The article was initially published by Jayne Guest in Smart Business Online.
When Managing Partner and CEO Bob Parsons bought Dismas Distribution Services, he saw the potential in the third-party supply chain company.
Today, Dismas is one of the fastest growing businesses in Central Ohio, where it has achieved more than 500 percent revenue growth in less than four years. Dismas also has moved into bigger space twice, including to a 60,000 square-foot facility a few months ago.
“I wanted to grow smart, and not just fast. We haven’t taken just anything, and we were able to network with Columbus being a huge distribution area,” Parsons says.
From the beginning, Parsons got with his board and mapped out the future in a three-year plan, which the company has exceeded in every aspect. It wasn’t just in revenue, he says, but also margins, costs for the space, costs for the employees, etc.
In addition, when Parsons came into the industry five years ago, he noticed companies where the business was built on one or two accounts, and that customer volume ebbed and flowed. It was important to counteract that.
“By doing e-commerce, by having certain clients that we do stuff for all the time, we’ve been able to grow and have a consistent workforce,” Parsons says.
Diversifying helped as well — adding services like quality control, specialty sewing, assembly and helping startups meet orders.
Caring about employees, customers
Parsons understands the importance of a good strategic plan, strong operating system, and the latest technology, but mainly it comes down to culture.
“For me, I’ve always believed that culture is one of the No. 1 things to have, if not the No. 1 thing, to create in a company and in an environment,” he says. “Create the culture and everything else falls into place.”
Parsons wanted a family atmosphere of teamwork, so he provided perks to his employees — more paid holidays, earned vacation time, a health plan and flexibility so parents could work just while their kids were at school.
He also empowered supervisors to run the business and bring ideas, while monthly meetings with the entire company added transparency.
With a strong culture, Dismas can keep about 50 base employees, and then call on a flexible workforce as needed. In fact, 90 percent of hires come from referrals, a testament to being a place people want to work.
Parsons has seen other companies rise and fall because of culture.
“There are companies who are always saying, ‘We need more good employees. We need more good employees.’ And not that I don’t say that, but once I find them, we keep them — and that’s a real good thing,” he says. “We don’t have them leaving for more money, a better environment or they weren’t treated right.”
Parsons doesn’t just take care of his employees; he has the same philosophy for customers. He makes sure the company does what it says it will.
“We talk to our clients all the time, because the retail world, the distribution world is changing all the time and it changes rapidly,” Parsons says. “We talk to them all the time about what they are seeing — not only what we can do better, but what we can be prepared for now, a year from now, and what they need from us.”
Many companies are just happy to be a client, so they aren’t proactive. But clients plan a year in advance, and that’s where you have to be, too, he says.
“I want our clients, our partners to think of us not as a vendor, but as an extension of their business,” Parsons says.
There have even been times where Dismas didn’t take on new clients because Parsons doesn’t want to over-promise and under-deliver, ever.
The process bible
When you’re managing a task for hundreds of thousands of units, processes are critical.
“We have a good process of how, before anything leaves this building and goes out the door, everything is checked and checked again to make sure it’s done exactly how the clients want it done,” Parsons says.
Last year, Dismas processed between 7 and 8 million units for one client. Parsons says they had something called to their attention only twice.
To get results like that, employers must take time to manage and document processes, from financial and sales to operations and production, he says.
“Every aspect of their business should be documented, so they have the process in place, and then they can always get better at the process and tweak it — learn from the process,” Parsons says. “If something goes out the door wrong, the first thing we do is go back to the process and say, ‘How did this happen? Is there a glitch in the process, or did we not follow the process?’”
He thinks about it as if he were replicating the company in another market. You have everything laid out like you plan to franchise your business.
When Parsons took over, he added financial processes immediately to ensure Dismas was spending where it needed to. The rest came over time.
And while change is hard for some, you can integrate it in a positive way with employee buy-in, he says. For example, bring them into the creation, especially in production and operations.
The first response can be “That’s how we’ve always done it,” but that changes once they see the benefits. And, Parsons says, you know you have total buy-in when employees start suggesting additional uses for a technology or process.