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Brown: Thiel Committed To Independent Reps

Lexington, Ky. — Thiel Audio is committed to the independent-rep distribution model and is looking at filling holes in its rep network, said Bob Brown, Thiel board member and interim COO.

In about a month, Thiel will have a “better idea” about its rep choices and will have completed a review of pricing and margin programs, Brown added.

Strengthening distribution and reviewing pricing and margin programs aren’t the only issues that new management is addressing, he said. The company is also working to upgrade facilities and support systems and has rejoined CEDIA “to send a signal to CEDIA distribution” about the company’s plans to compete more vigorously in the channel, he said.

 CEDIA dealers “sell high-end products and services to high-end customers,” Brown said. “Those are all the things Thiel wants to participate in.”

Other “front-burner” plans include improving manufacturing and product-development efficiencies, he said.

The company’s “first real investment,” however, “needed to be a full-time national sales manager,” Brown said of the hiring of industry veteran Stephen DeFuria. “You need a full-time evangelist who has no distractions,” Brown said.

One of DeFuria’s first tasks is strengthening distribution. In its rep network, Thiel had a “few holes” before the company’s recent purchase by a group of investors, and the company “lost” a few reps during the ownership transition, Brown said. Decisions on which reps to hire and in which markets haven’t yet been made, but the company will definitely be hiring reps, he said.

“We’re committed to the [independent-rep] model,” Brown asserted. “The right reps are a bargain. You can’t hire enough [in-house] people to replicate a good rep force” given the services they perform and the number of times they visit local retailers, he explained. Rep visits can be supplemented by occasional visit from the factory, he added.

“Most small high-end companies are not in a position to have a lot of sales managers on the road,” Brown continued. With sales declining at a lot of companies, he said, it behooves those companies to keep their fixed expenses down rather than raise fixed expenses by firing reps and bringing sales in-house.

These and other efforts, he said, are focused on “enhancing everyone’s profitability” in the distribution channel from supplier to dealer, he said.