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VSDA's Problems Start At the Top

8 Apr, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Last week Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) board chairman and candidate Tom Warren posted on the VSDA discussion board a call for the membership's collective gray matter, seeking solutions to the organization's cash burn.

That was Warren's top priority from a list of three items he made in 2000. The other two were protecting the rental industry and expanding communication among members.

I'm sure his statement that “Goal I has proved most illusive” was just a Freudian spelling slip, even if it's true. He went on to say that “I have appointed committees, task forces and consulted numerous retailers but no new vigorous and viable revenue source has emerged. We have substantially reduced the burn rate by eliminating staff and cutting underutilized programs. However, cost reduction is not enough!…We have some of the best minds in retailing here. Let's look at your ideas.”

Tom, I have a few truths for you that may not solve VSDA's budget problems but could help facilitate the process. (Not coincidentally, a few VSDA members are calling for many of the same actions.)

    1) Drag the VSDA board's meetings out into the sunlight. Secret board meetings are antithetical to the American notion of open government – and elitist besides. Shame on you for calling on members to be more involved when you and your colleagues steadfastly insist upon slamming the boardroom doors in their faces, reporting out only what you choose. That practice has been common among corporate entities that, like VSDA, are bleeding red ink: Enron, Worldcom, AOL Time Warner, the list goes on and on. If you folks want to act like they do, don't come whining to the stakeholders when you meet the same fate. Maybe we could call a few Marines back from Iraq to open the meetings. That's a large part of what we sent them to defend.

    2) Just forget the idea of consumer shows. On its face the plan shows a bias toward suppliers – many of whom, it's worth noting, would just as soon see your members go belly up. This was a misbegotten idea to begin with. What consumer would go downtown to a hotel or convention center for information about the video store around the corner? What could VSDA possibly offer to consumers that would support member businesses better than they do themselves? Maybe if the boardroom had been open when this idea came up some of those “best minds in retailing” you mentioned would have pointed that out and saved you all the embarrassment of demonstrating to members how completely out of touch their board is.

    3) Perk up the VSDA show schedule with new seminars that offer some hope of helping your members do better, smarter business. Seminars about crime and loss prevention, store layout, release date strategies to compete with sellthrough, used disc trade, subscription models and anything big chains are testing.

    4) Start campaigning for your next board seat by soliciting members' opinions the day after you win an election, not two months before the next election.

    5) Look to the future. No matter how many times you click your heels together, it will never be 1984 again.

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