This interview was conducted by J. Chris Ornelas, owner of Eye See You Now. The purpose of this interview is based on a strategy of featuring a series of interviews from the current and vast selection of Dyezz Security & Surveillance clients. Enjoy!
Mike Cofield – CEO, Custom Sounds
How long has Custom Sounds been around?
Burnet and Ohlen in Austin, Texas was the first Custom Sounds location. We were founded on November 4th, 1987, so 33 years.
And located all over Texas?
We’re in Austin, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Oklahoma City. 5 stores in Austin, 5 stores in San Antonio. 6 stores in St. Louis, and 4 stores in Oklahoma City.
Are you guys still growing?
Oh yeah. As a matter of fact, I called on one today! I found a location in Boerne.
Oh, I know that area it’s really nice.
Plus, you’re getting a lot of the Hill Country there too!
Oh yeah – we’ll get some of that too!
So when I hear Custom Sounds, I think ‘car stereos’. Is that what it was to begin with?
Yes, that’s what it was to begin with, and that’s our primary focus today still. Of course, we also do car alarms. We do window tint. And then we do interlock devices – Intoxilock – when people get a DWI. They get us to put it in their car and we calibrate it for them monthly.
Car stereos today are much better than they used to be. How big of an effect does that have on people that get custom stereos?
So they went from being really really terrible to ‘only’ terrible. Because of that, many people are aware they can get much more and better stuff. Also because of the complexity of the vehicles, many of our… ‘lesser sophisticated’ competitors like the internet and Best Buy had a difficult time with the integration of those products in the vehicles, as where we were ahead of the curve there as vehicles got more difficult we launched an integration guide that we do internally. And we have the best integration guide out of anybody in the car stereo system business. So good as a matter of fact, that we lease that guide to another 300 car stereo stores.
And that goes for the quality of speakers as well?
Oh yeah absolutely.
What kind of stereo system do you have in your car?
Haha! I’m glad you asked… So I have a Kenwood head unit, JL Audio amplifiers, Vocal bass and highs, and JL subwoofers. That’s the setup!
Nice, sounds pretty good I think!
What kind of stuff do you listen to on that system?
Hahaha! That’s a good question. So I listen to a lot. But mostly I listen to a lot of hard rock and metal. Five Finger Death Punch.
That’s interesting – another client I interviewed – a scientist actually – said he listened to Five Finger Death Punch.
So I owned a guitar manufacturing company and we manufactured guitars in South Korea. Zoltan, the guitar player for Five Finger Death Punch, played our guitar.
Really? That’s cool.
And how do you know John (Dyess), owner of Dyezz Surveillance & Security?
John was in our stockroom in Custom Sounds before he opened his company. He was with us for quite a while. He probably got tired of putting up with me… so he decided to leave and start his own company!
So you use Dyezz Surveillance & Security for the Custom Sounds stores?
Yeah, I use them for the stores, and for my residence as well.
The President of the company is in charge of all the things that happen at the store level, including security and alarms. Overall, the operational stuff. As CEO, I’m in charge of all the backend stuff so cash flow analysis, legal, leases, inventory, ordering, vendor relations, accounting – the more mundane stuff.
Anything else you’d like us to know?
Well, John Dyess would probably tell you that I was pretty hard on him at the store here, but that’s probably the best thing that could have happened to him.
He had nothing but great things to say – he said you’re a great guy to learn from.
Well, I’m not the easiest guy to work for… just the best guy to work for! Haha!
That’s what got me to start my own thing – the intensity of my last job. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my boss was actually my mentor.
I had a mentor as well. When the company got started, Bert Linda is my partner, was the father of my previous partner, who I had left the business and that had gone out of business not too long after that. His wife Susan Linda, still works for the company and is still a stockholder. Burt picked up the pieces of the company and wanted me to come work with him, and that’s how the company got started! I was fortunate to have a guy that was really really hard to help make sure that I did things right.
Right, and that’s a good origin story.
Now, what’s the most expensive top-of-the-line system that you guys stock?
System-wise you can do a lot. The most expensive head unit is $1500. The most expensive amplifier is $1800. The most expensive set of separates would be $20,000 – Focal brand. The most expensive subwoofer would be JL Audio at $1600.
Now I’m thinking how expensive that can be, have you ever serviced any famous people’s cars?
Absolutely. Yep. I was in San Antonio one day. A guy comes in. Tall guy. He said he wanted this type of system totally outfitted in his car. I said well it’s $30,000. He said when can you start? The guy was Dennis Rodman – I had no idea who he was. This was when he was a Spurs player.
But we’ve done tons of stuff for famous people. Johnny Depp, Willie Nelson, almost every San Antonio Spur ever.
So if you’re a famous person or an actor, you’re probably the place people think of huh?
If you’re in Austin, San Antonio, or St. Louis, even Oklahoma City now, you’re probably coming to us to outfit your car.
Who’s your biggest competitor?
Yeah. Local would be Best Buy. We do significantly more car audio business than Best Buy does in each of the towns that we’re both in.
Of course, we sell on Amazon as well. But people selling on Amazon would be our biggest competitor. And we will absolutely price match. We do target them in some forms of advertising, but they can’t install.
The problem with them then coming to us rather than us selling them the system first, is that a lot of times they have no idea what they’re doing. They’ll buy a radio and say it doesn’t fit! Well, it does, but it needs a kit, a harness, and a plug, a steering wheel control adapter. And oh you’ve got a factory backup camera – we can integrate that camera into your aftermarket radio. And of course, they don’t get any of that information on Amazon.
Right, I can see that advantage.
One last thing – when I walked into your office, I noticed a pet water container and some cat food. What kind of cat did you say you have?
Haha! I have a Siberian Forest Cat. Some people just call em’ a Siberian. It’s a BIG white fluffy cat that’s hypoallergenic.
Side note, a lot of people think because there’s a lot of hair, or if there’s dandruff, they think that makes it non-hypoallergenic. It’s the saliva – it has a certain chemical that basically is not good for people with allergies.
It was a pleasure getting to know Mike Cofield and his perspective on the business dynamics of Custom Sounds. It’s clear that Mike devotes much of himself to what he does. By investing in himself and others, he can appreciate the things he loves within and outside the workplace and is happy to see others achieve their own success.
Article written by Adam Schwarzbach.