An overview of the role of the Harbth User Group ....
It's about three weeks since Moderation was turned on here at the HUG and my last log-in. In that time, our youngest has achieved a First Class Honours Degree in Marketing, the factory has been closed for two weeks shutdown, I've learned how to write command scripts to program our production line audio testers to perform more comprehensive testing and I've squeezed the equivalent of about an extra day a week of productivity.
I've had a chance to read through comments about Moderation and to take soundings from other Forums and to talk to our Moderators and others about the messages that have passed their eyes. Taking a step backwards for a moment, my personal dilemma is that I value free speech, but as first and foremost a businessman running a for-profit business (= my only pension possibility) there is an uncomfortable zone between permitting reasonable questions and need to protect the Harbeth brand (and its sales channels) by inhibiting discuss of what business people call "commercially sensitive information". It astonished me that further questioning about what constituted "commercially sensitive information" was posted and as to why production numbers of a certain model fell into that category, and that in turn led to questions about why Harbeth made special editions. Imagine how that poor fellow in Hong Kong must feel having proudly photographed and uploaded pictures of his new P3ESR the day he bought them to have a whirlwind of questions about the 'limited edition' stickers on the rear panel, when every pair we've supplied to Hong Kong since launch 12 months ago was the identical special edition - and absolutely no secret.
That led to questions about global pricing policy and my failure to convey the facts of business life. So for the sake of total clarity (repeating myself yet again), this is our manifesto:
1. We are a commercial, for-profit business. What we do is make high quality loudspeakers, for profit using parts sourced from selected suppliers around the world that fully meet our Requirements of quality, quantity and price.
2. Everything we do, be it as communication, production or promotion is to strengthen our brand globally fulfilling (1) above to the maximum
3. We are structured for the long-term. We intend to be in business in twenty years
4. We must maximise our profit and constrain our costs to effectively compete in the audio market and to remain independent and viable
5. We listen to our customers and if possible, make market-specific products for them at additional cost
6. We do not take any particular interest in local pricing policy outside the UK as we assume that all our distributors have similar brand objectives to (1), (2), (3), (4) above. In short, we judge by their growing orders that they understand their market.
As I said clearly and with feeling in the YouTube video (here, again) it doesn't matter a jot what I as an individual believe about this or that 'special'. My thoughts are here though for all to read. As we have never, ever made any claims that a 'special' is better than the standard product we are acting in good faith (and consistent with (1) etc. above) providing what the customer demand and wants. We are far, far too busy to have the time or interest making standard products with a twelve month lead time to sit around dreaming up new ways of teasing money from customers with pumped-up claims for 'specials' which always slow-down production and which we invariably under-cost. But if we are approached, we do our best to dissuade, but if forced, we will always try and accommodate the customer. With two marketing professionals in one household, you wouldn't expect anything else would you?
It is a fact that despite the small and relatively silent number of members here, every word written is translated into various languages and poured over in detail. The influence of the HUG outside the HUG is immeasurably greater than in it, and I am acutely aware that there are issues which we just cannot discuss on a number of grounds if, amongst other things, we are to maintain our brand as a strong independent force. Those subjects and the reasons for my concern I cannot lay in front of you publicly but you should believe me, successful niche brands are always on someone's radar.
Where do we go from here? Frankly, I do not wish to be put in the position I have been maneuvered into in a completely open HUG forum again, of contributing a simply vast amount of time and effort (and even love) to be forced to justify myself, my products, my staff or my company. I agree that Moderation is not as smooth as we'd hoped, but that's because we were unable to share the Moderation load with our members - only three of which (reluctantly) stepped forward. But I do not feel comfortable with returning to a completely open free-for-all, not when I feel I have contributed almost all there is to say over 1800+ posts in four and a half years.
One proposal by NAIM is to moderate by stealth - that is, postings are permitted but inspected some hours after posting and if they do not meet the forum's criteria are deleted, no questions, no explanation, no apologies. And as NAIM say, no arguments from the community; NAIM's position is final, non-negotiable. That would mean that requests for or statements about "commercially sensitive information" would be silently weeded out. And that's really the best idea we have at this time.
But perhaps more importantly, is with me taking a back-seat how the HUG could drift into discussions about peripheral subjects such as cables, spikes and the rest which are not necessarily subjects which strengthen the Harbeth brand (enhance (1-5) above) or interest our pragmatic users. That can't be allowed to happen.
One thing is for sure - I can't wind the clock back to the completely unregulated situation pre-mid June. We need more thinking time.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK