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Distributor's Link Magazine Fall 2023 / Vol 46 No 4


52 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Jim Truesdell James Truesdell is Chairman of Brauer Supply Company, a distributor of specialty fasteners, insulation, air filtration, and air conditioning with headquarters in St. Louis. Mr. Truesdell is adjunct professor at Saint Louis University and Webster University. An attorney and frequently published writer, he is the author of “Total Quality Management: Reports From the Front Lines”. DISTRIBUTORS MOVE FORWARD WITH MARKET CHANGES BROUGHT BY PANDEMIC Through the pandemic many hard goods distributors kept up business as usual with safety protocols dictating in-person interactions. While the bulk of society was buttoned down and sheltering in place, distributors needed to put essential goods on the shelves, to deliver material to contractors who were keeping the wheels of civilization turning, and to provide supplies to service providers who were on the front lines. This function could not be done remotely with every distribution employee calling it in from their home. The physical goods had to be moved from point A to point B and that required warehouse people, truck drivers, and counter personnel and others who received the material and filled orders and put it in contractors’ pick-up trucks or delivery vehicles to send it off to job sites and retail shelves. Distributors now find themselves a couple of years later dealing with the fallout and changes from the pandemic experience. There are a lot of technological leaps forward and market changes that came about because of the pandemic experience, but wholesalers are finding themselves at an increased disadvantage in a number of areas: [1] A significant number of talented workers have decided they like working remotely, and companies whose business requires them to have people on site in plants and offices are losing out on talent. Applicants CONTRIBUTOR ARTICLE are bypassing jobs which requires them to commute and show up regularly at a company location. [2] The nature of the supply chain itself has changed as customers are demanding faster order completion. A small number of large on-line sellers have centralized the distribution function for universal ranges of products. This could threaten specialty retailers and their wholesalers with obsolescence. [3] Customer service from the many manufacturers and support service providers with whom distributors deal has sometimes plummeted as many of these providers have gone remote or hybrid in their own offices. This often means response time is stretched out when a distributor needs prompt information or help in resolving problems. How are Distributors Dealing With These New Realities? Though “hands on” businesses do need people on-site every workday they can introduce new elements of flexibility to their work environment. This may not be a stretch for the many family businesses who often treated their workers as one big family, allowing people to attend to family needs and emergencies as long as job responsibilities were being met. As the working world became more competitive and demanding, some of those “patriarchal” management styles faded. CONTINUED ON PAGE 136


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