Once again, the year has flown by quickly.
My 2014 industry travels started on frigid Long Island in January (complete with a nearly three-hour stay on the George Washington Bridge during rush hour) and ended in early November in suburban Dallas (complete with a nearly three-hour imprisonment on a renegade airport shuttle). Three apparently isn’t my lucky number.
Other travel oddities this year included sleeping on the floor of the Pensacola airport during a serious flooding situation, finding myself lodging-less at 1 a.m. in Fort Lauderdale and losing two work shirts to hotel iron misbehavior.
My travel craziness reminds me of the scene from one of my favorite movies “Airplane!” where Captain Clarence Oveur (played by Peter Graves) is trying to juggle several phone calls (one from the Mayo Clinic and one from a Mr. Hamm) in an airport and delivers the classic line, “Get me a Hamm on five and hold the Mayo.” If you ever need a good laugh, throw that disc in the DVD player.
Travel hijinks aside, I love moving around the country and meeting the great people that make this industry go. I’m also constantly fascinated with the amount of fresh knowledge I come away with from each of my stops. For the sake of space here, I’ll stick to a particularly fruitful period this fall.
Actually, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen in a while didn’t come from any meeting I attended, but straight from longtime Supply House Times columnist Dan Holohan’s November column where he wrote: “Are you stuck on something? Don’t know what to do? Decide.” Is that not something we all can take to heart?
He followed that dandy up with another home run to end the column (Visit www.supplyht.comand type “Pivotal advice” into the search engine to access). “Nothing happens for you unless you’re willing to take a chance.”
Take a chance.
That leads me to what I feel is one of the hidden gems on the industry circuit. For the second year in a row I attended Dirk Beveridge’s UnleashWD summit in downtown Chicago. UnleashWD is two days of wall-to-wall guest speakers (called storytellers) who don’t work in the distribution industry and talk about the importance of innovation and change in today’s marketplace.
“Innovation is everything,” ShineScout CEO & Founder and Unleash storyteller Lynn Casey told me in Chicago. “If you are not willing to be fearless and leap forward, you already are moving backward. There are people who would love to move into your space if you are not willing to try new things.”
Beveridge, a suburban Chicago-based consultant who gave two well-received talks at NetworkASA in September, gets asked a lot why a company should consider change.
“There’s the company that says our business is running smoothly and we made it through the Great Recession and we’re even growing now. Why should they change?” he asked.
His answer came in three parts. For starters, Beveridge explained we are living in an age of constant disruption, especially when it comes to technological advances. He also stressed the importance of separating the past from the present and future.
“Companies have built great businesses with phenomenal histories that they should be proud of,” Beveridge said. “However, the success of yesterday doesn’t guarantee the success for tomorrow.”
Beveridge’s third point centers on another commonality of the summit — leadership as it relates to innovation and change.
“Employees, customers and markets are waiting for you to lead and to bring change,” he said. “They are waiting for you to bring that new vision, passion and purpose to what you do. I certainly don’t want to be part of a broken system, but every one of our businesses has some type of broken system. It’s up to you to lead and allow for change.”
Change Catalysts Principal Dr. Barbara Trautlein, another Unleash storyteller, provided me with even more sound leadership advice. “If you have a hammer, then everything looks like nails,” she said. “Sometimes you need a hammer and sometimes you need a wrench or a power tool. The more tools you have in your bag, the better ability you will have as a leader and the more power you will have to lead with.”
In any walk of life, change can be tough. But in an ultracompetitive industry such as ours, taking a serious look at change and how it can help your company might be the best New Year’s resolution you ever make.