Achieving eCommerce Success with Digi-Key

If so, join us for this MFG eCommerce Success show to hear Nick Olson, Sr. Manager, New Market Development, Digi-Key Electronics, talk about how Digi-Key electronics is achieving ecommerce success on a global scale.

Are you trying to achieve ecommerce success?

If so, join us for this MFG eCommerce Success show to hear Nick Olson, Sr. Manager, New Market Development, Digi-Key Electronics, talk about how Digi-Key electronics is achieving ecommerce success on a global scale.

Nick leverages nearly twenty years of management, product management, and design experience working in the electronic products industry to be an effective team member at Digi-Key Electronics and explore new business ventures, technologies, and partners to enhance Digi-Key’s customer experience.

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Nick graduated from the University of North Dakota with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

Digi-Key is one of the fastest-growing distributors of electronic components in the world. Since its founding in 1972, Digi-Key has been committed to offering the broadest selection of in-stock electronic components and providing the best service possible to its customers, aiding engineers through the entire design process, from Prototype to Production®. This has led the company to be highly ranked year after year in industry surveys, in North America, Europe, and Asia, in categories covering such facets of business as the availability of the product, speed of service, responsiveness to problems, and more.

Damon and Curt start this Livestream with matchless excitement, setting the stage for an interesting discussion. They both are “absolutely honored and thrilled to” welcome Nick to the show. To start the conversation, Curt asks Nick about his childhood hero. The guest reveals that he is a big fan of sports. The first thing that comes to his mind when someone asks him about his childhood inspiration he looks up to is Barry Sanders, an American footballer.

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Curt is pleased to hear Barry’s name on his show for the first time. Despite not being a Detroit Lions fan, Curt enjoyed watching Barry Sanders play football and felt it was a privilege to watch him.

Damon believes Nick’s choice is apt for Barry as he “was a model of perseverance.”

Curt asks Nick to talk about his story and background. The guest says that he grew up near the headquarters of Digi-Key in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, but didn’t know much about the company. He went to the University of North Dakota to study electrical engineering and interned at Daktronics in Brookings, South Dakota, where he worked for a few years.

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He also worked at Polaris in the tech lab, where he became familiar with Digi-Key’s catalog.

Curt shows interest in hearing more about Nick’s journey. The guest reveals that he worked as an intern at Daktronics before he graduated in electrical engineering. After graduation, he struggled to find work due to the tough economy but eventually got a job at Digi-Key in the tech support group. He became a part of the Applications Engineering team. He spent about a year and a half in that group, then moved into product management and has been working with Digi-Key’s supplier partners ever since.

While talking about the origins of Digi-Key, Nick reveals that Ronald Stordahl, the founder, was a ham radio enthusiast who invented a device called “the digit” that allowed users to key in Morse code.

When his plan to sell it to other enthusiasts failed, he was left with leftover parts, which led to the idea of selling them one piece at a time. With the help of his friend, Mark Larson, they started their business out of the trunk of a car and eventually moved to the back room of Larson’s parents’ shipping company.

An advertisement they got published in a local newspaper pivoted the company’s growth. Orders started pouring in, and the business took off from there, now at $5 billion in revenue.

Curt, interested, urges Nick to continue his story.

Nick discloses that in 1995, Digi-Key launched its first website, becoming one of the early pioneers of e-commerce. They later discontinued their catalog due to the increasing number of SKUs.

Nick highlights that the secret sauce of Digi-Key is its people, who he says are like family despite the company’s large size. He notes that the employees are colleagues and best friends outside of work, having been to multiple weddings together.

Curt asks how Digi-Key can create such a dynamic culture and grow from a family business to a large company worth $5 billion despite the challenges posed by COVID and diversity issues.

Giving a piercing glimpse of the company’s culture, Nick says that almost everyone is willing to step up and do any job when necessary. He relates that in 2013, the demand increased, and they didn’t have enough human resources to pick the parts, so he and many others went down to help in the product distribution center. The CEO and VPs also joined in, and nobody is too important to do the little things that matter. This culture is pervasive throughout every department.

Damon shares his experience of being a customer of both Daktronics and Digi-Key. He mentions how helpful the tech service people at Digi-Key were in helping him with his purchases from the vast catalog.

The host questions how Digi-Key could maintain these high service levels, particularly with the challenges posed by COVID and the supply chain.

Nick informs that Digi-Key could keep operations running seamlessly during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking precautions to ensure the safety of their employees. They also came up with creative solutions, such as using UVC LED to kill viruses, to mitigate the risks. While many of the office folks worked from home, the warehouse operations continued with help from other employees whenever needed.

The guest discusses the growth of Digi-Key, which has expanded its marketplace platform and ventured into finished goods, manufacturing, and emerging technologies like EVs and space. He also mentions the importance of staying ahead in the industry and being a one-stop shop for engineers.

He further adds that Digi-Key has 130 million visitors per year, which is a large number to handle and manage.

Curt wants Nick to “walk us through that relationship, how that works, and how you help that manufacturer.”

Digi-Key’s marketplace offers no fees for suppliers to sign up and start selling, and the company’s team is built for speed with the ability to onboard suppliers and go live within 24 to 48 hours. In addition to the marketplace, Digi-Key offers other program options such as consignment fulfillment and logistics models and can ship worldwide within 72 hours from their facility using FedEx and the like.

Curt furthers the show by asking Nick about the chip shortage situation in the electronics industry, mentioning the disruptions and shortages. The host also wonders about Digi-Key’s success rate in shipping products.

They have measures to ensure they serve all customers, including hobbyists, students, engineers, and small-tier customers, even during supply chain disruptions over the past few years. They have 12 to 18 months of stock and implement different strategies to prevent one individual from scooping everything up.

He also acknowledges the complexity of Digi-Key’s logistics operations, which involve coordination to ship products worldwide within 72 hours. Similarly, the host wants to know if Dr. Stordahl has a book on this topic. Curt asks Nick to share more about how Digi-Key maintains such success.

Nick emphasizes treating people right and creating a positive work culture. This mindset is a common topic in leadership meetings and is essential for the company’s success. Everyone is willing to help each other, and it’s part of the company’s nature as Midwesterners.

