Burkhardt Outlines Ambitious Soundcast Plans
Jeremy Burkhardt, who recently acquired Soundcast Systems, sees strong potential to sell the brand through alternative channels, including the pool and spa market and camping market.
“I am going to equip all of our sales reps with credit card readers on their iPhones and send them to every USC and UCLA football game to sell speakers in the parking lot. I am serious,” says Jeremy Burkhardt, who just acquired Soundcast Systems less than a year after leaving Nortek and SpeakerCraft. “They will scan the credit card right there. Everyone having a tailgating party is going to want one of these speakers … and why wouldn’t they, especially when they find out they can stream music directly from their phone to the speaker and get high-quality music.”
That’s just one of the initial ideas Burkhardt is floating for his latest venture at Soundcast, a manufacturer of wireless outdoor speakers. Burkhardt, former SpeakerCraft CEO and recently recognized as one of the 20 most influential industry leaders over the past 20 years, plans to bring his leadership style and corporate culture of customer service to the brand.
“I am engaged and I have the money to do it,” he says. “I don’t want to ever be beaten. I am pretty damn competitive.”
Among the other plans he outlined:
Focus on Customer Service: “I know everyone says they are going to focus on customer service, but my idea of customer service is a heck of a lot better than typical,” he notes. That focus will include sending a replacement unit immediately when there is a potentially defective product for Soundcast’s trusted dealers. It’s a similar program Burkhardt says he had in place at SpeakerCraft.
Margin Analysis: “I want to make it exciting for dealers to sell our products,” he says. One sure way to motivate integrators is to give them a healthy margin. “I was able to take the product margin from 40 points to 60 to 70 points at SpeakerCraft,” he notes, adding that he has similar goals with Soundcast.
Extended Terms for Free Demos: Burkhardt plans to offer extended terms to integrators, along with various other sales programs.
Multiple Sales Channels: In addition to the custom installation channel, Burkhardt sees strong potential to sell the brand through alternative channels, including the pool and spa market and camping market.
“Right now we have 20 engineers. I aim to double that number,” he says. His goal is to hire 15 sales reps. “We are pumped up. I am stoked that many of my friends and former employees at SpeakerCraft have already applied [for jobs with] me.”
Not surprisingly, “retirement” did not suit Burkhardt. He spent his eight months of retirement getting licensed for scuba diving (eventually going on 30 dives), working out at the gym, reading and tinkering on small projects at his home.
“The first day after I retired from SpeakerCraft, I was approached with a business venture. By the second day, I was flying places to look at business opportunities. It never stopped. I have an innate drive … I am happiest when I have a goal,” he notes.
He estimates he looked at dozens of companies but was attracted to the outdoor technology space in the end. At Soundcast, he saw the technology platform to build great products. “I wouldn’t have to ‘invent’ anything. They have great technology and neither a good nor bad reputation … they could work well with me,” he says.
By the end of the summer, he had started negotiations in earnest. He now owns 100 percent of Soundcast.
The platform to which he refers includes Soundcast’s DSP, battery power, amplifier and wireless technologies. Burkhardt sees those as “building blocks” for future products.
Management and Staffing Targets
That’s why he has already been joined by his longtime business partner Jeff Francisco, who will be taking on the role of CTO at Soundcast. The company plans to accelerate the development of new products that best fit the needs of the modern connected world, (i.e., anyone with a Smartphone or tablet device) with many new models slated for 2013 and 2014.
Moreover, Soundcast has one of the most comprehensive patent portfolios for wireless audio in the world and will aggressively protect the company’s intellectual property of its wireless audio, digital amplification and proprietary high-performance battery technologies.
Soundcast’s management and sales teams will also stay in place, including industry veteran Oscar Ciornei as head of business development.
“Since 2002 when Oscar and I began work with Apple, we proved that we could change the industry with world-class products. I am happy to be connected once again,” Burkhardt says.
Soundcast’s current and ongoing president Mike Weaver states, “Jeremy brings a powerful combination of vision, experience and fervor to Soundcast. All that plus a combination of new products and more ways to use existing platforms to grow with our channel partners.”
From a personal standpoint, Burkhardt has sold his high-tech house in Riverside and is moving to the San Diego area to eliminate the long Southern California commute. Plans will be announced in the near future for larger headquarters and staffing.
Regarding his ongoing lawsuit vs. Nortek, Burkhardt says, “It’s scary to buy a company while you are involved in a lawsuit over a non-compete. I am betting a whole bunch of money that I am going to win.”