Annual convention continues association’s forward progress.

NetworkASA 2012 was held at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and features a packed schedule of guest speakers, as well as educational and networking opportunities. Photos courtesy of ASA and Marc Auster/Christie’s Photographic Studios

TheAmerican Supply Associationdelivered a 1-2 punch of good news recently.

Promising membership metrics were revealed at the association’s annual NetworkASA convention at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. ASA reported net membership growth for the first time in the recorded modern history of the association. Through late October, ASA added 45 new members this year. Of its 12 well-defined goals and metrics for 2012, ASA reported it was on task to accomplish 10.

“Revenues are up and expenses are down,” 2012 ASA TreasurerRick Fantham(Hajoca Corp.) told the assembled crowd at the ASA annual meeting and member lunch. “We are on track to dramatically outperform last year.”

The second batch of good news came in the form of a strong convention format in Orlando. A jam-packed lineup of entertaining and informative guest speakers and ample educational and networking opportunities were available for the more than 450 individuals in attendance.

Industry legend Morris Beschloss (left) receives the Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award from Anvil International’s John Martin.

Well-deserved recognition

Four industry veterans were honored for their many contributions to the PHCP and PVF community. Industry iconMorris Beschlosswas the recipient of the Fred V. Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to individuals with a long history of service and dedication to the PHCP and PVF industry. The 83-year-old Beschloss has been a major industry influence for many decades and was one of the driving forces behind groups such as ASA’s Industrial Piping Division and Vendor Member Division.

“I do not consider what I do in this industry work or something that takes up my time,” Beschloss said. “This is my life. I love this industry. To get an award of this magnitude from the people I love to work with means more than anything to me. I’ve been in the industry 56 years. I’ve just begun to fight and will continue to fight for a long time.”

Beschloss predicts a bright industry future. “This industry hasn’t seen anything yet,” he said. “I take great pleasure and pride seeing ASA having a revival. It’s growing. Now let’s get more people involved and let’s grow the talent in this industry.”

Fellow industry greatJohn Martin(Anvil International) presented Beschloss’ award. Martin was the recipient of the ASA IPD Award of Excellence. This was the first time the award was given to an individual from the vendor community. Martin follows Beschloss (2011),Dr. Donald McNeeley(2010),Gary Cartright(2009) andTim Arenberg(2008) in winning the honor.

Former heavyweight boxing champion and current entrepreneur and motivational speaker George Foreman speaks at the Weldbend IPD Breakfast.

A day earlier,WinWholesaleCEORick Schwartzand retiringEmbassy GroupExecutive DirectorWally Gummwere the recipients of the inaugural ASA Plumbing Division’s Award of Excellence. “This is a people business,” Gumm said. “If you put business aside, the people I cherish the most are in this industry.”

Schwartz explained his award should include many other recipients. “I’m really accepting this award on behalf of the entire WinWholesale family,” he said. “We’re not a top-down organization. We’re a bottom-up organization. Without the work of our 4,100 WinWholesale partners, this award would not be possible. Their intelligence and hard work are what make this company great.”

After Schwartz and Gumm received their awards, Congressional Medal of Honor winnerSgt. Dakota Meyercandidly spoke about his harrowing experiences as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan. Meyer, the third living recipient of the honor since the Vietnam War, survived an attack that claimed the lives of his fellow team members.

“It’s frustrating being called a hero,” he said. “There isn’t a day that passes by that I don’t feel guilt and anger. Why them? Why not me? My team members paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Meyer, who was just 22 at the time of the attack, is using his experience to make a difference in helping veterans going forward. His scholarship fund raised $1.2 million dollars only four months after it started. “This is bigger than me,” he said. “I have four reasons on my wrist (he wears four bracelets with the names of his fallen team members on them) to keep pushing on. Those guys didn’t get the chance to have another day.”

Forbes Inc. President and CEO Steve Forbes offers his viewpoints at the A. O. Smith Future Trends Luncheon. 

State of the industry

DanzePresident and CEOMichael Wernerdelivered his state of the kitchen and bath industry address. Werner believes there is great opportunity to continue to integrate the Internet into the marketplace. “We believe our industry is on the cusp of an exciting transformation,” he said. “By combining the Internet and our professional expertise, we feel our best days are ahead.”

