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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.

Brick by Brick
By continuing to build upon a solid foundation, Empress Audio & Marine demonstrates that a business with a reliable structure can persevere and thrive in the face of difficult times.
Words by Rosa Sophia
For almost 46 years, Empress Audio & Marine in Pascagoula, Miss. has been offering 12-volt products and services. Prior to that, owner Floyd Seal installed vinyl roofs in vehicles—but the mobile electronics industry soon became his focus when he was offered work installing car radios. “As things progressed, my business went into retail and we basically became an audio store. Now we’re 90 percent retail and about 10 percent expeditor work,” he said, adding, “We’ve been in car audio since 1975.”
Today, the 21-employee business has three locations including the main Pascagoula store—one in Gulfport, and one in Mobile, Ala. which opened in September 2018. The main location has about 7,000 square feet, and the smallest store offers 5,000, with all locations having plenty of space for sizable bays and a showroom.

Each store covers a wide variety of categories, including car audio, marine audio and powersports, window tint, motorcycles and lighting. The marine side has...Read the rest of the story HERE.

Despite a global crisis, KarTele Mobile Electronics has entered its most profitable quarter of the year, and looks forward to expanding into additional categories to better serve the community.
Words by Rosa Sophia
While Mike Hungerford has been a co-owner of KarTele Mobile Electronics in Waterbury, Conn. for three years as of April first, he’s been in the industry for close to 20 years. Of store ownership, he said, “It’s been a learning curve.”
KarTele originally opened in 1994 as a cell phone store, and later switched to 12-volt. For the past year, Hungerford ran a different sale each month to celebrate the shop’s 25 years in business and included a free USB cable with any Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatible unit. Anniversary sales focused on...Read the rest of the story HERE.
Limitless Pursuit

Having built a solid foundation, LIS Audio is working toward eventually expanding into a second facility and adding additional categories to an already growing list of services.
Words by Rosa Sophia
In Spring Hill, Kan., LIS Audio—Limitless Innovative Solutions—continues to do business during the spread of COVID-19. The store is owned by business partners Justice Berry and Cameron Powell, who stated the shop is able to remain open because they provide essential services in the form of GPS trackers and ignition interlocks. Open since December 2016, the shop works on everything from custom audio builds to safety, and has extensive plans in place for expansion.
“We’ve had about a 30 percent increase in both clientele and profits, each year,” Powell said. “We’ve both been consistently growing our...Read the rest of the story HERE.
Risk and Reward
After evolving from a one-man business into a full-fledged 12-volt team, Sonic Sound continues to work toward expansion while taking calculated risks to increase revenue.
Words by Rosa Sophia
In the spring of 2000, Kevin Juarez opened a one-man business in Arlington, Va. At first, he said, Sonic Sound had no bays and installation took place outside the store. He also did some mobile work for local dealerships. After a year, the shop moved to another location with a single bay, and Juarez hired staff—a window tinter as well as a full-time employee who worked in both sales and installs. Then, in 2008, Sonic Sound finally found its current location, which has a two-bay garage that can fit four vehicles, and about 4,000 square feet of space. The location is on a main road with plenty of drive-by and foot traffic. “That’s where I am now,” Juarez said. “It hasn’t been easy, but now I can see the fruit of all the hard work.”
Currently, like many other shops, business is booming. Projects consist mainly of window tint and car audio. “We are booked about three weeks out,” he added, noting that the shop is still growing and adding categories and services. For the most part, though, the team doesn’t handle much custom work. Juarez said he prefers jobs that can be completed in one day. “The most custom we do might be speaker plates,” he explained. “For example, a Jeep might come in for four speakers, an amplifier, a head unit and a backup camera. We get the Jeep in the morning and...Read the rest of the story HERE.

3-22-2017 -- Habits are funny things. They are created through a fixed way of thinking, willing or feeling acquired through previous repetition of mental experiences, according to the American Journal of Psychology. Replacing old habits with new ones takes twice the effort considering each comes with its own set of routines.

Greg Tackett, owner of Greg's Custom Audio, Video and Car Stereo in Pikeville, Ky. had to learn this the hard way when he took over his family's 40-year car stereo store to finally realize his dream of entrepreneurship. After having worked his way up the ladder from novice to expert, Tackett made a point of creating his own shop style and culture, despite the old habits he and others became accustomed to at the company.

