Agenda2023 - Modern Distribution Management



September 18

2:00 - 7:00 pm


3:00 - 5:00 pm

Welcome & Opening Session (Free for registered SHIFT attendees)

Benchmark Your Transformation Levers

Tom Gale, CEO, Modern Distribution Management (MDM)
Mike Marks, Founding Partner, Indian River Consulting Group
Tracie Sponenberg, Chief People Officer, The Granite Group
Mike Powers, Director, eCommerce & Digital Strategy, ARG Industrial
Donnie Williamson, Director of Analytics, MDM Analytics

Sales Process, Technology, Data Analytics & People – These four areas are where leading innovators in distribution are focusing change management and transformation investment to drive top-quartile performance and equity value.

Get inspired and make the most of your time at SHIFT 2023 with our opening session and workshop to benchmark your transformation journey and compare notes with peers in roundtable discussions. You’ll complete four assessment tools – Sales, Technology, Data Analytics, People – to frame your conversations and share with your team (better yet – get them in the room to accelerate results!). 

We’ve structured SHIFT 2023 to share the latest research and stories of those on multi-year transformation journeys – from a legacy outside sales process to a stronger hybrid model, where inside sales, digital and team roles are well-defined and integrated. From transactional to strategic tech stack to create stronger customer engagement and lower sales cost. With deeper data analytics capability, and most importantly, a great distribution culture that fosters innovation and success. Don’t miss this opening session!

NOTE: We are bookending SHIFT 2023 with tactical workshop sessions and highly recommend you make time for both. This assessment workshop (starts 3 pm Monday) gives you and your team the best practices and tools to measure where you are today on the critical levers for creating competitive advantage in 2024.

See the end of this agenda for the one-hour McKinsey-led change management workshop (ends 2 pm Wednesday) as our final session on Wednesday, Sept. 20, to take back a recipe for successful transformation work.

5:00 - 7:00 pm

Welcome Reception

Join fellow attendees, speakers and sponsors to kickoff SHIFT | The Future of Distribution. 


September 19

7:00 - 5:00 pm


7:00 - 7:45 am


7:45 - 7:55 am


7:55 - 8:40 am

Keynote: How Leading Distributors Transform & Drive Valuation

Kevin Sachs, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company
Alex Abdelnour, Partner, McKinsey & Company

McKinsey’s distribution sector leaders share their latest research findings and client insights on how some distribution companies are bucking challenging market trends, outperforming competitors in financial performance and expanding valuation in an unpredictable environment. Learn what matters to investors and what drives measurable improvement in a distributor’s performance and equity value. Kevin and Alex will share the factors that successful distributors have used to craft compelling equity stories and transform their business – and how to get started on the journey.  

8:40 - 9:20 am

Lessons From the Front: Accelerate Your Transition Process

Michael Marks, Founding Partner, Indian River Consulting Group
Stuck in pilot purgatory? This session distills how to avoid common pitfalls and navigate stumbling blocks distributors face during transformation projects. Merging decades of strategy experience working with high-performing distributors in a variety of sectors along with cutting-edge market research, Mike Marks provides “street-level” best practices for distributors to define the much-needed rules of a rapidly evolving competitive playbook.

9:20 - 10:00 am

Transformation Case Study: Motion

Joe Limbaugh, Executive Vice President – COO, Motion
Tom Gale, CEO, Modern Distribution Management
Power transmission and MRO distributor Motion has been on a multi-year digital and sales transformation journey. Throw in the acquisition of Kaman Distribution Group, combining the #1 and #3 power transmission and fluid power distributors in North America to create a story of organizational change on a large scale. You’ll hear firsthand how Motion is managing the transition to a stronger hybrid sales model and digital-first organization.

10:00 - 10:30 am


10:30 - 10:40 am

Bridging the Gap: ERP Meets Gen-AI for Transformative Business Value

Steve Levy, VP of Enterprise Architecture, Infor
In this Infor spotlight session, hear about two practical Gen-AI use cases that demonstrate the seamless integration of your ERP system with cutting-edge AI models. Witness how this integration brings tangible benefits to your organization, as we showcase real-world examples that highlight the value of marrying traditional enterprise solutions with innovative AI technologies.

