In a Transforming Environment, Data and Leadership Go Hand-in-Hand - Modern Distribution Management

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In a Transforming Environment, Data and Leadership Go Hand-in-Hand

During a recent podcast, Summit Electric’s Sheila Hernandez and MDM’s Tom Gale talk about the evolution of marketing in electrical distribution, as well as how having the right analytics is just half the battle when moving a company forward.
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In her 35 years at Summit Electric Supply, Sheila Hernandez has seen just about everything across the electrical distribution industry. In March, Hernandez was named Summit’s vice president of marketing and supplier relations, from which she’s leading the company’s marketing efforts on category management, supplier relations, digital presence and customer lifecycle.

During a recent MDM podcast, Hernandez joined MDM owner and Chief Executive Officer Tom Gale to discuss her latest role at Summit. The two also discussed Hernandez’s contributions to the electrical industry over the past three decades, which have included numerous leadership and mentorship opportunities. In fact, Hernandez says, having the right leadership can be just as important as having the right data when it comes to decision making.

Sheila Hernandez

“Do they believe in data, and are they using it?” Hernandez says of senior leaders. “If the leaders of the organization are not using it as part of their decision-making process and valuing data — which, at Summit they do — then the organization is not going to follow behind, right? So, I think a lot of it is leadership.”

Compared with other verticals such as electronics, industrial or pharmaceutical, electrical distribution has been relatively slow to evolve, says Hernandez. But as sectors transition from transactional tools to more digital, data-driven organizations, electrical distributors still have “come a long way,” she says.

Part of that is companies learning how to transform in an analytics-driven environment smartly and effectively. And it starts with asking the right questions, says Hernandez.

“You hear all over about, you know, the buzzword of digital transformation,” she told Gale. “And I think the challenge is really figuring out what that means for your company and what that means for your customers. Where’s your biggest bang for the buck? Because there’s so many things that can be fall under that heading. Which ones will truly bring the biggest value for your customers or for your company?”

Learning to leverage data is one aspect of recent transformations. But companies also may need to avoid the distractions — a.k.a. shiny objects — that can accompany a rush to transform. Currently, there is myriad research considering whether some “traditional, established” companies can truly transform themselves, says Hernandez.

“Can they make the change to the new environment?” she says. “Or is the weight of the existing structure of the company too much to turn quickly and to be able to transform? And I think that’s something that we all have to keep in mind, because we all work in the traditional industry, a mature industry, and we work for established companies. So, what are we going to do that’s going to help us move fast enough, that we can keep up with the new one that’s going to show up out of nowhere and surprise us with something that we didn’t see coming?”

Scroll up to listen to the podcast in its entirety, or click here to listen to all of MDM’s recent podcasts.

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