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Turn a valueless business phrase into an experience that will define your business.

8-21-2016 -- No introduction, no names. When the phone picked up, I started right in.  

"What is this noise?" I yelled over the incessant beeping, holding my phone up to the radio. I don't really know why I did that, since I was using the car's Bluetooth and the sound wasn't actually coming from the radio, but rather from the installed radar detector speaker. At the same time the two blue LEDs took turns lighting up my car's interior. With the factory red dash lighting, it was like getting pulled over, just inside-out. 

I figure my dumb phone holding was either because of the frustration of not knowing what was going on, or the surprise that, at 11:36 p.m. California time on a Thursday, some guy named Brian in Chicago actually answered the phone.

"It's the speed alert," he said, with all the patience I wasn't feeling. "It looks like you may have accidentally set it."

Sure enough, I slowed to under 70 mph and the sound stopped. Yes, I was speeding. A little bit.

"How in the heck did I do that?" I said, now feeling even more out of my depth. It's not fun to have electronics in your car that intimidate you.

"Well, if you're willing to pull over and park somewhere safe, I'd like to stay on the phone with you and get you fully set up and calibrated."

“Right now? I asked,

“Sure, right now,” he answered.

Holy Cow.

Whenever I interview a retailer or vendor for a story, I ask them why customers do business with them. The inevitable answer is some form of "We have great customer service." The term itself is something you hear and see every day, from just about any company that wants your money. Add to this the fact that the selling world has expanded from the old days of neighborhood shopping to worldwide access. Because it's so overused, most customers see “customer service” as useless jargon; a statement that adds no value to the buying experience.

So when this guy is willing to stay on the phone with me, I oblige. For the next half-hour, he walks me through every feature of the system, recommending settings based on where I live and how I drive. It wasn’t just a “turn this on; press that button” conversation. Every step came with an explanation of what the feature controls and why I should set it a certain way. Then he left me with a number to text if I had any further questions.

After this service experience, businesses are going to have to meet a pretty high standard to get my loyalty. 

Reda hte rest HERE.

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In the midst of a pandemic, we must apply lessons learned to ensure the survival of our businesses for the future.
 
Experience is the best teacher—although the test is given first, and then the learning begins. Like many of you, I run a small business. The Mobile Electronic Association is considered a small business by any standard. We have just a few team members who do an incredible job serving you as a member of the association. Our mission is to educate, inform and empower you to succeed in your business. We do this not out of obligation, but out of love for the industry. That industry is you! Many of the calls, emails and messages we get from you relate to support you need to make the right decisions. For example, as a member, you may be using our point-of-sale software. As a result, you may need to know how to do something to improve your experience with that software. However, member inquiries for support go far beyond software. That’s what I would like to address now.
 
As your industry association, we are here to help. Over the past couple of months, we have answered your questions for a myriad of things. Lately the inquiries have focused in two important areas. How do I get the Paycheck Protection or Economic Injury loans? How do I create a safe environment for my team members as we seek to reopen or maintain our business in this new COVID-19 environment? While there are other inquiries, I wanted to take a moment and discuss these two.
 
Many of you had to make tough decisions recently regarding your business. You may have been forced to consider the possibility of going out of business. You had to consider the reality of furloughing some or all your team. You’ve had to institute new policies and procedures to create a safer environment for your team and your customers. As a business owner, these decisions were on top of all the normal pressures you deal with day-to-day just keeping the doors open. Adding to all these pressures, you have a personal life and family to consider.
 
Then comes the need. Regardless of your rainy-day fund, I have encouraged all of you to apply for small business assistance. That included having your team apply for unemployment insurance. My advice was not based solely on the financial strength of your business. It was based on an outside force (the government) making decisions that directly inhibited your ability and the ability of your team to earn a living. And for that reason alone, you and your business merit the compensation. I know that this can be a real confidence killer. Do not let your pride keep you from collecting what is rightfully yours.
 
Some of you have never had to file for unemployment benefits, and just the thought of it can be unsettling. Requesting a loan is also a tough decision. Again, some of you have never had to do this. Speaking directly to both of those issues, I will tell you this: You are not asking for help and you are not relying on the government for assistance. You are requesting compensation from the source of the downturn in your business. Think of it as your insurance. If you had damages, you would file a claim. The same rule applies. Do what you must to sustain your business.
 
