Commentary: Is Your Company Disrupter or Disrupted? - Modern Distribution Management

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Commentary: Is Your Company Disrupter or Disrupted?

This article is part of MDM's 2015 Distribution Trends Special Issue. It explains the need to change your business model or risk slipping into irrelevance.

The annual feature 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 issue.

The full special issue is available to download in PDF format to MDM Premium subscribers. Subscribe below for full access. Or log-in if you are already a subscriber.

Trends outlined in the 2015 report include:

  • Good & Bad News for U.S. Economy
  • Distributors Get Back to the Basics
  • ‘Doubling Down’ on Distributor Relationships
  • Distributors Embrace, Expand Online Customer Base
  • Distributors Seeking ‘Lean’ Supply Chain
  • Distributors Adapt to More Sophisticated Supply Chain
  • Distributors Combine Traditional, New Means for Recruiting
  • Distributors Change Tune on Generational Shift
  • Trend Snapshots for 13 Sectors

The report also includes the following case studies and interviews:

  • 2015 MDM Market Movers
    • AJ Adhesives Takes Service to New Level
    • Plumbers Supply’s “Win-Win-Win-Win”
  • MDM Market Leader Profiles
    • Culture Drives Success for ERIKS North America
    • TTI’s Strategic Approach to Global Growth

Five years ago, I outlined the need for a new distributor model to emerge from the recession – a stronger, hybrid company that is lighter, leaner, more productive, and more focused on serving and growing defined customer segments.

Five years later, what’s changed? Speed. The accelerating forces of technology and economy have combined to threaten those companies that have not adjusted their business model. It brings to mind the 1998 book Who Moved My Cheese?, which outlined a way to think about dealing with disruption, only today the better question for distributors is: "Who moved my model?"

Traditional distribution models can be disrupted in more ways, more quickly. That’s not to say it’s time to overreact and hit the panic button, but it is critical to take stock, challenge assumptions and map out how your company can best build a more innovative and adaptive model.

That’s where MDM can help. This June double issue is our benchmark issue that examines emerging and continuing trends in wholesale distribution. The need for benchmarking is more important than ever, but what you measure needs to be challenged, constantly. How you make it actionable defines success.

Many challenges and opportunities don’t change much year-to-year. But the relative importance to your market environment and how you respond does. This issue identifies the primary ways that leading companies are exploiting gaps – in technology, talent, productivity – that create their ability to take market share, grow new markets and build competitive advantage.

Also in this issue is the 2015 MDM Market Leaders list, our annual ranking by revenue of the top distributors. We also profile a select group of MDM Market Movers, distributors we identify annually as innovative and adaptive. The complete Market Leaders report is available at

Last year in this column, I wrote that the real value in trend analysis is to benchmark against not only direct competitors, but across industry sectors and even outside business models. Benchmarking against business models outside traditional distribution was the most important emerging trend, I argued. This year it’s table stakes. What does your model look like now? What will it look like in 2016? Is it closer to disrupter or disrupted?

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