Professional vulnerability is a hallmark of outstanding leadership. That said, there’s a reason so few leaders possess the characteristic: it’s uncomfortable at best; and terrifying at worst. Alison Bencsik, CEO of BAI Electronic Systems Distributors, a professional and commercial audio, video, and lighting supplier in Ocala, FL, doesn’t know any other way to succeed. She’s transformed vulnerability into a superpower, fueling improvements within the company and strengthening relationships across the AV/IT industry. Jason caught up with Alison to discuss her unconventional journey to CEO, her strategy to get more women involved in distribution, and turning unguarded moments into organizational wins.
“When you reached out to me, I was like, that is so cool! Wait, me?” Alison’s modesty belies her professional accomplishments. As a freshly-minted CEO, she’s expanding on the proactive tendencies that garnered her results as the firm’s accounts receivables rep over a decade ago. While many managers have started their careers in a thankless A/R role, few have had the added pressure of marrying into the business. “There started being a lot of change that I was initiating,” recalls Alison. “I’m going to be real honest and say people that had been here for 20 years were resistant to that a little bit. No one likes change. I probably dislike it less than others.”
A self-professed processes fanatic, Alison is conscious of the employee buy-in needed to enact and maintain organizational change. “I had to get a little burned when I went and got too close to the sun,” she laughs. “I had to step back and realize that efficiency wasn’t the number one name of the game.” Instead, relationships take the lead at BAI. She credits her communication skills for creating an environment where folks feel comfortable asking questions and trying new things––a must in an industry driven by rapidly changing technology.
Alison’s commitment to advancement extends to her involvement with WavIt, a professional organization created by and for women in the AV/IT industries. “Everyone in this industry is awesome,” she says. However, having someone to talk to who understands the challenges inherent to being a woman furthers participation and ensures that greater professional vulnerability becomes the norm.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
“You can’t quote-unquote fix something or make it better or increase its efficiency if you don’t know what it is right now and where it’s lacking.”
“I don’t mind being crazy. I throw weird left-wing ideas out all the time.”
“I’ve done the work, right? And I am a grinder. I’m a worker. I am a mover. I like to be in the process.”
“The company isn’t going to get better unless the company gets better, you know? It’s not about one person; it’s about everybody.”
“I think people who say they know everything, I don’t know, they’re kidding themselves, I guess. They’re lying, in my opinion, I would think, because there’s always room to learn; there’s always room to grow.”
“I want to be seen as that equal still, you know? I want to be seen as part of that team to help them solve problems.”
“Maybe the imposter syndrome is a little of I’m not what I thought a CEO would be, but I’m actually kind of proud of that.”
“I just widely believe that there’s a lot of professional and mentoring programs in distribution and in AV geared towards our male counterparts. Well, they’re great, but sometimes the women have a unique perspective.”
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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.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: INxSQL Distribution Software, integrated distribution ERP software designed for the wholesale and distribution industry.