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4/1/2016, Mobile Electronics, April Issue -- Defining PowerBass is a particularly interesting exercise. The reason lies in the fact that PowerBass is more than your standard 12-volt manufacturer. PowerBass is the parent company of Image Dynamics (ID)—a storied, high-end car audio company with deep roots in as much retail as competition car audio. The old timers of the industry will remember ID for making some of the first car audio compression horns, the IDQ, and IDMAX subwoofers.

Despite merging in 2010, each brand has its own unique set of lines, its own website and its own identity in the marketplace. While they share some common staff, the gear and its respective positioning in the marketplace is kept quite intentionally separate.

One of the factors that makes PowerBass unique is the way their products come to market.

“PowerBass is a vertically integrated company,” said Brad Fair, sales director of PowerBass. “The [parent] owns the manufacturing facility in China, but the research and development goes on here in Ontario, California.”

The company also employs a pair of dedicated acoustic engineers, with Fair acting as the third acoustic engineer. “I do a lot of the follow up work,” he said “And I do a lot with the sales and marketing departments as well.”  

The Drawing Board

Defining the viability of prospective products starts with a team asking questions, both from the consumers as well as the retailers. Once that team starts comparing notes, the round table discussion evolves into the beginnings of a product. Can it be made in a certain target MSRP range? Is it unique enough to warrant production, and if so, is it an Image Dynamics product or a PowerBass product? All these questions get bandied about, refined, experimented with, dissected and refined again. Fair believes strongly in the importance of “taking a particular product, and making it ours.” Quality and market considerations invariably come into play.

In addition to establishing if a potential product concept is financially viable and sufficiently unique, Fair’s team assesses how it could be sold and marketed. Fair offered Bluetooth enabled products as a prime example. “Bluetooth is the biggest thing that’s been out there for the last year or two. We put our twist on to it. By that I mean price point, a feature, and so on.

For example, we now have a Bluetooth sound bar for UTV’s. There are a couple of other companies that have this already, however, the R&D is much different than what we do. We added a DSP processor to two of the new sound bars we just released, which makes a world of difference to the way it sounds at low and high volume. It’s pre-programmed to account for dips and peaks as well as a distortion limiter. It allows the user to turn it up louder than the competition, and sound better at low volume. We do the same thing when we develop a speaker, woofer or amplifier.”

To read the complete story, visit:

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

8-30-2017, Mobile Electronics -- I hope you enjoyed last month’s article looking at the manufacture and design of loudspeakers. I also hope you reviewed the previous article where Andy provided some basics on audio for us. This month we move forward with Andy showing us the basic necessities of tuning. Hold on, though, this ride might be a little shaky. Andy goes after things that I have heard said many times, and things that I have said before. What I suggest is keeping an open mind and be willing to learn from this industry veteran.

Let’s see what Andy is sharing with us this month.