On Curt’s request, Nick advises manufacturers in the ecommerce space to have their entire portfolio online with deep inventory, volume and price breaks, and critical product information such as data sheets and parametric information. This is essential for search engine optimization and marketing, as customers want to self-serve and make informed purchasing decisions. Additionally, Quick lead and shipping times are also crucial, as customers have become accustomed to Amazon Prime’s speedy delivery.

Moreover, in Nick’s view, in the future, the company aims to stay ahead of the curve in technology and partnerships. He wants to expand the company’s reach beyond electronics and become a go-to source for engineers in other industries.

Likewise, Nick emphasizes Digi-Key’s commitment to providing excellent customer service to customers and supplier partners, regardless of how long they have worked together. He highlights the importance of mutual success and making the process easy for everyone involved.

The conversation closes with Curt and Damon thanking Nick for joining.

The hosts encourage him to keep up the good work. Damon praises Digi-Key as a unique and inspiring company. They conclude the Livestream by thanking the audience and encouraging everyone to be someone’s inspiration.

Damon jokingly brings up college football history but quickly moves on.

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nick, damon, digi key, business, years, company, supplier, people, barry sanders, thief river falls, absolutely, ecommerce, minnesota, catalog, engineers, digit, customers, key, marketplace, shipping,  business brokers, Business Value Builders, M&A Consultants


Damon Pistulka, Nick Olson, Curt Anderson


Damon Pistulka  00:02

Oh, we had a little it at least on my end. There was a little hiccup on the intro video there but hey, everyone it is Friday. What does that mean? It is time for manufacturing ecommerce success. Oh, we’re we’re excited for our show today because we’re going to talk about a chi Ming achieving ecommerce success with Digi key. And I’m your host Damon Pistulka Excited to be here today. My friend. My brother from another mother is right over there. Mr. Kurt Anderson. Take it away.


Curt Anderson  00:39

Damon, man, dude. Man Are you just so fired up about this interview today? There was gonna be fun. This is gonna be fun. Here gold man. This is pure gold and like, man, we’re going to birthday digging back to your roots. I’m just so thrilled and honored. So guys, Kurt Anderson here, my my brother from another mother, Damon Pistulka With exit way. Kurt Anderson. And I’m just absolutely honored and thrilled to introduce our dear friend Nick Olson from Digi key electronics, Nick, happy Friday. How are you dude?


Nick Olson  01:10

Happy Friday, guys. Hey, happy to be on the show. I’m doing great. As I mentioned, we’re, we’re in about the seventh month of winter here in Minnesota. So that’s, that’s maybe not going so good. But business has happened. Hey,


Curt Anderson  01:24

you know what, you know I have? So I’m like, Nick, I feel your pain dude. Like we haven’t, we’ve got like three more months of winter. That’s it. You know, we’re almost there. Like, the sooner we’ll be here, be over before you know it. So, guys, we’re just honored to be here. And so drop a note in the chat box. Let us know that you’re out there, you absolutely want to connect with Nick on LinkedIn.

You want to boy if you are on your ecommerce journey, but we brought in an absolute powerhouse here. So Nick, we’re gonna dive in now you have a little connection with Daymond we’re going to dig into that we’re going to talk about manufacturing ecommerce success. We’re going to talk about manufacturers on how like say they’re new to e commerce. But what a great way to really muscle up to align themselves with a marketplace and none other and who would be better than a company like DigiKey.

But before I go there, Damon you know what’s coming. You know, what’s coming. So Nick, I have a question for you my friend. Yeah, absolutely. Alright, grew up in Minnesota, if I’m not mistaken, maybe have like you had a little little excursion in the Dakotas, we’re gonna dig into that. But when you’re a little boy growing up in Minnesota, who was your hero? Who was your hero as a little boy growing up in a great state of Minnesota? Yeah,


Nick Olson  02:39

interesting question. So I I’m a I’m a big sports guy. I don’t know if I talked to you guys about that prior to this. So the first thing that came to mind when you ask that is actually Barry Sanders. Oddly enough. Vikings fan but I still very because he was a he was a great running back. That’s what I wanted to be when I started playing football myself. That’s that’s I think as a child that’s that’s who I looked up to.


Curt Anderson  03:05

You know, Damon, that is a first time Barry Sanders mentioned on the program. Nick, I’m telling you, I so I did not grow up a Detroit Lions fan. But boy, I look forward to every Thanksgiving just for the I felt it was a privilege to watch Barry Sanders played the sport of football. I that is a phenomenal answer. I think that might be the earliest mic job we’ve ever had on the


Damon Pistulka  03:30

Yes, yes. And I gotta say you are a glutton for punishment. And Barry Sanders was a was a model of perseverance, their right model of perseverance and just fantastic, fantastic player.


Curt Anderson  03:43

Yeah. What a great answer, Nick, that man, you made my weekend for that one. So let’s dig in. And so Nick, you’re in? Man, you’re in Minnesota, we’re going to dig into DigiKey. But let’s, you know, we got to make this connection.

So let’s Damon. Let’s just Let’s just get it out there. Let’s geek out we’ve got a little share your story. So you’re watching Barry Sanders, big sports fan. You go off to college, I believe you’re an electrical engineer by trade as you went away to college. Let’s just talk a little bit of your background. So we get to know Nick a little bit better. And then I want to make this little connection with you and Damon in the Dakotas.


Nick Olson  04:16

Yeah, absolutely. So I grew up right out right outside of Thief River Falls where DigiKey is headquartered didn’t really know what the company was doing when I was growing up. knew the name for sure. But there’s other large manufacturers in the area of snowmobiles, players which are well known because everybody owns went up here So lo and behold I go over to UND which is in Grand Forks, North Dakota,

I was getting my electrical engineering degree and then wanted to participate in an internship so I ended up going south to South Dakota in our in this case, and worked at Daktronics which is a great another great company well known for their their Large scoreboards that they sell to pretty much every stadium on the planet. So a couple years down there and Brookings, South Dakota and another engineering school SDSU is right there and a great, pretty great college scene as well. I’ll just, I’ll just get that out there to


Curt Anderson  05:18

Damon, do you know anything about the college scene by any chance? I know you’re too busy studying, but do you know anything about that? Yeah, I


Damon Pistulka  05:24

was kind of busy studying on the times. I wasn’t enjoying the college scene there at SDSU. That’s right. Yeah. So uh, Daktronics it’s funny, you’re funny, I saw you did that internship at Daktronics. And as it is really a you know, it’s spun out of the college air with a couple of professors and and you know, the initially, they really transform the digital sign industry with a very simple magnetic base flip sign that you would see all over the US on just everywhere, and then just blossomed into all the other things are doing now with technology changes, and it’s really been quite a quite an interesting story.


