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Before the recession decimated travel budgets and eliminated money to participate in anything that did not produce a sale, there was a group called the Distribution Solution Council. All of the major software vendors would meet quarterly to discuss issues of importance to distribution.
Programs included: new inventory management processes; using warehouse layout to gain new space; managing change; and industry trends. We had a presentation by the international standards group and were joined by representatives from National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors member associations. We even did a joint meeting with a large group of distribution association executives. The education was great, but so was the networking. When consolidation started, any companies seen going off after dinner would probably announce a merger or acquisition within nine months.
The group took a hiatus for a few years. Brown Smith Wallace and MDM have announced that they are going to revive the group starting this spring. There will be a few differences. First and most important, Value Added Resellers (VARs) and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) will be invited to participate. As the number of vendors or publishers has shrunk, more software is being sold by channels other than direct sales.
When I attended the Information Technology Alliance program, I got a chance to talk with many of the new players in this field. There are many strong operations that are investing large sums of money in building functionality that can integrate with many of the popular packaged software available today.
This is advantageous to everyone in the market. Large software companies get access to new functionality faster than they could develop it in house. They even get to test-drive the software before committing to an agreement. The ISVs and VARs get expanded marketplace recognition and can increase software publishers’ market by selling to companies that have not been on the radar before.
MDM Publisher Tom Gale and I have announced the first new meeting of Distribution Solution Council for June 11-12, 2014. It will be held at the Denver Airport Marriott in Denver, CO. Our goal will be to reinvigorate the group, get feedback on future meetings and provide valuable education.
Tom and his staff will be previewing the 2014 Wholesale Distribution Industry Trends Report, published each year by MDM. They will be answering questions and helping vendors find the growth markets for the rest of this decade.
For more information or to participate, please contact Sara Nelson at BSW (314)-983-1393.
Steve Epner is principal in the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting firm based in St. Louis. He has been advising distributors for over 30 years. Epner also teaches Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Graduate School of Business at Saint Louis University.
Epner is the author of Simplify Everything: Get Your Team from Do-Do to Done-Done with One Surefire Process, available from MDM.