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More products, better web offering, better service on Digi-Key president’s ‘to do’ list

When you're president of a leading electronic components distributor that seems to be sweeping all before it, what's on your 'to do' list?

Mark Larson, president of Digi-Key, has a number of things that are holding his attention. Despite having one of broadest ranges of all distributors, Larson is looking to get more products on the shelf. "Expanding the product line is important," he said. "We are recognised as having the broadest range of products and it's important that we maintain this. More products on the shelf means we can deal in niche markets that even our largest competitors can't justify because they don't have the customer base."

Service is another issue that holds his attention. "It's the only differential in our market," he observed. So measuring Digi-Key's performance against the competition is a regular activity. "I'm looking at things like fill rates and service; our competitors are looking at functionality. The reports that come to me every morning focus on whether we got orders out or not. If we didn't, I want to know why."

Another metric is sales. "Although it's hard to tell at the moment, it looks like Digi-Key's sales will be up by about 13%, while the industry is growing by about 4%. The conclusion is that we must be doing most things right."

He believes Digi-Key's status of being a privately held company makes the difference. "Other distributors could carry more products, but they don't because their management is looking at business measurements, like return on investment."

Developing Digi-Key's web offering remains on the list. "We continue to strengthen the website," Larson said. "Running a website is a dynamic process. While the website might look the same, the content continues to expand rapidly and the functionality continues to improve." Within this area is a project to get some 'sophisticated' design tools into engineers' hands.

International expansion remains a priority. "That's a big item on its own," he said. "We're making headway, but it's still work in progress."

And further expansion into servicing low volume, high product mix production needs is another item which remains on the 'to do' list. "It's an education process," Larson noted. "We need to find the customers and let them know about our strengths. If we can get them to try us, I believe we can do serious business, but it takes time; these companies already have access to product from other sources."

But Larson also has a 'not to do' list. "What you don't do is just as important as what you do," he accepted. "There are potential initiatives which we have to be careful about. What we don't want to do is to go outside our area of focus."

Graham Pitcher

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