Radio dealers don’t communicate
Remember when we were called “Radio Professionals”? That was back in the days when profits were reasonable, users actually had an FCC license and K-Mart didn’t sell radios. These days, it seems to be a contradiction in terms. Somewhere along the line, radios lost their perceived value, and we lost ours, too.
I’m not bucking free enterprise; I’ve just been trying to figure out where the industry went wrong. Then a thought occurred to me. We must be one of the only industries in the country without a national association.
We aren’t organized. Hell, we barely speak to one another. We just sell communications, it doesn’t mean we actually have to do it – right?
How did we ever let that happen anyway? We should have been smart enough to see the benefit of strength in numbers. You know, pooling our resources. Other industry associations support their members with business services, group insurance rates, buying power, legal services, education – even travel. Why didn’t we do that?
By the way, I checked it out. There are over 6,000 two-way dealers across the country. I’d say we could be a force to be reckoned with.
A few years back, I sat on a national dealer advisory council for a radio manufacturer. There were 12 of us, and we talked about forming a dealer association. You’ll never guess what happened: The council was suddenly disbanded, abolished – terminated. Gee, I wonder why?
Van [Alan Van Velkinburgh, “P.O.S. Perspective,” January MRT] has the right idea. We need to get a lot smarter about how we run our businesses and our industry. We can start by opening our eyes and looking around. Once our’s was considered a high-tech industry. Now we market radios like we are selling canned goods. “Buy one, get one free.” What happened to selling quality, service and customer care?
Volume – that’s the answer. Just ask our suppliers. They’ll tell you. Get those little black boxes out the door people. To hell with profits, just think volume, volume, volume.
Through all of this thinking, (besides getting a headache) I was trying to remember when one of our suppliers dropped their profits 30% over the last ten years? Curiously, I just can’t seem to recall any. It seems they are still making their margin. It’s us chickens that took the hit.
Here’s a little story. A few months back I saw the results from a local-government radio bid. One of the manufacturers (the same guys who tell us how we ought to run our businesses), bid the radios about 15% under (let me repeat, under) dealer cost. Now stop me if I’m wrong, but common sense would dictate that dealers don’t sell under cost. We have rent to pay and payroll to meet. Anyway, if they wanted the bid that bad, all they had to do was bid at dealer cost. Their way left thousands of dollars on the table. Maybe I missed something along the way.
My best advice is, “Don’t be too quick to listen to their business advice.” I’m not the brightest guy in the world, and with 30 years in this business, I’ve made my share of mistakes. But I am smart enough to recognize bad arithmetic when I see it.
Just in case I’m wrong on this one, someone please wake me up. After I apologize, I want to look up my old Business Strategies professor, punch him in the nose and demand a tuition refund – with interest.
I read an article recently that said the average cost-of-doing-business in the United States averages between 10% and 20%. That being the case, it should be common sense to determine where our profits need to be, and to target our margins accordingly. Market statistics don’t indicate that we are doing that well.
I got this bright idea once that if dealers were better business people, it would be a much healthier industry. So, I suggested that one of our manufacturer’s include business and financial management classes in their dealer training curriculum.
They didn’t buy it. I guess they didn’t see the value. It’s probably more fun just to sit back and see who lives or dies, wins or loses. I wonder if they organize betting pools on us?
I have two thoughts to leave with you. First, it seems that with the help of our suppliers, we have taught our customers that this really isn’t a high-tech business. Its just another commodity, like so many bushels of wheat or sacks of potatoes. And we are only brokers, pushing little black boxes. As a result, the market has lost its perceived value and with it our profits and professional respect. We ought to get it back. Maybe organizing our resources is not such a bad idea.
Then, there’s market perspective. The wireless communications marketplace is enormous and growing every day. No one can do it all; there’s plenty to share. I think if we ever lose that perspective, we should look for a nice quiet business – like a Dairy Queen franchise in Sun City.
“Point-of-Sale Perspective” is a guest editorial column contributed by and for MRT’s radio dealer readers. Opinions expressed here are edited for space; they are those of the author, and may or may not reflect editorial positions of MRT.
MRT pays a writer’s fee for each “POS Perspective” column accepted for publication. Commentaries should be about about 700-800 words long.
Dealers interested in contributing to this column should contact David Keckler, technical editor, by email at email@example.com.