District Safety Products
District Safety Products has come a long way from where it was when President Joseph Williams Sr. started the company in 1996. According to Williams, he got into the distribution business as essentially a one-man operation with a personal loan for $10,000. With no office or employees, Williams and his wife would put in long hours, often working late into the night to process the payments to its vendors in the days before electronic transactions were commonplace.
All that hard work has paid off, and today District Safety Products is a leading distributor of safety products and janitorial supplies throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The company has been honored as Supplier of the Year by Amtrak, and its customer base includes numerous public and private organizations. All along the way, Williams says, the company has overcome the limitations its small size put on it in the beginning as well as the fact that it couldn’t get brand-name products at first.
Williams says that the success of District Safety Products is due to the hard work and dedication of its principals and staff. In a marketplace where practically every competitor carries the same array of products, District Safety Products understands the importance of making sure customers get more than just the products they need at the prices they want.
District Safety Products struggled in the very beginning because the relatively small size of its operation made it difficult for Williams to get the attention of major manufacturers. This meant the company couldn’t provide customers with name-brand products for a while, but it also meant Williams had to be creative to attract and retain customers. This provided the basis for District Safety Products’ value-added services, which Williams says are a major component of its success today.
The value-added services District Safety Products offers help distinguish it because, as Williams notes, the company’s selection of products is not much different from its competitors’. “What we offer product-wise is no different from anyone else, however, we offer free training with all the products,” he says.
Any time a customer purchases from District Safety Products, the company offers them free training sessions on the proper use and care of those products. However, the company’s involvement with its customers’ operations is not limited to that. Williams says the company provides more interaction with its customers than most other distributors, including a free on-site survey. During this survey, District Safety Products will examine which products a customer is using currently and make suggestions on ways they could use those products more effectively or find alternatives.
The company also provides customers with a cost-benefit analysis. Through this process, District Safety Products can take a look at a customer’s spending on safety and janitorial products and suggest alternatives that could save them money.
The motto District Safety Products works to live by is “A more excellent way,” and Williams says the company strives every day to provide its customers with better service and be more responsive to their needs. He says the company holds regular meetings every week where staff gets together to discuss how they can better serve customers.
This puts the company ahead of other distributors who are content to offer the same level of service to every customer regardless of what their individual needs are.
“Most people have their way of doing things, but we strive for excellence,” Williams says.
District Safety Products concentrates on going above and beyond the call of duty for its customers and provide them with service that exceeds their expectations. For example, Williams says, many of the company’s customers want to order hundreds of cases of products but lack the storage space to make that feasible. In these situations, District Safety Products offers to store those cases within its own warehouse and give customers the opportunity to pull from those cases on a weekly or monthly basis.
In the near future, Williams says District Safety Products is looking to expand its product offerings to include more unique products based on customer feedback. He says the company has been able to differentiate itself on service for a long time now, and now that it has grown into a market leader it has the leverage to work with suppliers to carry more specialty products so that it can separate itself from the competition in terms of its catalog, as well. “Moving forward, that is something we are focusing on,” Williams says.
With the company also concentrating on revamping its website to provide a smoother e-commerce experience for its customers, Williams says, the future for District Safety Products appears to be promising. Williams says he is proud of the fact that his son is learning the business, and hopes that it will remain a family company for years to come.