Dave Robison (as Told To Janet Pinkerton)

Dave Robison (as Told To Janet Pinkerton)
Dave Robison, CEO of DSI Distributing, Part 1

Dealerscope is resurrecting "What They're Thinking," a series of interviews/conversations with CE industry execs currently making headlines. Please feel free to offer suggestions of any industry executive that you think would generate an interest interview. Janet Pinkerton spoke to DSI's Dave Robision, who recently made news with his video in support of independent CE dealers. In this portion, Robison talks about his early days in the business and how the industry has changed. Stay tuned next Wednesday for the second half, in which Robison expresses his views on the big-box chains and the current state of the industry.

My father and I started the business 25 years ago. For the first five years I was the only employee. I was 25. Started by going door-to-door in rural Iowa with a trailer behind a pickup truck, pulling an 11-foot diamond-shaped satellite dish, offering a free overnight trial of a C-band satellite system.

I'd dig the hole by hand, mix the concrete in a wheelbarrow, dig the trench with a shovel and install the whole system start to finish.

Dave Robison, CEO of DSI Distributing, Part 2

Customers don't always want the cheapest, but in the environment in Best Buy or Walmart, they are almost not given a choice. Maybe the (step-up) product is sitting there, but there's nobody telling them what the differences (in products) are.I'm of the opinion that the only place you get to make that choice is an independent TV specialty store.

I had gone to manufacturer meeting after manufacturer meeting where the talk was this war between Walmart and Best Buy. Then I went to the Web and began to study what Walmart has done to the grocery business and the hardware business. One thing put me over the edge: The research that said that Walmart was importing such a major portion of the U.S. food supply that if something disrupted Walmart's imports, the U.S. could not feed itself. It just stopped feeling like free enterprise at that point. I just sat back in my chair and said, 'Wow. Are you kidding me?'

Between margins going down, between our dealers telling story after story about what Walmart was doing in their markets, and watching the manufacturers tremble about what Walmart was doing and going to do, I just said 'screw it' and protested (in front of a West Des Moines Walmart on May 19th) with no grand plan.