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When things go badly, rest assured the situation can always get worse. That’s what happened to Steve Cohn, president of Premier Beauty Supply

If you think salon sales has nothing in common with your distribution business, hang with this episode. My conversation with Steve yields some great advice for everyone, regardless of industry, about resilience and reinvention -- especially when things go from bad to worse.

It’s impossible to hear Steve talk about the challenges his company faced in 2007 without feeling retroactively panicked for Premier. “We had one manufacturer that wound up selling [their] business to another and, at the end of the year, that manufacturer told us they were gonna go with their own distribution chain.” 

The decision was a blow to his business but it wouldn’t be the only one. Within two weeks, another company opted not to renew with Premier. “They say timing is everything in business,” he jokes. “That wasn’t good timing. It was over 90% of our overall business between those.” You read that right: more than 90% gone. In less than fourteen days. 

The situation at Premier was difficult at best; a disaster at worst. But challenges are a part of doing business. “You know, things happen,” says Steve. “We didn’t do anything wrong here and I just felt we had another one left in us.” 

With that mindset, he and his wife set out to start from scratch again, rebuilding on top of the hard lessons of that year and a strong foundation of twenty years in business. “We had a great history. We took a hard look at everything and really, I look back today at 2007 and I wonder if we’d be where we are today if 2007 didn’t happen.”

Today, Premier’s revenue far exceeds their pre-2007 numbers -- with a smaller salesforce and a tech-savvy approach. “About 85% of our overall business is online,” he says, pointing to value-adds like their robust website, product education, and social media templates. 

Long-time customers and new stylists alike use Premier’s offerings in different ways but Steve’s quick to point out that the company’s mission remains to be of service to its industry. “At the end of the day, the salesperson’s role is to sit with the customer and really help them grow their business. We know the more we can help them grow...the more they want to do business with us.” 

Whether you sell shampoo or saw blades, you’ll want to hear the rest of this episode. Steve shares tips, talks letting go of staff (78 team members in one day!), and what he loves best about having a kid in the business.  

Thank you to our sponsor INxSQL, software built for distribution.

 

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Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.  

Edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.