Top Distributors Examine the Industry
Five who thrive by tempering technology with the personal touch
At Glenwood, Minnesota-based American Business Forms, technological changes in the industry present both opportunities and challenges.
Because of its ability to buy back time, President Larry Zavadil believes that Internet technology is one of his company's biggest assets.
"The Internet gives customers the ability research and order products without having to be personally guided, face-to-face, through the process," Zavadil said. "With the extra time, sales associates can again prospect during the day, and write orders in the off hours."
When used improperly, however, Zavadil stressed that e-commerce can be as much of a hindrance as a help.
"Many large companies are going to find that for many of their needsespecially in promotional products or customized formsit is very difficult to simply throw some specifications out on the Internet and get the desired results," he predicted. "The Internet doesn't have the solutionsit's the people behind it that have them."
Technology is also easing communication at American, as the company has introduced two new toolsACES (American Customer-driven Electronic Solution) and AIMS (American Information Management System).
"ACES is an e-commerce tool used in communications with customers. AIMS is the backside of that, automating American sales associates and connecting them to the main frame host in Glenwood," said Zavadil. Once completed, "we will have a fully integrated system," he said, "from quote request through invoicing and detailed customer history."
Acknowledging that the industry isn't about just forms anymore, Zavadil explained that American operates as a consultant to its customers.
"We do not just present a solution, we present multiple options so the customer can make the decision that is best for their company. We discover the best way to fulfill a need, not only to save hard dollars but also soft dollars."