This is a part of the 2013 Distribution Trends Report. The annual report was researched and written by MDM editors based on interviews with dozens of wholesaler-distributors, as well as industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this report.
2013 Distribution Trends Report
For many distributors in 2013, the biggest challenge to hiring isn’t a lack of skills or experience. “The challenge on the distribution side isn’t finding the people, it’s having them even know that we exist,” says Vicki Maderia, senior director of human resources for Needham Electric Supply in Canton, MA.
Distribution is still an invisible industry to many young people, and distributors who want to hire to meet the growing demand post-recession are struggling to be visible in a competitive marketplace. “We’re not the glamour industry,” says Chris Bursack, director of marketing for ISC Companies, a power transmission distributor in Plymouth, MN.
As a result, recruiters have to market the company and the industry while evaluating talent.
The hiring challenge that many distributors are seeing is in some ways a problem of their own making, says Channel Marketing Group’s David Gordon. They want someone with experience in the industry and they have an idea of who they want to hire – but those people often already have jobs and may not be looking to change.
Or they’ve left the industry entirely, especially in construction-related sectors. “A lot of those people lost their jobs in the downturn and went out and found other jobs, and they’re not coming back,” says Craig Webb, editor of ProSales Magazine.
But with a stubbornly high unemployment rate, there is still the perception that positions should be easy to fill. “There’s a huge difference between the people that are available and the people that are right for the job,” says John Salveson of executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group. “Companies often confuse the two.”
The skill sets required today are different than a decade ago. Formerly entry-level jobs, such as truck drivers, now require extra certifications or training, says Craig Wood, industrial group president of O.E. Meyer, Sandusky, OH, and the president of the Gases and Welding Distributors Association.
“It’s really finding talent versus a body,” Maderia says. “Traditionally our company has looked for people who have experience already. We now are trying to be more proactive and planning, hiring for the skills needed for future needs, and trying to avoid being reactionary.”
That approach is particularly important if the company plans to grow, says Mike Marks of Indian River Consulting Group. The skills need to run a business that’s a $25 million or $35 million company are different from those needed to run a $50 million or $80 million company, he says.
More distributors say they have plans to hire in 2013, according to an MDM survey conducted earlier this year. But distributors are being more “cautious” about who they’re hiring and how many people they add, according to Brent Grover of Evergreen Consulting.
Distributors are much more interested in investments in productivity tools so they can grow their company without growing payroll too much, he says.