As you do this, another issue arises. How do we go forward with the new normal, and what does this mean? I do not think any of us knows for sure. This is where our industry truly excels. We have gone through many changes and always find a way to continue. This challenge should be no different. There are a few things to consider, including the safety of you and your team, and the safety of your customers. Starting with what you can control, you should outline best practices for your business. Review the CDC and OSHA websites as well as your state guidelines and local ordinances. This will take a bit of time, but it’s necessary to know what you must do to remain in compliance. Once you are familiar, draft a plan of operation. Then communicate it to your managers to elicit feedback. With buy-in from everyone, share it with your team members. Support these efforts with visuals. For example, put specific guidelines in specific areas. The breakroom comes to mind. Limit access and have a process for cleaning. Another important area is the showroom. Locked and by appointment may be necessary. Make sure your team knows what to do, where to do it and executes the plan one hundred percent.
 
Then make sure your customers know you have put procedures in place for their safety. This is a marketing message and should in the short-term be over-emphasized. Make the message a positive one. Let them know you are ready to provide them with the best products and service to help them make the most of their summer drive-time. With your new normal in place, proceed with caution and make the most of every customer experience. As an industry, we provide great technology with professional installation. Deliver it with confidence, and do your best for everyone involved.
 
Read the latest issue of Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]
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Knowledge of your inventory can make or break your business.
 
This is one of the most feared questions when making the sale: “Do we have that in stock?” As retailers, I am reasonably sure you have had to walk or reschedule a much-needed sale at one time or another because we thought we had something only to find out it wasn’t there when we needed it most. Hopefully, you’ve found a system to mitigate this issue. If you’re still working through it, allow me to offer some ideas that might get you on your way to a healthy understanding of your inventory.
What’s in the barn?
 
Knowing what you have available to sell is paramount. Your customer expectation for product availability was made when you sold products and services. To find out post-sale that your product isn’t actually available leaves you in a compromised position. Now you must come up with a reasonable explanation. This situation happens all too frequently and, for the most part, it can be completely avoided.
 
Count it, then count it again
Counting your inventory is the first step to knowing what you have in stock. If you haven’t done so, now is the time to physically count your stock. Make sure you have a way to audit the results—especially for smaller items like kits, harnesses or adaptors.
 
How long will your stock last?
To calculate how long your stock will last, you must know your rate of sale for each item. There are a few ways to accomplish this task. The first is look at the past year of sales for each item and divide it by 52 weeks. This method is simple, but won’t account for seasonality. Should you desire to get a bit more accurate, do the same by quarter or by month. If you are using a point-of-sale software that tracks what you sell, this task should be fairly simple. Regardless of your method, once completed you will have a calculated rate of sale that can be used for deciding how much of each product you keep in the barn. Next, let’s review ways to set proper inventory levels to keep important stock on the shelf.
 
Setting levels
Knowing how many weeks of inventory to keep on hand can be a challenge. Knowing your rate of sale is an important step. You also need to have a good understanding of your supply-chain. You will have to account for lead-time, order quantity discounts as well as freight-cost reductions usually acquired from larger orders. Another important factor is availability. You should account for temporary product shortages. To deal with product shortage, you should assign an alternate product that could temporarily replace one that may be out of stock. This will help you manage your inventory levels going forward and put you in a better position to have what your customer needs when they need it. The number of weeks on hand is a calculation you will need to determine based on your business needs. Your purchasing power should also be considered.
 
Creating and managing your open to buy
The open to buy is a number set by you based on your ability to purchase inventory over a defined period. You can calculate it within your comfort zone by reviewing the rate of sales over a period and determining a dollar value of inventory required to achieve it. This doesn’t account for fluctuations and growth, but it provides an initial guideline. Next you should review your available cash and credit line to make sure you can afford to place the orders. Remember, just because you have favorable terms doesn’t mean you should order more. Each month a bill will be due and you need to ensure you have the revenue to pay it. You should also look at seasonality to account for higher and lower sales months, to keep you from having too much or little. Another consideration is separating it by category. Once the total is identified, you should review each category and set a number for each. Once completed, manage your inventory. Do regular counts. These are sometimes referred to as cycle counts. Assign someone to spot check troublesome categories to make sure you’re staying on top of your numbers.
 
Aging inventory
Looking for an easy way to increase your open to buy? Review your aging inventory. If it’s collecting dust, it’s probably costing you money. Have a sale, move it to eBay (brand permitting), or write it off. This will provide more spendable cash to support your inventory goals. And it cleans up the stockroom, as well.
 
Smooth sailing ahead
Regardless of how you complete the task, knowing your inventory and managing it better will lead to an improved experience for you, your business and your customer.

