As e-commerce continues to change distribution, the role of the DSR will evolve. This is largely due to the fact that buyers can access any information they need with a few clicks. Effective DSRs must be well trained and employ more of a consultative approach when managing their relationships with customers. Recognizing this, Millennium invests heavily in its DSRs so they are ready for whatever challenges they may encounter. This is key to offering a premium service. 

“We continuously provide manufacturer training in the form of hands-on encounters, new product knowledge, and in-person facility tours,” says Willis. “We have market forecast meetings to ensure they are readily prepared for our changing environment. Most importantly, we are extremely intentional about our best practices and the importance of maintaining that [consistency] across all regions we service.”

Not unlike other distributors, Millennium continues to face challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining younger talent. To appeal to millennials’ desire to change jobs multiple times, Knoll and his team have worked to illustrate a career path and work environment that satisfies those characteristics and expectations. 

“Millennials don’t see a commitment to a company the same way as their Baby Boomer parents,” says Knoll. “We know that they want to engage in the process, be part of a team and do work that has purpose.” 

Millennium’s involvement in the communities in which they operate can also be appealing to younger workers. 

“Bob believes [community involvement] is deeply important to our future success as employers and business members of our local communities,” says Horn. “Millennium wants to not only have an impact on our cities and towns with products and services, but also as outstanding members of our churches, schools and charitable organizations.”

Leadership For The Future

When it comes to technology, change is constant and today’s best practices can quickly become out-of-date. It’s this inevitability that Knoll and his team embraces. Acknowledging change is difficult for many people. Knoll views his role as a catalyst to helping guide people from where they are now to a better place — a place where they can thrive in the future. Technology aside, the key, Knoll says, is staying attuned to the customer.

“What the customer wants today is not what they want tomorrow, so you have to be flexible and ready to change,” he says.

For distributors that can accomplish this while staying competitive, the opportunity is vast.

“What excites me most about the future of jan/san distribution is the sheer size of the opportunity,” says Horn. “We sell things that every single person in the world uses, yet our industry is often five-plus years behind on technology. We want to change the way the industry efficiently serves our customers by compressing that technological timeline and maintaining the best service, customer by customer … even keeping an eye on things as seemingly ‘far out’ as cryptocurrency — who would have ever thought this would be important to sell toilet paper?” 

Andi Curry is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati.


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Millennium Distribution Expands Market Presence Through E-Commerce