Exclusive Features

More of… What Keeps You Up at Night?

By Bridget McCrea

We’ve had such a great response to our previous articles (found here, here, here, and here), that we’re bringing you even more responses to our question:

“What keeps you up at night?”

“We’re dealing with a few different challenges this year, not the least of which being the fact is finding employees. In fact, I’d say recruiting, training, and then retaining employees and leaders who stay loyal to our company – and that help it grow over time – is by far our biggest hurdle right now. On a larger scale, an excess of employee fluctuation just isn’t good for the market as a whole and it’s also not good for distributors (or for the workers who are jumping around from place to place). When an employer is fair to the employee, and when that loyalty and fairness runs both ways, everyone benefits from the relationship. Companies gain from having reliable, skilled, and loyal employees, and the staff members and managers put an effort into helping build the company and from having a stake in the success of the firm. Along the same lines, we’re also dealing with this practice of ‘poaching’ employees among distributors that think this is the only way to build market share and grow – hiring folks who are already out there selling into specific markets. This practice tends to make it difficult for the industry as a whole to grow and succeed.”

— Bill Elliott, president, Elliott Electric Supply in Nacogdoches, Texas, 

“We’re managing a number of challenges this year, but there’s no double that industry mergers and acquisitions on the part of our suppliers is a big issue that we’re continuing to grapple with. Large manufacturers that are only getting bigger through these merger activities definitely keep us up at night. I was at a supplier’s district meeting lately and they asked me the same question:  What keeps you up at night? To their amazement, my answer was ‘you.’ In my opinion, the larger these companies get and the more powerful they become, the farther they get away from their customers. This puts us in a challenging position not only because we have to be their ‘faces’ for those customers, but also because decision making shifts and getting information and support from our suppliers becomes increasingly difficult. We hate to have to take the ‘little guy’ mentality, but the fact is, decisions are suddenly being made about our company’s existence – and at levels that are way out of our reach. The bottom line is that I probably don’t have communication anymore with actual decisions makers whose choices can greatly impact our business. That’s been a real shift over the last 5-7 years and it’s out of our control. The bigger these companies get, the more challenging this issue becomes. When you’re dealing with multiple levels of management, someone can literally wake up one day and say, ‘Get ride of any distributors that aren’t doing a certain volume of business with us.’ And where does that leave us? Out in the cold and unable to do anything about it because we’re dealing with multiple layers of management. That’s pretty spooky when you think about it. Again, this type of gripe can come off sounding like ‘We’re the poor little guys out here who don’t have control over what’s going on,’ but facts are facts. These are things that we just can’t control because the voices of the people that we’re dealing with on a local level here just aren’t heard that far up the channel anymore.”

— Brad Van De Sompele, president at Frontier Electric Supply in Bensenville, Ill.

We now pose the question to you: What keeps you up at night? You let us know at tED magazine, and we will track down the experts to give you the advice you need to grow stronger and help you rest easy in the future. Simply post your concerns below in the “comments” section or send tED magazine Publisher, Scott Costa, a direct e-mail at scosta@naed.org.

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.


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