Hall of Fame, Buck Robison
Twenty years go, Charles "Buck" Robison entered the consumer electronics business as a dealer and distributor of C-band satellite TV systems, serving the area around his Iowa home. Neither he nor his oldest son David, who started the business with him, had any prior experience in electronics or satellite systems. On a hunch, they attended a seminar in San Antonio and drove home with a truck-load of new equipment. The next day they were in business. They worked out of a garage and stored the 11-foot dishes in a barn on Robison's farm. Now, DSI is one of the largest distributors of DirecTV satellite systems in the country.
The hunch turned out right. Every year for the first five years, DSI was forced to move to a larger facility, adding space and employees as the business grew, marketing themselves mostly by word of mouth and reputation. While Robison first tried to straddle both the retail and distributor sides of the business, he quickly realized the two didn't mix well, and turned his attention to strictly serving dealers. Robison spent a lot time on the road in those early days, driving the state of Iowa, visiting dealers, while his son was managing the store. He knew each dealer well, and treated each one like family. That kind of personal attention is still a hallmark of DSI. The only difference now is that dealers are often driving hours to see him.
C-band mostly replaced DSS, though Robison says he still does a good business in C-band in certain markets, but it was DirecTV that really sent Robison's business to the front of the race. When DirecTV first chose RCA as the exclusive supplier of receivers, RCA selected DSI as one of five distributors for the products. "Within three years we'd either bought or run off the other four," recalls Robison. In addition to DirecTV, Robison also expanded the business by adding RCA and Toshiba televisions, Yamaha audio products and, more recently, Sirius satellite radio receivers.