Tackett had been involved with automotive work from a young age, working part-time during high school at Mayo Tire, a general automotive and tire shop owned by his father and uncle. After graduating, he continued at the shop while also attending the nearby Mayo Technical School, with the goal of becoming a TV and radio repairman. "It helped me to learn the basics of electronics and we were able to use it in our home and car audio business. I learned the different circuits, how they worked, how we could use them for the electrical part of the car, the grounding," Tackett said. "I finished school in two years. After I graduated, I went to work full-time with my dad and was there for 35 years. We built car and home audio installations."

In 2007, long after Tackett's father passed away, the family soon decided it was time to do separate things. Tackett and his wife saw an opportunity to take over the business and rebrand it into something new. "At that time, all our manufacturers stuck with us and kind of helped us along and gave us their lines," he said. "We looked all over to find this location. It's across from a Walmart and a shopping center. At the time, the economy was doing super and there was hardly a place available to rent. We had a lady who had a space, a warehouse that looked hopeless and my wife has vision and said, 'We can make this work.' We did some remodeling and moved our stuff in."

Tackett had little money to purchase displays for the new shop, but his daughter informed him of a CompUSA that was closing in Lexington, Ky. He spoke to the manager, who turned out to be a former customer of Tackett's, and was able to purchase several displays cheaply. Patrons from the local church also chipped in by making a display for the shop, including a high quality paint job that received many compliments from customers.

The first year of business proved to be successful, as business rolled in steadily. Then the recession hit and gave the shop its first true test. "We're in the coal fields in Eastern Kentucky. The coal was basically taken away from us," Tackett said. "In those first two years of '08 and '09, we were doing super good. Then they took the coal away and it was worrisome in this area. Thousands of men lost their jobs. A lot of people were moving out because they didn't have any work to do. We stayed here and were kind of rebounding."

Standing up to the challenge, Tackett developed the strategy of maximizing return customers by treating them like family. "That's one of the things we've built our business on. We go above and beyond what we've needed to do. We're in a small town and word gets out quick if you're not doing what you're supposed to do," Tackett said. "The first thing we do when someone comes through the door is we try to get to know them, then let them get to know us, find out what they need, make friends and let them become part of our family. We try to give them what they need and sell what they need, instead of just selling a bunch of boxes and seeing how much money we can get out of them."

A Fresh Approach

With a population under 10,000, it might be considered difficult to maintain a steady flow of customers at a 12-volt shop. Not for Greg's Custom AVC, which has become a staple of the local community. "We've come back slowly but surely," Tackett said.

Primary work, due to the mountain region, includes off-road vehicles like pickup trucks, side-by-sides and four-wheelers. Products and services have diversified beyond car and home audio to include truck accessories due to the shop's demographic. Approximately 25 percent of the business involves selling and installing truck accessories, with around 50 percent in car audio, backup cameras, video and other 12-volt standards.

"It's mostly older customers coming out to buy things to dress up their trucks. They buy things like step bars on Ford F-150, bed covers, bent visors, floor liners and bug visors. That's been a tremendous business," Tackett said. "Car audio is more flat. The accessory business has been very good for us."

Real World Retail for February March 2020

Slow and Steady

Ocala Car Audio has built a name for itself by hosting and attending local events and weekend Bike Nights. The shop has entered the new year aiming to increase revenue in the motorcycle audio category through grassroots marketing.

Words by Rosa Sophia

Prior to opening Ocala Car Audio in Ocala, Fla., Parish Tanner worked in installation, sales, distribution and as a rep. Then, in 2008, he started installing at his home garage before moving to a retail location and joining with a business partner. “We were growing 15 to 18 percent per year,” Tanner said. In 2014, he and his business partner separated, and revenue dropped significantly. “I moved to a smaller shop with a smaller staff, but since 2015, we’ve had about 15 to 20 percent growth each year.”

Tanner attributes this growth to...Read the rest of the story HERE.


3-6-2018 Mobile Electronics -- Though Charles Brazil was born in San Diego, he grew up in Florida. While in high school, Brazil and a buddy began installing radios and building systems when they were supposed to be in class. Later, his friend became an install manager at Best Buy. “When he came into that position, he heard about a tech training position and he said, ‘Why don’t you come over here and do this program? It would be a good way to get you in,’” Brazil said. “I interviewed and they told me I wasn’t qualified. They wanted to put me somewhere else in the store.”