Nick Olson  06:02

They have a great origin story. I love origin stories of companies. I know we’re going to get into the DigiKey. Yeah, story as well. But that’s very cool to see the evolution of how maybe a company intends to start but how it shapes up over time. Yeah,


Curt Anderson  06:18

I absolutely love that, Nick. So let’s dig in. So you know, electrical engineer now I think you mentioned you know, snowmobiling, I did I see Polaris on your, your LinkedIn profile? Did I see that correctly? Yep.


Nick Olson  06:29

Yep, I did some, I had a few stops there as well. So the first time that it really dawned on me what DigiKey was, is, is I was a, I worked in the tech lab at Polaris for one summer. And I was in charge of keeping our inventory up. So we could, we could fix cable assemblies and things of that nature. And lo and behold, there was a catalog about this thick


Damon Pistulka  06:56

eight. Yeah, the Digi key catalog.


Nick Olson  06:59

catalog was sitting right up, right up on that shelf. And that’s paging through it page by page trying to match up connectors and make sure I’m ordering so that our tech lab would be stocked at all times. So that’s kind of my at another company first exposure to working working with Digi key.


Curt Anderson  07:17

Awesome. Okay, so we’re gonna, we’re gonna slide into like, I want to continue going on your journey. And then we’re gonna I’m dying to hear the origin story, as you just mentioned at digikey. But let’s hear your origin story. So how did you how did you end up? You’ve been at Digi key for what 1213 years, I believe? How did you end up at Digi key?


Nick Olson  07:34

Yeah, just over 12 years. So as I as I, as we just touched on, I was at Daktronics I ended up completing the internship, graduating, and ended up being around the tail end of 2009. So that’s really some tough times. Yeah, the industry and economy. So it was it was difficult to to find, to find work to be frank, I just started applying to as many companies even as I could, and lo and behold, I got a call. One day from DigiKey. I showed up, had the interview.

And I ended up getting a role in the in the tech support group, which is which is turned into the Applications engineering team now. And the rest is history. I’ve been there ever since so spent about a year and a half in that tech support group, working directly with customers, helping them solve their problems, helping them choose products, you name it. And then I moved more into a business type role after that, at that point into product management. So I’ve sort of been there ever since in some capacity working directly with Digi keys. Supplier partners.


Curt Anderson  08:51

Awesome. Hey, we’ve got some friends hear Daymond today say air man anger. You are on fire. She was Nick. She was our guests on Monday. Whitney’s here today. We’ve got Scheherazade Yeah, am I saying that correctly? I apologize for budget we’ve got Ryan here today we’ve got Diane buyer.

So guys again, we’re here with Nick Olson from Digi key. Now you might be asking if you’re not familiar with Digi key man, just I want to I’m gonna we’re gonna get into some numbers. I just want to give you $5 billion in revenue. Yes, that was a B five B in revenue they were going to run through some numbers that are truly mind blowing. You’re thinking about you’re gonna think I’m making them up but like, if you’re outside electronics world you might be like who like is this a small moment? like who is this?

DigiKey they are a just a quiet, quiet monster. If you’re outside of that space, Nick, let’s let’s dig into the origin story. I love this. This is really that that accidental entrepreneur man, can you please just share doctors stored all stirred up? It’s like It’s like the late 60s. He’s a PhD student at the University of Minnesota. ODA, can you just share, like, how did this little brain child like, where did this come from? For Doctor start off?


Nick Olson  10:06

Yeah. So he’s a he’s a again, he’s from his hometown as the forever so that that hence why we’re located here. But yeah, he went down to the U of M to get his PhD. Doctor store it all as a ham radio enthusiast, and still is to this day. So he he comes up with this invention that allows you to key in Morse code over ham radio. And he names that the digit here.

So it’s a digit, it’s a digital key and device. And his his original intent was to was to sell this to other enthusiasts. And that business didn’t didn’t take off like he had originally thought it would. But at at the time in the industry, you had to purchase everything in full MOQ. Yeah, so he had all these leftover parts laying around, Oh, my. And he said, What do I do with all this and he talked with his is a buddy, that’s also going to the U of U of M at the time, Mark Larson, also a Thief River graduate.

And he said, I think there’s a business and this we could just sell these one piece at a time and and other people probably need less than MOQ, right. And they started their business, really out of the trunk of a car as I understand it. And then a few months gets going and they open up an ad in a local newspaper and orders start coming in phone calls start coming in. Eventually, they moved to the back, back room of Mark Larson’s parents shipping company. So they had a nice logistics tie in as well. Right. And it just blew up from there it


Curt Anderson  11:40

Nick, I hit I have to be rude. I have to interject real quick, guys. Now. We’re thinking okay, well, just go on eBay, right. Dr. Sorta, I hate let’s just go on eBay or hey, just don’t know, guys. Like this is 1972. Yeah, you start this business. Like, just think about this. Okay. Yeah. He has like, I mean, it’s even over my head, right? It’s a ham radio. He has these components for his digit Kia. And he’s like manna and think about the pivot here. Like, I’m getting chills, like, Yeah, think about this, right?

Think about the pivot. We’re like, hey, this isn’t work. What can I do? Let’s throw in the towel. I have a Pete. You know, like, I have a PhD. Let me just go do something else. No, he takes a pivot. Let’s sell the components out of like my buddy’s parents back in their business. Nick, please continue. I had like, I just wanted to give perspective. Like, it’s 1972 like we’re still 20 years away from the internet.


