To avoid falling behind, make sure that you are aware of the trends that are happening in the industry, even if you think they might be small at the time. The direction of the tide is sometimes more important than the size of the wave, says Mike Marks in the recent MDM Webcast, What Distributor Innovation Looks Like in 2013.
Take the time to carefully consider how your company can respond to the trends affecting your markets. A good starting point for identifying those trends, according to Marks, is MDM's 12 Trends in Distribution for 2013 to avoid falling behind. Compile a team of managers and spend at least half a day looking at each trend and discussing it.
For each trend, start by asking about the potential impact on your markets. Some trends will have a huge impact, while some others may have very little, depending on the industry.
The trend of ongoing uncertainty, for example, may have a huge impact on distributors in the capital equipment business because of deferred spending. The trend of a generational shift in the workplace will also have differing impacts depending on segment. "If I'm in health care distribution, the generational shift has already occurred and I don't care. If I'm in traditional HVAC distribution, the generational shift is huge."
Once the impact of each trend is determined, analyze how well you're keeping up with each trend. If the market is changing faster than you are internally, Marks says, you're falling behind and need to be going faster.
Distributors who take the time to complete this process will end up shifting resources and spending money in new places. "They will end up being competitively stronger, because they're thinking about the direction of the tide instead of the size of the wave."