By Dirk Beveridge
As I started my research for the most recent NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence research project and just released book INNOVATE! How Successful Distributors Lead Change In Disruptive Times, I began asking C-Suite executives a simple question:
On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), where would you rate the distribution industry’s focus and ability to innovate?
Before reading the next paragraph, go ahead, get a number that answers the question in our own mind. Got it?
As I asked the question, not one C-Suite executive gave me a 5 or higher. Everyone responded with 4 or below. Interesting. When I asked them to explain, I heard reasons such as:
“Less than 10% of distributors are prepared or are preparing for the future.”
“Much of the industry is working off models that are 50 years old.”
“We’re not learning as fast as the world is changing.”
In INNOVATE! we outline what I call the Disruptive Wheel of Change, which highlights a number of forces that are significantly impacting distributors today and have the very real potential of disrupting your business. These potential disruptions include:
- Accelerating and disruptive technology
- New and non-traditional competition
- The multi-generational workforce
- Lower barriers to entry
- Shifting business models
- Governmental influence
- Increased regulations
- Geopolitical influences
- Economic uncertainty
- And more
These forces seem to be driving change on the outside of our business at ever increasing rates of speed and impact on the business. The impact was articulated to me by Dan Blaylock, the president of Adams-Burch Inc., the Mid-Atlantic’s largest wholesaler-distributor of foodservice equipment and supplies when he said to me:
“With all the disruptive and constant pressure from all directions, how do we create a sustainable and relevant business?”
I believe that Dan captured the essence of distribution leadership’s new calling. We must inspire change on the inside of our businesses now so more than ever, to insure we create that sustainable and relevant business in these disruptive times.
And the fact is, you can do this. Here is an exercise that you can lead within your organization to begin inspiring change:
On a flip chart, write Dan Blaylock’s quote, “With all the disruptive and constant pressure from all directions, how do we create a sustainable and relevant business?” Now, lead a brainstorming session around all the potential disruptive changes that could affect your business in the next three to five years. If need be, use the list above to stimulate the initial round of thinking. With this list, you can then begin to create a sense of urgency for change and inspire your team to act.
To get your team thinking differently and to inspire this change even deeper, consider joining your fellow NAED members at UnleashWD, the only innovation summit for distributors on October 29-30 in Chicago. You can get all the details at www.unleashwd.com