the tendency to focus on just selling products that come in brown boxes.”
• Leverage relationships.
According to Goodman, independents can differentiate themselves from the pack by identifying any customer pain points and voids that can be filled. “In my past of creating and selling a variety of dif- ferent lighting fixtures, I literally asked my agents and cus- tomers, ‘What do you need?’” Goodman said. “Convene a customer social function or focus group and ask what they’re looking for. Take your better customers out to din- ner and listen to their challenges, or take smaller custom- ers that you know can be bigger customers to a ball game and find out why they’re going elsewhere.”
A Bright Future?
Despite the known challenges, “I’m very optimistic about the future of independents,” confirmed Blazer. “We’re a
shrinking breed, but not a dying breed. The investment necessary to start an independent distributorship today is a barrier to most who would like to start a new business, so acquisitions of inde- pendents far outweigh new start-ups. We feel our customers value our model and how we do business. We’re fortunate to be the only independent in our market- place, and until relationships are no longer a key to our business, we’ll get our share by being the preferred distrib- utor for our vendors and customers.” “We’re optimistic about the future of independents if we stay close to our customers and really listen to their needs, as competitors don’t maintain the relationships or provide a more nimble or flexible approach to solving their problems,” Mark Doris said. “Cus- tomers know that we’re completely committed to servicing our local mar- ket and conducting business in a highly ethical manner. They don’t always feel the same about doing business with our national competition.” For Brown, “the key challenges to future success for independents revolve around their willingness and ability to recognize the immediate threats from new technology as well as from existing tech competitors and their distribution networks—value-added resellers, for example—and then to react smartly and quickly with all available intellectual and financial resources to become a true 21st-century energy solutions provider. The fact is, if a business hasn’t already started the process of becoming a technology solutions provider, it’s likely out of business already—it just doesn’t know it yet.” “Personally, I’m optimistic about the future of inde- pendent electrical distributors—as long as they evolve,” agreed Goodman. “Independents must maintain a culture of lifelong learning, which involves collaborating, listening to unfil- tered customer feedback, observing leading-edge busi- nesses, and then adapting ideas as needed based on an ongoing obsession with service excellence. We get it that we can never be complacent,” Adams concluded. ;
has been writing about the lighting and electrical prod-
ucts industry for more than 25 years. Reach her at susan.bloom.
© W I L D P I X E L / I S T O C K
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