At our recent Board of Directors meeting held earlier this month, Jonathan Schulman passed the baton of President of the Executive Committee to incoming President John Pinion IV. While most members are familiar with John, we thought this brief Q&A with him would acquaint him to new members and also cast light on his vision for his presidency as well as his outlook on the coronavirus and the impact it may have on our industry
- Q: I am sure most members are familiar with you, but for the sake of our new members, give us a snapshot of you, your background and your history in the business.
JP: I have grown up in the industry. My father has been in retail, manufacturing, and now works with me as a representative. I graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and have an MBA from Thunderbird, School of Global Management. However, my first love is the furniture business. I have been on the road since 1998 and currently represent Winners Only and Lloyd Flanders.
- Q: As President of the Executive Committee here at IHFRA, tell us what your role is, what your vision is for your year in office.
JP: My role is to be a voice for representatives and oversee in conjunction with the Executive Committee and Board of Directors that their organization IHFRA is run well. Last week, my vision was to get key membership, education, and industry partnership initiatives started. All with the grand goal of making things better for representatives. This week, we are having to adapt to a world with the coronavirus. The IHFRA Office has gone remote, we are working on bettering our communication options with the introduction of a text program, social media communication plan, reworking the website, and promoting an affordable digital education program. Also, a lot of time has been spent speaking with representatives and others in the industry about how the industry and their world is changing.
- Q: You stepped into the role as IHFRA’s President of the EC just as the coronavirus broke out. How is the virus impacting your business and the business of reps in general?
JP: A lot of territories are shut down. Many stores are closed, and manufacturers are not shipping. As more states and localities enact “shutdowns” this trend will continue in the upcoming week. Many representatives will lose significant revenue, just like our stores and manufacturers. We all share the pain.
- Q: What are you doing to minimize the impact of the virus and what advice do you have for fellow reps?
JP: This is a tough and uncertain time, and a lot of people in our community are hurting. I wish I had all the answers. My only answer is to work down a priority list.
1st – Focus on you and your loved ones. These shutdowns will not last forever. Every storm runs out of the rain. However, while we are in the storm. Quarantine and stay healthy. You will be of no use to family or the industry if you are ill or worse. If you do not have six months’ worth of savings, start to prioritize your spending and work with lenders for forbearance, extensions, and even forgiveness. Be proactive in taking care of you.
2nd – Lose the order pad. Reach out to your accounts and manufacturers and ask how you can help. This crisis will be temporary. But people will forever remember how treated them during this episode in our shared history.
- Q: What can IHFRA do for our members during these challenging times?
JP: In my dreams last night, I wished that IHFRA had a big piggy bank to distribute money from. Unfortunately, that is not a reality. We will be ramping up IHFRA communications of representative best practices as they deal with challenges brought on by the coronavirus. Also, if there are any government programs that help the self-employed and small businesses – we will be bringing those to light. Also, we have a dedicated IHFRA office that is open to helping in any way that we can.
- Q: IHFRA recently offered members a robust education program. Can you give us an update on the program along with any updates?
JP: We have offered an education course Sales Velocity Academy with celebrity educator Victor Antonio. Normally the course is $29.99 a month, IHFRA members can get it for $9.99 a month. I have spent two hours a week on the course for the past two months. It is a phenomenal course that truly gets you thinking about your sales process and how best to improve. Victor Antonio offers a better course than most as he focuses on credibility, honesty, and relationships as opposed to quick transactions. We are currently working on a Day of Education where members can take a few courses on us to sample the program. It is a good distraction and a way to improve your skillset from home. Stay tuned for more details.
- Q: While none of us have a crystal ball, do you see the business model changing as a result of the coronavirus? If so, how?
JP: Representatives are the glue between manufacturers and retailers. When the shutdowns are over and business resumes. Many dealers will be behind on their invoices (understandably). And our business will likely be slowed, as Americans as a whole recover from lost income. It will be up to representatives to work with manufacturers and retailers to find a path so that both can do business again. It will take some creative thinking and flexibility. If we do our job well, more stores and manufacturers will survive this pandemic.
I also see business being more digitally prepared. I think representatives, manufacturers, and representatives will be more digitally prepared for events where markets and store visits cannot happen. That has already been a focus on week one of my IHFRA Presidency, making IHFRA more digitally prepared to communicate to our membership.
- Q: What is your outlook for the remainder of the year?
JP: The hope is in our resilience and sense of community. We are a resilient industry. Our industry has overcome so much. We are a big family. We hate to see our stores, manufacturers, and fellow representatives in a bad place. I believe in a few years from now, the new people in the industry will have no idea what we have been through and gone through to repair and restore our industry. We will create our success story. As that is what representatives do best – create results in the face of adversity.
- Q: Any final thoughts you would like to share with our members?
JP: I serve you. As does everyone on the IHFRA staff, Executive Committee, and Board of Directors. Reach out to us at any time. We are here for you. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your President.