Choose a dealer group that fits your goals
By the time you read this, a new trade group for mobile radio dealers may have been formed during the AMTEX trade show in Miami, held Nov. 12-13.
What happened, you see, is that Alan Van Velkinburgh, chairman of the Council of Independent Communications Suppliers (and president of Houston 2-Way Radio), wrote an opinion column in our January 2001 issue. Among other things, he said that dealers need a commitment to improving their businesses. Dealers need to formulate, revise and carry out a business plan, he said. He also promoted involvement in industry associations, recommending, naturally enough, CICS.
Bob Urian, chief operating officer of Specialized Communication Consultants and president of Nucom Consulting, Tempe, AZ, mentioned Van Velkinburgh when he took up the subject in his own February 2001 opinion column. Although several trade associations sponsor dealer groups, Urian identified dealers as one of the only industries in the country without a national association.
Urian expressed suspicion about manufacturer-led groups when he wrote: “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?”
Letters of support
Hudson Denny, the sales manager at Diversified Electronics’ Greenville, SC, location, and Dan Shepard, president of Vincennes Electronics in Vincennes, IN, added their voices in letters published in the May 2001 issue.
“We need to communicate more (or at all) and come up with a market strategy that plays on our strengths as a leader in wireless solutions,” Denny wrote.
Shepard added: “Let me know if you get some kind of association together.”
Taking note of all this was George Daigneault, president of the Licensing Assistance Office, Gettysburg, PA. LAO is a business that assists dealers with FCC license applications. Daigneault wanted to see whether a group might be formed that could deliver what PCIA, ITA, SBT and USMSS do not. PCIA sponsors a dealer group: Mobile Wireless Communications Alliance. ITA sponsors CICS. SBT primarily has dealers and SMR operators as members. USMSS is an organization of Motorola Service Stations, most of which are dealers.
Daigneault contacted Alan Shark, president of the American Mobile Telecommunications Association, and the two made plans to facilitate a discussion among dealers at AMTA’s trade show, AMTEX. The meeting may result in the formation of an independent radio dealer council within AMTA — that’s something we don’t know at press time.
The new dealer council may resemble CICS and MWCA by operating under the umbrella of an existing trade association. AMTA is freshly certified by the FCC as a frequency coordinator, so the new group would share a sponsor with a similar qualification to that of ITA and PCIA, also frequency coordinators.
The new group would not have SBT’s independence, yet it would not be subject to the influence of a single manufacturer as Motorola influences USMSS.
We’ve seen dealer groups come and go.
SMR Wireless Operators Network formed to defend 800MHz SMR frequencies. SMR WON tried hard but lost. Lacking any further unifying issue, it faded away.
The American Private Radio Association was formed out of apparent paranoia about perceived conspiracies involving the FCC, frequency coordinators, this editor and anyone else with supposed membership in the “Washington inner circle.” Operating through a mail drop and an answering service, APRA came and went like a spring zephyr, and with just about as much substance.
AMTA, meanwhile, has been in business for 16 years.
Cost vs. benefits
Membership isn’t expensive. Membership in SBT is $300; in CICS, $250; in MWCA, $325; in USMSS, $500. If a new dealer council were formed within AMTA, dues probably would be comparable.
How, then, does one choose a dealer group? An obvious criterion would be published membership benefits. Maybe less obvious yet more to the point would be finding the group that, through mutual involvement, lifts dealers to higher levels of innovation, professionalism and sales.
Whether or not there’s a new kid on the block this month, you should take some good advice from your peers and join a dealer group that fits you the best.
Read news about AMTA’s potential dealer council on MRT’s Web site.