Nick Olson  12:37

Yeah, exactly. It. It was a single page ad they took out with 30 subcomponents. And I know I’ve got a few of my colleagues in the chat here too, if they want to fact check that but yeah,


Curt Anderson  12:49

today. We’ve got we’ve got some good comments going here. keep the comments coming.


Damon Pistulka  12:53

Yeah, keep them going.


Nick Olson  12:55

So yeah, so the survey then pivot to a small order catalog as they’re signing new suppliers. The catalog, you know, starting out very thin, it’s getting bigger and bigger throughout the years, around 1995 launched the first DigiKey website, and that that was huge, obviously, because, yeah, we’re that. I mean, we launched before Amazon, I think that’s something we tend to forget. They were three years later. They also grew pretty well. So I can’t say that. Yeah, they did. Okay. Okay.

They’re a little startup in Seattle. But But yeah, we got so we got the E commerce going very early compared to a lot of others. Yeah. And, and that’s really our hit, you know, kind of our journey. From there. We discontinued the catalog. About a year after I started, it was okay, yeah, it was physically too large to actually add more features at that time, too. So we had reached the number of skews where it would be impossible to even make a catalog.


Curt Anderson  13:58

Right. Right. It just was yeah, that’s that’s


Damon Pistulka  14:01

mind blowing into ourselves. There’s too many skews to make a catalog.


Curt Anderson  14:05

Yeah. You know, like for those who, like the old Sears catalog, like if Oh, yeah, like, you know, so pioneer of Mail catalog and, you know, not even just in electronic space in any space. You’re talking early 70s That he launches us just purely as an accidental entrepreneur. Just I love the story. 20 years later, is a pioneer in E commerce, right? Yes. So I mean, it’s like totally on the forefront cutting edge.

It is so impressive. So Nick, I love how you know just married like, you know, your 20 years of project management you come in, and again, this if you’re just joining us, we’re here with Nick Olson from Digi key. And we’re just we’re gonna geek out hard on manufacturing ecommerce success, Nick just like how on earth are you guys so successful before we went live and you know, I can pull it up if you want to like you guys are just absolutely crushing it with numbers with like, is there a secret like what’s going on? what’s in the water up there in Minnesota? What’s going on with you guys?


Nick Olson  15:04

You know, honestly, we we say our secret sauce is the people love nice, pretty much almost to a person. If you ask that question you’re gonna say it feels it’s 5000 employees now, but it feels like 50 feels like family. The people here are, you know, coworkers but best friends outside of work. I’ve been in probably eight weddings, just meeting people here. I


Curt Anderson  15:28

mean, another job does pay for all the weddings. Right?


Nick Olson  15:30

Yeah. I mean, it’s just, you get it Minnesota Nice. We’d save Minnesota humble. We have a we have, I was looking at our inside page, which is kind of our intranet. And we still put out birthday notices every single day for every single person in the company who’s celebrating a birthday, like you don’t, that’s like a very Mom and Pop type thing to be doing when you have 5000 people, but we don’t ever forget that culture. Yeah. And I think that that is the that is our secret, to be honest with you. What,


Curt Anderson  16:02

you know, let’s sit on that for a minute. You know, let’s like, you know, you’re hearing a lot of things about culture, boy, you know, just man between COVID and just, you know, a lot of diversity issues that we’re talking about these days. Just you know, how, you know, how are you guys? How was he able to create such a dynamic culture? And like blossom this family business and says this monster 5000 $5 billion company?


Nick Olson  16:27

Yeah, I think it’s you look at almost to a person, everybody is willing to step up and do another job. And I will say there’s been times in our throughout our work history, where where that happens. So we’ll say demand increased. I remember back in 2013, to the point where we didn’t have enough human beings to pick the parts. Yeah, well, so I got the opportunity myself and as many others did in more of a business role to go down and help him in the product distribution center.

So just having that that knowledge, that skill set, being able to jump in when, when the company needs you, I think says a lot. And it’s not just something that like the individuals do. When you go down there around store dollars picking with you. And I think that’s the coolest thing is it starts at the top. The CEO is picking with us all the VPS with us. It’s great. It’s nobody is it’s too important at this company to do the little things that matter. And that’s that’s pervasive throughout every department.


Damon Pistulka  17:35

That’s incredible. And that is that is so special, so special.


Curt Anderson  17:41

Yeah, we’ve got we’ve got some great comments come in here. So Steve Jobs a great comment here. I’ll grab that Damon, you know, people are everything I think I saw a culture comment back here. And then pat a pat, thanks for joining us. He’s Hey, you know Pat’s got your back here Nick.

You say you know it’s not a lie. Liar. Hear of the 5000 people I work at digikey 4000 are Thief River Falls in between at 510,000 people depending on who you ask. You found limits. We all kind of know each other care about each other. It’s just that is just what a great culture would a great environment. Great success. So I want to go here, Nick, I want to let’s talk numbers. Okay, we’re seeking out the Amish I pull these up or


Damon Pistulka  18:24

Jetty she’s picked parts there. So


Curt Anderson  18:26

Jenny’s pick parts that go up forever. And we got to pick some parts here. Yeah. Let me let me I’m gonna pull this up to him. And I gotta share this right? Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  18:37

Well, you know, it’s so funny that when we were having Nick on today that that you know, working at Daktronics for I went to school and actually it was one of the customers of the first company I worked for as well. But then now that you’re at digikey that I can remember ordering parts when I was building automation equipment from DigiKey out of the huge catalog and you would call and talk to the tech service people because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing right.

And and they are so helpful. They got me the right stuff. And again, you know it we had email at that time, but that was about it. You still had to submit the purchase orders and all that kind of jumped into it. It was it was crazy, but so cool to have you on.


Curt Anderson  19:17

Absolutely. Damon Can you see my screen? Yes,


Damon Pistulka  19:19

I can. Okay, let me let me lay out I’m not I’m not perfect. Are we projected? I believe we are we are everybody should see it.


Curt Anderson  19:26

Does that Nick? Can you see this?


Nick Olson  19:28

Yeah, I can. Alright guys,


Curt Anderson  19:30

so this is a client This is talking electronic small, you know, made in America manufacturer founded in 1985. And they are a vibrant customer of Digi key. And they sell on Digi keys mere fact Digi key has been just a great resource, great partner of selling the products that they sell. And again, for a small custom manufacturer. They’re like, Man, I don’t have the bandwidth.

