Zach Brado’s rise from intern to director of business development by way of the marketing department at NetPlus Alliance comes from the 30-year-old’s drive to get to know the buying group’s partners from the inside out and his instinctive ability to meet the needs of colleagues and customers alike.
Anyone who’s ever been a part of a small business knows an employee who can come into the organization and intuitively know what needs to be done and how to do it — even without a background in the field — is invaluable to the company. For NetPlus Alliance, that person is Zach Brado, say colleagues and clients of the industrial buying group’s director of business development.
“He is one of the brightest young guys I’ve seen in the industry for a long time. He really understands what’s going on,” says Allan Guthrie, director of strategic sourcing at NetPlus partner DXP Enterprises, Inc. in Houston.
Strength in Relationships
Brado, 30, joined NetPlus in 2012 as a marketing intern while an MBA graduate student at the University at Buffalo. He “quickly became really invaluable” to Jennifer Murphy, who was transitioning from head of marketing to company president at the time. By the time the year-long internship was coming to an end in 2013, Murphy knew she had to have Brado as an employee. “When you find a person who is intuitive to what you need before you even ask for it, it’s the best thing ever,” Murphy says.
Brado felt at home working with independent distributors in the small-business atmosphere, helping them with marketing, attending trade shows and networking. “I quickly learned that what we did was really a relationship-based business,” says Brado.
As the Lockport, New York-based company expanded, Brado took over the marketing department, growing the division to three employees. Capitalizing on the strength of the relationships he built through his marketing role, he transitioned to the sales side when he took on the position of director of business development in 2017. “I wasn’t going to be the person that was going to sit behind the desk and design the content,” Brado says. “I was going to be out chasing customers, talking to them, figuring out what their needs are and reporting back into the office.”
In his role, Brado facilitates conversations with manufacturers, puts together events at trade shows, develops relationships and puts a face to the organization. “Going from marketing to sales was really beneficial — knowing the product, knowing what we were trying to convey and then getting out and telling customers that,” he adds.
Guthrie speaks with Brado frequently. On a recent call, the pair discussed how DXP can grow its business and enhance supplier relationships. “He’s a joy to be around and it’s fun to see new folks get in and have the passion he does for our industry,” says Guthrie. “It’s pretty cool.”
Networking is key to Brado’s day-to-day schedule. A recent month’s activities included putting together an agreement with a new service provider to the buying group, talking to manufacturers to discuss their marketing budgets and focus for the year, preparing for an in-office client presentation and travelling to an industry convention.
“One of the things that I love about Zach is that he has a very pro-industry approach. He takes every opportunity to go network and create meaningful relationships with people,” says Murphy. “He has a real passion for those relationships and he understands how important they are in this industry in creating value and a return for the people that he works with. It’s such a great thing to find someone who has that old-school industry approach and really cares about the relationships that they have.”
There’s no place Brado would rather be, Murphy adds, than on the golf course, at the NetPlus annual meeting or simply in an environment where he is getting to know the group’s buyers and how best to work with them.
Leading the Next Generation
Brado has been attending the Industrial Supply Association’s annual Emerging Leaders events for years, having joined its organizing committee for a three-year term after attending a couple of events. He plans to launch a similar group for young professionals in distribution at the NetPlus annual meeting this fall, with its own event to take place sometime early next year.
As a preferred supplier within NetPlus, Brado is Matt Dedeluk’s main contact. The director of channel marketing at JPW Industries in Laverne, Tennessee, has worked with Brado since he started with NetPlus. Both are in ISA’s Emerging Leaders. “He’s just really knowledgeable on the industry and his specific responsibilities,” says Dedeluk. “He helps me guide my goals and objectives with NetPlus’ goals and objectives. We work as a team together.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to get the young, energetic, life and blood within a more traditional, older school, older style industry,” he adds.
For distributors looking for their own breath of fresh air in the form of young talent, Brado says “the little things matter to us millennials.” Bottled water, soda and coffee in the office, and flexible scheduling for work-life balance are important.
Brado is allowed to work from home, but chose to live near the office because he enjoys the collaborative workforce and youthful atmosphere — mixed with industry veterans he can learn from. “It’s a really nice mixture,” he says.
“I’m not saying that everyone in distribution is going to be able to have sodas and waters and nice offices. But just paying attention to the person I think has gone a long way. Working for NetPlus Alliance, they take care of their distributors, they care of their partners, but then they definitely like to take care of their employees and keep them happy and make sure that they’re investing in them,” he adds.
Murphy says following a path similar to Brado’s, going from a marketing background into distribution sales, is a great place to start for those new to the industry. Marketing requires the development of hands-on product and industry knowledge, product promotion plans and brand management that can then be applied to the sales side. “Watching Zach build his base of knowledge in the industry and truly enjoy establishing and creating good relationships with people, it was a natural transition for him to go over to supplier development,” she says. “Now he has all the product knowledge, he has all the relationships. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do in the future.”
Brado’s creative approach to technology has also been a boon to the business. He created a platform within the NetPlus CRM to track and manage engagement and touchpoints the organization creates between suppliers and distributors. “I think that will be a tremendous asset for our business,” adds Murphy. “He drove that whole concept. It’s exciting to see people take their creativity, their excitement, their relationships, and put that into our technology and helping us to really use that information to grow the business.