His friend called him up after the interview and asked how it went. “I didn’t think I could do it. They asked me all these questions and I said I had not professionally installed, so I didn’t know the answers.” But the interview was for a tech training position, so Brazil’s friend made some calls and talked to them about it. He got the job after all.

“This was 2002,” he said. “Ever since high school, it’s always been something that interested me from the beginning. I didn’t know it would be something I would pursue to this extent.”

Every Dollar Re-Invested

When he was in high school, Brazil worked at an arcade as the attendant. After a while, he became a manager and was trained on repairing arcade games. “I didn’t think it would end,” he said, adding that he started working there in his junior or senior year. “I went straight from that into the tech training program [at Best Buy].”

The program trained anyone who wanted to be an installer. Students shadowed a lead installer in the bay and went over various processes. “You watched them install and [then you] did the same. You took a test, they signed off on it, and you were good to go,” Brazil explained. Those in the tech training program would learn how to install speakers, amplifiers and more. Students had to demonstrate knowledge in order to earn their MECP, which was how the program was completed. “To be in the bay, you had to be certified,” he added. “Unless you were shadowing someone or you were being certified, you couldn’t do it.”

Eventually, Brazil opened First Coast Auto Creations with a buddy.........Read the rest of the story HERE.

5-10-2017, Mobile Electronics -- A bird of prey has many functions. These functions change based on the surrounding environment. To survive, the bird must rely on its instincts and natural abilities to catch food. The method of catching food, however, is almost always different. Land-based predatory birds require different strategies than water-based predators. The birds in these varying landscapes go by different names, which include fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk, fish hawk and one other—osprey.

Much like its namesake, 12-volt retailer Osprey has earned its name by adapting to an ever-changing environment in its 32 years of doing business. The Westwood, Mass. location operates out of Boston's South Shore community, where car audio is only a fraction of its daily workload. The company goes by a different name, Boston Truck & Van, to cater to its fleet business installing ladder racks, van shelves, emergency lighting and GPS tracking. This work is done not just for small businesses like plumbing and electrical, but for local municipalities like police and DEA vehicles.

Since opening its doors, the company has adapted to declining revenue in one category by venturing full-force into another. That journey began in a completely different market, far from a standard 12-volt operation.

"In 1985, there was a new thing coming to Boston called cellular. We were the very first cellular telephone dealer in the Boston area," said Jeff Maron, owner of Osprey and Boston Truck & Van. "The book ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ is our creed. When the cheese gets moved, you have to find more cheese or you're going to die. The cellular telephone business was such a good thing that those companies (like Verizon and AT&T) opened their own stores. At that time we started doing alarms and remote starts, which became our new cheese. A little while later, my son Jason came in and said 'We are going into the stereo business with cassette players, CD changers, dealer work and personal work in customers’ cars.'"

For the last five years, the company has profited greatly by using Adrian Steel, a local supplier of ladder racks and other installation components that Boston Truck & Van uses in its fleet and B2B installation work. 

"We're doing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business. Now we're off the Automile and in a new facility," Maron said. "This new facility is outstanding. Now we can house nine vehicles at a time. It has two dedicated bays for electronics and the rest dedicated to van shelving and ladder racks."

A Larger Wing Span

To be in business for 32 years means the necessities of your business will likely grow. More work means more space is needed to accommodate more vehicles. Today, the store does work with 80 car dealerships and has fleet vans lined up outside the bay with an average of seven in the bay at any given time.

"Were totally out of space and needed a bigger parking lot. By doing business with so many dealerships and different brands, whether it be Ford, Ram or Mercedes, we fish in a lot of ponds," Maron said. "It's all about needs over want. It's not a kid who wants a car stereo. It's a plumber who needs lighting in his van to work more efficiently or GPS to get to his next job. We talk about needs selling all the time."

The new location consists of 11,600 square feet of space, with 6,000 for the warehouse and garage, two showrooms of 1,500 and 800 square feet each, and the rest made up of offices, employee break room, customer waiting room, electronics stock room, four bathrooms, and a kitchen.

