“And honestly, I can tell you, $17 million a year NOW is easier than $5 million a year was 20 years ago because of utilizing all our team members’ talents plus online ordering, ACH, and more.”
~ Todd Hauser
- A/R – Accounts Receivable
- Online Order Management
- Giving your Customers New & More Choices with Products
- DOT Foods Virtual Warehouse Benefits
- Teamwork: “I use the Entire Martin Bros. Team to reach my Goals”
- Communicating With Operators, trust & respect
- COVID and Beyond with my Customers
Talking about Accounts Receivable, what percentage of your operators are paying online?
Todd: I’m old school so I remember how it was 20 years ago. Some days you would spend a half day chasing money down in checks that you could hold in your wallet for a week. Then like ten years ago, our credit managers said we really had to get people on ACH. But at that time, people didn’t want anybody getting into their checkbook. Now with younger people and some of the chains, they are just used to how automatic it is to use ACH whether it is weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
Out of about 70 customers, I maybe have one or two people that give me a check. And they tend to be like 40-year customers of Martin Brothers that you don’t have to worry about because they just pay you. It works beautifully. It helps customers not get too far out with you and saves us time. The majority of my customers are on ACH now. It is more like the way it has been for the beer and alcohol sales reps who got a check right when they delivered everything.
What percentage of your customers place their orders online?
Todd: Maybe 92%
What are you writing now?
Todd: I’ve been higher, and I’ve been lower, but I think right now for this year, I’m doing about 17 million.
But I think we have three or four reps at our company doing that or more. When COVID hit and many companies had laid offs and business went in the tank, we were all doing more with less. In the old days, there were four or five reps who would write that.
Even though most of my customers order online, they will still call me to ask questions. Most organized independents love being able to put their order in. They don’t have to wait on me, giving them the flexibility to do it when it is convenient for them. And then when you do show up, it’s just about either new business or an issue that needs worked out. I was a big proponent of customers putting in their orders 15 years ago.
I don’t think I could have ever sold the amount of groceries I did without the online ordering, even with all the help I received from my inside salespeople.
DSR Dave: WelI, back in 1982-83, I bought two Tandy computers from Radio Shack, and took them to my two largest hospitals. We used to turn our old green bar price books in every week to get our new price book. So, what I did before Google and before search was to grab a couple of those old books and take them to those two hospitals that I had given the Tandy computers to, and they started ordering online with those PCs. They would use my old price book, knowing where the price column was that they were being billed at, and every week I would see new items. I’d call them about the items they didn’t normally order, and they would say that it was in that green book I gave them. Customers have always wanted to search for more items.
Todd: (laughing) Hey, Dave, before there was the wheel, you were the beginning of direct order entry.
DSR Dave: Well, we’re talking about products and people getting on and placing their own order online. You have 92% of them doing that. Martin brothers was one of the pioneers of using DOT Foods and the DOT Expressway, and I still haven’t seen anybody use it quite like you guys use it.
Has that really helped your sales and your company sales grow? I like what they do and how they help distributors, and DSRs.
Todd: Oh, more than you’ll ever know. Well, now with our virtual warehouse at DOT Foods, we have access to 149,000 items that helps us compete against the big competitors. This also helps us manage special orders and outs, and helps our fill rate. Even though we buy direct from any manufacturer, they have more items in stock than we do. And instead of being out for four days of a pancake mix, we’re only out one night because we fill in from them. They’re a godsend. Especially for smaller distributors ordering half a truck or 20,000 lbs. If you’re not a broadliner, that’s hard to do. But even if you are a broadliner like us and you’re a second or third tier manufacturer, maybe we only order every three weeks. But if all that stuff is at DOT, it makes it a whole lot easier for my customer. It lets us have a lot more items to sell without having to stock them.
How do you work with your team on the inside?
Todd: We as individual DSRs are not good at everything. I had to learn who was good at what and utilize those specialists who were stronger in certain areas than I was. I may utilize our culinary team, chemical specialist, dietitians, janitorial team, etc. There are many other people in the company that have talents that I don’t have that can really help me out. But you have to ask. A new DSR doesn’t know what they don’t know, and they could solve a lot of their problems by just asking us old dog salesmen or other departments. It’s a team effort. I did not realize this years ago, but if you go at a customer or prospect or any issue as a team, you just have a lot more ammunition to succeed.
