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A Warm Thanks To Bob Magrino

11 Apr, 2001 By: Ian Crockett imageSource

A Warm Thanks To Bob Magrino

One of the reasons I enjoy writing these monthly columns is that I get to discuss a subject of my choice. Not once has anyone called, faxed or e-mailed to say, “We don’t like this month’s topic,” or even, “We would like you to write about…”

This month, my space will have very little to do with marketing your business. Instead, I want to, in my own little way, acknowledge a man for his service and dedication to the dealer channel. It’s a very emotional acknowledgement, so I’ll make a sincere effort to discuss facts and try not editorializing the circumstances behind his “retirement.”

I’ve known Robert “Bob” Magrino for about 12 years and I feel cheated that I didn’t know him 10 years longer. I consider him a friend, not just because he was always nice to me, not because he was a client and not because he was always fair in his dealings with my firm. It’s because he is genuine in his feelings for other human beings, including myself.

His recent retirement leaves a cavernous hole in this industry. He was a true pioneer in the office equipment industry and he also treated his network of Mita dealers as family, and his family of dealers reciprocated with their loyalty.

Loyalty Earned

During my time representing copier dealers on a full-service basis and fulfilling dealer-oriented project work for many manufacturers, I have experienced all situations. I still remember the first manufacturer representative that called me and said, “Ian, in this industry the dealers hate the manufacturers and the manufacturers hate the dealers. You understand the dealers, so help me communicate with them.” It was a sad commentary on the industry and even though the word hate may be too strong, it’s certainly been an adversarial relationship due to conflicting objectives.

The one exception was always Mita. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always a love fest; but there was mutual respect and a feeling that any disagreement could be worked out to the satisfaction of both parties. Proof of this occurred when Mita announced its bankruptcy late summer of 1998. To my knowledge, not one Mita dealer jumped ship and I represented most of their larger dealers at that time.

The reason? Well, it wasn’t because they had the hottest new digital products on the market. It wasn’t because the machines ran flawlessly and they were getting superior service margins. It wasn’t because they felt loyal to Mita. It was because of their fierce loyalty to one man, Bob Magrino. And I’m using the word loyalty in the true sense of the word.

Dealers believed him when he told them things would get better, because they always had. He had always “made it good” for them, regardless of the circumstance. They all stuck with him for over two years, until some of them realized that under the new regime, things weren’t getting better for them.

The Rescue

Imagine, if you can, what it must have been like for the Mita dealers and their salespeople for that 18-24 month span following not only the bankruptcy (technically, it wasn’t called that in Japan), but also the discovery that they were cooking the books in Japan. Every competitive salesperson worth their salt was armed with Internet material and press releases attempting to promote a sense of mistrust and uncertainty if they were up against a Mita dealer in a deal.

Kyocera came to the rescue and appeared to be the shinning knight on the white horse. On paper they looked great. They were considered to be one of the top 100 managed companies in the world. They are a zealous friend of the environment and had recently purchased the cell phone division of Qualcomm, a Wall Street favorite and a true American success story. Industry people knew their name since; they brought a terrific line of printers to this country six or seven years ago. They failed, but people felt it must have been market forces and the fact HP was already cornering the printer industry market with the “give away the razors and sell the blades” philosophy.

The Mita dealers saw a light at the end of the tunnel, which combined with their allegiance to Bob, caused them to stay put. And stay put they did, patiently waiting for Japan’s courts to do their thing. They did until the national sales meeting that unveiled the new Kyocera Mita. Speculation prior to the meeting focused on how the dealer network would be rewarded for its loyalty. A new and improved manufacturer would combine the best of copier R & D, with the best of a world-class printer manufacturer and superior connectable imaging products would roll off the assembly line.

However, for a variety of reasons, many left that meeting with a sour taste in their mouths. Sensing that they would never be rewarded for “sticking it out” and combining human nature’s never ending, “grass-is-always greener” philosophy, several of Mita’s largest and oldest dealerships took on another line. They agonized over the decision, but at the end of the day business is business.

One Same Thought

Bob’s retirement caught a lot of people off guard both inside the Kyocera Mita community and outside. In my travels since then, I find it remarkable how many people have their own Bob Magrino story. These are people I had no idea even knew Bob, but he touched so many during his decades of service to this industry, apparently he left a lasting impression.

Rarely, have I experienced a dealer community lamenting the loss of a manufacturer executive. But as I indicated previously, Bob had a unique relationship with his dealers. They considered him family, and I don’t mean that to sound frivolous. To many, as I said previously, he was a member of the family.

He not only attended their all-employee meetings, but he also attended their children’s weddings, their birthday parties and their funerals. He was more than a business acquaintance and to some, more than just a friend.

The industry will not be better off without Bob Magrino, but it certainly is better because of him. I’m extremely lucky that I have a forum like this where I can express my gratitude towards a man who had a very positive impact on my business career, both tangibly and intangibly.

On behalf of all of those who have their own Bob Magrino story and myself, and with all due respect to Bob Hope, I would like to say, “Thanks for the memories.”

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