Whether you sell spark plugs, power nailers or nonmetallic cable, you can learn from the progressive thinking in other distribution industries.

You don't often get a chance to walk into another electrical distributor's offices to observe how he or she does business; and you probably have even fewer opportunities to visit cross-town distributors of entirely different products, such as medical supplies, flowers, fasteners or wine and spirits.

There are dozens of different types of distributors in various retail, construction and industrial trades, and though all the products they distribute have their own peculiarities, the methods these distributors use to distribute the products really aren't much different than the way electrical distributors do business. Before you open up the carton, you are really in the same business as these other distributors-you are moving boxes from point "A" to point "B," warehousing products for manufacturers, extending credit to customers and offering them technical and application advice.

That's why it's so important to look outside the electrical industry for new sales, marketing and management ideas. Many electrical distributors seem to agree, as there are more distributor members from the electrical wholesaling industry in the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), Washington, D.C. than from any other distribution industry.

Along with its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, part of NAW's charter is to give its members opportunities to network with distributors from outside their own industries. EW has also taken that goal as an integral part of its editorial mission. The magazine's editors believe electrical distributors should take the time to learn from other distribution industries, and that the magazine can help them do that by profiling other distributors.

In last year's issue on distributors from other industries, EW's readers met mega-distributor Sysco Corp., Houston, Texas, one of the largest food-service distributors in the U.S., and Ameri-Source Health Corp., Malvern, Pa. Readers found that the value-added services these companies offer to their customers really aren't much different from what electrical distributors' customers now demand. (See EW's December 1996 articles: "Things to Come," p. 16, "Food for Thought," p. 18.)

The profiles on distributors from outside the electrical wholesaling industry on the next few pages can offer you a fresh perspective on how to do business. In these articles, you will learn how a small, family-owned tool distributor saved thousands of dollars in production costs by publishing his own catalog in-house, why one industrial distributor swears by private-labeling industrial/MRO products with his company's own name, and how one cutting-edge electronics distributor keeps pushing the envelope to differentiate itself in a market that lives and dies with high-volume, low-margin orders.

We think these ideas can help all electrical distributors fine-tune their businesses, and will run more articles on distributors from other industries in the months to come.