NAED National Panel: Why We Need to Stick Together

NAED National Panel: Why We Need to Stick Together
The NAED National Meeting panelists, left to right: moderator Mike Marks of Indian River Consulting Group, Dan Dungan of Springfield Electric Supply Company, David Maxwell of Graybar, Wes Smith of Mayer Electric Supply Co., Inc., and Jason Stein of Border States Electric

The NAED national meeting continued Sunday with a distributor panel entitled “Looking Beyond the Horizon.” The discussion encompassed disruptive forces within the industry, and how we can ensure we remain the channel of choice for our customers.

Mike Marks, co-founder of Indian River Consulting Group, moderated the discussion. The panelists included Dan Dungan, Executive Chairman, Springfield Electric Supply Company; David Maxwell, Senior Vice President – Sales, Graybar; Wes Smith, President, Mayer Electric Supply Co., Inc.; and Jason Stein, SVP – Construction & Industrial, Border States Electric.

The panelists shared how they are exploring new digital tools to accelerate the learning curve of new employees, improve expertise along multiple career paths, and most importantly how NAED’s research efforts will bring value to the membership in two core areas. The first is about how do we become more effective as a channel and also propagate best practice knowledge. The second is an expanded focus looking beyond the horizon around what is coming next so members have the necessary insight to take advantage of these market disruptions.

Marks started the conversation off asking the panel about the value of NAED’s new Market Data Tool – a new program that will collect, aggregate, and report market data in an accessible, interactive, and most importantly, secure tool. To learn more about NAED’s Market Data Tool, click here.

“Data is the foundation to create exponential knowledge,” said Smith of the benefits of harnessing data. “We all manage our businesses with a ‘good gut feeling,’ but if you take data and add it to your gut, that is a powerful combination.”

All of the panelists agreed that one of the most important aspects of the new Market Data Program is that it will bring all distributors together to share important data, which will, in turn, drive the industry upward. As a group, they felt that staying separate and working in their own silos, distributors would ultimately hurt not only themselves but also the supply chain as a whole.

“Collectively, we can be as strong in innovation, in disruption [and] in knowledge than Amazon or whoever is ‘Amazonish’,” said Smith.

Marks continued the discussion with the case that the Market Data Program is the first step in a journey. He asked the panelists to describe what they thought this journey is going to look like, and what some of the first steps will be.

Maxwell said, “NAED provides education and research and training, to provide the playbook and provide for a stronger industry and supply chain. So the Market Data Program is one tool in the toolbox to help us achieve that.”

And while the tools that are provided are a good first step, more than one panelist felt that each tool would need to have different iterations for the different learning styles of their employees. The delivery of the education and training content will need to be unique and dynamic to fit separate audiences.

Marks then shifted to the next question on everybody’s mind: “What do we do with all of this data?”

“I want to push this knowledge, this data set, out to the edges of my enterprise,” said Dungan. “Sales managers, branch managers, and operations managers can make real-time decisions with the data that we provide through this system. I want to get away from a command-control structure, to an edge thinking; so the guys in the warehouse can take this dataset, information, and intelligence and make real-time decisions on the go, in the field. That’s the power of this.”

Stein added, “[NAED has] done a lot of great research, but it’s not getting out to our community. I think the real opportunity, between the manufacturers and distributors, is to really look at this great content we have, how can we help our teams understand this transformation we’re going through, and that we’re not doing it on our own.”

Marks then asked the panel why a distributor would want to share their knowledge, training, and information with a competitor down the street. All agreed that that sharing knowledge can only be good for the industry.

Smith said that “[sharing] what we do with [our competitor] raises the water level for the entire industry and we want the industry to thrive.”

”If you’re the strongest in a weak industry, you’re going to be gone quickly as well,” said Maxwell. “The conundrum is having the trust to take that first step to share that information.”

To wrap up, Marks asked the panel what their takeaway thought was from the discussion.

Smith: “Our capacity to experiment individually, it’s limited. [We need to come] together to share our information, use that information to gain insights, experiment without fear of failure and take what we learn and scale it, and continuously iterate.”

Dungan: “I am very excited about the future of our channel. I see the opportunity in the next 5-6 years to harness this data. It’s powerful what we can do with that.”

Stein: “I don’t know a group of people that care about the customer more than we do. If we truly care about them and engage with them, why aren’t we leveraging such great power? We need to be a lot more agile and nimble going forward, and leverage that data to use that as insights to validate what we’re all thinking and what we’re trying to drive for in our organizations.”

Maxwell: “We’re at an inflection point in our industry for disruption. My concern is that success is a poor teacher – do we truly recognize it? We really need to iterate, innovate, and transform our industry. If every member can take this information to develop their playbook, we can be the disruptor and not the disrupted.”

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