‘‘Big Stuff’ Wisdom for B2B Distributors - Modern Distribution Management

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‘‘Big Stuff’ Wisdom for B2B Distributors

4 rules for long-term success.

Last week, I came across a blog on Crescent Electric Supply Company’s 100 Year Celebration. As I was reading about the early history of the Schmid family and the company, it reminded me how much fun the late Dick Schmid would be having celebrating his company’s centennial this year. Dick ‘Big Stuff’ Schmid was literately a larger-than-life character, and I had what he jokingly called the “privilege” of working for him at Crescent Electric Supply for over a decade.  

He was the king of the one liner, inspirational quotes, and he had a passion for his family business. He loved being a large privately held B2B distributor and being part of the Schmid, Piekenbrock, Rhomberg and Christiansen families. His enthusiasm for the Crescent Family and the business would have been at an all-time high approaching their 100th anniversary.

If Dick could tell his Crescent Family four things to remember to focus on for the company’s next 100 years, here is what I think he might say.

1.Take pride in being a distributor.

Dick was proud to be a B2B electrical distributor. He bristled when he heard someone say things like, we are just a distributor. Dick believed that distribution plays a key role in driving the U.S. economy forward. They get the products the customer’s need to them efficiently, and they take costs out of the process. Distributors help customers to be more efficient and competitive. 

Dick would always talk about how we worked for a great company that gets the material our customers need to build the roads, buildings, schools and products that make America strong. He also took great pride in the channel and was constantly involved in programs that NAED, NECA and others were doing to improve the electrical business. 

If you respect your industry, you should respect your competition. Dick would often say, “Talking about your competition’s challenges to your customers makes you look small and it hurts our industry.” If you outwork and outperform the competition your customers will find out, and you will grow the business. 

2. Your customers and suppliers are your business, listen and learn from them.

Dick would often say, “Without our customers and our supplier partners, we don’t have a business,” and he never took their business or support for granted. He believed you can quickly lose business and destroy relationships with customers and suppliers by not performing or listening to their needs. 

He was driven to improve the company’s performance by constantly asking customers and suppliers what they needed. Dick always asked a variation of this simple question at the end of every key meeting: “What is one thing we can do to improve?” 

If another distributor or supplier partner was delivering more value with an improved service or program, he would not rest until we developed a competitive or improved offering. 

3. Nobody gets far alone, count on your teammates.

Your role as distribution leader means you can’t do it alone. If one part of the supply chain is not performing from sales to delivery, you are going to have customer service problems.  If you can show that you truly appreciate their hard work and effort, your team will perform better.

Get out in the field and show your appreciation for all the roles. Your drivers, counter, inside and outside sales and everyone who supports them all play key roles in making your business run. 

Dick often said, “People don’t care, until they see how much you care.” He showed that he cared for his teammates by taking interest in what they did during and outside of work. 

4. Have fun and remember it’s a competition.

Dick often reminded me that we often spend more time at work than we do with our families.  We all work hard, and we should make work as fun as we can. You have to get the job done and at times the job isn’t glamorous and difficult, but you can have fun doing it.

He enjoyed his work and it showed. You would hear him on the phone joking and having fun with Crescent’s branch associates. My favorite one-liner was, “Never mess with a guy 12 steps from payroll.” Yes, his office was precisely 12 steps from payroll. 

He loved the Chicago Bears and would humorously find a way to talk about the Monsters of the Midway at every opportunity. He understood how to have fun, and also how to inspire his teammates. 

Dick knew how to celebrate success, but he never forgot that it was an everyday competition. As he often said, “Past successes are no guarantee for future victories.” Competing is not a one-time event, it’s a new game that you play every single day. 

So, here’s my toast to “Big Stuff” and his Crescent Family. Congratulations on your 100thyear.

As always, I’m interested in your feedback. You can post a comment below or reach me at john@mdm.com

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