The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Distributors Stay Focused Despite Economic Turbulence

The recent National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Executive Summit in Washington drew one of the largest audiences of wholesale distribution executives together in years. I have attended nearly every annual NAW meeting since 1993, and this one can best be summed up by one word: Focus.
 
My key takeaways from sessions and conversations: The executives at this conference weren't obsessed with economic news they can't control. Rather, they were focused on collecting great ideas on how to get leaner, improve profitability and finetune strategies. They were benchmarking their performance against the case studies they heard, and probing to find ways to improve internal processes.
 
Economist Alan Beaulieu got everyone's attention as the first speaker when he ...

The recent National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Executive Summit in Washington drew one of the largest audiences of wholesale distribution executives together in years. I have attended nearly every annual NAW meeting since 1993, and this one can best be summed up by one word: Focus.
 
My key takeaways from sessions and conversations: The executives at this conference weren’t obsessed with economic news they can’t control. Rather, they were focused on collecting great ideas on how to get leaner, improve profitability and finetune strategies. They were benchmarking their performance against the case studies they heard, and probing to find ways to improve internal processes.
 
Economist Alan Beaulieu got everyone’s attention as the first speaker when he outlined his predictions for recession late this year into early next year, with the caveat that consumer news emerging over the next two months could accelerate the timing.
 
NAW annual meetings have always featured a strong mix of business, economic and political topics. This year mixed it up by having NAW’s four Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellows participate, both formally through moderating distributor panel discussions, as well as informal networking and participating in several roundtable discussions. Adam Fein, Neil Gholson, Brent Grover and Mike Marks engaged over two days of meetings.
 
The meeting theme was What the Very Best Distributors Do.”Three panel presentations featured three case studies each by distributors who have figured out how to be successful by focusing on one of three specific areas: Customer Focus, Operational Efficiency, and Leadership Culture. It offered condensed, lessons-learned insight that triggered engaging follow-up roundtable discussions.
 
I had the pleasure of moderating a wrap-up panel of the four NAW Fellows. They have all contributed to the knowledge base of wholesale distribution and have dedicated themselves to this industry. They offered their key takeaways from the sessions and conversations at the Summit and answered audience questions. The 45 minutes felt like five.
 
The annual NAW meeting delivers insight into national business and political issues you can’t gain through sound bites and talking heads on TV. Beyond that, the ability to network with distribution executives across the entire spectrum of the U.S. and increasingly international economies is the real prize. I’m also a big fan of case studies. This year’s format hit the sweet spot.

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