Anonymous Distributor

It’s official: I’m the new Anonymous Distributor. My name is _____________, and I work for ___________ in __________, ____. What’s great about being the AD (as I will begin referring to myself) is that I can write whatever I want, and you won’t know who wrote it. With that said, here will be my AD creed.

1) I will never lie to you. (Might stretch the truth for amusement purposes only.)

2) I will not tell you how to run your businesses. (Hopefully, some of the information sparks your brain with dollar signs.)

3) I will gladly accept your feedback and topic suggestions via e-mail at or on Twitter @OPEMAGAD.

Now, let’s get to work. What are you doing differently in your business now compared to when you started it? If you just started your business, this isn’t a fair question since you’re probably doing the same thing. But if you started your business let’s say 4 years ago, you may have learned some new things. When I became a distributor, I thought I knew everything about being a distributor. Guess what? I found out that I barely knew how to spell distributor, let alone how to be one.

So the big question is: How do we learn what to do? We can take classes to understand the business portion, but who can teach us about posted shop labor rates, floor planning, what products to sell, how many people to employ, how to evaluate employees, and how to handle the tough times? Is it the manufacturer you turn to for answers? I believe it is for some things. Is it your distributor? Again, I believe it is for some things. But what it comes down to whom you learn from, it is your customers.

You might be thinking, “Come on AD, get it together, they don’t teach me anything.” But they do! Who accepts or complains about your posted shop labor rates? Your customers. Who demands that you have products on the floor? Your customers. And who determines what you stock? Your customers. You get the point. Without their input, whether voiced vocally or by their purchasing habits, your customers are your best teachers.

This doesn’t just pertain to brick-and-mortar dealers either. If you’re managing a website with e-commerce capabilities, you have the same issues as the brick-and-mortar side of your business. Pricing may be too high, your freight policies may be too high, and your product mix may not be right. Regardless of web traffic or in-store traffic, you should change when change is warranted. Here are a few ideas that might help get your cranium juices flowing.

1) Focus on your customers: Use polls to understand what your customers want or expect. You might want to use email polls to do this. You might place a whiteboard at your front counter and allow your customers to vote when they visit your store. Make your customers feel like their opinions really do matter to your business. If you do it with a contest, you can gather names and email addresses for your upcoming fall special! And you do have a fall special, right?

2) Know your competition: Do you know what your closest competitor is doing? Do both of you have competing lines? If yes, who is getting the most sales? If it’s your competition, understand why and if you can’t beat them, get a replacement line they don’t have. Let others fight it out while you put your energy into a unique line where there are no competing dealers around.

3) Understand your labor rate: Your shop can be a profit center (and it should be). In way too many cases, there are dealers that allow their competition to set their labor rates. This is BAD! Only you know YOUR expenses. I understand you can’t be $10 higher than the others, but you CAN justify your reason for being $2 higher.

I look forward to sharing ideas in OPE, and hopefully, they generate some ideas of your own.