Seiche Sanders' portraitI’ve always heard that the distribution industry is all about product. Distributors worry about selling more product and moving that product out of the warehouse at a faster rate. But in my recent talks with jan/san distributors, I’ve been hearing otherwise. It seems this business may be more about the people.

One distributor I spoke with told me he was concerned whether his company had the right people in leadership positions. He wasn’t alone. At the ISSA/INTERCLEAN® trade show in Orlando last month, I attended a panel discussion on recruiting and retaining better workers. The room was packed with business owners looking for answers.

The products you carry are still a crucial aspect of business; however, putting the right people in place will help alleviate your product concerns. The right sales manager will lead and motivate his sales team to sell more products to more customers. The right delivery drivers and warehouse workers will ensure those products are shipped out of the warehouse and delivered accurately and on time.

Recruiting and retaining employees is a full-time job. If you wait until an employee leaves before you start looking for a replacement, you’ll always be behind the curve. Designate an employee to spend his or her time searching for potential recruits. Continually assess your current workforce and determine who may be likely to leave. Have backups in place, or incentives ready to offer if need be.

For information on recruiting and retaining young workers, check out our podcast with Robert Wendover, director of the Center for Generational Studies, at

If you have more questions about how to attract quality employees, ask your customers. Building service contractors and in-house service professionals are in the people business, too. Their success depends on the staff in place to clean their buildings. They may have advice you can use in your own business.