Why Dealers Are Joining New Azione Buying Group
Former HTSA exec Richard Glikes kicked off the first conference for his new venture, Azione, which aims to be the “best buying group ever.”
July 27, 2012 – The new CE buying group Azione Unlimited kicked off its first member conference this week in St. Louis, just one year after founder Richard Glikes left his longtime position as executive director of the competitive group Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA).
During his opening remarks, Glikes took great pains to distinguish his new organization from HTSA, a group comprising about 60 of the industry’s top home systems integrators.
Azione will have more dealers than that (250 is the goal) and fewer vendors. Glikes has signed up 24 vendors so far — many of the same folks he recruited for HTSA – and he wants to max out at 32, or about half as many as HTSA has.
Unlike HTSA, Azione has vendors – not just dealers — on its board, but Glikes prefers the term “founding members” because he had a falling out with the “board” at his last gig.
Manufacturers and dealers are pretty much equal partners in the new organization; neither group is a “vulture” preying on the other, Glikes says.
Who is Joining Azione?
So far, Azione has recruited 46 dealers to the group, of which 33 are attending the first event themed “Building the Foundation.” The dealers are quite impressive – many in the CE Pro 100, and others who would certainly qualify if they wanted to.
About 70 percent of the dealers have never been in a buying group before. A handful recently departed a buying group specifically to join Azione because, as one dealer says, “They have more of our brands.”
In fact, during opening introductions, about half of the dealers said they joined the group primarily because Azione represents the brands that they’re already carrying, so why not enjoy the greater margins afforded by all that buying power?
“Our initial attraction was the additional deeper discounts to increase profits on products we were already buying,” says Eric Hulstedt of Phoenix-based Custom Systems Integration.
Glikes explained his ultimate sales pitch to potential members: He pulls out a $2 bill and hands it to the dealer. Then he tells them, “Give me $1 back.”
Bob Servo, president of Deluxe Audio Video in Naperville, Calif., is one new member who gets the profitability angle: “I never realized how much more juice was available in these lines.”
And then there is the fact that Richard Glikes is darn persistent. Jon Myer — of Myer Emco fame — joined Azione with his new integration company Myer Connex because, “I’ve known Richard long enough to know that the least painful route is to just join.”
More than a Buying Group
Even though product discounts lured most of the dealers to Azione in the first place, certainly the opportunity to network with industry peers holds huge appeal for the members.
Tom Stone, one half of Stone Glidden in King of Prussia, Pa., said his company recently left the Vista Group CEO networking group in the area, and “we were looking to fill that gap.”
Similarly, Joe DeMarco sought a dealer community in Azione for his newish venture Sound Waves in the Philadelphia area.
“In past endeavors, I always had business partners. In this business I have none,” he says. “I’m looking for camaraderie and a sharing of ideas.
The other so-called buying groups in the custom electronics industry (HTSA, Home Entertainment Source/ProSource, Specialty Electronics Nationwide, and others) offer similar benefits, but naturally Glikes intends to “build an organization that’s stronger than any other group out there.”
His original idea for naming the group was BBGE (Best Buying Group Ever), but the moniker was nixed by marketing consultant Tom King of 23K, who also separated from HTSA recently. As he did with HTSA, King will help Azione and its members with Websites and other marketing initiatives.
Building an Exit Strategy
Glikes means business. He talks of eventually launching private-label TVs and building a critical mass of dealers that can service consumers nationwide under a single banner – something that most buying groups, industry associations and other entities have tried in the past without success.
By his estimate, 250 dealers equals about 2,000 “trucks with installation capabilities,” Glikes says. “We could monetize this business. We could actually have someone pay for this.”
Indeed, when Glikes first launched Azione, he said the group would provide the ultimate exit strategy for dealers by creating a national network of CE service providers; however, little of that message was discussed during the conference.
Instead, dealers mostly heard from other dealers and shared ideas in roundtable discussions about organizational structure, new product and service opportunities, and making money with Apple.
In addition, dealers heard from gold and platinum vendor members, who were given 10 and 20 minutes, respectively, to address the entire group. Those vendors included Peerless (Nick Belcore), Monitor Audio (Jay O’Brian), Harman (Ron Rouse and Mike Pyle), JL Audio (Brian Power), Sonance (Jason Sloan), Perfect Path (Eric Bodley) and Stewart Filmscreen (Jim Groover).
Richard Glikes can be contacted at:
35 S. High Street 2nd Floor
West Chester, PA 19380
Check out the original press release: Why Dealers Are Joining New Azione Buying Group