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AMERICAN WRITER, FUTURIST, AND businessman Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Tom Naber, president and CEO of NAED, couldn’t agree more with those wise words. “As an industry,” he said, “both contractors and distributors need to rethink and relearn how we’re going to operate in the future. Otherwise, we put our industry in jeopardy of becoming completely irrelevant.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by enough members of both the distributor and contractor communities that it’s led NAED and NECA to team up in the unprecedented creation of a joint task force through which the two groups will explore opportunities for greater efficiency and growth—together.
Collaborating for Greater Efficiency
“Last year, NECA members and their distributor partners had been working on efficiencies/standards with estimating software companies and it led to discussions about how to make the channel more efficient,” said Ed Orlet, NAED senior vice president of government affairs and special projects. “Given that NAED’s strategic plan calls for supporting distributors in getting closer to their customers, NAED and NECA staff leadership met in Bethesda, Md., and committed to bring members together to identify ways in which we can work together to benefit our whole industry.”
Convening a small group of members from both trade associations in Chicago in August 2018, “We identified what we felt were the most important challenges and opportunities faced by the electrical industry in the next 10 years and what NAED and NECA can do, working together, to help our members and the industry meet those challenges or seize those opportunities,” Orlet explained. The group reconvened in Phoenix in January, just prior to NECA’s ELECTRI meeting, to discuss priorities and the next steps.
“Ideally, channel partners should work together to deploy resources in a way that maximizes the value of all efforts and ensures that all parties meet their objectives,” Orlet noted. “The current reality is that jobs are often awarded in ways that lead to duplicative efforts, misallocated resources, diminished trust, higher costs, missed opportunities, and a further fragmented and inefficient construction industry.” To that end, he said, “the group has started researching the elements that contribute to ideal industry partnerships.”
Since joining forces to address shared concerns for the future, both organizations stand firmly behind the mission. “The contractor/distributor relationship is key to how electrical contractors perform their services, so working together to identify opportunities and increase profits is good for all of our members,” said Dan Walter, vice president and COO at NECA.
“Productivity and profitability have been two challenges in the construction industry since its inception, so bringing successful leaders together to discuss ideas to help facilitate a more effective approach is definitely something that I welcomed the chance to participate in,” said John Muenchen, director of construction for NAED member Pittsburgh-based WESCO.
“The opportunity to meet and interact with peer leaders from both sides of our supply business was intriguing from the outset,” agreed Craig Schild, director of purchasing for NECA member Sachs Electric in St. Louis. “After our initial meeting, it was apparent that the group had the potential to develop a very real strategy that could make a difference for not only individual companies, but also the industry as a whole.”…
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