Some 100 attendees of the recent fourth annual UnleashWD summit held at Venue SIX10 in downtown Chicago came home with valuable new insights and motivational tactics related to innovating in the distribution space.

The well-received event, founded and produced by speaker, consultant and distribution podcast host Dirk Beveridge, featured 15 speakers over a two-day timeframe.

Chicago Tube & Iron CEO Dr. Don McNeeley, the event’s first-day keynote speaker, talked about the importance of embracing change and innovation, but stressed not all members of a company may be onboard at first. He cited the numbers 20, 50 and 30 to drive home his point.

“Twenty percent will follow it, 30 percent will fight it and try and undermine it and 50 percent are undecided,” he said. “It’s a selling job to evoke change.”

Entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque echoed McNeeley’s thought on the acceptance of change. “An innovative culture begins with accepting the world really has changed and being open to more changes to come,” he said.

McNeeley added one of the best times to think about innovation isn’t when the business is struggling. “The time to rethink the business is when it is at its peak,” he said.

And McNeeley followed up on a familiar refrain in the PHCP-PVF industry regarding attracting new talent. “I’m turning my life’s work over to them, I have to get them ready,” he said.

On that same topic of personnel, Steven Handmaker, chief marketing officer at insurance company Assurance, told the story of his company’s massive transformation. One common denominator in the company’s rise has been the people it employs.

“Happy employees equal happy clients,” he said. “Getting the right people on the bus is critical to future success.”

Larry Keeley, president and co-founder of Doblin, a unit of Deloitte, noted less can be more when it comes to innovation. “A smaller number of bigger ideas will massively improve your return on investment,” he said.

And consistency matters as well. “It’s better to be consistently good rather than sporadically brilliant,” Motivated Inc. Engagement Engineer Donna Peeples told the audience.

In coming up with innovative solutions, Keeley suggested focusing on the plight of the customer. “Make it easy for customers to do hard things,” he said. “It’s all related to where the misery is. Find out what ticks people off.”

Colin Hunter, co-founder and CEO of men’s clothier Alton Lane, added on the second day: “We must stay hyper-focused on the customers’ needs in a culture where the needs of customers are always changing. Real innovation happens when you can meet the needs of the customer while solving the biggest problems of the industry.”

Two speakers on the summit’s final days were in agreement that change and innovation no longer are optional in today’s marketplace.

“Keep moving forward with innovation and disruption or you will disappear in the blink of an eye and fade into oblivion,” cautioned Dov Baron, authentic leadership expert at Authentic Paragon Alliance.

Jeffrey Hayzlett, CEO of the Hayzlett Group and the event’s second-day keynote speaker, said getting a company’s culture in order is the key that will unlock success. “Culture will eat strategy for lunch,” said Hayzlett, a TV-radio personality, author, and business and marketing speaker.“You have to adapt and change or your company will die. Change is hard work and it’s called hard work because it’s hard. If you think big and act bigger you will be in good company.”

Attendees from the PHCP-PVF industry included representatives from 2015 Supply House Times Supply House of the Year Winsupply, Consolidated Supply, TORRCO and the American Supply Association, which is a sponsor of the summit.