If you’re reading this article and you are not a member of the American Supply Association, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t ask you, “Why not?”

Every year over the past decade, ASA and its leadership has invested millions of dollars improving our value proposition for our members. Our emergence as the most influential organization in our industry has come at a time when distributors are facing change at a pace that we have never seen before in our lifetimes.

Because of this, your association has been called upon to think “outside the box” on how we can best serve our members and their employees. In numerous strategy sessions beginning back in December of 2017 with the launch of our first “strategic think tank” initiative, significant focus has been given to studying how our members will be challenged by the impending shortage of properly trained workers, the rapid pace of change in technology and informational analytics, as well as the normal everyday challenges that our members are facing just trying to keep pace in a world that seems to change a little bit (or a lot) every day.

Hearing the resounding cry that “hope is not a strategy” from the 70 volunteers who participated in the association’s strategic Winter Leadership Meeting back in February, ASA has launched three issue-specific strategic-action teams that are spearheading a deep dive into solving the three most pressing issues identified at our Winter Meeting: How will we find the 100,000 people that we will need to replace the employees who will be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years? How will we keep our members relevant with the constant onslaught of technological changes in our marketplace? And how can we best engage our members to become innovators and early adopters to ensure they continue to be relevant and successful for the next decade and beyond? We believe the hard work of these teams will lay a strong foundation to help our members remain relevant and successful, especially against competitors such as Amazon that are often times viewed by many in the industry as just being “too big” for us to compete with.

But your ASA leadership is confident that our membership can be highly successful against these mega-competitors because of the current and future programs available to help our members. Remember folks, It wasn’t that long ago that the “industry experts” told all of us that we would never be able to compete with Home Depot. As distributors, our greatest strength is that we are “close” to our customers. We have far superior product knowledge and we live and work in the communities that we serve, which allows us to build “true relationships” with our customers that the Amazons of the world just can’t match.

However, we can’t ignore the danger that these three issues represent, which is why ASA is working so hard to find the correct long-term solutions to these very serious challenges. We cannot “thank” the very talented volunteers on our strategic-action teams enough for taking on these critical issues for all of us. Stay tuned for their recommendations at our Winter Meeting in February, which will hopefully give ASA and all of us a clear path forward that ensures the future success of our companies and our industry.

Launching these strategic-action teams is just one of the exciting things ASA is doing to make a difference in your businesses. In the past year, we also have expanded the value that we offer our membership in several other key areas.

Being fully engaged in Washington has never been more important than it is today. To meet the many challenges that regulations, codes and legislation has on our members, ASA has expanded our leadership team in Washington to include three very strong professionals to ensure that our “voice” is heard on the many issues that are impacting our industry.

We also have invested this year in the expansion of our national staff, the enhancement of our existing programs and we’ve added several new programs to provide our members with critical data and insight into what’s changing every day in our marketplace.

Giving our distributor members access to Digital Branch is another major new initiative and one that over a third of our membership is now taking advantage of. Helping our members to remain leaders in the digital and e-commence marketplace is a top priority of ASA and to show our commitment to this goal, ASA is paying for every member to have a free membership in this exciting program. I can tell you that at Collins Companies, these folks are our first call whenever we have a question with respect to e-commerce or digital media, and they have saved us an incredible amount of both time and money!

In closing, please remember gang, hope is not a strategy! By engaging and helping your association, you will be helping yourself and your company.

It has been an exciting year for ASA and our industry and it has been a true honor and privilege to be a small part of all the exciting things that have happened to OUR ASA in 2018.