IPRO : Making the Move to Commercial
IPRO is including commercial in a big way—and educating its residential members about the benefits.February 2012 By Nancy Klosek
The wrenching changes in the residential custom integrator business have caused integrators to rethink, retool and adapt their business models, in many cases, to embrace commercial. Manufacturers' reps, too, have had to adapt in parallel with the clients they serve.
And nowhere are their efforts more apparent than at IPRO (Independent Professional Representatives Organization). The group has been working on increasing its appeal and attractiveness to commercial/pro reps, vendors and integrators, and is especially attuned to the needs of those on the residential side who are looking to learn more about the commercial side before they commit to crossing over.
"Over the past few years, we've been very intentional about implementing all sorts of things to open the tent for commercial," said Andrew Ard, IPRO chairman, minority principal at Texas-based Elite Marketing, and senior vice president of Display Development (Display Development and Avielo brands). "The home market in the last three years has suffered a downturn, but the commercial side stayed stronger, so some of our dealers were looking in that direction for filling in some gaps."
There have been several major outreach moves within IPRO that indicate the group is serious about affiliating with reps and vendors already on the commercial side. One part of the initiative three years ago was to create the IPRO MG (Manufacturers Group).
"We knew we had to be intentional about having a place for the manufacturers as well as a place for residential and commercial reps," said Ard. "It's all part of the same market in which we have to deal, and becoming equipped and familiar makes it a lot easier for people to decide whether it's for them or not." Involving manufacturers in the IPRO conferences was a revelation to suppliers, he said. "Where they had only looked at reps as sales guys before, we made them realize we have staff and tech support. They now have an understanding that the rep business IS a business."
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.