Theater Advice: Capitalizing on Tweeter’s Lost Opportunity
When specialty retailer Tweeter left town, this Texas CE start-up dug in its heels and made a stand.
It’s often said, “When one door closes, another one opens.” For David Huse, owner of Frisco, Texas-based Theater Advice, it was actually Tweeter’s closed doors that ushered in opportunity.
Huse had been with the giant electronics specialty retail chain for about six years when its Texas locations tanked in March of 2007.
As Tweeter’s top salesman in Texas, Huse was doing about $1 million in business each year. A groomed and seasoned pro, he was left with a career decision to make.
Doing Custom Better
Huse actually bought the Theater Advice Web site domain as a Tweeter employee. He was working on the site with a Web designer when he got word Tweeter was closing down.
One of the strongest catalysts for Huse’s launching Theater Advice was his desire to offer “truly custom” work. Many of the big retail players wanted to get into custom, Huse contends, but really didn’t know how. “I was doing large jobs, but these big guys can’t always service their customers. They often had to hold the installs, come back to the store and re-schedule.”
It was a problem for everyone, he says, for techs who wanted to get paid and for homeowners that had to reschedule and reschedule. “Making the customer happy is what it’s about. When it took too long to get product, and I knew it was in stock down the street, I realized that if I owned my own company, I could buy it immediately and get it to the job site. I knew I could do it on my own.”
Huse had hoped for the Tweeter severance package to come through, but it didn’t. He dumped all his savings into the company and worked selling Hummers at a dealership for a year, doing all his installs on the weekends and site surveys at night.
He hasn’t looked back since — although he is quick to credit the training ground Tweeter afforded him. “Tweeter was a great company,” he states. “They had a passion for the business, and it trickled down to sales. You started off not knowing anything, and when you were done, you knew what you needed to know.”
Having done site surveys for scads of homes during his tenure at Tweeter, he took in a lot. “I paid attention to ideas and saw so many different designs,” he says. “Now, when I go into a room waiting to be created — a blank slate — I have a good idea of what I want to do based on all the homes I’ve been in.
- Location: Frisco, Texas
- Web site: http://www.theateradvice.com
- Principals: David Huse, CEO/founder; Jason Hanifan, vice president, sales and system design; Thomas Rzasa, lead installer; Ellery Watson, programmer
- Revenues: $600,000 (2008); $1.1 million (2009, projected)
- Years in Business: 2
- Number of Employees: 5
- Specialty: Media Rooms
- Top 5 Brands: MartinLogan, Halo by Parasound, Stewart Filmscreens, Pioneer Elite and Panasonic
Education alone doesn’t cut it though. “You have to love what you do, especially in this business,” Huse clarifies. “My passion for audio and movies was really magnified from working at Tweeter.”
That passion continues to drive Huse and Theater Advice. His true love lies in designing media rooms, and that enjoyment shines through in the spaces his company has pulled together.
“I like to reinvent stuff, and don’t like to do things people have already seen,” he says. “I ask a million questions and tailor my designs to the individual customer, their family and their lifestyle.”
Meeting Needs More than Budgets
Theater Advice installs run the gamut, from the very affordable to the very elaborate, but it focuses mostly on media rooms.
Huse may spend a week doing something small, like hanging a few plasmas, and then move right into a $1 million gig. “There’s nothing I won’t do,” he says. “My deal, ‘There’s no job too small,’ is because small jobs often result in the most referrals. If I treat the small customer just as well the big one, he’ll remember me.” He adds, “I’m an A/V professional; I’ll spend time with each and every customer regardless of how much money they’re spending.”
Meeting customer needs is the most important thing, not meeting customer budgets, Huse says. He contends that, often times, customers don’t even know the project’s scope until you meet with them. “Yes, you need to know their budget and their ‘Wish List,’” he explains, “but sometimes they need to spend more money they just don’t know it yet. They might give you their budget, but have to spend more to get what they really want. You need to listen, and tell them.”
A self-described “born salesman,” Huse admits he loves sales, “the competition and the whole thing,” but believes in selling customers what meets their wants and needs. “A customer can feel they wasted $4,000, but be happy if they spent $10,000,” he says.