Supply House Times

Invest and invest some more

November 1, 2012
You know you’ve been traveling a lot when the airport parking lot shuttle driver recognizes you as you pull in, or when you start seeing the same flight attendants.

The last few months have featured a whirlwind of industry trade shows, meetings and visits to wholesalers and manufacturers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of you better and look forward to future interactions.

One constant during my recent travels, which by my count has taken me on a 7,000-mile journey, is the amount of available opportunities there are to learn. I’ve learned more about the industry in the last two months and have taken some of those words of wisdom and used them outside the workplace. A few highlights from my sojourn:

At September’s WIT fall meeting in Phoenix, marketing expert Kelly McDonald hammered home the importance of targeting your marketing to different generations. Her “stop spraying and praying” slogan, which I used as the headline in my October column, caught the attention of one particular wholesaler at the recent NetworkASA convention in Orlando.

This industry offers many learning moments.

AIM-R’s annual manufacturers rep conference in Boston had no shortage of wisdom-imparting moments. Customer service these days is rather important and comedian and motivational speaker Charles Marshall made sure reps in attendance weren’t taking their customers for granted.

Boxing great George Foreman reminded wholesalers at NetworkASA 2012 last month about the importance of building your brand. A day before, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer told his gripping story of surviving an enemy attack in Afghanistan and how he’s putting that traumatic experience to good use. Hats off to Meyer for having the courage at age 22 to do what he did and for wanting to make a difference for veterans going forward.

By the time you read this the country’s presidential race will have been decided. I listened to a number of individuals touch on the race at these events. The consensus was a close finish with President Obama retaining office (Forbes Inc. President and CEO Steve Forbes predicted a Mitt Romney win at NetworkASA). I loved the lunch discussion at our table at NetworkASA about what happens if the Electoral College ties at 269 (presidential vote goes to the House).

However, the one speech that made a lasting impression was the one given by Affiliated Distributors CEO and Chairman Bill Weisberg during the buying group’s North American meeting in suburban Dallas in early October. AD’s meeting theme was investing in relationships and we all know this industry is based on personal interaction. Outgoing ASA President Scott Weaver hit it right on the head at NetworkASA, noting things get accomplished at these events through face-to-face meetings in the hallways.

“When a relationship is not working, nothing else really matters,” Weisberg told a packed house at the Gaylord Texan resort. “People who are good at relationships put the needs of others first. They invest in you.”

Weisberg’s address wasn’t solely aimed at the relationships we have at work. He spoke to the bigger picture, specifically relationships outside work. Weisberg admitted earlier in life he was guilty of not taking proper care of relationships outside the workplace. “I did a good job of doing things poorly,” he said. “The people we love and truly care about have needs, too. At the top of the list is your time. Saying you are going to put family first and doing it are two different things. One is easy and one is tough. There is a price to pay when people put their own needs ahead of others. A little girl doesn’t care how much money her granddad has in the bank. She cares how much he loves her and she measures that by how much time they spend together.”

I told Weisberg his message hit home and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in that large gathering who felt the same way.

Weisberg’s solution is simple. “Invest and invest some more,” he said. “Invest in your relationships with your spouse and your kids. Put their needs ahead of yours even when it hurts or when it cuts into the precious time you’ve set aside for yourself. You can be a success (in business) without giving it your entire body and soul. It takes investing in good people in your company. Putting the needs of others ahead of your own is like rocket fuel.

There is no greater investment you will ever make.”

How are your investments doing?