Industry Innovator: Leading from Online

Categories: Group Updates

The MDM Industry Innovator award recognizes an individual who is leading change in a changing industry, rather than letting the change lead them. This year’s winner is Jay Amstutz, president of Ohio Power Tool, Columbus, OH. Amstutz was selected for his approach of using online tools to help his local distribution company compete with larger players for sales and employees.

2016 MDM Industry Innovator

Honoree: Jay Amstutz, president, Ohio Power Tool, Columbus, OH
Details: Amstutz launched several e-commerce and online marketing initiatives at his small family-owned company to stand out from an increasingly competitive market.

Getting into the business of distribution wasn’t the plan for Jay Amstutz, even though his parents owned and operated Ohio Power Tool, Columbus, OH. In fact, his parents told him and his siblings that they didn’t want them in the business.

“They told us ‘Nobody’s allowed to be involved in this business. It’s a terrible business. You should go out and get real jobs,” Amstutz says. And at first, he – like his siblings – complied.

But eventually his “real job” – working in marketing and e-commerce for larger companies – led him back to Ohio Power Tool, where he has since taken over as president of the industrial distributor.

His efforts in online marketing, through social media and the company’s website, played a large role in growing annual revenue substantially since 2008 when he joined full time.

“I was just trying to help my parents out, and I realized there was a really good opportunity to actually do a lot of the stuff I had been doing for larger companies,” Amstutz says. E-commerce doesn’t have to be a tool just for the largest players. And in many ways, Amstutz saw it as a way to compete more proactively with the large companies without having to compete solely on price.

It also provides Ohio Power Tool’s sales team with a tool for quoting prices in the field.

But the biggest impact from building Ohio Power Tool’s online presence may be in how it helps recruit new employees.

“He feels really strongly that the presence that he creates for his company on the internet is really what attracts people to come and work for him,” says Jennifer Murphy, president of buying group NetPlus Alliance. “And you see that in his employees that he brings to industry events and trainings. … They’re young and excited about being a part of this.”

In order to build the company’s online presence, Amstutz launched a blog – COPTool.com – that features news on the industry and new products, including product lines the company doesn’t actually sell, such as DeWalt power tools.

“People come to COPTool every day to get news on everybody,” he says. “But if they can only get information on three or four brands from us and then have to go to other sources to get additional information, we’re not going to do as good of a job. We want them to stay engaged and see us as a complete resource.”

The competition for mindshare is one of the biggest challenges for wholesale distributors in today’s market. To get in front of potential customers, you have to be where they are looking. To stay in front of them, you have to provide what they are looking for.

But providing this review service also prepares his employees to be better answer technical questions that may come in, such as why is one product better than a competitor’s?

“It allows them to say, ‘I’ve used this tool and here’s what I know,’” he says. It lets them connect with the customer based on experience not just a sales pitch.

For many companies, just improving their own operations is enough. But Amstutz also shares a lot of his insight with others in the industry, Murphy says. He takes an active role in NetPlus through the advisory council and as a resource for the leadership. “His interest in doing things differently and his willingness to share that really makes him stand out,” she says.