Last year’s American Supply Association-produced Network event in Las Vegas set a new high-water mark for attendance.

A year later, ASA officials are expecting another record turnout as the industry converges on the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile for Network2015 Oct. 27-29.

“Network has become the largest concentration of distributors and manufacturers in one place at one time. This is where relationships are forged,” ASA Executive Vice President Mike Adelizzi says. “In terms of the greatest concentration of buying power in one place at one time, it absolutely is the place to be. We’ve worked hard to expand the value and attendance over the past six or seven years to the point where if you are serious about the future of your business, you’ve either attended or you’re seriously thinking about attending. More distributors to work with, stronger thought-provoking educational sessions and a look into next year’s economic trends make it a can’t-miss event.”

In the last five years, wholesaler-distributor attendance at Network has skyrocketed 73%, ASA notes. “The consistent year-over-year growth in momentum and attendance at Network is impressive,” says Chris Reynolds, director of marketing at Columbus, Ohio-based Plumbers & Factory Supplies. “Every year I look forward to three days packed with valuable industry content, exceptional speakers and meetings with vendor principals and decision-makers with who I may only see once a year.”

East Windsor, Conn.-based Collins Pipe & Supply President Brian Tuohey is bringing a total of 14 company members to Chicago. “Network provides us with the perfect opportunity to gather our senior and branch managers in a nice venue to view quality presentations by industry experts, network with teammates and industry peers, and have some fun,” he says.

Former ASA President Jeff Pope (F.W. Webb) adds: “I’m impressed by how the convention has evolved and grown the past 10 years. I enjoy attending the convention to reconnect with good friends while gaining knowledge and getting new ideas while I’m there.”


A packed schedule

Continuing trends established at previous Network events, this year’s three-day program is burgeoning with wall-to-wall educational opportunities.

One of the annual sessions Network attendees cite as one of their favorites is the industry forecast. In recent years, ITR Economics’ Alan Beaulieu has delivered the forecast. This year, his brother, Brian Beaulieu, who has spoken at a variety of PHCP-PVF-related events in the past, will do the honors.

“My experience is attendees are eager to see into the future so they can make plans with confidence,” Brian Beaulieu says. “What they value is forecast accuracy and the non-political-biased approach to economics.”

Beaulieu has a sneak peak of what attendees will hear in Chicago on the morning of Oct. 29. “Construction trends are positive in the United States,” he notes. “The fundamentals are good. We need not be particularly worried about China or the potential of a minor rise in interest rates. We have larger issues confronting us as an industry.”

The industry forecast is one of many benefits Tim Morales, president of Mobile, Ala.-based manufacturers rep agency Tim Morales & Associates, derives from Network. “I find the content delivered to be highly applicable from the Beaulieus’ economic forecasting to a Navy Seal reminding us just how easy our days really are and frankly how lucky we are to live in this great nation,” he says. “ASA is an asset to our agency and our industry as a whole.”

This year in Chicago, ASA’s Education Foundation has doubled the offering of educational sessions where attendees will hear from experts on a wide variety of subjects and capture immediate takeaways that can applied to daily business routines.

Educational sessions offered include negotiation skills (Anthony Huey), leadership strategies (David Nour), succession planning (Robert Gross) and aging infrastructure (Marc Edwards). Other seminars include disaster preparedness, master distribution in the supply chain, the evolving role of the manufacturers rep, and a “Meet the Pros” roundtable-style session where attendees can talk about the latest topics and trends affecting their businesses.

“I have consistently seen strong education programs and networking opportunities as the foundation of ASA’s functions,” says Todd Restel, CFO of La Crosse, Wis.-based First Supply. “The Network convention highlights these core ASA strengths and therefore shouldn’t be missed.”

Nour also will deliver one of two general session seminars. His “Return on Impact — Leadership Strategies for the Age of Connected Relationships” talk takes place Oct. 28, while UnleashWD founder and longtime distribution consultant Dirk Beveridge returns for his “Innovate! How Successful Distributors Lead Change in Distributive Times” session Oct. 27.

And Network again has no shortage of featured speakers. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell is the keynote during the A. O. Smith Future Trends Luncheon Oct. 29. ESPN television personality and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski is the featured speaker Oct. 28 during the ASA IPD Industry Educational Forum and Breakfast (sponsored by Anderson Metals). Former Reagan White House policy analyst Dinesh D’Souza takes center stage Oct. 29 during the Kohler and ASA’s Plumbing Industry Educational Forum and Breakfast.


And there’s more

A staple of Network events is the annual wholesaler and vendor conference appointments that connect top decision-makers from the distribution and manufacturing realms in one dedicated setting. ASA reports, last year’s appointments in Las Vegas had more than $12 billion of business represented.

“I am most impressed by the collective strength of our industry and it shows most clearly at the Network gathering,” Gerber and Danze President and CEO Michael Werner says. “This strength is manifested in many ways — the gathering of 600 industry leaders, sold-out tabletop meetings with hundreds of suppliers and wholesalers, first-rate speakers challenging the status quo and the celebration of American heroes via Operation Rise & Conquer.”

Current ASA President Rick Fantham (Hajoca Corp.) calls Network his most efficient and effective sales call of the year. “I am impressed with both the quality and quantity of attendees,” he says. “We are getting the key players from all parts of the industry in one place at one time.”

During his tenure as ASA President, Lebanon, Pa.-based APR Supply’s Scott Weaver used the tagline “In the Hallway” to resonate the important value of the many networking opportunities that occur during Network events. “In the hallway, much can be accomplished,” he says. “Beyond the benefits of high-quality speakers and a deep lineup of formal education, I always look forward to the wisdom in the hallway. The conversations with progressive, wise distributors and vendors in the hallway are priceless.”

Concord, N.H.-based The Granite Group President and CEO Bill Condron adds: “The benefits of attending Network can be found right in the title — networking.”

On the networking front, ASA’s Plumbing and IPD divisions host open houses the evening of Oct. 28, while a PAC reception and fundraiser and the AIM/R principals appreciation reception also take place Oct. 28.

Also at Network, TORRCO’s Joel Becker will receive the Fred V. Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award, while APR Supply’s Randy Tice will be honored with the Plumbing Division Award of Excellence.

“Network continues to evolve and bring value to the participants, making it clear ASA is doing a lot of great things to remain relevant to its members and the industry at-large,” Bradford White Director of Marketing Carl A. Pinto Jr. says.


This article was originally titled “The can’t-miss event” in the October 2015 print edition of Supply House Times.