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Experimenting with new product lines and a willingness to change with the times brought family business Auto Sound to its 45-year anniversary. 

April 5, 2016, Mobile Electronics Magazine -- When Auto Sound opened in 1971 in Holbrook, Mass., the driving force behind it was Ron Needleman, Sr.’s own father. “He died when I was 12. I knew he wanted to own his own business and I was determined to fulfill his dream for him,” he said. “In 1971, I borrowed $2,000.00 from my bank, gave Automatic Radio my notice and started Auto Sound with a dozen radios I purchased from Audiovox. My wife, Connie, gave birth to our sixth child, Ron Jr., the same week I started the business. She and I ran the business out of our garage for the first year. I asked another employee at Automatic Radio, Bernie Feldman, to join me, and we became partners.”

It has now been 45 years, and much has changed, but the core of Auto Sound as a family business remains strong. Ambition appears to run in the family. “My sons Paul and Ron Jr. now own and run the business with help from Howard Honigbaum as president.” With 40 employees in all, Auto Sound has two main locations and one satellite location, allowing the business to strengthen connections with local dealerships, giving them a chance to grow more quickly.

Automotive Heritage

Ron Needleman, Jr. doesn’t recall what it was like having the business in the family home, but he does remember going to work with his father and eventually becoming a full-time employee in 1989 when he graduated from high school. “I am the youngest of four sons, and at one point all four were in the business. Now it’s just my brother and me,” he said. “I don’t even remember ever thinking about doing anything else. Since I was little, I always went to work with my father on Saturdays, and I always wanted to work at Auto Sound. I didn’t even go to college. I had to take a day off work to go to my own high school graduation. I was already working full-time. All my brothers, four of us, did the same thing.”

Before opening Auto Sound, Ron Needleman, Sr. went to college at Northeastern University for mechanical engineering, and was hired by Automatic Radio to design car radios. “In the early 70s, I was Chief Mechanical Engineer for Automatic Radio Manufacturing Co. in Melrose, Mass.,” he said. “I was responsible for their Custom Aftermarket Radio Program. I was sent to San Francisco to consult with one of our distributors. While there, I observed their daily operation and was amazed to find they sent installers on the road to car dealers. This was not done on the east coast to my knowledge. On the flight back, I started to plan how I could start a similar business in Mass.”

The business has changed a lot since the 70s, focusing first on car audio and now on other aspects of 12-volt. Though Auto Sound still does a fair amount of car audio, it is not their number one seller. “Through the 70s, it was mainly car audio, and in the 80s it transitioned into security and alarms,” Ron Needleman, Jr. said. “Car audio stayed strong through the 80s, but we were doing a lot of alarm systems; rear window defrost was a big thing; cruise controls, which we still do; power windows; power door locks. They were a lot bigger 15 years ago, and that took us from the car audio time into the remote start time.” 

Read the rest of the story in the April issue of Mobile Electronics, HERE

8-22-2016 -- The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo. has been going through significant changes, including a complete rework of the fabrication area, shop and showroom. Rather than have someone else do the work, they’re designing and building their own displays and counters for the showroom. Brandon Green, shop owner, is determined to ensure all the displays are consistent with the business’s theme. By making their own designs, they’ll be able to update them in the future according to their needs. Green is confident the outcome will be exactly what is best for the business. “For us, it is another way to show clients what we can accomplish rather than a display bought and sitting in a corner,” he explained. “We will be able to use even our counter as a selling tool, not just to hold a computer. It will be good for pictures and advertising and give people seeing it there an idea of what to expect.”

With a single location, the shop has two full-time employees and two part-time. “My wife and I opened this shop in February of 2012, so we are currently working on our fifth year,” Green said, stating that when they initially opened, they partnered with a high-end detailing company and “rented the back 30 by 30 portion of the shop out.” However, both businesses grew quickly, so the detailing business moved out, giving Green a chance to expand the fabrication department. Areas were then dedicated to metal work, welding and wood working.

There’s plenty of room to operate, offering room for long-term projects now that all the equipment has been moved from the main installation area and things have been re-organized. As for the showroom, it is something The Car Audio Shop has been wanting to update for some time, according to Green. 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

8-22-2016 -- Since 1983, Custom Audio in Erie, Penn. has been a successful woman-owned business and boasts 5,000 square feet of space. While Sondralee Orengia founded the company, her original business partner decided it wasn’t for him. “At the time I was going to college studying accounting and computer science and I wasn’t really interested in owning a business or running it,” Orengia said. When her business partner asked for help, she said yes. “I’m from a family of entrepreneurs. I think it’s always been in my blood.” Now, the company has seven employees and one location where Orengia strives to provide the best service possible while staying current with the times.

While she didn’t initially intend to get involved in the mobile electronics industry, Orengia was passionate about music. “I installed my first stereo system in my car,” she said. “I didn’t know anything, but I have the passion for learning. My grandparents were teachers and professors, very highly educated and my mother is as well, and that learning, wanting to learn and enjoying change, that’s what I think drives me. It’s an ever-changing industry and in 30 years it’s changed so dramatically and people have to continue to learn and learn to change.”

Orengia believes in the power of presentation to help draw in customers. “We have a really pretty shop,” she said. Because the business resides in a neighborhood that is mostly middle to upper class, customer expectation is much higher and so is Orengia’s. “The store has a nice presentation when they walk in—clean, organized, the displays work. That’s incredibly important in presentation. I always use the analogy if you go to buy a new car, the car lot doesn’t have dirty cars. They are polished, clean, look good, smell good, run good. You don’t go to a car dealership expecting to see a dirty car.”