I don’t have the budget to like, you know, bang heads with Amazon and everybody else out out there. But aligning yourself with a marketplace like Digi key. It really exposes you. But look these numbers. This was a blog post that we put out three years ago. Check this out.

DigiKey if you want a little background, I grabbed this quote, you just described that story, Nick about Dr. Dr. Stuart All right here, right. This is a quote from Forbes magazine. And then the numbers 2.3 billion 3700 employees 1.3 million items in stock. 99% of all orders are shipped same day. 15,000 orders 474,000 customers served Damon this was three years ago. I was sitting down for this. Yeah. If you go to Digi keys website, right this second, right, like right now we’re looking at this live?

They’ve gone from 2.3 to 5.1. They’ve gone from what was it? 3700 employees up to 5000? Yeah, look at this number customers serve nearly a million customers serve their orders, even with COVID and supply chain. Nick, I want to dig into this. How on earth are you guys doing this? But 99% are shipped. And I did the math on this 5.7 million internet orders. Damon that’s 23,000 orders per day.


Damon Pistulka  21:16

Oh my goodness. Today.


Curt Anderson  21:19

That doesn’t include over here is 6.5 million orders. So that doesn’t include all there. So I’ll stop sharing now. I’ll come back to you guys. But I’m like, Man, Nick, dude, it’s our days what went on the past three years through COVID? Like, you know, I thought the world shut down. Apparently you didn’t get the memo. Did you know that there was a global pandemic over the past year? I don’t know. DigiKey knew about this. Because you guys were just exploding. What was going on through the pandemic?


Nick Olson  21:45

Yeah, we we just ignored it. No,


Curt Anderson  21:48

we’re not we’re not paying attention. This is slowing us down. Right. We’re gonna Sauternes.


Nick Olson  21:52

I think what helped us is being in a rural area. We we wouldn’t see the as biggest spikes as other phones. Yeah. We also I mean, safety is first and foremost for our employees. Either way, so we did precautions. Yep. We took some of those engineers that you talked to Damon. And they actually took products off our shelf and developed ways to, to kind of kill viruses and things of that nature and maybe using UVC led that we sold off the shelf. So we came up with creative solutions on Arrow and actually to mitigate risk.

And we were able to keep operations running pretty seamlessly. Now, hold the office, a lot of the office folks did pivot to more of a work from home and a hybrid model, which helped because we wanted to to keep the headcount down that was entry and building so that the warehouse operations could continue.

But like I mentioned, at any time in indigenous history, when help is needed, and someone sounds the horn, per se to come and help. We’re all there. It doesn’t matter. So if we had a spike in the river and and people were isolating for a week, two weeks, a bunch of us will go in and backfill that position. No problem.


Damon Pistulka  23:06

It’s incredible in a 5000 person, company, you just do not hear that. Do not hear that. Yeah,


Curt Anderson  23:14

absolutely. So let’s dig into this. So let’s say small, talk about your job your role and set the clients like your business development is I understand is that my close with your yep, yep. So like we dig into like your role, who you’re working with, like who’s a good fit for DigiKey? Let’s, let’s go there.


Nick Olson  23:32

Sure. I’m thinking back to when I started here, and 2012 just kind of set the stage, or 2011. Sorry. DigiKey had about 650 supplier partners when I started and I started the year after we hit the first billion dollars in sales. So it was 38 years to hit a billion.


Curt Anderson  23:52

So are you taking I’m sorry, are you are you? Are you saying like you you since Nick, I just want to on the record I want to accompany you know, Damon? Yeah, Nick joined the company, they now have past 5 billion, right? Yeah. Look how long it took them to hit that first billion. But then Nick comes on the scene. And now we’re doing I just want to you know, let’s give credit where credit is due, please continue.


Nick Olson  24:15

I always tell my I always tell my team we have better sales when I’m gone. So I can’t take any credit for that. There you go. I’m just kidding. But 650 suppliers that your is how many we had, and, and probably about 500,000 skews. You just showed the numbers and 21.

And you’ve and you show the numbers that we have now. Yeah, so circa 2019, we launched a true marketplace, platform within within the DigiKey catalog. So it’s it’s right there alongside let’s say the traditional component type business that we are known for. 650 When I started that would be a target in a given year for us now to try to seek that many new partners and what and what we have done is we’ve looked, we looked at the heart and soul of Digi key B and electronic components.

That’s really the the middle of the target the bullseye. But what our team is interested in now in sort of developing that business is the next layer of products that goes around that bullseye. So we start to venture into finished goods, what are what are the components getting design into? What are what are our customers selling? Can we can we partner with some of those guys, and to help them do some ecommerce stuff? What are we buying, we have a huge warehouse ourself, ourselves with all of these different materials needed to sell components.

So it’s likely that someone else needs this stuff, too. So that’s, that’s the manufacturing repair operation space that we’re looking into. And really any number of emerging technologies. You know, EVs are hot right now, hot conversation. Space, spirit, you know, it seems like Elon Musk is in the news all the time. Maybe, maybe not for business reasons all the time.

But yeah, you know, what’s going on out in the industry, and you just want to stay on the forefront of everything. So that’s, that’s where our group comes into play, is being the tip of the spear for the company to bring to make sure we’re ahead on on recruiting the latest and greatest technologies, serving engineers, electrical, mechanical, chemical, manufacturing engineer, basically anything engineering, we want to be the first stop for everybody, when they’re when they’re looking for a place to shop. That


Curt Anderson  26:35

I’d say that’s fantastic. And I’m telling you firsthand, when, you know, I’m checking my, my client, when they get orders, it comes to my phone, and I’m like, Hey, there’s Digi key, there’s Digi key, you know, and again, for a small little family business, you know, they’re not, you know, shaking the world up. But boy, this is nice, steady income here.

And Damon, like we always talked about like, Hey, who’s your ICP? Who’s your ideal customer profile? We call them so who’s that soulmate out there, that your ideal buyer? And like the clients that my client, might the clients, customers that my client gets? These are their soulmates? They’re fortune 500 companies, they’re engineers. I mean, it’s really a perfect fit.

