ETTN to Join Forces With YEN at the SEMA Show
For the first time, the Emerging Trends and Technology Network (ETTN) will partner with SEMA’s Young Executives Network (YEN) to host an after-hours reception for members at the SEMA Show. By holding the event in conjunction with YEN, ETTN hopes to provide its members with an opportunity to connect with others outside of the network. Since there is quite a bit of crossover in membership between the groups, a joint networking event is a natural fit.
The evening event will run from 5:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4, and it will offer an ideal opportunity for new or prospective members to learn more about the focus and goals of the groups through hearing stories from volunteer leaders and veteran members. The reception will retain YEN’s popular casino theme, with gaming tables for entertainment, but it will add ETTN’s touch through live technology demonstrations of emerging trends related to the automotive industry. Adding to the casual atmosphere, the event will be held in the outdoor space between the North Hall and the Las Vegas Hotel, with catering by a variety of food trucks.
A Conversation With ETTN Member Kris Bellinghausen
For Kris Bellinghausen, success in the automotive specialty-equipment market means building relationships. Bellinghausen has a decade of industry experience under his belt, though it wasn’t an industry he originally planned to join. Though his degree is in environmental and soil sciences, he always loved music. That passion eventually led him to SEMA-member company Kicker, a manufacturer of subwoofers, amplifiers, component speakers, accessories and home and personal audio in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He began in a customer-service role fielding warranty phone calls and has since held positions in technical support, research and development, and now as product planning manager.
“A lot of what we do [in product planning] is gear up for our launch plans for new products,” Bellinghausen explained. “We’ve got a lot of customer relationships where I keep in touch with the guys in the field—some of our bigger customers even—and try to figure out our customers’ problems and what solutions we can come up with for them.”
Of his accomplishments with the company, one that Bellinghausen is most proud of was heading an initiative to integrate Kicker’s aftermarket speaker systems into OEM vehicles. This has been a very important part of the company’s growth and is a challenge that he sees across the industry for many aftermarket companies.
“Customers want to know that the products they’re going to buy meet OEM standards,” Bellinghausen said. “You’ve got to be able to prove that you’ve got a part that’s worthy of an OEM application. That’s the fear of the aftermarket world—that I’m going to lose my warranty or the look isn’t going to match my car or I’m going to lose features in my car by integrating [a specialty-equipment product] into it. So now it’s all about integration, whether it be look and feel or making sure that your products are seamless to the end user and don’t complicate anything further for them.”
That trust comes from building relationships with both consumers and the OEMs, which is one of Kicker’s primary values. Bellinghausen attributes the company’s success to that focus.
“A lot of it is just listening to the customer,” he said. “They’ll tell you what they need. You just have to be willing to listen. And it may not be exactly what they’re telling you they need at that moment. It may be a variation of that, but you have to hear what the problem is to begin with.”
Another role that Bellinghausen fills for Kicker is looking into new market segments. A trend he currently sees great potential in is the power-sports market.
“It’s not on the level of OEM work or aftermarket car audio, but we’re starting to see people purchase toys again,” he said. “We’ve got a line of amplifiers that’s really low current draw. They can handle environmental conditions, so they can get water splashed on them and it’s no big deal. They can also handle hot environments. It’s just finding a way that we can integrate into those applications and make sure that we make products that don’t break. That’s what we’re really focused on now.”