It may seem from a 30,000-foot view that the Amazons of the world have taken over. You see the commercials, the branded boxes, the new fleet of electric delivery trucks. And that’s great. Kudos to them for building a successful business and making a commitment to improving the environment. But zoom in closer, and you will see who is really supplying America. Tens of thousands of primarily family-led distribution companies. Why is that? How come Amazon hasn’t put them all out of business?
Agility, innovation, and dedication. That’s the answer. What can turn faster, a cruise ship or a small boat with an outboard motor? Okay, that’s an easy one. But think about it this way. When the cruise ship makes port – where does it anchor? Now think of that small boat again, zipping in and out of small docks before the big ship can even finish dropping anchor. Distribution companies have had to capitalize on agility over the last few years to keep pace with the innovations and disruptions in the industry. Couple that with the people that dedicate their life’s work to this industry, and you have a winning hand.
In a talk at the industry conference Disrupt, Bill Condron, President and CEO of The Granite Group, said that in a world where you can purchase nearly any product nearly anywhere, distributors don’t sell products; they sell a service. And if you’re selling a service, then the most important aspect of your business isn’t your products. It’s your people.
The distributors I’ve met on the road have taken this message to heart. They live and breathe their business, of course. But they value their employees above all else – especially during COVID. Just one example: Jeff Williams, President of Winsupply.
He became an owner right when COVID hit. His first concern was for the safety of his employees. Shutting down completely when necessary and offering curbside pickup instead to keep his customers supplied. When employees did work together, he found that the cooperation of all the employees to keep each other safe was extraordinary.
When COVID hit, “We didn’t know how bad it was going to be, or what we needed to do,” he said. One employee had health concerns, so Jeff worked with him so that he could receive benefits and stay safe during the most uncertain time at the height of the pandemic in the U.S. They were running with reduced staff during the entirety of COVID.
“Another employee has a father who lives with him who is 91, so we were all wearing our masks to help protect him and his father at home because he was obviously at the highest of risks,” said Jeff.
During this past year, I have seen and heard more instances of people going out of their way to take care of each other. I believe recognizing that we are responsible for caring for one another will be one of the enduring legacies of COVID. Compassionate leadership has led the people I’ve spoken with to even more success.
Jeff’s dedication and work through the past year’s struggles have been rewarded with incredible success as we emerge from COVID. Despite the lockdowns, business was good last year.
“Our optimism is high,” he said. “The economy is booming.”
Winsupply is experiencing double-digit increases, and they are on course to have a record-setting year. In fact, they are in the process of building a brand new, state-of-the-art, 30,000 square foot facility where they will be able to demonstrate to customers cutting-edge products and services.
But Jeff always has his employees and customers in mind saying that this will allow his employees the ability to achieve more for themselves by fulfilling more of what clients are looking for.
This is only a small preview of the types of stories in store for you when we release the docuseries. We’ve traveled around the country during this project, and I’ve encountered the most dedicated, caring, and innovative distributors. The best is yet to come! You can get a reminder from us to tune in to the premiere of the docuseries on July 8th. Sign up here.