So Nick, let’s talk to the new manufacturer out there. And they’re like, man, dude, like, you’re really you’re singing my song, you’re speaking my language. This whole ecommerce thing is really brand new to me. How does this like how does this marketplace thing work? Like, you know, if I put up on my own ecommerce store, I’m talking to 10s of 1000s of dollars, walk us through that relationship go from like, the very beginning to like, how that works and how you help that manufacturer?


Nick Olson  27:37

Yeah, absolutely. That’s, that’s perfect. Yeah, as you said, it’s very costly to set this up on your side, or on a suppliers website to get going. Not only that, just getting trying to draw an audience in is traffic. It’s so


Damon Pistulka  27:55

the traffic is a


Curt Anderson  27:55

tough part. You know what, Nick, and let’s hit on that one second, you know, and Damon, how many times you know, we’ve heard it, you know, like, somebody puts in, you know, a fair amount of money. They have a brand new website, and like, you know, unfortunately, naively they’re like, Oh, the spigot is going to turn on. Yeah, we’re still the best kept secret, right? They still have to do all the marketing. That’s so Nick, I apologize. You know, pick it up from there. Talk about how, you know, partnering with Digi key just bring so much muscle to a small company.


Nick Olson  28:24

Yeah, absolutely. You’ll and you’ll see that in the stats. I mean, again, fact check me on this, anybody, but I think we were drowning in 130 million visitors per year. And that’s hard to it’s really hard to dry. And it’s costing every year that number goes up. So Nick, what I didn’t hear that number. What was it? 130 million 100. Dude, that’s like 10


Curt Anderson  28:44

million a month.


Damon Pistulka  28:46

Yeah. Yeah. You know, yeah. All right.


Curt Anderson  28:49

130 million visitors per year come to digikey.


Nick Olson  28:53

Right. And the value prop for for a supplier is our marketplace is literally, there are no fees to sign up on our marketplace. Not gonna get too deep into the business details. But you don’t you don’t owe us anything until you start making money yourself. So we have folks on the on the webinar today today that are actually part of my recruiting team. So they go out and have that initial discussion with a potential supplier. We get them we get them to fill out an application within within usually 24 to 48 hours we’ve we’ve got them moved over to the onboarding team who gets them set up in our platform.

And in theory, you can be set up and selling in a day or two. We’ve had go live apply on a Tuesday, live Wednesday afternoon if they have all the all of their product information and everything ready to go. So our team is built for speed. Beyond the marketplace, we also have other other program options And I think that’s where Digi key is trying to differentiate itself a little bit from, from some of our closest comp is we want flexibility for, for potential partners as well.

So there’s marketplace, there’s, there’s some other options, sort of like a consign more of a consignment fulfillment model, there’s logistics models. So we know that one size doesn’t fit all. So we want to be able to leverage, like all of our strengths, and help customers out. So we’re, you know, logistically, we can ship everything from our facility. Everything goes out the door by 8pm. And it’s on a plane to one of the UPS or FedEx hubs. So we’re shipping worldwide within 72 hours.


Curt Anderson  30:48

So I have a really dumb question. Again, like your shipping 99.9? Like, how did how was how was being electronics? Let’s get into this. You know, all we’ve heard about the disruptions, shortages on chips, like, you know, what’s going on in that whole? From your perspective, Nick, what’s going on with the whole chip situation? shortages? Like what went on for the past couple years? Where are we today?


Nick Olson  31:12

Sure. So another thing DigiKey has always prided itself on is not being afraid to carry inventory. And we stand by that message pretty well. So when, when a situation does happen, like the supply chain issues we’ve seen for the past two or three years, we were sitting there with, in some cases, a year 12 to 18 months of stock anyway. And then, and then we obviously we don’t, in those in those cases, we don’t want someone to just come in and scoop everything up.

So we do put measures in place to make sure we still service the individual at home, the hobbyist, the student, right? The engineer doing his prototyping, right, the small tier, or the tier two, the tier three customer will still you know, we’ll still get shipped out to the CME at that point. But we just do we just do different things to make sure that we are always servicing our entire base. We don’t just serve as one portion of that base even when one supply chain is struggling.


Damon Pistulka  32:17

I I’m just I’m just flabbergasted dude, because you guys have looking at it on the map. That’s why you’re seeing me look over because I couldn’t remember exactly where Thief River Falls was but you’re closer to Winnipeg than you are to Minneapolis.

We are and you’ve got a town of 8722 people in the city limits and you have 5000 people working at digikey and it’s amazing and what you’re saying about planes usually just think a simple logistics. I mean to get that stuff onto a plane by 8pm where you’re at and not living in a in Minneapolis where there’s a huge airport right there throwing it on the plane is nothing I mean, you guys have to there’s a lot of coordination that goes on to do what you do.


Nick Olson  32:59

Yeah, absolutely. DHL all work underneath our roof. Yeah. They don’t report to their their main hub. Yeah. work here every day. So yeah.


Curt Anderson  33:12

Does. Dr. Sardo does he have a book out? Like, you know, because like, it does things like just like, soak in what Nick is describing here. Okay. Crushing it on culture. Yeah. 5000 people, you know, in, like, 50 right. 5000 employees, family culture, we stock 12 to 18 months of inventory.

Do you realize the positive cash flow you need to have a healthy balance sheet that is required to support your cost to be that committed to your customers? i The cutting edge and a pioneer in mail order 50 years ago? And yeah, 30 years ago, and now double your business during a global pandemic. Like I like I’m just I’m, I’m almost be incredible of the success Nick. Like, you’ve described a team culture, the family culture, so on and so forth. Like what they’re like, take us further man. Like, how are you guys doing it?


Nick Olson  34:13

It’s that’s it. I mean,


Curt Anderson  34:15

do you I mean, do you do like, do you guys like, I don’t know if you ever take it for granted? Like you you guys like man, like, like, we really have a good thing going on here. Like do you how do you feel about that?


