An Open Letter to Bjorn Dybdahl
By Ira Friedman
Several issues ago, Bjorn Dybdahl from Bjorn's Audio Video in San Antonio wrote a column outlining a difficult transition his company recently undertook. It made for good reading, because Bjorn was honest about his company's troubles—particularly the partial mutiny of his installation department. Seldom do I hear a dealer confront his company's managerial failings as directly as Bjorn has. For this, I commend him.
And yet, the solutions Bjorn has put into place are reminiscent of those employed by other retailers facing the same situation: the fixes tend to be misguided, and usually miss the point entirely.
Here's a recap of what I read in the article. First, Bjorn had a superstar custom install salesman. This guy was spec'ing big jobs, but finding that Bjorn's product mix wasn't quite right. So this rebel started sourcing products that were right for the job, which caused confusion and panic at Bjorn's for several reasons.
Unlike a pure custom dealer, it's tough for a retail store to add new brands to the mix. Some manufacturers are gun-shy about working with retail stores. Others confuse the meager needs of one custom salesman with the big potential a store offers, and demand full representation.
Bjorn's salesguy couldn't care less about the store; he needed the products for a particular client. He's thinking like a custom installer. But Bjorn's, like all well-run retail stores, is not constantly on the prowl for new brands. Retailers have commitments to existing brands. They have commitments to the HTSA and the Pro Group and every other buying organization to which they belong. They have no interest in overturning their well-honed operations in order to source new gear for some hot-shot salesguy.
So the salesguy gets frustrated. He gets annoyed when top management doesn't support his efforts. He sees the real potential for custom installation and realizes being tied to a retail store is not an asset. The salesguy could care less about the showrooms and galleries and boxes of marked-down receivers—so he grumbles to his install team and tells them a little secret. He tells them he's going to strike out on his own, start a custom installation company, and finally do the kind of high-quality, high-end work he was born to do. And wouldn't they love the glamour? Wouldn't they come along? And they do. But he invites only the best installers—the ones who are able to do a great job.