One thing common to all members of ASA is we love this industry and we want to stay in this game for as long as we can.

And to do so, your company’s engagement with ASA is critical for you to stay in the supply game.  So, my first message to you as ASA president, and my theme for this year is “Get in the game to stay in the game.”  

What is the No. 1 thing you need most to play this game?  People. It’s no secret we will have to replace almost half our industry’s workforce over the next decade – a daunting challenge.  

ASA is working on a bold plan to help you play better. Through Project Talent, ASA is going to help you develop your company’s messaging to better attract your share of the future jobseekers in this increasingly competitive employment marketplace. This plan will help create some sexier branding for our industry, and it will provide members with guidance on how to use websites, social media and other platforms to get the people we all need to stay in the game.  However, ASA can only provide your team with the equipment you need to play — you need to decide who in your company will help drive this effort and be our contact. You need to get that person in the game. 

Here’s a related question: What can we say about roughly 50% of the potential workforce that we could hire to replace all these employees we are going to lose?  Any ideas? News flash — they are women!  Several years ago, based on the work of several visionary women, ASA formed its Women in Industry division, which today has grown into an exciting and vibrant program.  As women look at our industry as an option to build a career, we can point to Women in Industry as an example of the great careers awaiting them. Please, if you haven’t done so already, consider getting more of your female employees involved in this group. Get them in the game! They are a critical voice for our future. 

What do all these new workers need to play the game? Training! ASA University has your back. Are you using those materials? At Hirsch, we have derived a lot of value from the Masters of Distribution Management program, which makes our people challenge themselves and helps make our business better. They can’t wait to get in the game after these classes. Can you imagine the impact additional education will have on your people?  I promise it will surprise you.

OK, Bill, we get we need people to win. What else do we need to keep playing this game? We now have competitors that our founders never imagined, such as Amazon Business and probably other players we don’t know yet.  We need technology to help our people take care of our customers the way they expect. It’s impossible to keep up with technological changes these days. Who can figure out what technology we need?  Where to get it?  How do we even start?

Well, here again, ASA is stepping up to the plate with its D.Next platform. Over the next year, our D.Next technology team will begin development of a comprehensive set of resources to ensure ASA members invest in technologies that deliver solutions our customers will value. Are you committing yourself right now to engage your IT team to connect with ASA and help your company lead in the future through technology and innovative ways to serve your customers?  Get those people in the game!  

We already have mentioned people and technology. What else do you need?

How about ideas to make our businesses better, ideals on how to take better care of customers and employees, and ideas on how to work more closely with suppliers. Where do we get these ideas?

From each other! From the many networking opportunities, such as our annual NETWORK event, the new ASA Connect community, and the Women in Industry and Emerging Leaders groups. At meetings such as these, we can share best practices, learn about new ways to tackle old problems and sometimes learn there are new problems we weren’t aware of.

How many times have you left NETWORK or another ASA event with at least one idea you were excited to try when you got back to the office? Imagine if you had more of your team at these gatherings and they left with their own ideas to help your business play better. Again, this only happens when you and the people in your organization participate in ASA programs. Get the right people in the game.

ASA also is helping you play the game by giving you monthly scorecards with our benchmarking data and making sure via our robust advocacy efforts that the referees (the government) don’t ruin the game. 

ASA is delivering value and giving us the tools to stay in the game and play better. Are we as members fully putting those tools to use?

We want all our members to stay in the game. I encourage you to get in the game. Get your people who need to be involved in ASA involved.

Getting your company fully engaged will make the game a lot easier to play and make winning a lot more fun.