Ristow Brings BrandSource Members Together in Virtual Town Hall

Ristow shared member testimonials during his Town Hall address, including outdoor signage by A.C. Carlson conveying the CEO’s encouraging watchwords.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

AVB CEO Jim Ristow took to the Internet yesterday to address BrandSource members in his first virtual Town Hall for dealers.

His message: While business conditions will likely remain uncertain for the coming months, both members and AVB will emerge from the COVID crisis stronger and more resilient thanks to the extraordinary measures all are taking, and in no small part to the encouragement and support of one another.

Ristow began by commending members for their leadership and the speed with which they’re adapting to an uncharted landscape, while keeping their families and businesses safe. “Your resilience and leadership are unbelievable,” he said. “You’re excelling and inspiring us to do even more.”

Indeed, early sales data, while reflecting pandemic-related declines, suggests that BrandSource dealers are outpacing industry performance even as vendors contend with intermittent plant closures, he said.

Helping to fuel sales during showroom shutdowns or limited store hours are AVB Marketing’s transactional websites, through which dealers are selling thousands of units a week, Ristow noted. “Consumer behavior has changed overnight and it’s not going back,” he said of the sudden and dramatic shift to online shopping. “Those who embraced it are ahead of the curve,” while AVB Marketing can now deliver an e-commerce site in seven days for those who haven’t yet made the leap to online.

Dealers have also benefitted from emergency small business loans and what essentially can become grants under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The CARES Act initiatives are expected to receive additional funding this week, Ristow said, and he urged all members to take advantage of these federal lifelines.

Details on government programs, along with vendor announcements, merchandising updates, marketing tools and best practices are being presented to members via webinars, the YourSourceNews COVID Info Hub, and regular Regional Call-Ins, he said. The latter are substituting for face-to-face regional meetings in lieu of social restrictions, but, like their physical predecessors, “This is where the magic is happening — members helping members, and providing one another with moral and business support,” he said.

Ristow pledged to continue providing members with critical information and expert advice through the weeks and months ahead, but asked dealers to do their part by participating in the region calls, speaking with their Member Relations representatives, completing the BrandSource member surveys, and regularly visiting the COVID Info Hub.

“This is not going to be a short, quick fight,” he said. “You’re going to need to participate. This is not a spectator sport.”

Looking ahead, Ristow described the landscape as “dynamic and changing,” and suggested that a return to a ‘real’ normal could take months. “No one knows what’s coming; there’s no road map, and the sun will come out at different times across the country,” he said. “But you can’t roll up into a ball, you need to move quickly,” and advised listeners to replace fear with gratitude.

“Focus on what you’re grateful for,” he said, whether it’s your family, employees, customers or even a sales referral. “Gratitude is the antidote for fear and gratitude will get us through this.”

That, plus members helping members. “It’s real, you’re not alone,” Ristow said, “and I’m certain we will all come out of this stronger.”

View the replay here.

BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.