As Supply House Times went to press just before the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, volunteer leaders of the American Supply Association began to put the finishing touches on arguably the association’s most important initiative ever, tackling three mega issues and providing long-term sustainable solutions to them that will strengthen member companies and as a result the industry in general long-term.

Members of the Human Capital issue strategic-action team met at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare in early December for a third and final time where it made final preparations on its plan of attack to tackle the industry’s mushrooming labor shortage.

The technology and spectrum strategic-action teams met in early January at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare to finalize plans that will address ways to get in front of the changing technology landscape and the potential for disruption it may cause, as well as provide help and guidance to distributors based on where they fall on a four-category distributor spectrum.

The three ISATs will make their presentations and recommendations for action during ASA’s Winter Meeting in early February in Dana Point, California.

Earlier, the three teams held their second ISAT meetings where members rolled up their sleeves and tackled the tough assignment of narrowing many great thoughts, ideas and possible strategies into a more centralized step-by-step process prior to finalizing solutions/plans of attack during the third meetings.

On the human capital front, team members agreed a unified message about the voluminous benefits of the industry is essential in helping combat the workforce shortage. “I’m happy we have shifted our focus from strategy to execution,” said Bradford White President and CEO Bruce Carnevale, a member of the Human Capital ISAT. “We’ve developed a phased implementation plan to deliver a strong message and be advocates for our industry. We need to create an awareness and excitement so we can get people interested in our industry. It’s then up to individual members to recruit potential employees into their organizations, and perhaps more importantly, use the tools ASA will develop to retain them for the long term.”

Central State Group President and CEO Todd Ford, another Human Capital ISAT member, is confident this initiative will make an immediate impact. “It’s different and it’s an agent of change,” he said. “You always will have people of legacy that enjoy the historical part of who we are as an industry and being small and not being noticed. But what we are doing is stepping up on the mountain, beating our chest and saying this is who we are, we are proud of who we are and watch out. Any time you introduce change it’s scary no matter what level it’s at. Our job is to define this to where members have the confidence to go out and say it and have resources that are going to back it up.”

Ferguson Director Business Process Mark McNitt said ASA’s forward-thinking on the distributor spectrum topic is yet another example of the association providing tools for its members to thrive. “At the end of the day, it’s up to the member to determine their path forward, and it’s up to ASA to make it easy for the member to want to take action through the tools, resources and services ASA makes available,” said McNitt, a member of the spectrum ISAT.

Taking an even bigger view, Kohler Director-Strategic Markets Jim Lewis, also a member of the spectrum ISAT, praised ASA for convening the three teams and pursuing meaningful solutions to the three mega industry issues. “ASA is doing an amazing job focusing on these three key initiatives,” he says. “It’s what we are part of ASA for. They provide leadership and insight and resources to help us be better than we could ever be by ourselves. This is not about protecting us from the future. It’s helping us take advantage of the future.”

The technology ISAT took its second meeting on the road to Champaign, Illinois. While there, technology ISAT members and ASA staff witnessed innovation in full swing during visits to the University of Illinois’ Research Park and electrical distributor Graybar’s innovation lab.