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Remember those first-generation efforts in standardized numbering, bar-coding and other ways to automate through technology or process improvement? Remember the quality movement?

For those engaged in independent distribution channels 20 years ago, there was much discussion about how the channel had to tighten up to remain a viable part of the supply chain. Too many redundant activities were taking place at the manufacturer and distributor levels, and customers would migrate to more cost-effective supply sources if their current suppliers did not find ways to be more competitive. Oh, and distributor margins were going to have to squeeze to pay for this improvement.

It’s more than ironic that at a time when the economy is choking on high unemployment, many distributors are finding it hard to find good talent. It’s a warning sign you can’t ignore. How good do you want your company to be through all this turbulence? Pretty good? Great? The best?

You need engaged team members scrambling just as hard as you to find the right answers to deal with the upheaval right now. In most cases it’s not the same skills as five years ago.

The release of our first annual MDM Market Leaders and Distribution Landscape Report last week was the result of several months of research. Throughout, we noticed some recurring themes. Last year changed every distribution company's paradigms, which historically have been about size and sales revenue growth. Anecdotally, very few distributors grew revenues last year.
I've been to more than a dozen industry events over the past few months – association annual events, technology summits, marketing group meetings. It's great to see some momentum starting to build that's great to see. There are also some common threads in the conversations taking place at these events. In one form or another, every distributor is rethinking the right model for 2010 and beyond – one that's leaner, more productive, but built on the strengths, values and relationships that built a successful company in the first place.

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