Together or Alone?
In the print and promotional industry, every distributor business owner eventually faces the same decision: Whether to keep his or her company independent or to affiliate with one of the large distributor networks that, for the most part, dominate the industry. Each side has its pros and cons, so how do you decide which is right for your business?
The idea behind affiliating with one of the distributor networks is that the initial entry fee (say, 5 percent of your annual revenue) is paid back several times over in the services you gain in return. Group buying discounts, in-house legal counsel, a collections staff—it's easy to see how these three services alone could make you more money than you pay to use them, and most of the distributor networks offer even more services. The bottom line is, the less time you have to waste with non-selling tasks, the more time you have to sell and make money.
These, however, are all the sort-of-obvious, everybody-knows-it-so-why-talk-about-it benefits of affiliating. What about the lesser-known stuff? The secret stuff? The buried, revelatory like a diamond-in-a-pile-of-coal stuff that will finally give you the shining, million-dollar answer you're looking for? What about those reasons to affiliate?
1) What About Mentorship?
"Mentorship" might not be quite the right word, but the point is this: When you affiliate your business, you're going to gain access to a wealth of additional sales experience. Sure, you might have had a mentor or two before: A parent, a professor, a friend from the chamber of commerce. But how could it ever be more than what you'd have by affiliating? You'll be connecting your business with hundreds of others similar to yours. Oftentimes, these connections are older, more mature businesses that have already conquered what you're struggling with currently, and are happy to offer advice.