What does it take to win in the digital game? I have pondered this question for more than a decade. There are more questions: What does the organization look like that will prevail in the digital arena? How does a CEO develop a vision for the future, when that future is charging toward a new competitive framework that is rapidly changing and requires flexibility and quick response? How does a CEO find the answers? With all these questions to answer, a distribution leader has no choice but to become a student again!

The answers to these questions came to me in sequential steps:

  • Step one: The identification of thought leadership resources. Our membership and participation in NAW has exposed us at Valin Corporation to organizations and individuals in our industry who are constantly seeking answers to the ongoing challenges before all of us in distribution.
  • Step two: Engagement. We engaged the Fellows of the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence and began working with them to improve our business. Several initiatives moved us forward: strategic pricing, redesign of our sales organization and compensation strategies, and development of our data teams to move our organization from anecdotal discussion to data-driven discussion.
  • Step three: Commitment to training our high potentials in a consistent process. This step was accomplished by enrolling 12 individuals in the Master of Industrial Distribution program at Texas A&M University. We further augmented this training by funding advanced degrees in Information Technology, Finance and Digital Marketing.
  • Step four: Involvement of all managers in the educational programs at Texas A&M. This step allowed us to provide our team with a common toolkit to solve problems.

In 2006 we began the development of our strategy by engaging in the NAW and Texas A&M consortia that addressed topics such as Optimizing Distributor Profitability, Optimizing Sales and Marketing, Optimizing Pricing, Optimizing Human Capital. These consortia were learning exercises for the Valin teams that participated and their participation increased the adoption rate of the best practices identified and quantified in the program.

In 2008 I was asked to join the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Board to assist in the identification of initiatives that addressed the problems facing our industry. For the next eight years I had the privilege of working with other CEOs and industry trade association leaders to identify issues and seek out the individuals and organizations that could help us peer into the future and develop educational tools to help cut through the fog of rapid change as we embraced the challenges before us.

Over the years, the Valin management team has learned the process of how to engage our workforce in embracing change. It has been a journey of both joy and frustration, and yet we continue to move forward with grit and determination to be relevant in the digital arena.

NAW became our resource for accomplishing change. The body of knowledge needed resides in the publications and people made available to you through the sponsored research that the NAW Institute has developed and continues to develop on behalf of you and all of us who are NAW members. The men and women I served with on the NAW Institute Board and its current Board members are working diligently to provide you with the tools necessary to effectively deal with change.

The NAW thought leadership body of work is available to you today. It has helped my company to remain relevant and on our path to winning in the digital game, and it can help yours, too.

This year, the NAW Institute and Texas A&M extended their alliance by offering top-of-the-line solutions for distributors in the area of Next-Gen Distribution Professional Development:

P.S. If you’re looking for more innovative ideas and expert insights to help you transform your business, be sure to attend the NAW Executive Summit, January 29–31, 2019, in Washington, DC.