog signal. It was easy for us to grab that analog signal before the factory amp and then we were almost back to what we were familiar with—a pair of wires to which we could connect in order to install an EQ, crossover, DSP or an amp.”

Some confusion remained, however, Wehmeyer added, because installers were accustomed to having an RCA plug. Now they had a pair of wires that resembled a speaker output, and “this meant we needed to learn how to identify signal types to determine if a line output convertor was necessary.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

During an unprecedented global emergency, the 12-volt industry is coming together in mutual support to help keep employees and clients safe and healthy.

Words by Rosa Sophia

By mid-March, schools began closing in response to the spread of COVID-19, social distancing became the norm and restaurants that hadn’t closed offered takeout and delivery only. All major sporting events were suspended. Travel restrictions were put into place all over the world, and stay-at-home orders were soon to follow in various cities around the country. Mobile electronics businesses have responded by...Read the rest of the story HERE.

Fulfilling educational sessions and new beginnings in Orlando marked the return to in-person KnowledgeFest events, while the industry anticipates a transformative year ahead.
Words by Rosa Sophia
Over half of all attendees at KnowledgeFest Orlando, June 25-27, reported that it was their very first time attending, according to a survey by Mobile Electronics Association. Orlando—known as “the City Beautiful”—hosted the debut KnowledgeFest, and those hailing from Florida were excited to have the show in their own “backyard.”
Dave Elkin of DOW Technologies said it was a short drive from the company’s corporate headquarters in Tampa. “We decided to tell our ‘local’ story [to attendees],” he said, adding, “It was so exciting to look around the booth and see all the vehicles owned by DOW employees.” After all, he added, the company’s motto “‘We are Technology’ is something we live by every day.”
MMats Pro Audio, which manufactures most of its audio equipment in Jupiter, Fla., made the drive to Orlando for KnowledgeFest. For regional sales manager Mike Hall, Friday’s show floor experience was most memorable, with plenty of interaction with knowledgeable dealers. Hall said the past year has been a very busy one for the company, adding that MMats sold in the first three months of the year what would’ve normally taken nine months to sell.
“This was our third national event of the year,” he added. “While some might say attendance was low, we felt like those who did attend were very important to our success.”
KnowledgeFest as a Return to In-Person Networking
Professionals from across the industry agreed that getting to see everyone in person again was a highlight of the show. Elkin said DOW Technologies had very positive interactions with key dealers and core vendors, adding, “Everyone has been through a lot over the past 16 months. To be able to finally get back together with so many familiar faces was fantastic.”
He gave a nod to his company’s sales team, underscoring the importance of building value and deepening relationships, and said he feels the industry will begin to see higher levels of attendance at industry events in the coming year.
“I think some folks were just too busy, so they couldn’t get out yet, but I also think there were dealers who wanted to see how this show went before committing or planning to attend themselves,” he said, agreeing with Hall that although attendance seemed light, they were able to visit with a lot of dealers. One of the challenges, though, is encouraging people to .... Read the rest of the story HERE.
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