Commentary: Build Your Business in Any Climate - Modern Distribution Management

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Commentary: Build Your Business in Any Climate

Today's environment may be full of factors outside of our control, but distributors also have an opportunity to re-examine long entrenched practices and explore new, more efficient ways of doing business.

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I went into journalism because I love the news. I love to know what’s going on but I also feel a sense of duty to document and inform others. That said, even with this lifelong internal motivation, the news these days can be too much for me. In thinking beyond the surface-level reasons why, I land on the concept of learned helplessness that comes from repeated exposure to things we cannot control. So, what can we control? How can we be empowered?

At MDM, I know we can control avoiding hackneyed phrases like “in these uncertain times” and reinforcing a narrative of powerlessness by instead lasering-in on what distributors can do now to strengthen their business and market position.

Now nine weeks into our weekly MDM Live webcasts, MDM’s Tom Gale and Mike Marks of Indian River Consulting Group have spoken with nearly three dozen distributors and industry experts who are leveraging today’s environment to reexamine long-term business practices and explore new ways to improve efficiency, save costs and create a truly customer-centric experience. I encourage you to view any episodes you may have missed at

If you’re feeling stuck in your ways, you’ll learn from distributors like Eric Dillion, VP of Operations at Dillon Supply, who, in the most recent MDM Live, explained how the industrial distributor has brought on between 200-300 new online customers in the last couple of months. The 106-year-old company has many employees — including on the sales team — who have been with the business for more than 35 years. Although used to decades of in-person interactions, they have been able to successfully pivot to virtual selling and other contactless interactions.

Dillion also noted how now can be an opportune time to tackle the talent recruitment issue that has faced the industry for years now. He recently brought on a new team member who was furloughed from another job. “Our people have been second to none in keeping our business up,” he said. “It’s a combination of both your current personnel but also realizing that there are good people out there now.”

If you’re looking for a way to calculate your company’s capacity to take advantage of recruiting top talent who suddenly find themselves available, or to retain as many existing leaders in your business as possible, or to just see how long your runway is before the company may be in financial trouble, you’ll find a roadmap in the series we’re currently running in MDM Premium from Distribution Performance Project’s Al Bates.

Get caught up with Bates’ step-by-step process starting with the May 10 issue, “An Action Plan to Improve Long-Term Financial Performance,” where he breaks down how to outline a financial appraisal of where your firm stands from a profit perspective. Then, read part two in this issue, “How to Calculate Your Profit Drivers and Profit Drains,” to recognize and avoid key mistakes distributors make over and over again in a down economy. Part three, coming out June 10, will provide you with the tools to position your company for future strength.

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