Manager of Digital Business, OneSource Distributors
By Joe Nowlan
When Ryan Sasscer joined San Diego-based OneSource Distributors in 2014, he came to the electrical industry from another profession. The ability to see things with fresh eyes and perspective was something that worked to his and his company's advantage.
"I saw that, like a lot of electrical distributors, our website could use a bit of an update," Sasscer explained. "I put a business plan together to redo the website and presented it to the senior leadership. They bought in and said it was a great idea."
Rather than redesign the site with a lot of new bells and whistles, Sasscer decided to focus on the customers' needs.
As part of the redesign process he met with hundreds of customers to explain how the new site would work for them.
"It was a little bit more involved than just showing them how to order. When I go online to Amazon for example to place an order, I might be buying one or possibly two things," Sasscer explained. "Ordering in B2B, our customers are ordering five, 10, 20 or even 50 things at a time. What they want to do is take what they have learned from Amazon and some of these other B2C websites and apply it to B2B."
The redesign's success was built on customers adapting to and benefitting from being able to order online specifically for their business.
"It becomes so much more efficient both in terms of ease of the website but also their order management in general," Sasscer said.
Since the website redesign, OneSource estimates its digital sales have increased by more than 300%. Not that the redesign work has ever completely stopped, Sasscer explained.
"We are constantly tweaking our website now based on customer feedback," he explained. "Before, we never really asked our customers, "What you think of this? What you think of that?'"
Prior to coming to OneSource, Sasscer explained that he was working at a consultancy group specializing in organizational behavior.
"I was learning culture development, culture change, managing leaders, communication. It is interesting because a lot of these things are so simple and they seem so basic," he said. "But humans are pretty terrible communicators especially when it comes to business."
In order to further develop his business acumen, OneSource enrolled Ryan in HBX, a 12-week online course at the Harvard Business School.
"The Harvard HBX was about 20 hours of work per week. It focused on most of the skills you need to manage a company—economics, finance, accounting, marketing, information technology," he explained.
Sasscer grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and jokes that in his career, "I really moved from ocean to ocean."
He graduated from Salisbury University where he also earned his MBA. He is engaged to be married in late 2017, early 2018.
Living in California, he loves hiking on the Trans-Catalina Island Trail – a big favorite.
"I am an avid hiker. And I play lacrosse. That has become bigger here on the West Coast than it was 10 years ago. And I grew up in lacrosse country," he said, referring to Maryland where lacrosse is also hugely popular.
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You're not going to look stupid. If anything, it's going to look like you want to learn. You don't know what you don't know. I cannot tell you how many times where I thought I knew something, or how to do something, and I asked the question – and then found out I was completely wrong. Being a young professional and going into the industry, a 20 something-year-old, thinking that you know everything—it helps to ask a lot of questions.
Q. What do you think is the biggest opportunity within the electrical industry?
A. The digital transformation. The migration of buyers moving from traditional order methods to digital order methods. Websites, mobile apps, you name it. We are in a really unique time right now where you have an older generation in the electrical distribution industry where ordering online was never an option for them. They have been calling the same salesperson for the last 20 years. Then you have another younger generation who has ordered primarily online growing up. And now they're getting into the electrical distribution industries where ordering online can be a difficult task.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.