Good Sounds is an audiovisual installer with over thirty-five years in the business. The lessons that co-founder and owner Mitch Goodz has to share with emerging and established entrepreneurs are lessons that apply to all fields.
Mitch and his company have succeeded by embracing technology and by understanding customers—what they want, and the kind of service and quality products they deserve. His insight about building and maintaining a successful business in a niche market with heavy competition and unique challenges speaks to all entrepreneurs who are ready to launch their businesses.
What was your primary reason for launching Good Sounds and what were some of your first steps to build your business?
Early on, we were a group of partners. I was a stereo hobbyist so I came to the custom home audio business from music, from my enjoyment of music, stereo, sound and speakers.
One of my partners came to the industry with a custom home building and design background. We worked with, and continue to work with, high end homes. These are the kinds of homes where you work with architects, custom home design build teams and interior designers. No one working on a high end home, and certainly not the home owner, wants to deal with ugly audio.
We bring our expertise to bear with the custom home architect and designer and we give the homeowners the audio they want that matches the character and the quality of their home. And that takes a team. We work with custom cabinet professionals, design firms and developers. From our launch in 1980, I have continued to research and to develop an expertise in audio, electronics and integration to bring all of this together.
When we launched in California, the kind of music systems and custom home audio experiences we do was unexplored territory, so we connected with a New York company that had been doing interior design and electronics for high end townhomes in New York City, the Hamptons and Cape Cod. We became dealers of their equipment, specifically custom, multi-zone audio systems. We learned from the East Coast guys and put our own spin for custom audio systems in California.
How have changes in technology and customer expectations affected the evolution of your business?
High end custom home owners are still not fully educated on the ins-and-outs of how and why the audio technology in their homes works the way it does. However, our homeowners are becoming more aware of the technology that is available and how they can expect to enjoy it.
Our business model is built on high end custom homes and the needs of those kinds of homeowners, not on “high tech people.”
As you have expanded, what have been your greatest human resource challenges?
Without a doubt, hiring is still the most difficult part, specifically, finding individuals that can fit into the world we work in.
Many people who want to come into our business think that they have the skillset to be successful professional installers because they have plugged things together in their own homes. But what our professional installers do is much more than that.
We are heavy in construction, during or after the building phase, depending on the nature of the project. This means that anyone who works for Good Sounds needs construction experience and professional knowledge of building materials, plumbing, wiring, and more. As a business owner who is responsible for hiring members of our team, I know that my customers have high expectations. This means that everyone on the Good Sounds installation team needs a wide range of trade knowledge, including tools and construction principles.
On top of that, they need to have knowledge of the many aspects of the audiovisual technology industry, including networking, A/V set up, and control systems. Larger companies break many of the aspects of the job into individual specialists. We are a smaller company so we need a jack of all trades, a technical expert who is able to provide high quality customer service and to understand the importance of sales.
Beyond field knowledge and business acumen, members of our team need to be ready to interact with customers and other tradespeople comfortably in the high end home environment. It is a demanding job and finding the right people to do it is a challenge.
In terms of your competitors, what makes you stand out most: your mission, the quality of your work, your level of experience, the people you hire, or a combination?
It is a combination of all of those. Our thirty-five years in business is the biggest difference. We see young companies going through growing pains. And, while we learn new things every day, our business model is solid. It is based on our quality-oriented approach.
As the owner, I am hands on with every job. As a smaller company, we can do that, and that is why, intentionally, we stay small.
In a changing industry, what do you think, is the reason for your longevity?
My approach. I am not an engineer or a tech guru (though I do have that background). No matter the changes in the industry or the market, I approach every project as if I am the customer. I do not ever try to sell clients on something that I think they should have.
I guide our customers to what works best based on how they explain their needs to me. That means that I listen, I don’t pitch trends. I hear where our customers are coming from. I think about how we can give them the latest and greatest wrapped in a package of what they want. And at the end of the project, I am proud to hear “oh wow, this is what we meant, this is what we wanted.”
What advice do you wish you had received from a seasoned entrepreneur when you launched your business in 1980?
I was able to get incredible advice at every stage of building the business by working with and listening to others.
If I had to give advice to a new business owner, it would be, if you have a passion for something in particular, just go for it. For me, the reason my business is here thirty-five years later, is stick-to-it-iveness. Now, I’m in a niche industry running a successful business.
But just because you think you’re good at something, like putting audio systems together, doesn’t mean that you are good at owning and operating a business. If you want to run a successful business, you need business skills as well as the technical skills. You have to have both to be an entrepreneur.