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Advice To Retail Groups: Check Your Egos At The Door

Of all the jobs in the consumer electronics and home appliance industries, none can be as rewarding and as difficult as heading up an organization of dealers.

Whether it be a buying group or trade association, those who spend their entire working days managing the staff and activities of the group are approaching the job from a different perspective than their unpaid “bosses” — the dealer directors.

The retailers tend to begrudge whatever salary the group’s director is taking out of the organization, especially if this is more than they are taking out of their individual businesses. For this reason, it is imperative that both parties look at the size of the job to be done, and not at whom is doing it.

When that job involves contact with highly paid manufacturer personnel, it is doubly important that a comparison of earnings between group directors and their counterparts at the plants and factories should be forgotten.

Yet the thing most threatening to how well merchants get along with the chief executive of their groups is the egos of both parties.

As I have stated before, egos are, obviously, essential to the success of a dealership. It takes a great deal of self-confidence in oneself for a dealer to feel that he can profitably resell an item when the original order has just been delivered by the wholesaler or manufacturer.

Similarly, to have the confidence that one can successfully manage an organization of 100 or several thousand entrepreneurs by enlisting other trade segments into that effort, requires an ego equal to or greater than any other on the business scene.

To better serve dealer members, the association executive must be highly knowledgeable in the operation of every branch of the individual dealerships. There’s no denying that it takes a huge ego to manage all that.

Now, it is inevitable that when two egos clash, as in determining the best way to approach a trade-wide problem, the situation can get out of control.

If the individual dealer members or the group’s board vote for a course of action with which the director does not approve, he or she will surely put less than his or her full heart into carrying out the “bosses” wishes.

It’s a tricky relationship at best. On the one hand, the directors have every right to make the major decisions for the group. On the other, it is inconvenient to call a board meeting every time less important, but potentially vital action must be weighed. Each participant, naturally, feels that he or she is better prepared to act now.

Perhaps the best thing to do is describe, in writing, just which business decisions are the responsibility of the group’s top, full-time executive. These may include complete management of staff, assistance to individual members and decisions to spend money up to a well-defined limit. Responsibilities of board members should also be well defined.

In this manner, it may be correctly stated that paid organization heads do not work for the group’s members and directors unless they work with them.