I’ve been in this industry and a member of ASA for a long time - long enough to look back and recall a very definite “us vs. them” attitude when it came to the distributor/manufacturer relationship. The thought of a supplier becoming a member of ASA was met with acrimony and dismissed as “won’t ever happen.” How times have changed. 

As I write to you in early 2010, I am proud to say that we have a vibrant and strong Vendor Member Division that is an integral part of our success as an association, with vendor members on the Executive Committee and a supplier who served as president of the ASA Education Foundation. This change in philosophy is an excellent example of Henry Ford’s statement declaring “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

The work we, as distributors, can do with suppliers to realize success continues today. The change in our industry’s economy has presented many opportunities for us to take a look at our relationships with our suppliers (and vice versa) and see how we can make them stronger and more profitable. The next step - while the economy is still in flux - is to come together to workmorecollectively and profitably to survive. We all know pricing isn’t the answer - what is, is understanding each other better. This is an area where I see ASA providing a clear advantage to those who are members.

By having a united membership of distributors and manufacturers, a network has been established and cultivated over the years to provide a strong foundation which welcomes open, honest conversation. A priority for 2010 will see ASA developing opportunities where we can bring together manufacturers, their professional representatives and wholesaler distributors to discuss dilemmas that drive cost and hurt profitability on both sides. The role played by professional manufacturers representatives will be of vital importance in that conversation. Loyalty to domestic manufacturers is something I believe in and would like to promote throughout the channel.  I look forward to working with the Vendor Member Division Council to look at how we can work together to prepare for economic recovery.

The lessons ASA has learned over the years about the importance of partnerships between wholesalers and manufacturers and their national trade association are being applied in other important areas as well. Just as it was with the manufacturers, there was a day not too long ago when ASA and the buying groups existed in an “us vs. them” world, viewing each other as competition for time, talent and resources of our mutual members. Over time we all came to realize that “policy” didn’t do anything to serve our members or advance the missions of any of the individual organizations. Leaders from all parties - volunteers and executives - came together to discuss partnerships that would allow the groups to share programs and services that focus on each other’s strengths.

Last year, ASA signed cooperative partner agreements with three major buying groups that serve our industry: Affiliated Distributors, Embassy Group and WIT & Co. The overall view is very positive. All the distributors and manufacturers I’ve spoken to see it as a win-win, and something that has been long overdue. This year, we will maximize these partnerships. The distributors involved will benefit from the collective efforts to strengthen the industry rather than having to choose between two great organizations working toward the same goal: a strong, profitable and growing PHCP and PVF industry. 

Take advantage of these partnerships. It may be just the advantage you need to bring your business to that next level and outshine your competition. I look forward to playing a strong role in keeping us all together to show progress, and can’t wait to see the success that comes from working together.

Frank Nisonger
Slakey Brothers