As I have previously emphasized, my No. 1 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’s business intelligence offerings. Indeed, this service offering from ASA generated some of the most enthusiastic endorsements, and in general, most of the members I spoke with were surprised that every ASA member is not already taking advantage of everything business intelligence-related at ASA.

I asked Ayesha Salman, ASA’s business intelligence analyst, what are the key takeaways for members from ASA’s business intelligence offerings. Ayesha highlighted three main programs: benchmarking, online tools for measuring compensation and operating performance relative to other members, and data on general economic trends (often summarized on a regional basis), as well as data on the movement of commodities (via the Industrial Piping Division’s Commodities Report) and other trends specific to our industry.

Benchmarking delivers three critical benefits for any participating organization: a current assessment, a sense of urgency for transformation and change, and a measuring tool for continuous improvement, Ayesha tells me.

Several ASA members commented on how critical the benchmarking tools are to their business. “We use ASA business intelligence offerings every year to benchmark our company against both our past performance and other similar companies in our industry,” notes Andy Forest of Alliance-Ohio-based Robertson Heating Supply. “We have corporate goals each year, and the report can help identify what some of those goals should be. It’s extremely helpful to see measurements against other comparable companies instead of just seeing our own numbers all the time.”

Nick Porter, of Addison, Illinois-based Porter Pipe and Supply, offers similar testimony. “The ASA business intelligence tool brings significant value to our business,” he says. “Gauging our performance in the marketplace on everything from market share to competitive compensation and benefits analysis helps us to better understand where we are succeeding, as well as to see where we may need to focus more to achieve a different result.”

The cornerstone of this program has been the ASA Operating Performance Report or OPR. Jack Bell from Louisville, Kentucky-based Masters’ Supply explains: “The OPR report has given us insight to benchmarking in our industry by comparing what we do to other similar wholesalers. The report covers all aspects of our company from income statement results, days outstanding and productivity results.”  

Jon Stafford, of Pacific Northwest-based Pacific Plumbing Supply agrees: “We have participated religiously in the annual OPR survey every year for more than 20 years. Each year, we look at the results to see what areas we are doing well at, what we struggle with, and what actions we could take to improve our operation going forward. The survey also provides a storehouse of information that helps us focus on trending over the years.” 


More Business Intelligence Offerings

Another important offering is the industry compensation report that helps members confirm they are paying their people in line with the industry.  Bell calls it the “Bible” of our industry. “It allows us to be competitive in compensation for the different positions in our company,” he says.

One common thread to the members I spoke with is when they try one offering from ASA’s program, they usually will decide to take advantage of all that ASA offers in business intelligence. 

“ASA’s business intelligence services are tools I would recommend every wholesale company use in their decision-making,” Bell says. “Masters’ Supply uses the Operating Performance Report, the cross-industry compensation reports, and the Quarterly Pulse sales report religiously to help us make decisions on how to run our business.”

The members I spoke with perceive real value from these services. “I lean heavily upon ASA’s business intelligence,” says Kip Miller, president and CEO of Greenville, South Carolina-based Eastern Industrial Supplies. “It is a huge benefit of being a member of ASA. I receive financial updates and reports as a part of our membership that would otherwise cost us tens of thousands of dollars.”  

It is important to note that as more members use these services, the data becomes even more valuable. “The more our fellow ASA members participate, and participate consistently and accurately, the stronger this tool can be to help measure ourselves and our industry as a whole,” Porter says.

ASA’s business intelligence portfolio also now includes monthly economic update webinars from Chief Economist Dr. Chris Kuehl, whose presentations during early stages of the pandemic were applauded industry-wide. Dr. Kuehl also is starting a new 10-minute-or-less weekly economic update podcast “Keeping it Real with Dr. Kuehl.”

Members commented that during the pandemic, having this economic guidance, especially on a regional and quarterly basis, is more important than ever.  

“It’s a fast-moving world and customer expectations are rising,” says Brent Rudser, of Plymouth, Minnesota-based Dakota Supply Group. “ASA provides data points that are helpful in maintaining commercial and operational excellence. Much of the headline economic data is national, and ASA has been a strong partner in helping capture relevant regional indicators for our business.”

Miller agrees: “We also utilize the Quarterly Pulse sales report for our region to compare how we are performing in our region.”

Porter sums the value of this ASA offering up nicely:  “Good, solid BI drives value... period.” 

If you are not taking advantage of ASA business intelligence offerings, it really is time to “get in the game!”