Andy Explains

I’m going to commit heresy right here at the beginning so we can get beyond it as quickly as possible. This is really easy. Understanding why it’s easy isn’t so easy and I’ve provided some of those explanations in a previous article and in countless Facebook and forum posts.
System tuning isn’t really optimizing, it’s troubleshooting. If it was about optimizing, then we’d all be able to provide pretty good performance by just hooking stuff up. Anyone who’s serious about autosound knows this isn’t the case. This isn’t about taking what you have after it’s hooked up and making it a little better in 20 minutes. This is about a realization that once the product is hooked up, the job is only partially completed. Tuning a system isn’t an add-on or an extra service we provide for our favorite customers, just like programming an alarm for a particular car isn’t an option.
I hear the following statement all the time after listening to cars when I visit shops: “Not bad for the twenty minutes I spent,” and it makes me want to drown myself in the bathtub. What if you were demoing a recent security system installation for the guy from the company that makes that system and at the end of the demo in which nothing worked properly and several features weren’t enabled, you said, “Not bad for the five minutes I spent programming it”?
This isn’t about doing a better job. This is about finishing the job.
If you only have 20 minutes to finish a job in which you’ve spent a week making panels, upholstering them, adding lighting and accents, running wires and arranging them for FB photos, you’ve spent two hours shooting, then two things need to change: 1) you need to bill more time to finish the job and 2) you need a more efficient and predictable process for tuning. That’s what this article is about.
Before we go there, I want to talk about a couple of other statements I hear too often. The first is, “sound is subjective”. This is often proffered by people who, in a discussion about audio principles and their application, are suddenly out of their comfort zone and are looking for a quick exit. The idea that some customers prefer more high frequency content or more bass, a well-defined image or more spaciousness at the expense of image definition doesn’t mean there are no rules. A stereo system is, by design, supposed to do specific things and in order for it to work, some stuff just has to be right. Once you get those things right, changing the system performance for your customer’s preference is straightforward.
The second statement is, “I listen to everyone and I use all of those tips and tricks when I tune.” This is dangerous if sound quality, speed and predictability are important. If you’re an enthusiast working on your own car, then experimentation is part of the fun. Experimentation on a customer’s car is just a money pit.
Tips and tricks are tools. Many of them work, but they don’t all work in every situation. Knowing when to deploy them is important. What if you had one of those giant Snap-On tool boxes and all that was inside was a set of screwdrivers? You know how to use screwdrivers so you bought those. You’d have a lot of other drawers to fill. What if a bunch of people from every tool manufacturer and even some DIY guys give you a new tool every time they stop by. Every time someone gives you one and says, “this one is magic, you should try it to see if it works,” you put it in the drawer. Then, when you encounter a situation in which your screwdrivers don’t do the job, you start pulling other “magic” tools you don’t understand  out of the box to try them? Is that a process designed for success? Is success even likely?

Tips and tricks, shortcuts and workarounds are good for experts. You have to know when to use them and what they do or else they’re just a barrel of monkeys likely to make a big mess. The usefulness of tools depends mostly on the user’s understanding of what they’re for and how to use them. If the guy who gives you one can’t explain why it works and when to use it and you don’t know either, then it isn’t a tool. It’s a monkey.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

12-21-2016, Mobile Electronics -- There are plenty of marketing campaigns and techniques designed to attract new customers. But once those customers arrive, make their purchase and leave, how can they be enticed to return?

A first impression is the beginning of everything and the first step in customer retention. Upon entering a store, everything that’s seen is compiled in the mind to create the customer’s first impression—shop presentation, initial interaction with sales staff, whether the customer’s needs are anticipated and more.

Marcel Newell, founder of retail design company, AVIDWORX, noted the importance of the first impression as well as “putting forward a professional appearance and backing it up with friendly and professional customer service. You need to win that customer’s trust to make the first sale,” he said. After that, their trust has to be retained, so by the time the customer leaves the store, they have enjoyed their experience and have fond memories. Boosting customer retention means considering a number of different factors and applying logical techniques that keep customers coming back.

Method 1: Shop Presentation

Upon entering the shop, the visitor formulates a first impression based on what they see and whether or not they are greeted in a friendly manner. Jon Kowanetz of Handcrafted Car Audio in Chandler, Ariz. has been in the industry for 19 years. He stressed the importance of authenticity and being genuine with customers. “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned that relates to customer retention is authenticity. Honesty and integrity, doing what you say you’re going to do, do your best work, and always be pushing the limits,” he said.

How the shop looks—whether it’s cluttered or clean, for example—will stick in the customer’s mind. The first impression is the basis for everything that follows. “If anything goes wrong, and it sometimes will when you’re dealing with cars and technology, a happy customer is a lot more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and a fair chance to make things right,” Newell said. “In fact, most studies show that it’s not the mistakes that matter to customers, it’s the way you handle them.”

With more than a few buying options to choose from, it’s important to make the customer want to come back by giving them a positive shopping experience, according to Newell. Interactions with customers give salespeople a chance to showcase the benefits of other products. “They may not buy today, but you’ll have given the customer something to think about and a reason to come back.”

Method 2: Forge Connections

Ensuring the customer knows how much you care is an essential aspect of boosting customer retention. Newell recommends checking in with customers who’ve made purchases. Ask them how things are going and whether they’re enjoying the product. Also inquire about their shopping experience. Was it positive? Do they feel any aspect of their experience could’ve been better?

