QuickTake: The 'One Thing' for Distributor Success in 2024 - Modern Distribution Management

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QuickTake: The ‘One Thing’ for Distributor Success in 2024

Teams that pivoted faster have outperformed competitors. Tom Gale and Mike Marks discuss how to assess your team’s transformational capabilities.
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Many distribution leadership teams have become very good at project management and executing one-off programs. That’s critical. But there’s a danger in getting “siloed” on specific projects and losing focus of the longer journey. That’s what prompted me to ask Mike Marks of Indian River Consulting Group, in our Quicktake conversation this week, “What’s the ‘one thing’ to think about to tee up success in 2024? 

“To me, the ‘one thing’ is the ability to manage change, and to integrate your whole team into doing things different,” Marks says. The real competitive differentiator in 2024 isn’t going to be who has the best website. Increasingly, the elements that created competitive advantage pre-pandemic have become more commoditized – software tools are becoming cheaper, faster and more flexible to customize a tech stack. Distributors have an amazing set of options across technology tools today – ERP, CRM, BI, pricing… the list is incredibly deep and getting deeper with emerging AI capabilities. 

Distributors historically have focused on operational excellence to build competitive advantage. It’s still an essential piece of value creation for customers. But this reset our economy and society has undergone the past three years also requires a reset in the skill sets and culture to manage all the disruptive changes and stay relevant when there are so many alternative channel choices today. 

Mike Marks

As Mike and I discuss, this industry still has a tendency to ping the touchy-feely radar when culture is discussed, but there’s a disconnect here. We’ve come through this tremendous shock to the labor force and definition of work and workplace; we aren’t going back to what used to be “normal.” The type of talent and skills necessary to be successful today typically aren’t attracted to more traditional command-and-control organizational structures. An agile, flexible culture attracts talent, and fosters innovation and engagement in a noisy marketplace. 

Mike and I have been preaching for a long time about ways to make this transition to a more hybrid sales model, powered by digital and built on data analytics (and what prompted us to co-host annual conferences over the past seven years focused on sales transformation and now a more integrated business-model transformation in our SHIFT 2023 agenda). The value of distributors is not fundamentally changing, but every company has to navigate the transition to a more agile type of business model to compete effectively. And every company is at a different point in this transition or transformation journey.  

Leaders in distribution are creating competitive gaps by managing change faster and more effectively. They’ve developed a core competency in change management while others have gotten stuck in pilot purgatory, as Marks outlines in this conversation and will share in a presentation at SHIFT.  

The people, culture and workplace equation is evolving. How intentional has your team been in measuring how effective you are in change management, or across the transformational levers of sales process, digital and data analytics? Competency in change management across the organization has already become a differentiator post-2020. I think it’s going to be the ‘one thing’ for 2024 that will define the cultures that truly out-perform, regardless of where we are in the business cycle.  

Check out our QuickTake conversation via the audio player above, and find all of our past MDM Podcast episodes here.

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