MI Pro Music Magazine UK

A Question of Trust

March 2008


Brendan Murray’s The Trust Network has been making partnerships for 16 years now. Andy Barrett discovers the passion that drives the company forward...


Work in MI for a number of years and the sheer quantity of products can become somewhat numbing. For every innovation, there is a swathe of ‘me too’ products, where those that know the manufacturing and supply processes can cash in on the networks they have established over the years. But what of the innovator? The small manufacturer with a genuinely new product, some knowledge of how to make it, but no idea how to get it out into the world.


This was something that Brendan Murray, the founder of The Trust Network (TTN), and his wife and partner, Ros, considered 16 years ago and has been working to help find new products and lines a route to the global market ever since.


Murray arrived in London in 1978, armed with a guitar, an amp and a speaker cabinet and a strong desire to be a pro musician. He soon realised he needed a job to tide him over until the big break came. “I had the staggeringly original idea of working in a musical instrument shop, so that I could keep playing, while being among and around musicians and instruments.”


One of the stores he applied to was Rose Morris, which was looking for someone to take a telesales role. Although he didn’t know it at the time, this was the end of his music career, but the beginning of something pretty big.


After three years in the office, he had accumulated enough product knowledge to go out on the road, replacing the retiring rep for Ireland, then sometime after, he was given the south west of England.


“It was called the sales graveyard,” explains Murray. “But the management at Rose Morris (who still get a lot of unjust stick I have to say) were very professional. Peter Clarke ran a very professional operation based on best practice and a good attitude. I used his training to turn the south west from a graveyard into the company’s biggest patch.”


In 1984, Murray saw another side of the MI world when he was headhunted by Casio. “It was a culture shock, but one I was keen to experience. Coming from a traditional MI set up to one that was selling to Currys and the like was pretty exciting. To go to Currys head office and defend margins against purchasers who were pretty ruthless. It was tough.” Despite that, in his second year selling to the multiple giant, Murray had upped Casio’s business 90 per cent to £1.23 million.


From here Murray moved to Celestion in 1989 and he saw yet another side of the business as he was appointed export manager for the Ipswich transducer giant.


“I had seen my responsibilities step up from telesales, to regional sales and then to national multiples. Here then I was selling to distributors for entire nations – and you have to keep in mind the company’s image and branding, as well as keeping the numbers growing – you can’t mess about.” At Celestion he saw the A to Z of manufacture and sales and export, and again his sales oriented mind was able to see where things weren’t working. “I took on a deficit of 24 per cent on the previous year,” he says. “By the end of the first year I was up 16 per cent. The following year 124 per cent.” He did this by analysing why distributors weren’t selling. It could have been the owner had achieved everything he wanted and there was no motivation, or that it was too big and Celestion could never rise above five per cent of its business – one way or the other, Murray made the changes.


"When I started as export manager, I realised there was no-one you could talk to, no-one to ask about who could help take on a line in a given country – and this is vital for exports. With my experience I realised I could clear a path for a company’s investment in overseas markets, I understand long-term business plans and I can speak to distributors at their level, I know where they are coming from too.”


And this means that Murray and TTN can find the right people for the right markets for just about any product. “Well, the product has to be good, of course, and we have been known to draw a line on quality,” he interjects. “But we know how to raise the desire and, importantly how to communicate. It’s never the best product with the best distributor, it’s the right product with the right distributor.”


TTN’s first customer was Carlsbro when under the control of Stewart and Sheila Mercer, but since then, the consultancy has covered just about every type of product in every corner of the world, from Gretsch to Guvnor and Aer to Zeck. If you need your product sold abroad, you can do an awful lot worse than give Brendan Murray a call. What TTN can do for a company is find routes to international markets, while manufacturing continues without distraction. And Murray is not interested in being a middle man once the deal is cut. his work – and his fees – end when the brief is fulfilled.


The recent, rather innovative triple distribution deal for Schertler in the UK, with specialists dealing with each market segment, could well become a blueprint for the Swiss innovator – and it might be worth laying money that TTN will be involved. For Murray, though, the pleasure in finding a suitable home for an innovative product is clearly a pleasure.


“Take Aer. A shoebox with a foam front for £1,500? Most people thought they were mad, but we saw what Aer knew – and it’s a tremendous product. It is so important for the innovator to come through and to benefit from that innovation. We need this in our business and TTN loves to work with anything that is new. If I had one thing to say to the business as a whole it would be: ‘listen to new ideas and look out for new products’.”