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PARA Dealers Get Pep Talk

Miami – Passion for the business, a return to successful retail strategies abandoned during peak custom-growth years and building an organization designed for change will help specialty AV dealers survive slow-growth times and position themselves for growth when the economy turns around.

That was the message heard last Thursday by about 400 AV retailers, custom installers and their suppliers during the first full day of the PARA conference here.

Dealers coming to the conference complained that March blizzards and the war caused traffic to disappear at times, interrupting what they believed was a slow return to growth after a fourth-quarter downturn. Many dealers also said their pipeline of future custom-install jobs isn’t as full as it was a year ago.

In the coming weeks, more good war news could put consumers back in a buying mood and release some pent up demand, they said.

Even if the economy remains in slow-growth mode for awhile, PARA president Charlie Bock believes specialists, particularly those with the motivation to attend the conference, ‘will survive the current conditions extremely well’ because they have ‘a real passion for what they do.’ That passion, he told assembled attendees, ‘makes us better salesmen, installers, and managers. He added, ‘Our energy and enthusiasm drives our business.’

‘It’s an easy time right now to stay home,’ he said, but dealers turning out for the 24th annual event ‘have a determination and desire to make their businesses better.’

In light of the economic uncertainty, PARA executive director Deborah Smith described attendance, though down about 15 percent, as a ‘glass just about full given everything that happened.’ She noted that ‘everyone’s struggling to some degree-manufacturers and retailers,’ and during tight times, she said ‘cutting back is absolutely necessary.’ Nonetheless, she warned, ‘retrenchment can buy you time but can’t build you a future.’ She urged dealers to promote, not just narrow their lines and make hard personnel decisions. ‘As custom grew,’ she pointed out, ‘a lot of dealers forgot the retail strategies that were successful all those years [before].’

Also to build a future, consultant and author Seth Godin called on dealers to constantly make small changes over time to evolve in a changing society. ‘Getting better at yesterday’s business is pointless,’ he said. Factories, he said, are designed ‘to do the same thing cheaper and faster,’ and ‘in a stable world, they would win.’ He urged dealers rethink their businesses to encourage ‘painless changes over time’ and ‘shut down the factory.’