Among the published works of President Woodrow Wilson are his thoughts about what distinguishes the person called to lead a great nation. He said it isn’t the kind of man who simply repeats the talk of the street and opinions, but rather, upon hearing those things, understands them better and unites them into a common meaning and common voice to create “a new principle for a new age.” He said this person could transform discordance into unity that embraces singular vision, all fostered from united understanding. “Such is the man who leads a great, free, democratic nation,” wrote Wilson. And such is the distinction that defines a great enterprise, which in the new principles of this new economic era, has emerged as leader in a relatively new industry all designed to unite businesses so they too may better recognize a singular vision in terms of cost savings and increased prosperity.
An Eastern proverb claims that not one of us is as a smart as all of us – a sentiment that certainly applies in accounting of the genius in two entrepreneurial pioneers heralded with Hall-of-Fame business distinction for their unique creation of cooperatives in industry. Howard Brodsky and the late Alan Greenberg were the legendary founders of Carpet One Floor & Home who went on to establish Carpet Co-op of America, an enterprise that relied on cooperative strategies to initially unite independent carpet and flooring businesses to maximize on buying power and the acquisition of merchandise. Realizing that business model could be adapted to encompass other industries and markets, both foreign and domestic, they went on to establish the powerhouse of CCA Global Partners. Today, it is comprised by a composite of affiliates in industries that include flooring, lighting, bicycling, sporting goods, and more. Beyond purchasing power, CCA equipped co-op owners (the members are the owners) with critical operating systems, marketing support, training modules, which again, was all about increasing efficiencies, reducing costs and achieving greater profitability. This model empowered small to mid-sized, independent companies with the means to achieve capabilities previously only afforded to huge corporations with which they were competing for business.
The Birth of BizUnite
The ingenuity exacted by Brodsky and Greenberg ultimately spurred the development of a new, dynamic business model known as BizUnite. To put it all in proper context, historical insight is offered by BizUnite Co-President Barth Getto who has been with the organization for almost 20 years, initially as CCA’s membership director. Getto (pronounced “Jetto” which in Italian translates to throw or pitch) was the indomitable pitch man who explained benefits of participation to potential members which facilitated the organization’s further growth, but he also assisted in the development of new services for members. In the early 90s, he says CCA was only comprised of a few divisions of which flooring was the largest. “We had a homogenous group of independent flooring retailers and we became very good at creating a differentiated product for members in merchandising, marketing and buying power. We had become successful at harnessing economies of scale and reducing costs on buy side,” he explains.
Members of the cooperative benefitted from the establishment of a National Programs department which focused on reducing operational expenditures. Programs offered initially allowed discounted rates on wireless services, credit card processing and a specialized consumer finance program that allowed retailers to offer their customers financing options on big ticket items, which for them, was a pretty big deal.
“We looked at the services which had been provided through our National Programs department and decided to create an independent division, with its own name to offer bigger, better deals. This new division was automated with an online websites that allows members to access the programs 24/7,” says Getto. BizUnite is the fastest growing CCA division… we’ve come a long way to make a business and create an industry where none existed.”
BizUnite has emerged as an industry leader in uniting businesses which benefit from the provision of customized technology, marketing solutions, operational systems, and above all, buying power. In fact, BizUnite provides savings which no small to medium sized business could secure through their own means. Membership has its privileges, all of which is wrought from the company’s penultimate mission, unwaveringly affirmed by Getto, “To be the go-to value-add for member-centric group purchasing organizations.”
“Our goal is to be the premier provider of services in the marketplace. We want a membership group to look at us and say, ‘I have to belong to them because they provide so much value to our members.’ This enables us to sign members faster and ensure that they never leave us,” says Getto.
How it Works
To understand the relationship BizUnite has with its members and vendor partners, Getto offers a comparison using a popular dating website: “Consider match.com, they take two different people with similar compatibility and match them together. Much the same way, we match a member’s need with a solution from a world-class preferred vendor partner.”
For example, suppose a company has a need for services involving waste disposal, telecommunications, uniforms, accounting, credit card processing, office equipment, or some other routine aspect of running a business. BizUnite serves as the conduit which connects members with the vendors who provide those services. The one differentiating factor is that normally the member has to do all of the legwork themselves, but that is not the case with BizUnite, members benefit from a speed of service and pre-negotiated discounted rates.
On the vendor side, Getto says there are conditions that weigh in the decision of whether or not to allow the vendor’s inclusion in the program. First, the vendor has to be national in scope, operating not only throughout America, but preferably Canada too. Secondly, they must offer “exemplary” customer service, or as Getto decrees, “to be best in class.” Next, the vendor must be willing to offer a differentiated price, essentially a discount that is exclusive and not offered anywhere else. On this point, Getto is particularly emphatic “we’re judged by each program individually and collectively as a group, and we demand the best for our members. The vendors need to know they’re in an elite group when they’re with us.” The final requirement involves a rebate, basically, the vendor must be willing to provide a rebate, whether quarterly or annually, which is then disseminated back to BizUnite members who have purchased services from them.
