Since entering the industry, Columbia Pipe & Supply President Tim Arenberg hasn’t missed an American Supply Association NETWORK convention.

By his count, this year’s NETWORK 2017 event in Nashville will be either his 27th or 28th in a row.

And he wouldn’t miss one for the world.

“It’s the one place where you can see everybody,” Arenberg says. “It’s the only open forum to all distributors (including the nationals he notes), manufacturers and reps in our industry regardless of what buying group they belong to. It’s where everybody in the industry gets together.”

Fontana, Calif.-based Consumers Pipe & Supply President and CEO Mike Abeling also likes the fact distributors can meet with folks they might not normally see throughout the course of the year.

“We see vendors that we don’t see at the buying-group meetings,” he says. “That gives us a different perspective. It’s always good to catch up with all our friends.”

This year’s NETWORK, held Oct. 11-13 at the Omni Nashville Hotel, not only has the massive networking piece in place but also has an agenda filled with educational sessions.

“At the end of the day, we always come away with good nuggets of information,” Arenberg says. “There are those people who go there and enjoy it and get great ideas and don’t act upon them and there are those who do and improve their businesses. There’s usually something timely in terms of what is going on in the market and what forces of change we are facing. There always is some educational piece that we invariably end up using in our business.”


Catching up

Bradford White Corp. Vice President of Sales Jim McGoldrick says the convention’s name sums up one major benefit of attending.

“NETWORK 2017, as the name implies, provides a great chance to spend focused, quality time with our current customers and network and establish relationships with new customers,” he says.

InSinkErator Vice President of Wholesale Sales Joe Maiale feels there is no better networking opportunity available in the industry.

“It provides the highest level of networking opportunities today,” he says. “There also is a sense of community and giving back to the industry through support and volunteering to keep our industry moving forward.”

A. O. Smith Vice President of Marketing David Chisolm also sees NETWORK as a prime opportunity to engage in relationship-building with customers and industry friends.

“NETWORK brings together the highest-caliber industry leaders and facilitates a meaningful discussion of our mutual goal to strengthen and grow the industry,” says Chisolm, who is excited about the show being in A. O. Smith’s hometown this year. “As a company, we continue to be a proud NETWORK supporter because we find great value in these industry relationships and the honest exchanges we have with our peers.”

Bill Condron, President and CEO of Concord, N.H.-based distributor The Granite Group, says networking with other distributors at NETWORK usually results in useful takeaways.

“The best part of the NETWORK event is the chance to interact with other distributors and manufacturers,” he says. “The speakers and presentations are valuable but it is the conversations you are able to have in between that are the most important part. We always leave the event with a handful of best practices and ideas that we can take back to help improve our business.”

Condron adds he’ll have his ear to the ground when it comes to the subject of e-commerce. “I am looking forward to re-connecting with many industry friends to hear how their year is going and what they are working on to improve their business,” he says. “I am particularly interested to hear what they are doing to expand their e-business offering to prepare for the continued expansion of Amazon and other online suppliers into our supply chain.”


The education piece

Once again, NETWORK 2017 is burgeoning with educational opportunities throughout the three-day timeframe, revolving around the theme “Building Your Bottom Line.”

Things kick off Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 2:30 p.m., with a general session featuring speaker Ken Gronbach discussing “Charting the Course Through Demographic Change.” Paul Reilly’s “Reinforcement for Profitable Sales” is part of the education sessions Wednesday afternoon.

Former NFL quarterback and commentator Joe Theisman delivers his “Managing to Win!” presentation during the Industrial Piping Division breakfast on Thursday, Oct. 12.

Tim Urban talks about why procrastinators procrastinate during Thursday’s general session. Education session topics on Thursday include secret tech weapons for PHCP/PVF professionals (by Beth Ziesenis) and the four pillars of the sales profession (by Don Buttrey).

During the InSinkErator ASA annual meeting and member lunch, John Acuff talks about “Investing in the 4 Things That Every Great Business Needs to Navigate Change.”

The convention’s final day sees speaker Dr. Frank Luntz deliver his “Words that Work” speech during the Kohler ASA Plumbing Division Breakfast.

One of the most annually anticipated sessions is the industry economic forecast, which this year will be delivered by economist Peter Ricchiuti.

Friday’s education sessions include the Meet the Pros roundtable discussions as well as Bill Ford’s talk on the top 10 labor and human resources issues and how to avoid them.

The event wraps up with the A. O. Smith Future Trends Luncheon where Nasvhille-based motivational speaker Keni Thomas presents his “Get it On! What it Means to Lead the Way” talk.

“I always look forward to the macro subjects that affect our industry and our livelihoods, such as overall economic conditions and the regulatory environment,” Gerber and Danze Vice President of Marketing Kevin McJoynt says. “The year’s session on demographics should be quite interesting as our industry, like others, is challenged with a highly skilled, but aging workforce. Where are the next leaders coming from?”

Elkay Executive Vice President Trades Sales and Operations, Plumbing Mark Whittington has his eye on Acuff’s Thursday lunch speech on change. “I know each member of our team will get something different out of NETWORK,” he says.

As always, NETWORK will feature the popular wholesaler and vendor conference appointments, along with open-house receptions hosted by ASA’s IPD and Plumbing Division. The conference officially kicks off with the Bradford White opening reception Wednesday night held offsite this year at the famous Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville.

“NETWORK is the perfect combination of quality information, networking and camaraderie, which is why we offer the opportunity to attend to all our branch managers and their spouses,” says The Collins Companies President Brian Tuohey, who is the incoming ASA president for 2018. “Attendance at NETWORK is a highlight of their year.”

Dan New, vice president of administration at Mid-City Supply, says attendance for the Elkhart, Ind.-based distributor is beneficial on several levels.

“The opportunity to discuss issues specific to my business with other distributors around the country is invaluable and the educational seminars always give each of us a few good takeaways,” he says. “I’m looking forward to seeing all my industry friends and learning how to improve my business.”

Gerber and Danze’s McJoynt isn’t surprised by NETWORK’s continued popularity. “The convention is a great way for us to reconnect and stay connected with our distributors and partners,” he says. “The association provides a unique opportunity and platform for us to connect with and engage with key manufacturers and distributors at the same time on common issues and challenges that face us all. The one-on-one conversations we get to have almost always lead to constructive nuggets on how we can bring more value to our customers. ASA does a great job of keeping the content relevant, timely and entertaining. It is no wonder the association has seen strong growth over the last several years.”


This article was originally titled “The industry’s gathering place” in the September 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.