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August Issue Feature: Real World Retail - Stereo Solutions

8-31-2016 -- Legendary martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee once said, "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

The power of water is undeniable in the natural world. But in the retail space, it can be even more powerful. Especially if one put Lee's concept into practice. Luckily for Mark Fung, owner of Stereo Solutions in Redding, Calif., both the philosophical and physical elements of water have helped land his shop in the Top 50 two years in a row.

Located on the Sacramento River, and close to multiple lakes, including the vast Lake Shasta, Redding is home to a strong boating community that acts as the foundation for Stereo Solutions' business. Due to the recent drought in California, Fung had been concerned about the possibility of a slow season, but luckily, thanks to a surprise rainy season, business is booming.

"It's been our second busiest month ever. California has been in a drought. Our lakes are full now. Mt. Shasta has a bunch of snow. People are investing in new boats," Fung said. "There was a point where people thought we were a boat dealer because we had a lot of boats here. The bay has 2,500 square feet with four bay doors, two on each side to pull vehicles through. We squeezed eight or nine boats in there at one time. Marine is a big portion of our company but it's not all of it."

The shop also works with the local fire department and highway patrol, installing navigation, Bluetooth, backup cameras and specialty remote starts.

"Some of the highway patrol cars would come from probably 300 miles away," Fung said. "What started it was we work with a lot of dealerships here in town and they were handling a lot of fleet programs. They got on board with highway patrol and we jumped on board with that."

Liquid Thoughts

Becoming a community's go-to place for vehicle upgrades isn't a guarantee, even in a place like Redding where there is a need. It's a good thing that Fung is immersed in all things 12-volt and always has been throughout his career.

"It's the only job I've ever had. I worked sweeping car audio shops when I was 15 and a half, right when I could drive," Fung said. "The first shop I worked at was called Speed of Sound in Redding. I was sweeping floors and getting to learn installs by shadowing." After spending two to three years at Speele Audio, Fung moved around to around six shops in town. The experience helped Fung identify the do's and don'ts of the business, preparing and inspiring him to open his own shop.

"All the shops I worked at in town are no longer in business. I think one of the biggest reasons was the owners of the shops were not car audio guys. They all had financial backers. None of them could install. They all had to rely on someone to get a job done," Fung said. "When it comes down to it, I can sell a job and I can turn around and install it. It's hard for me to hire a salesman without an installation background because if he doesn't know what he's selling and the car it's going in, it won't turn out right. That's a unique thing here. I have six employees and every single one of them has an installation background."

The shop does not have a dedicated salesperson anymore. Instead, Fung uses a unique approach, allowing as many installers to populate the sales floor as is needed at any given time to handle customers.

"People can buy this stuff anywhere but can't get it installed anywhere. There's a guy in town now that just sells product," Fung said. "That's how we focus the shop, around the install."

Part of Fung's unique approach comes from his background in self-sufficiency. The shop has no traditional financial backers. It started thanks to a generous loan from Fung's grandmother in 2007. 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

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