Greetings from the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Fla., where the 86th annual Southern Wholesalers Association Convention is underway.

For those wondering where Palm Coast is: it’s about 75 minutes south of Jacksonville and about a half-hour north of Daytona Beach on I-95.

This year’s convention has attracted record numbers. About 700 attendees are here, including SWA-member distributors, suppliers and rep firms, as well as their family members. One key component to the SWA Convention each year is the family atmosphere. A host of family-themed activities are planned throughout the three-day event.

The convention kicked off Sunday with Ian MacDougall talking about corporate lifecycles. I heard MacDougall speak earlier in the month at the North Central Wholesalers Association conference in Ohio and here in Florida he again provided an entertaining and informative look at the different corporate stages a company goes through.

MacDougall tackled the main question of what does it take to be a great company? He considers a company that is in the “prime” stages as being a great company. MacDougall said the prime stage is the only stage where a company can dominate its markets and sustain a position of leadership.

He also talked about what obstacles need to be overcome to get to that prime stage and what causes organizational aging and atrophy and if those occur, can they be reversed?

MacDougall stressed an organization must perform the roles of produce, administer, entrepreneur and integrate in order to be successful in both the long- and short-run. He added if any of those roles are not being performed there will be mismanagement. He then went on to describe the characteristics members of an organization might display if they fit into one of those four roles. 

He said a producer is interested in the “what,” and may be labeled a “lone ranger.” The administer role is zeroed in on the “how,” and managing by the book and by the numbers. The entrepreneur is focused on “why not?” and could be labeled as the “entrepreneur gone berserk.” The integrator is focused on the “who?” and could be labeled a “super-follower.”

“The producer makes things happen and motivates,” MacDougall said. “The administrator is a systematic, detailed process person. The entrepreneur is a creative, big-picture risk-taker and the integrator is a people person who is a likeable team player.”

MacDougall added a person who fits all four of those roles is highly unlikely to exist in an organization.

“The first task is to ask yourself who am I?” he said. “If you don’t know who you are, you’ll never know who you need. The people you need should complement your style. Hire people who can disagree with you, but that you respect. Change creates conflict. The more conflict you can handle, the bigger problems you can solve.”

MacDougall then went through the various lifecycle stages a company goes through starting in the courtship stage and going all the way up the key prime stage and then down to the negative end of the spectrum to the bureaucracy and death stages.

MacDougall noted four key causes of organizational aging are relative perceived market share, the mental age of key people, organizational structure and leadership.

He also offered some sound advice for dealing with changes and conflict resolution inside a company.

“Don’t let anybody attribute a problem to an individual. Don’t single anybody out,” he said. “Describe a situation, but don’t prescribe a problem. Instead of saying we need more outside salespeople say our major accounts are not getting called on frequently.”

VIDEO: See our exclusive video interview with Ian MacDougall at the recent 2014 SWA Convention in Palm Coast, Fla.

We’ll be back again for a recap of the fascinating general session keynote delivered by ultra-marathon runner Dean Karnazes.