Michael Adelizzi 2013-10-12 06:32:58
ASA – A Look Back, A Leap Forward An Interview with Mike Adelizzi, ASA Executive Vice President It has been just more than six years since the American Supply Association hired Michael Adelizzi to manage the national organization. We thought it would be a good time to gain his perspective of where the association was when he took the helm, his thoughts about the association’s accomplishments over the past six years and his vision for ASA’s future. ASA: So it has been just over six years since you took over as executive vice president and chief operating officer at ASA. Are you pleased, surprised or disappointed where ASA is today? Is it where you thought it would be? Adelizzi: I am pleased. Actually, I am more than pleased about our current situation. I definitely am not surprised. When I took over in 2007, the association had diminished from its heyday and had lost a great deal of relevance. At the same time, ASA had a tremendous core of extremely bright and motivated members that wanted to rebuild. Together, our leadership and staff developed a strong strategic plan, stuck to it, cut irrelevant programs, rebuilt our financial resources and invested in some great programs such as advocacy, education and business intelligence. As a result, today we are enjoying two years of net membership growth, a strong financial reserve that is being used to continue to add new programs and we have once again reemerged as the leader. Today, no one doubts that ASA is back and thriving. ASA: Today, ASA has radically expanded its offering of programs as well as greatly improved its value proposition. All of this was accomplished during a depressed economy. How did ASA do it? Adelizzi: Hard work sounds like too simple of an answer, but that is a big part of our success. More importantly, we have great leaders that have not been afraid to be bold. Two examples come to mind. When the markets were crashing, the ASA Education Foundation’s Karl E. Neupert Endowment Fund, which funds a large percentage of what we are doing in education today, took a hit as well. Instead of shutting everything down, our leadership doubled down by investing reserves to develop ASA University, its five colleges, 14 curricula and the technical ability to electronically deliver training to our members. Another great example is government affairs. Having a lobbying firm that cost us $350 per hour to represent ASA in Washington, D.C., in addition to having a long-range plan calling for us to become more engaged, our core members increased their own annual dues so that we could hire a full-time ASA staff person to work in Washington. In a sense, it is no secret how we have done so well. Much like our members’ businesses, we find good people (our members) and let them move mountains. ASA: We’ve heard you say that ASA has just more than 300 distributor member firms and that you believe there are roughly 500 more out there that are not affiliated with ASA. Does it bother you that those 500 firms are not members of ASA? Adelizzi: Sure it does. Sometimes it is depressing to think 500 firms will sit back and let 300 other firms carry the water for them. We all are together in this industry, meaning everyone should step up and help. If everyone joined and helped ASA in Washington, we could become a formidable force. Think about it: 1,000 companies with 100,000 employees all engaged in seeking change in Washington. We would be a force that would have to be dealt with. ASA: What were the barriers over the past six years that needed to be overcome to gain the success you are having today? Adelizzi: The availability of resources, poor perceptions of our relevance, stagnation and programs that distracted us from our core purpose coupled with a dead trade show, no long-range vision and members that had quit on us had created an overall general malaise. ASA: What are the barriers today that you will have to overcome in the next five years to continue to reach new heights? Adelizzi: The ego of some companies and individuals thinking they are better than the industry, a lack of unification, industry groups deciding to copy what ASA is doing instead of joining with us, the amount of disposable time distributors have to volunteer and become involved, our next generation of business owners not necessarily being association-oriented and, of course, to a degree, consolidation. ASA: What are the greatest challenges ASA members will be facing in the next five years that could hurt their businesses? What will ASA do to help them overcome these challenges? Adelizzi: A totally dysfunctional and antagonistic government, an uncertain economy, the availability of an educated labor force, consolidation, a more sophisticated consumer and a growing number of Americans with declining expendable incomes. Keeping focused on the ASA Long Range Strategic Plan that we annually update will be a key. We have already identified these barriers and are developing plans to deal with them. Specific examples are getting industry buying groups to become more engaged behind ASA’s advocacy efforts, reaching out to young people and attracting them to our industry to build our industry’s bench and expanding on our business intelligence to guide our members’ decision-making ability. ASA: What’s on the short-term horizon for ASA? Adelizzi: Short-term, we are looking at ways to enhance our successful forecasting program through “Phase 2” later in 2014. More near-term, ASA will launch a career recruitment effort that will attract high school, community college and select four-year university students to the PHCP and PVF industry. We currently are developing informational videos and printed materials that cover all the career options available in our industry. When you hear the term industrial distribution, many of us think of warehouse workers. That only is a small part of the whole package. Our industry offers many opportunities in any part of the country where a young person may want to start a career. Employment opportunities include warehouse operations, sales, marketing, IT, finance, human