 

 
 
Read the latest issue of Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]
 
 
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As we all adjust to new safety guidelines and precautionary measures, this should be the message from every retail store.
 
After speaking at the Car Media Convention in Germany on February 16 of this year, I found myself wondering if this virus could affect our industry and our nation. If so, what kind of disruptions could it cause? Just a few weeks later on March 11, I spoke at the GoFast event in New England. I noticed great trepidation from exhibitors and attendees as to how they should interact with one another. Some greeted each other by nodding from a distance. Others offered a fist-bump, and some just embraced with a firm handshake or brotherly hug as if nothing had changed. This was my first real indication that something was seriously wrong. That night after the New England event, I had a long dinner with some well-respected members of the mobile electronics industry. Much of our conversation focused on what might happen next. For me, this marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each day, news reports sounded worse. The future began to look bleak with little information to allay our worst fears. Stock markets reeled, the medical industry panicked and the news media did little to provide perspective. It felt like a swift kick in the gut. I am sure we all have a story to tell of how this nightmare left us feeling a bit more than unnerved. Long days turned into even longer weeks. Months have gone by.
 
Then Came the Waiting
Day after day, I listened to the news looking for bright spots and pitfalls. The latter was more prevalent. The frustrating part for me was the lack of good information and the wealth of disinformation. Then can the closures of non-essential businesses. That was a watershed moment that required us at MEA to start gathering information on what was deemed essential. Once we understood it, we could share information with the industry to help businesses stay open if they wanted to.
Next came the potential of getting Small Business Association loans, both Economic Injury and Paycheck Protection. This seemed to hang in the U.S. Congress for an eternity. And once it was approved, MEA acted and provided several webinars to help understand a process none of us had ever experienced. I felt extremely disappointed at the first round and the mishandling by some financial institutions. The second round of funding seemed to be more focused on those in need. As of this writing, many of you have received funds to shore up your business. I am happy we were able to help.
 
Is Your Business Essential?
Finding out what defined an essential business led us to understand the Department of Homeland Security Identification of Essential Infrastructure. We reviewed each state and province to understand their interpretation. Here’s my personal take on “essential businesses.” Governments and thus politicians have a way of deeming businesses essential that has nothing to do with how I feel about the topic. Essential, to me, is any business that produces income for you and your team to provide for them and their families. What is non-essential to others has little to do with what you need to fulfill your obligations and live your life. I hope we never again see a day where any of us are deemed non-essential. For those of you who listed your business as vehicle repair, you had proof that met the criteria. For those of you listed as such, I recommend you take the time to update your listing with your state to make sure you never have to deal with this again. While I know business may have been down for many of you, I was happy to see a large majority were able to stay open and keep doing business.
 
The Next Phase: Reopening
The Federal Government set out an approach for reopening that provided guidelines which some states followed. Others made more cautious plans, while still others took the opportunity to oppress many struggling businesses with restrictions based more on fear than facts. I get that we are all learning through this. I do not suggest throwing caution to the wind, but I do think all voices should be represented and heard in a free society. I fear we have become complacent in allowing social and traditional news media define what is appropriate. I hope one day we can all feel free to speak our minds without hesitation and fear of retaliation.
Today, I am glad to hear many retailers are having an experience similar to Black Friday due in part to stimulus checks and pent-up demand, coupled with seasonal uptick—and, I believe, a desire to drive rather than fly this summer. Hopefully, we all experience this rush. It will go a long way to making up for losses suffered over the past couple of months. Stay safe and healthy. I look forward to seeing everyone in person at out next event!
 
Read the latest issue of Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]

Finding hope for our industry in this most critical time

by Chris Cook

Ask me what is on my mind and you may get an earful of what I believe and how I think things will play out. The reality: None of us knows how things will turn out. Right now, I am more interested in our future as a country and more specifically, as the mobile electronics industry. I am humbled and honored to serve as the president of the Mobile Electronics Association (MEA), especially at this period in our history.

At MEA, we are doing everything in our power to help mobile electronics specialty retailers sustain their businesses. We created www.MEAhelp.com as an effort to aggregate important information critical to our industry’s survival during this time. Please take a moment right now to review and let us know if there is anything more we can provide to assist you.

Education and Training Resources

Since this crisis started, we have been busy with meetings, webinars and gathering important resources to help the industry. Every Friday we meet with a group of industry leaders which includes manufacturers, distributors and other industry associations. During our meetings, we discuss the week’s events, learn from one another and consider ways as a group to sustain our industry during this crisis. I can say firsthand that if you are a retailer in this industry, your suppliers have your best interests in mind and at heart.

