Following a spike in confirmed cases, state and local governments are taking steps to roll back their COVID response plans. Whether your area is still on the traditional red, orange, yellow scale or introduced a brand new color to signify just how serious they are about flattening the curve, it’s likely that your business has had to make a few changes once again.

Continued Challenges to Distribution Businesses: A Call to Action

As a distributor, this might come as a challenge. This is supposed to be a busy time of year. Retail-focused distributors need to have all hands on deck to handle the holiday rush, while those focused on industrial supply and the like need to handle the potential rush of buyers looking to take advantage of Section 179 purchases.

Worse, depending on the facility location, your competitors may have a bit more flexibility than you, making it even harder to remain competitive, offer timely shipping, and stay productive.

You might feel like you’re in month to month survival mode. You may continue to face pressure in the coming months. A dark winter has been promised, and it’s going to be necessary to lay the groundwork for resilience. As you work to close the books on 2020 and hopefully get a fresh start in 2021, it’s important to understand how you’re going to fortify your operations.

The 8 A’s of Distribution Resilience

You likely know the four P’s—product, price, place, and promotion. You may have even heard of the 4 Ps of business transformation: profitability, process, productivity, and positioning.

These are absolutely important to survival and growth. They’re imperative on the attack. But defense or lack thereof can be the difference between a win and a loss. Being able to bounce back after a tough time is critical (just ask a Jets fan about either). As you close out your year, ask yourself if your business and leadership has embraced the following traits of resilient businesses.

1) Audacity: The Courage Needed to Change

When things don’t work, you have to be able to admit they aren’t working. But you also have to take steps in the right direction. Admitting you are wrong takes courage. Taking a risk requires even more.

Many distributors aren’t ready to take the risk and would rather wait until a competitor tries something or a major customer asks for it. Here’s a tip. Don’t.

2020 has presented a lot of challenges, but if you’re willing and able to carve a spot in a niche, you can thrive. Do something differently. Take initiative. Be audacious.

2) Awareness: See the Big Picture

But if you read the last 95 words and thought “yeah! Let’s do it!”, hold up. Change needs to do something for your business, and the only thing more dangerous than paralysis is change for the sake of change.

Look at where you stand, dig into the problems and figure out how you’re going to match your business to the customer need. It’s important to know that technology isn’t the end-all, but it will give you the real-time data and decision support you may need.

3) Action: Forge Ahead with the Right Information

As noted by MDM author Pradip Krishnadevarajan, “[it’s] all about data-driven execution.” Smart decisions are well-informed ones, and data helps you to take any emotion out of the equation.

4) Acceptance: Selling People on an Idea

Big ideas and big changes often face big resistance. Users and executives will poke holes in the decisions, and that’s not a bad thing. Much like your sales team, you need to be ready and able to handle objections and present value.

Generating buy-in is all about promising value and delivering it. Maybe your warehouse staff has become accustomed to spreadsheets and would fight back against changes. You have to take big steps to ensure they understand how much time this will save them. This is the role of the executive sponsor, a visionary who can keep people motivated and hungry for the change.

5) Accessibility: Make Buy-in Easy

Whether you’re changing a process or improving technology, it has to be palatable. Plans need to be straightforward. Project vision needs to be concise. Goals need to be actionable. Krishnadevarajan notes that accessibility is built on three things—done is better than perfect, follow the rule of threes, and fit the change into the current workflow.

Learn how accessibility makes ERP buy-in easy from our blog on what makes an intuitive interface.

6) Application: Putting Something to Good Use

A unique challenge requires a unique solution. Knowing this, any time you approach a business challenge, it’s unique to your workforce and business model. Rigidity is the bane of functionality.

Whatever the change is, the path to making it needs to align with the way you work. Small steps in the right direction are better than dumping ‘hope’ and ‘change’ on people who don’t want it. For example, we labeled ERP a three legged stool, and used the traditional example to explain the reasons user interface, support, and functionality are inseparable.

7) Agility: Take Criticism, Steer Appropriately

From the rise of Toyota’s lean methods to the push toward agile methodologies, agility is built on feedback. If your GPS spots an accident ahead, it’s going to steer you around it. You have to take the same approach with a project. Take criticism, respond to feedback, and let your employees have a say—it will be a lot easier than dragging a faltering change management project to a finish line.

But Krishnadevarajan adds that you need to act as that GPS. Predict the future. Know what might be asked of you and have an idea in place of the next route.

8) Advancement: Let the Snowball Roll

Change begets change. Today’s best practice is tomorrow’s common practice. We’ve said that transformation is an ongoing process—not a metamorphosis. Your ability to use one success as a selling point for another success is imperative, and that next change might just be a bit bigger than the last.

The Path to Resilience Might Not be Easy—But the Results Can be Exceptional

Whether you’re changing a process, a system, or a business model, the path to resilience requires the right mindset, action plan, and partner. Whatever the change, understand that there will be pushback and there will be pitfalls, but leaders with the courage and mental fortitude can lead change.

We don’t like to beat around the bush in New York. In fact, it’s why MIBAR has become synonymous with the term New York ERP Partner. It’s because we helped leaders make some of the hardest changes their organizations have had to make.

When you turn to us, you know that we’ll help you find a solution that works for you—not for our revenue numbers. At MIBAR, your success is our success. Let’s talk.

Additional Distribution Resources

Regardless of Scenario, Cash Flow is Key: How Distributors Can Step Up AR

2021 Distribution Predictions: Multiple Outcomes Require Multiple Tactics

What Happens When Your Distribution Firm Lands a Big Fish?