By Ashlei Williams
UnleashWD 2014 began with the end in mind – reimagining business. The innovation summit for wholesalers, distributors and channel partners was curated around “The Innovative Distributor” model, a path for catalyzing an organization to sustained relevancy.
The first session focused on vision, followed by sessions on culture, value propositions, business models and leadership. From October 29-30, Dirk Beveridge, founder of UnleashWD, introduced attendees to new ways of thinking.
“We need to look at our businesses in ways we never have before. Why? Because we live in this age of disruption where change is coming at us from the outside faster than it ever has,” Beveridge said.
Beveridge believes there is more to distribution than picking, packing and shipping. The Wholesaler was a first-time guest at UnleashWD. With attendees from the PHCP industry present, the essence of “more” was palatable for Assistant Editor Ashlei Williams.
“Dirk used a Jack Welch quote, ‘If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near,’” said Kathryn Poehling, Manager of Corporate Sales and Marketing at First Supply. “A key reason our industry needs to be here is that we need to keep pace.”
The vision session ignited conversation on change. Session speakers included David Houle, author of Entering the Shift Age; Steve Steinhibler, Vice President of Strategic Alliances at Cisco Systems; and Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. There was also a keynote on day one led by Andrew Berlin, owner of South Bend Cubs.
During a question-and-answer portion, an attendee asked about the state of manufacturing. Shapiro said U.S. manufacturing is on the rebound because of technology, and manufacturers must capitalize on the trend.
Houle said, “It’s the greatest age of design. Valuing workers with technical skills is important for U.S. manufacturing.”
Jim Liautaud, founder of The Liautaud Institute, kicked off the culture session proposing that business leaders create self-managed environments. Good leaders don’t give orders, they share intent and allow employees to create outcomes, Liautaud said.
In the next presentation, Dru Dalton, founder of Real Thread, explained how four principles guide his company culture: external promotion and engagement with customers; internal promotion of positive company relationships; weighing product value over price; and leveraging technology.
ShineScout founder Lynn Casey opened the value propositions session suggesting that creativity is integral to standing out and succeeding. Casey encouraged attendees to ask, listen and imagine when thinking about their businesses.
Haley Rushing, Chief Purposoligist at The Purpose Institute, continued the reflection conversation stating it’s not what a business sells, but what it stands for.
“The clearer you are, the more you can save resources by saying, ‘No.’ Marketing is easy around a purpose,” Rushing said.
The concepts of imagination and purpose resonated with one of the panel moderators, Linda Taddonio, co-founder and Chief of eCommerce Strategy at Insite Software.
“I like to shorten my title to chief instigator and help motivate manufacturers and distributors to re-imagine their business models by embracing the opportunities digital technologies bring to the table,” Taddonio said. “As a software provider, we really care that the technology we offer is going to help change their world.”
Steve Riddell, Chief Sales Officer at Blinds.com, centered his presentation on why legendary service is their value proposition. Blinds.com helps customers easily understand why and how to spend money with the company.
Keeping the customer in mind was a theme that Steve Edwards, Vice President of Marketing at WinWholesale, could relate to.
“WinWholesale is trying to create loyal and mutually profitable relationships with our customers,” Edwards said. “I think as an industry, there are many of us that believe we are ripe for innovation and willing to try to do some things differently.”
Day two of the summit began with a keynote from Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors. Next, Shama Hyder, CEO of Marketing Zen Group, presented on growth hacking. Hyder discussed the trend of people controlling businesses’ branding. Hyder said that to balance branding, businesses should showcase themselves, understand digital metrics, and learn about social tools.
Dr. William Putsis, professor at UNC at Chapel Hill, emphasized strategy during his presentation. In a time where enticing the customer is important, Putsis said that businesses must compete smarter, not harder.
“You need to ask, ‘How do I take advantage of something and lead in it?’” Putsis said.
Putsis advised attendees look at the value chain of their market to figure out margins of opportunities.
“It was interesting thinking about crowdsourcing design and engineering. The idea of high frequency as opposed to high fidelity,” said Michael Werner, CEO of Danze Inc. and Gerber Plumbing. “How do we accelerate what we’re creating for the end user?”
The business model session concluded with Dr. Jay Parkinson, co-founder of Sherpaa, discussing how curiosity led him to want to reshape U.S. health care. Parkinson explained that technology, such as Skype and PayPal, allow for local health care that gives patients more access to their records and treatment. Parkinson strives for his services to be accessible and friendly.
The final session of UnleashWD was on leadership. Dr. Barbara Trautlein, principal at Change Catalysts, opened the session explaining that leaders must be able to adapt their style to accommodate various situations.
Lisa Swarbrick, an ethnographer at Main Captiva, connected the dots between Trautlein’s presentation and her own on visual thinking. Swarbrick encouraged attendees to assess their leadership style by thinking of it as a gift to be packaged and presented.
“Can you tell your leadership story in one photo?” Swarbrick asked. “See yourself and share the vision.”
At the conclusion of UnleashWD, Beveridge expressed satisfaction.
“I am amazed and inspired by the energy and passion of the attendees in the room,” Beveridge said. “We were successful in bringing new insights to their businesses, personal lives and careers.”
David Morrison, COO of Morrison Industries, added, “The speakers have been very impressive and entertaining. They are fascinating people with unique perspectives on business who are doing things very differently. It’s inspiring.”