To state the obvious, 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us whether we’re talking personally dealing with the many ramifications of the pandemic or from a professional/business standpoint.

I think it’s safe to say everybody has been affected by COVID-19 in some fashion. It’s hard to fathom that in early March we were doing our usual thing at the legacy WIT and legacy Embassy buying group meetings, and then with what seemed like a snap of a finger, things ground to a halt. I have told the story many times this year of being in Dallas at WIT in early March and seeing the placards that discouraged hand shaking — evidence that the pandemic was ramping up. A week later in Miami at Embassy, folks were being pulled off the road. Four days after returning from Miami, the staff went into remote-working mode, as did much of the rest of the country.

Things certainly have been tough to varying degrees throughout our industry during these unprecedented times, but as that old Billy Ocean song (I’m dating myself) goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Companies and individuals throughout our industry have shown extreme resiliency. We all heard the stories of folks in certain parts of the country taking tremendous pandemic-related sales hits in the spring. and now we are hearing the stories of companies rebounding, and in some cases, even enjoying record years.

Here at ASA, we kicked it into overdrive in a hurry at the beginning stages of the pandemic, making sure our distributor, manufacturer and rep members were kept informed of the latest legislative and regulatory news related to the pandemic through the establishment of a COVID-19 resources portal on our website.

When uncertainty filled the air as to if our industry would be classified essential throughout the country, ASA’s Government Affairs office stepped to the forefront and the result was more than 8,000 employees of member companies writing their elected officials to implore our industry be deemed essential, which it quickly was.

We also debuted our well-received ASA Town Hall video interview series where members shared their COVID-19-related trials, tribulations and best practices, giving other members a real-time peer-driven sense of what was occurring in the field. We also interviewed the heads of the National Home Builders Association (Jerry Howard) and National Kitchen and Bath Association (Bill Darcy) to get their take on the pandemic as it relates to two important segments of our industry. More good news: The Town Hall series will continue with expanded vigor in 2021 and beyond.

During the pandemic, ASA opened its D.NEXT Innovation Lab in Champaign, Illinois, and also rolled out the hugely important PROJECT TALENT career recruitment platform. Both are part of ASA’s long-term Building One Future initiative aimed at securing the future of our industry for years to come.

While we, of course, would have loved to roll live with NETWORK2020 in Chicago this past October, the pandemic said otherwise. But ASA again quickly pivoted and presented NETWORK2020 in a well-received virtual format, complete with a first-of-its-kind virtual trade show. Fingers crossed on returning to live NETWORK action in Vegas next November!

And not to be lost in all the hustle and bustle of 2020, ASA took it’s CONNECT peer-to-peer networking concept virtual this year and ended up with a smash hit. We’re thrilled to announce CONNECT is coming back in 2021 with even more opportunities for ASA member employees to tackle challenges with peers in nine specific job-function categories. And most of the CONNECT groups will be open to manufacturers and reps, as well as distributors in 2021.

Always know that in 2021 and beyond, the American Supply Association is here to help our member companies and their employees best succeed in these constantly evolving times. We are here for you. Happy holidays!