10:40 - 11:10 am

Fireside Chat: Why Mental Health at Work Is a Critical Business Conversation

Announcing Panelists Soon!
Melissa Doman, (moderator), MA, Organizational Psychologist, Former Clinical Mental Health Therapist, & Author of Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work (Here’s Why And How To Do It Really Well)

Mental health at work doesn’t mean “Wellness Wednesdays” – it is tied to staff productivity, team collaboration, innovation and top-quartile performance. As many as 200 million workdays are estimated to be lost due to mental health issues each year – the equivalent of $16.8 billion in lost productivity, according to a recent study.

Join industry leaders in a candid fireside discussion with mental-health-at-work expert Melissa Doman, as they discuss the challenges business leaders face in discussing mental health, and ways to proactively manage the ongoing workforce transformation taking place. 

11:10 - 11:50 am

Panel: What Does Culture Really Mean? 

Sonia Timmons, VP Financial Planning & Analysis, Vallen
Alexis Davis, VP of Human Resources, Rinnai America Corporation
Erika Sims, CEO & President, Sims HD
Tracie Sponenberg, CPO, The Granite Group (moderator)
If you have free food, the occasional free beer, and a basketball court or yoga class, does that help your culture? Probably not. So what does? We all talk about culture and of course if you are hiring, a “good culture” is the number one thing potential employees look for. But do we ever take a step back and define it?  What are the components of a “good culture?”

Tracie Sponenberg moderates this panel of powerhouse distribution and construction products leaders in a discussion of the four essential components of a great distribution culture:

  1. Supportive leadership
  2. Belonging & psychological safety
  3. Shared values & meaningful work
  4. Transparency & trust
11:50 - 11:55 am

Innovation Spotlight: McFadyen Digital

11:55 - 12:35 pm

Analytics with Traction - A Ludwig Meister Case Study

Max Meister, CEO, Ludwig Meister
In its sales transformation process, Munich-based power transmission distributor Ludwig Meister ended product departments and moved to customer-focused teams, shutting branches and opening new ones. Gain insights on the change journey from day one to its future – wins and fails, metrics, new sales roles and the importance of company culture.

This strong growth-story presentation is about the application of analytics in wholesale distribution. CEO Max Meister explains in detail how his team has built a system and why he considers post-analytics processes to be extremely important. By using data, Ludwig Meister has generated added value for customers by using advanced algorithms and technologies to gain insights that help customers optimize their supply chain. Max’s key message: The real value is in the processes that take place after the analysis. How do we ensure that insights gained are translated into actions? This session includes specific examples of how LM has been able to increase customer value by analyzing data.

12:35 - 1:30 pm


Afternoon Breakout Sessions

1:30 - 2:30 pm

Track A: Sales Strategy - Strategies to Strengthen Your Sales & Go-to-Market Engine

John Nantz, Founding Partner, Redwood Advisors
Even with great salespeople, distributors often serve the wrong customers in the wrong channels in the wrong ways. Most distributors have a significant opportunity to drive top- and bottom-line growth by optimizing their go-to-market (GTM) strategy and approach, particularly their outside and inside sales forces. Many distributors have invested in an expensive sales force, but it’s not optimized — and that puts senior management at risk.

In this session, attendees receive in-depth insights on how to right-size and redesign their outside and inside sales forces to perfectly align them with customer needs and opportunities, including specific scenario examples based on Redwood Advisors’ work with middle-market distributors. These core strategies will help create happier customers, more productive sales staff and a bigger bottom line by optimizing your customer segmentation and account mapping.

This session will addresses key questions, including:

  • What are the three key phases to optimize your sales go-to-market?
  • What are some effective dimensions to segment your customers?
  • What is an effective approach to mapping customer segments to sales channels?
  • What is an effective method for designing sales territories?

