Educar has been involved with training 12 volt professionals on process, theory, and system design for many years. These articles address the process of selling, installing, tuning, and how to present new audio system technologies effectively.

First things first - We at Educar Magazine are thrilled to announce the following sponsors:

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We thank all of them for their support! If your company is interested in advertising to specialist dealers interested in audio, please contact us at – secure 2020 pricing before the first of the year!

OK, now that we’ve dispensed with the good news, let’s cover other news.

2020 has been a chaotic year for many of us, personally and professionally. While some industries have been decimated by shutdowns, our retail stores have been busier than at any time in years. We regularly hear of shops booked three weeks out who are used to same-day installation, of shops spending half their day finding product for the jobs they’ve sold because so many suppliers have run out of stock, and even how ticket sizes have increased as customers buy better gear than some of us are used to.

It’s important to remember that not everyone is enjoying this commercial success right now. Some suppliers have laid off staff to survive the business interruptions. Two Japanese full-line suppliers announced their quarterly results, and even though they’re selling out of their hot products, they still lost money overall. As my old boss at the rep firm used to say, if they say they’re backordered on an item, that means they’re out of business with that item – so don’t ask when it’s back in stock, ask when you’re back in business. These suppliers have a limit on how much they can earn, and it’s their inventory.

Then there’s the fire in Japan that burned the AKM IC plant to the ground, eliminating the source for a huge chunk of the A/D and D/A converter ICs used in DSP-enabled audio products. No one has quantified the effects of this disaster on our business, but it’s not going to be good. I expect spotty availability over the next year, and possibly some price increases. That’s going to hurt some important suppliers. Every input and output channel on a digital sound processor needs a conversion performed.

I understand that right now, it’s raining soup, and if you have a shop, you better grab a bucket – but you also need to plan for the future. Be prepared to earn money with what’s available. Sock some of this away for a rainy day. Practice selling for MSRP – if supply is constrained, the only way to grow your business is to raise your prices. If your install bay is your constraint – if you’re just booked too far out – consider raising your rates. I’m not talking about doubling them, but remember, if you raise your rate $5 an hour, and you have three techs, and they work at 80% efficiency, that’s $96 of profit each business day. If each tech works 5 days a week, and there are 4 weeks in a month, that’s $2400 of profit at the end of the month from a $5 increase an hour.

Over the past decade, I’ve suggested raising installation rates, and I’ve seen pushback from some dealers who were afraid they would lose sales to some lower-priced competitor. This is the perfect time to try it – if everyone is fully booked, your risk is minimized. The real key is telling the story of your installation’s value in a compelling way. Anyone who treats installation in today’s cars like a hurdle to overcome to move boxes is missing out on a potential profit center.  If your installation really doesn’t have any value, then you have another problem. Of course, the strategy I recommend is that you make your installation worth more, and then consistently tell the story.

Most importantly, let’s be careful. I’ve had three friends hospitalized, and others still dealing with the aftermath of their bout with Covid-19. We as an industry love to be tough guys – but let’s be responsible, too. That spirit we summoned as an industry earlier this year, where dozens of shops pitched in to design, build, and deliver thousands of face shields for medical workers while their normal suppliers were completely out – that spirit was not one of posturing or bravado, but of teamwork. Let’s find that again.

To better days,

Ken Ward