46 INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION / September/October 2014 www.inddist.com
How Do You Compete?
In this unbelievably competitive industry, how do you stack up? What are you doing to keep a competitive
edge? Are there products that you are
missing? Are you focusing on the right
products or product lines?
I was in the fly fishing industry for
15 years as a sales rep/consultant. As a
sales rep, we tended to focus so much
energy on the big ticket items, like
rods, reels, waders, etc. One day, I went
into a fly shop in a destination area in Oregon and had dinner
with the owner. He started to explain what his real profit mak-
ers were. “Derek,” he explained, “the real money is in the flies,
tippets, and leaders. They lose them, they wear out, or they break
— the consumables!”
So, I went back to my manufacturers of flies and simply said,
“We need to customize our flies so they fit the needs of individual
fly shops and the fisheries they service.” We started catering to the
specific fly shops and made flies that fit those needs. The result?
They were able to charge more for custom flies and made even
more money. They also didn’t have to compete with surrounding
fly shops because they carried flies that no one else did. They sold
Now here I sit in a very similar situation. The fly fishing industry
is certainly different than industrial distribution, but the principles
are the same — custom consumables!
Here at Western Abrasives, we are focused on manufacturing
abrasives to meet the needs of the end user and distributor. I am
sure you are asking, custom abrasives? Yes! Most distributors, and
even end users, don’t have the vast understanding of the metals
they are using and that there are specific abrasives that work best
for their applications. There is an array of different bonds, blends,
grits, and types of grit that they may not know exists. Here is
where you come in:
1. Look for supplier companies that cater to the needs of your
2. Build relationships with current or new manufacturers that
can customize and support you and don’t open up to every distributor that calls. Trust me, they still exist.
3. Don’t sell your customers what every other distributor sells
them. Later, when they come knocking, asking for something
specific from the manufacturer, you will be protected because the
old adage still applies: “stick with the one who brought you to the
The advantage is developing a true cost savings plan that your
manufacturers can see. The faster the product cuts, the faster the
piece being manufactured will get out the door. In the abrasive
world (at least in mounted points), the cost really is irrelevant
when the labor and throughput are put to the test. Always look
for the fastest way to get the job done. Time is the real cost sav-
ings, and custom abrasives are the key.
Derek Furgus is director of sales and marketing for Western
Abrasives. For more information, visit www.westernabrasives.com.
Now here I sit in a very similar situation. The
fly fishing industry is certainly different than
industrial distribution, but the principles are
the same — custom consumables!