Representor Fall 2022 - ERA XCOM Digest

Fall 2022 – ERA XCOM Digest

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Industry Update – by Kingsland Coombs, CPMR, CSP

Kingsland Coombs, CPMR, CSP
Control Sales Inc.
Sr. Vice President at Large

Sharing the success of the Summer 2022 White Pin interns

I am excited to share the experiences of two 2022 summer interns sponsored by the ERA White Pin Internship Program. As you will see, our pilot program, aimed at attracting young talent to the rep model to keep the industry fresh, was a tremendous success for both the rep firms and the interns.

Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Area

Aparna Sproelich, CPMR, vice president/ COO of the Aurora Technical Group – Southeast, started the candidate search in February 2022 at a local community college in-person career-fair. The position was for a marketing specialist with entrepreneurial spirit, high energy, some technical abilities and good communication skills. The interview process was critical to both parties and included job function details and face-to-face communication. Once the candidate was identified, the offer of a 15-week internship program was accepted and onboarding began. The chosen candidate was Nelysa Rosario, a student at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, N.C. In her short time at Aurora Technical Group, Rosario was able to work with account managers to validate target markets, develop marketing campaigns, work with account managers on proper email messaging, follow up on cold emails and other leads, and develop and execute verbal messaging for initial customer contact. At the end of the summer, Rosario was hired as a marketing specialist employee and will work part-time while she finishes her associate’s degree. According to Sproelich, “The interview process was the key. The candidate shined during our faceto-face discussion. We felt confident during the interview that she would blend in well with our team and add value in a very short time.” Sproelich and her team were very pleased with the White Pin Internship program as it was the catalyst for hiring a solid employee.

Southwest U.S.

English Technical Sales (ETS) was looking for a business development/research analyst intern and posted the position on the bulletin boards of six Southern California engineering colleges but received no response. Not to be discouraged, Cameron English, CPMR, CEO/president of ETS, targeted one college (his alma mater) for their recruitment program and found a candidate through its bulletin board. ETS hired Gustavo Ruiz, an undergraduate computer science major interested in exploring internet-based marketing. Working three days (20 hours) per week this summer, Ruiz was able to research target customers using ZoomInfo, develop email drip marketing campaigns using Auto Klose and ultimately share analytical marketing data directly with principals and account managers on calls. Ruiz will continue as a 1099 employee for ETS while pursuing his undergraduate degree. Regarding the experience, English said, “Gustavo’s contribution to our marketing initiative was more than expected. His critical thinking skills as a computer science major enabled him to dig deeper into techniques to find engineering prospects at target customers. We are very pleased with the initial results of our marketing program. Our principals were even more thrilled.”

Next year’s program

Based on the success of the 2022 Summer Internship Program, the White Pin committee is happy to announce the continuation and expansion of the program in 2023. Reps will need to submit applications to qualify for the subsidy. Applications can be found on the ERA website under the ERA Resources tab and should be submitted no later than February 28, 2023. Applications will be reviewed in order of date submitted. Let’s work together to create an outstanding White Pin Intern class for 2023!

Manufacturing Update – by Ken Bellero

Ken Bellero
Schaffner EMC
Sr. Vice President/Manufacturers

Major issues affecting manufacturing in 2022

Now that many of us have survived the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak around the world, several key issues are now the topic of conversation for many manufacturers throughout the U.S. The COVID-19 shutdowns, along with the current resurgence of sales volumes, have put a very big spotlight on new issues that many are tackling every day. These have now become the focus for many and have added additional costs, time and resources that have in the past not been necessary. Here is my take on five of the major issues that I see are specifically prominent among U.S. and European manufacturing companies. Let me know if you have others that your company may be facing that, by discussing together, we could help you address as well.