The store is a traditional retail shop, fully stocked with product, and offers a focused product offering that includes Kenwood, Alpine and Directed for 12-volt products, Whelen lighting for emergency vehicle lighting and Adrian Steel for ladder racks and shelves.

Located south of Boston, Mass., right off of the busy I-95 highway, the store sits in the middle of a shopping center called University Station which sees thousands of people pass through daily. 

To make the shop's recent transition to its new location a seamless experience, Maron emphasized the importance of what he calls "The Five P's."

"Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. People's plans don't fail, they fail to plan. If you are working in the new facility while still cleaning out the old facility, it's good planning," Maron said. "The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary. If you plan for it, when you move into the new building it's like you've been there all along." 

Read the rest of the article HERE.


From personal development training, to KnowledgeFest and beyond, SoundsGood Auto has increased its year-over-year revenue by making education a priority.  

Words by Rosa Sophia

After working for other car stereo shops over the years, Keith McCumber decided he wanted to open his own store. He’d noticed, he said, that every business he worked for eventually closed. “They were in the race to zero,” he said, “and they won!” McCumber’s first location made up 1,500 square feet, and was born with the intention of creating a better solution for clients.

“In my first year, I brought in $154,000. I found my customers, sold them products and services, picked up the products and installed them,” he said. “There were some long days, but I persevered.”

After a while, he started looking for his first employee. “I found Mike Maltais to help sell and install the aftermarket accessories with me. We found...Read the rest of the story HERE.

Mobile Electronics, May Issue, Real World Retail, May 1, 2016 -- In any given field, knowledge is power. The more you know, the more power you have to serve and influence others. Such was true of many people throughout history.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a man of great fame during the late 1400s. He was a painter, sculptor, musician, mathematician, inventor, writer and astronomer, among other talents. Many historians refer to Da Vinci as the prime example of a "Universal Genius," otherwise known as a "Renaissance Man."

Another example that fits this description is U.S. founding father Benjamin Franklin, credited with discovering electricity, inventing the bi-focal and co-writing the declaration of independence, among other achievements.

While it's most common for so-called "geniuses" to receive this title, a "Renaissance Man" can be found in most professions, with successful men and women who develop knowledge in multiple areas in an attempt to achieve greatness. Such is true for JC Motorsports, a one-stop-shop specializing not only in 12-volt products and services, but aftermarket automotive services as well.

After concluding its first year of sales with gross of $300,000, JC Motorsports followed the path it set forth by continuing to sell both 12-volt products—like car stereos, amps and speakers—and automotive products typically sold at maintenance shops like truck accessories, tires, wheels and lift kits. The shop also provides window tinting and graphic wrap services, which can produce high profit margins.

Today, the store generates $1.5 million in sales annually, despite being located in a region that's seen dramatic business changes in recent years. Operating out of Egg Harbor City, N.J., only about a half-hour drive away from Atlantic City, JC Motorsports has had to overcome the hurdle of a fluctuating economy due to the problems associated with casino closures. Not to mention the $2 billion dollar resort that recently closed due to bankruptcy, after only being open for two years.

Thanks to strong remote start sales on the 12-volt side, and an effective combination of aftermarket automotive offerings, the company has grown its staff to eight employees (six full-time, two part-time) and a building that owner Joe Chiarolanza (JC), built from the ground up with 7,200 square feet of space (6,000 of that dedicated to the installation bay, which can house up to 12 vehicles at once).

By pushing its company slogan, "If you want it, we got it!" the shop attracts a fair amount of its customers through strong radio advertising and word-of-mouth. Although walk-ins are welcome, the shop books the majority of its business by scheduling appointments. Located next to highway 30, which sees around 12,000 vehicles pass by per day, the store has its fair share of walk-in traffic as well.

Despite the effectiveness of his operation, JC can't claim to have always had it all figured out. That's especially true given the state in which he left his parents’ car after attempting his first install. 

Read the rest of the story CLICK HERE

Community Focused

While Car-Tunes Inc. continues an ongoing remodel and prepares for a January anniversary marking 35 years in business, owner Kimberly Trainer makes innovation and strategy a part of her daily routine with the goal of giving clients exactly what they are looking for.

