The clock had barely struck midnight on New Year’s Eve when news filtered through that pro audio marketing expert Margie Kirby was to part ways with sound reinforcement firm Renkus Heinz to team up with her husband Rik at his US distributor Allied Professional Technologies. With a career spanning more than 28 years – a great many of which were spent with Renkus – her experience is vast and varied, and will no doubt play a key role in boosting the profile of her new company on the world stage.
Nestled in the sun-drenched environs of California’s Orange County, Allied Professional Technology, or Allied ProTech, is the US distributor and marketing partner for UK amp and DSP specialist Linea Research, and provides sales and rep management services to Belgium’s AV network switch manufacturers Luminex Network Intelligence.
Here, we find out from Kirby exactly what she plans to bring to her now role and why her “no nonsense” approach to marketing promises to be a cornerstone of her new business…
After so many years with Renkus Heinz, what made you decide now was the right time to part ways with the company?
It was inevitable that I would join my husband in his business at some point in the future, it just happened quicker than we had anticipated. It was with Rik’s dedication and hard work that he had grown Allied ProTech to the point of needing another set of hands. He also wanted to offer his clients more extensive marketing services. With the start of the new year, the NAMM show and ISE right around the corner, the timing made sense - not necessarily to leave Renkus-Heinz, but to join Allied ProTech. I’m not leaving Renkus in the lurch, I am gladly helping them ease through the transition by continuing my work with them over the next couple of months – just in a different capacity.
What will you bring to the company? And what will be your key tasks and responsibilities?
A background in business admin, human resources, and marketing, including 28 years of my career in the pro audio industry. I’ve worn many hats over the years and with that comes a diverse level of experience. During my tenure, I’ve worked within the many markets that make up our industry, from performing DJ, pro and prosumer recording, post production, live sound, permanent install (house of worship, transit, corporate, education) to name a few. Along with general admin. I’ll also be pulling from my bag of tricks, media relations, graphic design, planning and execution of tradeshows, and in particular I’ll be working closely with Linea Research on their global marketing.
Obviously you are teaming up with your husband Rik at the company. How much of a benefit to the company do you think it will be to have such a close partnership at the helm?
There’s a joke in there somewhere I’m sure! But in all seriousness, Rik and I know we work well together. We strike a good balance, we’re able to look at the same thing from different angles and bounce ideas off each other. We each have our own complementing skillset, which is good for a small business.
You’ve been working in the industry for almost 30 years now. What are the biggest changes you have seen during that time?
I can say that while people may move from one company to another, we get new blood, some retire, some leave us but not many actually leave the industry. People in general don’t really change, the attitudes, passions and love for the industry is still there. Developments in technology are always going to happen. One change has been the need for instant gratification, which can make it tougher for some companies to keep up. For the industry itself, lots of mergers and acquisitions, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down just yet. Being that I’ve just joined a small company I am highly optimistic for the resurgence of up and comers bringing about reimagined services and people oriented businesses.
What are the key things that you’ve learned during that time?
It’s not only what knowledge I’ve gained in this industry, but in life. Our path in life is never what you expect and mine has certainly taken many turns. Key things I’ve learned? Understanding that work is a lot like family; listening, not just waiting to talk, being patient, not having a convenient memory, continuing to learn and having an open mind. I know it sounds kind of cheesy but, acknowledging what I don’t know and asking for help when I need it.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to remember to have fun. If you can enjoy what you do and treat people well, even those you know won’t necessarily reciprocate, then it’s all good.
What are the biggest opportunities at present for a company like Allied Pro Tech?
As a relatively new business our focus is very clearly on getting the word out and growing sales, and with our brands the former most definitely leads to the latter.
I once read an article, perhaps even in this magazine, where the interviewee said words to the effect of “no amount of fancy marketing can take the place of a great product, it all begins with the product.” With both Linea Research and Luminex we really do have great product and therein lies our opportunity.
This focussed approach extends in both directions, not just from us out to our customers but also back up to our manufacturers and clients. We really do operate as an extension of their own businesses, which ultimately results in us being able to provide better service all round.
And what are the biggest challenges for a company like Allied Professional Technologies?
Only one challenge really, and one that most everyone I speak to these days struggles with, and that’s bandwidth. I think we’ve all got used to doing more with less, especially since the downsizing many went through during the economic crisis. It’s easy to get caught up on doing the doing and being too busy to step back and look at the big picture. We call it “thinking time” and it’s something we make sure we make room for.
We’re obviously approaching a key period on the trade show calendar, with NAMM just gone and ISE around the corner. How vital are shows like this in 2018?
I believe that most companies see the value and understand they need to invest. Yes, the smart ones are questioning all costs, but I feel they’re not necessarily only trying to cut, but rather be more aware of how they do spend.
Folks want the most bang for their buck. And while I believe people still want to see and experience products in person, trade shows aren’t just about the latest and greatest, they’re primarily about people and their relationships, maintaining the well established while also starting new.
Trade shows are a big part of my upbringing in this industry and it’s come full circle in spending and size, not just for the exhibitors but for the organisations putting them on as well.
What should the industry be looking out for from Allied Professional Technologies throughout 2018?
Through no nonsense marketing, direct customer support and strong sales channels, our goal is to greatly increase awareness of the brands we represent, as well as our own.
Although we work primarily in the USA from a sales perspective, we will also be working on some international marketing projects so you’ll certainly see more of us. This industry thrives on relationships and we’ll continue to grow ours and not lose sight of those we already have.