“Post-sale, you absolutely need to keep in touch,” Newell advised, stating that an initial email should be sent to thank the customer, along with any information regarding warranties. Included in that first email should be an invitation to take a survey.

“The survey is another way to intercept unhappy customers before they do anything else that could hurt your reputation, as well as a good way to recognize the efforts of your staff,” he explained.

“After that first email, you need to send them regular emails from your store, at least once a month. Let them know about upcoming sales and promotions, new products, and the advantages of the other technology and products that you sell.”

If something negative occurs, it’s important to see what can be done to fix the issue. “We do recommend calling back customers, especially the bigger ticket customers that have more invested financially and emotionally in your products and installations,” Newell said. And if there’s a problem, fix it right away. “Customers are more loyal to the business that go the extra mile to fix things than they are to the businesses that don’t make mistakes.”

Anything that needs to be rectified should be taken care of as soon as possible. Due to the many outlets for sharing concerns and reviews on the Internet, it doesn’t take much for a customer to post and share their disappointments. “They have Yelp, they have Google, and they can have a huge amount of influence on others,” Newell said of unsatisfied consumers. “It takes years to build a good reputation, but a few unhappy customers can destroy it overnight.”

Kowanetz advised shops to do what they can to stay in front of people and keep them coming back. “We’ll do car, bike, and truck shows and invite all our past customers to check out our work,” he said. “We have special deals on those days and manufacturer demos. We find the bulk of our clients are enthusiasts, so they’re not getting it because they need it, but because they enjoy it. They like being kept in the loop on new things and we keep them part of the community and coming to our events.”

Collect customers’ email addresses and send them a newsletter. Hosting an event can be a great way to thank customers and encourage them to come back to take part in vehicle demos or for a chance to win a prize. When a shop is able to successfully demonstrate how much they care, the customer forms a happy memory and is more likely to return.  

Newell also advised owners and managers to ensure employees are consistent when picking up the phone. “Use a standard greeting like, ‘Thanks for choosing King Audio, the leader in mobile electronics. This is Marcel speaking, how can I help you today?’ It makes your customer interactions more professional.”

This also sets the stage for positioning the brand, another essential aspect of customer retention.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

9-5-2017 -- Photos taken from the 2017 Mobile Electronics Industry Awards are now available for download. The event took place on Monday, August 14, 2017 from the Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas. 

To download photos, click HERE. Photos include all winners, including Installer of the Year Chris Pate, Vendor of the Year K40 Electronics' Peggy Finley and Jason Kranitz, owner of Retailer of the Year (Single Store), Kingpin Car and Marine Audio. 

For a complete list of industry award winners, click HERE.

1-10-2017, Mobile Electronics, January 2017 -- Choosing a career path isn't always a choice you make alone. Sometimes the world, other people, or possibly fate, intervene to shine the light on a new path.

Bill Goldberg began his career tackling professional football players on the field for the Atlanta Falcons, but due to a serious knee injury, he turned to the world of professional wrestling and began tackling, or "spearing," his opponents on the way to becoming one of the most popular stars to ever grace the squared circle. Ronald Reagan began his career as an actor but got bitten by the political bug and began speaking on behalf of General Electric, which started him on his path to becoming President of the United States. Each path illustrates something many people have in common: While you don't always land in your first choice of careers, sometimes a similar, yet better option is right around the corner.

Ric Moore is such a person, having started his career working in music production in 1985. "My background was live sound. I've always been interested in music. I'm one of the baby boomers that grew up on classic rock. I bought all the albums and knew all the songs by heart," Moore said. "I got involved with a guy that was in a band. He had a board that I learned on the fly."

To enhance his knowledge of live sound, Moore moved to Atlanta, attending a trade school called Music Business Institute. There, he learned about artist management, video production and audio production. "I made some pretty good friends, went on tour with a band called The Producers. I was stage manager and did guitar tuning, set up and tear down, keyboard setup and tear down," Moore said. "After the tour, I moved back to Evansville. The music scene was okay. I ran into a couple guys I knew locally, ran sound for some local bands. That's when the transition happened in 1988. I was 27."

