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> A view from the top


By Walter Tobin, ERA CEO

Walter Tobin, ERA CEO

We are back from the 2023 ERA Conference in Austin. It was a great three days. Here are some of my thoughts as I look back on all that went on.


The economy is strong and there is little, if any, chance of a recession. Yet, the economic world continues to be upside down. Adding jobs is bad for the economy. (Huh?) Rising interest rates slowed inflation but caused a few banks to fail. Will interest rates keep rising to slow inflation but possibly weaken more banks? A strong U.S. dollar may be bad. (Huh, what?) Common sense may be out the window! The war in Ukraine is bad for everyone worldwide. There is no upside to this and no winners at all – this will only fuel global uncertainty. Yet, there is cautious optimism. Folks want to have a strong year but headwinds are blowing. How is your windmill coming along?

New tools and technology

There are many new and exciting software tools available now – get great at using them and do not fear them! (e.g. ERA ChatGPT has been here for six months. It will only get stronger and perhaps a bit scarier; look into this and manage it; do not let it manage you and do not fear it. Times are both scary and exciting. Allow yourself to be scared but use this fear as fuel to change. New markets and new worlds are before us – e.g., EV vehicles. These new markets present huge new opportunities for the electronics industry. Change and adapt, or become irrelevant. Embrace reps doing marketing and market research. Do not rely on anyone else to find new customers or opportunities for you — you must do it!

Our industry

The rep model is getting stronger and is here to stay in a big way. In-person selling is back but virtual selling is here to stay. Do not revert to the old ways prior to the pandemic. Selling is still a full-contact sport, we are just changing the tools we need to use. Do not become irrelevant or a fossil! Business travel is back. Pick your spots and make sure the reason for your trip could not be done on a Zoom call. Do not waste your silver bullet with your supplier or customer. Social media: What is your social media image? Do you have one? Get great at social media! Do not mix your personal footprint with your business footprint.

ERA Conference

I’m proud that there were so many smart and confident female general session and breakout session panelists at the 2023 ERA Conference. This is long overdue! There were also many more young folks in Austin. We must empower them, nurture them and mentor them. Do not fear them – they are the future of your company. Our industry has never been more exciting – what other industry would you want to be a part of?

Final thoughts

Our customers and manufacturers want more out of their rep network and their channel partners. We need to clearly understand their wants before they have to tell us what they are. Then we must work hard to meet/exceed their expectations or we will be replaced by someone else who is embracing the future, using new tools and providing new services before we are asked to by our customers. Trust and honesty never go out of fashion. Keep your eye on both of these attributes every day. Who will be at the ERA Conference in 2028? Will you be there? Do you and your company have a clearly defined succession plan? Who will represent your company’s leadership in five years? Sharpen your skates and get your game face on! See you in 2028!

Author’s note: This article was written by me and not by ChatGPT or another “bot.” So, blame me if you do not like it!

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