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Workplace simulation gives employees ‘big picture’ view of distributor operations

What would it take to get everyone at your company to understand a distributor’s “big picture?” Maybe a reality check would help. That’s where Business Reality 101 comes in.

According to the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), Business Reality 101 is a hands-on simulation that will help your team understand the roles and responsibilities that make up your company.

In a joint effort, Irby teamed up with Business Methodologies to create this program—and NAED has formed a training partnership with Business Methodologies to get Business Reality 101 out to its members.

Gary Bodam, Ph.D, vice president of human resources and organizational development at Irby, said the two companies, “developed this business simulation so that our employees, suppliers and some customers could get a better grasp of the impact of operating decisions and business strategy in today’s distribution business environment.”

Bodam says Irby’s president Mike Wigton was onboard with the program from its inception. Manufacturers like Rockwell, Fluke and Thomas & Betts have also supported Business Reality 101.

Irby and Business Methodologies conducted the first Business Reality 101 session in June 2011. “It was so successful that we have presented one-day workshop simulations every quarter or since then,” Bodam said.

A group of branch managers and outside sales staff at Butler Supply went through the program in November of last year.

“It was a huge hit,” said Tina Jett, vice president of human resources at Butler. “One of the most important things that people realized is that just about every decision that you make potentially impacts the bottom line.”

Jett said the experience was eye-opening. During the Business Reality 101 session, employees were commenting that they never realized what goes into the daily operations at their company. “The sales people are always screaming for more inventory,” Jett said. “This helps them understand why inventory is such a big issue. It’s not always easy to get the products you want at the drop of a hat—there are a lot of things that go into it.”

Bodam agrees, “One of the most important learning experiences of this simulation is how each person’s/department’s action offset another’s and what impact all this has on the company or branch as a whole.”

Aside from learning the ins and outs of the operation, Business Reality 101 was a team-building exercise at Butler. “It relayed the message that everyone is really one team,” Jett said.

How does it work?

In a Business Reality 101 session, a group of employees are broken into teams of four. The teams are made up of employees from different departments to ensure a diverse range of perspectives. The teams compete with each other in an attempt to run a business for three simulated years.

“The team members explore cash flow, supplier relationships, operational efficiencies, personnel and systems development, inventory controls, customer support and quality initiatives,” Bodam said. “The Business Reality 101 simulation provides as close to real business operations as anything we’ve seen and could be the only opportunity some employees have to experience first-hand how their decisions affect the overall functions and success of their organization. In the end it helps our people make heads or tails of managing profitability of our business.”

At the end of the simulation, the teams make action plans based on their experiences in Business Reality 101. This entire process takes place in just one day. Workshops for distributors or manufacturers can be set up through NAED’s member services—memberservices@naed.org or 888-791-2512.

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