I get asked fairly frequently about my travels throughout the industry.

One of the greatest perks of traversing the country and sometimes the world is meeting the interesting people throughout the PHCP-PVF supply chain. And you can pick up a few hotel pens along the way (ask me some time which brand is my favorite).

While meeting the folks who make this industry tick certainly is fulfilling, so too is the constant stream of knowledge I acquire. During my most recent spring road trip that took me to seven stops and covered more than 13,000 miles roundtrip, I learned plenty. Here are some of my favorite nuggets from two stops in particular.

One hidden gem on the seminar circuit is the Advanced Profit Innovation Conference that took place in April in Scottsdale, Ariz. This conference is like the Super Bowl of speakers, many who are familiar to our industry such as Supply House Times columnists Dirk Beveridge and Bruce Merrifield, as well as Waypoint Analytics’ Randy MacLean, who along with his wife, Diane, and Merrifield, created the show. If you are unfamiliar with this conference, check out the website at www.apicconference.com.

Randy MacLean kicked off the conference with a word of caution to those from the distribution world who were in attendance: “By 2020, if you are not looking at the numbers, you will get crushed because others will already know what is going on.”

He also had an interesting take on company mission statements. “We help our customers meet and exceed their goals — there is no other mission for a company,” he said.

MacLean noted there is a big difference between a mission statement and a company’s purpose. “The purpose of a company is to convert revenue into profit as effectively as possible and profit allows us to give back to our stakeholders,” he said.

And some myth debunking occurred as well. “You can have it all — aggressive price, excellent customer service and market-leading profits at the same time,” MacLean said. “Because people have said it’s impossible, people have stopped doing it except for world-class companies. Reorient your company for both purpose and mission and infuse both in senior-management thinking and decision-making.”

Beveridge led off his portion of the conference with one of his usual research gems. “Ninety percent of companies are internally motivated instead of externally motivated,” he said. “Less than 10% of distributors are prepared or are preparing for change. If we don’t change, we die.”

Steve Eppner, founder and principal of The Startup Within, said it’s important to know what the word pain means to a company’s customers. “Companies need to step back and understand what business you are in,” he said. “Instead of brainstorming, it should be pain-storming. Customers will pay to make their pain go away. Identify what the pain points are for your customers and what the pain points are in the industry.”

Brent Grover, of Evergreen Consulting and a veteran industry speaker, referenced his love of baseball throughout his talk in Scottsdale, even bringing up Mario Mendoza, a journeyman infielder who is famous in sport laurels for being associated with the term “The Mendoza Line,” which generally references hitters with batting averages below .200 (Mendoza, by the way, was a career .215 hitter).

“A lot of distributors do things well and have good sales, but they don’t make money,” he said. “They are like Mendoza, who was a good fielder but didn’t get results at the plate.”

I also heard Amy Henry, who was a finalist on the first season of NBC’s “The Apprentice” television show, speak to the record turnout at ASA’s Women in Industry conference in Austin, Texas. She too, delivered some words to take into consideration.

“The workplace is like a TV (show) set,” she said. “We all will be edited in the workplace and our job is to provide the best footage possible to our colleagues, bosses and customers.”

All good advice here, but the key with advice always is what you do with it. If you hear a good idea that you think will help business, jump on it. Your customers will be better for it.


This article was originally titled “The things we learn” in the June 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.