Posted on

Distributors’ perspective: Invest in your branch manager

by David Williams

In these tough economic times, many are focusing strictly on needs vs. wants. The “want-to-haves” are pushed to the wayside in favor of the immediate issues at hand. In my opinion, investing in a branch manager’s education is more than just a want, it is a crucial need in order to grow your business and maximize your company’s assets.

Think about it. Your branch manager is really your first line of defense. At our company, the branch manager has a few duties. First, they lead people to the branch, and people are the most important asset we have. Having good leadership to coordinate and maximize our assets is most important and the branch manager keeps people moving in the same direction and gives a vision to the group.

Secondly, the branch manager will manage logistics, day-to-day operations of the branch including sales, warehouse operations, inventory control, and trucking or shipping. This is critical in my mind for the success of any branch. You can either make or lose money from that part of the leadership role. In distribution, there can be a very fine line between profitability and loss, which makes a well-run branch consistently successful.

The better your branch manager is the more opportunities for success you are going to be given. Let’s be honest: Most branch managers are probably not qualified when you hire them. It’s what you put into a branch manager that can ultimately make them successful.

We at Horizon Forest Products spend thousands of dollars in education on our key people. We feel like we are a better company today than we were one or even five years ago because of the investment we put in education of our key staff members. The only way they are going to get better is to invest money in those key people to help them grow to that next level.

NAFCD’s relationship with the University of Industrial Distribution (UID) has given NAFCD members access to distribution education with other industries that may do something different but have the same basic business model. We learn from each other, as an application in one industry certainly applies in another. Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can learn from other people in the same type of distribution business.

The UID is the industry’s premier distribution-specific education program, led by industry trade associations and delivered by content experts. The UID, in its 17th year, is widely recognized as “the source for distribution management education and cross-industry networking.”

For me, the UID this year was a great investment. There were a lot of different education segments from sales to inventory to logistics, accounts receivable and more. The program at UID is incredible. You can go, and if you have weak areas in your business, you can tailor your education process around those areas and become better. You can choose from course topics like distribution marketing, value- added selling, business leadership, distribution profitability, consumer psychographics and channel alignment. Your branch manager can even earn credits toward a certificate in industrial distribution provided by Purdue University.

An educated branch manager is critical in order to be successful. Make sure they are as good as they possibly can be.

For more information on benefits offered by NAFCD, please visit nafcd.org or call 312.321.6836. For more information about the University of Industrial Distribution, please visit univid.org.