Twelve years ago, the American Supply Association launched its inaugural winter leadership meeting where some 70 volunteer leaders gathered in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida area to develop ASA’s first extensive long-term strategic action plan — a launching pad that aimed the association on a growth and success trajectory that continues to this day.

And more than a decade later, those winter gatherings continue to be a vital part of ASA’s never-ending mission of becoming indispensable to our industry.

In fact, the 2018 and 2019 meetings provided springboards for ASA’s three current mega initiatives centered around the recruitment of talent into the industry (Project TALENT),  helping members deal with the ever-changing technology landscape (D-NEXT) and providing guidance to distributor members, if they choose, on what they need to do in order to advance their companies forward (Project VITALITY).

Those three mega initiatives are known collectively as Building One Future, a pioneering, strategic and holistic process that engages the wisdom and passions of ASA volunteers to define ASA’s future.

And it was Project VITALITY, the third strategic mega goal, that was the focal point of the recent 2020 ASA Winter Leadership Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

A major nexus of Project VITALITY is the establishment of a four-category spectrum that distributors fall into, ranging from the far left where distributors may not be as progressive or innovative or have a succession plan in place, to the far right where distributors are early adapters of technology, have succession planning secured and are on the cutting/innovative edge when it comes to navigating an ever-changing distribution landscape.

At this year’s winter meeting in late February, 70 volunteer leaders assembled to engage in a two-part process, facilitated by longtime ASA and distribution industry consultant Dirk Beveridge, aimed first at taking inventory of ASA’s current expansive member offerings and how applicable those programs are to each category of distributor on the spectrum.

Volunteer leaders were assigned to groups focused on evaluating ASA’s programs that fall under three umbrellas: operational excellence, employee recruitment and retention, and advocacy.

“It’s reassuring to see the association acknowledging and thinking about the future given the oncoming changes in our industry, including technology, consolidation and regulation,” Winsupply Senior Vice President, Marketing and ASA Plumbing Division Executive Council Chair Steve Edwards said.

After lunch, the process turned to the volunteer leaders doing a deeper dive and addressing ASA staff members with their assessments of the many ASA programs and offerings, ranging from education to business intelligence to advocacy. Volunteer leaders provided strengths, weaknesses, the business impact of each offering and suggestions for improvements.

“I found the candid conversation during the meeting refreshing,” Edwards said. “Obviously, ASA members are dedicated and passionate about the industry and the frank discussion that occurred during the meeting will only benefit us.”

Sheri Newman, vice president at Miami-based Lion Plumbing Supply and a member of the ASA Women in Industry Executive Council, was attending her second winter meeting and came away impressed with what transpired.

“I thought this one was much different than last year,” she said. “I felt a sense of urgency from ASA to really listen to us. ASA offers so many services to the industry, but many members are not utilizing them. I feel like this meeting really spoke to that and the need to meet members where they are in their business.”

Edwards added the winter meeting format continues to be a crucial component of ASA’s strategic engagement with members.

“It’s always beneficial to interact with other distributors, manufacturers and reps to learn and validate what our businesses are experiencing, and how ASA can be an indispensable partner to all of us,” he said.

Newman added: “The networking at these meetings always is beneficial and the workshops really show how much you can get done in a short period of time. I personally feel that being a volunteer leader for ASA is all about giving back to our industry, and that is very rewarding to me.”

Katie Hubach, manager/partner at Corona, California-based manufacturers rep firm Signature Sales, said she enjoyed the passion and thought provided by her ASA volunteer member peers in Orlando. “The format allowed for much-needed constructive feedback on how we can make ASA even more valuable to the members,” she said.