The Prosperity in Our Future

The Prosperity in Our Future is ‘You, Me, Them, Everybody’

As attributed by 43 current and former emerging leaders representing as many different wholesalers, manufacturers and independent manufacturer representatives across the U.S.

How does a company preserve that which enables a business to succeed for one generation after another? The PHCP and industrial PVF industry is certainly one with so many examples of how wholesalers, manufacturers and independent manufacturer representatives have persevered, time and again, through changing economic and political realities, evolving logistics, industry consolidation, and new products and technologies.

One constant that has helped businesses throughout our industry to maintain integrity and productivity over time is people. If one considers people to be among a company’s most important assets, then investing in their professional development is a very relevant and wise investment for a company’s future.

A company’s affiliation with associations, particularly the Wholesalers Association of the North East (WANE) and the American Supply Association (ASA), will help to cultivate the best of today’s middle-managers into tomorrow’s most complete business leaders in the industry. “For many years, ASA’s Emerging Leaders Division (EL) has helped the next generation of industry executives learn from one another, collaborate and build trust to help make us and our companies better,” says Ed Ismert with Jay R. Smith Mfg. Co.

EL members represent a diversity of perspectives among different supply chain partners from as many markets across the country. Scott Weaver with APR Supply Co. believes this provides EL members with a professional maturity that gives them confidence to face the new challenges an ever-changing business landscape brings. “ASA’s Emerging Leaders Division remains relevant and dynamic because it continues to provide a platform that brings together our industry’s emerging leaders to network and learn in an environment that is open and non-threatening,” says Jeff Worly, from Worly Plumbing Supply. “In fact, over a five-year period, EL membership has grown by more than 40 percent.”

Despite the growing interest about who will be the future of our industry along with the growing roster of EL members, it’s not uncommon for wholesalers to be skeptical about joining the group. Jim Agnello with Progressive Plumbing Supply was unsure as to the time commitment required to deliver relevant value. “I have come to appreciate what ASA’s Emerging Leaders is all about – interaction. Being part of this peer group that helps me to build career-spanning relationships with lots of great people throughout the industry is paying dividends for me.”

Being an EL member means being a part of a nationwide, peer-to-peer, industry group outside of typical circles that values integrity and trust. EL members are willing to talk about the issues, challenges, successes and failures with which they all contend because it helps them to prioritize on what they need to focus in their respective roles. This trust builds confidence and cultivates a rich camaraderie that serves to mature critical relationships that will span entire careers. This fraternal atmosphere expands the ability for EL members to learn so much more about the industry and its many diverse parts from one another, industry pros and engaging educational speakers on timely topics. At the annual Spring Forum, Jay Wilson with American Bath Group gathered ideas from non-competitors about improving turns, eliminating surplus inventory and preparing to comply with low-lead legislation. Rogers Earl with Valley Supply has since implemented better disaster recovery plans, including communications and supervisory training for key personnel. “The relationships I have made with peers involved with ASA’s EL have grown into some of my strongest and most valuable professional and personal friendships,” says John Strong with Economy Plumbing Supply. “ASA’s Emerging Leaders is one of the most valuable initiatives that will help to build our next generation of managers and industry leaders.”

So, how do manufacturers find a group of young executives in an organization for wholesalers to be of any direct value for them and their companies? EL provides a forum for manufacturers to build long-term relationships with the next generation of key leaders for current and potential distributor partners. “Working alongside our distributor partners in an effort to drive future success within our business is an important initiative,” says Garry Jordan from Kohler Co. Trent Francisconi with Anvil adds, “The annual Forum is an invaluable opportunity to listen and learn from their successes, failures and challenges, and then readily apply that information.”

The insights and feedback that manufacturers gain helps to make them stronger brands. Chris Capone with IPS Corporation and Jeremy Cressman with LIXIL Water Technologies understand that EL members readily anticipate new challenges and look to new products and innovations that will meet them. “The exchange and acceptance of new concepts and different ideas related to common challenges is a key focus for EL members that helps them to expand and strengthen their business acumen. Blending discussions about best practices and integration of today’s technology increases a wholesaler’s ability to meet the challenging and ever-changing business environment. For manufacturers to share in these exchanges means we gain valuable insights into the current state of the customers’ businesses and markets.” Jeremy adds, “This helps me understand how our brand can help to differentiate our customers’ businesses profitably. When I’m with ASA’s Emerging Leaders, I learn how our business systems and products can impact the project teams, cultures and unique marketplaces for our many customers.”

Rebecca Falish with InSinkErator, Don Gamble with Basco Co. and Zach Hudgins with White Wolf Group all agree that EL is made up of individuals that are genuinely passionate about their businesses and their futures. “EL members are engaged, driven and focused on making certain their companies operate with best practices that are rooted in a broad spectrum of experiences.”

The same reasons for joining EL hold true for independent manufacturer representatives, like Michael Henderson with P-M & Associates, Inc. “Networking with distributors and manufacturers from across the country and learning from them about how the supply chain business works has helped me understand how I can manage my business to be a better partner with the distributors in my market and manufacturers I represent.” For Spencer Bodner with Dellon Sales, the camaraderie among the members of the group is second-to-none. “EL has introduced me to so many friends throughout our industry that I know I can always call on even though I won’t see them everyday.” 

Today, the demands of modern communication technology, which requires more time in front of a computer to answer e-mails, create spreadsheets and manage reports, has made it more difficult to cultivate the personal relationships that today’s industry veterans have effectively used to grow their businesses. ASA’s Emerging Leaders helps the next generation of key managers, principals and CEOs for our industry sustain this valuable and necessary tradition. Perhaps Ethan Flowers, Brad Taylor and Chris Mullet, from Texas Plumbing Supply, Bradford White and Bradley Corp., respectively, should close with these thoughts: “By bringing together those who represent the future for various segments of the supply chain to understand process and product demands through mutually beneficial networking and educational opportunities, all channel partners will grow in their knowledge of one another’s perspectives. This environment helps us to solidify our place in the industry and ensure that it has the greatest chance for success and growth in the future.”