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Wireless American Style

AMERICAN WIRELESS INC., WITH 20-plus years in business, is likely one of the first master agencies in the wireless market. Its success story like that of its president Michael Misuraca, who worked his way from a retail sales floor to the corner office, is a slice of the American Dream.

The company was founded in the mid-80s as a division of Pana-Pacific, an OEM, which has distributed accessories for heavy duty trucks since the early 1970s. Pana-Pacifics parent company, The Brix Group Inc., also operated a chain of retail stereo stores and a Dealer Radio Service (DRS) for installation of radios, stereos, alarms and other accessories into cars. Through an existing distributor relationship with Motorola Inc., the chain started carrying the industrys first car phones, and DRS installed them, says Misuraca. They had to be hardwired and they were quite expensive, he says, noting the $2,500-to-$4,000 price tag. So we were right there doing that at our retail stores as well as going to [car] dealers to install.

By 1985, The Brix Group decided wireless was going to be its next big push, says Misuraca. Although it wasnt called American Wireless until 1998, the master agency was born. We got out of retail, but continued to supply the retailers. Thats when we became nationwide in scope. This is when we got knee-deep in the master agency world, he said. At first it was just handsets, but within a year, the company began capturing revenue from activations. GTE (now Verizon Communications Inc.) was its first carrier supplier.

Misuraca, who had worked as a sales rep and later general manager for the stereo stores, left the company in 1990 to work for Nokia. When he returned in 1993, he resumed his role as a general manager, but quickly ascended through the ranks from vice president to senior vice president and now president of the wireless business.

The biggest change during that time has been the number of mobile operators. There were nearly 50 carriers at one time, he says, noting the remaining field is about half a dozen. The emergence of MVNOs over the last few years stands to increase the supplier pool once again, he adds, noting American Wireless already represents several resellers on the prepaid side.

While a majority of American Wireless subagents are retail dealers serving a consumer or individual buyer, the company is increasingly supporting business-to-business dealers both those serving enterprises from their retail stores and those without storefronts at all. Special teams travel around the country with carrier engineers and third-party software vendors to educate dealers and their end-user customers on the commercial services now possible with 2.5G and 3G networks. Weve actually done that for the last five years under our Nextel (now Sprint Nextel Corp.) agreement, but we homed in on it for the last 18 months, says Misuraca, explaining now there are more services to sell and more dealers targeting commercial accounts.

To nurture this growing opportunity, American Wireless counsels its dealers on selling to businesses. The B2B side is typically a leaner deal. Those companies want discounts; they want breaks whether it be in equipment or in service. We train [subagents] to understand the intricacies of the B2B deal, he says. The master agency also has more than 50 channel managers that are available to accompany dealers on B2B sales calls.

On the post-sales side, American Wireless has about 40 people manning a contact and fulfillment center in Sacramento, Calif., to aid with activations, and pick/pack/ship for these large deals. In addition, the company extends credit to dealers for inventory. When you are talking about B2B, its not one or two or 10 phones. They can be really large handset deals, says Misuraca. There are not a lot of really big master agents out there that would be willing to take that risk. We do.


Up Close & Personal

President:

Michael Misuraca
Company: American Wireless Inc.
Web: www.americanwireless.com
Headquarters: Campbell, Calif.
Revenue: $200 million
Subagents: 2,500
Employees: 200-plus
Carrier Suppliers: Sprint Nextel Corp., Verizon Wireless, Alltel Corp. Inc., Boost Mobile, O Mobile, Movida, TracFone, Fuel
First Job:
I was paperboy. I was 12 years old. I was the only kid with two paper routes.
Current Gadget: I carry a RAZR. I fully take advantage of the features like Bluetooth. I am really up on all that stuff. I love it.
Hobbies:
I like cycling. I raced for years. Now, its a hobby.
Addiction: I have been a Ferrari fan since I was a young boy. I always dreamed to have one.[He does.]

Links
American Wireless Inc. www.americanwireless.com
Brix Group, The www.panaoem.com
Motorola Inc. www.motorola.com
Nokia www.nokia.com
Sprint Nextel Corp. www.sprint.com
Verizon Wireless www.verizonwireless.com

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