An Entrepreneurial Sales Mindset Can Work Wonders for Small Distributors - Modern Distribution Management

An Entrepreneurial Sales Mindset Can Work Wonders for Small Distributors

At 19, Bearing Service, Inc. President Doug Savage unexpectedly took over the distribution company his grandfather started. In a new MDM podcast, Savage talks about his passion for education, his early adoption of the Entrepreneurial Operating System, the opportunities for independent distributors ahead and his many leadership roles across a 47-year career.
Credit: Mike Hockett

Losing a father is immensely difficult to move forward from, and so is the abrupt loss of your business’ leader. Doug Savage, president of distributor Bearing Service, Inc., had to face both when he was just 19 years old.

Doug’s grandfather started the business in Detroit in 1943, and Doug’s father took it over in 1967 until his sudden passing in 1978. Savage managed to not just keep the company operating — he has led its growth to now six locations operating across Michigan in his 47-year career with the company, backed by over 50 employees.

Savage recently joined MDM CEO Tom Gale for a podcast conversation that covered his early implementation of the Entrepreneurial Operation Systems, his passion for education, the future opportunities for fellow independent distributors and the leadership roles he’s held over the years.

This past December, Savage was honored by the Bearing Specialist Association with the group’s prestigious BSA Lifetime Achievement Award, which is presented to those who have provided superior leadership to the bearings and power transmission industry and the association for over 25 years, have attended BSA events, been actively involved in BSA and demonstrated a leadership role within the industry.

Doug’s many positions and contributions to BSA include serving as BSA 2005/2006 President; BSA Chairman of the Board in 2006/2007; and BSA Convention chair in 2004, 2005, 2012 and 2019. He currently serves on BSA’s Certification and Education Committee, Distributor/Manufacturer Relations Committee, Supply Chain Strategy & Technology, Committee, PAR Task Force, PIE Task Force, the Past Presidents Council and he Chairs the Membership Advisory Committee.

His company has received major accolades recently too. This past March, Bearing Service received AD’s Bearings & Power Transmission 2021 Giving Back Award, which recognizes an AD BPT member for outstanding work within their community. In January, Bearing Service received one of Rexnord’s top Trailblazer honors, which recognizes the distributor with the largest dollar growth and highest percentage growth in shipments, which the company did from 2019 to 2020, achieving a 16.6% increase in Rexnord shipments.

During his MDM chat, Savage was candid about Bearing Service’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that he implemented in the 1990s amid challenges the company faced from the changing automotive industry, crediting it as a big turning point for the company. Having sales staff focus on a “primary vendor strategy” helped deepen relationships with suppliers of the company’s top-selling product lines, which in turn enabled BSI to earn added margin in return for higher rebates to the vendors.

“We got the vendors to the point where they were willing to give us extra margin if we were going to move market share from other people’s products to their products,” Savage said in the podcast. “We needed to differentiate the compensation for our salespeople to sell the products that our strategy team wanted. And that strategy was great.”

Shameless plug: Speaking of strategy, we have rescheduled our June Sales Transformation Summit to integrate with our Digital & Analytics Summit Sept. 26-27. Save the date! Same powerful content and speakers, including Maria Boulden, Dirk Beveridge, Benj Cohen, co-host Mike Marks and many others! Plus we’re expanding the conference with full content tracks on digital and data analytics. As we discuss in this podcast and all our platforms, every distribution company is in some degree of a business model transformation, which requires a hybrid sales model powered by digital and informed by data analytics. That’s our agenda for the September conference. Consider bringing your team to gain a shared vision for your journey. Stay tuned for more soon.

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