Words by Rosa Sophia

Car-Tunes Inc. in Greenville, Miss. endeavors to give the people what they want. When a nearby music store closed down several years ago, locals came into Car-Tunes and asked if they sold guitar strings, said owner Kimberly Trainer. “It just fits in so well with what we do.” She added that the business now sells musical instruments and related equipment to churches, schools, hobbyists and more.

Space for these items was factored into the recent remodel, which is still ongoing. “Eighteen years ago, we were a car stereo shop,” Trainer said, “but now we also have equal amounts of marine equipment, motorcycle equipment and safety items. We also sell guitars, keyboards and drums. Everything we do has to do with music.” Even Trainer’s youngest daughter is a musician and first learned to play the piano using a keyboard in the store.

Thanks to the remodel, everything is very interactive, she added. Customers can plug their phones into the units on the soundboard and listen to their own music to experience available products. Relatively new to home theater, the shop also offers an area for sampling theater-grade surround sound, Trainer said, along with popcorn for the ultimate experience.

Car-Tunes has been open since 1984, and Trainer has owned the business since 2001. In January of 2019, the shop will have been open for 35 years. According to Trainer, it began as an investment and became a passion.

From Banking and Finance to Business Ownership

Eighteen years ago, Trainer was looking for an investment. She went into Car-Tunes one day and asked the owner whether he’d be interested in selling. “He said no. He had started the business,” Trainer said. “But he thought about it, and a few weeks later he called me back and... Read the rest of the story HERE.





11-1-2016, Mobile Electronics November Issue -- Las Vegas has many names. The City That Never Sleeps, City of Lights, Disneyland for adults and Sin City top the list. But today, it has a dual identity. By night, it's an adult playground. By day, a resort destination where millions of families flock each year to experience its gorgeous pools, lavish buffets, shows for different ages and theme park attraction rides like the roller coaster at New York, New York. One could say, the city has something for everyone.

In that spirit, the same can be said of Industry Auto Designs Las Vegas, a destination for auto enthusiasts looking to both repair and enhance their vehicles, all at once. For owner Andrew Evens, creating a one-stop-shop came naturally, given his background as a born wrench monkey.

"Since I was a kid, I've always had tools in my hand. My dad worked in a body shop. He would always bring home stuff to tinker with. I had a carburetor as a toy. I remember the springs on it," Evens said. "My mom's father was always into wood working and would build stuff for the county fair. Whenever we went to his house as kids, we were always painting something. It's like Karate Kid. You don't realize why you're doing it at the time but looking back, you realize how much you learned as a kid. I was lucky enough to have those two influences to set my path."

As Evens got older, he worked with his dad at the body shop to earn an allowance. His work focused on wiring, replacing things like harnesses. "Come high school time, my friends were really happy because I had a shop to work out of and would do their stuff on the side," Evens added. "When I was about 14, I was putting in radios and wiring cars. I would charge them and get rides to school out of it. I was always the one negotiating to get a ride the next morning, to avoid taking the bus. It was always good side money."

Having what he called "normal retail jobs" as a teenager didn't stop Evens from continuing to learn anything and everything automotive when he could. For the duration of high school, Evens's dad, Mike, owned a body shop that allowed him to continue his education. At the age of 15, Evens bought his first car thanks to a wholesale deal with local dealer Premier Audio, which would soon take on Evens as his apprentice. While there, Evens learned both through wiring books and by installing remote starts and car alarms. "That came on pretty easy and I was pretty much running his shop," Evens said.

After high school, Evens attended ITT Technical Institute in Williamsville, N.Y., looking to learn the trade of computer drafting and design given his love of the structural engineering concept. "I took every course there was to take. I took drafting and residential structures and a bunch of the engineering courses. I took everything I could take technology-wise," Evens said. "I liked drawing, electrical schematics and computers at the time. The problem is that most of those job offerings were 11 bucks an hour. I was already making $40 to $50,000 as an installer. So I went mainstream doing car audio full time."

Evens began working at Stereo Advantage in Williamsville, spending four years picking up as much 12-volt knowledge as he could. After his stint there, he became store manager at Circuit City, but didn't last given the lack of excitement he experienced.

"That was kind of boring to me. All the radios had harnesses. There was not a lot of actual installing there," he said. "It was good money. But they started to close down stores because they paid too well."