Another group we meet with weekly are sales representatives. They are on the frontlines and your best resource for information on the goings-on of your suppliers. They, too, lend their wisdom to the discussion of supporting the specialty retailer.

One of the positive results of this crisis is the near endless amount of education and training being delivered via webinars. The entire schedule can be found at MEAhelp.com under Education and Training Resources. If you are a supplier, we have a quick and easy link to submit your event and gain more attendees. Look for this website to become the new place for all things education and training—your best resource from the association that brings you KnowledgeFest!


MEA Webinars to Help You Through the Crisis

Since we launched this resource, MEA has provided hours of education to help specialty retailers through this crisis. Most notably, we have hosted several webinars on the Small Business Association Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster (EID) Loan programs. These webinars and many more are viewable on-demand at MEAhelp.com.

Just as important are the weekly MEA Retail Owner & Manager webinars that have covered topics such as: How to establish and maintain your business as an essential business, how to stay connected to your customers and community, how to create consumer-facing videos to keep your customers feeling safe when doing business at your retail location, and understanding the new sales process as we reopen our society. These important webinars will continue for the near future to assist our industry as we all learn together how best to adapt in this ever-changing environment. If there is a topic you feel we as your industry association should be teaching, please take a moment and contact us at the email provided on MEAhelp.com.

Looking Toward the Future Together

MEA will continue to provide the latest and best information we can find to assist you in sustaining your business. We are committed to helping you strengthen your business as we move from stay-at-home orders to emerging with a new and focused purpose.

As you finish reading, I encourage you to look toward the future. A future that enables us to come together with a renewed purpose. Personally, I look forward to being together once again at a future KnowledgeFest event. I greatly miss seeing all of you and hearing the inspiring stories of how you learned and applied new knowledge gleaned from education workshops, manufacturer trainings, and some of my favorites, just hanging out with your peers at great networking events. Until that time comes, please stay safe and healthy. Also, let us know if there is anything we can do to help in any area of your business. Know that MEA is here for you as your Industry’s #1 Resource!

Read the latest issue of Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]

Read the on the digital platform for Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]

 

Want to Win at the Awards? You Will Be the Judge of That!

Tell the industry your story and get ready to rise to the top.

When it comes to your Mobile Electronics Industry Awards, you can count on the process to be fair to everyone in our industry. We at the Mobile Electronics Association consider the integrity of the Industry Awards our highest priority. We know the industry counts on us to manage a fair process that accounts for all aspects of the program. To that end, each year we pick an esteemed panel of judges who review and cast their vote for each of the Top 12 categories. In addition, we have an audit team that oversees and reviews the voting process. These teams are made up of past winners, staff and an outside accounting firm which will audit the results.

The Mobile Electronics Industry Awards comprises a months-long process to recognize and honor those in the industry who best exemplify the professionalism, business ethics, service and expertise we want consumers to think of when they do business with us. Candidate companies and individuals submit video nominations and are narrowed to a list of finalists after a voting and selection process. In certain award categories, finalists submit materials which are then judged by a panel made up of past winners and other trusted industry experts. In other categories, final voting tallies determine the winners. All winners are announced at a special awards ceremony, held on the last day of the Dallas KnowledgeFest tradeshow and conference.

Here is a quick review of the voting rules: Votes for all industry awards are only open to industry participants. You may make one vote for each selection field. Voting takes place online through an approved submission platform. Emailed votes or votes placed in any other way will not be accepted. Each voter must provide contact information and employment information to determine eligibility. For contest accuracy, IP addresses for each vote are captured and compared to deter fraud. Voting by several members of a single location using a single computer/IP address is allowed.

The awards recognize Installer of the Year, Retailer of the Year, Sales Pro of the Year, Trusted Tech Award, Rookie of the Year, Retail Performance Awards and Customer’s Choice Award (this is the only award that allows your customers to vote). The top in each category are announced prior to Awards Night.

Other awards recognize industry professionals and companies: Distributor of the Year, Expeditor of the Year, Rep Firm of the Year, Representative of the Year and the Top Vendor Awards. These are voted upon by the entire industry and finalists are announced prior to Awards Night.

Let’s take a deeper look at the process for picking the Top 50 Installers, Retailers, Sales Professionals and other retailer awards. These are based on nominations from you and your peers. Your votes elevate the best of the best to the next level—the Top 12. Once the Top 12 votes are tallied, we announce the winners and move to the next part of the process. Many of the retailer awards have a phase two and phase three process. For the most part, both require the creation of video presentations which are judged using several criteria.

