Dear Industry Colleagues,

When my daughters were young, they liked the storyAlice in Wonderlandwith those fantastic adventures and characters she met along the way. As with many children’s stories, when you’re an adult and read them you can pick up on the deeper messages that are found between the lines. One that comes back to me from that story is: “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’”

While that comment might fly over the head of the story’s young readers, the cat had a point.  All of us running businesses know that to be successful, you don’t follow the strategy of the cat.  Goals and a business plan are basic necessities of running a business; we have a destination in mind and a map of how we will get there. But, when the market and economy take a tumble down a rabbit hole, the reality of the plan you set may no longer apply. There are a lot more forks that appear in your road than you anticipated. And unlike Alice, itdoesmatter to all of us where we go. We need to assess where we are, how far we have to travel to reach our goals, and which road to take to get there.

As the national association for our industry, ASA is uniquely positioned to help us in this area.  With access to distributors across the nation and manufacturers that represent the product lines we sell, ASA can gather information, analyze it, break it into useful categories and share it with us in a timely and functional manner. I’m proud to say the Board of Directors has made this a priority to deliver as a member service, and done so in a way that allows us to providemonthlyandweeklydata to ASA members at no additional cost to them. The collection of ASA Intelligence Reports is stand-alone in our industry for quality, accessibility and includes exactly the data we need to help us run our businesses at this critical time in history.  

I write this not only as the ASA President, but as the President of First Supply that has grown stronger, smarter and more responsible, profitable and empowered as a direct result of our participation in ASA. These benchmarking programs are just one more example of how our membership gives us a competitive advantage. We utilize them to a large degree. We can see on a monthly basis, around the 15th of each month, exactly where we stack up compared to the other plumbing, heating and PVF distributors in the country, in my region and even in my specific geography in terms of revenues, inventories and receivables.  And I make sure this gets passed along to our managers, our bankers and even our board of directors. I figure, the more knowledgeable the people are around me, the more effective they will be in our family-owned business. 

Take a look at the story inASA Newsfor a full description of all the reports ASA has for its members and the industry at large. If you’re already participating by submitting your data each month and using the reports, thank you and I applaud you for taking advantage of this incredible resource. 

If you have yet to discover the power of these reports, now is the time to start. Your national association is here for you, working behind the scenes to give you the tools and resources you need to rework that map so that when the next fork in the road appears, you know exactly which road to take.

And talking about roads to take, by the time you get this article, I hope to be seeing you in Washington, D.C. for our fly-in on April 29 and 30. We need your participation and I am sure we can handle any last-minute registrations.

Joe Poehling