In my biweekly blog series, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who work for the Audio Video Industry. In this post, we are profiling James Feldstein. Here is his brief introduction.
James Feldstein is the president and owner of Audio Den, an audio, video and home automation equipment company based in Long Island, New York.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
I started on the retail side just before I went to high school. I was actually a customer first and started hanging out at the store. Eventually, they had to pay me as I started helping customers and selling products. This was very HiFi focused and we sold speakers, cassette decks, amplifiers, and record players. There was no such thing as custom installation in those days. I would continue to work at the store during school breaks and during the summer, returning to work full-time after college graduation. It wasn’t until the late 80s that custom installation was even a concept. I like to make a joke that we were on a job one day and we had to go buy a hammer and a sheetrock saw to complete an installation. That was the day we got into the custom integration business.
2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
This is truly one of the industries that you can’t go to school for and become an expert. It really does require years of experience to learn the ins-and-outs of integrating different systems cohesively. That being said, it’s critical to have a base level of knowledge in physics, electrical engineering, and even construction. These skill sets will provide the framework for the daily audio integration activities. We often find that technicians are missing fundamentals in acoustics and electrical engineering. This knowledge is critical for troubleshooting as it’s important to know how the underlying technology works, not just how to set it up and program it. Showing up to a job interview and being able to discuss the basics of electricity puts you at the head of the pack.
3. What are the positives of working in this industry?
Our business changes on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. As technology evolves, changes in software, products, or last night’s release of your cell phone’s firmware can throw a very serious monkey wrench into our daily installations. It’s our job to stay reactive to each one of these variables ensuring our customers experience is never interrupted, even though the software that is critical to the operation of their components may change frequently. This is both the most challenging and rewarding thing about our business. We’re always learning everyday on every job. It keeps me young!
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4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?
This is not unique to the custom integration business, but many consumers have a hard time paying for services as a concept. They understand purchasing goods but getting your potential customers to realize the value of your time and expertise can be a challenge. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to convey this value to customers who haven’t already experienced it, but the good news is that once they do, they’re hooked. It changes how we market as conventional channels tend to not be as effective.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
Similarly, our best client is one that realizes our value and trusts us to exceed their expectations. These relationships are always the most fruitful for both our company and our clients. Without having experienced it, it’s hard to convey that we are really advocates for our clients. Of course, our best customers are long-term that retain us for multiple projects over a lifetime. Some of our clients are now multi-generational.
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?
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 a good avenue to explore.
7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not as disciplined as I’d like to be with my routine, but it’s a continual improvement process. The business is called “custom” for a reason, it means we have to be reactive to continually changing circumstances, which makes standardisation challenging. Most of my day now is spent making sure all of the different departments are functioning cohesively and nothing is falling through the cracks and lives up to my expectations. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time on the road anymore, I do frequently visit job sites and customers to check in. Sometimes our operations team sends me out on service calls. I have a suspicion this is to get me out of the office, but it’s okay with me as I hate to sit still!
8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
We use G Suite to manage our email and documents. Google Calendar handles our scheduling in conjunction with our operations software, IPoint. We recently implemented Slack to streamline communications and Trello to assist with business development and project management. I also carry a set of physical tools with me.
9. How do you stay relevant in this industry?
You have to keep working with the products. You have to be comfortable installing it, programming it, and troubleshooting it and that forces you to stay relevant. This is one of the reasons I like to do service calls, it keeps my troubleshooting skills sharp.
Please connect with him on Linkedin.
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