The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors

by Brent R. Grover

The Role of Communication in Accurately Assessing Your Company

When planning team leaders assess company strengths and weaknesses during the planning process, they’re not always honest with themselves about possible constraints to company growth, according to author Brent Grover in The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors. It can be difficult for leaders to admit weaknesses such as over-dependence on generous vendor terms, heavy concentration on one or two major suppliers or customers, or inefficient processes or staff.

For a distribution company to grow and achieve long-term goals, management must confront the reality of how well or poorly their company is positioned for success in its geographic, product and customer segments. Brent says distributors should ask themselves: “Does the company have enough talented salespeople on the street? Are they highly qualified? Does the company have the right product lines? Does the business block and tackle well (high fill rate, timely delivery, low error rate)?”

For some of these questions, the greatest insight may come from customer-facing employees. But if workers don’t have a strong rapport with management, they may not be comfortable speaking openly about what’s working and what’s not working in the business. Strong communication, Brent says, is key to building that rapport.

“A distributor’s commitment to strong, two-way communication ensures everyone understands the company’s compelling goal, that each individual understands his role in achieving the goal, and that trust will be built and maintained through ongoing effective conversation,” he says.

Brent lists seven things CEOs should communicate with employees to achieve trust and achieve buy-in in The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors. Making two-way communication with employees a priority helps them feel more comfortable with company leaders, and they’ll more readily provide the accurate feedback leaders need to help them understand and confront company weaknesses.

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