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More of… What Keeps You Up at Night?

by Bridget McCrea

Since we had such a great response to last week’s article, we’re bringing you even more responses to our question:

“What keeps you up at night?”

“The first thing that keeps me up at night is trying to anticipate the needs of our distributor partners. I need to make sure that our company is ready to provide it, whether it’s technology, a software platform, or even a product offer. There are a lot of manufacturers out there and we all offer very similar products – many of which are commodities. Our way of rising above this clutter is by working hard to anticipate the distributors’ needs and then fulfill those needs as quickly and efficiently as we can. For example, when a distributor is ready to get set up to use electronic data initiative (EDI), we’re ready to help them get moving forward with that. We’re here to help distributors go fully digital; they don’t have to wait for us. I think this is something more manufacturers need to be doing as they work to rise above their competitors. We’re all in this together and if our distributors are successful, then we’re successful. I constantly worry about what are distributors are going to need from us next month, next year, and in five years.”

— Rob Fisher, Vice President of Marketing, Madison Electric Products in Cleveland, Ohio

“Right now, the whole shift in the way that electrical contractors are purchasing products is happening a lot faster than most people think. From the manufacturers’ standpoint, this creates some real challenges and is pushing us to provide our products in the many different ways (or, channels) that the contractor wants to purchase them. In other words, instead of a contractor going into a distributor location to purchase our products, they’re going to a retail/big box store. The items aren’t packaged the same at the retail level, so we’re trying to discern which contractors are buying at retail versus distribution versus another outlet. That’s a big concern for us, and one that falls under the umbrella of branding and customer service. Where most contractors went to distributors with their questions, for example, now they’re coming directly to us. They’re emailing us and/or using search engines like Google to find out what they need to know. As a result of the latter, we’ve had to build an entirely new website that addresses this shift. We also added more technical professionals to our staff to field the increased number of phone calls that we’re getting. To offset this challenge, I think the whole channel can work together by educating itself through NAED programs and conferences – all of which feature a good lineup of educational speakers and experts who address these topics. Unfortunately, distributors don’t always participate in these offerings. At the last meeting someone held an ‘ultimate channel update’ session that included a lot of great information about what was going on at Grainger, Amazon Supply, and all of these other places that contractors are going to procure their products. If I ran a distributorship (as a side note, I worked in distribution for 25 years), I’d want to hear and understand that kind of information.” 

Hutch Johnson, President, Cadet in Vancouver, Washington

“One of the biggest issues we’re grappling with right now is the delicate balance between reducing inventory while maintaining enough stock to fulfill customer orders quickly. Product availability, ship dates, and possible delays are on everyone’s mind, but these issues are particularly difficult for companies that want to become more efficient. Put simply, we all want to stock less and sell more – that’s the bottom line. Achieving that goal is a daily challenge, particularly because our suppliers are basically trying to do the same thing. Combine these two issues and you basically get a perfect storm. Instead of carrying 100 units of a specific breaker, for example, we may only be keeping 10 on the shelf right now. And the panel board manufacturer that makes the breakers is doing the same thing – keeping 10 on its shelves. They’re doing the same thing we are and trying to be more efficient. Unfortunately, when a large order for those breakers comes in, getting the products to the customer fast becomes nearly impossible. This is happening more and more as companies try to run tighter and tighter – a mission that really surfaced during the Great Recession and hasn’t shifted yet. We’re forced by habit now to be lean, but then we want to grow as well. What’s the delicate middle that you shoot for in between there? That’s the real question.”

— Justin Clayton, Outside Sales Representative, The Hite Company in Erie, Pennsylvania

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.


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