Track B: Tech Transformation - Panel: Manage Complexity, Maximize Value in Your Tech Stack

Kristen Thom, Vice President of Product, White Cup
Andy Harris, Solutions Principal, ToolsGroup
Steve Levy, VP of Enterprise Architecture, Infor
Sachin Wadhawan, Vice President, Sales Engineering & Solutions Architecture, BigCommerce
Mike Hockett, Executive Editor, Modern Distribution Management (moderator)
A high-performance technology backbone is foundational for a digitally powered distributor and successful business transformation. What’s the right fit for your unique business requirements today across the exploding spectrum from ERP to PIM to AI? And how do you get them to play well together? This panel has deep distribution experience – on both sides of the buyer/seller table – in navigating selection, integration and implementation challenges. Tap into these diverse perspectives to help benchmark your current tech stack and define future priorities for your portfolio. 

Track C: People Strategy - The Power of People: Unlocking Growth Potential in Distribution

Jennifer Munro, VP, Marketing & Talent Development, Employee Owned Holdings, Inc. (Hydraquip, GCC, Supreme Integrated Technology)
Bharani Nagarathnam, Ph.D., Associate Director, Master of Industrial Distribution, Co-Founder, Talent Development Council, Texas A&M University
The speed at which your company can grow depends on your people. Business strategies are just plans on a paper. Talent is the secret sauce to your growth. The pandemic and subsequent economic swings have created intense competition for talent. Those who control the Talent – Control the Future.  

This presentation will focus on how to improve your Talent Acquisition practices to attract and recruit top talent. Hear directly from a member of the Texas A&M Talent Development Council on how they have improved their talent acquisition practices and processes to meet the demands of our changing workforce.

In this session, you will learn:
How distribution business has changed and why People are key for growth.
What are the needs, wants and aspirations of Next-Gen workforce.
How to Implement innovative strategies for attracting top talent. 

  • Specifically: Digital and Social Recruiting – How to upgrade your career website &
  • recruiting materials and be active on social media.
  • Building successful Internship Programs – Rotations, projects, engagement and converting to Full-time.
  • Experiences and learnings from a Talent Development Council member.
2:35 - 3:35 pm

Track A: Sales Strategy - Distribution Sales Model Transformation Panel

Jim Kennedy, Sales Manager – Ball Seed, Ball Horticultural Company
Kevin Ryan, Senior Director, Sales Operations, Henry Schein
Luis Valls, President, Turtle
Mike Marks, Founding Partner, Indian River Consulting Group (moderator)
MDM and Indian River Consulting Group have advanced research and hosted annual conferences since 2017 in how distributors are transitioning from less-effective outside sales processes to more profitable hybrid sales models with stronger inside-sales and digital-support components. 

While each organization has unique characteristics, this session explores the challenges and solutions on the road to creating a hybrid or omni-channel sales model. Learn from those who have been on a multi-year path to creating a high-performance sales organization – their wins, challenges and insights that have helped them create more efficient and profitable sales organizations.

Track B: Tech Transformation - Marketplace Technology Considerations for Distribution

Tom McFadyen, CEO, McFadyen Digital
According to Frost & Sullivan, the global B2B e-commerce market is projected to reach over $20.9 trillion by 2027, a testament to the growing influence of online marketplaces in shaping business transactions. This session, will offer insights into how the distribution industry can leverage the power of platforms to strategically position itself to thrive in this expanding digital landscape. Our panel of industry experts lead by Amazon Best-Selling Author and McFadyen Digital CEO Tom McFadyen, will cover key technological trends while considering the opportunities and challenges that the online marketplace model presents. 

