In September, the American Supply Association convened a pair of strategic action teams to begin the task of solving the industry’s labor and technology issues (read here for further details on those first two meetings).

This important labor-intensive initiative continued in full force in October when the final strategic action team met at the Chicago Hilton O’Hare to discuss the topic of where distributors fall on a four-category spectrum, and what can be done to provide help and guidance to those companies as it relates to their spectrum position.

The spectrum SAT consists of Terry Shafer (Southern Wholesalers Association and North Central Wholesalers Association), Kip Miller (Eastern Industrial Supplies), Mark McNitt (Ferguson Enterprises), Chris Reynolds (Plumbers & Factory Supplies) and Paul Kennedy (Dakota Supply Group). Kohler’s Jim Lewis also is part of this team. ASA consultant and Supply House Times columnist Dirk Beveridge again facilitated the meeting.

As a matter of definition, the four spectrum categories include:

Lifestyle: A traditional business with no legacy, no successorship and little market value, which is not bad if it’s premeditated.

Late Adopter: A business with leaders who like to talk about change, technology and the future, yet are reluctant to act. There is an internal struggle with desire for growth, improvement and innovation, yet being pulled back to yesterday.

Early Adopter: A business with leaders that stand in line when the new iPhone comes out, always with an eye on the future. They are driven to define their “next” and insure the business is perpetually trying new things.

Progressive & Entreprenurial: A business that shines as the clear market leader that is not bound by today, but is challenged by what is possible. Intent on organizational legacy.

“Who knows where distribution will be in 10, 15, 20 years from now?” Miller said. “With all the changes coming, being able to provide the tools to be aware of where things are, where companies are, how you can advance your organization and what is a good next step or next several steps is vital for the survival of distribution.”

The team agreed providing a roadmap and tools for change is critical, but ultimately the decision rests with the individual or company. “The real key is people have to make their own decisions and companies have to make their own decisions about where they are today, what they are today and be honest and open about a good and true assessment,” Kennedy said. “And then what do they want to do to invest and push forward toward the future?”

Miller added: “Awareness always is a good thing. You can choose to do nothing, but typically those who do nothing fail or go out of business. Some of my peers have made no plans for the future. Some may not care anything about being aware and others may be thinking a lot about their future. If you are in a family business like I am, you always are thinking about succession and preparing that next generation. With all the disruption coming with technology and in the supply chain in general, it is imperative that as president of a company I need to know everything I can and try to discover what I don’t know so I can prepare our people for success.”

Kennedy said this is another example of ASA taking a leadership position in helping members define the ever-changing and –evolving marketplace. “Hopefully the output of this group will provide some steps members can take to stay relevant in the industry and be viable and thrive in the future,” he said.

Supply House Times will continue to chronicle the SATs as they progress toward presenting their action plans at ASA’s Winter Meeting in Southern California in February.