About the Author
We sat down with Tom Buxton, CEO and founder of InterBizGroup, and asked him a series of questions relating to business supply dealers and resellers. Learn from Tom as he explains his own experience getting into and working as a dealer.
I worked with high school students for a Christian group called Young Life until 1988. At that point, my father asked me to sell for his small (4K per month) office products company in Lakewood, CO. He only had one customer and they were 45 miles away. I did not know how to sell office supplies, but I knew how I would want to be treated, so I started to cold call. My father died the month after I started selling for him, so my sister and I ran the company by ourselves for four years. I bought her out after four years and approximately four years later I sold to Corporate Express (CE) after receiving bids from multiple other large companies. In 1997 when I sold, we were the fastest-growing dealer in the Denver area. I worked for CE from 1997-2005. In 2005 I resigned from CE for the final time and started InterBizGroup. My goal has always been to help independent dealers compete with “the Big Guys” while simultaneously growing their profitability.
There are fewer differences than ever before in what the large companies can offer to take business away from smaller companies. Also, small companies that still focus on providing excellent service are growing significantly as long as they add other lines of business to their offerings. Those offerings need to include a few of the following: janitorial services, furniture, break room, promotional products, and anything else they can put on their own trucks.
Technology continues to advance rapidly, allowing dealers to become more focused on what they do well. They need to sell with a personal touch and have an excellent web presence that enables them to show all their offerings quickly and efficiently.
Customers love local more than ever and if a dealer can demonstrate that they are local and care about their prospects and customers, they will win in most cases.
Dealers have the ability to sell over 50K items just in the office products arena. No one looks at prices and cost changes as effectively as our team does at Margin Accelerator, so our dealers can ensure that they feature competitive prices on the most “emotional” items while raising their profitability on less emotional items. We don’t believe that dealers can price exactly like the “Boxes” and stay solvent, and the good news is that they don’t need to. The dealers that are using Margin Accelerator tell us that they have never had better margins or better service than they receive by using our team.
Find some veterans to help you determine how to go to market and what to go to market with, create a business plan that includes ramp-up times for initiatives, etc., and learn Margin Accelerator and use it daily. It is the best data management tool available to office dealers and had it been available when I owned my distribution company, I would have been able to expand my sales even more quickly. Lastly, feel free to contact me whether or not you are interested in Margin Accelerator. I provide a significant amount of consulting at no charge or obligation, because I am thankful for what this industry has done for my family and want to help others succeed to whatever extent I can.
The secret to Margin Accelerator is that we bring together a dealer’s current selling system with knowledge we have gained from managing nearly $200M worth of business for dealers throughout the United States. We find items that are selling below cost and consult with our dealers to ensure that they are priced correctly. We also ask how a dealer wants to approach the list price conundrum that has become pervasive during the past few years. If the dealer decides to sell everything below or at list, they will lose significant amounts of money, because manufacturers/wholesalers don’t always keep up on list price. However, both types of vendors do ensure that their prices go up to the dealer, so it is tricky if you want to remain profitable.
We also manage HP and Brother MAP for our dealers and will default to ensuring the dealer makes money on these products unless the dealer wants to continue to sell items for under cost (like printers). In summary, life is too short to try to sell people something they don’t need, so we do our best to help dealers whether or not they end up engaging with us. We actually tell 20% of the dealers that contact us that it doesn’t make sense for them to invest in Margin Accelerator, but we will still provide suggestions as to what we see happening in the marketplace if asked. This philosophy makes my job so easy because I don’t want to try to sell anyone our services that doesn’t need them.
I am a skier, a poor golfer with visions of getting better soon, and I have just started playing Pickleball because you don’t need to run as much as in tennis or racquetball. I live with my wife of 40 years, Jennifer, and we have one daughter that lives with us and another that has gone to Heaven ahead of us.
Learn more about Tom Buxton’s secret weapon, Margin Accelerator.
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About the Author