NAED Opening Session Looks At Past, Present and Future

NAED Opening Session Looks At Past, Present and Future

“There ain’t no stopping us now.”

Those were the words of NAED Chair Maureen Barsema as she kicked off the Opening Session at the 2015 NAED National Meeting.  She took the opportunity in her opening speech to remind us of where we have been as an association and where we are headed in the future.

Barsema brought up that ten years ago, we had far fewer educational programs offered by NAED.  In 2006, we had just 7 different educational options.  Today, NAED offers hundreds of programs to help you train your employees.

She added that in 2005, the NAED Government Affairs Department was just getting started.  Last August, NAED members were able to hold more than 150 meetings with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate during the Government Fly-In in Washington, D.C.

And Barsema pointed out that ten years ago there was no way to recognize the young talent coming into this industry.  As of today, 120 rising stars in electrical distribution have been recognized as a tED magazine “30 Under 35”. 

That growth will only continue in the years to come, as Barsema pointed out the innovative thinking NAED is working toward in 2025.  She officially announced that Glenn Goedecke of Mayer Electric will be the 2015-2016 NAED Chair, and that the Chair-Elect for 2016-2017 will be Larry Stern of Standard Electric Supply Company.  “You can all feel confident that they will continue to lead this association down a solid path,” Barsema noted while making the announcement.

Barsema added that she will continue to work on what she called her “3 hard truths” about the industry as her time as NAED Chair comes to a close.  Those are supporting the IDEA data warehouse, creating a unified SPA program, and helping distributors work as the “bank of electrical distribution”.

Following the opening statements, Michael Marks of the Indian River Consulting Group started a panel discussion on the future of the industry, focusing on what the supply chain will look like in 2025.  His panelists included David Witz, President and Owner of Continental Electrical Construction Company, Aamir Paul, Senior Vice-President at Square D by Schneider Electric, Brian McNally, Vice-President and CEO of Rexel North America, Walt Reynolds, President of the Reynolds Company and David White, President of Shealy Electrical Wholesalers, Inc.

Aamir Paul really alerted the audience to the fact that the more things change, the more some things need to stay the same.  “The fundamental design of this industry, the basis of relationships, will not change,” Paul told the large crowd.  “The way we do our business through e-commerce will be the big change.”

David White of Shealy Electric added to those comments. “We need to move away from being a product-based industry and start to become a solutions-based industry,” White said. “We still need to do those value-added things to differentiate from the online giants.”

Walt Reynolds with the Reynolds Company agreed, but also believes the real change will come when manufacturers and distributors work together to make positive changes happen. “I see the distributor evolving into a completely different thing than it is today,” Reynolds commented. “And manufacturers will need to work closely with distributors to make that change.”

Perhaps the most engaging of the panelists was David Witz, an electrical contractor from the Chicago area.  He talked at length about his struggles to stay successful, and his need for the supply chain to continue to work with contractors like him as a way to build success for all of the parties involved. 

“The stuff that keeps me up at night is the ‘industrialization’ of the construction process,” Witz said.  “The ‘pre-modularization’ and the ‘pre-fabrication’ in the way that distributors need to deliver their products will be a key to success in the future.”  Witz also pointed out in many cities, that also brings union issues into the equation for distributors, who may need to have their employees join or form a union to pre-build materials before they are sent to the job site.

The panel also spent some time talking about Amazon and Amazon Business, which just launched as a new B2B website a week before the NAED National Meeting.  “We all need people to talk to, and right now Amazon does not have that,” Witz pointed out.  But he and other panelists also pointed out that they have grown frustrated with the lengthy and time-consuming process that it takes to order products.  “We need to provide exactly what you want and need without any hassle in the transaction side itself,” Aamire Paul told the audience.  “Amazon does that part very well.”

Witz also added that the time has come to become more aggressive when it comes to competing with the online giants.  “Everyone has been playing too much defense. It’s time to get up to the plate and take some swings. We have to do something differently.  It’s time to invest in our businesses and take some chances,” Witz said.

Finally, the panel talked about not just attracting young people to this industry, but also keeping them happy and growing throughout their careers.  Many of the panelists explained that a key problem they are having with hiring young people is the reluctance to relocate to areas where the current jobs are open.  McNally offered up a solution to that problem.  “We have to work hard to make this an exciting industry for young people to want to join.  We think about the training rotation, where you start at the counter. But we have to find solutions that will give them more exposure to more opportunities,” NcNally said.  “We have to hire people who are better than us and can teach us some things. We also need a learning environment that will allow people the opportunity to grow and elevate in the organization.”

All of the other panelists agreed.

“We are adapting to our younger workforce instead of forcing them to adapt to us,” Witz said.

“Make data transparent and allow more people to participate in the process,” Paul added.

“One word that comes to mind is trust,” McNally said. “Being able to trust and give employees a clear purpose will be the companies that are most successful.”

“People don’t work for companies. They work for people,” Reynolds concluded. “You have to be able to connect with them and understand why they are working with you.” 

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