Would it be pretty hard to write $17 million without the relationships with your teammates, truck drivers, buyers, transportation, everybody?
Todd: It would be very hard. I could not do it without the entire team. I remember in the days after Martin Bros. bought the small distributor I worked for out, and I struggled for my first year or two and then kind of figured it out. I’ll never forget it because I was doing most of the stuff myself. We didn’t have a culinary team. We did have a beverage specialist, but I was doing $4-5 million a year, and I had to do it all… orders, credits, everything. And honestly, I can tell you, $17 million a year NOW is easier than $5 million a year was 20 years ago because of utilizing all our team members talents plus online ordering, ACH, and more.
Do you ever turn your phone off?
Todd: If I’m on vacation, like, up in Canada, fishing, but very rarely. No, I mean, my phone is on all the time, and I’m lucky enough to have been in the business long enough that most of my customers are all really good and they’re not going to call me unless it’s really a problem or they really need help. And I would want to help them.
Something happened to me the other day… at our DC, our drivers are leaving at 11 pm to 4 in the morning. And I got a call at 4:30 am. I jumped out of bed and answered my phone, and it was a sub-driver. There was an issue with him getting into an account, and it wasn’t his fault. But the fact I answered my phone, it saved a whole lot of problems down the road. If you want to be good and you’re in sales and your customers depend on you, you probably should answer your phone most of the time.
How can DSRs most help street operators during this time?
Todd: First of all, sit down with them and discuss the situations at hand with the supply chain and such. If your customer has an understanding and you know what their expectations are, it can help limit the problems that come when we are getting shorted every week for eliminated items and I must substitute with comparable items. It comes down to good communication and trust that I am going to provide good, viable substitutions and if they do not like them, we will take them back.
Longer term, how will street operators have to adjust because of the changes to the industry due to COVID and its impact?
Todd: Based on the successes my customers have had in the last year and a half, I think good independents have to be flexible. They must offer a variety. They’re always going to have their steady eddies, but my customers that have reduced their menu size are doing better than most. Nobody needs a Cheesecake Factory menu of 20 pages, except the Cheesecake Factory.
One of our very successful customers in Des Moines has three or four places, and he realized that right away when COVID hit. He knew they did not have the staff anymore, so he cut his 4-page menu down to 2 pages. They added some new items and had new stuff on the menu all the time and said they were going to be better at what they do than the competition. It’s worked out wonderful.
Plus, at our white tablecloth operators, a few have found by adding more upscale casual items versus their normal $30-40 night options, that the margins are three times better than on a twelve-ounce ribeye or a scallop dinner. Volume has picked up huge because it’s no longer the place to go just for your anniversary or your birthday, but a place to go with friends to have drinks and appetizers. And yet even though a couple may come in and have four drinks and two appetizers, they still spend $100, and they don’t seem to think about it. Not like, when they had two steak dinners, drinks, and it was $150, and they felt like they couldn’t do it anymore.
DSR Dave: The menu has always been the roadmap for smart, profitable operators.
What are the preferred methods your customers use to communicate with you?
Todd: Most of my independents I see every other week. I barely see any every week like the old days because I’m handling many more accounts. We had a couple of guys retire, and with COVID I’ve absorbed more business. But obviously, when I’m on my biweekly visit, they really like that.
If it’s not time-sensitive, they email me. If it is time-sensitive, most of them call me, but will also text me. I always say during business hours, if I don’t answer, I will call you back within a half hour. That’s kind of my goal. Unless I’m in a big meeting or something that takes 2 hours. But most times, they know if they leave me a voicemail, I’ll get back to them. But they respect my time, and they know they’re not going to call me unless it’s something that can’t wait until tomorrow. I don’t get near the number of calls after work hours, as I used to. If a small chain wants all their managers involved, we use Zoom.
But honestly, in our neck of the Woods, people are kind of tired of Zoom. They like to see you in person.
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