Nick Olson  34:25

Yeah, we we talked about it a lot. We talked about it almost every time we’re in a leadership meeting or anytime we’re getting a business update from the executive team. It’s always the people treat the people right. Yeah. And you’ll get good work if you have if you have happy people you that you’re gonna see. See the company Excel. And again, like I say everybody’s willing to pitch in when when they need to. Just sort of I guess in our nature as Midwesterners is I don’t know I go on Facebook and someone will put out post I need help. shoveling snow and literally you’ll have 15 people respond to you.


Curt Anderson  35:08

Alright, I love it. So Nick, let’s go here, guys. We’re I’m David, I just lost track of time. I think we’re on the hour. If you’re just joining us, we’re here with Nick Olson, who’s just just a dynamo ad. If you’re not familiar with Digi key $5 billion, fine. I say the right word, as I say billion $5 billion. Powerhouse, Nick, let’s get into the E commerce side of things. Like so for small manufacturers out there. What so we’re, I’m an E commerce consultant, and what I preach and teach like, Hey, why figure it out on your own man go find the company successful. They have the marketing budgets have done, you know that are there?

How you guys, because now we haven’t even touched on your customer service is offered? Yeah. Right, like 24 hour service? Shipping 99%. You know, 99.9%? Let’s dig into like, from an E commerce standpoint, like what are some tips, strategies that you feel like that DigiKey is really figured out that you could pass along to our friends here that are maybe new to e commerce? Any tips or suggestions that you have?


Nick Olson  36:11

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s all based on available inventory as well. So like, like we just talked DigiKey is not shy from adding products, we’re not shy from having inventory, I would say the same thing applies in this ecommerce model as well. The people that we are seeing the most success are the ones who are willing to have their entire portfolio, online on our website.

Not only that, but also able to go deep on that inventory. Volume, price breaks, product information is absolutely critical for our customer base. That and when I say that, I mean data sheets, what else parametric information, all of that stuff starts to bubble up in in search engine optimization, or SEO, Search Engine Marketing. Without that stuff, you really can’t sell, we don’t want to drive traffic to kind of a blank slate or a blank page.

That’s not how people shop on our website. So that’s the big thing for me is it’s always been, you have to have the parts on the site, they have to have inventory showing, you have to have the information. Because when we look at the demographic of who’s buying from us, yeah, less and less people are picking up that phone to call the tech support, like you talked about earlier, Damon, folks, my age and younger, want to self serve, they don’t want to pick up that phone and call it I want the information in front of me.

So I can make a informed decision when I make a purchase. That’s the two biggest things in my opinion. And then in the E commerce space, if you can perform to a very quick lead time or shipping time, that’s critical to so we all got spoiled with Amazon prime over the years. And frankly, that’s okay. Because if you can still hit that one to two day shipping, you’re gonna be right at meeting the metrics that we set for ourselves, and setting yourself up for great success.


Curt Anderson  38:07

Right. And so that’s kind of the benchmark that you’re setting there, Nick is, you know, hitting that same expectation as Amazon Prime, right? In your clientele, I’m gonna make an assumption, you know, you’re hitting purchasers, buyers, you know, folks that are buyers or a ton of engineers. Yeah. So, you know, sophisticated client base, and like they need it. Now. I’m doing a prototype,


Damon Pistulka  38:30

that data sheet, they want the diagrams and all that stuff.


Curt Anderson  38:34

We have a prototype that, you know, productions down or whatever the case might be like they need it now. And I love what you’re seeing in QA, we hit on that I think this is a really important topic. We talked with a lot of manufacturers about this. You said they don’t want to pick up the phone. Did I hear you say that correctly?


Nick Olson  38:49

I said, yeah. So engineers, I’ll say I’m, I’m a cusp between a millennial and Gen X myself. So I’d probably fit that model. But yeah, today’s engineer isn’t going to pick up the phone and call tech support to get that information. They just want to self serve.

So that’s where we we talk to manufacturers and suppliers about about that you guys need to add not only the data sheet, the photo, parametric information, but related videos, white papers, blogs, articles, like literally anything that can be absorbed by that engineer is going to give them more confidence and making a purchase. So and not only that, it’s also helping you with with your search results and things of that nature. So that’s kind of where my mind goes in terms of how do I sell better how do I get more exposure for myself?


Curt Anderson  39:41

Right? All right. All right. Man, Damon told you this was going to be a blockbuster today so it’s completely hitting your checking every box Nick of what we really love to preach and the program here. I can attest firsthand. Again, I have no skin in the game. I have no affiliation with digit other than just being a raving fan. Yeah, I can tell you firsthand, Nick, as Nick described, you know, again, the client that I worked with, it was seamless.

You guys made it so easy for a company that this was new, and just submitted a bunch of products submitted, the skews were not in line and within like 48 hours, bam, and all sudden, an order in order, they can ship it themselves. You have a great program, as you described that you know that you can do fulfillment for your customers. So guys, I encourage you welcome you invite you if you’re a manufacturer of what you’re whether you’re catching us live catching us down the road, if you have a product line that you feel that’s that fits, I really encourage you to reach out to digit key and just see how can you align?

And you know, usually I don’t I try not to be salesy on this program. And again, like I have no skin in the game, but I can I’m just saying first digit key is just a powerhouse. We covered culture, we covered ecommerce, we’ve covered the the origin story, the excellent entrepreneur, and Nick, as we wind down, we’re, man, dude, I could talk to you all day. We’re gonna start winding down here. But talk about the future for digit key future ECommerce. Like where are we going? Where things heading from here?


Nick Olson  41:12

Yeah, great question. I don’t want to let all the rabbits out of the hat. Because we don’t we’re always working on the next the next big thing. But I’ll say, again, we just try to be a little bit ahead of the curve. When it comes to what’s the next Tech, what’s the next technology we should we should pull into our site? What’s the next partnership program we should look at?

You know, how can we position ourselves to be known? Again, like I mentioned earlier, we were really well known in electronics. I don’t know if we’re the first go to for other types of engineers at this point in time. I’ll just say like automation space or industrial applications, are we the first guy they think of at this point in time, which you’d love we’d sure love to be the one they do think of so. Yeah, we’re always always cooking something. Always cooking


Curt Anderson  42:07

something and Damon, every workshop webinar, everything that we there’s a line that we’d love to share. It’s like, make it as easy as humanly possible to do business with you. Damon, you always if I had to scrap UEC, frictionless, right, that’s your frictionless moving wire friction removed, and I tell you like digit key. Like, I probably sound like I own stock and digit key.

