How did your company perform this year? According to our quarterly distribution surveys, many of you struggled with top-line growth, as industry-wide revenue was down or flat throughout 2016.
Some sectors fared better than others. Building materials outperformed the industry average while industrial supply struggled to break out of the red. But the industry saw a bit of a turnaround in 3Q when distributors averaged 0.5 percent revenue growth, ending three consecutive quarters of negative growth.
That was just one of many encouraging economic signs to emerge as the year drew to a close. At this month’s Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International conference in Colorado Springs, CO, economist Alan Beaulieu told attendees that the U.S. is in growth mode – albeit slow – and to expect modest improvement for the next two years.
Most manufacturing, construction and jobs reports in the last few weeks were upbeat and the Fed raised interest rates, all indicating a turnaround. And most distributors are telling us they expect similar results, if only because things couldn’t get much worse than 2016. In our annual Industry Outlook Survey, 90 percent of respondents expect revenue to increase in 2017, with most of those, 43.6 percent, projecting 5 percent to 10 percent sales growth.
2017 isn’t without its concerns, however. A new president could implement regulations that stymie off-shoring and international trade, and geopolitical concerns are accelerating as tensions mount across the globe.
With all this uncertainty, how well have you planned for 2017? Did you spend the past 12 months hunkering down and waiting for the business climate to improve? Or did you actively invest in technology and talent to be ready when fortunes reversed?
We’ve devoted a lot of time and ink this year imploring you to spend wisely on your businesses, based on whatever its needs might be, whether that’s a new ERP, enhanced e-commerce capabilities, improved customer experience, revamped training program or new methods of recruiting millennials.
Distributors continue to struggle in these areas and others, but as the industry approaches an inflection point, those who strategically address their deficiencies and plan to overcome them will surge past their competitors in 2017. The best time to strategically plan for next year was last year, but the second best time is right now.
One way to properly plan for 2017 is to join Indian River Consulting Group and MDM for Sales GPS 2017, a live event March 1-2 in Austin, TX, on the future of field sales. It is just one way out of many you can prepare for whatever 2017 might bring.