resources, accounting and purchasing at both distributor and manufacturing firms. We are a vibrant industry that offers a tremendous amount of variety, which is exactly what young people are looking for today. Another part of our career recruitment effort will be an online job board that will link opportunities available at our member firms with people looking to start or advance a career. You will also see us launch our Masters of Industrial Distribution, which will give our members the ability to formally train their branch managers. ASA also has recently ramped up our ability to market our members to industry customers in both the PHCP and PVF sectors. PVF Outlook and PB Outlook magazines already are reaching thousands of customers with critical information that our members are telling us they want their customers to hear. In a nutshell, ASA has become a marketing partner with our members. ASA: Give us your elevator speech. Why should a distributor join ASA? Adelizzi: Ability sums it all up. ASA gives our members the ability to adapt, grow and succeed. Advancing Success Together In late August, two-dozen volunteer leaders and staff representing ASA, MwDA, NCWA, SWA, WANE and WSA convened in Chicago to conduct a workshop focused on the overall value proposition that membership offers wholesale distributors. According to Adelizzi, “Because the vast majority of ASA’s wholesaler members maintain their membership through one of the six independent regional affiliates, those organizations continue to play an important role in helping the national association to effectively communicate and deliver on its value proposition.” Workshop participants quickly agreed the focus of programs and services available at the local, regional levels are predominantly organized around the same cornerstones as those available from the national organization – networking, education, business intelligence and advocacy. “Each of the organizations has its own personality and that comes as a result of trying to provide what our members value most from being part of their local, regional groups,” WSA Executive Vice President Don Robertson said. “We’re all working toward the same goal. We want to provide our members with benefits that help them continue to be profitable and sustainable in an ever-changing marketplace.” WANE President Gary Bosley (Buffalo, N.Y.-based Erb Co.) Added, “ASA is a great organization with a lot to offer any distributor that wants to remain viable, but the key to getting engaged is to participate, and that starts locally.” Reggie Hickman from Brock McVey in Lexington, Ken., and a past president of SWA added, “It really is important for the national and regional organizations to work cooperatively and in ways that complement one another’s efforts to deliver on the mission and grow a vibrant membership with participation at all levels.” More detailed outcomes from the workshop will be reported to ASA’s Board of Directors at its next meeting on Oct. 2 at NetworkASA 2013 in Washington, D.C., and explored in greater detail at the annual strategic planning meeting in January. A special thanks to ASA Chairman of the Board Scott Weaver (Lebanon, Pa.-based APR Supply Co.) For facilitating the workshop. ASA Introduces Essentials of Profitable Purchasing and Inventory Management The ASA Education Foundation is pleased to announce a new course to the ASA University offerings. Essentials of Profitable Purchasing and Inventory Management© now is available in book and online format and becomes the seventh course in the popular series of comprehensive training programs developed exclusively for the wholesale distribution channel. The new book course is divided into 10 chapters, each with a selfgrading quiz to test knowledge retention, a substantial glossary for ongoing reference and two appendices: one with typical purchasing job descriptions and the other with more complex purchasing formulas. The book course also includes an 80-question online final exam. The online version is a four-hour interactive program divided into 10 modules with engaging activities, learning games, self-grading quizzes, a glossary and an 80-question final exam. A certificate of completion is provided for those who pass the exam. The chapters/modules of the course include: • The Role of Purchasing in Wholesale Distribution • Negotiation for Successful Buying • Purchasing Best Practices • Purchasing Project Management • Finance for Strategic Procurement • Supply Chain Management and Logistics • Profitable Inventory Management and Control • The Physical Inventory Process • Improving Quality in the Supply Chain • Putting Your New Knowledge to Work “We’re excited about this new course because it’s aimed at teaching purchasing and inventory professionals how critical their role is in the company’s profitability,” ASA Education Foundation Executive Director Amy Black said. “In addition to giving purchasing and inventory personnel key tips about how to do their jobs more effectively, the course stresses the importance of ethical behavior, clear communication, time management and the team approach, as well as the role of purchasing and inventory management in providing outstanding customer service in a successful wholesale distribution business.” For more information and to order, visit www.asa.net/store or call 630/467-0000. Answers to Your Questions about Compensation & Benefits Next spring, ASA and its independent regional affiliates will release a comprehensive employee and executive compensation report. This will be the first time since 2010 that this kind of data will be available for the PHCP and industrial PVF wholesale-distribution channel. “This study is the best sample on compensation and benefits in distribution,” ASA Executive Director Chris Murin said. Data collection will begin in early January, and all wholesaler members will receive a copy of the final report in exchange for completing the survey questionnaire – at no fee. The final report will be made available only to members.
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