Blanken Resigns From VSDA Board5 Sep, 2002 By: Joan Villa
Independent retailer Mick Blanken abruptly resigned from his elected post as a director on the Video Software Dealers Association board this week, frustrated over a lack of action within the industry trade group that he says is increasingly focused on large chains. He had one year remaining on his three-year term.
He resigned from the board Sept. 3. In a letter to members, Blanken said his presence on the board has resulted in “no real benefit” to any member.
“That is not to say that I have not tried,” Blanken wrote, “only that nothing I have ever offered as a Director in the form of input, insight, or consideration to VSDA has ever resulted in a product, action, or benefit that has strengthened your position within this industry or helped your business. On the contrary, the vast majority of my efforts have been labeled as ‘radical' or politically incorrect and summarily dismissed.”
“Mick Blanken has been an able member of the VSDA Board for more than two years and has served VSDA in many other capacities,” said VSDA chairman Tom Warren. “Mick was one of four Board members on the Strategic Planning Committee. He has served recently on the Independent Retailers Council, the Retailing Operations Committee, the Revenue Sharing Committee, the Government Affairs Committee, the POS Task Force and the Marketing Committee, as well as others in previous years. VSDA will miss his valuable contributions. Mick has always been a vigorous advocate for his positions within VSDA and on the VSDA Board. He has fueled and contributed ably to healthy debate invirtually every one of his committee and governance positions within VSDA. The Association works best when members are involved and contribute diverse viewpoints to the governance and direction of VSDA. We welcome the continuing input of strong and able advocacy from our members.”
Going forward, Blanken urged all retailers to belong to the VSDA for its work in government affairs and industry lobbying, while understanding that the association will place greater focus on chain members and larger retailers. His sole benefit as a director was in meeting other retailers and sharing ideas, he said.
Most committees, designed to hone programs and ideas for the board, are dormant, including the Independent Retail Council, which was “virtually disbanded, reformed and restructured” when it became too active and too vocal, he wrote.
“So, as it was apparent that my presence on the Board provided no benefit to the membership, and as I could not (in all good conscience) be the kind of ‘Director' that VSDA wanted me to be, providing blind and unquestioning support, it seemed a total waste of time, energy, and resources for me to continue in that role,” he concluded.
Following is the letter from Blanken to VSDA members:
It is with great sorrow that I am now informing you that I have resigned from the VSDA Board of Directors as of September 3rd.
This was not an easy decision for me, and it was one that I had considered for a couple of months.
Personally, I have benefitted from my time on the Board. That benefit came as a result of having an opportunity to meet a larger number of retailers and members, to talk with them, to learn from them, and hopefully (in some small way) to offer opinions or thoughts that might have proved helpful to them.
Aside from that, there are only 2 reasons (IMHO) that an individual should serve on the Board of a trade association like VSDA.
The first, and most important reason (again, IMHO) is to serve the membership. Unfortunately, in this respect, my presence on the Board has resulted in no real benefit to any member. That is not to say that I have not tried...only that nothing I have ever offered as a Director in the form of input, insight, or consideration to VSDA has ever resulted in a product, action, or benefit that has strengthened your position within this industry or helped your business. On the contrary, the vast majority of my efforts have been labeled as "radical" or politically incorrect and summarily dismissed.
The second duty of a Director is to serve the organization. This is also an important role, but only in that it is supposed to maintain and strengthen an association's ability to provide benefit to its members (again, IMHO). This is a difficult task given that everyone has their own opinion as to the best way to accomplish it...and I truly respect that. But, even with those differences of opinion, philosophies and strategies should be ethically and functionally balanced. Unfortunately, there are numerous "imbalances" within ,this organization...imbalances that few want to,fix...imbalances that are trivialized or ignored by the association and its "leadership". The general concensus from the majority of Directors is that we should have unwaivering confidence in the VSDA staff to do what is necessary...without question or interference from the Board. And, when things do not turn out as expected (which happens too often), then it is "spun" to minimize any damage to the association's image.
With the exception of only a very few, committees are dormant. The same is true for the IRC. This "council" was formed a few years ago with some of the most active, experienced and vocal IVRs in the association. And it went right to work and was the most active group within VSDA. It brought hope for many of us...hope that a fair emphasis would be placed on IVRs, their needs, and the challenges they face. But, it was too active...and too vocal. So, it was virtually disbanded, reformed, and restructured. Today, as is the case with the other committees, it is virtually inactive. There are some very good and very passionate IVRs on that council...but not enough of them...and not in the leadership role...and they receive little support from the Chairman or the association.
Membership continues to decline, especially amongst smaller IVRs...and I see little hope that this will stop. VSDA is redirecting more and more focus towards the Chains and larger, multi-store operators.
So, as it was apparent that my presence on the Board provided no benefit to the membership, and as I could not (in all good conscience) be the kind of "Director" that VSDA wanted me to be, providing blind and unquestioning support, it seemed a total waste of time, energy, and resources for me to continue in that role.
I have absolutely no doubt that we are going to see major changes in VSDA over the next few years. Certainly, VSDA will (and should) continue its efforts in Government Affairs. If for no other reason than that, I will continue to be a member of VSDA and continue in my belief that ALL video retailers should be members. However, beyond that benefit, I believe that VSDA will continue to place greater importance on Chain members and larger retailers, and will seek to narrow its focus in regards to who it serves and how it does so. This will continue to have a growing impact on IVRs.
Thank you to all of you who have supported my efforts on your behalf. I deeply regret that my presence on the Board provided no more benefit for you than what it did.