2021 Action Items: Where to Focus?

February 9, 2021

2021 is off to a fast start! Hopefully a better year is ahead. You can facilitate this by setting up a business plan. If you’re still developing your 2021 business plan, we have some suggestions to help! You can begin by reviewing our previous article on business planning considerations.

The challenge is often knowing where to start and what to prioritize. Here are a couple key areas of your business on which to focus and start taking action:

Customer Profitability

Distribution performance experts classify customers into a number of different profit categories. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to focus on two groups: your high-profit customers and your low-profit customers.

Most companies are good at keeping top-performing customers happy, and in a year of rebuilding coming off the pandemic problems of 2020, this is just as important as ever. However, you need to do it without sacrificing your own profit margins (i.e., not cutting prices just because it would make them happy). Instead, your technology should give you insights into how to keep customers productive by continuing to provide them with what they need and exactly how much of it they need.

With lots of businesses feeling the monetary pinch of the pandemic, buyers won’t be as easily pressured to purchase excess inventory if they are unconfident that the product will move as it normally would. Having technology that provides you with a full scope of their order history, your real-time inventory, and purchasing demands will keep everyone happy.

Conversely, when considering low-profit customers, you may be contemplating cutting the cord and ending the relationship. It is the easiest thing to do sometimes, but divestment can be tricky and there are a lot of factors to consider. On the other hand, what if you could turn some of your low-profit customers into “some-profit” customers? It may not be feasible with every customer in this category, but it may be worth some experimentation.

Ask yourself, at this point in the customer relationship, do you have a strong pulse on what is important to them? Do they need more sales support than they currently receive? Would a different product mix encourage them to buy more often? Does their product pricing need to be re-evaluated? What value-add are they looking for with you that their other vendors currently offer? Can you leverage their order history to see if reps are maximizing interactions each time they call?

If you carry out a similar analysis, ask some questions, and find some low-hanging action items, you are positioned to begin building back the relationship as if it were day 1 with both sides mutually benefitting!

 

Talent Development + Technology

As it goes for all businesses, you must first invest in your employees in order to invest in your customers. This especially holds true for small and medium-sized businesses since, at a moment’s notice, your employees may call out sick for days at a time. This inherently puts stress on your staff and their ability to service customers.

If you are a smaller distributor, your staff may be used to wearing “multiple hats.” Cross-training and talent development will ensure your daily operations run smoothly in the event of unexpected staff absences. Determine which processes and workflows are easiest for additional staff member training and consider how you can incent your team to be productive in new areas of business.

Other questions to consider:

  • What employees aren’t currently technology-enabled?
  • Does everyone have access to your ERP system who should?
  • Can some individuals take on an additional task to boost overall productivity?
  • Does your ERP system or current processes allow users to customize their screens to maximize productivity?
  • What manual processes have you been meaning to eliminate, and will those processes become more efficient with technology?

 

Takeaway

While the aforementioned topics have many facets with correlating action items, each shares a common thread: leveraging technology to drive business decisions. Now more than ever, distribution technology provides the tools necessary to excel in today’s complicated business landscape.

As customer expectations continue to rise, maintaining their satisfaction can become more challenging as distributors balance pandemic-related issues in the coming months. In 2021, distribution leaders can no longer rely on outdated legacy systems or piecemeal 3rd party applications alongside disconnected accounting software. The keystone to streamlining all phases of your distribution processes is a proven, ever-evolving, comprehensive ERP solution.

Success for today’s distributors requires 360-degree awareness into business functions. Losing sight of just one piece can quickly ripple into a business-wide disruption. Here at Distribution One, we understand how to best leverage technology to help you make better business decisions and streamline workflows in every area of your business. If gaining more control over your business functions is a priority this year, send us a quick note. We’re happy to help you get started towards a better 2021.

 

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