Labor shortage. With many baby boomers retiring, millennials approaching middle age and a small Gen Z, employers are finding it harder to hire new workers to fill empty jobs or positions created due to the increase in growth the electronics industry has been experiencing in 2022. The Congressional Budget Office forecasted that the U.S. labor force would grow by a mere 0.2 percent per year from 2024 to 2031 – which will put a great deal of stress on hiring new employees for many of us in manufacturing. It is taking much longer to find qualified candidates for many of the positions that are open which is causing a great amount of frustration and work overload on the current workforce. Many companies have turned to agencies to help with the search but still must deal with a much smaller group to interview, a higher cost for the search and, when a qualified candidate is found, a great deal of competition from other manufacturers to successfully hire the employee. There seems to be no relief in sight at this point in the year and as the holiday season approaches, it becomes more and more difficult.

Supply chain instability. The economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain leading to doubts about globalization. This has shown the manufacturing sector just how easily the supply chain – heavily dependent on international sources – can be disrupted. Many manufacturing companies are looking to “re-shoring.” This pressure and expense to move manufacturing to cut down on vulnerability has been very detrimental to many. Also, the higher costs of shipping from overseas, along with the extreme delays many are experiencing on the delivery of products via sea or air freight, have cut down on the profits for many manufacturers. This is putting more focus on moving production facilities to provide more control over the supply chain as we move into what seems to be a very promising 10 years of growth in the electronics industry.

Smart factory initiatives. The importance of smart factories is undeniable; operating more efficiently will keep your facility a step ahead of your competition. Putting together a successful roadmap for a smart factory, however, is a huge initiative and takes a lot of planning and preliminary examination. Here are some suggestions to move smart manufacturing strategies and roadmaps from aspirational to actionable, and to set realistic expectations for resources and funding:

  • People come first.
  • Prepare to integrate continuous innovation with continuous improvement.
  • Shift performance management from efficiency to speed.
  • Expect to execute gradually.
  • Be realistic about your expectations at each stage.
  • Create a roadmap. Once these actions are reviewed and discussed internally, then the initiative can begin to become more of a reality.

Cybersecurity. Most U.S. manufacturers report cybersecurity incidents in the past 12 months. At Schaffner we have been doing a great amount of employee training and testing to make sure our employees understand the importance of being vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity. The threat of attacks is on us every day and only those companies that have been able to make their employees aware of how not to be a victim have been successful. But so many manufacturers still struggle with obtaining 100 percent protection from these constant threats and attacks.

One of our key logistics partners had a very serious cybersecurity issue in the beginning of the year which brought them to their knees for more than 30 days before they could get all aspects of their organization back on track after the attack. Every one of us – manufacturers, distributors and reps – need to do everything we can to avoid a cyber attack on our companies. Do you have a strategy or action plan should your company be targeted by an attack?

Sustainability. Managing operations in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner is becoming imperative to business growth. As the cost of energy and materials rises, regulations tighten and consumers gravitate toward sustainable brands and businesses, many companies are already developing business practices that are more sustainable. For many manufacturers this has become a major priority to remain competitive within their market. A good amount of time and focus should be given to this issue to stay ahead of the curve when dealing with overall sustainability.

It seems that for many, these new issues are directly related to our current situation and are an outcome of the current business climate. Again, it is important that all the members of the ERA work together when dealing with these very important issues.

As I mentioned, these are just a few of the issues that I see that have affected each one of us on how we run our business in 2022. What are some of the issues you are experiencing that are an outcome of the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath? Please feel free to share them with me for further discussion in future issues of The Representor. You can reach me at My door, phone and email are always open! n

Education Update – by Ellen Coan, CPMR

Ellen Coan, CPMR

CC Electro Sales
Sr. Vice President/Education

School is always in session at ERA

Fall means school has started, but school never ends at ERA. We are planning or presenting year-round to keep everyone at the head of the class with their selling and management skills and beyond. Reps want to be the best for their principals and distributors to achieve mutual success.