When it comes to the Retailer of the Year, several things need to be submitted. Remember, the video doesn’t need to be professionally produced, but it must provide the following information: The basics of how long you’ve been in business, number of locations, location type and number of employees. Also include the business philosophy or mission statement. What’s your sales performance over the past three years? What makes your business unique? What’s the greatest challenge you’ve overcome in the past year? Why should your location or chain be part of the Top 50 Retailers? Include a video walkthrough revealing the customer experience from parking lot to point-of-sale and employee areas. Add still shots of any required documents.

The Installer of the Year requires video as well and must answer the following: Name, years of experience and number of years at your current location. What’s your installation specialty, and how do you describe your philosophy as an installer? Name some installation professionals who’ve had influence on you and your career. How do your co-workers describe you? What’s the biggest challenge (personal or professional) you have overcome in the past year? What do you want customers to remember about the installation aspect of your service, and why should you be part of the Top 50 Installers? How does your performance influence team and store culture? Provide a video walkthrough of your work area and tools including still shots of work samples.

There’s a lot that goes into a successful awards process, and it’s worth it. I have spoken with many industry professionals who have submitted and been named Top 50, Top 12 and overall winners. The common theme of the conversation is how it made them better at what they do. I encourage you to take the time to review the awards website. Visit meindustryawards.com. Get started on the next level of your career. You will be glad you did! See you on Awards Night!

Read the latest issue of Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]
Come Together
 
One industry, association and purpose.
 
A little over ten years ago—November 4, 2009 to be exact—I stood on a stage at the SEMA Show with a few other industry leaders to announce the purchase of MERA (now MEA) and that we would be re-launching a new KnowledgeFest on October 10, 2010 (10-10-10) in Dallas, Texas. At that launch, we played a fitting tune: The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Why that song, you ask? It was the prelude for our mission to unite a very fractured industry. It came from a strong desire to create an association that brought a group of talented albeit underrepresented individuals together for a common purpose, to improve upon each other and the industry in the process. To create an association with benefits that either saved or made our members money. One that focused on great education opportunities and provided highly relevant information, thus empowering our industry to thrive.
 
Bringing Benefits to Specialty Retailers
Back in 2008, the association had dwindled to less than 100 members and was no longer able to support the trade event that had been held every year since 1993. Knowing this, we set out to relaunch the associations premiere trade event, KnowledgeFest. Looking back, it was a great accomplishment and a good first step to creating something that provided a learning environment for the benefit of the entire industry. However, an event was not the only thing to revive. Next, we set out to review the offered benefits from the association and decide how best to move forward with value for our members.
 
Our goal was to create an association that provided benefits to assist specialty retailers with technology and services. These benefits should either save retailers money, help them make money, or both. We added the industry’s best-known point-of-sale and scheduling software, Total Sales and Scheduling (TSS), to our arsenal. Then we added a long-time standard for vehicle fitment and wiring information, the Mobile Automotive Information Database (MAID). Both were transferred from our parent company, InstallerNet. These two technology offerings provide high value to our members. To date, most of our members use them. Soon after, we added websites and in-store signage solutions to round out these offerings. However, this was only the beginning.
 
Nurturing Continued Growth Year Over Year
Next, we sought out partners to provide great member benefits that met or exceeded our standards. One of those partners is the Member Savings Program. Our partnership provided benefits that save members thousands of dollars per year through the buying power of a group purchasing alliance made up of over 150 associations.
 
In an effort to present our members to consumers, we created a consumer-focused website that provides members with a listing including their location, hours of operation, company slogan and links to website and social media sites. Check it out at www.MEAPreferred.com. Take some time to review the benefits, and you’ll find discount shipping programs, savings on payroll processing, free registration to KnowledgeFest events, professional business coaching and Mobile Electronics magazine. These are just some examples of the many cost-saving and money-making benefits of being an MEA member.
 
Today, MEA is over 1,000 members strong. Your mobile electronics (trade) association consists of manufacturers, retailers and service providers of automotive aftermarket technology products. Through our coast-to-coast offering of KnowledgeFest trade shows and conferences, we can provide top-notch education, networking opportunities and business services designed to advance professionalism and profitability for all of the industry's stakeholders.
 
Providing Top-Tier Education
Our publication, Mobile Electronics magazine, is the industry’s #1 resource with more than 18,000 digital subscribers. The monthly publication acknowledges top retailers, installers and suppliers through the annual Mobile Electronics Industry Awards.
Finally, KnowledgeFest provides a three-day event with emphasis on experience, learning and connecting with others in the mobile electronics industry. These events provide you with the best opportunity to learn from other successful industry professionals at either Long Beach, Calif., Indianapolis, Ind., Orlando, Fla. and or Dallas, Texas. Finishing out 2020 we will celebrate with our first-ever virtual KnowledgeFest.
 