Realizing your dream job isn't panning out might send some people running into a safe office job somewhere, but not Moore. Thanks to a tip from his wife's cousin about a local 12-volt shop being in need of a salesman, Moore soon found opportunity in an unlikely place.

"The opportunity presented itself to work at this local car stereo shop. I knew what car stereo was from doing it with a buddy in Atlanta. It wasn't something I wanted to do at first," Moore said. "This store was looking for a sales person. My wife's cousin worked here and he got me on as a salesman. I got hooked on the business and was fairly successful at it. I found out that was my niche."

Soon enough, Moore's niche became a passion and he had found his new path. And as fate would have it, there was one particular sale that sealed the deal for his new chosen career path.

"The one memory I've always had was the first big sale. We were a little shotgun retail center in a four-shop strip mall. I had been working there a month or so," Moore said. "A guy came in, I helped him out, went through the whole process. He spent a thousand dollars. Right then I knew I could do this. The owner called me and said it was the biggest sale we had in a while. Recently, that same customer came back to the store and we recognized each other immediately. It was pretty great."

Early Battles

After working for Dr. Dashboard for around seven years, Moore decided it was time to make his passion permanent and found opportunity when the company began selling off locations to other employees.

"[The owner] sold one store to the store manager in Terre Haute [Indiana]. My wife's cousin bought the store in Owensboro [Kentucky]. I didn't think he would sell me the Evansville store because it was kind of a cash cow," Moore said. "I asked him if he would have a problem with me moving to Paducah, Kentucky and opening a shop there. Or he could sell me the store. The process took about a year, but he sold me the store."

Thanks to help from his parents and generous loans from a local bank (a product of decent credit and the times), Moore began the process of remodeling the shop to his liking, adding new carpet, tools and a new counter, among other things. The shop remained open during the remodel, which may have been a mistake, according to Moore. "We did less than a $100 on our first day. After we got the remodeling done, business continued to grow."

Today, after moving twice to accommodate its growing business, the company now operates within a 6,900 square foot facility. As of June 2016, the facility has grown by 1,400 square feet due to an added install bay space used mainly for larger vehicles like boats, RVs and semi-trucks. The showroom features curved counters and WinTech displays, which Moore purchased prior to that company's demise. 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Mobile Electronics July Issue, 7-1-2016 -- Once upon a time there was a 12-volt technician. After years of learning his craft by working at different jobs, he decided to open his own car audio business. He struggled for years, learning tough lessons along the way. Eventually, after educating himself thoroughly on industry best practices using every resource available, he created a list of procedures that helped grow his business.

With seemingly strong procedures in place, he began to hire and build a team. Despite using common sense to hire, eventually, one of his employees decided he wasn’t happy and left to work for a local competitor. With him were digital files he took on a cloud-based database. The files included build photos taken while working for the shop and operating procedures with sensitive financial data. Without thinking, he brought them to his new shop on his Smartphone and synced his phone with the shop's cloud database. The files were now in the hands of a competitor. Despite his best efforts to protect his shop, the store owner had not taken  all steps necessary to protect his data. 

In most industries, this practice can bankrupt a company. But in the mobile electronics industry, the common feeling is that as long as you take care of your staff, they'll take care of you. While it might be true in many cases, most lawyers would disagree. Despite the educational resources available to retailers, the concept of protecting proprietary or sensitive information is generally not fully understood to the 12-volt community. To properly ready one’s business for a potential lawsuit, it's important to know what risks are possible and how to prepare for them. That's where consulting with a lawyer could be the smartest thing a retailer ever does.

Mine, Not Yours

Stefan Mentzer is a partner at White & Case, a renowned law firm with offices all over the world. Mentzer specializes in intellectual property law and litigates for clients in several industries including technology, retail, automobile and financial services, among others.

