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April Issue Feature: Real World Retail - Kingpin Car & Marine Audio

4-19-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Looks can be deceiving. As Western culture took over as the popular culture in the world, people's looks became indistinguishable from the personality of their cultures. If you dressed like a cowboy, that must have meant you were from Texas and liked to ride horses. If you were a guy with long dreadlocks, wore flip flops, tie-dyed shirts and shorts you must have been a hippie. But after meeting Jason Kranitz, owner of Kingpin Car and Marine Audio, you'd quickly learn that there's more to a person than their sense of fashion.

With spiked hair, a no-nonsense attitude and a sleeve of flame tattoos, one might relegate Kranitz to that of a punk-rocker. While he shares many traits with that sub-culture, including his refusal to play by the rules of hiring only established installation technicians, Kranitz's views on industry topics, his shop's appointment-only business model and high standards of excellence prove that he's much more than a rebel with a cause.

"We do things so differently, we expect perfection. A lot of experienced guys come over to our shop, get going and realize it isn't for them," Kranitz said regarding his decision to train workers from scratch. "People inside the industry tend to view training as punishment; but new hires view training as a way to learn and grow and welcome it."

Due to the large growth period the company is experiencing as of late, Kranitz had to make an executive decision on his company's employment strategy—either hire experienced staff, pulling from other parts of the country and potentially spending large sums of money to bring in a hired gun quickly, or start fresh with enthusiastic newcomers. Choosing the latter has been a game changer, according to Kranitz. The only concern now, is how to not grow too fast.

"We're looking to expand and to own our own building in two years. The problem is everything is on the upswing of the real estate market. I'd rather purchase on the down side to get a better deal," Kranitz said. "When it comes to employees, I'm done trying to find only seasoned people in the industry. There are too many shops that will take people with experience and pay too much for them. My most recent hires have all been rookies. It's more work to train from scratch but it's working out better already."

Taking Up The Cause

Although the company has had its fair share of struggles in recent years, including the loss of seasoned employees, Kranitz knows that sometimes the way forward is by reviewing the past. After spending time at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon with law enforcement as his career path, Kranitz realized it wasn't for him after seeing the same criminals being caught repeatedly. Soon enough, he found himself in another career that had been in front of him the whole time.

"I got started way back in the day as a consumer. A local shop I bought all my stuff from asked me if I wanted to hang around and sweep floors and do some work. So I continued to sweep floors and stuff. I was hanging out in the back with installers and started running wires. That's where I started," Kranitz said. "Kevin Cornutt, who's currently with Stereo King, was the installer at Focus Electronics where I swept floors. They decided to get out of car audio. Kevin went to work for Car Tunes. He called me up one day, said they had an opening. That was my first paid install job. I did nothing but come-backs—all the repair work. It sucked but it was the best thing for me because it taught me how to troubleshoot."

He would go on to work for Phoenix Gold for a year before returning to retail Car Toys for seven years. "At the time I liked it. Their business model didn't change. I thought I was going to work there forever. They went from 21 stores to 56 stores. Eventually, the focus changed to being about numbers and not necessarily on sound quality stuff," Kranitz said. "I would talk to my mom on the way home every day and talk to her about how they're doing things wrong and how there are better ways to serve clients. My mom told me one day to just do it. I said 'What if I fail?' She said 'What's the worst that could happen? Just get a job someplace else. Show them how you think it should be done.' I had a plan to start my business three weeks later."

With $30,000 in savings behind him, Kranitz opened Kingpin Car Audio and Marine in August of 2006. The facility was chosen by finding a balance between price and location, eventually landing in the small town of Wilsonville, a suburb of Portland, Ore., where there were no other car stereo shops. "Hindsight 20/20, I wouldn't have done it. I would have chosen an area that has a stereo shop. If you have another shop nearby, you let their advertising dollars bring clients to the area, then when they don't live up to the clients' expectations, the client would come to me. It would get them into my facility."

The shop operates out of an 8,000 square foot facility, with 2,000 square feet dedicated to the sales floor and the rest used for installation bay, wood, metal, fabrication and upholstery. As a boutique specialist in an area filled with big box retailers, the challenge was creating a market in the area and beyond. Thankfully, Kranitz doesn't operate his business or life by the book.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

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