When it comes to the Mobile Electronics industry, many of us who’ve been around a few years will tell you that when it comes to organizations looking to represent this unique group of people, there have been a few that properly represent all stakeholders. Know that the Mobile Electronics Association will always be here to lead the industry though both the good times and the not-so-good times. I look forward to hearing from you on how we can service you better. Please feel free to contact me or any of our team to learn how you can reap the benefits.
 
Read the latest issue of Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]
 
 
Read the on the digital platform for Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]
 
 
Need Some Facetime?
Nothing can replace face-to-face networking with others in our industry.
 
From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve had to give up many things for the sake of our health and the health of others—all with consequences. We have sacrificed much, and hopefully, this will save many lives and eradicate the virus in the end, allowing society to resume normal life. Until then, we must learn to adapt and create our new normal. We have adopted practices based on a bit of science, politics and hopefully some good old common sense.
With that, we should all look forward to resuming life aware of the current pandemic. As I look forward to the future of face-to-face events, I am hopeful that those of us who provide them will create innovative ways to enjoy networking, education and the recognition we have come to cherish at the Mobile Electronics Industry Awards.
 
Is there a replacement for face-to-face events?
Let us explore some possibilities. When the pandemic started, we at MEA, as well as many manufacturers in our industry, launched webinars. These webinars help keep you connected to your suppliers and provide education and training that may have otherwise been accomplished during a local sales rep visit, distributor show, or regional and national industry events. Let me share from my own experience as a presenter and participant.
As a presenter, it’s extremely hard to gauge the audience. Without seeing expressions and body language, it is difficult to know if those listening or watching are attentive and engaged in the presentation. It’s the equivalent of doing a practice presentation in the mirror. Feedback in the form of questions and comments are helpful, but do not replace those in a face-to-face environment.
 
As a participant, my experience can be varied. At times, I am fully engaged with the presentation and sometimes I get distracted or lose focus. I can imagine that those of you at a shop have distractions, as well, in the form of customers. At the start of the pandemic when many shops were either closed or had significantly reduced business, there was plenty of time for webinars and the attendance numbers showed the same. As things opened back up, attendance was reduced along with the number of manufacturers providing webinars. This brings up a question in my mind: How can we return to the valuable facetime we enjoy while mitigating the health risk?
 
Good Information Helps Make Sound Decisions
As citizens of this great nation, the information we’ve received has varied in accuracy. We can all debate about who’s right or wrong, and what is the best source for information. Just open any social media app, and everything runs wild. As for me, I look for good data sources and try to understand how best to protect myself and others. As it relates to retail stores reopening, many of you have figured out a process for which you feel comfortable. Bottom line: It’s your business, and you need to do what you feel is best for you, your team and your customers. Your suppliers have done the same. You may be experiencing less in-person visits from reps and suppliers.
I believe many of you would say that those relationships benefit from seeing them in your store—much like you when it comes to seeing your customers in your store. There is no substitute for selling and servicing in-person. So, until we can do this safely, we will all suffer the consequences of separation. Unless we find a way to replace this, we must look to innovative ways to regain this important socialization.
 
When Will We All Be Together Again?
KnowledgeFest Long Beach was a success this past February. Later this year, we should all look forward to seeing one another at an incredibly special event for our industry—KnowledgeFest Dallas. The move to later in the year was strategic. We felt the best chance to hold an event that we all could enjoy. Yes, I hear the news and review the numbers. Here’s what I can tell you: There are brilliant people creating new ways to allow us to come together at an event, in person, without great risk to our health. You will see these practices in action at KnowledgeFest Dallas.
 
Industry trade events are important because they provide needed education, networking and facetime with others including your suppliers. These events represent the best our industry has to offer, and just like reopening your store, they will have processes in place to allow all of us to enjoy connecting with each other in a way that can only be accomplished face-to-face. I hope to see you all very soon to celebrate our successes!

 

Read the latest issue of Mobile Electronics magazine [Click Here]
 
 
[Read] the on the digital platform for Mobile Electronics magazine  
 

Taking Time out for a Pandemic
 
This year continues to bring new beginnings to our industry—and endings.
 
