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Walking the Walk

The Independent Professional Representatives Organization (IPRO) 17th Annual Conference just concluded with record attendance in Nashville, Tennessee. For many of us in the rep community this is the only conference where we get to talk specifically about our businesses.

Over the last seven years, IPRO has invited all members of the custom installation industry into this open forum. CEDIA, for example, provided more personnel and CEDIA education to this years event. Rich Green of Rich Green, Ink, and chair of the new Technology Council, captivated representatives and industry partners with his highlight of key issues facing our channel, while Steve Firszt of Fast-Forward Business Consulting provided instruction on P&L, balance sheet, and cash-flow projection.

Reps in the Spotlight
One lively point during the manufacturers panel arose around the issue of how to maximize a reps focus on each individual manufacturer product line they represent. In constant tension is the balance between each manufacturers desire to have their rep firms represent as few lines as possible so that attention to their product line is not diluted, while the representative firms never want to concentrate too much of their income on any one product line.

Many representative firms have been advised not to allow any commission income to exceed 25 percent of their overall income to reduce downside risk from income loss and increasing their viability as a long-term healthy business entity. On the other hand, new challenges exist.

More industry consolidation and acquisition is requiring that each representative sales organization increase it technical support and additional capabilities for managing the assortment of brands in which each consolidated manufacturer may have interest. Its clear that the representative firm that can manage the correct and most appropriate placement of each manufacturers brand maximizes the value of the brand to the dealers in the territory, and therefore, to the manufacturer.

Forging a Bright Future
Henry Bergson, executive director for NEMRA, illustrated a possible road map for our industrys future when he discussed his organizations history. The electrical representative association followed similar consolidation trends that occurred within the grocery industry a few years before. Its success, Bergson said, came via the same course that IPRO is facilitating, which is to invite manufacturers and associations to join forces to create best practices.

What remains clear is that successful resolution of many of our industrys sensitive issues lies in members of our market joining in constructive dialogue to create common ground. If this were to consistently happen, we will more likely survive and grow as an industry.

We must forge a path for the creation of the fourth trade via custom installation education and certification. With this conference in mind, one of the representative communitys most valuable roles is as market ambassadors that ensure that this fourth-trade message is clearly communicated. Making sure that each representative organization is well-informed about current legislation, best practices of RESC businesses, and current technology trends and issues is crucial to everyone receiving this benefit.

CEDIA is working with IPRO to explore new avenues of mutual support, including efforts to expand its representative education options via key representative regional shows, offering course venues (including online) for reps to obtain additional CEDIA education, and offering IPRO-created courses to manufacturers and RESC organizations. These initiatives are additional steps toward our industrys advancement. Dont wait until next years IPRO Conference to keep the ball moving and the discussion going. If you want to find out more and get more involved, ask any of these organizations how you can contribute.