Representor Winter 2020 - From the Top

It’s 2020 … How’s your vision?

by Chuck Tanzola, CPMR
The Fusion Sourcing Group Inc.
ERA President

Each manufacturer, each distributor, each representative and, yes, even each association, must know and understand our unique value proposition, and provide a vision of our value and benefit to the industry daily.

It’s the start of a new year; which signals to me time for goal setting, planning and new resolutions; looking forward to what is to come. It’s also the dawn of a new decade, which compels some to review history; looking backward at what was and creating those “Best Of / Top 10” type lists. Noting that it’s 2020, I also wonder, “At such a time as this, what article would be complete without some discussion of vision?” When we talk of vision, in one sense we’re talking about our clarity in seeing what is (or was); and, in another sense, imagining what is not yet, but could be. With this in mind, here are a few New Year, and new decade observations about our industry and association — looking backward and forward.

While 2019 was not 2018, for the industry it was not a bad year overall. Anecdotally, this seems to be the consensus opinion that I hear expressed throughout our industry. As reports of actual results from 2019 are posted, I believe we will hear sales results primarily within +/-10 percent of 2018 (probably trending more towards minus 10 percent than plus 10 percent); with 2020 forecasts of single-digit growth. As an association, ERA had a strong year in 2019 — posting record numbers in most measurable categories — membership, revenue, volunteerism and activity were all up.

The pressure on profitability — whether manufacturer, distributor, representative, industry service provider or customer — is the single largest issue facing our industry, and it will continue to intensify. These have been turbulent times in our industry — trade policies and related tariff issues have commanded a lot of intellectual and physical resources; the more than minor apprehension (and opinion) associated with Washington politics and the early election season activities that are dominating the news cycle; and recent industry announcements with respect to the formation of a new association (GEDA), changes in franchises and authorizations, and a general challenging of the status quo — have all contributed to a climate of uncertainty. Despite the reasonable market conditions over the past two years, and even though we are engaged in selling the very latest, leading edge electronic technologies, our industry continues to mature structurally, putting ongoing pressure on profitability.

In response to this pressure, organizations will: 1) feel compelled to make changes – to do “something”; 2) challenge every “norm” or convention; and 3) look for immediate results, sometimes at the expense of long-term strategies. Some organizations will look inward – enacting a strategy to focus on core competencies; while others will look to diversify (perhaps through merger or acquisition or collaboration). The push to eliminate redundancy and inefficiency by driving standardization will continue and remain in tension with the need for organizations to differentiate themselves. “Staying the course” will lose its luster as a strategy; though strategies based upon solid, fundamental, foundational principles usually don’t need major overhauls as much as responsive adjustments along the way.

As companies look to seize opportunities for profit and growth, some of their decisions will not be beneficial to their supply chain partners. Each member of the electronics industry could find themselves on either side of this equation, either making a difficult decision impacting a partner, or being subject to a decision by a partner impacting our organization.

It has been said that, “Without a vision, the people cast off restraint …” Each manufacturer, each distributor, each representative and, yes, even each association, must know and understand our unique value proposition, and provide a vision of our value and benefit to the industry daily.

What better way to be part of the discussion and spread a vision of your organization than to participate in industry-wide events — like the upcoming ERA Conference in Austin; like the EDS Summit in Las Vegas; and like the ECIA Executive Conference in October — your industry partners will be there networking. Will you?
Finally, on a personal note, as I was bringing this article on vision to conclusion, an unforeseen event caused me to re-write it. On Thursday evening, Jan. 3, 2020, as all the holiday celebrations were concluding, Julie Baker, who served as Treasurer on the Empire State Chapter ERA Board, was taken from us in a tragic and senseless incident of domestic violence. Julie was vivacious, kind, gentle, and thoughtful. Those of us who served and worked with Julie saw this in her daily and will miss her dearly.

As important as vision is, we must realize that we rarely see everything ahead of us; and maintain perspective in all things. As always, I can be reached at and welcome your comments and feedback. I look forward to seeing you in Austin in a few weeks.