When the year began, many of us celebrated. We may have taken time to reflect on the past year and our performance related to both our failures and accomplishments. For some reason, we tend to view the first of January with a renewed sense of commitment to our future selves. As the year progressed, we discovered life might not be unfolding the way we were hoped. While pondering global issues is great for an evening of pontification on Facebook, it’s far from what each of us has endured over the past few months. I don’t believe any of us could have predicted or even imagined these unusual circumstances.
 
First, let’s look at some of the endings. As of this writing, Yelp disclosed that, as of the end of August, over 160,000 businesses indicated they have closed. That was down from the 180,000 that closed at the very beginning of the pandemic. This represents a 23 percent increase in the number of closures since mid-July. In addition to monitoring closed businesses, Yelp also considers the businesses whose closures have become permanent. That number has steadily increased throughout the past six months, reaching nearly 100,000, representing 60 percent of closed businesses that won’t be reopening. We have also witnessed businesses scaling back, filing for bankruptcy protection, and closing for good on a scale that few of us have ever seen before. Names like Brooks Brothers, Gold’s Gym, Neiman Marcus, JC Penny and Hertz, to name a few, have all filed for bankruptcy protection. Regardless of who you are, chances are that this scaling back and business closures have affected you in some way. I am thankful that very few in our industry have had to close. The reports we received revealed a handful of specialty retailers that haven’t made it through the pandemic.
 
However, in the midst of tragedy, our industry has flourished. Many businesses had to temporarily close at the beginning of the pandemic. Some were able to operate as essential businesses, but with limited opportunity since many potential customers were staying home. But the vast majority reported that once they’d reopened, business not only went up, but way up. Many attributed this initially to stimulus checks and additional income from stimulus-related unemployment benefits. While that has since dried up, the increase in sales have not. If fact, they continue to increase despite industry shortages, continued restrictions and unemployment numbers. It seems that our industry continues to benefit partially from pent-up demand and from an influx of new customers who are spending on vehicle technology rather than experiences like concerts or theme parks. And with reduced air travel, people are upgrading for family road trips.
 
There have also been other new beginnings. New terms have entered our conversation, terms like social distancing, flattening the curve and community spread. None of them should appear on your favorites list. In addition, we have learned to Zoom, or use video conferencing and webinars, instead of meeting face-to-face. This new trend is being used to attend schools, have government meetings, and for our industry, provide continuing education. This shift in socialization has allowed our industry to stay connected despite having to miss all important events like KnowledgeFest, SEMA and even CES. On a more regional level, some distributors have used Zoom-like technologies to host events with good success. I have personally spoken as a panelist, keynote and presenter at countless events. I can tell you firsthand that while I appreciate the opportunities, I truly miss the face-to-face presentations which allow greater interaction with the audience. But for now, I am thankful for every opportunity to connect with other industry professionals regardless of the challenges that webinars present.
 
Until we are all able to meet once again face-to-face, I challenge you to take the time to attend as many webinars as you are able. Also, take the time to pick up the phone and call someone and encourage them. As you do, you will find that all of us have a story and all of us have learned lessons that will be part of some great conversations when we all can meet again. Until then, stay safe and healthy!
 
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Thankful
Finding blessings in the midst of chaos
 
All of us have our own stories about the challenges we faced this year. It seems as if no one has escaped the pandemic effect. However, we all have something to be thankful for, too. Regardless of your situation, it’s important to pause and perhaps reflect upon things for which we can be thankful. You see, being thankful doesn’t mean you enjoyed the situation. But it does mean that, in the end, you understood and met the challenge, leaving you appreciative that you either overcame it or learned a valuable lesson that helped you grow personally, professionally or both.
 
My opening subtitle states, “Finding blessings in the midst of chaos.” When I think of chaos, I look at the many things at work to divide us. I found it heartbreaking that topics in the daily news left us arguing with each other. The complete lack of understanding by those who were chosen to lead us through this pandemic contributed to the confusion. Some news outlets reported good information while others reported not-so-good information. As a result, many of us argued these points amongst ourselves.
 
Many of these arguments played out on social media. Otherwise rational people chose sides and defended what they believed to be the truth. While I enjoy a robust and engaging discussion as much as the next person, this went beyond reasonable discussion. I spoke to many who lost friends in these arguments over topics such as medical and political information. This was the chaos to which I referred in my opening subtitle.
 
Yes, the pandemic, riots and political posturing were not the only things that produced chaos. The real chaos was related to all of those we’ve lost over the past year. Those for whom we can only seek to honor their memories. For those who’ve lost someone or something this year, I can only say that I am truly sorry you had to bear the brunt of the heartbreak produced in part from this pandemic.
 
