ProSource Pays Tribute to Dave Workman

ProSource raised a farewell glass to its longtime leader Dave Workman at the group’s Spring Conference.

CE industry recounts his storied career

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Dave Workman

An icon of consumer electronics retail has called it a career, leaving behind a robust and vital A/V specialty channel as his legacy.

Dave Workman, co-founder of the buying group that would become ProSource, formally stepped down from his leadership duties this past spring and passed the mantle to his choice for successor, Jim Pearse.

Workman and Pearse have a shared history that long predates ProSource and its forerunner, The Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group). Workman rose from store manager to CEO at Colorado’s Ultimate Electronics, the trailblazing tech retailer founded by Pearse’s parents, and led its expansion into the largest independent CE specialty chain in the West.

Despite a unique merchandise mix, traffic-driving product presentations and other retail innovations, Ultimate was ultimately done in by collapsing TV prices and mass market competition. Workman went on to brief stints at Warrantech and the MARTA Cooperative of America before finding his true calling as head of the A/V and custom integration group he helped create. Both at PRO Group and after its merger with AVB’s Home Entertainment Source (HES), he continued to forge airtight relationships with vendors, saw high-end audio for the growth opportunity it was and championed the cause of independent CE retail.

“Dave was a leader and visionary in consumer electronics retailing,” Pearse said. “He married the ever-changing technologies with innovative merchandising and retail customer experiences.”

Passionate and reflective, Workman was a gifted merchant whose focus, strategy and leadership helped give integrators a voice they hadn’t had before, Pearse noted. And, on a personal level, “Dave was my mentor early in my career,” he said. “He taught me to listen to the customer, treat vendors fairly, and that hard work and great performance were the keys to growth.”

Pearse’s perceptions are shared by fellow industry luminaries. In a ProSource tribute video, AVB CEO Jim Ristow cited Workman’s “unbelievable dedication, leadership and acumen” as a businessman, while as a buying group president, he became “not just a cheerleader and voice of the industry, but a fair and shrewd negotiator, and someone who really cared for the members’ best interests.” And, as a friend, Workman was “a trusted confidant who was like family,” Ristow said.

Steve Smith, editor emeritus at industry journal TWICE Magazine, said Workman was a true leader. “Dave revolutionized buying groups for independent retailers and custom installers, enabling so many small businesses across the country to compete against national chains,” he said. “By all accounts he has always been a loyal partner with suppliers, a man of his word, who enabled ProSource to enter new product categories and services as the market evolved.

“He has been a mentor to many,” Smith added, “sharing his expertise and great knowledge of this business willingly — even with reporters like me to benefit the industry at large.”

Vendors too are better off for having known and worked with Workman, including John Collier, luxury audio sales director at Harman International. “I’ve worked for you, I worked with you,” he said in the tribute video. “You hired me, you took a chance on me, and because of you, my family and I have lived the American dream.”

Mike Fasulo, former head of Sony Electronics, recounted highlights from his decades-long friendship with Workman, including the fun and hard work they shared on business trips. During one in particular, a Sony Global Sales & Marketing Conference, Workman delivered “one of the best speeches we ever had,” Fasulo said, and lauded the ProSource president for his “150-percent support” following his own promotion to president of Sony Electronics. “You worked with me to get Sony back on top of the very important specialty industry,” he said. “I can’t thank you enough for that.”

According to Smith, the mark Workman made on the industry will not soon fade. “Dave will be sorely missed,” he said, “but the example he set and the lessons he taught will live on.”

YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.

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