Extreme growth blueprints

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest differences. Then again, sometimes it’s the big things.


The Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Do it Best Corp., fresh from its October Market in Indianapolis, is advancing a slate of initiatives both large and small. Projects range from reprinting its field staff’s business cards to building what it calls a digital World Class Commerce Center. And as CEO Bob Taylor sees it, they are all in service of one overarching goal: serving the members. 


Let’s start with the big plans first. 


The co-op’s World Class Commerce Center initiative marks an effort to bring various Do it Best Corp. digital ventures under the same roof, while enhancing its capabilities and keeping up with the times. Taylor described it as the pursuit of “a single best-in-class online merchandise and sales catalog for members and customers.” 


It’s early in the transition, but Taylor has a clear grasp of the need, and a pretty good picture of the final product. Currently, the co-op has four websites: doitbest.com for e-commerce, mydoitbest.com for members, channellockproducts.com, and incomsupply.com for industrial commercial sales. All of them were developed at different times with different strategies and different platforms. 


“They are all great if you know product,” Taylor said. “They have great functionality. But they’re not as good as they could be, and they don’t provide a world-class user experience.” 


The move toward tablets, Androids and iPhones has the promise of improved interaction between buyer and seller at all levels, and Taylor hopes to stay in front of it. “We’re trying to give the customers of tomorrow the tools that function from a sales perspective, as well as a better ordering perspective,” he said. “That includes much richer content that will help our vendors move products through us, through our dealers and to their customers.”


The reboot began in May. And at the helm of the initiative is Commerce Center director Marty Bailey, an executive who has earned the reputation as a get-it-done project leader. 


Expectations are high. How high? “When we’re done, we want you to say, ‘This is as good as what I’ve seen at Zappos, or Amazon or anywhere else,’ ” Taylor said.


Aiming high is a big part of the co-op’s second major initiative. This one’s called the Do it Best Advantage Program, or “Advantage” for short. The program identifies premier businesses in hardware, lumber and building materials and other non-traditional categories — both in the United States and overseas — and targets them with a completely new personalized sales and recruiting effort. 


Its aim is to build strategic partnerships with premier independent business owners, Taylor said. As such, the co-op has assembled a specialized five-person team led by Advantage Program manager Gary Hoffmann to tell the Do it Best story. Part of that story is a new performance satisfaction guarantee for premier new members.


Related to the recruiting is a smaller change with big psychological impact. The company’s field staff is no longer called “retail development specialists.” The new term is “sales and business development specialists,” a change that has been made to business cards across the organization. The reason? To better reflect the diversity of businesses both existing and potential in the Do it Best family, Taylor said. 


The change is more than mere semantics, Taylor said. “Understanding retail is still a key component of everything we do. But you have to remember that a lot of people are in contractor sales, industrial commercial sales or e-commerce. If you go in talking ‘retail’ they might think, ‘That’s not us.’ ”


The ongoing changes at Do it Best Corp., both large and small, are up against an economy and business conditions that Taylor believes are going to be slow to grow. He categorizes his housing start outlook as among the most conservative out there. In many cases, the consumers’ discretionary dollars are being pulled away from home improvement. 


But the bottom line for many Do it Best members is the end-of-year rebate, and Taylor has a better outlook here. “For the eighth consecutive year, our total rebates to member-owners will exceed $100 million,” he said. “That’s up from last year’s rebate, and speaks to the advantage we provide our members.”