James Feldstein is the President and owner of Audio Den, an audio, video, and smart home automation technology company. Audio Den started as a small brick and mortar store on Long Island, New York in 1976. Since that time, the business has evolved in order to keep up with changes in technology and consumer demand. Today, Audio Den still maintains its local roots as the leading retail store for audio equipment and providers of home automation solutions, including services such as home lighting control, surveillance systems, and home theater installation. In addition, the company has an e-commerce platform that sells audio and video products made by leading brands such as Savant Systems, Lutron, and Control4. James has been an entrepreneur for more than 30 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1980 from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
Where did the idea for Audio Den come from?
Audio Den was founded by two audiophiles who wanted to take their hobby and turn it into a career. Because high end audio equipment required a more involved installation than standard hi-fi did in the late 1970s, we had to do things like install very heavy wires, make room for large power amplifiers. All of these things that we needed for high end audio required us to acquire skills which we later put to good use doing whole-house audio, home theater, and automation.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There is no typical day at Audio Den. Since we are constantly responding to the needs of our customers, one day I may spend the whole day at the store, and another day I may be driving all over the NY metropolitan area checking on projects we have going on in clients’ homes. Keeping things productive is mainly a matter of keeping moving – whenever one project is waiting on something to proceed, it’s time to turn our attention to a different project. We have so much going on, there’s rarely any downtime.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The first things we do is we look at things which are happening in our customers’ lives to come up with an idea of what we need to be doing in the future. Then our team gets together and finds a way to achieve this idea.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Streaming music is a very exciting trend, because the whole world of music is available for you to listen to and discover. Previously, people were limited by how many LPs or CDs they could afford, whereas now for the cost of less than one CD a month, you can have access to almost anything you could want instantly.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Taking notes and writing down ideas that come to mind. They are usually helpful, but if you don’t write them down and come back to them later, they can be very distracting.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take risks, it’s the only way to succeed. Make them calculated and don’t be reckless, but you have to put some skin in the game.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Loudspeakers should be decoupled, not coupled, to the surface they sit upon.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Standardize as much of your business as you can. It makes your team much more efficient, which helps the bottom line. What we do is largely custom, but even within the “custom” environment, human nature tends to settle on similar products and services.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Good service – we hire customers. They have an interest and a passion and understand what good service means, having started on the other side of the counter.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We didn’t recognize the change the web was going to cause for us and didn’t evolve our strategy fast enough.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Handle tax payments for small web-based business as each jurisdiction starts requiring tax of online sellers.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I went for a long massage. It’s important to zone out and be present in your thoughts for a bit, even just for an hour. It doesn’t have to be massage, do whatever puts you in your happy place.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We recently started using a custom-installation-focused software called iPoint which helps us manage our jobs and track our work. It’s made just about every piece of our day to day operations more efficient. It also keeps everyone on the team informed.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business” by Gino Wickman & Mark C. Winters.
What is your favorite quote?
“No good deed goes unpunished.”
-Be yourself. People recognize authenticity.
-We sell happiness. The goods and services that we provide are just to achieve this.
-Business is never going to be like it was. You have to adapt to the present and plan fo the future.
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