While there was plenty of time to celebrate Southern Wholesalers Association’s 90th annual convention milestone, plenty of work was accomplished as well during the recent gathering in Palm Coast, Florida that attracted more than 800 individuals.

SWA Executive Director Terry Shafer told Supply House Times the group’s emerging Mechanical Products Council continues to evolve. “The Mechanical Products Council came about two years ago,” he said. “We decided we needed to have a better offering for our mechanical-oriented wholesalers and vendors. For that group, we didn’t have something specific for them. We felt we needed to develop our opportunities for vendors to interact with wholesalers on that level. A number of our wholesalers work in the mechanical realm as well as PVF. They were asking us for that and when they do that we try to provide something new for them. It’s still in the creation phase, but we see this as one of the future things we will really work on.”

On that same mechanical subject, SWA attendees heard from a panel that talked about the synergies and best practices of working through the supply chain from the contractor, manufacturer and distributor levels. The panel included Paul Jones, president and COO of W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor, Tom Bush, area manager for NIBCO and Murray Supply Purchasing Manager Andrew Anglin.

Other guest speakers at Hammock Beach Resort during SWA included TOTO USA President, Americas-Operations Group Bill Strang and retired Southwest Airlines CEO Howard Putnam.

Putnam offered up a number of gems regarding leadership and customer service during his nearly hour-long keynote address.

“Prepare for the worst that can happen. Always plan for it,” he said of being a leader. “Plan straight ahead and fly straight ahead. Turbulence is inevitable but misery is optional. Make the best out of the turbulence.”

Putnam reminded the packed room that “we are in the people business.” “If someone has a goal, don’t take it away from them,” he said. “Connect people with something important in their lives. Transformation is constant but people, teams and customer service never change.”

And in terms of innovation Putnam said leaders do just that — innovate. “Some play the game and others change how the game is played,” he said. “Nobody sings solo. Make an impression.”

SWA’s Leadership Development Council presented three $1,000 scholarships from its Dottie Ramsey Scholarship Fund to children of individuals who work at SWA member companies.

“Our LDC group continues to grow,” Shafer said. “The next generation of our industry is represented there from the distribution side, as well as from the vendor and rep firms. They do activities together in the spring and fall. The group is together and it is gelling. We’re seeing a lot of movement. Many of our new board members come from that group.”

Shafer also reflected on the regional’s 90th anniversary. “The 90th is huge for us and it’s huge for any company,” he said. “For us it means leadership leads to longevity. SWA has had so many leaders before us and that is the reason we are as old as we are.

“We do have some challenges with acquisitions and mergers, but we do have a huge group of distributors from all over the Southeastern United States. As we can see from all the vendor support here they value the distributors the group has. The future of SWA is bright.”

SWA’s 91st convention heads to Amelia Island, Florida June 22-24, 2019 at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation.