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This approach helps e-commerce company thrive during COVID – and it can work for you too

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August 4, 2020

It’s a good time to be in the e-commerce business – but not exactly an easy time.

“We didn’t think a global pandemic would be good for e-commerce, but it’s been fantastic for our business,” said Eric Weisser, senior vice president and majority owner of Weisser Distributing.

From its warehouses in Tea, Sioux Falls and Las Vegas, Weisser has seen pandemic-driven sales skyrocket. It primarily sells through e-commerce giants Amazon, eBay and Walmart.com in a variety of verticals, from auto supplies to outdoor games.

Anything that fits the stay-at-home lifestyle is selling, Weisser said.

“It’s everything from a kit to play limbo to playground balls and ring toss. We have a line of beer-making supplies that’s really taken off,” he said. “People are just looking for something to do. And our main auto supplies business is growing as well, as people have time now to work on their cars.”

But making it work as a business has forced Weisser to draw on an approach that has been guiding its growth for the past five years. That’s when the company implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System, or EOS. What then was a 40-person business now exceeds 150 people and has continued to hire during the pandemic.

“It’s a democratic way to prioritize your goals as a business, and it definitely has become our playbook,” Weisser said. “While we typically look at 90-day goals, with COVID we had to change so often we established 30-day goals. That involved everything from figuring out how to be a virtually hands-free workplace to making the adjustments needed for many of our team to work from home when we’d never done it before.”

He has seen the approach lead to solid improvements within his business that go far beyond revenue. Hiring has been robust, as Weisser expanded its business hours, which allowed team members with day jobs to pick up part-time hours at night. Allowing some employees to work remotely has generated best practices and in some cases improved time management.

“This isn’t the CEO saying here are the goals and I’ll tell you how to get there,” Weisser said. “There’s accountability throughout the organization and goals established through a vote of the leadership team, and that can get hairy sometimes, but ultimately it’s a good thing.”

Weisser plans to further hone his EOS expertise at the upcoming annual conference of the Prairie Family Business Association, which will be Sept. 10 and 11 and feature a leading expert in EOS in addition to the chance to learn from other businesses that have successfully implemented the system.

The in-person conference is sold out, but a new virtual registration now is available. For the first time ever, the conference is accessible to families across the region and nationwide with an affordable, one-click-and-view virtual experience. The family business conference with a national reputation that has brought families together in South Dakota for 28 years is now accessible for families of any size and industry from across the country.

“Bring your family together to take in this content that will better your family and business in so many ways,” said Stephanie Larscheid, the association’s executive director.

“This conference is for families who want to spend time discussing succession planning and creating healthy family dynamics. One of the best outcomes of this conference is building relationships with fellow family business owners to share best practices as well as to form business and family relationships across your region and beyond.”

Weisser agreed.

“I think the conference is the crown jewel of what Prairie Family Business does,” he said. “At the highest level, it’s about small businesses pooling their resources. That’s how we’re able to gain access to experts like the ones we’re bringing in this year. And now with the opportunity of a virtual conference, we’ll be able to bring in families from all over the country to learn and share ideas and experiences.”

Other past conference participants also found huge value. Here’s what they had to say:

  • “Family business has been a lifelong passion and PFBA is a tremendous resource. Two of the past conference keynote speakers have introduced us to programs we’ve benefited from greatly. And networking with other family businesses and business resources has shown the way to several problem solutions. Discovering these new resources at the conferences is a great benefit of PFBA.” – Bill Matthaei, Dakota Specialty Milling Co., Fargo, first generation.
  • “Our family has been able to implement a number of new ideas to strengthen our business and our family dynamic as a fourth-generation company while also teaching us how to keep it going for many more generations.” – Tiffany Anderson, A-Ox Welding  Supply, Sioux Falls, fourth generation.
  • “Seeing speakers like (Culver’s restaurant c0-founder) Craig Culver give honest, heartfelt talks about their own experience left a lasting impression on me. Learning that great success often starts with something small left me feeling inspired long after the conference was over.” – Sarah Darnall, Medary Acres Greenhouse, Brookings, third generation.

The virtual platform has been carefully selected, so attendees will receive a high-quality, easy-to-use experience, Larscheid added.

“We’ve definitely done our homework with the variety of options available out there for virtual events now, and we are confident you’ll find that attending virtually will give you a technically great experience while also still allowing you to engage with others,” she said.

“We’ve been encouraged by how many people already have expressed interest in attending virtually and can’t wait to broaden our reach by offering this option.  “If you want to connect with a woman-owned business, a veteran-owned business or a manufacturing business from California, for example, you can do that.”

For Weisser – who has seen first-hand how virtual engagement can lead to business success – it’s an addition he said could make an already highly valuable event even better.

“It’s about one-third the cost, and you can still connect with family businesses and resources and ask questions. It’s something the conference would never have done without COVID, and just like changes we’ve made at our company, we think this is going to be something that evolves us for the better,” he said. “We’ve had tons of inquiries, we’re reaching new families, and I think it will be the greatest thing ever.”

Ready to learn more? Click here for the agenda and information on virtual registration.