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EXECUTIVE COMMENTARY

By Walter Tobin, ERA CEO

Walter Tobin

Vacations are over and summer is winding down – at least for us in the northern half of North America. Business travel is picking up and customers are beginning to open back up, albeit slowly, as many still prefer video conferencing. We find ourselves getting back into a bit of cadence, yet still balancing work-from-home challenges. We are returning to the office a few days a week. (Where did I put my favorite coffee cup?) Is this the new normal or the new abnormal that everyone has been talking about for the past three-plus years?

Actually, I think we have already been living our new business lives for the past 12 months or so; we just did not know it, nor did our customers, channel partners, manufacturers or reps.

So, what now?

For many of us, we have already “skated to where the puck is now” and have become more comfortable with this new cadence: balancing video calls, which as we all know by now are face-to-face, with in-person visits; trying to accommodate visits from our manufacturers into the territory to get some sort of audience with customers and channel partners; and trying to schedule multiperson sales calls with some of the attendees not in-person but on video. Is it easier to schedule calls or meetings now than pre-you-know-what?

I promised myself and you to never again say or type the word: “COVID-19” or “pandemic” again. That is the last time you will see or hear these dreaded words from me again. Yet, has this gone away? Have we gotten used to it? (No politics here at all.) Have we just decided to get boosted and live our lives? I think so. Very few masks are being seen – perhaps we have all turned the page…

We have survived, and perhaps even thrived, through allocation and now into inflation…perhaps heading into a recession? Gosh, what else can get thrown at us? I say, bring it on!

What is that saying? “What does not kill you only makes you stronger.”

My sense is that all of us are ending 2022 stronger; our organizations are stronger, the relationships that we have with our employees are stronger, the relationships with our customers are stronger, the rep model has not only survived but thrived. We have all learned who we can rely on to help us manage our companies, our “book of business,” and our business and personal relationships.

Who would have thought that we would ever allow employees to work from home two to five days per week? When did we ever think that our customers key engineering and procurement contacts would no longer work at the company headquarters, but move out of the territory? How do I now continue to support their needs? How can I call on them? Today, we have most of this figured out.

Did I ever think of the day when I found the perfect employee for an opening, but he/she worked so far away from our office that I could/would never be able to hire, onboard or evaluate them? Today, we all can find the best people for our openings, perhaps regardless of where they live. Is this progress? I think so!

Our business world has changed forever. There is no turning back. Embrace the changes! Sure, it may be new and tough. Some of our old paradigms (“If a person is not in the office, they are not working”) are falling by the wayside and many of us are being challenged in so many ways. But look back: we have seen perhaps 10 years of change in the past 18 months.

Time to “put our trays in the upright and locked position” as the plane is landing because a new world is waiting for us and has been there hiding in plain sight for many months.

I am excited for all of us in 2023! What other industry offers the kind of growth opportunity that electronic components offers? None. Growth comes with challenges and issues, but we’ve got this!

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