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> A peek back and a look ahead


Walter Tobin, ERA CEO

by Walter E. Tobin, ERA CEO

My remembrance of Chuck Tanzola is his leadership, friendship and passion to always do the right thing. I would be remiss in not mentioning him and letting you know how much I respected and admired him. He was a man of faith who is an example for all of us to follow. Rest in peace, Chuck. Please read John O’Brien’s article on page 14 for more thoughts on our late president.

Wow! So here we are: 2024 — whew! We got through 2023 relatively unscathed, with a few bruises along the way as a result of ERA helping its members deal with the industry’s toughest issues. Hand-to-hand combat, so to speak. ERA is always trying to help its members move ahead with confidence and unafraid of what lies ahead, to arm them with new tools and new ways of doing things. It is what we do, together!

A peek back

We left Austin in February 2023 after having our first-ever Conference sell-out! What a great testimony to the hard work of our 55 Conference committee volunteers who put on a great show. Our ERA national staff, led by Erin Collins, helped set the tone, “herd the cats,” and put the agenda together for both general sessions and our unique breakout session format. Of course, we thank you, our attendees and sponsors, who made it all possible.

ERA introduced its new ERA SearchLink. ai tool, which is a way for ERA members exclusively to use AI to help find new customers, new markets and new ways of selling. We have all heard a lot about AI during 2023—perhaps too much—but have come up with an amazing tool to empower our members to not just keep up but get ahead of their competition. To date, we have had over 100 ERA members subscribe to the ERA tool. Give it a look-see and prepare to be amazed!

ERA announced three ERA Mark Motsinger White Pin Internships! ERA and White Pin continue to assist our manufacturers’ rep members to find and hire summer interns that often lead to the intern joining the rep company upon graduation.

We also introduced the ERA Electronics Components Industry Trends Survey in partnership with Edgewater Research. This confidential survey allows ERA members to provide business conditions information in a secure and confidential manner that gets “marinated” into all of the participating companies and then summarized on our website. This information, a business barometer and market conditions bellwether, is another tool available only to ERA members.

We conducted our third annual ERA STEP training with our exclusive sponsor, the TTI Family of Specialists. We had almost 400 people attend this event, all conducted in a live, virtual format. The feedback on both the content and speaker quality was amazing. Look for announcements on 2024 STEP training scheduled for this fall.

A look ahead

As we look ahead, the global issues facing us can be both daunting and challenging. Wars in the Middle East and in Ukraine present all sorts of opportunities for pessimism and despair. However, ERA remains both optimistic and positive on the economic climate in 2024. When you look at the U.S. unemployment rate being at its lowest point in years, the U.S. dollar being strong and U.S. manufacturing being strong, this all leads us to be bullish on 2024. Is there a recession on the horizon? I am certainly not an economist and read the same tea leaves that you read, but my opinion is that we will NOT head into a recession in 2024. I hope I am right.

The Presidential election also looms—no matter what the result may be, elections always present an opportunity for change. But out of great change and chaos come great opportunity— let’s all keep our eye on the prize here: customer satisfaction.

ERA will co-host the EDS Summit in May and are hoping for another strong turnout. The theme this year is “Stronger Together” which sort of says it all. I hope to see you there! Your ERA membership includes great discounts to register and attend.

ERA will once again exhibit at electronica in November, a huge show and a tremendous opportunity for ERA members to solicit channel partners, reps and manufacturers in our global environment. Our “small but mighty” ERA booth is a beehive of activity, trust me! Come see and help ERA spread the word, and cultivate partnerships for 2024 and beyond.

What is my advice and hope for 2024? Pretty simple: work hard to attain and maintain the role of being a trusted source for your channel partners, manufacturer partners and rep partners, our “three legs of the stool.” All three legs need to be working hard to win the customer, versus just booking the order.

I know that booking orders is important, but who among us has not bowed to the pressure to book the order (perhaps when we may not have been 100 percent sure that we were going to be able to support it) and then have to give it back or fail to meet our promised delivery and pricing…resulting in losing the customer. We lose the customer’s trust, perhaps forever, all to book an order. Short-sighted, for sure.

If you always keep in mind winning and keeping the customer’s trust as your north star, you will end up winning your unfair share of orders. Make 2024 the year of the customer — let’s “energize our customers’ experience!” …I bet that would make a great ERA conference theme!

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