2023 Projections for Distributors
Published on by Tony Lane in Wholesale / Distribution
What’s going to separate wholesale distribution leaders from the rest of the pack in 2023, and what trends are expected to have the biggest impact on the industry? Indian River Consulting Group Managing Partner and Co-Founder Mike Marks shared his insights in an exclusive event hosted by Modern Distribution Management, identifying four main themes expected to be top-of-mind for industry leaders.
Harnessing forward momentum
There’s been strong momentum within the distribution industry in the wake of the pandemic, as distributors have had to adapt and embrace new technologies like e-commerce. Now Marks says that momentum needs to be harnessed to ensure continued growth and expansion, including the development of analytical procedures that are tailored for your company and used to measure future growth.
Putting the pandemic’s impact in the rearview mirror is critical to moving forward, Marks says, because only at that point can distributors focus on the growth of their business and adapt to the changing times. The past few years have been quite the rollercoaster, as the crisis first drove substantial doubt and then exponential growth.
Focusing on this perceived growth can create challenges going forward, as companies now need to shift their focus away from top-line growth and focus more on volume. The focus on volume will give a better indication of the strength/growth of the company.
Four growth focus points
Focusing on the four areas below will help distributors focus on growth, according to Marks.
Continuous improvement isn’t a new idea, of course, but in 2023 it’s more important than ever – keeping a focus on the future and continually looking for ways to streamline, simplify, increase efficiency, boost productivity, and reduce costs. Analytics are key to understanding what’s working and what could be improved, so developing and tracking metrics is crucial.
As the business impact of the pandemic recedes, it will be important for distributors to develop closer relationships with both their customers and their vendors, looking for opportunities to provide value. At some point in the near future, customers will begin trying to claw back at some of the price increases that have been passed along as the result of inflation – so putting the business in a position to protect against margin fade is critical. Stronger relationships and added value are building blocks of that protection.
One of the recommendations you might find most surprising is this: Throw out the playbook! Marks said advances and growth can’t be expected if management is using manuals or playbooks. Instead, he recommends management actively take on leadership roles and adapt quickly to changing times.
Driving employee engagement is also critical – in order to succeed, everyone in the company must be focused on the end goals – and to do that, they must know what those goals are. Effective leaders will be transparent in this process and communicate clearly and openly with their teams.
Marks believes that both internal and external transparency are important for distributor success, and points to the success of Amazon as an example – transparency to vendors on pricing structures and other vital business elements, and transparency with customers from the pricing and delivery model standpoint.
As noted above, Marks also believes it’s important for distributors to be transparent with employees. He recommends conducting an employee engagement survey and asking what the three strategic objectives are for 2023. He says every employee should know what the company’s top objectives are, so they know how their role impacts delivering on those objectives.
Doing right by your employees
Marks noted that being transparent and providing strong leadership for employees empowers them with the ability to drive the company, saying “Participation creates commitment.” Employees want to feel like they’re working for an employer that wants to win, not a manager who’s strictly driven by their cost structure.
Beyond strong leadership and transparency, Marks notes that inflation has inevitably had a major impact on your employees and that almost everyone has seen a decrease in their purchasing power. He recommends distributors take a hard look at compensation levels and ensure they’re treating their employees fairly – because, he says, if employees feel disrespected or unappreciated, it will be hard to keep them motivated – if you can keep them at all. (For current trends and insights into compensation and benefits in the Distribution industry, download our 2022 Wholesale/Distribution Compensation & Benefits Study).
Creating a roadmap for the future
Marks states that by focusing on the four areas above, distributors will help ensure they’re successful in 2023 and driving toward a stronger future. If you’d like to hear more, you can access the full event on-demand here.
If like many distributors your business is growing fast and you’re thinking about a CFO, see why the fractional CFO model might be a fit. Also, download the 2022 Wholesale/Distribution Compensation & Benefits study.
If you have a question or would like to talk through the report or business challenges your distribution business is facing, contact us. Our Wholesale/Distribution pros are here to help you build a better, brighter future.