By 2004, Evens had the itch to move. He thought about a place that was warm and would give him a fresh start. Las Vegas sprang to mind. "Everything was built out here, it was sunny with palm trees," Evens said. So he rented out his house in New York, moved to Vegas and took a job as an install manager at Audio Excellence. After about eight months, Evens had a reputation in town, given that as an automotive community, Las Vegas is quite small. He did more research, landed at VIP Motoring, a high-end retailer and was able to fulfill his desire for large custom builds. But that too wouldn't last.

Once the housing market crashed, Evens found himself out of work. He became a union bartender in the nightclub scene. But he never forgot his roots, always keeping his tools close by to take on jobs whenever they arose. Soon enough, 2009 came, the market began to recover and Evens got that familiar itch again.

"I made a lot of money in the nightclub, but woke up one morning and said I didn't want to be around a bunch of drunk people anymore. I realized that these people have disposable income. They're about flash, buying the newest car out there. I decided it was a good idea to follow my passion," Evens said. "I took a month off from all work, found a spot with 1,200 square feet of space and opened my store." But there was much more to it than that.

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. 

Loud and Proud

With a strong SPL heritage, brick-and-mortar business model, unwavering respect for its dealers and solid Midwest values, DD Audio delivers not just the goods, but its good nature to all.

Words by Jamie Sorcher

Deep in the heart of America, based in Oklahoma City—a place nicknamed the Big Friendly—is where DD Audio has made its home. The company’s products, including marine, mobile, home, professional and industrial markets, as well as OEM, are American-designed and manufactured.

“We are very well known for our big subwoofers,” said sales and service manager Kevin Doyle, who has been with the company for nine years and is one of its 35 employees. “Our heritage is competition.”

Always Available to Assist Dealers, Above and Beyond today, DD Audio not only continues to carry that torch, but also maintains the incredibly strong rapport it has built with its dealer base. Part of that foundation comes from DD Audio’s sales team that is... Read the rest of the story HERE.






Real World Retail for October 2019
Diversified in the Desert
AZ Motor Trendz’s product mix meets the needs of a unique work and play clientele.
Words by Rosa Sophia
In Peoria, Ariz. in 2007, Randy Flora decided it was time to open his own shop after starting a business in his home garage. “I got tired of working out of my house, so I decided it was time to try to open a car audio shop. We did it and here we are 12 years later,” he said, adding that he started with a business partner but became full owner in 2010.
Currently, the bay can hold about four cars. The shop has a lift, a small woodworking area and a tire machine area. All employees are cross-trained to work with customers and answer phones, as well. “Both of my main guys can do audio, video and suspension work,” Flora added. “I have one guy who does tires, mostly. In Arizona, the big market is trucks. If I expanded, I would add another lift and probably go after dealership work, which is tough, but that way we could ensure we always have vehicles.” Continued training for team members and increased staff tenure has helped contribute to recent accomplishments, too. “The longer they’re here, the more they...Read the rest of the story HERE.








Home Grown

JC Audio operates from the very same building in which owner Jeff Cantrell first got started in the industry. Today, JC Audio is a robust business that is also giving back by hosting training sessions at its location.

Words by Rosa Sophia


Opening in November of 2001, it seemed that JC Audio was meant to be. Owner Jeff Cantrell knew almost from beginning what he wanted, though prior to his involvement in the industry, he had a few other short-lived jobs.

As a kid, Cantrell worked for his uncles’ asphalt business, laying asphalt and sealing parking lots. During the summers, he worked at a hardware store. “It was from my uncles that I learned the importance of having a skill, and that I’d always be able to support myself if that was the case,” he said.

For several months, he even learned and taught line dancing and built sets at a dance studio. At 16, he got into 12-volt and never looked back.

“I grew up in a family of entrepreneurial parents, brothers and uncles who taught me the value of hard work,” Cantrell said. “Mobile electronics is simply the vehicle to which I’ve applied these principles, in order to build a career.”

In high school, Cantrell studied electrical theory. He recalled his high school electronics teacher, Mr. Johnston, “who never settled for anything less than a perfect job.” Cantrell went on to receive an Associate’s Degree in Business Management in 1999. Now, Cantrell is an MECP Master Technician and stated that he even had the opportunity to contribute to part of the latest MECP Mobile Product Specialist study guide. With a focus on learning and sharing knowledge, Cantrell continues... Read the rest of the story HERE.


