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Burn Your Org Chart

New technology has opened many business opportunities for industrial distributors. Customers, and your own sales people, are using smart phones, tablets, and many other devices to improve the ways that business is being conducted. Given this, how will new technology and practices alter your organizational chart?  

Sales and Marketing  

Every distributor will need an "Eyeball Manager", the person responsible for tracking visitors to your web site, LinkedIn, Blog, and Facebook page as well as responding to tweets. Many large companies already have whole departments doing this for their brands and customers. How many sets of eyes are viewing your company's messages, advertisements, product offerings, etc. today? You need to know who is watching you and find ways to be sure your sales folks have the opportunity to turn them into customers.

Virtual Sales Person - Once you know which eyes are looking at your company, you need at least a sales person, maybe a sales manager, who is skilled in communicating with prospects and customers electronically. Billions of dollars of business is now conducted over the Internet. Companies are opening markets on a global basis and it may be impractical for you to conduct business in the traditional person-to-person way. 

Virtual Marketing Manager - Your catalog used to be a virtual sales person on its own. Now it has likely become an on-line catalog. The text, pictures, price sheet, etc. are no longer printed, they have moved on-line. But is that the end game from a marketing perspective? How interactive is your on-line catalog? Can I conduct business through my iphone or android device? How quickly can you respond to texted or tweeted questions? Does your marketing material look the same on a tablet as it did in a glossy printed catalogue? What new virtual media will be available 5 years out?

Electronic Trade Show Manager - It keeps getting harder to justify the cost and time invested in some trade shows. We have not seen many where that fact has not affected attendance. At some point, a virtual trade show is going to replace the old model. Booth duty will finally be a good assignment! Your trade show manager will need a different set of items to draw in prospects and to differentiate your "virtual booth" from your competitors.


Virtual Warehouse Manager - We may not have virtual inventory anytime soon, but where your inventory is located is changing already. Many distributors buy or sell on a consignment basis. Many distributors hold stock outside of their own warehouses for key customers. Shared warehouse space, 3PL's, and other options exist today and are used by many distributors on a regular basis. Can your current manager also insure the proper handling and control of inventory spread across the country? Or across the globe? We think he/she might need a virtual counterpart, a person to manage inventory in locations other than your own warehouse.  

Supplier Relationship Manager - Manufacturing companies have been working on developing collaborative relationships with their suppliers because they see it as a way to take cost out of the end-to-end process. Distributors buy products from their suppliers and those relationships need to be more collaborative, as well. Our view is that at least some of your suppliers will be open to looking for cost saving and efficiency options that will strengthen both of you to compete in the future.  


Margin Manager - Every distributor understands the importance of margins, but not many have given a person the responsibility of looking for improvement opportunities. The margin manager will challenge sales on discounts and other margin reducing tactics. However, he/she will also be looking internally to find ways to improve margins, as well. Issues like managing margins through commodity cycles; tracking product line margins and specific item margins across the company and working with purchasing on competitive analysis will be tasks that your margin manager will accomplish.

Update the Hiring Process  

You may need to hire people to fill at least some of these new positions. Here are some tips for you to consider when filling any new positions:

  • Hire people with the skill set that the job requires, don't hire based on industry experience. Many small to mid-size companies operate under the assumption that a new employee must have worked in their industry segment - i.e. MRO distributor. Large companies benefit greatly from new employees with different backgrounds and experiences. A person with the right skills can learn about your products and customers. And, they may be able to add valuable insight based on what they previously learned in other companies or industries. We helped an industrial distributor hire a warehouse manager from the consumer products industry. That individual brought a wealth of different ideas that led to many improvements in warehouse operations.  
  • Hire a person who will "fit" in your company and culture. Said another way, if you are the owner, don't hire somebody that you don't like as a person, it will not work.  
  • Involve other key managers/employees in the interview process. That will give you some additional perspectives on the potential new employee and, importantly, people will buy in to the new person if they participated in the hiring process.

Change is a given these days in every aspect of a business. It is important to keep your organization current in terms of roles and responsibilities. Talk to every level of your organization and ask these questions: "How do we need to change our organization to remain competitive?" "Who do we need to hire next?" What positions are obsolete and which ones need to be added." What is going on in our markets that will affect our people in every position in the company?" When you have answers to these and other organizational questions put a plan in place and take action!