NetworkASA 2014 was a smash hit on many fronts.
The industry’s biggest event again saw attendance spike above previous year’s totals, while attendees were treated to a comprehensive program that mixed quality networking time with informative and useful educational/guest-speaker sessions.
NetworkASA attracted 111 member wholesaler-distributor companies to this year’s convention at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. ASA, which is enjoying net-membership growth for a third year in a row, also reported more than 70 individuals from member companies attended the event for the first time.
“I attribute NetworkASA’s success to a couple things,” ASA Executive Vice President Mike Adelizzi said in a video interview with Supply House Times during the convention (available at www.supplyht.com/videos). The first is the level of programming we have. The rooms have been packed and there has been a great vibe and positive feedback on the value of the speakers. The second thing we keep hearing is the value of attending. Folks are commenting on the number of owners and CEOs here not only from the manufacturing side but from the distributor side as well, which adds to the overall value and uniqueness of this. It’s been a home run.”
As has been the case the previous two years, one of the most anticipated sessions was the industry forecast delivered by ITR Economics’ Alan Beaulieu. And like last year, Beaulieu was the bearer of mainly positive news.
“We think the U.S. economy will grow next year and housing will grow at a milder pace than it is now, but it still will grow,” he said. “By the end of 2015, we should be a little above a million units. We will see commercial construction grow. ASA members and people related to this industry should plan for a good, solid, profitable year in 2015 and should be using that time to invest in themselves.”
Beaulieu, who said his outlook for the remainder of 2014 is more optimistic than it was a year ago, has some advice to companies who may be looking to expand and add staff.
“Borrow while the borrowing is good. Banks want to lend and interest rates are low,” he said. “Automate, drive efficiencies, expand operations and bring in new product lines. Do all the things you have wanted to do because there is three years of economic expansion ahead. The cost of doing that now will be a lot cheaper than it will be in three years. You don’t want to be late and you want to do it cheaply, so act now.”
Beaulieu also had words of encouragement to attendees dealing with the proliferation of e-commerce threats. “Amazon cannot replace you,” he said. “To think you can be replaced by a hovercraft delivering product to a doorstep is strange. You are an important information resource for your customers.”
While the foreseeable future is positive, Beaulieu still is sticking to his guns about a forthcoming depression. “The depression in the 2030s will be much worse than 2008 and 2009. That was just the band warming up,” he said.
Dirk Beveridge, of Barrington, Ill.-based 4th Generation Systems and the driving force behind the UnleashWD distribution summit in Chicago, conducted a pair of well-received educational sessions. In addition to his “Unleashing the Spirit of Distribution” general session, the high-energy Beveridge spoke about best sales practices both from the salesperson and management sides of the equation.
Beveridge provided attendees with an eye-opening sales-related statistic. “Ninety percent of the world’s salespeople are using outdated and antiquated selling skills. They’ve been allowed to do what they think they should be doing.”
He then listed characteristics of different types of salespeople ranging from the commercial visitor (fun-loving, joke-telling, food-bringing salesperson) and the product-oriented peddler (mainly focused on the product with customers) to the sales counselor (identifies customers’ needs) and the problem preventer (brings ideas to customers before they need them). Beveridge noted the first two types comprise about 90% of salespeople, while the more-desired latter two account for less than 10%.
“Things have to change if you want to drive consistent, profitable and organic growth,” he stressed.
Beveridge also outlined a number of different sales management profiles, ending with the preferred “coach” persona. “The job of the coach is to make people do what they don’t want to do so they can become what they have always wanted to be,” he said.
The popular Weldbend IPD Breakfast was headlined by longtime television personality Regis Philbin, who brought comedic great Don Rickles with him as a surprise guest. Philbin and good friend Rickles elicited many laughs with a lengthy comedic banter.
The Kohler Plumbing Industry Forum & Breakfast featured former Seal Team Six member Robert O’Neill as the keynote speaker. O’Neill not only spoke about what it took for him to become a Navy SEAL, but the constant danger he was in during his many deployments overseas. He also had some sound words of advice.
“Success is rented and the rent is due every day,” he said.
O’Neill also revealed four important traits that led to success for him and the people under his watch.
“People skills are important,” he said. “People work harder if they believe in the mission and if they like each other. Nobody ever worked for me. They worked with me. Just because it says boss, I wasn’t necessarily responsible for success. There are other people in the room.
“Over-plan and be prepared. The only time a perfect plan exists is in the planning room. Plan and prepare for the worst.
“Take the emotion out of decision-making. Don’t react but do respond.
“And no matter what, never quit. A good learning tool is failure.”
Just like O’Neill, Super Bowl-winning football coach Jimmy Johnson, speaking at the A. O. Smith Future Trends Luncheon, came prepared with plenty of business-ready advice. “Eliminate the wrong people and bring in the right people,” he said. “Create an atmosphere where your people can be the best they can be. The biggest enemy of great is good. It’s difficult to fight complacency.”
And the winners are…
Industrial Valco’s Robert Vick was the recipient of the 2014 IPD Award of Excellence for his many contributions to the industry over the years. Vick announced during his speech he is retiring at year’s end, bringing a 46-year career to a close.
“The more you get involved in something, the more enjoyment you get out of it,” he said. “In 46 years I never looked at this as work. I looked at it as a fun and enjoyable time.”
InSinkErator’s Joe Maiale was named the 2014 Plumbing Division Award of Excellence winner. Maiale, the outgoing president of the ASA Education Foundation, is the first manufacturer to earn the honor. “Thank-you to this industry for taking a chance on me. I’m greatly honored,” he said.
NetworkASA 2015 takes place Oct. 27-30 in Chicago. For exclusive NetworkASA 2014 videos, visit www.supplyht.com/videos.