In this session, you will learn about:

  • The benefits of marketplace-based platform commerce vs. traditional ecommerce
  • Technology considerations when launching an online marketplace
  • The landscape of technology providers enabling multi-vendor commerce
  • Real-world examples of marketplace success while overcoming challenges
  • Actionable strategies for planning your own marketplace

Track C: People Strategy - Investing in Employee Mental Health: A Business Imperative 

Melissa Doman, MA, Organizational Psychologist, Former Clinical Mental Health Therapist, & Author of Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work (Here’s Why and How To Do It Really Well)
Mental health at work isn’t a “wellness thing.” When it’s positioned that way, businesses constantly wonder why ‘nothing sticks’ and ‘nothing changes’. Learning to talk about mental health at work requires learning a crucial skill & developing a language ability that we all need to have to some degree. Join Melissa Doman for an interactive keynote to learn about why businesses usually don’t take this approach, why they should, and how to get started in your organization. 


4:30 - 5:30 pm

Track A: Sales Strategy - Figure Out What to Do with Your Sales Force

Mike Kunkle, VP, Sales Effectiveness Services, SPARXiQ
Mike Marks, Founding Partner, Indian River Consulting Group
In an ongoing atmosphere of disruption, any change effort is a challenge. In this presentation, Mike Kunkle and Mike Marks share a proven formula to make the most impactful changes for your sales force. They believe that “being told how to figure out what’s right for you is 10 times more valuable than being told what to do.” 

 They’ll share how to:

  • Start with a solid foundation of buyer acumen (it’s different than you think).
  • Conduct a situation assessment of your sales force (the current state and desired future state), complete with a gap analysis and impact analysis.
  • Understand and assess the Building Blocks of Sales Enablement (the levers you can pull to improve sales results).
  • Create a prioritized action plan that will move the needle on the metrics that matter most.
  • Execute with discipline to get the results you want.

 Join Mike and Mike for a journey into figuring out the best plan for YOU and YOUR company.

Track B: Tech Transformation - How to Build World-Class Distribution Analytics Capability

Donnie Williamson, Director of Analytics, MDM Analytics 
John Gunderson, Sr. Consultant, The Dorn Group
Tony Pericle, Founder and Executive Chairman, ProfitOptics
Tom Gale, CEO, Modern Distribution Management (MDM) (co-moderator)
James Dorn, President & CEO, Dorn Group (co-moderator)

Smaller distributors can outcompete larger rivals with better analytics. Most distribution organizations have prioritized digital transformation strategies, but are less clear on what the “North Star” looks like for building a strong analytics team and the areas of expertise with the most impact for their unique conditions to drive growth and profitability in tough market conditions. This session gives you a roadmap for building an analytics capability, team and an assessment tool to benchmark your current level of analytics depth – regardless of size and internal resources.

Track C: People Strategy - “Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready to Play!” – What a Coaching Model and AI Mean to Your People

Tracie Sponenberg, CPO, The Granite Group
Alec Feagan, Operations Manager, Victoria’s Secret
People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. You have top talent, now what? Too often we promote the best salesperson, the best counter person, and wish them well! We don’t train managers on how to lead. More importantly, we don’t train managers on how to coach. Discover how adopting a coaching model of leadership in our industry can help transform your organization into a place where your people don’t want to leave! We’ll also talk about how AI is changing the way leaders are thinking about talent management and what next-gen leadership is looking for in distribution workplaces.  

Evening Reception & Dinner, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Meet with speakers, sponsors and attendees over dinner, drinks and live music. This is a great opportunity to expand your network and learn from the expertise of fellow industry leaders!


September 20

7:00 - 12:00 pm​


7:00 - 8:00 am


8:00 - 8:05 am

Welcome: Modern Distribution Management

8:05 - 8:15 am

Innovation Spotlight: Shift Your Sales Culture

Todd Daubenberger, Senior Director – Sales & Strategic Alliances, Epicor 
During this session, you’ll hear thoughts about how to shift the thinking and approach of your sales organization to differentiate and separate your business from the competition – ultimately delivering more value to your customers. The presenter, Epicor’s Todd Daubenberger, has been leading high-performing sales organizations for Distribution and Manufacturing for over 20 years.

