Over the last decade, industry talk has turned to extending the value proposition of the supply chain partnership. Companies are no longer categorized as “manufacturers” or “distributorships” (except when it comes to Print+Promo’s respective Top 50 lists); rather, “marketing service providers” has become the preferred descriptor. MSPs are expert communicators who excel at hearing the voice of the customer and responding to that voice. But what happens when organizations slash marketing budgets because of downswings in revenue or the economy? A savvy MSP maximizes adaptability because they know success depends on pivoting quickly and efficiently in the face of disruptive change.
Just look at the distributors, or MSPs, that comprise Print+Promo’s 2020 Top 50 Distributors chart. Before COVID-19 ravaged the world, personal protective equipment (PPE) never had a place in their product lines. Now, it’s a lifeline–and, for some, it has taken them above fiscal year projections. That’s not to say these business leaders have it all figured out. They are humans grieving lost routines, social connections and a sense of security like the rest of us. They lie awake at night worrying about the welfare of their employees.
To provide additional context, we spoke to Justin Zavadil, president of American Solutions for Business, No. 2 on the list.
In our past conversations, you’ve been very accepting of change. You’ve also expressed that your goal is not necessarily “to be the largest company, but the last company standing.” Considering that 2020 has been a year of unprecedented change, how have you and your team been adapting?
Justin Zavadil: 2020 has been a year filled with adaptation. We had to adapt to technology changes when we transitioned our entire 300 home office employees to remote work in a weekend without a hiccup. The technology team and help desk, along with all of our supervisors, had to adapt to supporting a staff that they could not meet with in person. I am incredibly proud of how we were able to make these changes so successfully.
We also had to adapt in what products and services to offer. We switched directions to offer PPE in the same amount of time as we had to move our employees remote. We were able to outsell our fiscal year projections with the help of PPE and other COVID-related sales, which made up for more than our shortfall in our normal business products. This year has proven what I already knew about our tremendous team. When you work with amazing people, you can get anything done.
How has the COVID-19 climate impacted American Solutions for Business?
JZ: In short, COVID has impacted us a lot. We have completely changed gears with how we go to market to our customers and how we support our sales associates. Because of our ability to be nimble, we were able to achieve record-setting sales. That being said, we expect a downturn in PPE sales, which could result in less overall sales in 2021. We have been able to keep our employees fully on and expect that to continue. We have, however, cut down on many things, like travel and non-essential items.
How can your supplier partners better assist you right now to ensure you remain successful? Are there areas where they’re excelling?
JZ: Our suppliers have been amazing over the past six months. We are doing everything we can to use technology to get our sales associates and suppliers together. The best situations have been the suppliers who have been proactive in supplying sales with what our customers need in a new remote work setting.
What is the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
JZ: There have been a lot of risks with large PPE orders over the past six months, but I think the biggest was to start an internal retail fixtures and displays business. The overhead was large, and the risk was considerably bigger than our normal business process, but so far, the reward has been great.
What is the greatest lesson that 2020 has taught you?
JZ: To continue to surround yourself with great people. I am not the smartest person by any means, but the team that we’ve assembled is so incredible that it makes up for my shortcomings. I have learned that building a team of experts in their field and listening to their expertise will allow ASB to achieve way more than me pretending to have all the answers.
Is there anything you would like to add to give our readers a better sense of your business approach and the industry at large?
JZ: My dad has the saying, “do the right thing for the right reasons,” and oftentimes it is that simple. This is a time of great stress for a lot of people, so showing kindness and compassion is always at the forefront of my thinking. People don’t always remember what you say, but they often remember how you made them feel. I feel like people will come out of this situation remembering how everyone made them feel when times were the toughest.
View the full 2020 Top 50 Distributors list here.
Click here for stats, trends and analysis from the list.