Lessons from the Most Volatile Quarter in Recent Memory: How Distributors Can Build Resilience

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Distribution Build Resilience

The distribution industry has faced unending disruption over the past five or so years, but the last quarter has shifted the changes into overdrive. Saying that the last few months have been a bit of a challenge is an understatement. But with every challenge comes a learning experience.

Today, we look at some of the effects, surprises, and lessons to learn in order to set yourself up for a resilient future.

Putting Yourself in a Position to Move Forward: Lessons for Success

As we had discussed in a recent series of articles on the challenges and changes in the distribution space, the industry has continued to become more competitive and many are making strides to adapt. With competition accelerating, buying channels evolving, and entire supply chain changing in the last quarter, a recent MDM article explored a few lessons you can take away from the second quarter of 2020 in order to come out of this stronger.

Changes Can Happen without Warning

If you take one thing out of this, it’s that significant change can take place overnight; markets, revenues, capabilities, issues, competition and customers were flipped. Especially for those who do work with suppliers from China, you had already planned for the two-week supply chain disruption brought on by the Lunar New Year. Little did you know that those two weeks would extend for months.

While we may not face another outbreak of the same scale or significance of the COVID-19 one, this is a reminder that the supply chain is surprisingly fickle and anything can change in an instant.

Keys to Success: Adaptability and Flexibility

To address this, distributors need to be able to pivot on these unexpected shocks to the system. Though you may not be able to predict the future, you can become flexible and adaptable enough to change your tactics when the options are presented. Here are just a few tips for success:

  • Reduce the bottlenecks in decision-making. Dashboards and user- or department-specific workflows can go a long way in presenting the tools and data a user needs to get the job done.
  • Stop relying on outdated data for up to the minute challenges. Decisiveness relies on having enough information to make a smart decision. This means you can’t leave people either waiting for information or brashly forging into the unknown.
  • Encourage a bias for action. A bias for action helps in empowering decision makers, who help leaders to decide in the face of risk, and who can overcome disagreements to act. Connectedness and collaboration go a long way in overcoming biases for inaction.

You’ve Seen How Everyone Reacts to Adversity—How Can You Use This to Your Advantage?

While hopefully the last few months taught you more about your own people, it hopefully showed you a bit of information about your supply chain as well. How did suppliers, customers, service providers, investors, competitors, and the like react to the market changes?

You were able to see first hand who among them is most consistent, financially stable, and in control of the scenario. You’ve seen which of your partners can handle chaos, which ones are flexible, and who is the most reliable.

Keys to Success: Control and Decisiveness

You now know which customers were best prepared for disruption, which suppliers have continued to deliver, and might even know what competitors have clients in play. But what are you going to do with this information?

  • Work to keep your best customers. Understandably, things are hard right now. Money is tight for a lot of companies, but it also has painted a clearer picture of which companies are going to be profitable and which are less so. It’s also cleared a picture of the products your reliable and profitable customers order.  Now what can you do to work more closely with these companies?
  • Take a hard look at your supply chain. Just as your customers’ trust in you was based on how you reacted, your expectations of suppliers should be based on their responsiveness to your needs. Take a deeper look at who you believe treated you as a partner.
  • Go on the offensive. If any of your competitors showed their cracks at the sign of adversity, now is the time to start pushing. Develop a streamlined onboarding process that is designed around a smooth quote to cash process and an aggressive new business plan. One place to start is through the use of an integrated ERP, CRM, and inventory management, allowing your sales team to communicate what you have and close deals.

Your People are Smart and Efficient—Even at Home

One of the most likely things you’ve learned is just how much you can accomplish with little more than a computer and telephone. Long gone are the days of the office-only mentality.

Keys to Success: Empower Your People to Work on the Go

While you may have learned that your people are productive and efficient even without a traditional workplace, you may have seen that the tools you currently use hold them back. As you begin to focus on whatever is next, now is the time to look at the necessary tools to get the job done.

  • Leverage solutions that are built for mobility. Not every solution makes it easy to work on the go, and the last quarter has shown you that. However, cloud solutions like Acumatica can provide you the mobility you need without the hassles of accessing a product.
  • Keep people up to date. Workflow engines in modern, adaptable ERP solutions can route information where it’s needed. Pair this with a well-integrated solution and your people can keep moving forward wherever they are.
  • Turn to unlimited user pricing for affordable work on the go. Cloud ERPs like Acumatica allow for unlimited users, rather than the traditional per-seat approach to licensing. As current events illustrate, a business might suddenly need more people working on the system, across different modules, than it expected. A modern ERP solution permits this without costly license upgrades.

Your People Empowered: Get to Know Kissinger

Building a resilient and decisive distribution business requires the right information, the right skills, and the right focus. If you’re looking to forge confidently into the future, you need to empower your people to lead. With the right information, access, and tools, they can do just that.

If you want to learn more about modern, adaptable ERP solutions and what they can do for your business, contact us for a free consultation and product demo.

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