And they’re not even you’re not even a publicly traded company. Yeah, you guys really have defined how to make it as easy as possible to do business with the company. It just works. We’re Nick, we’re like, we’re a little bit of we’re fanboys over here. If you can tell. Right? Yeah. Can you tell?


Nick Olson  42:50

That’s it? Right? We we know that. There’s other marketplaces in the world. There’s other distributors. We get feedback all the time that, hey, it’s great that when I when I need help, there’s someone on the other end to help me resolve my issue. And that’s what we pride ourselves in. So not only when a customer is calling in, but when a supplier partner calls in, we don’t take that that situation for granted either.

And it doesn’t matter if your shop just opened last week, or you’ve you been a partner with us for you know, the full the full run of 50 years, you are going to have someone here that is going to help you be successful. And that’s that’s kind of the message I would want anybody to hear is, look, we want mutual success. And it’s and we’re going to make it as easy as possible. As you guys said. That’s awesome.


Curt Anderson  43:37

You know what, in bottom line, you can tell our respect, and you know, our admiration is off the charts. Just what you guys, you just do business the right way. I mean, it’s just really that simple. John Maxwell has a great line. I’ll just share this. And then we’ll wind down Nick, if you guys are familiar, John Maxwell wrote, you know, 100 100 book, 100,000 books, whatever he’s written New York Times bestsellers.

He says, When 2000 was when the Enron crisis, Nick, your party’s still in diapers, I’m just kidding. The Enron crisis now that was going on, like other companies were failing. Somebody went to John Maxwell and said, you know, Hey, man, we need you to write a book. Like the country is longing for a book, and it’s about business ethics. In John Maxwell says, I can’t do that.

They’re like, John, wait, like, we need to write a book about business ethics. Like why can’t you do it? Because there’s no such thing as business ethics. They’re like, John Maxwell, like dude, like, What are you talking about? There’s no such thing as business ethics. He goes, there’s no such thing as business ethics. It’s just ethics. You either have them or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing business or not doing business you either have ethics for you don’t have business or don’t have ethics. And Nick again, I have no skin in the game.

I don’t know why I’m going over the top but and I just feel like you guys are just doing it the right way. You’re a small entre. are out there and you’re like, hey, I need somebody to look at and just like how can I get some of this energy to prove my business? Follow company like DigiKey just see how they’re doing it and just your success is going to come match. And Nick, we’re gonna wind down, dude. First off, and hey, everybody out there, give Nick a big round of applause for absolutely crushing it today.

This is I know nuclear like you know, man, we’re gonna live like there’s no do overs really is awesome. So you were absolutely just a powerhouse today. We appreciate it. We applaud you. We salute you. My last question for you, my friend. I asked you who your hero was. Man. Barry Sanders dropped the mic on that one. Who are what moving forward for the rest of the year? Who are what is your inspiration? Who or what inspires you, my friend?


Nick Olson  45:49

You know what? I use one word all the time is winning. Winning motivates me if we want to close the full loop on the sports analogies here. I love winning and I love winning that next deal. I love winning over that next supplier. Nothing. Nothing makes me happier. Nothing makes my team happier than, you know, contributing to this to the great company we’re at. And that’s that’s how we’re built.


Curt Anderson  46:16

Well, well, God bless you, dude. Hey, they kick those clauses calm. Yeah, they’re coming in. They’re coming in. If you’re friends with Nick Nishan Jenny Ryan just met Nick for the first time today. Let’s give Nick another huge round of applause for taking time out of this kid’s schedule. So Nick, we thank you. We appreciate you keep on crushing it, man. We’re gonna have you know, pressure. We’re gonna have a bad guy and we expect these numbers to keep going in the same direction.

Is that Is that fair? And you keep on going? Keep on winning brother. Keep on. Alright guys, we’re gonna close it out. We thank everybody out there each week for joining us. We just We appreciate you more than you can possibly know. And boy just like Nick, just like Dr. Stuart Hall, just like everybody digit key be someone’s inspiration. Just be inspiring to somebody and it just makes the world a better place. Damon, I told you this was going to be a powerhouse is awesome. Taken away, man.


Damon Pistulka  47:12

Awesome. Well, Nick, thanks for being here today. Just real, real special time and in the share about DigiKey. I mean, they it is a truly special company. And you said it you know when you say the 5000 person company that acts like 50 that’s just that’s a unicorn. And when you were talking curd about the fact that 130 million website visits a year. That’s that’s 350,000 plus a day. Incredible. And then and then you think of this is in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, which is an awesome place of about 9000 people, you guys have such a special thing in there.

I just I does a sunshine there every day. Because it’s just it’s I mean, because it’s awesome what you guys are doing. It’s such a it’s such an inspiring story. And it’s the founders journey and everything. So that’s just thank you. Thank you for sharing that today. My one. That’s great. One thing I won’t bring up though, is is our college football history this last year, because I don’t think Nick’s gonna like that so much, but I love what DigiKey is


Curt Anderson  48:26

doing. I love how you say that too. Yeah, that was nice.


Damon Pistulka  48:29

Yeah, we’re just gonna. Well, we had a lot of times when we lost so


Curt Anderson  48:33

I just, that’s right. So hey, Nick, Hang


Damon Pistulka  48:36

on one second. Hang out with us. Thanks, everyone for being here. I mean, we had John Monday.


Curt Anderson  48:41

Yeah, we have a powerhouse on Monday to meet Nick. But we’ve gotten a cold dialing. We’re talking. Made Simple for manufacturers. Yeah, Monday. You don’t want to miss it. We’re going to be right back here. We have another great guests next Friday. So keep them coming. So


Damon Pistulka  48:59

taking thanks, everyone for being here. We appreciate you every week. We appreciate Nick, you know for coming here today. Sharon, just awesome company that you work with. It’s so cool. And we’ll be back again as Kurt said. We’ll be back again next week for more guests. Have a great weekend everyone. See you guys

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