Bjorn Dybdahl Responds
In our September issue, columnist Ira Friedman issued an open letter to Bjorn Dybdahl, president
of San Antonio-based C-tailer Bjorn's Audio Video, regarding a column by Dybdahl that appeared
in our June issue. Friedman's letter, as well as Dybdahl's original column, are available for viewing
at www.customretailer.net. Dybdahl responds to Friedman's letter as follows.
At the risk of starting an industry civil war between the high-end custom installation segment of our industry and the rest of us "entry and mid-level install companies," I think it only fitting that there be a response to some of the misinterpretations made by you in your open letter to me.
Unfortunately, space restrictions and potential liability issues kept me from completely detailing all of the circumstances regarding our transition period in the original article. You have chosen to read more into the article than was ever there. It is disappointing to me that even after going into more detail with you personally before your letter was published that you would continue to print information that you now know is really not even applicable to our situation. I guess it just makes your article more interesting.
There are a couple of points of misinformation that I would like to clarify. First and foremost, our issue as a company was not that we were afraid of bringing in new products or product lines. We have always prided ourselves on being on the leading edge, having premiered countless new technologies over our 30-year history. Nor have we ever represented ourselves as a high-end custom installation company.
Our issue was with running in directions that made no sense for us to pursue, just because our salesman wouldn't say "no" to a request. Do we really want to be in the business of sourcing designer fabrics, artwork, sprinkler systems, et cetera, or do we need to focus our expertise on our area of knowledge? What kind of service do we provide to our customers if we have to source unfamiliar product at the eleventh hour, try to have our installers learn the product on the job site, and then have no relationship with the distributor to provide service and support when there are problems? Avoiding these situations is just a basic practice of customer service that has allowed us to grow year after year.
I take particular offense to your comment about the "install guys who stayed" that "just weren't good enough." Again, and you do actually know the situation, our best installers did stay with us and weathered the disruption. To infer that they weren't offered positions with a new startup due to their lack of abilities is a slam against those who had the foresight to know where their opportunities for growth and stability really existed. Due to the dedication of those that didn't jump ship, our installation business actually grew during this period of turmoil.
Lastly, your inference that we hired managers as a generic fix in lieu of a strategy is completely off the mark. We promoted three of our existing employees initially and then later chose one of them to actually run the division. Developing the managers was an integral part of our strategy and has allowed us to continue to grow our installation department to keep up with demand. Throwing people at positions without a plan is nothing more than a dilution of the bottom line and poor management. While the disruption caused us to move a little faster than our plan had originally called for, we were already budgeting for more people, and working on organizational issues to make room for the departmental growth.
Interestingly enough, the startup venture that originally created our situation has now, a year later, all but dissolved, leaving all of the people who left our company, thinking that they were going to be part of the "next big thing," now looking for work, with some trying to return to our organization.
Regardless of the interpretation of my original article, the bottom line really is quite simple. Stay involved in all aspects of your business and always be thinking about the "what-ifs" that may occur, because sooner or later, those "what-ifs" can become reality. Having a plan to deal with them will make any transition much less painful and much more productive.