Zachary T. Haines
DPA Buying Group

Kim Allison-Foster
National Independent Sanitary Supply Companies (NISSCO), LLC

Ty Huffer
The United Group

Kevin Chow
Vice President Of Member Development
Triple S

How important is a sense of community in a buying group?

Allison-Foster – For NISSCO members who regularly participate in our annual conferences and other incentive trips, “community” has become very important. We see distributors supporting one another across the country as a result of friendships and connections made at our meetings each year. There is a common attitude of support and cooperation. Partnerships are formed and information is freely shared. The sense of community is very strong. I am always intrigued by the companies who “make connections” that span the entire country and how often they reach out to communicate with each other for support.

Chow – This is unquestionably a strength of Triple S. We are truly a family or distributors who work very closely together to help one another succeed. Whether it is sharing or best practices, networking on a personal level, or simply serving as a sound piece, our members remain in constant communication and relish the community aspect of the group. It has been especially rewarding to see how the first group of graduates of our Executive Development Program have developed a tight knit network and are frequently bouncing ideas off one another. And, of course, the open communication extends to Triple S staff.

Haines – Extremely. Individually, we are all fiercely independent, but there's also a realization that we are all in this thing together. We learn from one another and grow together.

Do buying group members feel that their membership replaces benefits of being part of a trade association?

Allison-Foster – This varies from distributor to distributor – many of our members are active at both levels. But consistent messaging to us through the years is that the members like the “one-on-one attention” they receive from the supplier community when at the group show. Distributors feel there is more focused communication at this level and better opportunity to communicate and discuss their individual market needs.

Haines – Yes. Many of our distributors choose to attend only the DPA conference because it is just distributors and suppliers – no contract cleaners. The distributors meet with their group's vendors for a few days, learn about new products and take advantage of show promotions. If they have to choose one meeting to attend, they more than likely will come to the DPA show.
With that said, DPA is a proud and longtime member of the ISSA. We encourage participation by our members in our industry's association and we see many of our member companies there. We are not diametrically opposed to one another.

How will buying groups remain relevant into the future?

Huffer – We do not use the term buying group as we are a sales and marketing organization. We need to continue to provide our members with tools that will help them increase sales, educate, and provide additional support to compete in the future.

Chow – This is a question we ask ourselves every day. We believe if we can continue to provide new tools and services that help our members compete, prosper and meet customer needs, we will not only remain relevant but position ourselves as an indispensable distributor resource.  Does that mean we are going to look the same as we do today? We don’t think anyone knows the answer. Our guess is in the next five years, there will be significant changes as we seek to evolve with the market.

Haines – DPA will remain relevant by expanding and strengthening our presence in a larger number of diverse industries. We are contracted with jan/san suppliers such as Georgia-Pacific, Essity, and von Drehle, but we can also get a jan/san distributor the same price as Grainger on Makita power tools. That is strength. It presents our members with opportunities to grow and expand into new markets and pick up untapped business. Whether it's gloves, ladders, high-visibility vests or hand soap, this is one way we are remaining relevant – simple product diversification.
We also stick to the formula that works and don't try to get too cute, especially if it will cost our members money that could otherwise go back in their pockets.

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Distributor Consolidation And Where Buying Groups Fit In