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Is AmazonSupply Really About To Steal Your Best Employees?

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

We need to go backward a little before moving forward with our look at how AmazonSupply is trying to gain a foothold into B2B distribution. 

Back on February 5th of this year, I wrote a column about Amazon’s response to criticism that AmazonSupply was not making an impact in our industry.  I talked with DATAgility president Denise Keating, who also happens to be quite the AmazonSupply expert.  Keating heads the NAED DATAFirst program, which helps distributors improve the quality of their websites for e-commerce.  AmazonSupply would like to take all of that e-commerce revenue from you.  Not some of it.  All of it.  Jeff Bezos isn’t calling Amazon “The Everything Store” for nothing.

“Amazon has jobs advertised for brand experts and is hiring people from companies like Grainger and MSC,” Keating told me two months ago. “They realize it is a weakness and they are taking action to fill the gap.”   AmazonSupply is aware of the criticism that buying something from AmazonSupply is not like buying something from traditional distributors because you will not have the help of an expert team that stands behind every product.

So, how many brand experts are they going to hire?  According to this blog posted by Kristen Newbold-Knipp, the answer is more than 50.  So, I checked it out.  And yes, right now if you go to the AmazonSupply website, you will find that it is advertising for 56 open positions, ranging from Senior Product Manager to Software Development Engineers to Marketing Managers.   Newbold-Knipp goes on to say that Amazon will “use their substantially deep pockets to find the best and brightest talent with experience doing B2B at scale.”  Again, I couldn’t agree more.  Amazon does have substantially deep pockets.  She also uses the term “best and brightest”, which I am sure is just a coincidence because that’s what we call tED magazine’s “30 Under 35“.

So how do you compete with the online giant that is gaining a foothold around the world as the go-to website for everyday purchases and now wants to expand in the B2B sector?  And how do you compete with those deep pockets?  And how do you compete with the thrill of working for a company that wants to innovate the way your customers buy everything they need?

You realize the advantage you already have.

You have the one thing that AmazonSupply will never have.  You know who your “best and brightest” are.  They have no clue.  AmazonSupply could have contacted your “best and brightest” directly if they wanted to hire them.  But they don’t even have a first name of those people, so they had to post jobs on their website and hope for the “best and brightest” to come to them.

Don’t let that happen.

Don’t let those deep pockets be the main reason why your employees want to leave.  Challenge your employees.  Give them responsibilities that will force them to make decisions and allow them to shape the strategies that will lead to success.  Money can’t buy that.

Don’t let AmazonSupply’s innovative spirit be the reason why your “best and brightest” want to leave.  What are you doing to make your distributorship better, faster and stronger?  How are your employees involved in that process?  If the answer to those questions are “I’m not” and “they’re not”, maybe you do need to feel threatened.  But, you can also eliminate it altogether by including your “best and brightest” in your strategies for success.

It’s a safe bet that AmazonSupply is not having a huge impact on your sales right now.  Rather than bet on whether Jeff Bezos is ever able to make his mark in electrical distribution, it might help to make sure he never gets the chance to find out who the “best and the brightest” really are where you work.


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