Now that the dust has settled on 2017, we’ve had a chance to review what was a record year for Salk Sound.
Our Song3 series speakers have received glowing comments from both users and reviewers, pushing our sales volume well past previous years. Our StreamPlayer Gen III and the new Gen III SE are proving to be very popular, as well. In addition, we have had numerous speaker designers and marketers, both here and in Canada, commission us to build cabinets for their speakers.
The bottom line is that sales volume has exceeded previous records by quite a margin. All of this should make us quite happy. And while we are grateful for the business, it has not been without challenges.
Historically, we have worked on about 40 or so projects at a time. Since last year, we’ve been working on about 90 – 100 simultaneously. This has obviously put a strain on operations and is forcing us to make decisions as to how to proceed.
Chief among those challenges has been build time. Our goal over the years was to complete most projects within 60 days. Although we didn’t always meet this goal, we thought it was well worth the effort. Now, our build time can be double that and, with certain projects, even greater.
Most of our customers seem to be somewhat comfortable with the longer build times and often email to say it was “well worth the wait.” We appreciate their patience. But I’m sure they would prefer a quicker turn-around…and so would we.
We have done very little to promote our business in the past year. We have cut way back on the amount of posting we have done online. Despite that, our sales volume continues to climb. The fact is, we could easily sell even more with minimal promotion, but we are not currently equipped to handle the increased growth.
This past year, for example, even though we purchased two more veneer presses, veneering is still a bottleneck. Finishing is also a bottleneck, but without another spray booth or two, solutions are somewhat limited.
What are we doing to address this?
Sure, we could invest a few hundred thousand in additional equipment and expand our manufacturing space (which I would love to do). But there are risks involved. What if the economy goes into recession and sales volumes drop? In that case, the increased overhead may put our entire operation at risk.
So it appears our best option is to make modest investments in equipment and look for additional experienced help so quality does not suffer as we expand.
A few years ago, I read an interesting interview with Albert Von Schweikert. When asked what advice he would offer to someone wanting to get into the speaker business, he said the first step is to find a backer with $2,000,000 to invest. He indicated that this was not an absolute requirement, but without up-front capital, the process of building a volume company would take far too long.
He is likely right. Unfortunately, we started with zero up-front capital. Had we had investment capital to work with, we would likely be in a better position to deal with our current build times. But that is water under the dam at this point.
So we will continue to work earnestly to increase our capabilities and decrease build times, while maintaining our high quality standards. This seems to be the most viable approach at this point in time.