I had the opportunity to speak with Tim Reynolds, the president and owner of Tribute Inc. at the recent NAHAD Conference. Tribute sells a full featured enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, a sort of total business software system.
“We’re specifically focused on serving the Industrial and Specialty Hose and Fittings market and Fluid Power market,” Reynolds said. “That’s our niche. Those are really the only kinds of companies that we sell to. We do everything from counter sales and order entry through purchasing and inventory management to back office functionality, producing financial statements. We’re a full featured ERP for this specific market.”
Reynolds said that company representatives have been attending NAHAD—and the company has been a member of NAHAD—literally since the organization started. Tribute was originally owned by a fluid power and hose distributor. Reynolds bought the company from them and continued to focus on this software niche.
“For us, about 30 to 35% of the attendees at NAHAD are typically our customers and then we always end up meeting new people to talk about program with. It’s a little bit of a user’s group and a little bit of a marketing operation. In terms of what we’re talking about with them this year, we always have new features coming out. We have significantly improved, in particular, our ability to manage work orders through a shop, which has gotten to be very important to our distributors because they continue to add value. They’re getting into made-to-order manufacturing and we’ve been beefing up our system around that quite a bit. We’re spending a lot of time talking about that in particular this year,” he said.
I asked Reynolds how he saw the Internet changing the role of the distributor and how online ordering was affecting these businesses.
“I think it’s impacted all businesses in all sorts of ways, some of them very positive,” he said. “Some of them are challenging. In this niche, we have not seen a big demand for really fully-featured, online ordering. The reason for that is that most of these distributors are putting together hose assemblies that have very significant, very specific specifications. There are safety issues around that. They would be reluctant to allow a customer to come in and build a hose on a website and order it without some expertise being applied and they bring the expertise. In this market, these are value-added distributors so it’s not just price. There certainly is a lot of price competition, but it’s not just price. They have to be creative in figuring out how to manage a web presence, which is certainly required, at the same time being able to deliver that expertise that’s a real service and requires some person to person contact.”