“We must never be too busy to take time to sharpen the saw”
- Stephen Covey
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As many of you know, I have had the pleasure of hosting my podcast, Distribution Talk, for the past 3 years. In fact, I just celebrated my 100th episode. For a guy who just squeaked his way into and out of college, this is a pretty big surprise. The reactions are pretty funny when people from my past find out that I have been a published author for the past 18 years and have a successful podcast. It just goes to
show you that people can change. You don’t have to be who others expected you to be. The same goes for multi-generational family businesses. Just because the entity looked a certain way and conducted itself in a certain manner, it doesn’t have to remain that way. I have been hearing this a lot in the guests I interview and the clients I serve. Time to share it with you all.
About a year ago, I saw a post from a friend of mine, Jeff Peterson of Geneva Supply. Jeff is this really inspirational leader who has a keen eye on company culture and how to evolve as the company scales at a blistering pace. In this post, he said something to the effect of “company culture is not a ping-pong table in the break room” or something to that effect. I don’t know why this struck me, but it got me
thinking about creating deep cultural shifts in the organization versus surface level window dressings.
Sure, a ping-pong table or stocked break room might signal a fun environment, but it doesn’t address the deep-seated barriers to equity, inclusion and belonging in our organizations. By the way, Jeff has been running a great series on his LinkedIn profile tagged #BeforeIGoIn. He sits in his car, before he goes in the office, and talks about how to be a better leader through employee engagement and observation. Jeff grew up in some very male dominated, stogy industries and has led his organization to be the
company that most of us wish we could grow up to be. Do yourself a favor and check out his profile.
Several years ago, I was given the honor of serving as the president of my trade association, the Specialty Tool and Fastener Distributors Association or STAFDA. One of the long-standing traditions is to give the president a small statue depicting “The Peddler”. Imagine an older gentleman with a knapsack and walking stick wandering around and peddling his wares from town to town. Obviously, the profession has grown from these humble beginnings, but our current crop of “peddlers” still retains some of the characteristics of the gentleman salesperson. They often wander from office to office, site to site, looking for an opportunity to share their goods with prospective customers. The peddlers of yesteryear were responsible for the entire transaction from presentation to fulfillment, to the ultimate collection of payment. Our sophistication of these steps may have improved, but many modernday peddlers continue to take on these aspects of the sales completion process. Is this really how we want to deploy our most expensive assets?
As I was growing up in the business, I saw how this outside sales position was lauded as the most important function in the organization. This was the pinnacle position and with it came the most financial reward. This lofty compensation was not entirely unjustified. Sales reps were often responsible for finding the prospect, getting that prospect to sign an application for credit, enticing the customer to place that first order, pricing the invoice accordingly, and in many cases, they also delivered the recently fulfilled order. That is a lot of effort for the modest gross margin built into these transactions. You might even have a few salespeople that still operate in this manner. The problem with this model is the limitation of time.
Like many of you, I was relegated to a little extra windshield time over the holidays. To pass the time, and to avoid giving in to my inner road rage monster, I spent many hours listening to podcasts. I know, I know. It seems that I am beginning many of my columns with, “I was listening to this podcast…”. I have really got to get a new opener. On the other hand, I learn a ton from these from these auditory gems and I can often weave them into my advisor practice or simply improve my own view of the world. As I was saying, I was listening to a podcast episode where the host and the guest were clearly close friends for many years and they one of the keys to their successful bromance was that one was the Alpha in the relationship and the other was the Beta. In other words, the host thrived in being the more dominant party in a relationship, while the guest was very comfortable being the less dominant. This came out in subtle ways like picking a restaurant to meet at or choosing a particular activity to do together. I started thinking about all sorts of relationships I had been a part of or observed over the years. Two Alphas would often clash and try to find ways to be the lead, while two Betas would constantly wait for the other to take the reins and nothing would ever get accomplished. So how does this observation relate to distribution? In our supplier relationships, there is always an Alpha and a Beta; but does it always remain consistent...
Most companies recognize the need to plan for succession at the top role. What about those department heads that do the heavy lifting?
The use of marketing dollars is rapidly changing. Distributors need to understand how digital marketing is become a more dominant part of the spend.
In this article, Jason highlights some of the ways that business owners can develop team members to a point that they can work on the business rather than in the business.
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I have been a subscriber to GetAbstracts.com for the past two years. Like many, I struggle to read all the business book recommendations that people share with me. Truth be told, I am not patient enough to slog through a 300 page tome to get to the good stuff. A couple of years ago, my brother turned me on to GetAbstracts.com. Essentially, the service is like the “Cliff Notes” for business books. I look up a book, download the 5-7 page abstract, and get to the meat and potatoes. If I really like the book, I might go buy it for my shelf. One of my clients has used these short abstracts as the basis for a monthly discussion with his executive team. The possibilities are endless. Going forward, I plan to share some recommendations for subscribers to download. Check out the free trial and start “sharpening the saw” today.
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