How did we ever live without things such as smartphones, television remote controls and automatic car-door locks?

Those are just a few of the many everyday innovations that have occurred during my lifetime.  Innovation and major change happen in all walks of life. Right here in our industry changes are occurring at a rapid-fire rate. I was reminded of this throughout the assembly of this issue.

The May issue is one my favorites because it contains our annual Premier 150 distributor list that ranks the top PHCP-PVF distributors by their sales from the previous year (2016 in this case). The companies on that list are successful for many reasons — a willingness to adapt to industry change being one of them.

At the top of the Premier 150 list once again is Ferguson, which made headlines in late March with the announcement CEO Frank Roach will retire and current COO Kevin Murphy will succeed him. I was at Ferguson headquarters a few weeks after the announcement to chat with both men who were enthusiastic about change and innovation.

“With the way customers are changing, the onset of technology and the disruptive business models out there, it’s an exciting time to be part of this company,” Murphy says.

That sounds like a company that’s on high alert and not afraid to pull the trigger on change. For four decades, Roach has seen that philosophy at the Newport News, Va.-based distribution giant.

“I’ve been with Ferguson almost 41 years and have been with a different company each year because our associates have put us in a special place,” Roach says.

In talking with the folks at Waterbury, Conn.-based Torrco (celebrating 100 years in business in 2017), CEO Joel Becker diverted to the subject of the constantly changing marketplace.

“The next 100 years will be much more challenging than the first 100,” he says. “I think anybody running a family business, even one that’s been around 100 years, is constantly thinking about the next 10 years with the rate of change we’ve seen.”

Becker told me to check out Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ 2016 letter he wrote to shareholders. In the letter, Bezos attached the letter he wrote to shareholders in 1997. He termed it “Day 1 for the Internet.” Some 19 years later in his 2016 letter, Bezos, after people at the company asked what Day 2 looks like, stresses Amazon is still focused on Day 1.

“Day 2 is stasis,” he writes. “Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Bezos goes on to provide his “starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense,” centered in part on customer obsession and the eager adoption of external trends.

Just prior to this issue going to print, I made a quick trip out to Arizona for the Advanced Profit Innovation Conference (in the June issue). One of the speakers there was Supply House Times columnist Dirk Beveridge who reiterated some staggering statistics that are staples in his talks, including this dandy he gleaned from a CEO: Less than 10% of distributors are prepared or preparing for the future.

Pretty eye-opening stuff! How prepared is your company for change?


This article was originally titled “What’s next” in the May 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.