8 Key Questions that Can Make or Break Your Distribution Business

Ranga Bodla, Head of Industry Marketing, NetSuite

September 5, 2017

Dirk Beveridge, the noted wholesale distribution thought leader and innovator, has eight critical questions for distributors to ponder as they strategize how to grow their businesses in challenging times.

The eight questions are packaged up in an online Innovative Mindset Assessment tool(opens in new tab) offered by Beveridge, founder of Unleash WD and author of “INNOVATE! How Successful Distributors Lead Change In Disruptive Times.”

For instance, in the tool distribution professionals are asked about their approach to the future of their businesses. They can select from four responses that range from:

  • “You are completely consumed by the day-to-day of the business and can’t see a path forward through the fog or uncertainty.”


  • “You are in a fearless pursuit of tomorrow, continually peering into the future, defining and creating your organization’s destiny.”

After taking a few minutes to answer the self-assessment questions, distributors are scored on their current and ideal mindsets around eight characteristics of innovation: 1) Energized and Optimistic 2) Intellectual 3) Think Big 4) Challenger 5) Experimenter 6) Do-er 7) Value Creator and 8) Own The Future.

“The Innovative Mindset Assessment tool identifies the characteristics of those who don’t innovate with the ultimate goal of helping to identify where they fall on the spectrum and what they specifically need to do to improve your position,” said Beveridge, who also produced a recent webinar(opens in new tab) for distributors called The Innovative Mindset.

Plotting Your Course from A to Z

I totally agree with Beveridge that a mindset focused on innovation is a must for distributors to differentiate and transform their businesses. But adapting mindsets to embrace and drive innovation is not necessarily easy.

For some people, that can be challenging on an individual level. Organizational barriers are more difficult to overcome. A business culture that’s stuck in the past and resistant to change is an obstacle that has led to the demise of untold companies in every industry. Unless innovative leaders are steering the ship, a company may be headed for rocky shoals.

Taking stock of where you are and where you need to be is a fundamental first step to innovation. Understanding what innovation entails is mandatory. That’s why a tool like Beveridge’s Innovative Mindset Assessment can be so valuable.

At NetSuite, we’ve helped thousands of distribution companies run faster, leaner and more profitably. But technology alone is not a cure-all. We have some distribution customers that continue to underperform because laggard leadership misfires on the use of IT systems and other areas.

The sweet spot is innovative, future-focused leadership that takes full advantage of NetSuite’s unified platform to drive transformation and competitive advantage. Our distribution customers routinely see double-digit gains across all key metrics when creative leaders automate critical processes with cloud ERP(opens in new tab), CRM(opens in new tab) and ecommerce(opens in new tab).

Innovation in Perspective

It’s also important to keep innovation in perspective. We’re plunging into a future of drone delivery, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, the Internet of Things and driverless vehicles. But innovations at a distribution company don’t need to make the cover of Wired magazine to qualify as innovation.

Moving from a clunky first-generation website to a seamless ecommerce portal for your customers is an innovation that drives the business forward. So is an EDI system that cuts your partner onboarding time, or a demand planning tool that slashes your inventory carrying costs.

Maybe you use a mobile-enabled warehouse management system that improves fulfillment speed and accuracy, or equip your sales reps with a product catalog, real-time inventory data and mobile ordering on a sleek tablet, so they can showcase and order products right from a customer’s office.

Aggregate those individual gains into a whole and you’ve made a massive transformation in business performance and profitability. That’s innovation. And it translates to business advantage in a fiercely competitive industry.

Like Beveridge, I see incredible potential in wholesale distribution to achieve transformative gains. But as Beveridge’s research has found, the pace of change needs to accelerate: 85 percent of distributors believe they need to reinvent their businesses before someone else does.

To get started, check out Beveridge’s Innovative Mindset Assessment tool(opens in new tab) and see how your organization scores.

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.

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