Werner pointed to a study that shows while 2.3 billion people use the Internet, there is less than a 2% conversion rate in terms of online purchases. Conversely, kitchen and bath showrooms average 22 visitors a month, yet have a 50% to 70% conversion rate.

“Eighty percent of research is done online,” he said. “Ninety-five percent buy locally. The Internet is not the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a world filled with many new opportunities.”

ASA’s goal going forward is to continue building upon its current momentum by providing educational and networking opportunities to even more wholesalers.

“ASA is a mutual company,” noted ASA 2012 ChairmanBill Kenny(Kenny Pipe & Supply) at the member luncheon. “A mutual company is owned and operated for the benefit of its members. ASA is here to serve us. Joining and paying your dues does not make your business better. You must engage to get the pearls. The challenge to you as owners is to get that return on investment. Take those pearls home and invest them back in your business so you can make it better.”

WinWholesale CEO Rick Schwartz (left) receives the Plumbing Division Award of Excellence from First Supply Chairman and CEO Joe Poehling.

Economy speak

NetworkASA 2012 featured no shortage of speakers on the topics of politics and the economy.Institute for Trend ResearchPrincipalAlan Beaulieuclosed the conference with his informative economic forecast.

He predicts a recession climate in late 2013 and 2014 and an even larger downturn in 2019, but sees positives in the near future. “There are reasons for optimism,” he says. “Things will continue to be positive in the near term.”

Beaulieu sees no slowdown in multifamily construction, but notes new construction is expected to slow in 2013. “Multifamily will be around for a long time,” he said. “Nonresidential is experiencing nice year-over-year gains. There will be a lot of activity going on through 2013 and into 2014.”

He also provided 11 tips for preparing a business in the upcoming two-year timeframe, including adding sales staff and hiring top people, checking distribution systems for readiness to accommodate increased activity, judiciously expanding credit and investing in market research.

Looking further into the future, Beaulieu delivered some bad news, noting a Great Recession is forecast for the 2030s.

Forbes Inc.President and CEO and Forbes Editor-in-ChiefSteve Forbesspoke at theA. O. SmithFuture Trends Luncheon and started with a succinct message regarding the current state of the country’s economy.

“Sound money works. Funny money does not,” he said. “You see it playing out today. Money has to have a fixed measure of value. If it doesn’t, life becomes very difficult and investments become devalued. If we don’t get the dollar right, a lot of other things will go wrong.”

Forbes expressed concern over two issues of great interest to wholesalers: taxes and health care. “We need to start over again and get a tax code that human beings can understand,” he said to a round of applause. A sound dollar and simplified tax code would see the economy “roaring back,” he added. Forbes noted no matter the outcome of the recently completed election, health care will remain a hot-button topic. “If people want more of something, there usually is an entrepreneur there to help,” he said. “We don’t have free markets in health care.”

Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of theRothenberg Report, spoke about the elections and the process of political prognosticating. Rothenberg predicted President Obama would retain office, but called the race “a toss-up.”

Institute for Trend Research Principal Alan Beaulieu delivers his industry forecast.

The main event

The Weldbend IPD Breakfast was one of NetworkASA 2012’s major highlights. An elaborate breakfast presentation - including music from a live band - preceded a speech from former heavyweight boxing championGeorge Foreman. Legendary boxing ring announcerMichael Buffer, famous for his trademarked “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” phrase, made a surprise appearance and introduced the boxer turned entrepreneur and motivational speaker.

Foreman, who transformed himself from a child with a hardscrabble upbringing in Houston to a man who won an Olympic gold medal and boxing’s heavyweight championship, spoke about the importance of constantly building your brand. Foreman noted his life experiences, even the negative ones, contributed to the growth of his George Foreman brand.

“I never was the best, but I outthought the best,” he said. “When the best stopped working, I started working harder. I took some losses, but I got up and brushed off my pants. I didn’t run away and hide. That’s important in the building of a brand.”

NetworkASA 2013 will be held Oct. 2-5 in Washington, D.C. Confirmed guest speakers includeBob Woodwardand the husband-and-wife duo ofJames CarvilleandMary Matalin.

For more photos and exclusive video coverage from NetworkASA 2012,