"Store managers, to the extent they have customer information, the products they sell, prices they use and services are essentially trade secret information," Mentzer explained. If two stores offer the same service and one learns of the other's prices, they can drop prices to counter, which isn't a trade secret. But for things like processes and future promotional plans, shop's can protect themselves by requiring employees to sign confidentiality agreements. "They serve two functions: one, to educate employees that information is potentially property of the store and two, to let them know to treat it as property and not take it when they leave. It also functions to ensure that the store owner takes reasonable measures to maintain secrecy of that information," he added.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

11-16-2017, Mobile Electronics -- It was the middle of winter. The temperature was 10 degrees below zero. Two men were outside in a dirt parking lot, working on a remote start install with a blanket draped across the door to keep out the snow. An electric heater was pumping warmth into their makeshift cave to offer the only sliver of comfort they'd get on this cold, cold day. The two men had no experience with remote starters, their only guide being a printed installation manual. Nineteen years later, those two men—owner Ben Larson and his brother John—would see their store, Sound Connection, Inc., become Mobile Electronics Retailer of the Year, Store Chain.

"The moral of the story is that every day I come to work, I'm kind of amazed that we've made it this far. It really did start from absolutely nothing. We had no prior experience in car audio or business and we just fumbled our way through it," Larson said. "If anybody ever wanted to start a business and was worried they didn't have enough money or knowledge, I can tell them otherwise. All you really need is grit."

Since 1995, Ben Larson has been in business as a retailer, but his journey really began when he moved to Minnesota with his parents at age five, witnessing their journey as small business owners. "My parents were in retail for as long as I can remember. They had a little tchotchke store called Soup and Save. They sold tools and trinkets," Larson said. "One day I saw an ad for amps and speakers in a catalog they used to order. I tried to put amps and speakers into my car. I had no idea what I was doing. I jig-sawed a doghouse for a speaker box and it looked like a beaver chewed through it. It was awful. Then I started reading articles in a car audio magazine and a friend asked me to do one for him. With each install, I got a little bit better. So I thought there might be a market for this and opened my first store."

With only 300 square feet, no cash register, no accounting system and no install bay, Larson knew he had a long way to go, but pressed on regardless. "I bought $1,000 worth of product from M&M. I kept growing the business, read every car audio magazine and did as much research as I possibly could. In 1998, I brought my little brother on. He had just graduated high school," he said. "That was my life. I ate, slept and breathed car audio forever and just kept getting better and better. I invested every penny I had and it grew from there."

Today, the two-store chain, which has locations in Waite Park and Brainerd, Minn., is doing better than ever, having just moved to Waite Park earlier this year from a location in St. Joe. The move was caused by a leasing issue, but the company is all the better for it.

"Business is great right now. We ended up buying a building, completely remodeled it, and moved in less than 60 days. Now we own a building in a very busy part of town. Our other store is in another fantastic part of town in Brainerd. We're working on building our second building," Larson said. "Business has been consistently up since 2010 when we joined M.E.S.A. and started doing Black Friday events. We're looking to expand to a third store and are getting into different revenue streams like window tinting, PDF and truck accessories."

All in the Process

With trial and error comes a world of experience that Larson and his team have taken to heart by crafting detailed written procedures, which include how customers are to be treated. On the company's website, visitors are given a detailed explanation of what to expect from the customer experience at Sound Connection.

"We hold ourselves to a higher standard than most. The Sound Connection standard.

The policies and procedures we have painstakingly implemented and follow every day on every install ensure you are getting the highest standard of work completed anywhere," the policy states. Thanks to this and other detailed information provided on the company website, customers are well-educated prior to entering the store, according to Larson who knows his customer base well. 

Read the rest of the story HERE. 

Better Than Yesterday

To break out of a stalling career mindset six years ago, Matt Schaeffer made the conscious choice to challenge himself every day. Today, he stands atop the 12-volt industry as Installer of the Year.  

Words by Ted Goslin
Photos by Tim Causa

Not everyone knows what they want to be when they grow up. Some wander the world in search of a dream job with no particular focus, hoping that some mystical force will guide them into their ideal life. But it doesn’t work that way. Some people never find their calling and wind up taking whatever career path is most convenient. And then there’s Matt Schaeffer.

At the age of 11, Schaeffer received his first four-wheeler and fell in love. Cars became a passion off the bat for the future installer, who learned quickly what his favorite hobby and future career would become.
“I became obsessed with building it, customizing it, making it my own. I even got into making panels and customizing my four-wheeler,” Schaeffer said. “Then when I was in high school I got an Eclipse GSX. Using the mentality I had with my four-wheeler, I customized the GSX with panels, fabricating and installing.”

