Small businesses, especially those in the tech industry, need to adapt with the times in order to survive. Audio Den is one business that has done just that. Originally a retail store selling cassette decks and related products, the company now specializes in smart home products and high tech AV equipment. You can read more about the company and its evolution in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Installs audio, video and smart home products.
Owner James Feldstein told Small Business Trends, “We are an audio, video and home automation company. That means we provide audio/video, home automation, smart home control, lighting control, home theaters, and more to homeowners who are looking for convenience, comfort, and safety. We integrate cutting-edge technology into a home that’s no more complicated to operate than pushing a few buttons on your phone. Lights, HVAC, shades, TVs, whole-home audio, and even the pool heater — all controlled from the phone that’s already in your pocket. In addition, we also operate a retail store where we display and sell home audio equipment such as speakers, amplifiers, and media streamers. Our retail store has the largest selection of turntables on Long Island, and our store staff are analog experts — a result of our roots as a HiFi store.”
Providing friendly and reliable service.
Feldstein says, “We take pride in offering personalized customer service. I think that’s what has made us so successful over the last 40 years. We like to say that our customers are part of the “Audio Den Family.” Our clients depend on us not only for our technological savvy and integration skills, but also the dependability, value, guidance, and discretion we afford them. Our clients let us into their daily lives and their homes, a responsibility we take very seriously. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. We like to say that our clients are really buying us and not the equipment, which sort of just comes along for the ride. This is especially true of customers who keep doing business with us to maintain and update their home, decade after decade.”
How the Business Got Started
As a small retail store.
Feldstein explains, “Audio Den started as a small two-channel HiFi store in 1975: think cassette decks, turntables, and bookshelf speakers. I started working there before I went away to college and continued after I graduated. Shortly thereafter I became a partner and eventually bought out the minority shareholder.”
Finding the right hires.
Feldstein says, “Finding the right people is the single most important part of keeping the business sustainable. It’s incredibly challenging to recruit new employees that will fit in well and share the same values we do. When we find someone who is technically inclined, can multi-task, and understands the technology who also is skilled at managing and and communicating with customers in the way we expect, it is a huge win for the company.”
Purchasing a new location.
Feldstein says, “Shortly after I purchased the business from my partner we decided to move the store’s physical location. We had operated in a small strip mall that wasn’t working well for us and we had various issues with the landlord as well as the increasing cost of rent. I was trying to decide what type of property we should move the business to when a very intelligent and successful customer of mine suggested that we become the landlord and purchase a property for the business to operate out of. So we did. It was the most nerve-wracking and expensive decision I had made to date. I had a fairly new business that was just making strides in home automation and so a mortgage didn’t seem like the best idea. However, I am very grateful for the advice I received, as purchasing our current building was one of the best business decisions I have made. Not only do I own an appreciating asset but in the event business slows temporarily I have a pretty easy-going landlord to negotiate with. I’ve never had to worry about missing a rent payment.”
Explore new opportunities as they present themselves.
Feldstein explains, “In the mid 1990s, we were very focused on the custom integration business. This was about the time when e-commerce as a concept began to take hold. I think we would have found success in another sales channel by transitioning some of our brick-and-mortar and mail order sales to eCommerce. I can’t say that I would change the path we took, but I think it would have been good avenue to explore.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Hire a marketing pro.
Feldstein says, “I think it’s about time for us to have a full-time Marketing Manager. Someone that could help us frame our message, manage or digital marketing, and help us make sure that our customer experience continues to be the best it can be. I really like the idea of this person being a part of our team and not an outside consultant. Since we have a very niche business, it helps to have someone who can take the time to really dig in and learn what we’re all about.”
Team Communication Strategy
Feldstein says, “We recently started using the entrepreneurial operating system, EOS. It’s a program that structures our thinking, strategies, and tasks for both the long and short-term. It keeps our goals aligned and make sure we make significant progress towards them. These weekly team meetings help keep everyone accountable and make sure we are communicating effectively. I highly recommend any small business owner take a look at it.”
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.” -Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.
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Images: Audio Den, James Feldstein