March  2004

Distributor Dilemmas

Web Cents or Non-$ense
Making the Internet Work for Your Business
by Richard Kahn

Today it seems like every business from manufacturers to distributors to retailers all have some type of exposure on the web. Some websites are more elaborate than others, but the question remains: does it make sense for your company to have a web presence? 

Quite frankly, I donít think you can afford not to have exposure to some extent on the Internet. After all, your competition is probably already there. Donít you think you should be there, too?

When I first met with my boss a little more than three years ago, I told him I could build the company a website. When I mentioned the web, his eyes lit up, and he replied that he had been trying to get a website going for years. He had a vision of what the web could do and how it could benefit our company. 

Prior to joining Feldman Wood Products in November 1999, I worked for Wood-Ply Lumber, a specialty retailer of domestic and imported hardwood lumber.

During this job, I was befriended by a customer who enjoyed woodworking as a hobby and who built and hosted websites as a profession. He recognized the nature of the product and suggested that I consider building a website, believing that exotic hardwoods would be an easy sell on the Internet. We got to work and in a few short months we had the website up and running and soon thereafter Internet sales were zooming.

After joining Feldman, I was faced with the daunting task of building a website for a two-stepper without any high-end specialty products. Plus, the president hired me with the idea of having a working website in just a few months. I knew from the start we would have more of an informational and service-oriented site for our employees and our current customers rather than an e-commerce site. 

I thought the greatest benefit to Feldman would be to have a site that would provide services to our current customer base and at the same time result in a more efficient operation. For instance, if our customers placed orders online, that could possibly result in lowering the heavy call volume with which we consistently find ourselves faced. I thought if our customers could sign in to a password protected area and see their open order status, order history and pricing that would also be a great accomplishment and a wonderful service. 

What if our people could go in at night to check their daily orders or view inventory levels? There were so many valuable functions for a company like Feldman that to not have web access or web exposure was a disservice not only to its customers but also to its company and employees as well.

The site also has a place for free classified ads and the dealer locator function works great, helping to steer customers to our dealers.

Lucky for me, I maintained my relationship with my woodworking buddy, Bob, an html programmer, and together we began brainstorming on design and functionality of a website for a two-stepper in the building industry. Needless to say, it was a tremendous undertaking. The project began to take shape, and in a few short months we had constructed an extremely well organized, dynamic website. 

All the ideas we considered are now a working reality for our company. You can see the results and view the website at

So the question remains: does the web make sense for you? Feel free to e-mail me at for website advice.


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