While Custom Audio continues to be a successful 12-volt shop, Orengia faces a different kind of daily challenge—that of being a woman business owner in a male-dominated industry. “32 years ago I was at the Consumer Electronics show in Chicago and I was one of the few women there. The only ones there were the girls at the booths in beautiful dresses and high heels and they were eye candy,” she said. “There were very few women in the industry. My mom raised me as a person, not a woman, who could do anything and accomplish anything. That really struck me that there were so few women at the show.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

7-10-2017, Mobile Electronics -- It wasn't always the case, but over the years the 12-volt industry has developed an appreciation for self-sponsored education. When those same educators decided to incorporate real-world training into their classes, it gave students the chance to put their knowledge into immediate practice. Such was the case with the recent Mobile Solutions training in Tempe, Ariz., which was hosted by ORCA Design & Manufacturing Corp.  

The only prerequisite for entry was a required purchase of a certain amount of product, which could be any combination of brands a dealer carries. The workshop had a set limit of 25 people, made up of established ORCA dealers on a first-come, first-served basis. Naturally, the class filled up quickly, thanks to what was offered.

"Just buy an airline ticket and show up. Obviously there is a qualifying order, but that's peanuts. It's a normal order for most shops. We cover the cost of the seat, all three nights for the hotel and all meals while you're there," said Nalaka Adikari, Sales Director at ORCA. "Training is something that we truly believe in. It's about making our retailers better and to be successful. This is the formula that I want to keep. As far as funding goes, that's something I want to keep going as long as we'll be doing this."

The four-day workshop featured several popular industry veterans including Ken Ward of Educar and Musicar Northwest, past Mobile Electronics Installers of the Year JT Torres and Matt Schaeffer and past Top 12 Installer Chris Pate. Leading the trainings was Bryan Schmitt, President of Mobile Solutions.

"This class was a bit different from some of our others. We wanted to drive home how to build great audio and how to make money. It emphasized profitability, how much time was involved, multiple amp systems and DSP," Schmitt said. "We had this idea of doing a live build while doing some other fundamental training. That's why we had the other guest presenters like Ken Ward, Chris Pate, Matt Schaeffer and JT involved. We did it on my Toyota Tundra. Students could see the progression from start to finish, system design, how long it took to take to get it done and we did it live in front of them."

The workshop format consisted of each guest speaker presenting their portion of the build to discuss and show how to do it, then letting the students do that portion on their own. After students completed each segment, Schmitt and his speakers would go over how it went. "That was kind of the overall general layout of the class—watching this live build on this everyday vehicle with great audio upgrades," Schmitt added. "I think the important part is the knowledge they took from this. Out of the 25 people that showed up, I would say that 80 percent have been in the industry for a long time. Their feedback is phenomenal. I know they know how to do this, but [we presented] some efficient ways to do this [for them] to be more profitable. I think we achieved our goal very successfully. I don't know how I'm going to make it better."

The workshop was the brainchild of Nalaka Adikari and Bryan Schmitt after the two met at CES this past January. "This is something that we kinda wanted to do for a while but one night at CES things got hammered out and the next morning we sat down at a table and got the thing together," Adikari said. "It's something Orca truly does believe in. Finding ways to improve our dealers in different aspects. Installers aren't growing on trees. We want them to be better. Every shop has that A-guy. Sometimes that A-guy needs encouragement and a refresher. The up-and-coming guy needs to get to that level. This is something we see ourselves doing with Bryan in the foreseeable future and to help dealers to get better."

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Shop Owners Teach Industry Essentials at KnowledgeFest
 
Word by Laura Kemmerer
 
Known for hosting some of the highest quality education in the mobile electronics industry, KnowledgeFest recently marked a return to in-person classes and networking opportunities. At the event, Adam Devine of Devine Concepts in Naples, Fla., and Brandon Green of The Car Audio Shop in High Ridge, Mo., both drew on their own expertise and taught “Marine Fabrication Best Practices” and “The 12-Volt Insight.”
Devine said he felt the turnout at the debut Orlando show was excellent, “especially being post pandemic. People are still worrying about going to events. The turnout has been great, the interactions have been great and the classes are phenomenal. I’ve seen more interaction during the classes instead of just downloading the content and information and not participating,” he added.
 
Online education options, though helpful due to pandemic restrictions, had lower rates of engagement from students. According to Devine, in-person learning facilitates more participation and gets attendees to ask more questions. In contrast with few questions asked in virtual trainings, Devine and Green had over 30 inquiries after their first presentation. The two also closed out the weekend co-teaching “The 12-Volt Insight,” an owner-manager class. Devine noted that his store in Naples focuses on high-end luxury vehicles, and his perspective might not be relevant to everyone.
 
“Understanding those differences and what you should have in terms of product selection could be different from Naples to Minnesota to everywhere else,” Devine said.
What should remain the same, however, is how you interact with your clients. Emphasis on customer service, excellent solutions and getting an understanding of your customer’s lifestyle, in order to better understand their needs, should all be part of the same core practice. With an additional emphasis on selling benefits rather than features, customers are sure to have a positive experience.
 
“You’re not going to sell a mom who has two kids and makes long trips on the features of rear-seat entertainment, you’re going to sell them on the fact that it’s the experience—the kids in the backseat are going to be quiet and you’re going to have a nice relaxing ride,” he explained.... Read the rest of the story HERE.
 
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