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What Keeps You Up at Night?

by Bridget McCrea

In the January issue of tED magazine, NAED Chairwoman Maureen Barsema wrote a column entitled “Five Things That Are Making Us Lose Sleep”. In it, Barsema pointed out online threats, technology, an aging workforce, healthcare costs and consolidation as the key concerns for 2015.

How are distributors and manufacturers responding to the column? We tracked down a number of people throughout the channel to ask one question:

“What keeps you up at night?”

“Utilizing technology has been a challenge because it is advancing so rapidly. In the online world, for example, we’re all looking at Amazon as the “gold standard’ for anyone who is ordering products or services via the web. Trying to get into that loop at the right time, remain relevant, and not be consistently dragging behind the curve is difficult right now. This is an ongoing challenge that we’re working through while we concurrently strive to improve overall efficiencies within our company. We’re looking at content management and marketing automation solutions, for example, as potential answers to this persistent hurdle. The fact is, every distributor has different limitations or hurdles that they have to overcome in order to make things work. A final point that keeps me up at night is the fact that we have eight different segments and a great deal of SKUs to stay on top of and up to date with. It definitely keeps things interesting and exciting.”

— Chris Shilling, Marketing Manager, Dakota Supply Group in La Crosse, Wisconsin

“One thing that keeps me up at night is the fact that many of our customers continue to load their financial issues onto us. It’s nothing anymore to get a form letter that they’re arbitrarily stretching out their days-payable an extra 15 days, or that in order to do business with them we have to own the inventory in their facilities on consignment. The latter allows them to take $100,000 of assets off their books and put it right on our books instead. On the other side of the equation, manufacturers are holding fast to their terms. “You must pay within 30 days, sorry – no ifs, ands, or buts – they’re telling us. So while our end customers are taking a longer time to pay their bills – and want us to own inventory on their sites – that financial burden is now on us. We’re caught in the middle. Quite honestly, I think this is happening because there are too many MBAs running these companies. They’re sitting around saying to themselves, “How can I increase my company’s return on assets from 20 to 25 percent? By forcing 10 suppliers to own $100,000 worth of product each that’s on site here.’ In terms of finding solutions to this problem, we as distributors need to work closely with our suppliers, who have to be willing to sit down and have a business discussion with us about these challenges, and how we can work together to service our joint customers. That’s the only way we’re all going to get through it.”

— Doug Borchers, Vice President, Dickman Supply in Sidney, Ohio

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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