My head still is spinning!

In my travels around the industry I have the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people, learn about their businesses (many that appear in this year’s Premier 150 rankings) and gain insights from a variety of subject-matter experts.

My recent trip to Washington, D.C., for ASA’s Legislative Fly-Inand the second annual ASA Women in IndustrySpring Conference took things to another level in terms of education and overall quality programming. I came back to the office with so many notes I could probably pen 10 magazine pages worth.

I’ve written plenty of times in this space how important the annual ASA Legislative Fly-In is. Each spring ASA members have the opportunity to come to Capitol Hill and meet with their members of Congress on issues that affect their everyday business lives.

This time around a record ASA member turnout discussed tax reform, health care, marketplace fairness, metal theft, fracking, LIFO and even the recent new water heater regulations. In one meeting I sat in on, Bradford White Executive Vice President and COO Bruce Carnevale did a great job laying out the challenges of the new water heater regulations from a manufacturing standpoint.

A frequent conversation piece in meetings was the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would level the playing field for businesses currently at a competitive disadvantage because they must collect sales and use taxes while remote (Internet) sellers do not.

In the meetings I attended, members of Congress and/or their staff members were blunt in stating immediate relief on these issues is not likely to occur. But the key point here is these members of Congress and their staffs were able to hear firsthand from the folks directly affected by these issues.

“The message our members can deliver is exponentially more impactful than anybody in Washington can deliver,” ASA Director of Government Affairs Dan Hilton told me in a video interview available at If you have never been to a Fly-In before or maybe took a year off, sign up for the next one, come to Washington and help make a difference.

A few hours after the Fly-In concluded ASA’s Women in Industry Division — its fastest-growing group — held its second annual Spring Conference in Washington. This is where the information overdrive really kicked in. The group hit it out of the park with this year’s program that featured a great mix of networking and guest speakers.

It was interesting to get the men’s take on the subject of what it takes for women to succeed in a male-dominated industry. In a panel discussion, Hajoca Corp.’s Rick Fantham, First Supply’s Joe Poehling and NIBCO’s Steve Malm each gave their thoughts and provided suggestions on how women can succeed. Fantham presented a Top 10 list based off discussions he had with Hajoca women employees.

“Know what the problem is and solve it for the customer,” Poehling said. “If what you do brings value, the customer will be back quickly and you will have credibility.”

Attendees also heard a list of speakers that included HGTV co-founder Susan Packard and “BBC World News America” host Katty Kay, who is one of the better speakers I have encountered in a long time. Here is a key takeaway takeaway from each of their presentations to the more than 80 ASA women members in attendance:

Packard: “Don’t act like a man. Act like an athlete. Have mental fortitude, competitive spirit and the heart of a winner. That’s what flourishes in the workplace today.”

Kay: “Women have a perception of their abilities that skews lower than their actual abilities. That’s why confidence matters. Confidence is the stuff that builds thoughts into action. When you take action, you build confidence. You build confidence by taking on challenges. Put yourself out there and at some point you will succeed.”

A person working in our industry — man or woman — could take all or parts of those comments and put them to immediate use.

These types of meetings are what make this industry great. The next opportunity to gain important knowledge or to help make a difference on a grand stage is never too far away.

When opportunity knocks, take advantage of it.

This article was originally titled “Going home a lot smarter” in the May 2015 print edition of Supply House Times.