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Give me liberty or give me death! OK — maybe the opinions on being an independent dealer versus being part of a dealer network or franchise are not divisive enough to instigate a revolution, but they do stir debate within the industry. As with any issue, there are pros and cons associated with both sides, and it is up to dealers to determine what is best for their businesses.
In this issue of Water Quality Products (WQP), we cover both sides of the coin. For Dennis Warwick of West Carolina Water Treatment, WQP’s 2013 Dealer of the Year, being an independent dealer is important, even if that means he does not have access to some of the advertising and other resources available to franchises. “By not being a franchise, I’m not locked into a particular set of products or particular marketing strategy,” he said. “Having a wide array of products at my disposal helps me face each set of challenges individually.” The desire to remain an independent dealer has not stopped Warwick from seeking partnerships and developing relationships with manufacturers and suppliers to help move the business forward. (For more on West Carolina Water Treatment, see “Opportunity for Success,” page 12.)
In “Back to School” (page 18), we see another point of view from members of the RainSoft dealer network. The dealers have found benefits to being part of the network, including education — the company holds a “RainSoft University” for all new dealers—and the support of experienced dealers and corporate management. “The way that every aspect of owning and operating a successful dealership was dissected and explained [at RainSoft University] was very helpful,” said Russ Shelton, president of Southern Energy Water & Air in Hixson, Tenn., who attended the October 2013 session of RainSoft University. “So is the ability to have an open dialogue with other dealers in the same position.”
The ability to leverage the knowledge and experience of other dealers is evident in 3M’s new Dealer Advisory Council (DAC), which is made up of seven 3M authorized dealers and two 3M representatives. “We developed the council to help grow the 3M dealer network and give dealers a resources to leverage peer experience,” said Mark Howlett of 3M Purification Inc., a member of the council. “We also understand that dealers value the insight from fellow dealers, allowing the 3M DAC to provide a safe haven for dealer to discuss their respective businesses.” (For more on the DAC, see “Advise & Conquer,” page 34.)
There are many options out there for dealers when it comes to franchising, networks and independent dealerships. It all comes down to a simple theme: There is no one right way to run a dealership. Each dealer must evaluate business opportunities as they come to determine which will lead the company to the most success.
Recognizing the Best
In this issue, WQP recognizes Dennis Warwick of West Carolina Water Treatment as the 2013 Dealer of the Year. Featured online as a Dealer of the Month last December, the company was selected by readers as the 2013 award winner. As we search for the best and brightest dealers to feature in 2014, we would like your help — if you know of a dealer who you think should be recognized as a Dealer of the Month, let us know by using our new online nomination form at www.wqpmag.com/dealer-month-nomination-form.