MDM Podcast: Ted Cowie Reflects on 40 Years in Industrial & Safety Sales - Modern Distribution Management

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MDM Podcast: Ted Cowie Reflects on 40 Years in Industrial & Safety Sales

Having retired at the end of May, Ted Cowie joins to reflect on evolving sales strategies during his four decades in the industry, particularly in his 10+ years at Motion.
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Ted Cowie has seen it all during his 40 years leading industrial and safety sales teams, including significant transition and strategic shifts in how distributors and manufacturers go to market.

He is the guest in the latest MDM Podcast, recorded during the same week that he retired at the end of May. He spent the last 10+ years of his career at Motion, following long stretches at Safety Today and Barnes Distribution. Cowie has long been a member of MDM’s Editorial Advisory Board.

In a discussion with MDM’s Tom Gale, Cowie shared insights from his four decades in the industry, touching on transitioning sales models and market adaptations, the safety industry’s evolution, future challenges the industry faces and his proudest achievements.

Much of the conversation centers around Cowie’s past decade with Motion, which is predominantly known as an MRO, bearings & power transmission and fluid power distributor, but it also has a formidable safety presence — enough to chart in the top 10 of MDM’s 2024 Top Safety Distributors List.

And Motion’s safety sales didn’t get to that point just by incremental volume gains. It’s been an intentional focus, as Cowie tells Gale on the podcast:

“We’ve done a very good job of getting the broader group of our sales team — which is in the neighborhood of 2,000 people today — more comfortable selling safety, and we’ve basically taught them how to fish instead of just doing the fishing for them. And they are not detailed safety experts, but they know how to uncover the opportunities, they know how to look for the opportunities and then get the right resources within Motion and our supplier teams engaged so that we can pursue those opportunities.”

Motion appears on numerous lists on MDM’s 2024 Top Distributors feature, which launches on June 13. Its corresponding webcast is that same day.

The conversation also highlights the value of the relationships and connections Cowie built during his decades in the industry, which he cites as crucial to his career’s success.

Check out the full episode via the audio player above, and you can find our entire episode library at

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