In the run-up to the one-year mark this fall of the merger between buying groups MEGA Group and Nationwide Marketing Group, former MEGA president Rick Bellows, as part of the executive leadership team responsible for the melding of both groups into one within the Nationwide family, told Dealerscope at Nationwide’s PrimeTime event in early August that he is heartened by how smoothly the process has gone. He credits lots of hard work among personnel in both organizations, and also the similarities in the groups’ cultures – factors which have sped up the amalgamation.
“When you move two large corporations like that together it’s figuring out the people, systems, and processes, and where our strengths and their strengths were. Fortunately, I’d known a lot of the management there, including from my old retail days, when was a member, so that made it easier. Then it was just a matter of rolling up your sleeves and asking, how do we make this the premiere organization in the country? And talented people pulled it off.”
Bellows said MEGA Group took some great strengths to the merger table, such as “bringing in some back-end technologies – we were able to bring systems that we’d already developed.” And the groups found they could bring more momentum to digital solutions development by combining the synergies already existing within both organizations. “Nationwide had already started on that path; we just helped accelerate it, and it’s world class,” he said.
Bellows said what has made the merger the slam-dunk it is, thus far, is people. “The staff keeps growing,” he said. “We’ve now got more people who can focus on individual dealers to help build proprietary programs for them that are in their best interest – to customize some things. Usually, with a merger like this, there are personnel changes. We have actually added people. We are adding to the technology and marketing/advertising team.
“With an organization this size,” Bellows emphasized, “we want the dealers to still feel the intimacy of a smaller group, and so you have to put people in play.”
The addition of people, Bellows pointed out, has made it possible to be higher touch in terms of face-to-face contact with members. “If you look at our rep-to-dealer ratio, it’s much improved – it had been 200 dealers to one. Our benchmark was to get it to around 100, and that’s right about where we are. And we think we may even get it smaller.
"We want to be more engaged with the member. We don’t want to have to make that proverbial phone call just to check in; we want to be active in our members’ retail business.”
In terms of the biggest benefits MEGA members are realizing, access to consumer electronics and custom integration product categories and solutions is high on the list. “CE is obviously a big win for us. We really had never had a custom integration division, or access to all the brands Nationwide has. So it was a ton of advantages from that standpoint.
“There’s also been enhancement on the appliances side,” Bellows said. “The Nationwide Prepare for Share program is a great tool and resource. Again, we’ve had very, very smart people – particularly on the digital side, looking at the big picture long term. We brought enhanced programs with furniture and bedding, and they brought the CE side, so that’s where everybody wins.”
Bellows said that dealers all around are seeing the benefits, which also extend to improved business services touching on the extended warranty and retail financing categories.
He added that what has pleasantly surprised him the most has been “the willingness of all the personnel in both companies – it’s almost like we’ve been working together for 10 years. There’s that comfort level, and everyone is truly engaged and focused on the dealer – every meeting, conference call, every webinar is focused on how we can get even better at serving our membership.”