Ailene Grego
President & CEO
SouthEast LINK
Atlanta, Georgia

Meredith Reuben
EBP Supply Solutions,
A Division of Imperial Dade
Milford, Connecticut

Nick Spallone
Tahoe Supply Company
Las Vegas, Nevada

Has the pandemic opened any doors for distributors who offer diversified product lines?

Grego: Those who are not diversifying are having a difficult time because purchases of our core products have not returned to pre-pandemic numbers. Those numbers may never return if businesses continue to offer remote or hybrid options. The distributors who will succeed are those that embrace change and new, innovative technologies. These items are much more technical in nature. You must commit to study it, test it and re-test it to feel comfortable selling it. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Spallone: I believe market-leading expertise will rule the roost. The complexity of managing the functionality of cleaning will allow for companies that specialize to be highly successful.

Reuben: As we are seen as providers of a "safe" environment in terms of preventing disease, I can see expanding into more diverse glove offerings, "medical-like supplies" and safety products, as well as air filtration systems.

If you had to list three areas of opportunity that jan/san distributors should consider as they plan for a new year, what would they be?

Spallone: Remaining flexible, creative, and improving speed to market will allow a company to deliver the best resources to their customers.

Reuben: First, keep your existing customers by honing your supply chain processes — expediting, appointment setting for incoming truckers, etc. Second, look for adjacent products such as air filters, which you may not have sold before.

Finally, be creative about solutions for your customers when they can't find the exact product out there. There usually is an alternative or combination of alternatives.

Grego: Continue to recruit, even when you don't necessarily have an open position. You never know when someone may leave unexpectedly and you certainly don't want to miss an opportunity to find a gem.

Investigate new technologies. Don't trust the first rep who comes to see you. Do your research. Talk to multiple companies in that space so you get all your questions answered before deciding which is best for your company.

Separate yourselves from the pack. Don't be a "me too" company — meaning selling what everyone else is selling and competing on price. Offer services that others can't. Some of those include, education, training and vendor-managed inventory. Make it easy for customers to do business with you and become the expert they seek out when questions arise. The answer is always "yes." You just have to figure out how that can be done and how much that will cost them.

previous page of this article:
Jan/San Opportunities Brought On By The Pandemic