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Lift & Shift

An ongoing conversation on evolving and growing business through innovation.

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3 Ways Culture Will Allow You To Compete with Distribution's Big Boys

  
  
  
Culture Is Comptetitive Advantage

If you’re like most leaders within distribution, you’ve had many recent conversations about how does the average distributor compete today and tomorrow against “the big boys.”

I recently had the opportunity to talk to the CEO of a mid size distributor who plays in the automation industry. In his own words, innovation "is key to our survival."  He told me in no uncertain terms that the days of the mom and pop distribution company with just a few shelves in the back "will be eaten alive."

As he looks at some of the bigger distributors like Motion, Command Distribution, Grainger, and even Amazon and Google, he suggested that "if we don't do a number of major things in our business every year to try and stay as close to the front of the curve as we can, then we are going to be in trouble."

This CEO suggested that if you have the culture that supports "doing a number of major things" there is significant opportunity for you, your employees, and your company.  But, where do you start to make this cultural shift?

At October’s UnleashWD Innovation Summit many viable lessons were learned that every distributor can take away to create a culture that fosters innovation and innovative thinking – to compete against those big boys.  Here are three of them:

  1. Ensure your values support innovation and that your people support your values.  Blinds.com Founder and CEO Jay Steinfeld has created a culture based on values which include “Improve continuously” and “explore without fear.”  At Blinds.com you won’t just find these values hanging on a wall because he has built the company by employing individuals who have a real desire to grow professionally and personally.  Two of Jay’s tenants that you can immediately bring to your business – Hire only aligned people and eliminate all unaligned people. 
  2. Create a propensity for action.  Chef Homaro Cantu became tired of the constant complaints about the ill effects of sugar in the American diet.  His mantra to his team: “Let’s not just complain about sugar, let’s do something about it.”  And that is what he is doing.  Chef Cantu and his team have created a culture of action and innovation creating the future of food by combining the world of technology and natural food to create real results.  The lesson is that the big boys of the industry seem to be ignoring the sugar problem. The independent Cantu however has a culture that says – see a problem, fix a problem.
  3. Inject new thinking into your business.  Matt Hlavin CEO of Thogus products found himself in a position where he needed to create a new culture of innovation by reinventing the staid family business.  His solution was to consciously hire student interns and recent grads and to bring in more engineers – all with new mindsets and new expertise.  Then he gave them the reigns.  Matt painted a vision of where he was taking the organization – from being defined as an injection molding company to that of a solutions provider – and gave these new thinkers the responsibility and accountability for critical aspects of the business.  

Your Lift & Shift Opportunity

Look around your business.  Are you surrounded only by aligned people?  What steps today can you take to immediately bring in only the aligned and eliminate the unaligned?

Identify one process, system, or other obstacle within your business that is a constant source of frustration and/or complaining.  Commit to solving the issue in the next 90 days.  Act!

What can you do today to inject new thinking into your business?













Keynote Speaker Hopes to Inspire Innovation at UnleashWD

  
  
  
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Jay Steinfeld, CEO of Blinds.com believes in rapid experimentation—so much so that a massive test tube sits in the offices of the Houston based company.

How Blinds.com's Jay Steinfeld Defines Success

  
  
  
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One of the keynote speakers at UnleashWD, Jay Steinfeld, the CEO of Blinds.com, created a wildly successful business through the process of rapid experimentation.

Guest Post: Holding Back Innovation "the Elephant in the Room"

  
  
  
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Guest Post by John Johnson, Founder of White Space Interactive

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UnleashWD: Customer Centric Companies

  
  
  
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When was the last time that you viewed your company through the lens of a customer?

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Distribution Leaders Shape Only Innovation Summit for Distributors

  
  
  

UnleashWD started out as a vision for change in the wholesale distribution industry.

Three Innovation Techniques for Non-Techies

  
  
  

Companies need to innovate. Business owners hear this all the time, but what does it really mean?

How Distributors Can Encourage Their Team To Initiate

  
  
  

In the New York Times article Want to Innovate? Get Ready to Kiss Some Frogs, Andy Mills, president of Medline Industries tells his people to kiss a lot of frogs.  This expression is Mills’ way of communicating that not everything you initiate is going to work out - but you don’t know until you try.  So try.

Don’t Let What You Know Limit What You Can See

  
  
  

A challenge to innovation is when we allow what we know to limit what we can see.

For the first decade after the movie camera had been invented it was used in a limited way. In the late 1800’s the camera was set in the back of a theater to film the stage act. Most of the early films recorded segments of magic shows, plays, and vaudeville performances.  It was only after they discovered that the camera could be moved, that a revolution in storytelling occurred.

On the surface it seems pretty simple. Move the camera. And when you do, you create new ways of adding value.



Tomorrow Starts Here - Time For Distributors To Get Better Faster

  
  
  
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In their 2012 annual report, Cisco explains a key differentiator over the years has been its ability to capture market transitions which drive innovation that enables their customers’s long-term success.

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