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Your Distributor: A Training Resource

August 22, 2012
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Since the economy bottomed out in 2008, our industry has seen a major shift in focus.

For years, the emphasis was on products — end users had larger budgets at their disposal and often wanted the best products to do the job.

However, with shrinking budgets and a reduced workforce, the attention has transitioned to productivity and results.

This has led to a refocus on training and finding better — and smarter — ways to get the job done.

Unfortunately, many companies have not set aside additional budget dollars for anything, let alone a new training program.

But, the good news is that this isn't necessary.

There are a lot of great distributors out there who will provide training for you at no additional charge as part of doing business with them.

Define The Program

When looking for the right partner to help implement and manage your training program, there are a few things you should take into account.

First, write down a list of goals and expectations for the program.

Do you want to train frontline staffs once or should it be a "train the trainer" program that empowers your managers to conduct routine training on an ongoing basis?

Once you have identified the goals, list any additional considerations, which can include:

  • How should the training be conducted?
  • In which areas should employees be trained; is there any specific training that needs to be conducted for compliance regulations?
  • When should the training program kick off and how often should training be provided?
  • How will employees become certified at the conclusion of the training and what will they receive for completing the program?
  • How will you monitor and track training?

Interview Potential Partners

Once you have a good understanding of the program's scope, the next step is to interview your suppliers to identify the resources they can offer.

Most distributors offer free and ongoing training as a value-added resource to their customers.

Others provide such services as an enticement to win your future business.

When you interview the distributors, share your current challenges, goals — both short-term gains and long-term objectives — considerations for the program and a timeline for implementation.

During this process, you will be able to quickly identify the companies that can help.

Training and support is something that all distributors talk about, but few do it well.

Have them identify specific resources that are available and the credentials of their trainers.

You should also ask them to give you examples of training classes and programs they are currently providing and a list of references.

Here are six keys to a successful program:

1. Presenting the program

No one wants to hear they are not doing their job correctly, so it is important to position training as an opportunity for all involved.

To introduce the program, provide an orientation session to outline the schedule, the areas that will be covered and employee expectations.

When discussing the program, highlight the overall benefits, such as improving the way workers perform their jobs so they can work safer and more efficiently.

Typically, custodial professionals do not understand how their performance relates to the overall success of a business, so show them how important their job is and how training will provide them with the latest tools and education to improve productivity and results.

A lot of you may already be doing most of this, but everyone can do a better job of showing staffs we appreciate their efforts.

2. Program scheduling

The timing for the program will typically depend on the size of your staffs.

If you have a large workforce, it may be difficult to gather all staff members for multiple training sessions.

If this is the case, you might consider conducting several shorter sessions per year.

If your workforce is smaller, you might be able to conduct training once a month or conduct smaller, more focused training sessions lasting two to three hours once a quarter.

3. Areas of training

Training is often completely overlooked in our industry; in others, continued education is required or highly encouraged.

Does a professional football player just suit up and play on Sundays? No, they are constantly honing their craft.

To ensure your staffs are ready to play when it's game time, consider diverse training topics such as material safety data sheets (MSDS), proper disinfection techniques, floor care, restroom care and equipment maintenance.

4. Start online

To accommodate different learning styles and better ensure employees retain information, consider having staff members complete an online training session of the topic before hands-on training occurs.

This offers timing flexibility, as workers can undergo the training before their shift begins or after they are finished working for the day.

Online training can provide easy tools for testing comprehension and assessing the worker's knowledge level.

It should be a part of any distributor training program.

5. Certification

Whether it is a certificate, recognition in a company newsletter or a free luncheon, recognizing staff members who have completed the curriculum is an integral part of any training program.

Work with your distributor to identify what templates they have available for recognition letters or certificates.

6. Never stop training

To ensure that your staffs understand and use the most up-to-date processes and programs, conduct training on an ongoing basis.

Without regular reinforcement, people will fall into bad habits.

So, it is critical to not only provide ongoing training, but to provide training that engages the team.

There are a lot of good distributors available to assist in your training endeavors.

However, there are only a handful of great partners who will view you as a client rather than a customer.

The right partner will have the knowledge, tools and passion to help you implement and manage a training program.

Josh Brown is an outside sales representative for Northern Colorado Paper, a Denver-based JanSan distributor. He was recently selected as a "Top Sales Leader of 2011" by Sanitary Maintenance magazine. For more information, e-mail Brown at

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