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The Art of Bringing Industry Competitors Together With Edward Kuo of Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network

Episode: 160

Buzzwords can shut down conversations quicker than their end users care to admit. But, when Edward Kuo employs terms like “collaborate” and “innovate” to describe his role as executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN), he can back them up with decades of association experience and a successful track record of advocating for an entire industry, not just the members of his organization. Jason and Edward chat about the value associations provide businesses beyond their membership, the challenges of attracting younger workers to a career in distribution, and the art of bringing industry competitors together for the good of all.

CVSN, says Edward, is a lot like the NASCAR organization. Fans may root for individual teams, but those teams get better by working together (think: technology-sharing in the garage or drafting on the track). “Everyone succeeds and winds up being more profitable or successful, or whatever their goal is. They wind up reaching that goal easier and faster––and that’s essentially the purpose of the association.”

As the premier trade association advocating for the independent commercial vehicle aftermarket, Edward’s job is to ensure that all CVSN members (distributors, repair pros, suppliers, and business service providers) receive support across four main areas: legislative, marketing, education, and technology. The key to CVSN’s success is its unique focus on fostering cross-aisle relationships. “We bring these competitors together, but they’re in areas that are not really competitive,” says Edward, who counts buying groups among his most valuable working partners. “It’s important to stay in good communication with the buying groups in the industry. They’re on my board of directors.” 

In the last 20 years, Edward has noticed that certain people work better together, and, as a result, their products and services become that much better. He maintains that association members reap the benefits of access to diverse community insights, shared resources, and the undeniable appeal of strength in numbers, especially in volatile economic environments. This brings Edward back to his favorite buzzword: co-opertition, which he defines as a mutually beneficial competitive relationship. “Those [are] relationships where you can pick up the phone and save a lot of time and money.”


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“Competitors need to work together because, with both of them being successful, or multiple people being successful, that really elevates the entire industry to be better.”

“Everyone overuses the word innovation. But, I like to joke sometimes [that] innovation is just stealing someone else’s really good idea and then making a tweak so it fits you even better.”

“When you start looking at what distribution industries have in general and have been offering a very large part of the population, but very quietly doing that, you start realizing this is a really good industry to––distribution in general––to get into, and we really need to tout that a little bit better.”

“There’s an old school thought that you have very distinct types of people that need to be on a board of directors. I just want good, smart people who are energetic and are willing to go outta their way to help us get better.”

“When people ask me, ‘Well, who is your biggest competitor right now?’ My answer’s easy. It’s Google.”






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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