SAN ANTONIO- ProSource is holding its annual spring meeting here this week, and on Tuesday we had a chance to sit down with several of the buying group’s leaders: CEO Dave Workman, BrandSource CEO Jim Ristow, Director of Business Development Andy Orozco and Board Chairman Murray Huppin, along with recently hired director of marketing Kathleen Marini.
The leaders discussed the conference so far, the group’s goals for the year, and its recent addition of a large selection of new integrators.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done back to back, where we’ve taken our Power CI and Pro dealers and put it together in a single week,” Workman said. “It was an objective of ours because we’ve done two separate shows to somehow keep them special to the classifications, but still show the industry what we really are. So far, anyway, it seems like it’s going well. It’ll be a record show both on the vendor side and the member side.”
He added that 21 of the 22 PRO dealers are in attendance at the show.
The main topics of discussion have included “focus” and “thinking like a group,” Workman said, as well as the challenge of growing without becoming “a victim of our own success.”
“Buying groups get a bad rap sometimes, as this unnecessary burden on the business, or a go-between or whatever you want to call us,” Workman said. The members and the vendors alike love a group that works like a group. And it’s easy to say and hard to do. That’s been a big focus of ours- to really feel like a group, both in our actions and the way we collaborate with each other.”
“No dealer ever joined a group to say ‘I hope to say the same size,’” Huppin added. “Everyone joins because they want to learn, they want to get new skills, be exposed to new ideas, so they can grow and get to the next level.”
Orozco addressed ProSource’s recently announced addition of 29 integrators.
“We’re always adding,” he said. “But we’re really proud of, is if you look at that list and you look at the three membership tiers that we have, out of that list of dealers I think five were Power CIs, and that’s specifically something that we’re looking at, building that division. We’re not really looking so much for quantity, but the quality is really strong.”
“One of the things we’ve really been able to do is leverage the strengths of the large dealers, the traditional pro-level dealers who are retail and e-tail, and the custom integrators and automation dealers, and by leveraging the purchasing power of the larger dealers there’s great benefit to the smaller dealers,” Huppin added.
“But those smaller dealers were far stronger than we were in the categories they play in and they brought product benefit to the big dealers. Benefits are flowing both ways all the time.”
“We are interestedly enough, in a place where we’re not out there saying ‘we need to add a hundred more dealers,’” Workman said.
“If there’s any place where we want to continue to grow- and some of this will be organic- is the Power CI group. Power CI and PRO are equal in their stature and presence… they are market makers in their relative fashion, and yes there us probably some opportunity to grow, and there will probably be some new acquisition of dealers to the organization, and also we want to have some growth in our own dealer base, to where they can grow into that part of the organization as well.”
Workman added that with the new additions, the PRO side of the group is getting to be “full,” although it would take a “special account” to be considered.
In terms of positive products categories, Workman and the other executives specifically mentioned 4K, hi-res audio, networking, Bluetooth audio headphones and turntables.
“For our dealer base, if you add up all the opportunities that exist out there,” Workman said. “The industry has a tendency to latch on to one thing, like this is the be-all and end-all of growing- we’ve got multiple categories of products that are experiencing growth. Zone audio, is just scratching the surface of what’s expected. So for the dealers- even some of the block-and-tackle stuff. One of the things that came out yesterday is best practices is becoming better furniture dealers, in a targeted manner.”
The executives also discussed their relationships with vendors.
“The one thing about size- our goal is not just to have a program with our vendors, but to have a seat at the table to help work on strategy,” Workman said. “You have to have a significant amount of that vendor’s business in order to have a seat at that table.”
He added that a D&M zone audio system being exhibited this week was originally developed “on a napkin,” while Ristow and the audio committee was meeting with executives in Japan.
ProSource will deliver its State of the Union and hand out dealer awards Wednesday.
“I think the overall sentiment we want to convey is that times are good right now, and momentum is strong,” Workman said. “Momentum is a fickle and funny thing, and when you have it, ride it like there’s no tomorrow. It just feels like with everything we’ve done, and the team we’re assembling, and the merger that has finally occurred, it just feels right.”