It was during this time period in the early 2000s that master fabricators like Dave “Fishman” Rivera, Steve Brown and Chris Yato were making the rounds in various magazines, showing off their work to a new generation of 12-volt enthusiasts. The build articles featured things like how to build fiberglass panels, Schaeffer recalled. “I would reverse engineer my parts from those articles to figure out what I wanted to build,” Schaeffer said. “For me, I fell in love with building, making things my own. I built my Eclipse to be a show car on the East Coast. It won Best in Show at the Funk Master Flex show in Daytona. It showed the artistic place where my passion lies and I knew that’s where I wanted to take my career.”

After high school, Schaeffer sought out a school to learn his craft. But instead of heading straight for 12-volt, he started with the basics at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Orlando, Fla., where he received an education in automotive repair. “I learned transmissions, suspension, all the things I wasn’t versed in. As I’m installing something in a car, I’d want to be more versatile and be able to diagnose problems in a car,” Schaeffer said. “I had a lot of fun there and use a lot of what I learned now with wheels, tires, lift kits and performance upgrades. It’s something I hold dear to my heart that’s a nice change of pace from doing custom installs and head units. In my opinion, Universal Technical Institute would be the college for our industry.”

Upon graduating in 2006, Schaeffer attended the Installer Institute, which lasted about two weeks. He then went to a week-long training with his idol, Dave “Fishman” Rivera, called “Fish Camp.” The camp opened his eyes to what is possible with fabrication.
“That was the first time I realized how easy it could be. Fish made it look so easy and effortless,” Schaeffer recalled. “Seeing him layer different pieces together, this piece into that piece, I never realized how easy it could be. I just looked at it and thought, ‘so that is how they do it.’”

Click here for the full article.

9-15-2016 -- Four-star United States military general "Stormin" Norman Schwarzkopf was known for successfully driving out Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991. To his troops, he was known as a man of great wisdom and leadership who believed in individual responsibility. He once said, "The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” Schwarzkopf's words carried beyond his troops and impacted one man in particular: Ed Weber, owner of 12-volt chain Foss Audio & Tint.

The company consists of four retail stores located in cities just South of Seattle, Wash., which include Tacoma, Kent, Tukwila and Puyallup. With 26 employees under his watch, Weber doesn't have time to babysit. Having a military background has helped him learn the value of independence, which includes following the words of Schwarzkopf when it comes to trusting his employees to know and do "the right thing" for the business. But those aren't the only words from the late general Weber found use in.

"Norman Schwarzkopf said he's so successful because he makes decisions fast. 'The enemy will spend so long but I'll make a decision so fast that I'll make the second before they've made their first,'" Weber said. "Sometimes it's better to make the wrong decision so at least you find out it was wrong faster. But it's gotta be a close debate. Sometimes the answer's obvious and simple. If it's close, just make the decision. I literally flipped a coin to decide which house I was going to buy."

While quick decisions and self-reliance are important to Weber, he also acknowledges that not just anyone has what it takes to be a leader. "We're management light. It's the hardest position of all to fill. The traditional theme of making your best performer your manager is flawed. Just because I'm a great salesperson doesn't mean I'm going to be a great manager of people," he said. "I was a good salesman so I got to be a manager, but I don't know that the two things necessarily have any correlation. I look for somebody who can help build a team."

Acoustic Intelligence

Given his knowledge of the Tao of Schwarzkopf, it's fitting that Weber spent time in the military—the Air Force, to be exact. But a military background isn't all he brings to the table as a mobile electronics expert.

"I've always been into music. I DJ'd when I was in the service. When I got out after four years, I was applying for jobs everywhere," Weber said. "I found a guy who needed someone who knew audio and I did, so I went to Smith's Home Furnishings and sold home appliances and electronics like big screen TVs, washers and dryers."

