More than halfway through 2004, distributors are well-positioned following some tough restructuring years. MDM's consensus is that sales in industrial markets are up 8-10% over last year. Are you providing more value than a few years ago? If you compare what your company did for customers five years ago to what it does today, how do those pictures match up? Many define what they do and represent in the marketplace today very differently. The transition often wasn't pretty. Yet it's interesting that even in markets where customer bases shrank significantly, there are success stories of how independent distributors gained market share. The common thread executives in these companies relate is that they were able to communicate and deliver a level of value beyond what they did a few years ago. The rigors of the past few years forced these executives to focus on core capabilities. As importantly, they channeled resources into communicating, selling, proving and carving out a competitive position in tough markets that they were different and better. That's a tough tightrope to travel. But it validates that those nimble enough to survive the downturn were stronger, leaner and faster. That translated into added value for customers. The term value-add has been used so heavily that it risks losing meaning. At the same time, market battles ahead will center on defining and selling value ﾖ in products, services, solutions, and relationships. If you aren't effective in crafting and controlling the message about what you offer (different and better), then your competition will always be happy to tell a slightly different story about your capabilities. Some things never change.