Recently I listened to the July 25th episode of the “How to Be a Better Human” podcast (you can find it on Apple Podcasts and Spotify) about why math is important to humanity. This might be a skill you either loathe or love. I am thinking about math and school as I send my son to Purdue engineering school as a freshman. When I was there, it was math that got me through everything. As long as I could put a formula to the problem, I could find a solution. As a rep, math is essential to succeeding in business – calculating commission (or splits) to projecting forecasts to ppm to beta curves or trip curves… What does all this do for us beyond the numbers? Math creates a connection with your peers and that “ah-ha!” moment when you solve the problem, together. It takes some collaborating and persistence and understanding. Math is everywhere as we progress through our careers. Our brains take in new data (another good read/listen is the book “Think Again” by Adam Grant) from education, everyday events and formal trainings, and we come to new conclusions. We all do this from our unique perspective and in our own corporate culture where we apply this new thinking.

At ERA we work hard to bring you scheduled education like the Virtual Sales Training sessions and breakouts at the National Management Conference as well as the podcasts and Water Cooler sessions – where fresh, relative topics are presented to feed new thinking. Virtual Sales Training 2022 is complete but the national ERA Conference is around the corner. The topics are evolving as we find our balance in this new era. Relationship-building is tough in our current climate (Who is working in the office or can meet for coffee or get on a Microsoft Teams call??) But our value is greater than ever. Our local knowledge is key to building the marketing campaign for the products we represent. Digital marketing is a field we didn’t know we needed to know, but it is here and there is a lot of expertise we can all share. Communication will always be the key to our achievements. If we can’t express the need, we can’t find the solution. Time management is difficult as we will never have more than 24 hours in a day. (Another math problem to solve – how to do more, but live in the moment and still get a good night’s sleep!) All of these challenges can be explored with new approaches. We need to challenge our brain to keep trying new things and if things work, make them stick!

Don’t forget to introduce your new employees to the ERA NEXGEN group who connects and shares their challenges, as we encourage their investigation into issues at hand while listening to their perspective and helping to find a solution together. We all learn from them! ERA is helping you find interns with the White Pin Internship program to establish the NEXGEN group to show the value of the rep model in new and creative ways!

As we close out 2022 and the temperature starts getting colder outside, we take our laptops to our favorite perch while we keep the emails flowing, analyze spreadsheets, and listen to books or podcasts or people that keep us moving forward. The learning (wind) never stops – we just adjust our sails.

Distribution Update – by Craig Sanderson

Craig Sanderson
Sager Electronics
Sr. Vice President/Distributors

Distribution and ERA: The value and teamwork continues to grow

Perhaps you have heard of the college psychology class that had a written final exam. The anticipation was very high as the final exam made up 100 percent of the final grade. Many of the students studied long and hard as the course professor was known for his teaching ability and was held in high esteem. Achieving a high grade in this course would go a long way to determining an individual student’s success in the field, even beyond graduation from college. The date for the final exam came. All of the students were in their seats, prepared to use the full hour allotted to complete the exam. The exam was distributed in paper form and the students were to complete their response in a handwritten format. After the tests were handed to each student in the room, all began to work on the exam and almost all took the full amount of time allotted. Except for one student. One student spent only one minute to complete and turn in the exam to the professor at the front of the room. The student then left the room.

How could one student complete the exam so quickly, while everyone else toiled away? The reason lies in the exam’s questions or, in this case, the exam question. The exam handed out by the professor of this highly regarded psychology course had only one question: “Why?” The answer provided by the student who completed the exam in one minute was: “Why not?” That was a long story for a single punch line, but the scenario, which actually did occur, reminds me of ERA. There are some in our industry that may ask “Why join ERA?” I strongly suggest that the answer is “Why not join ERA?” ERA continues to make strides that benefit all members, reps, distributors and suppliers. While it would be a bit too long to detail all that the ERA has to offer, let me mention a few of the aspects of the ERA that might interest you.

