My number-one goal as 2020 ASA president is to drive ASA programs deeper into our member organizations so our members and their employees can “get in the game!”

My strategy for accomplishing greater member engagement is to share success stories about how our members are using ASA programs in their businesses. This month, I want to highlight the value members get from ASA University and how many of our members used COVID-19 downtime as an opportunity to build their bench.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the ASA Education Foundation Board, led by Todd Ford, president/CEO of Central States Group, and Amy Black, ASA Education Foundation executive director, took action to make courses more relevant and affordable. ASA University reduced member pricing to $25 per enrollment, offered free courses to members on improving resilience, and offered free manufacturer courses.

The results were dramatic. To give you some idea of how members embraced education during the pandemic:

  • 698 free resilience courses taken;
  • 938 $25 courses taken; and
  • 1,728 free manufacturer training courses taken.

ASA University also saw 27 new companies engage in education, including five manufacturers, five reps and 17 distributors (including three new ASA members).

Rep organizations were some of the first companies during COVID-19 to understand that they had to find a way to make the forced downtime for their outside sales reps more productive. Dominick Summa, a partner in his California-based rep firm Delta-Q, sums it up this way: “Delta-Q went to ASA University when our outside sales reps started working from home — a situation new to all of us. ASA-U was the perfect source that understood the needs of our business and the importance of keeping our employees engaged during this time. With the help of their resources, we are continuing to build better communication within our team, create more proactive selling and better follow-up on tasks and deadlines.”

One of the frequent users of free courses during the pandemic was Arkansas-based Falk Supply. “ASA University has given Falk Supply the resources to create training schedules for each job description,” Falk HR Manager Amy Priddy explains. “The service through ASA University has helped us create qualifications needed for employees to move from different positions within the company, if available. Employees now can take the initiative to become prepared for their next step.”

Sometimes, we take for granted the accomplishments of the ASA Education Foundation and the work it has done building ASA University. Just to give you a sense of the impact of these programs, consider some of the following statistics over the past five years:

  • 9,443 learners have taken courses in ASA-U online;
  • 76,319 hours of training have been completed; and
  • 99,493 courses have been taken.

One of the signature programs of ASA University is the Masters of Distribution Management. Our company, Hirsch Pipe & Supply, jumped into this program with both feet and we had five of the first six MDM graduates. Now, there are more than 74 MDM candidates enrolled in the program, representing more than 27 member companies.

Larry Davis, our regional manager, was the first MDM graduate. “I have been in the industry for a long time and the MDM program gave me the confirmation that a lot of what I had been doing was correct, and it gave me valuable insight into the things that I had always shied away from, giving me more confidence in my ability to be a leader,” Davis says.

Larry and I encourage ASA members to look carefully at this program. “I would recommend the MDM program to any young up-and-comer as a way to help shape them into a leader in your organization,” Davis adds.

When I asked Amy Black which message was most important to share with members, she stressed the flexibility and adaptability of ASA-U to each member’s individual training goals.

“Call us with your organizational goals and your budget and we will work with you to find a program that fits your company’s needs,” she says.

One of those companies that bears witness to her comment is Northern California powerhouse PACE Supply. “ASA University has been flexible in meeting both our access needs and fiscal requirements, allowing us to continually grow our use of their industry-leading training content,” PACE Director of Talent Management Colin Folk says. “Our partnership with ASA University and the education staff has definitely elevated the training capability at PACE Supply. From the inception of our relationship, ASA has worked diligently to improve its service levels and accessibility to its content, to the extent that we currently house all ASA-produced courses on our own internal learning management system.”

Here at Hirsch Pipe & Supply, we also have blended ASA University resources with our in-house materials for a better range of training materials at a more economical cost.

“In 2019, we decided to host the courses on our own internal LMS,” Hirsch Director of Organizational Development Anton Williams says. “This allowed us to have more flexibility in providing our team members with training opportunities from a single sign-on interface. The ASA University training courses have been leveraged to support sales training, onboarding and employee development to increase promotional opportunities for our team members.”

I think Anton sums it up nicely when he says, “ASA University courses are a recommended essential to any member company that wants to have a successful and user-friendly training program.”