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CTA Award Winner David Kaplan Advises Industry to ‘Show Up’

David Kaplan, 44-year home-technology veteran, receives CTA 2019 TechHome Leadership Award; challenges integrators to fight apathy and get involved; laments retail apocalypse.

CTA Award Winner David Kaplan Advises Industry to ‘Show Up’
David Kaplan will receive the CTA TechHome Division 2019 Leadership Award on January 9 at 6 p.m. in the Bellini ballroom at the Venetian Suites & Hotel during CES 2019.

Jason Knott · December 4, 2018

David Kaplan, recipient of the 2019 Consumer Technology Association (CTA) TechHome Leadership Award, could not be any more succinct in his advice to others in the industry:

“Show up,” says Kaplan with complete seriousness, noting that everyone needs to change the industry's maligned apathetic image and show greater leadership. 

“I’m getting this award, and it’s a big thrill for me, but I'm just a guy who shows up and tries to help. That is leadership. There are other great leaders out there… I’m supporting their leadership. That’s why I'm surprised to get the award. Show up.”

And Kaplan has been showing up (and much more) for the past 44 years in the consumer electronics industry.

It is that commitment that earned Kaplan the CTA honor for his contributions and accomplishments serving the consumer technology industry.  Each year, CTA presents the TechHome Leadership Award to an individual who has made significant contributions to the growth and success of the smart home industry and shows continued dedication and service to the consumer tech industry.

Long & Winding Career Road

When David Kaplan got his first job selling hi-fi equipment back in 1974, he could never have imagined 44 years later he would not only still be deeply engaged in the audio industry, but receiving one of the industry most prestigious awards for his lifetime of service.

“Back then you could actually get a job selling hi-fi and make a living," he tells CE Pro. "That’s what brought me into the business. It was the easiest way to make a living that was legal.”

Today, Kaplan runs Custom Business Solutions LLC, a strategic consulting and business development firm plying his decades of industry experience in business development, product development, brand building and more.

"I’m getting this award, and it’s a big thrill for me, but I'm just a guy who shows up and tries to help. That is leadership."
— David Kaplan, Custom Business Solutions

His career covers multiple wings of the A/V industry, from integration to manufacturing to distribution.

Kaplan's first stint selling Magnavox home entertainment centers in Atlanta at Allan In Home Entertainment whet Kaplan’s appetite for the industry that never dissipated. In 1976, he got a job selling audio equipment at Music Bar (MB) Audio in Lacey, Wash., to help pay his college tuition. By 1982, Kaplan had begun a 13-near career at Magnolia Hi-Fi, eventually working his way up the ladder to become vice president of purchasing, prior to Magnolia's acquisition by Best Buy. 

That led him to the manufacturing side, where he held vice presidential positions at Harman Consumer Group and later TERK Technologies from 1996 to 1999. Kaplan moved back to the integrator side to serve as vice president of purchasing at Huppins/OneCall in Spokane, Wash., until 2004. That year, he started his consultancy firm but also found time to be the founding executive director of Digital Delivery Group, a specialty consumer electronics buying firm. Kaplan recruited 13 members in 60 days to create a group with over $100 million of buying power.

Today, Kaplan also finds time to be a member of CTA's Small Business Council and TechHome Division Board, playing a pivotal role in nominating industry leaders to division boards, the CTA Hall of Fame and the Mark of Excellence Awards, and volunteers as a CTA mentor.

 

"David's unique understanding of business development in consumer technology has benefitted companies and customers for decades," says Gary Shapiro, CTA president and CEO. "His leadership and contributions, especially in the growing smart home sector, will have a lasting impact on our industry by enabling innovators to grow and succeed."

For his part, Kaplan hopes that "having my efforts acknowledged will inspire others to step up, volunteer and help us achieve the goal of supporting small business and innovation."

Lamenting the End of Audio Retail

Reflecting on the biggest changes in the industry, Kaplan specifically points to the decline in retail.

“There are very few retailers from the mid-70s who are in business today," he says. "People talk about the ‘Retail Apocalypse’ because of Amazon, [but] the ‘Retail Apocalypse’ has gone on in consumer electronics, particularly in the audio side of the business, as far back as I can remember. I could probably come up with a list of 100 great retail storefronts that no longer exist. The hi-fi stores of the world are gone.”

"People talk about the ‘Retail Apocalypse’ because of Amazon… the ‘Retail Apocalypse’ has gone on in consumer electronics as far back as I can remember."
— David Kaplan, Custom Business Solutions

He says the disappearance of audio retail makes it extremely difficult for consumers -- especially those with lots of money who want to spend on upgrades -- to even find a place to get a product demo

At the same time, Kaplan admits the migration of traditional stereo hi-fi to home theater surround sound was a tremendously positive advancement that pushed retailers into custom installation.  

“The introduction of Dolby surround created the opportunity for attachment to video and drove a lot of A/V business and home theater business. The introduction of distributed audio allowed us to kick it up a step. Every specialty retailer of that era started getting into custom install,” he recalls.

That trend eventually led to the importance of the home network. Indeed, the “Own the network… own the home” mantra was a cornerstone of the Digital Delivery Group.

