Captain’s Log – USS COVID-19

I have reached the point where pointing out the week has become monotonous.  The good to come from that is it gives me the freedom to change-up how I open this letter.

“Captain’s log – week 9.  When we last saw civilization, we did not realize we were about to embark on a trip devoid of life as we know it.  It seems it was only those of us here surrounded by an unyielding void…an abyss that seemed as though it would engulf us.  But those of us here pressed on through what was multiple voids: voids of time, action, space and normalcy.  And now the scan of our radar indicates that changes are immediately ahead.  Changes that indicate situations closer to what we once knew space to be.  While it seems familiar from here, we know we are about to embark on something new as well.”

Changes – we all have them now.  I’m curious to discover which ones are now here to stay, and which changes were merely fads to divert us from the moment.  I feel it is almost better that we are not rushing back into lives like we had pre-COVID-19, but wading gently into the waters of this new situation.  Soon enough, we will grow accustomed to the temperature of the water, but we don’t have to dive in and shock ourselves.  We can just acclimate to the new situation and sort it out.

I’m proud to see what R/B Sales has tried – and is trying – to accomplish through all of this.  It has brought lots of new potential change to who we are and how we want to move forward.  Changes in function, technology, opportunities, and people.

Functionally, our team moved quickly to remote work.  We discovered we are somewhat spoiled in our office situation where we have support hardware, robust infrastructure, and plenty of space.  I’m so pleased with the changes my team has embraced to continue to get the work done.  Fewer printed pages, simplified processes and resilient adaptations to changing situations.   While we are not ready to bring the team back to the office just yet, I believe we have managed the stress of the changes and the team will bring the changes back with them when it is time.

As for technology, I feel like we are always in the midst of change, but the pandemic initiated changes we were dragging our feet on somewhat.  Like so many, we have adapted to video conferencing; who knew there were so many options?  Meetings that would have taken 4 days of travel and hotels were held in the course of one business day.  We also have challenged ourselves to increase our social marketing with multiple videos – both real and light-hearted.  And we have discovered the need to add new software services that will increase our ability to serve our business partners in all directions. 

I am eager to see the new opportunities start to take hold as business doors and job sites are opened up.  Perhaps waiting has made us hungrier for these opportunities that were always in front of us, but I feel like the quasi-timeout has opened situations to new solutions instead of the one we did last time.  Another new opportunity is to recognize that we will be adding another great product expansion to our line card – Stahlin Enclosures.  While it is not official until June 8th, we will be preparing ourselves to know and support the market with this quality product.  Another opportunity I’ll express is how this time demonstrates once again the benefit of a manufacturer’s representative.  We are not a ‘fixed cost’ for the manufacturer, if we sell nothing, we earn nothing.  In this way, our drive must be to provide support and advice to the whole industry so that the best suited products and the best prices are available as needed through the industry.  I can state unequivocally that part of the purpose of these letters has been to provide a shared benefit to our industry as your business partner, we only succeed when you succeed. 

Lastly, in regards to people, we are fortunate to have maintained our crew through this difficult time.  And hopeful for a strong recovery, we are looking to instigate internal changes as well.  The first change is that we will have a summer marketing intern, Erin Pitz.  Erin will be entering her senior year at the University of Iowa with a major in Marketing, and we look forward to what insights she will have to us because she is being challenged to impart new content and strategies with a particular digital presence.  And we continue to evolve other roles internally because we have taken the time to re-analyze the needs of the post-COVID-19 market.  With many businesses carrying on ‘closed door’ policies in the near future, we are adjusting accounts and responsibilities to make sure our coverage is expanded rather than concentrated.  While we were excited for new business we had hoped to create before, we are just as eager to put this modified game plan into effect until we can re-introduce those other opportunities that will have to wait for this all to blow over.

Another change has been this much writing for me.  As many of you know, I consider myself to be an outside salesman; therefore, I’m more of a storyteller rather than a story writer.  Had I known we were going to be locked down this long, I may have not pursued a weekly schedule, but I am glad I did.  I hope you have discovered something new about our industry in these letters.  I hope you have learned more about R/B Sales with what I have shared.   Lastly, I hope you have been entertained and learned a little bit more about me – and maybe it triggered a little nostalgia in a few of you, too.  In fact, I know it did, for I have thoroughly enjoyed the appreciation and memories you are related back to me occasionally after I had sent this correspondence.  I truly love this industry for the challenges involved in growing our market, but I also fully appreciate the friendships I have been able to develop with so many of you.

I believe you are with me when I state how happy I am as we start to realize other businesses opening up more for daily business.  It is no exaggeration to mention my excitement with the idea of being on the road next week, albeit with limited opportunities.  I have not forgotten my promise to visit you when this is done, but I can seek a little more clearly how difficult that is going to be in the short term, so that process may take longer but will be no less sweet for me.  Because I will be traveling somewhat, I will no longer be at my desk to gaze at my bulletin board or at the dawning sun and write this letter to you.  Not weekly, at least.  Each month, if you will allow, I will be writing to you again to share my experiences and insights; not because I am better than others but simply because the more we share best practices the more we improve our electrical industry.  I’m always eager to hear from you because it helps me and R/B Sales to get better, too.

In these last two months I have realized how we can not take our American way of life for granted.  It is by the grace of God that I was born a citizen of this country and educated in a public school and at a small, Iowa college.  Without those benefits and our system of a free market, I would not have had the ability or the opportunity to converse with you as the president of R/B Sales.  This is an amazing country in that we have the potential to become who we want to become.  I continue to be grateful for choosing a career in the electrical industry.  Yes, we power the world, it’s true.  But we are also rich in that we have the benefit of working alongside great leaders and accomplished professionals around every corner.  But more than that, our industry is ripe with great human beings in every position, people who want to do great things for their customers through integrity and honesty. 

You’ll be hearing from me again soon, warp speed ahead!

Bill

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