8:15 - 9:00 am

AI Today and the Future of Distribution

Kevin Reid-Morris, Research Lead
Paul Noble, Founder & CSO, Verusen
Jeff Van Pelt, Industry Solutions Principal, NTT DATA
Benj Cohen, Founder & CEO,
Tony Pericle, Founder & Executive Chairman, ProfitOptics
SHIFT Day 2 leads off with MDM’s groundbreaking research on artificial intelligence in distribution. In addition to an overview of the current state and practical impacts today for distributors, you’ll gain a diagnostic tool for your team to assess strategy, priorities and internal and external resources to create a roadmap for AI implementation. You’ll hear practical case-study examples of how distributors are creating deeper value for customers with AI, and increasing the valuation of their companies.

9:00 - 9:40 am​

Panel: Digital Innovation in Distribution

Benj Cohen, Founder & CEO, (moderator)
Stu Tisdale, SVP, Chief Experience Officer, ADI Global
Chuck Cohen, Managing Director, Benco Dental Company
Andrew Wong, Partner, McKinsey & Co.
We welcome you to a candid conversation with ADI’s Stu Tisdale and McKinsey’s Kevin Sachs, influential voices in B2B distribution. Coming from the front lines as an operator, investor, and consultant, they’re set to share their unique views on innovation in distribution. Hear an exchange of ideas that cover everything from investments in artificial intelligence to vertical marketplaces.

Benj Cohen, the CEO of, will guide the discussion, focusing on how innovation is changing the way we work, improving our relationships with customers, and helping us stay ahead of the competition. Be part of the conversation that’s shaping the future of the industry and gather fresh ideas to bolster your business strategy.

9:40 - 9:45 am​

Innovation Spotlight: Feedonomics


10:15 - 10:55 am​

Panel: Keys to Successful Digital Transformation

Ana Bennett, Vice President of IT, Hisco
Mike Mortensen, President & CEO, ARG Industrial
Anne Vranicic, President, Valin Corporation
Helen Piña, Vice President of Marketing, White Cup (moderator)
A high percentage of digital transformation projects fail. As we wrap SHIFT 2023, this panel digs into the nitty gritty of digital transformation change management and execution – process, people, technology – with leaders who’ve successfully executed a range of initiatives. With diverse backgrounds across B2B distribution, we’ll address everything from AI to Zettabyte.

10:55 - 11:00 am​

Innovation Spotlight: ToolsGroup

11:00 - 11:30 am​

Transformation Case Study: Global Industrial's Growth via Change

Barry Litwin, CEO, Global Industrial
Mike Hockett, Executive Editor, Modern Distribution Management (MDM)
Industrial products and MRO supplies distributor Global Industrial Company has steadily climbed MDM’s Top Distributors Lists — primarily via organic growth — and its ongoing multi-year transformation has the company well-positioned for the future. Meanwhile, the company has recently picked up national awards for Best Leadership Teams and Best CEOs for Diversity. You’ll learn about the recent initiatives and technology Global has implemented to empower its direction.

11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Keynote: B2B Buying & Selling: The Evolution Continues

Maria Boulden, VP, Executive Partner, Sales, Gartner
As the B2B world continues to experience unrelenting change, Maria shares data on the current state of buying and selling behaviors; the good, the bad and the ugly of digital transformations to understand where we are and where we are headed. She’ll also discuss how to drive practical commercial execution in a world that often defies practical.


1:00 - 2:00 pm

Navigating Change: From Strategy to Execution

Greg Fern, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company
Change is inevitable in the fast-paced world of wholesale distribution, and effective change management is crucial for success. In this engaging session led by Greg Fern, a Senior Partner in McKinsey & Company’s Transformation practice, we will explore the critical elements of change management planning and execution that drive transformational results.

Drawing on extensive personal experience and research into successful transformations, Greg will guide you through a proven recipe for successfully leading transformational change in your organization.  From aligning on a compelling aspiration, to assessing the current state, to developing a detailed transformation roadmap and execution engine, you will gain practical insights and actionable tactics to drive successful transformational change.

Program Close –  2:00 pm MT


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