Bearded man smiles

It certainly seems that Amazon is out to get jan/san distributors. Everyone knows the company is king of e-commerce and its Amazon Business website offers thousands of janitorial supplies to buy with a click of a button. 

Last year, Amazon announced further encroachment into the jan/san market with a new commercial cleaning private label line. Now, end users can order Amazon-branded glass cleaners, multi-purpose cleaners and more than a dozen other products. 

No doubt the e-tailer is after distributors’ customers. But they are likely stealing distributors’ employees, too. Last October, Amazon announced a $15 minimum wage for all of its warehouse workers, as well as access to a career development program that offers tuition reimbursement. Distributors looking to fill positions in their own warehouses once again have to fight Amazon. What’s a distributor to do?

At the ISSA Show in Dallas, the advice from distributors was “Don’t out-Amazon Amazon.” In other words, don’t try to copy Amazon because you can’t win. Be yourself. This was in reference to competing online, but I think it works in all cases. Distributors have to know their strengths and play to them. 

For example, to counter the e-commerce threat, distributors offer premier customer service and training. This same approach works with attracting employees. Build a personal company culture that a big corporation like Amazon can’t compete with. I’ve met CEOs in this industry who make an effort to get to know every employee in their companies on a personal level, from the warehouse on up to the corporate team. That effort makes everyone feel they are a valued contributor. 

In addition, distributors should talk to their current warehouse staff to learn what matters to them. Discover the perks they take advantage of most, and ask what benefits they would like to see. Also, create opportunities for advancement. 

If distributors build a solid company culture, they won’t have to worry when Amazon comes to town.