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June Issue Feature: Real World Retail - NVS Audio

June Issue Feature, June 1, 2016 -- Machines work in different ways. Most are designed to maximize productivity while working toward a higher efficiency. Goals are met either through computer-assisted adjustments or outside calibrations. The internal combustion engine is one such machine. Its early designs relied solely on moving parts that needed periodic replacement. Now, the engines include computers that monitor its status and notify the driver when maintenance is required.

The same could be said of a 12-volt retail business. If all is running smoothly, employees are generating revenue through a combination of sales and installation work. Occasionally, the store needs calibration due to the loss of an employee, a new employee, new product or other event that temporarily disrupts workflow. But the question is, how do you maintain a balance between the automated parts and the organic ones at a shop, since every employee is, after all, an individual? One retailer may have found the answer.

Carlos Ramirez, owner of NVS Audio in Linden, N.J. has created a shop culture that encapsulates the best of both worlds by creating strong processes for his staff to follow, no matter who's available to work them. Of his three employees, Ramirez admits that each has their specialty, but that doesn't mean they are limited to just that one thing.

"Some guys are better than others at things. Alain is the wiring and remote start guy. He's not good at wrapping upholstery. He struggles when trimming and wrapping. When we're not busy, I will have Damian on wiring and Alain will be wrapping upholstery the whole day," Ramirez said. "I like my guys cross-trained and efficient. Damian and Jairo are amazing at wrapping vinyl and upholstery. But with wiring, they get stuck on things Alain and I don't. I need to be able to sell three custom jobs and know that all three are being worked on whether my guys are sick or on vacation. I make sure they are all cross-trained."

The training concept begins in-house but extends to encourage all staff to be MECP-certified, which they are. Ramirez pays for any MECP test an employee wants to take, including paying them to take the day off for the test and providing a $50 cash bonus if they pass.

Employee training doesn't stop there, however. Two to three times a year Ramirez takes his staff to industry trainings with Sonus, Mobile Solutions and Del Ellis International. Employees are also trained on new products with the company's vendors conducting trainings on occasion. Ramirez attends KnowledgeFest alone in Dallas to enhance his own knowledge base as well.

Acknowledging that his staff are people and not just machines in a factory, Ramirez emphasizes the importance of treating his team like family to encourage better work and loyalty. This includes giving out bonuses for large jobs. "It's a percentage of what the total build was. As long as it was done on time, I give out a percentage based on how long they've worked for me," Ramirez added.

All employees are salaried with Ramirez doing the bulk of sales himself. In another effort to give back to his staff, he regularly treats them to meals, requesting they bring family members when available.  

"If we had a rough work week, we go out. I make sure they take family. If your wife and kids hate what you do, you're not going to be working here very long," Ramirez said. "We go out to dinner all the time. The last employee who quit only quit because they moved. Because of the kinds of work the other shops in the area do, if an employee left for more pay, they'd be doing more work and more boring jobs."

New employees are given a three-month internship period where they are not allowed to touch any machinery. The goal is to acclimate the new hire to the shop's practices to ensure everything is standardized. The same goes for tools.

"If an employee doesn't have good credit it doesn't matter. All my guys have immediate credit with Snap-on Tools. I have a list of tools you have to buy to work here. Some tools I provide. I buy the same socket set, one for each employee. Little things like that make us more efficient."

The longest tenured employee, Alain Sainvil, has been with NVS for 10 years, followed by Damian Kaminski with five years and Jairo Zuniga with just over one year employed. Each employee was discovered in different ways, with a grass-roots, natural method used for each.

"Alain has 16 years of experience and used to work at a big box store, 6th Avenue Electronics. He was hired part-time originally and used to wire big builds for me. Then he quit 6th Ave and came to work for me full-time. They didn't do a lot of custom work. That's what he's passionate about," Ramirez said. "Damian walked in with a customer and asked if we were hiring. He asked on a perfect day when we were busy. He had zero experience but just graduated electronics school and was certified. I hired Jairo fresh out of school. I don't like hiring experienced installers because I feel I have to erase everything they think they know and start fresh. Damian never worked at a shop before and I've built him into one of the best fabricators I've ever known in my career. We do things a certain way. Every single part gets wired the same way. Every speaker adapter gets done the same way. We developed a system."

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 June 2016 22:09
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