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If the prospect of business growth makes you uneasy, you’ll find a lot to relate to in this episode. Jason chats with Michelle St. John, owner and president of IBS Incorporated, a self-proclaimed risk-averse leader whose company continues to find creative solutions to industry challenges in spite of, or perhaps because of, her conservative mindset.

Maintenance, repair, and operational supply has proven to be an almost recession-proof market for IBS. “When there's a recession, people are maintaining their own equipment and we get business. When times are booming and people are building their breaking bolts and tearing up roads, we're making sales in that environment.”

But Michelle is acutely aware that when challenges arise, they may require solutions that exist beyond her comfort zone. “What we're experiencing right now is some growth to a degree that has caused us to sort of expand at a rate that is a little bit uncomfortable.” 

It’s a space that IBS wants to be in, however. So Michelle, who shares leadership duties at IBS with her brother Derek, relies on the lessons learned while watching her parents who started the company in the family’s basement.

“Derek and I both watched our parents really closely and we took a lot of lessons away from my dad.” One of the most important was the 72-hour rule, the idea that if you haven’t implemented an idea within 72 hours of learning it, the tendency for it to produce any change at all become zero the longer time goes on. “So, by the end of the 72-hours,” she says, “chances are good  It's not going to influence your culture your environment.”

The rule is a core value that IBS impresses upon its sales management team. “It’s really important that they’re in the field with our reps as soon as possible to reinforce that training.” To that end, IBS has committed to putting people in leadership positions who’ll challenge the status quo and help the company reach the next milestone.

Michelle says, “We’re challenged with making sure that we’re surrounded by people that can continually stretch us and expand us.”

Michelle recently wrapped up one of the greatest experiences of her life, a year-long tenure as president of STAFDA, Specialty Tool & Fasteners Distributors Association, proving that not all growth has to leave you feeling anxious. Trade associate participation has played a key role in her family’s professional development from the beginning.

“We devoured the education. We took advantage of all the consultative access.” That access and exposure are just two of the reasons why she’s enthusiastic about association membership. “I know for me, times are evolving so quickly and keeping pace is really important,” she says. “We need ideas from people who are in the trenches and figuring it out every day.” 

Michelle has so much insight to share that you’ll definitely want to tune in! Find out how IBS private label products created customer loyalty, learn which assessments her team relies on to gage candidate potential, and how her experience in the corporate world enhanced her leadership abilities.

Thank you to our sponsor INxSQL, software built for distribution.

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Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.  

Edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.