How do you plan to bring back buying and networking events in 2021?

Keough: We are planning to hold our annual meeting this October. Our member-owners have the same shared values of entrepreneurship, hard work, comradery and cooperation, and the annual in-person conference is an extension of this. The pandemic took that away in 2020 and our member-owners are eager to get back together, of course, with safe protocols.

Haines: We are first and foremost concerned with the safety and well-being of our members and attendees. Nobody has a crystal ball. Our group has already had to cancel our 2020 show and postpone our spring 2021 show.

We are cautiously optimistic that our conference will proceed in the fall of this year, at which proper safety protocols will be put in place to ensure a safe and productive working experience. If we cannot have an in-person show, then we have a virtual option ready as a back-up.

Huffer: We moved our annual conference from May to late September in hopes that we would be able to have an in-person event. We will continue to monitor everything involving the pandemic, from vaccinations to rates of infection, etc. If we do have an in-person conference, we have procedures in place to ensure it will be as safe as reasonably possible.

If it's not in the best interest to have an in-person event, we have a Plan B. Our main priority has and always will be the safety, health and well-being of our member stockholders, our preferred suppliers, and their families.

In what areas do you see growth potential for your members?

Haines: Category expansion! End users want to shop at one place for all of their product needs. Over the last 15 years, we have expanded into the safety, packaging, restoration and industrial markets. We even launched a public safety division that caters to police, fire and first responders.

This may seem like a stretch from paper towels and can liners, but there are all sorts of markets that a jan/san distributor can compete in if provided with pricing, programs and access to product. There is opportunity all around us, even if we might not see it yet.

We can help distributors establish relationships with manufacturers or redistributors (low minimums) in those areas so that if a need ever arises, they know where they can go for those products. Simple diversification can go a long way.
Keough: We are helping member-owners grow through market specialization. Jan/san distributors got pushed out of healthcare due to GPOs and med-surg distributors cutting margin on products in common. We have access to all the major GPOs in healthcare and long-term care, and offer unique disinfectants, as well as cleaning and disinfecting training programs to fight Clostridium difficile (C.diff) — a deadly pathogen found in these two markets, and a much harder-to-kill pathogen than SARS-CoV-2.
Huffer: Distributors are going to need to think outside the box in order to compete, not only with current competitors, but with those nontraditional competitors that have entered our space. You have to be willing to research every opportunity and take a chance on something that might seem unconventional because, in all likelihood, that could become the “norm” in the future.

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