I also opened this column with the title “Thankful.” Why? Where is the blessing, the silver-lined cloud we seek?
 
I am thankful for my family, friends and those of you who are part of the family we call our industry. I know every industry has unique attributes which give it an identity. But when I say I am thankful, I refer to the mobile electronics industry. We are unique in ways I have not experienced in other industries. Our identity is rooted in our desire and actions to help and support others in time of need. Arguments aside, I believe the blessing is in our actions to reach out and lift up those in need, those torn by forces out of their control. Acts of kindness greatly outweigh the chaos and go a long way toward defining who and what we are as an industry.
 
This year nearly all of us have suffered loss and disappointment in some way. In that, we have grown closer as an industry. We have also reaped the blessings of increased awareness and business which have in turn provided for our associates and our families.
Today, I challenge you to pause and reflect on the many blessings we have, and seek to mend any damaged friendships, because it’s important that we be there for each other and support one another in times of need—regardless of differing opinions.
 
I look forward to the New Year, to new beginnings and to blessings I know we’ll have as we continue to grow together to produce the awesome experiences that only our industry can provide.
 
 
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Focus and Finish Strong
It’s time to make the most of the opportunity.
 
We are facing many challenges as an industry. We experienced a lapse in business, followed by a huge increase, and major product shortages. What could be next? No one really knows.
Here’s what we do know: You’ll be opening your doors with great expectations, focused on closing the sale and delivering the highest quality customer service, along with keeping your team motivated and happy. In the midst of your daily mission, it’s important to review your numbers and ensure being busy translates to growth and prosperity.
 
Track and review your business’s performance
The first two quarters of the year are behind us. The third quarter is in play. How we finish this one is essential when it comes to setting up your business for the final quarter of the year. Some of us view this with anticipation and others with trepidation. Regardless of your outlook, it’s imperative to focus on making the numbers at this all-important time for your business.
When measuring success, there are a couple benchmarks to review. One is year-over-year performance. The other is daily, weekly and month-to-month performance. How your business performed over the last year is a good indicator of gross revenue growth. First, review the current month as it relates to the same month last year. Then, review your year-to-date performance versus the same period to date for the previous year. This allows you to better understand your seasonal performance and your overall performance to date.
 
When reviewing daily, weekly and monthly performance, focus on daily revenue and whether it’s increasing, decreasing or staying relatively flat. Tracking daily, weekly and monthly gross revenue will help you see current trends, allowing you to adjust and focus to meet your goals. There are many other key performance indicators (KPI) to track as part of your daily dashboard. However, when business is good and your team is stretched thin, the above KPIs will at the least give you a heads-up on performance. There’s nothing worse than being busy only to discover you’re not doing as well as you thought. Make sure you keep up with performance so you don’t look back in disappointment.
 
Do we have that in stock?
Speaking of disappointment. Many of you have indicated that inventory shortages have been inhibiting your ability to deliver on customer requests. Many of you have been enjoying the benefits of “just-in-time” delivery. In an inventory shortage environment, this practice can severely inhibit your ability to take advantage of the increased customer interest in your business. It’s extremely easy to become accustomed to letting others carry inventory levels to fulfill your business needs. This is not one of those times.
 
During inventory shortages, review what you have available to sell. Do this every day. Make a list, and share it with your team. Then focus on what’s available to make the sale. Next, contact each of your suppliers and request an update. Make sure you know what’s in the pipeline so you can fulfill the needs of customers looking for specific brands and or products. Again, share this information with your team. Find a way to say yes to your customer regardless of your situation.
 
Make the most of every sale
Lastly, focus on producing the most in every sale. When it’s business as usual, it’s much easier to focus on maximizing each sale. When you’re remarkably busy, not so much. This is the time when having processes in place will help you gain higher profitability. If you don’t have anything in place, don’t worry—there’s still time to do something that will keep you from losing out. Here are a few easy-to-implement ideas.
Review anything you have which could become an add-on for a sale. It could be a performance guarantee (a warranty), cleaning and detailing, non-mobile electronics products such as sunglasses, specialty items or services. Once identified, make sure each of these are offered to every customer.
 
If you want to go a step further, look at the top five or ten vehicles that tend to be repeats at your store. Then, make a list of things to offer to each. Communicate this with your team, and make sure these are offered every single time. Do this without fail, and I can guarantee it will not only increase your revenue, but it will also add to your bottom line!
 
Taking a few minutes out of your day to add these simple processes should help you focus on the main goal: Make or exceed your numbers today.
 
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