When you hear names like Sony, Nike or Gatorade, we know exactly what these products represent. Sony, we think of video products or the iconic yellow Walkman. Nike, we think of running shoes and Gatorade we think of sports drinks. But all these companies have spread their name to other products. Nike now does sporting wear and watches. Sony now does clock radios and cellular phones and Gatorade does nutrient bars. But in a world of cross-promotions and “leveraging your customer base” can a company use their name to perfectly describe their business?
I met the owner of SoundsGood roughly 10 years ago, and I could not figure out what got him into this industry. He really didn’t seem like the Car Audio Electronics business owner, he didn’t drive a flashy car, wear a high-end watch or wear name brand clothes, but what was his vision of his company? Keith McCumber comes up to me in sandals, long shorts, and a blue t-shirt with a big white thumb on it and says “Hi, I am Keith”. He was very pleasant and well mannered, but nothing special stood out in my mind. But that’s Keith, the president of SoundsGood Auto in Metro Vancouver. Non-complicated, but he knew exactly how and what kind of business he was trying to build and the experience he wanted to create for his customers.
I asked him, what products (radios) do you sell in your stores? His reply wasn’t “I sell Pioneer or Alpine”, it was “depends on my customer’s needs”. I had to take a moment to process this, but it was a simple and direct answer. “I listen to my customers to find out what their needs and wants are, then I suggest products that will completely satisfy them, just as if I was the customer. It would not be right if I sold the customer a product that did not completely satisfy their needs.”
He continued to explain to me, that there are lots of good products out there, but when customers come to him for an upgrade or to add a product to their vehicle, he wants to give them exactly what they want regardless of budget. Keith wants the customer to leave with complete satisfaction or if they have not, create an environment where the customer can be completely honest with him, with their dis-satisfaction and allow them to leave with a resolution. “When we started out with selling and installing mobile audio products, I wanted every customer to simply say “Wow, this SoundsGood!”, says Keith.
SoundsGood is more than a company name to him, it is his mission statement. Every vehicle, regardless of budget, sounds the best it can. Since mobile technology has changed so much in the past ten years, so has SoundsGood’s business but not their mission statement.
I was at a local show and shine with Keith in the spring, and I was congratulating him on his large exotic audio systems he had built this past year and attentively asked him where he finds these customers and what is their secret? Keith, just looked at me and said, “Most of these customers already had a passion for car audio, but other shops would not sit down with the customer and list out their wants. These cars were not my vision of “their” cars, I asked them what “they” wanted their car to be…and I gave them exactly what they wanted. If it’s a hundred dollar back up camera or a ten thousand dollars plus system, we treat every car the exact same, period.”
SoundsGood has since opened a second location in Lower Mainland in British Columbia – Canada with the same simple and clear directive. “Every customer that comes in gets exactly what their needs are, or if we cannot provide it within their budget, we turn down the job.” I called him out on this, “You’d rather let the customer walk out and go somewhere else”, Keith looked me right in the eye and said “Yes, we know what we are capable of and what it will cost. If the customer cannot find the funds to make it work, then we cannot perform the job for them. To cut corners is to sabotage our reputation. That is not acceptable”.
I could tell I ruffled his feathers a bit with this question, but here was his response:
“I have attended CES (Consumer Electronics Show) over the years looking for new products for my customers. I also attend MERA the Mobile Electronics Retailers Association in Dallas, Texas every year with the same dedication to research new products for my customers. For the past four years, we have flown in the best Installation trainers from all over North America to train my staff on the latest installation techniques and technology. We even close the stores for days to completely train the staff to be more efficient in the latest installation techniques to save my customer’s money. If we offer the best possible products and offer the best installation staff to address our customer’s needs, and if we cannot complete the job within their budget, I am completely confident that my competition cannot. I don’t see my competition investing in attending multiple trade shows and investing in their staff, but my customers deserve it.”
This was the most honest and passionate answer I have heard from a business owner. But that’s Keith, straightforward, honest and listening to his customers. Going back to the name “SoundsGood”, if the customer listens to his stereo, Keith wants his customers to say, “Wow, this SoundsGood”. If the customer needs a backup camera for safety, and they completely met the customer’s needs in equipment and budget, he wants to hear the customer say “Awesome, that SoundsGood, let’s do it”!