Staying ahead Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Richard Glikes sees the change coming, and he’s telling everyone he can about it.

As the executive director of Home Theater Specialists of America, he knows that people have changed the way they think about home entertainment drastically in just the last few years — and the more technology improves, the more they’ll expect.

So at HTSA, the 60-member cooperative of home theater and systems integration specialists, Glikes is constantly pushing the group to be ready for tomorrow.

“The business model is changing rapidly,” says Glikes of the group, which did $450 million in sales last year. “Our members who are retail stores are going to end up being like general contractors, they’re going to be like technology specialists … and there’s going to be a lot of new technology that we’ll have to understand and communicate to them.”

Smart Business spoke with Glikes about how he keeps his priorities straight while keeping up with those changes and about what Bob Dylan taught him about training.

Stay on track. I had a directing project in graduate school at Villanova, and I had a scene that had about 15 people and I called a rehearsal and I’d gone to all my friends and said, ‘Do you want to be in the play?’ And they all said, ‘Sure’ and about five people showed up. I called it again and eight people came. So what I did was I cut out the scene. Basically what that taught me to be was flexible — you have to be able to adjust on the fly, and you can’t be rigid.

You have to be able to adjust to the situation and be intelligent about it, and a lot of people get overwhelmed. If you have 10 different things you have to get accomplished, my way of business is you attack them one at a time. Other people get overwhelmed because, ‘Oh, I have 10 things I have to do; I can’t get them done.’ That’s because they’re trying to deal with 10 things at once. I will sort them out and deal with them one thing at a time. The same with personal problems: People have three or four personal problems, they get overwhelmed, they get stressed out. Deal with them one at a time.

I try to prioritize; I make lists every day. I have a yellow pad that’s on my desk and I try to prioritize who I’m going to call, and then I check them off as I call them, and I work through a list on a daily basis. You also have to prioritize where you’ll get the most action. I’m fortunate I have some very good assistants that I can delegate specific responsibilities to, and they do a very good job.

If you write it down and refer back to it, you get it done. If you just leave it to your imagination, you’ll get distracted. It’s much easier for me to have it down on paper, in front of me, and I know I’ll get through it. I don’t believe in calling people back the next day; I believe in calling them back the same day.

Treat people right. I think doubt, questioning and insecurity are very bad for a business environment. You treat people like adults, you give them specific responsibilities, and you compliment them. Most businesspeople don’t tell people they do a good job enough. I like them to know they’re appreciated. I also really believe in teamwork, so I try to let everyone know everything that’s going on with what’s going forward at least six months out. I try to keep them involved in the process, then there’s buy-in, then there’s not as many questions. We’ll review what’s coming up short-term, midterm, so that everyone knows what everyone on the team is working on. If you treat people like adults, you give them responsibility, and you mark their papers and they do well, you let them know so, and if they don’t, you tell them.

My people pretty much come and go as they please. I’m very flexible with that. They don’t have to be here at 8:30, they can be here at 10 so long as they get it done, and they get it done because they appreciate the fact that it’s not rigid. One of my favorite sayings is smart people can solve problems, and if you hire for intelligence and you give people flexibility to be themselves, you get good results.

Spend the resources on training. What did Bob Dylan say? ‘He not busy being born is busy dying,’ and if you don’t move forward, then you’re absolutely going backward. We’re in a fast business to begin with, and we are the leaders, really, in our category, and as a result of that, we need to be upfront with the latest technology. The bad news is that the vendors have basically abandoned training because it’s expensive. But the companies that still believe in it long term will have more success. We believe in it, we have a full-time sales trainer, so we’ve taken over the burden from the vendors.

(He) visits with them, and then we try to make it as advantageous as possible. Green is very big right now, and we’re trying to have a lot of green options available, so take solar. We’ve just sent 10 people to school last month, and we’re sending another 13 or 14 this month, and so they’ll be able to sell solar panels to save on electricity, and so what we’ll do is we’ll have twentysome people trained, and then we’ll bring that up again, and if they have success, then it will filter through the organizations.

When you have 60 different companies you want to have a unified message, you want to have a unified purchasing, you want to be all in step. I can’t travel as much as it would take to get to 60 stores or 60 dealers and 97 locations and so he does a very good job of that. And it’s done a very nice job of coalescing the members into the unity that we’re looking for.

How to reach: Home Theater Specialists of America, (610) 363-9055 or