The ERA Virtual Sales Training. This is the second year of creating and delivering sales training to its members and non-members. This training provides value that is so important to our industry and can assist all of those in sales. Created in bite-sized chucks, this training addresses many of the needs in today’s environment. Here were a few of the key titles of this year’s training sessions: Effective Communication; Bridging the Gap in a Multi-Generational Workforce; Value-Based Selling; Digital Marketing; Tips & Tricks on Setting Appointments. These and more are addressing today’s needs. Why not attend?

Industry experts available to members. This is a bit on the “Can you believe it?” scale. For some members access to professional help on such key topics as accounting and taxes, legal issues, employees benefits and more, is important. But what about being able to access experienced leaders such as Steve Cholas, Craig Conrad, Cesare Giammarco, Bryan C. Shirley, and John Simari on sales, marketing & business strategy? Who wouldn’t take advantage of this valuable service? The ERA Hover Map is one of the recent developments that brings real value to all members. It expands what once was only a listing of reps to now being enhanced to provide: a definition of the geography for each ERA Territory, a list of the USPS zip codes for the specific territory, a DTAM profile for the specific territory, and a complete list and profile of the rep organizations in each territory. Do you think that you could use that info? Why not? The annual ERA Conference. The ERA Conference is without a doubt one of the most value-driven events in our industry. Held annually in Austin, Texas in late winter/early spring, the upcoming event is scheduled for Feb. 26-28, 2023. Professional speakers bringing new ideas, fresh thoughts, and addressing key aspects of our industry. There will be networking with suppliers, reps and distributors. There will be breakout sessions that help us all navigate the many changes to our industry while learning best practices from our peers. Does all of this equal value? Of course it does. So why not attend?

From my view, there are so many valuable aspects to joining the ERA. I could 20 Fall 2022 | The Representor ERA XCOM DIGEST continue but will provide a flash round of important value items: lines available notices, ERA Water Cooler sessions, local chapter events, professional development; ERA podcasts, monthly POS reports – the list goes on and on. My message is clear. If you haven’t become a member of ERA, why not join this month? You can thank me later.

Budget season is upon us

This year, as with almost every year in the past twenty, companies will soon begin the budgeting process for sales, profitability, expenses, head count, inventory, marketing communications, capital expenditures, real estate and facilities, IT expansion, and so many of the financial aspects of running our businesses. Over the past three years and for many of the last twenty years, factors beyond our control will impact our company results.

What will it be this year? Will the U.S. and international shipping ports continue to improve from the serious issues of the last two years? Will the U.S. government infrastructure spending impact your business positively? Will the Russia-Ukraine conflict continue to have a bigger impact on raw materials and energy than originally anticipated? Will the severe weather all over North America and the world have a continued negative impact on our lives, and our food and water availability? Will the growth in the use of electric vehicles and the move away from fossil fuels improve the environment?

What about those factors seemingly within our control? Will inflation negatively impact the U.S. economy? Can suppliers utilize the capacity expansion investments they have made to continue to grow their business? Does new product design continue to fuel the electronics industry? Could OEM and CEM customers continue to extend their delivery horizons to avoid shortage and line down situations? Will OEM customers begin insisting on multiple sources for all of their design components? Should distributors continue to invest heavily in expanding their inventories to better support customer demand?

So many questions and yet there are even more. But I will stop here. I’m looking forward to budget season and hope that you and your company foresee sales and profitability growth for 2023.

Thank you, New England ERA!

The New England chapter of the ERA’s second annual golf tournament, held in July 2022, was a well-attended event with participation from member rep firms, suppliers, customers and distributors. The event included a raffle which enabled a donation to charity. This year the decision was made to donate the proceeds to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the names of two industry veterans who had recently passed away, Jamie Noble of Kemet Electronics Corp. and Ed Tully of Sager Electronics. John Hutson spoke about both Jamie and Ed. John cited Jamie’s successful career both before and during his time with Kemet. John captured Ed’s importance to the Sager team and spoke of Ed’s love for his family, along with his passion for his work, his over-the-top attitude, and of course his “Ed-isms.” This meant a lot to both Jamie and Ed’s families, so a big thank you to the New England ERA.