2. Is that still the biggest reason for your company’s membership? If not, what is?

Yes, the modus operandi is pretty much the same only that the competitors are even larger than before! We joined Triple S because we felt it was the most progressive organization for us. We wanted to align ourselves with a group that was forward-thinking and moved and acted like an independent group should. Triple S is a member-owned organization, all members own stock in the organization, and it is run like a corporation should be run; with the shareholders best interests as the main concern of the organization.

Even back 23 years ago Triple S products were private-labeled and marketing material was as well. No other group was doing this marketing and creating a brand like Triple S was. Triple S was setting the stage for what the organization has become today. — Michael Chiappe, president, California Janitorial Supply Corp., San Jose, California, 23-year member of Triple S

One thing I really like about my group, DPA, is the strong focus on product diversification. As a distributor, I can get access to not only janitorial, but also to industry-leading manufacturers in different product channels, such as safety, packaging, restoration and industrial supplies. I have been able to attend DPA’s safety products trade show, which immediately follows the janitorial conference, and I was amazed at how many new products and categories that my company could be selling. The opportunities are all around us, and my group has enabled me to seize those opportunities and to win more business. — Jeff Tishko, owner, Colker Company, Pittsburgh, 15-year member of Distributor Partners of America

No. After 31 years, we are in a position to help mentor the new companies. We are still a member for several reasons. Pro-Link has given us access to resources we, as a small company, would not be able to afford on our own. Besides discounts and rebates, we have access to its marketing department that helps put programs together to go after new markets, professional collateral, the ability to record our own videos in their professional studio, and focus group discussions related to shifts in our markets, etc.

We also have three regional distribution centers to pull inventory from, which removes the minimums set by the manufacturers. Since starting that program, we’ve been able to reduce our inventory by hundreds of thousands of dollars and increase our turns 50 percent. This has greatly increased our cash flow and allowed us to take advantage of fast-pay discounts as well. The icing on the cake is that we, as a group, have a strong commitment to sharing our ideas collaboratively. — Ailene Grego, president and CEO, SouthEast Link, Atlanta, 30-plus-year member of Pro-Link

3. How have buying groups changed in the past 10 years?

I think it depends on which group you are talking about. Pro-Link has evolved into more than a buying group. In fact I don’t like that title, because it’s a term that refers to a group that is solely about discounts and rebates. As I’ve described above, Pro-Link is much more comprehensive in its offering to its members. — Ailene Grego, president and CEO, SouthEast Link, Atlanta, 30-plus-year member of Pro-Link

Over the years since we became members, Triple S has formed regional distribution centers throughout the United States in order to store our private-branded and manufacturer-labeled products, which means we can control inventory and cash flows better than ever. This also means there is a seamless flow of product from the manufacturer to the members and eventually to our end users. This insures that there is hardly ever a backorder of product for our end users. Triple S has been a member-owned corporation since its inception. As such, the entire membership acts with great pride to work as a team towards the benefit of the group. Triple S strives to stay abreast of the latest in technology, programs and products that will keep us at the top of our industry.

Networking has been and still is a beneficial component of our organization as we strive to adapt winning game plans from one market to another. Members are willing to share with other members market strategies that have been successful for them, in hopes that another member may duplicate the same success in its area. — Michael Chiappe, president, California Janitorial Supply Corp., San Jose, California, 23-year member of Triple S

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