Building on its own experience for managing its business during the coronavirus pandemic, distributor Global Industrial, the flagship unit of Systemax Inc., is sharing its playbook with customers to help them weather the storm and grow their business in the face of economic uncertainty.

Managing a business during the coronavirus pandemic comes with a host of unexpected challenges. Not only must business owners protect their employees’ health and safety in the workplace, they must also continue supporting their customers while positioning their businesses to grow and thrive in the current environment.

'Ready. Set.’ grew out of our business management playbook as a way for us to evolve from just being a distributor our customers buy from, to becoming a valued business partner.
Klaus Werner, senior vice president and chief marketing officer
Systemax Inc.

Recognizing an opportunity to share what it has learned about business management during the pandemic with its customers, Global Industrial, a distributor of industrial products and maintenance, repair and operational supplies, has developed “Ready. Set.” as a best-practice guide for business management during the pandemic. Global Industrial is the primary brand of Systemax Inc., a supplier of brand name and private label products through a tiered marketing and distribution platform that includes ecommerce websites, catalogs, social media, and direct sales representatives.

Looking toward the rebound

KlausWerner-Systemax

Klaus Werner, senior vice president, chief marketing officer, Systemax Inc.

“We always have to be thinking ahead about our business and prepare for worst-case scenarios. Since the pandemic, we have focused on helping customers restore their facilities to facilitate a safe return to work with the ultimate goal of rebounding their businesses,” says Klaus Werner, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Systemax Inc. “’Ready. Set.’ grew out of our business management playbook as a way for us to evolve from just being a distributor our customers buy from, to becoming a valued business partner.”

The company, which sells products ranging from forklift equipment to power tools, offers more than 1.7 million brand-name and private-label products through several B2B ecommerce sites, including IndustrialSupplies.comNexelwire.com, its flagship brand GlobalIndustrial.com and the Canada-based GlobalIndustrial.ca.

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Systemax doesn’t break out ecommerce figures but notes that its ecommerce plays an important role for most of its sales, including customer orders placed with the help of sales reps. Systemax describes itself as “a provider of industrial products in North America going to market through a system of branded ecommerce websites and relationship marketers.”

Preparing for growth in 2021

The Global Industrial “Ready. Set.” program consists of three initiatives: “Ready. Set. Protect.”; Ready. Set. Prep.”; and “Ready. Set. Grow.”

“Ready. Set. Protect.” provides information about creating a pandemic management plan based on local, state, and federal guidelines without sacrificing productivity. Developing the plan starts with having essential supplies on hand, and knowing where to purchase those supplies if needed.

“Ready. Set. Prep.” provides businesses information about determining their needs for the fall and winter seasons, such as preparing facilities for operation during both seasons.

“Ready. Set. Grow.” educates businesses about products that can streamline and improve workflow, such as furniture and equipment designed to handle any workload or demand, safely and efficiently.

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A big part of “Ready. Set.” is helping B2B buyers understand how their businesses will likely have to be operating in 2021, Werner says. “Employees are probably going to have to be masked in the workplace for at least 12 more months. In some cases, that may be longer. In other cases, wearing masks may become a permanent part of the work environment,” he says.

Products that customers have purchased frequently during the pandemic, such as personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer, will also likely remain on buyers shopping lists as the pandemic subsides, he adds.

One antimicrobial product in Global Industrial’s catalog that can help protect the workplace is treated plastic film that delays the growth of bacteria on surfaces. The film can be applied to doorknobs, carts and other surfaces frequently touched by workers. Global Industrial says such products “contain an antimicrobial agent to protect the film from bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi to ensure the product is clean.”

Going virtual with a national trade show

“With more than 1.7 million products, a national distribution footprint, extensive product knowledge, and outstanding customer service, Global Industrial remains well-positioned to help our business, government, and educational customers successfully manage the impact of the pandemic and grow,” Werner says.

In another major effort related to the pandemic, Global Industrial has moved its annual national trade show to a virtual environment. The “Ready. Set. Show.” event runs Oct. 13 – 15 and will feature more than 150 vendors and 300 sales reps. To make the event more like a typical trade show, attendees will enter the show floor through a virtual lobby, complete with signage and a registration desk. The show will also feature live speakers, break-out sessions, and show specials. Attendees can engage with vendors and sales reps via Zoom video conferencing.

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“The ability to meet and greet at trade shows is invaluable,” Werner says. “We are trying to make the show as close as we can to what shows were like pre-coronavirus.”

Global Industrial is marketing the trade show through digital channels and telemarketing.

Looking ahead, Werner says “Ready. Set.” will help position Global Industrial as a destination of information and knowledge for businesses through content, such as how-to videos, as well as products.

“’Ready. Set.’ highlights our capabilities as a comprehensive destination to support our customer’s current operations and future growth,” he says.

At the recent B2B Next 2020 conference, Werner participated in a panel entitled “State of B2B Ecommerce and Where it Goes from Here.”

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Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology. 

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