Becoming fulfilled in life meant a willingness to take risks and learn as much as possible for David Phillips, owner of The Sound Shop in Indian Trail, N.C. After working at several shops, including a big box giant, Phillips chose the hard road and found himself through the path of entrepreneurship. 

Mobile Electronics April Issue, 4/1/2016 -- Finding one's path in life is a goal most people hope to achieve. The sad truth is that many fail. Either they succumb to fear and choose the easy route or follow the wrong path, not clearly seeing the difference between that path and the one that will best fit them. For David Phillips, owner of The Sound Shop in Indian Trail, N.C., the path to finding his life's fulfillment was more like a roundabout.  

Starting out like many others in car audio, Phillips' passion began in high school when a friend introduced him to the field. After hanging out with his friend at events, he decided to join in and start doing his own builds. His lack of money didn't stop him from finding a way to build box enclosures and perform installs for friends throughout high school.

Once he reached college, Phillips worked part-time at a local 12-volt shop in Charlotte, N.C. "It was one of those places I started working but saw everything was wrong and learned what not to do," he said.

Soon enough, his time in college lingered without a true focus. Starting out as a graphic design major, Phillips eventually landed on business management, graduating with a bachelor's degree that took eight years to achieve.

"While still in college, I got a job at a high-end shop called Circuit Werks in Monroe, N.C. I went with a customer of mine to get parts for an install. They noticed how knowledgeable I was and offered me a chance at a job," Phillips said. "I had to compete with another candidate in a two-week trial but eventually got the job. I started in 2003 and worked there for five years doing things like alarms, remote starts and custom work."

According to Phillips, many of his fabrication ideas were developed from reading various car magazines like Euro Low Rider and Mini Truckin'. Some of his custom work included paneling trunks and building amp racks. The shop then started doing vinyl graphics and striping police cars, eventually becoming the only work Phillips did there for his last six months. Wanting to have more variety, and make more money, Phillips hit up a friend who worked at a local Ford dealership. He soon left to work at the dealership as an automotive technician, but realized quickly he had made a mistake.

"I didn't like being greasy all the time. I wasn't into diagnosing problems. I did it for a year to try it out," Phillips said. "During that time, I racked up credit card debt and needed a part-time job to get out of debt. I went to a shopping center and dropped off résumés at several places, including a Best Buy. They called me in to work there part-time, then they offered me a full-time position to run bay."

For the next four years, Phillips would run the installation bay at Best Buy, doing mostly stock installations of car audio equipment. There was no fabrication work, no vinyl graphics work. There was also no fun.   

"Most people's careers go opposite of that. When I went backwards to Best Buy, it was kind of easy. Deck and floor all day, speakers and radios, subs once in a while. At first I was excited because it was easy, but it wasn't very fulfilling. That Best Buy was part of budget cuts across the country and was closed. After that, I decided it was time to open my own shop."

To read the rest of the story, click HERE

Sketching the Future
At the start of the pandemic, one-man shop Seismic Autosound seized the opportunity to change course in search of ideal clients and a better work-life balance.
Words by Rosa Sophia
Seismic Autosound has partnered with Custom Mobile Electronics in Novato, Calif., merging the two businesses into one. Bryon Jankow, owner of Seismic Autosound, and Marty Barry of Custom Mobile Electronics discussed their respective situations and arrived at the same conclusion: The one-man shop approach wasn’t working for either of them anymore, and they wanted a better work-life balance. Becoming business partners made the most sense.
“I was working alone. So was he. It was 70 to 80 hours a week, non-stop, and that takes its toll after a while,” Jankow said. “Marty’s shop already had the type of clients I wanted to attract. It was a no-brainer for us to team up and take stress off each other, and move forward from there.”
Seismic Autosound moved from Concord to Novato, to Barry’s already-established location, and together, they expanded to about 4,000 square feet. Now, the shop is open five days a week and they both have time to enjoy a personal life again.
Jankow recalled the Bay Area going into lockdown for COVID-19 just as his lease ran out.
The two have been business partners for just under a year, but they’ve kept their respective shop names the same. “For now, it’s just been about bringing everything together,” he said. “We’re trying to...Read the rest of the story CLICK HERE.

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.

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