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AI as Your Competitive Edge in Distribution With Jonathan Bein and Ian Heller, Distribution Strategy Group

Episode: 154

Distribution Talk fans already know that Jason’s a big proponent of artificial intelligence. If you’re still on the fence regarding the benefits of AI for distribution, it’s time to transition away from shock and awe and into fearless adoption. A great place to start is Applied AI For Distributors, the only annual conference with sessions for both AI aficionados and the AI curious of the distribution industry.

Jason chats with Ian Heller and Jonathan Bein, PhD., co-founders of Distribution Strategy Group and creators of the event. They discuss the astounding evolution of AI from both a customer- and employee-facing perspective, simple tactics for building widespread staff confidence in the tech, and the exciting topics on tap at this year’s conference.

The machine learning landscape has definitely changed since the first Applied AI conference in 2023. Back then, folks had yet to fully immerse themselves in ChatGPT. Twelve months later, there’s perhaps no hotter topic than AI––nor a more widely touted brand differentiator. Sadly, too many distributors aren’t exploring its obvious growth potential. “We view distributors as being mostly laggards in terms of technology adoption,” admits Jonathan. But as more digital natives join our industry’s management and C-suite ranks, he anticipates a wave of innovators and early adopters on the horizon. “There was a lot of fear and excitement before. Our goal was really to demystify AI and shift people’s perspective.” Goal achieved!

Now that distributors are coming around to AI, this year’s conference will focus on highlighting competitive advantages in terms of enhanced customer relationships and employee buy-in. “It’s a vibrant, exciting environment,” says Ian. “We have 30+ different technology companies presenting their wares.” He urges attendees to bring their notebooks and don their thinking caps. “The networking’s off the charts because you’ve got all these super curious people who are there for one reason: to learn how to use AI to run better distribution companies.”

And you just might run into an industry podcaster who’s been all in on AI from the beginning. 

Applied AI For Distributors 2024 will be held June 4-6 at the Marriott O’Hare, Chicago. Early registration discounts are available. Register now to attend. 


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Ian Heller

“People are drawn to great leadership, healthy cultures, and exciting work environments, and I’ve never ever been the slightest apologetic about working in distribution. I think it’s a fantastic industry.”

“I call distribution the Ted Lasso of industries because it’s [ ] got great leadership and [is] constantly underestimated.”

“The history of technology is that, in the long run, it creates more jobs than it eliminates. You just have to survive the transition.”

“My concern is AI is like the first technology ever that someday, you can speculate, can do literally everything better than people. No other technology has had that capability.”

Jonathan Bein

“To what extent is it really freeing up people to do higher level functions, and to what extent is there gonna be layoffs? And that’s really the tension in our dialogue.”

“It may not be that you lose your job because there’s AI at your company. It may be that you lose your job because the competitor has gotten so good at deploying AI.and creating competitive advantage that they start taking market share.”








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.  

This episode was edited by The Creative Impostor Studios.

Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: Connected Peers, providing virtual communities for wholesale distributors.

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