Dear Industry Colleagues,

That title is a little deceiving. As those of you who were at Network’08 last month heard, one of ASA’s priorities is to be recognized as an industry leader in conservation, responsible technology and green consciousness. But the climate change to which I refer this month is what I see taking place in our industry. As I look at October, I see a changing of the climate for wholesalers; most of us are getting ready for the winter slowdown, and whatever this construction downturn will throw at us, which given the current economic climate we are facing, probably won’t be much. So, are you prepared for the coming months? What are your goals?  Do you have a plan to achieve them? Here’s a suggestion: have a smarter company in March ’09 than you do today. Use this slow time to turn your attention inward to your employees, some statistical analysis and what’s going on in Washington D.C. that can translate to obstaclesoropportunities for your business. The saying “work smarter, not harder” has caught on because the simple concept is so true - and so achievable. 

Where do you start? At ASA, of course.

First, your employees. Use this time to make them smarter about the industry that provides their livelihood, and as a result, cultivate their loyalty and buy-in to the success of your business.  There are a few different areas you can focus on here. First and foremost, training. Empower your people with knowledge using programs from the ASA Education Foundation - product knowledge with ProductPro, basic and advanced profitability concepts with theEssentialsseries, and other skills like customer service and supervisory/management strategies. Take this opportunity to cross-train some of your rising stars, giving them a greater opportunity to grow and succeed with your business. The cost of replacing an employee usually runs 100% - 300% of the annual salary. It’s a lot less expensive to invest in tools and incentives to get them to stay. Use this time to invest in your greatest asset.

Second, do an in-depth performance analysis of your company using ASA’s Operating Performance Report. The 2008 version had over 35% of the membership respond and share data. Most wholesalers are diligent about looking at statistics of their year-over-year performance, but how often do we take a look at how we’re performing compared to other distributors and the overall industry? That kind of analysis is incredibly valuable in identifying areas in need of improvement, as well as opportunities to grow your business. Use this time to find the forest through the trees.

Finally, educate yourself on what’s going on in our country and the potential effects on our industry, both good and bad. ASA has put together a fantastic new Advocacy section on the Web site ( Here you can read about issues and legislation being considered by lawmakers and agencies, contact your national, state or local elected officials and read about the actions being taken by ASA on your behalf. Also here are guidelines for hosting a congressional visit at your place of business - another great opportunity to educate your employees! ASA is the unified voice of our industry; the more people who participate in the chorus, the greater our impact. Use this time to get involved and make a difference.

Climates change, priorities change, but one thing that never changes…I’mstillexcited to be your president! See you next month.

Jeff New