Lead Generating Machine
To be sure, just as BizUnite serves it members, vendors benefit from the relationship simply by being connected to businesses and industries that depend and demand on their services. BizUnite has been integral to the success of a range of other enterprises, from ADP (provider of payroll processing and HR services) to OfficeMax or Staples (provider of office supplies). Even companies with as much market share and brand recognition as ADP are excited about partnering with BizUnite. “ADP is excited to renew and extend our partnership with BizUnite, which has a diverse and growing membership,” said Deepak Mehta, Vice President of Franchises & Affiliations within ADP’s Small Business Services division. “ADP can help BizUnite’s members—many of which are small businesses—reduce risk, improve cash flow and better manage their employees through our innovative payroll, compliance and benefits solutions.”
BizUnite recently launched a new service that allows for waste disposal through a partnership with Common Area Maintenance Solutions (CAMS). Headquartered in New York, CAMS operates throughout America and Canada as specialists in waste services, landscaping, snow plowing & removal, parking lot maintenance and more.
On the telecommunication side, reflecting Getto’s mandate of scope, exemplary service and price advantage, BizUnite has partnered with Sprint to provide the full breadth of services to their members. “BizUnite’s members take advantage of wireless discounts that are typically only available to the larger enterprises because of the size of the BizUnite organization,” says Scott Waddington, Sprint’s National Account Manager. Besides typical cell phones, Sprint provides smart devices, push-to-talk devices, tablets, and provides fleet solutions, IP & MPLS networking, and much more. The Members get tremendous value from Sprint due to the Unlimited Mobile-Mobile feature, Unlimited data plans, ease of program enrollment, access to an extensive group of application partners, and the operational support they receive from Sprint’s BizUnite team. “Our relationship with CCA began 15 years ago and we’ve both been growing ever since,” says Waddington. “Every member is treated with best in class service from Sprint which is what we and BizUnite expect.”
For members, the greatest value may be cost savings. While averages can vary on the number of services that members take advantage of, Getto offers the example of a typical small business that generates annual revenue of $1.5 million dollars. If relying on the core eight or nine services of the over two dozen facilitated by BizUnite, the business can achieve annual savings of more than $12,000. Those savings can be greater, but once again, it depends on how many of the services are utilized. Getto describes a recent case involving a member who is now saving more than a $1,000 a month in fees paid for waste disposal.
Similar savings are provided in terms of credit card processing fees, the average savings with the program is $4,000 and several companies have experienced well over $10,000 in annualized savings. BizUnite members have relied on this service to the tune of more than half a billion dollars last year. The charges related to this service are also fixed-rates, guaranteed to not increase via the typical fluctuations of interchange rates between competing credit card companies.
Jerry Smith, Managing Member of AIP Merchant Services, LLC, is an independent agent for First Data Independent Sales credit card processing who understands how the BizUnite partnership can give him the ability to offer the best pricing: “Because of BizUnite’s buying power, we offered them our most aggressive pricing structure possible, which subsequently results in 99% of the statements we analyze resulting in a savings.” Jerry and his team not only provide the unbeatable savings, but they provide the customer support to make the process seamless.
Members’ also benefit from convenience, because as Getto explains, BizUnite has simplified the process of participation. There are no fees, and upon joining, organizations are assigned a member services representative who becomes their single-point of contact, “a de facto employee” of sorts. They basically go to work ensuring their members are equipped with the tools and services needed. A virtual marketplace branded and customized to the organization’s needs, which is established with a “Start Savings” link enacted through the convenient push of a button.
For now, Getto says BizUnite is looking to expand on the range of services provided to members, which includes expanding on opportunities to serve in Canada.
The company is also investing in automation and technological enhancements that would lead to greater efficiencies in converting raw data to real, specifically in the way of processing rebates and tracking data resulting from service interactions. In facilitating so much business, BizUnite has already relied on highly sophisticated, proprietary CRM software. His feeling is that some of this technology could ultimately be developed into a freestanding business in its own right, but that is down the road. For now, he and the team at BizUnite are fully engaged in building of beneficial relationships between businesses. With costs being so much of a concern in these tumultuous times, the BizUnite proposition is, by and large a no-brainer, essentially sustainable despite economic ups-or-downs.
And as long as there are businesses competing for business, BizUnite will further benefit by forming strategic partnerships which will allow one to emerge as a winner. “The more players there are in any industry, the better off it is for us to bring civility to it,” says Getto. “We are the great consolidator.”