Eric Hoplin, CEO of the National Association of Wholesale Distributors (NAW), recently joined the DCKAP Driven podcast, a video show that explores leaders’ stories, digital journeys, and insights on trends in distribution. Hosted by Karthik Chidambaram, the discussion dove deep into the future of distribution, addressing the challenges and strategies essential for next-generation distributors.

Building the Next Generation Trade Association

Hoplin emphasizes the importance of the industry evolving with the times. “When I came in as CEO of NAW,” he shared, “the board of directors charged me with building the next generation trade association.” This means that NAW is focused on helping the distribution industry not only keep pace, but also paving the way for innovations and improved customer relations necessary in the future.

Tackling Recruitment Challenges

Harnessing the Power of Culture and Mission

The distribution industry faces the same talent hunt challenges as other sectors. Hoplin believes that beyond wages and benefits, the key to attracting top talent lies in culture, mission, and the promise of personal and professional growth. He notes, “People are excited about the mission of distributors. If you want to be part of the interwoven fabric of the American economy, the distribution industry is where it’s at.”

Embracing Technology

NAW’s Digital Warehouse: A Game Changer

The role of technology in the distribution landscape cannot be overstated. NAW’s digital warehouse, a comprehensive online repository of research and reports, is a testament to this. However, Hoplin also emphasizes the importance of human talent. “While people remain central to distribution,” he remarked, “there are incredible technology opportunities within distribution. We want those with a technical background to see the potential here as much as they would at tech giants like Google, Facebook or Apple.”

Adapting to Online Competitors

Strategies to Level the Playing Field

Online competition presents a unique set of challenges. The practices of some online sellers, as Hoplin points out, can be both anti-competitive and unfair. As NAW works to establish better regulations, Hoplin advises distributors to focus on building strong customer relationships and to aim for a digital experience that can challenge Amazon.

The Art and Science of Lobbying

Educating Legislators for a Win-Win Outcome

One of the significant aspects of NAW’s work is its lobbying efforts. Hoplin shares a behind-the-scenes look at this, saying, “Lobbyists provide expert knowledge to help legislators understand the impact of their votes. A change in government doesn’t mean a change in strategy for us. We’re pro-business, and we build relationships across the board to support pro-business issues.”

Hoplin explains, “For example, about a year about, a bill was initially proposed that would cause massive tax increases for all distributors, suppliers, and customers. We took some CEOs to Washington, met with lawmakers, and explained how it would impact their businesses. The lawmakers listened and the bill was initially defeated. Something eventually passed but it was a much smaller impact than previously proposed, so that was a win.”

Balancing Leadership and Life

As a CEO who’s continually on the move, advocating for NAW members and ensuring the industry’s future is bright, Hoplin also values his downtime. Whether it’s hitting the gym, indulging in golf with his sons, soaking in a musical performance, or delving into a book about Winston Churchill, he believes in balancing work with passions.

Wrapping Up: A Glimpse into Distribution’s Road Ahead

Eric Hoplin’s insights on the DCKAP Driven podcast shed light on the dynamic world of distribution. Emphasizing NAW’s innovative strategies and the industry’s adaptation to challenges, Hoplin offers a concise roadmap for its future trajectory. This episode is a must-listen for those keen to grasp the pulse of modern distribution.

The DCKAP Driven Podcast, hosted by CEO Karthik Chidambaram, delves into B2B leaders’ insights and digital journeys. DCKAP, a digital solutions firm specializing in automating data integration between ERP, e-commerce, and CRM systems, recently earned accolades including “Best Support” and “Momentum Leader” from, a top tech software marketplace.

View the Episode: “Facing Industry Challenges Head On to Improve Distribution.”

Watch the NAW episode on YouTube