How Core Brands Turned Things Around
After a few years of various missteps, Core Brands posted double-digit growth in Q2. It cites new software, new sales structure that is 50 percent larger, and 'humble and hungry' attitude in place to earn integrators' business back.
After the company spent the past two years struggling with the consolidation of some of the industry’s most iconic brands (Niles, SpeakerCraft, Elan, Sunfire, Panamax, Furman, Xantech), it finally has the plan in place and is executing on its promised vision of creating a centralized company that is easier to do business with.
Gordon Isaac, the new director of sales at Core Brands, sat down exclusively with CE Pro and explained some of the problems, how they have addressed those issues, the new sales structure, and most importantly why dealers should have confidence in Core.
CE Pro: What has been going on at Core Brands to rectify what might have been past mistakes?
Gordon Isaac: The idea behind Core Brands was to merge several brands, many of which were purchased between 10 and 15 years ago, and help make it easier for dealers to do business with us. Instead of individually buying from SpeakerCraft, Niles, Panamax, Furman, Xantech, Sunfire, and Elan, and having to deal with different reps and different Purchase Orders, you would buy from one spot … Core Brands.
But it seemed that anticipating what the challenges would be became the biggest obstacle because there has never really been anything like this in the industry. Core Brands has 30- to 40-year legacies with hundreds of products within each brand in multiple categories.
CE Pro: What specific challenges did you face?
Isaac: The biggest challenge was the launch in April 2013 of a single software platform. From that point, there was a series of software mistakes that made it almost impossible for our customers to do business with us. There were problems with placing orders, shipping orders, getting the right invoices. It was a series of errors while at the same time we were trying to combine massive companies. We started to react more than we could predict and our customers suffered.
We had six regional sales managers and six regional technical managers, in addition to our reps, and we were all trying to keep our customers happy while these issues outside of our control were being worked out. Some of the things we would do to Band-Aid it was if we couldn’t ship a product, we had employees literally driving to a warehouse, doing a will call pickup for our customers, taking it to UPS and shipping it. We had top-level sales guys playing courier driving around to drop off $150 parts because that is what we needed to do to take care of our integrators. But with only 12 guys it was challenging to make a big enough impact with our 3,000 plus dealers.
CE Pro: What was the issue with the software?
Isaac: The problem was getting the software systems to all talk to each other without disrupting all the change that was in process.
CE Pro: How did you turn the tide?
Isaac: The biggest thing was when Joe Roberts, our vice president of marketing at the time, was brought in to transition into the president’s role. He invested in people who had strong business backgrounds and then empowered everyone to do what was needed to make us a customer-centric organization. That brought more stability to the process. That allowed us to get back to what is important, which is taking care of the customer. I was promoted in January and Jeff Costello, our VP of sales, immediately supported a plan to increase our field sales and support team by 50 percent. With a new team in place and a common focus from every department on delighting our customers, we were ready as a company to go back an earn our relationships back.
CE Pro: What is the new sales structure?
Isaac: The sales structure includes several channels which makes it easy for us to address the needs of each customer type. I have the privilege of supporting the largest sales team with one of our largest areas of business.
Our team consists of three regional directors: Ryan Conway (from Panamax) is director of West Coast sales, Jim Moran (from SpeakerCraft) is director in the Central region, and Bret Jacob (from Elan/Sunfire) manages the East Coast. All three guys had been through the same chaos that I went through. We also have three regional sales managers that work closely to support our rep partners and help them to be successful with our great brands.
In addition we have six regional technical specialists that do system design and training, along with on site and advanced technical support. In the Rocky Mountains and Southern California we are factory direct so we have six regional account managers that work directly with the dealers. And we are partnered with 12 of the top rep firms in the country.
Between the reps and the sales team, we now have about 70 people in the field. That gives us a large sales organization to better support our customers but more importantly there are levels to support each other and make sure problems get handled. The result has been double-digit growth in the second quarter for the CI channel, as reported by Nortek. It is a result of the plan that was put together at the beginning of the year to earn our business back.
CE Pro: What is the ultimate message to integrators?
Isaac: The message is that the vision that was sold to the dealers three years ago is finally in place. We are now a company that is easier to do business with and is more efficient. And, the group has support from a parent company that cares. We know that the problems we had impacted our dealers’ businesses. We are here to earn their trust and their business back. We are humble and hungry to delight our customers. Our great legacy brands were at the top of the food chain for a long time but we fell off. We are here to earn that business back through relationships and by not over promising and under delivering.
We don’t want to be just another vendor or supplier. We want to be a true business partner helping dealers with marketing, profitability and growing their business. It is not just about selling more of our stuff, we are a big company that can help them.
CE Pro: How does it help being part of Nortek?
Isaac: Nortek gives us strength. They give us the ability to do what we need to do. And they are letting us work. But Core Brands is not a big stuffy corporate company as some of our competitors would like you to believe. We are a a hard working team of professionals that likes to have fun and we come to work every day prepared to deliver the best customer experience. Why? Because we really do care.
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Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org
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