IPRO: Making the Move to Commercial
Another initiative that will soon come to fruition is the rebuild of the IPRO website, which will undergo all-around tweaks but also be made "more friendly to commercial," said Ard. "The guy with the commercial firm is going to go someplace where he feels understood, but at the same time, there may be some home reps finding they need to know more about the commercial side because it is a different market in terms of margins and other areas.
"It's quite a development going on," said Ard. "We're both accepting and being open about accepting commercial members, but we're also learning about other possibilities. If we were to say, 'Come on in; sit in in our meetings,' that's not really absorption. Absorption is when you learn about one another's businesses. And there's far more that's similar than dissimilar. The rep will always be in the position of having to collect commissions, having to track invoices, having to learn the manufacturers' products. So finding different methodologies for doing that better is key.
Prepping the Rep
"Ross Perot used to say, find an unmet need and fill it," continued Ard. "The unmet need was a common point where people in the commercial/InfoComm world and in the AV world could come and talk about their business and the challenges of their business. We opened the door to that, and did so by not only saying they were welcome as members, but also by bringing people onto the board, and naming an associate director—someone who has spent his whole life in the commercial world. That's pretty significant."
That someone is Ron DeVoe, a Texas-based commercial rep for many years. He came to the position at a tipping point where commercial reps, who comprised just a handful of IPRO membership two years ago, now account for about 20 percent of membership. "There's no question that this is the best organization for AV reps, and it's been centered in the CEDIA channel for so long," he said. "But there are many of the same challenges faced by the commercial end. So that's why there's growth there in IPRO."