Starting and operating a showroom is not easy, especially if your history has been purely wholesale. There’s a lot to it! Running a showroom is very different than running a wholesale business. Many of you have learned and continue to learn this.
When we started our showroom business in the early ’80s there were no business models. We started from scratch with no guidelines. Today there’s a lot of help out there. The showroom business model has been developed and is being improved almost every day.
Unfortunately for us, there was no industry association available when we started our business. Today various trade associations and buying groups exist that offer educational and networking opportunities.
Among these is the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association (DPHA). I was one of the early “founding fathers” back in the mid-1980s, so let me share a little history on the DPHA organization.
Around 1985 several showroom owner/operators (including me) served on an advisory council for one of the leading decorative faucet manufacturers. After brainstorming for two days, we were enjoying a relaxing dinner when someone said, “How come every day I get up to go to work and have to try to figure out how to grow my business? I feel all alone out there. Why don’t all of us start to network – sharing successes, failures, problems and ideas?” All eight owners agreed with the concept. The seed was planted to start an industry organization.
Several of us worked very hard for about a year, and our numbers grew to about 30. We came up with the name DPHA. But we were all small business owners struggling with the daily chore of running a business, with no time or energy to get our fledgling organization off the ground. In retrospect, we had a bunch of chiefs and no Indians.
In 1986 I approached the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and asked if they’d take us into their already well-established organization. They did, and we became the DPH Council - one of many arms of NKBA. We grew to about 125 member companies. We accomplished a little in the area of education and a lot in networking. But after 15 years and much frustration, a small group broke away from NKBA and started their own independently run organization. That was in 2001 and today it is known as the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association.
Things really began to happen. Both membership and member benefits grew dramatically. Today’s membership stands at 349 broken out into three main segments: Dealer Members (131), Manufacturers (148), Reps (59) and Others (11).
I feel strongly that the return on investment as a member of a trade association or buying group is terrific. I know how much DPHA helped my business and I’ve seen how much it’s helping a number of my consulting clients.
Just before I wrote this, I called a dozen DPHA members and asked what they perceived as the main features and benefits of membership. The response was unanimous: “DPHA has been great for our business.”
Here are some of the benefits of membership in this group:
Annual Conference and Showcase
Credit Card Processing
Monthly Electronic Publication
Members-Only Web Site
Annual Awards Program
College Scholarship Fund
Don’t just join the group - get active! Like everything else in life, you only get out of it what you’re willing to put into it.
For more information on DPHA, visit www.dpha.net or e-mail me.