Fastest-Growing Supplier, 2018: Wholesale Cutting Boards

Digital wizardry and a business model that enables speedy turn times has fueled this Quebec-based firm’s explosive growth.

Some promo companies shudder at the rapid changes the age of digital business is ushering in. Savvy, forward-thinking firms, however, embrace the disruption and use it to their advantage. Wholesale Cutting Boards (asi/97070) falls into the category of thriving adapters. Indeed, the Canada-based supplier has relied on digital marketing to fuel the company’s jaw-dropping 383% growth over the past three years.

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“Marketing is an ongoing process that should never stop,” says Derek Diffley, president of Wholesale Cutting Boards. “I find that a lot of small and medium-size businesses don’t invest in marketing. If you don’t reinvest profits, your business will stagnate.”

Derek Diffley,  president of Wholesale Cutting Boards

Digital-Age Experts
Diffley has a keen understanding of the power of the internet, having served as the vice president of an IT consulting firm for a dozen years before transitioning to the digital marketing space and heading Adeo Internet Marketing. Initially, Adeo was looking to acquire websites that would generate revenue. Through business dealings for the small agency, Diffley discovered an opportunity in the niche of wooden cutting boards.

“We decided to create our own board models with our own graphic designer,” he says. “We started reserving all the domains and slowly worked our way up the Google ranking.”

Before joining the promotional products industry, the hardwood supplier made less than $500,000 in sales. In the years since, though, the company has experienced incredible growth. The firm has realized the gains, in significant part, through a combination of engaging customers via social media, email marketing campaigns and Google AdWords.

“It’s definitely a big advantage that we have digital marketing expertise,” Diffley says. “But it’s also nice having people in this industry help you out and guide you. At one of our first trade shows, a guy at one of the booths next to us introduced me to a customer who bought 2,000 units from me.”

A Product With Natural Appeal
In addition to strategic marketing and intelligent networking, Diffley attributes his company’s success to the popularity of hardwood. It’s a natural material that’s perfect for engraving and personalization. “We have a high-quality product that’s in demand,” Diffley says. “From a promotional standpoint, we have products that people like and use, including hardwood phone stands, trays and barbecue wood scrapers. I’m basically your one-stop wood shop.”

Headquartered in Quebec, Wholesale Cutting Boards also has three manufacturers in the United States in addition to its two in Canada. The geographic diversity allows pricing flexibility and quicker turnaround times, Diffley says. For example, if bad weather strikes an area and leaves a shortage of lumber, the company doesn’t have its eggs all in one basket.

Some of the Wholesale team, which includes 11 employees.

Another big advantage is that Diffley has invested wisely in inventory. “My little niche is I have supply and I can turn orders really quickly,” he says. “A lot of customers aren’t going to wait three or four weeks for production. When someone is ordering anything under 200 units, I can get it engraved and out the door within a business day or two.”

Managing the rapid growth has been the company’s biggest challenge, compelling Diffley to open another distribution center in Houston later this year. Having a location in Texas will allow the supplier to serve customers on the West Coast at a lower freight cost than what’s currently charged. It’s also an opportunity to recruit and strengthen the workforce, as finding employees in Quebec has proved difficult.

“People aren’t looking for jobs right now,” Diffley says. “It took me close to six months to find my other sales guy. Hopefully by diversifying geographic locations, we’ll be able to hire more talent.”

Adaptability Breeds Optimism
Still, in today’s tumultuous political climate, hiring the best people isn’t Diffley’s only concern. While he expects the positive sales momentum to continue into 2019, Diffley does have his eye on the ongoing negotiations concerning the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). If President Trump pulls the U.S. out of the free trade deal, as he’s threatened on multiple occasions, Diffley’s business would suffer greatly. “I understand there needs to be restrictions, but I’ve always been a free trader,” he says. “Any tariff hurts the consumer in the end. I’ve had to put out feelers to manufacturers in Europe just to be safe.”

Wholesale’s products include cutting boards, phone stands, trays and more.

Despite the concerns, Diffley remains confident that Wholesale Cutting Boards will adapt given the firm’s ability to be flexible – a key to survival that the customer service and sales teams have mastered. With only 11 employees, everybody pulls more than their share, going above and beyond to make the customer happy. There are weekly brainstorming sessions the team uses to reflect on the past week, determine which strategies and procedures to replicate and which to improve upon.

“My team is able to adapt when needed,” Diffley says. “When finding new members to join our team, I look for someone who takes pride in what they do and cares about the end result.”