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John Wiborg, president and founder of Stellar Industrial Supply, believes there’s only one thing separating your distributorship from the competition. It isn’t price or fulfillment time or service. It’s your company’s culture. 

John and I discuss the intangible qualities that are the bedrock of his business.

“Every team has a culture. But how do you really get intentional about institutionalizing it?” That’s the question John posed to his management team several years ago during one of Stallar’s multi-day management advances. He’s resolute in his use of the word advance when describing these sessions over the ubiquitous retreat. “We don’t retreat so we’re not going to go on a retreat,” he says. 

Stellar took advantage of a program offered through Affiliated Distributors to help them identify elements of culture already present at the company and outline practices they wanted to adopt. 

The coursework eventually became the framework for The Stellar Way, a booklet of twenty-six fundamentals that help his employees live successfully within the company’s culture. John ran with the list and shared his insights with followers on LinkedIn in once-weekly posts entitled Fundamental of the Week until he’d addressed all twenty-six. Then he went further, minimizing any potential fade in enthusiasm by instituting a simple practice.

 “In the middle of the week, we’d have a little quiz around it and then every single meeting, whether its with outside parties or not...when we have two or more Stellar people in the meeting, we start the meeting in the Stellar Way. We read the fundamental of the week and we talk about it. It’s really been powerful for us.” 

John’s ability to foster the company’s culture inside and out has strengthened Stellar’s relationships and its bottom line. “What I’m finding is, the execution of these fundamentals and the conversations we’re having around them really are greasing the skids in many ways where things would get stuck before,” he says. 

Beyond that, by institutionalizing the culture, he’s able to take big steps back from the day-to-day operations and focus on scaling the business, secure in the knowledge that his team is living and promoting The Stellar Way. 

For John, that’s the mark of a good servant-leader -- someone who stays focused on the essentials and advances the organization so the team can succeed and thrive in their roles. “I’m not there to play big boss and bark out orders,” he says. Nor is he in business to promote his ego. “I decided I wanted to be part of a team, building something that’s a good thing.” With Stellar, he’s done just that.

For an episode clocking in at just thirty minutes, John and I go deep into company mindset! It’s a fascinating topic with some surprisingly simple principles you can implement now. Listen in for some of The Stellar Way fundamentals and another book recommendation for your management ed bookshelf.

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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.

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