A current trend throughout the business arena is to consolidate small to mid-size distributors to form large conglomerates and publicly held companies with massive buying power. The chemical industry is being affected by this dramatic change. Big distributors are emerging that use the appeal of large orders to squeeze manufacturers and suppliers to lower their prices. This raises a few questions. Are strong-arm tactics designed to save customers a few dollars with no regard for the future of the industry, good for business? Is the risky business of fast lane growth worth sacrificing long established personal relationships due to automation? These things happen when public companies are fulfilling their obligations to stockholders.
1. The Privately Held Mid-Size Distributor
Doing business with a mid-size distributor definitely has its advantages. Many are privately held, allowing customers to develop personal relationships with their distributor built on trust and transparency. Relationships with no hidden agendas or stakeholders influencing supply.
Employees in mid-size, privately held companies have more decision power when working with customers, e.g., TCC functions as a flat organization. No wall structured management system exists to stifle communication between sales, employees, and the key principals. Pricing and supply is transparent and openly communicated between everyone involved in all business transactions.
TCC is also committed to staying privately held. In this market of acquisition, many customers are fearful of a disruption in their supply chain. If their distributor is consolidated, their fears are justified, i.e., If a needed item is in short supply, the companies with the biggest orders are filled first when buying from a big distributor. Others have to communicate with voice mail and email to find out why they were back ordered and when they can expect delivery. Electronic voices and automated systems can be frustrating when answers are needed right away.
2. Offering more than just products, Mid-Size continues to offer better Customer Service
As companies grow by acquisition, so does the difficulty to reach sales contacts and customer service representatives. Whether it’s due to fast lane expansion or lack of infrastructure, many companies have outsourced customer service and/or eliminated telephone operators. During normal day-to-day activities, this may not be a factor. However, in times of immediate need, the strain will be felt. Again, transfers from voicemail upon voicemail through an automated system or recording can be discouraging.
Many mid-sized companies like TCC believe in the appeal of personal customer service. People like to talk to people when communicating by telephone. At TCC, we provide a 24/7-phone service. Monday through Friday 8-5 PM EST, live customer service representatives answer calls. During non-business hours, callers are directed to an answering machine that is immediately forwarded to the head of customer service as well as to our president. A live representative will return emergency calls within the hour and all other calls the next business day. Many mid-size distributors like TCC offer multi-lingual representatives so customers can converse in their native languages, and do business comfortably.
Our sales employees go beyond the needs of customers and potential customers. We believe in helping people and answering inquiries even if they don’t generate sales.
A great example of this policy comes from one of our sales VPs, A.J. Petrarca: “We often receive call inquires regarding small quantities. In some cases, we can customize our options to service needs, although occasionally, the quantity is too small. I always take the call, listen to the company, and make my best recommendation to where they can source their product. In my opinion, it’s just being a person helping another person. It’s not always about the sale.”
That small extra step, to help someone in need, has paid dividends that are beyond measure. At TCC, we keep old school calling as a primary option to contact us. We will never be so large that we compromise personal service.
3. Fulfilling an array of product needs met by distributors trusted relationships with multiple suppliers
Mid-size distributors like TCC are always open to adding more products and services. That’s why developing trusted relationships with multiple suppliers is so important. We can communicate customer needs to manufacturers so they can work on developing new innovations that will improve the industry.
Some publicly traded companies attempt to strong-arm suppliers by holding large volume orders over their heads, while mid-size distributors develop strong relationships with their producing partners. Negotiations and discussions are not based on the quantity the distributor will purchase if they don’t agree to a specific price. Instead, the focus is on finding a middle ground so that both companies benefit. A lower price in the short term appears great, although it’s very difficult to start from scratch if a supplier goes under. At TCC, we believe that a business deal is only good if it is good for everyone involved.
Our goal is to fulfill our customer’s needs while insuring the growth and stability of our suppliers and the industry.