A recent CRN reader poll asked: ‘Will the cost of WEEE compliance force small PC assemblers out of the market?’ The answer came back as almost universally affirmative. But I think that it demands further analysis.
For instance, a cynical observer might add: ‘So what? Everyone and his brother have been saying for years that system builders need to get big, get niche, or get out.’
If there are any micro-scale assemblers left able to make a good living out of it I would love to hear from them.
For several years resellers have been told to get into services. Is there anyone who is not? And if they are not, maybe it is too late now.
The bottom line is simple: it is the value that you add that you can make money on, not the hardware that you might nail together.
Where is the benefit in being a small PC assembler if you can buy ready-assembled kit, white-boxed if you want, at a price cheaper than you could make it?
Our recent Finance Summit highlighted that resellers should not define themselves as a ‘reseller’ but as ‘an expert in relationship management’. This will open new doors, and define new horizons.
That is not to say that the WEEE regulations were particularly well thought out. The intent was excellent, but the implementation was, not to put too fine a point on it, really poor.
Yes, the regulations are onerous for small-scale assemblers and retailers nothing new there. But who is to blame?
We were briefing the channel about the proposed regulations several years before they came into force. We had several meetings about them, but few resellers or small scale assemblers seemed interested in adding input or attending.
It was only once the regulations went live that smaller system builders woke up. That is a comment on the short-sightedness that seems to afflict many small assemblers. This is not a criticism but a reflection of how tough it can be to do business if you are small; the regulatory burden is disproportionately heavy upon smaller enterprises.
So it is vitally important for smaller firms to support their trade associations and contribute to any debate on issues.
We need to care
The difficulties facing small businesses are highlighted in the reader poll. It was prompted by reseller group ITACS, and I presume that the management pointed out that members should make their voices heard.
However, only 66 resellers were interested or motivated enough to respond.
It has been said that in a democracy we get the government we deserve. We can modify that and say that we get the legislation we deserve.
Join your trade association. Support it in what it does, listen to what it is telling you and make yourself heard.
Apart from some potential fine-tuning the WEEE regulations are now merely a gently swinging stable door. That horse has long bolted but the next regulatory challenge to your business is just round the corner. Or will it be another case of complaining when it is too late?
Keith Warburton is chief executive officer of the PC Association
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