By Diane M. Calabrese / Published September 2021
A shot in the dark. Flying blind. Guess-ing. Let’s label that short list, things that may have a good outcome…but probably will not.
Why take a chance? A contractor can get help with everything from the intricacies of equipment options to solutions for the most difficult cleaning jobs by working with a distributor.
“With the local distributor, the contractor will gain a trusted business partner,” says Jim O’Connell, president of Hotsy Pacific in Modesto, CA. The relationship has several dimensions.
First the contractor can be sure of getting the correct equipment for the application, explains O’Connell. That good match will be followed by ongoing support to ensure the equipment runs perfectly.
“Our company realizes that the contract cleaner depends 100 percent upon the efficient operation of his equipment and accessories as well as detergents,” says O’Connell. “With that in mind, our goal is to repair the equipment as soon as possible and get the owner back in business.”
A relationship develops that adds value beyond quality equipment. “Your local distributor is current with all the regulatory and compliance issues facing contract cleaners,” says O’Connell.
With the regulatory knowledge they possess, distributors give a big assist. “They can provide the direction as well as the equipment needed to be in compliance,” explains O’Connell.
The feedback loop created by contractors and distributors working together also invigorates our industry and, by extension, the economy. How does that happen?
“When you partner with a local company, you are putting the investment dollars back into the local economy,” says O’Connell. In addition, “supplies and parts are available immediately in most cases—no waiting for product to be shipped in.”
Then, there’s the mutual understanding. It begins with the similarities of the professional paths taken.
“The distributor is running a business very similar to the contractor’s,” explains O’Connell. As a result, the contractor has “an advisor and/or mentor readily available.”
The strength in the distributor and contractor tie can lend itself to many plusses. “I have forged many business friendships with local contractors because we decided to work together on various projects,” says O’Connell.
“The local distributor can provide assistance with bidding jobs as well as providing rental or backup equipment when needed,” explains O’Connell. And that increases the income stream for each company.
Indeed, Al Bonifas, owner of AllSpray in Swanton, OH, points out distributors may often be in a position to provide customer leads to contractors. Prospective customers who are do-it-yourselfers or who own facilities ranging from farms to manufacturing shops can be redirected, for example.
“A good distributor knows when it is better for a customer to contract for their cleaning needs versus doing it themselves and also knows who the best possible choices are for that application,” explains Bonifas. Linking one professional, the contract cleaner, to another, the farmer, benefits both.
“It is all about best serving the customer,” says Bonifas. “Some jobs or contracts could amount to thousands of dollars in revenue.”
The layers of advantages built into a strong tie to a distributor cannot be overstated. “If there is a working relationship and especially if the contractor bought their equipment from the distributor, then pretty much all of the distributor’s resources and knowledge are at the disposal of the contractor,” explains Bonifas.
The bond between the two business owners brings savings to the contractor. “It can save literally thousands of dollars in downtime and freight charges for parts or chemicals, not to mention contractor pricing discounts that will many times be very competitive with the marketplace,” says Bonifas.
Solid distributors operate with a view of the future—a very positive one. “I consider the long-term approach when dealing with contract cleaners, and when they are successful, they will help us to be successful” says Bonifas. “That simple approach has led to relationships that have lasted over 35 years with some customers that have been around that long.”
Time is precious. Making optimal use of it is a goal that we all have. A distributor helps a contractor meet the goal.
A distributor “is going to help the contractor get into the product that truly fits their need,” says Ryan Recker, assistant dealer division manager with Mi-T-M Corporation in Peosta, IA. It’s all part of the professional practice of a distributor.
“The distributors are going to take the time with a contractor to understand the application the equipment will be used in—and the demand” as well as what the contractor sees, explains Recker. The distributor brings a wealth of experience to the conversation.
“Fitting the right equipment with the contractor’s job allows the contactor to be absolutely comfortable with the equipment,” says Recker. “And rest assured that they will minimize downtime and maximize progress and profit for their business.”
Ease of access matters to all in this busy world. “Another benefit the contractor receives when working with a distributor is having point of service,” says Recker. “Distributors are set up to be a one-stop shop when it comes to the equipment that you purchase from them.”
The smooth path to assistance adds to hours saved. “Minimizing downtime is what gives big gains to working with a distributor because they will be there to help the contractor in that time of need,” explains Recker.
“Distributors will typically have a large offering of parts on hand,” says Recker. “And most distributors have technicians available to service equipment that may require more in-depth attention.”
Many distributors have service departments that can handle almost every machine issue on site. That speeds up the process.
“The opportunity for a contractor to build a relationship with a distributor,” says Recker, deserves the attention it gets. “This gain is huge in the fact that it may not be evident immediately, but when the contractor is working with the distributor, they are essentially building a partnership…”
The “entity” that results—that partnership—is going to help their businesses to be successful, explains Recker. “This is going to reap rewards on both sides.”
Manufacturers have high expectations for the distributors that sell their products. They provide ongoing technical training and product updates. Because the distributor is absorbing and sifting through information as it becomes available, the contractor can be sure of getting the most up-to-date advice and recommendations about machines, ancillaries, and approaches.
Distributors keep manufacturers informed about contractors’ wish lists and contractors’ concerns. They compile what they learn from their customers and relay it to manufacturers. A contractor working with a distributor helps fuel product improvement and innovation.
A contractor can choose a distributor that genuinely tailors product offerings to the needs of the end users typically served. A distributor in the Midwest may serve primarily end users cleaning in agricultural settings. A distributor in an oil-producing segment of the Gulf Coast will be ready to serve contractors that serve oil and gas producers.
The specificity with which distributors develop their businesses should give contractors assurance that when they choose a partner, they are going to get exactly what they need. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. And there is never a this-should-be-good-enough suggestion.
A distributor ensures that a contractor has the clear vision, confidence, and correct equipment to do quality work. He or she is committed to excellence just like the contractor.