After working his way up the ladder and being promoted to manager, he moved with the shop to Florida, only to find himself out of work when the company went bankrupt a short time later. " They were sued for false advertising. It cost them over a quarter of a million dollars cash fine," Weber said. "The biggest thing I learned there was to find someone who's good at something and copy what they do. They went bankrupt right before Christmas. I went to work for the Good Guys, worked there one year then got a job as distributor rep for Pana Pacific, a long-time 12-volt distributor."

During this time, Weber was able to hone his skills as a salesman, working directly with retailers all throughout his territory in the Pacific Northwest. "I went to stores to sell product in circles until somebody said yes and they were my guy. It was challenging in the beginning because there was not a lot of income. I did pretty good there," Weber said.

Spending most of his time on the road, Weber established relationships with some of the top retailers in the country, including John Coleman, owner of Stereo King in Portland, Ore. Weber next went to work with Clarion under the tutelage of Bud Coe, who worked directly under Coleman previously, until Coleman opened Stereo King. 

"That was a whole different animal. I had what was closer to A-line structure. I was a distributor rep in a smaller line. It's different than being a factory rep," Weber said. "I started distribution with Coe. That went well. The Northwest was always a great market for Clarion."

After three years of working for Clarion, the company laid off a large number of reps, including Weber, which led him to work for Bob Oliver at Oliver Marketing. One of his clients at the firm was Foss Audio, a struggling chain that had closed two locations due to poor business. Having seen the success that Coleman had with his chain and having built up a strong knowledge base on the 12-volt industry from his time as a sales rep, Weber saw an opening.

"When their store manager called me to see if they could carry Rockford, I saw they were in Washington and the other was in Oregon. I said I had a 'friend' who wanted to buy a store. The 'friend' was me, of course," Weber said. "I thought about it for a long time. When you're a rep you have all these theories of what you want to do with a business like that, but I wanted to find out."

He made the decision to buy the business and cashed out his 401K to use as the down payment and starting funds. The first store opened on December 23, 2002. "I went in on a shoe-string budget. It makes it so much more difficult. I had to go to my former boss and get a display and assemble it myself early in the morning before the store opened," Weber said. The lack of start-up cash extended beyond displays and into product. "If I sold four items, I had to go pick up those four items before the store opened the next morning."

Despite his early struggles, Weber was able to turn a profit and eventually decided to purchase a second store in Issaquah. As the years passed, the business continued its upward trend, resulting in the expansion of three more shops. While the company currently has four shops, having lost its lease on the Issaquah location, Weber is confident they will soon be back online with the fifth shop.  

"Two months ago is when the Issaquah store closed and we're looking at new options as we speak.

That one was kind of weird. The showroom and install bay were in separate buildings but in the same parking lot," Weber said. "Things work out the way they should." 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

The Magic of Carbon Fiber

Expert installation technician Matt Schaeffer reveals how carbon fiber can change the game for even the most challenging of fabrication jobs.

Foreword by Joey Knapp

Words by Matt Schaeffer

I hope you liked our series on building a false floor. I think Bing did an excellent job breaking down the process of installing equipment into a spare tire well. For the right client, that is an excellent location to fit audio gear, and still keep the functionality of the trunk/hatch space.

In this article, we are going to be taking a look into using carbon fiber in our installations. Admittedly, I don’t know too much about carbon fiber. I recently completed an installation in which I had to machine and clear coat some carbon fiber pieces. I kind of cheated, though, and used pre-made sheets of carbon fiber. We are going to learn how to make pieces using real carbon fiber cloth.

When I decided this needed to be the next topic for an article, two people came to mind as guest authors. The first was Junior Ngim of Sound Innovations in Union City, Calif. I have always followed Junior’s work on Facebook, and was fortunate to meet him during a visit his shop a number of times when I lived in California. Junior makes a number of carbon fiber accessories for cars, and does a great job integrating carbon fiber in his installations. The second person I thought of—and the guest author of this article—is Matt Schaeffer. Like I do with Junior, I have followed Matt’s work on Facebook and Instagram for quite some time. Matt does incredible work. In addition, he makes some really great videos highlighting his work and techniques. He has one such video on laying carbon fiber. To provide insight on the subject, Matt agreed to share his steps for creating and finishing pieces in carbon fiber. Let’s see what he has to say. Click here for the full article.

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