Bonus Content

Transitioning to the Role of the President

By Jason Bader

In the distribution world, most presidents come from the role of sales in another company.  Their competitive nature drives many of them to splinter off and do something on their own. 

In those early days of a small company, the president tends to engage in a daily game of “Whack-a-Mole” just to keep the doors open.  It’s exhausting and not sustainable. So, in order to create long-term viability, the leader must begin to rely on other members of the organization.  The more control a leader is willing to give up—to learn the delicate balance of staying in touch while keeping his or her fingers out of the pie—the faster the business will grow.

As a company matures, the needs of the organization change.  The role of the president must evolve if the organization is going to grow in revenue, territory, and influence.  In order to successfully navigate this transition, the leader must be able to pull back from daily functions and take on a more strategic role with a heavy emphasis on personnel structure and development—which is often easier said than done.

As a company evolves, the president should move away from running the business and focus on the people in the organization.  Coaching and organizational development activities tend to become the norm. Great presidents refer to themselves as “motivator in chief” or “destroyer of the status quo.” These folks have made the transition.  No longer do they focus on the daily activities.  They have cultivated an executive management team to do this, they poke holes in the system, and they become more visionary and less tactical.

As leaders become more visionary, they often find it difficult to discuss their thoughts with others in the company.  Changes are often tied to personal finances, and this can produce fear in some.  It can get lonely at the top of a privately held company, but there are resources out there:  Join an executive group, create an advisory board, hire an executive coach. Nobody has to go it alone.

Jason Bader is the managing partner of The Distribution Team, a firm that specializes in helping distributors become more profitable through strategic planning and operating efficiencies.  The first 20 years of his career were spent working as a distribution executive.  Today, he is a regular speaker at industry events and spends much of his time coaching individual distribution companies.  For more information, call (503) 282-2333 or contact him by e-mail at  Also visit The Distribution Team’s website at


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