Kaplan will be honored at CES 2019 during the TechHome Mark of Excellence Awards reception on Jan. 9, 2019. The event takes place at 6 p.m. at the Venetian Suites & Hotel, Bellini Ballrooms 2003-2004.

“I believe the biggest positive thing that I did for my career was when I went to my first CES [in January 1977] when I was a stereo salesman. I’ve been going, for what it’s worth, every year since,” he says.

 
 


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  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at jknott@ehpub.com

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  Article Topics


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Comments

Posted by jrbishop on December 10, 2018

Congratulations David,
And thanks for all the great moments in our heady and fun a/d/s/ days. Our annual Las Vegas tradition of dinner at Pamplemousse still brings back fond memories of a time with our mutual mentors; my boss, Dr. Godehard Guenther, founder of a/d/s/, and yours, Hall of famer Mr. Len Tweten. There couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate the specialty high end audio business they taught us so much about.

I just watched the Hall of Fame speeches by Len and Jim from the 2013 CE awards ceremony. All I can say is; ’WOW’. Jim so clearly defined their customer centered attitude, and how to grow that into a magnificent business. And then Len stepped up to remind us; it was all about the music and a very focused group of brands that delivered a superior experience. His passion still showed and reminded me of what drove our business ‘back in the day’.

You’re right, half of the battle is won if you just show up. I’ll add to that sentiment by suggesting if you show up and know your stuff when it comes to music and movies, then you’ll always have an opportunity to demonstrate what a superior experience premium products and system designs can deliver. If we do more of that we’ll see fewer plastic speakers and cheap TV’s in the worlds finer homes. And that will make them better places to live!

If you google ‘Len Tweten’, the CE Youtube speech comes up. As Youtube wants to keep you engaged, after the CE video came a movie; Flawless with Michael Caine and Demi Moore. It’s by Magnolia Pictures and begins with Dave Brubeck’s Take 5.

I think Len and GG were messing with me from specialty audio heaven!
Cheers,

Posted by oneaudiofreak on December 6, 2018

Well Deserved David!  You’ve had the passion for a long time and mentored many of us along the way.  Thanks for all you have done and will continue to do. I know you’re not done.

Walt Zerbe

Posted by Julie Jacobson on December 4, 2018

Here’s a guy that really is here to serve. Thanks for everything, David!

Posted by TheDarkKnight on December 4, 2018

@starfist7598

This article is on a Consumer Electronics website and the award David is being given is in relation to this industry. So perhaps it is your perspective is off?

Posted by Michael Sajecki on December 4, 2018

David has poured his heart and soul into this industry and is very deserving of such an award. One of my all time favorite people in the industry, Congratulations David. 

MS

Posted by starkfist7598 gmail.com on December 4, 2018

He’s an audio sales man not a Nobel prize winner, let’s try and keep some perspective please.

Posted by starkfist7598 gmail.com on December 4, 2018

He’s an audio sales man not a Nobel prize winner, let’s try and keep some perspective please.

Posted by Michael Sajecki on December 4, 2018

David has poured his heart and soul into this industry and is very deserving of such an award. One of my all time favorite people in the industry, Congratulations David. 

MS

Posted by TheDarkKnight on December 4, 2018

@starfist7598

This article is on a Consumer Electronics website and the award David is being given is in relation to this industry. So perhaps it is your perspective is off?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on December 4, 2018

Here’s a guy that really is here to serve. Thanks for everything, David!

Posted by oneaudiofreak on December 6, 2018

Well Deserved David!  You’ve had the passion for a long time and mentored many of us along the way.  Thanks for all you have done and will continue to do. I know you’re not done.

Walt Zerbe

Posted by jrbishop on December 10, 2018

Congratulations David,
And thanks for all the great moments in our heady and fun a/d/s/ days. Our annual Las Vegas tradition of dinner at Pamplemousse still brings back fond memories of a time with our mutual mentors; my boss, Dr. Godehard Guenther, founder of a/d/s/, and yours, Hall of famer Mr. Len Tweten. There couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate the specialty high end audio business they taught us so much about.

I just watched the Hall of Fame speeches by Len and Jim from the 2013 CE awards ceremony. All I can say is; ’WOW’. Jim so clearly defined their customer centered attitude, and how to grow that into a magnificent business. And then Len stepped up to remind us; it was all about the music and a very focused group of brands that delivered a superior experience. His passion still showed and reminded me of what drove our business ‘back in the day’.

You’re right, half of the battle is won if you just show up. I’ll add to that sentiment by suggesting if you show up and know your stuff when it comes to music and movies, then you’ll always have an opportunity to demonstrate what a superior experience premium products and system designs can deliver. If we do more of that we’ll see fewer plastic speakers and cheap TV’s in the worlds finer homes. And that will make them better places to live!

If you google ‘Len Tweten’, the CE Youtube speech comes up. As Youtube wants to keep you engaged, after the CE video came a movie; Flawless with Michael Caine and Demi Moore. It’s by Magnolia Pictures and begins with Dave Brubeck’s Take 5.

I think Len and GG were messing with me from specialty audio heaven!
Cheers,

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