Ian Heller
Listen on These

Reclaim Your Strategic Edge Through AI With Ian Heller of Distribution Strategy Group

Episode: 139

If this episode’s title has you shaking your head or, worse, burying it in the proverbial sand, hold on. Give AI a chance, and it will supercharge your business. That’s the message that Ian Heller, founder and chief strategy officer of Distribution Strategy Group, hopes to spread through his consulting work and Applied AI For Distributors, the massive, first-of-its-kind conference for wholesale change agents. Jason chats with Ian about data-driven marketing, tips to help small companies develop their AI strategy, and what the industry as a whole can expect from the fascinating world of emerging AI tech.

Ready or not, AI is here, and its fast-forward approach to data analysis is poised to revolutionize how wholesale distributors move inventory, whether those units equal three thousand rubber hoses or three industrial-sized compressors. “It’s the first technology that someday will be smarter than us in every way,” confirms Ian. His proclamation may send some into a tailspin, but the fact is, most of us already engage with AI in one way or another on a daily basis. Making that tech work for you is all about shifting one’s perspective. “AI is going to enable people to do a better job. It’s going to be AI plus people. It’s not going to be AI eliminating jobs,” he says. Or, rather, it’s going to eliminate tens of millions of jobs like every other piece of technology before it, allowing folks to spend more time on innovation and implementation rather than rote tasks.

Technology is only as good as the talent creating, implementing, and, ultimately, disrupting it. Ian’s marketing background with Grainger and other high-profile corporations marks him as an authoritative consultant; his humble beginnings as a warehouse hand make him an insightful observer of organizational structures. Given how polarizing AI is, Ian’s using his well-rounded expertise to bring Applied AI For Distributors to the masses, showcasing not only the tech itself but the ideas driving its evolution. “Distributors need more than the theoretical stuff. They need to know what to do with it,” he says, noting that the promise of AI far outweighs its perils. Time will most definitely tell. 


“Marketing has to be very heavily analytical and driven by data, but you also have to have the relationship.”

“Any technology is agnostic, right? I mean, it’s not good or bad. It depends on how it’s used, right? The extremes of power that AI has to be good or bad, it’s unprecedented.” 

“[AI] is going to have an impact on jobs and distribution, and people need to be realistic about that.”

“Mankind is some very difficult problems that we may not have the brain capacity to solve, and one of these days, AI may be able to answer those questions.”

“That’s really the danger, right? It’s not just that you won’t build competitive advantages; it’s that your competitors will.”






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 & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios. 


Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: SupplyMover

Episode Sponsor