Over the years, ASA’s Young Executives Division has hosted the annual Spring Forum in order to better connect the industry’s emerging leaders and represent the blossoming generation of wholesalers, manufacturers and manufacturer representatives.
The ASA Young Executives Spring Forum '14 took place at the Hotel InterContinental in Milwaukee May 19-20. The turnout, which has been increasing every year, once again exceeded leading council members’ expectations.
“Our event has grown year over year,” said Jeff Worly of Worly Plumbing Supply, Chairman of the Young Executives. “When I first came onto the council we were at 50 people for this Spring Forum event, and now we’re up to 130 attendees. This tells you the amount of interest that’s in the industry — and the amount of young leaders coming throughout the business.”
This was Worly’s last year as Chairman, but he says that he will continue to be actively involved and follow ASA endeavors. Worly has been involved with ASA YE for seven years and has been on the officer’s council for the last five years.
Rogers Earl Jr. of Valley Supply, who had been the YE Vice Chairman, will now take on the responsiblity of Chairman. Like Worly, Earl was also pleasantly surprised by the event participation this year. “This year’s Spring Forum was a great event. We had the largest turnout in decades (57% new attendees) with attendees ranging across a majority of the supply chain from distributors, to reps, to manufacturers. I believe everyone sees both the networking advantages as well as the educational benefits.”
During his first year as Chairman, Earl aims to ensure that individuals and companies find value in the work ASA YE does as an organization: “I want others x the extensive value.”
ASA YE Spring Forum '14 hosts were Elkay Mfg. Co., InSinkErator and the ASA Education Foundation.
“The ASA Young Executives event brings together the future leaders of the plumbing industry in a manner that supports both education and an opportunity to mentor with folks in your same position. It’s a core event to ensuring the longevity of our industry through educated and connected leaders. Elkay is proud to be a participant and sponsor of this event,” said ASA YE Member Mark Whittington of Elkay Mfg.
Senior Vice President of Global Sales at InSinkErator Rob Grim noted that when he and other InSinkErator associates heard that the Young Executives would be hosting the Spring Forum event in Milwaukee, they jumped at the opportunity. “We are fortunate to be one of the sponsors because this group [Young Executives] is really the next generation of our customers,” said Grim.
The event kicked off with the Young Executive Officers Council Meeting and was followed by a First Time Attendee Luncheon. The event speaker, Robb Best of Elkay Mfg., was the event’s speaker, who gave Part 1 of a presentation titled, “Neuroscience & Sales.” The topic covered the brain’s role in processing and decision-making, and how specific neural functions relate to sales processes.
The welcome reception and dinner was hosted by Timothy Jahnke, President & CEO of Elkay Mfg., and Timothy Ferry, President of InSinkErator. During dinner, Jeff Worly described his long history with the program, and the rich networking experience and growth it has provided him and many of the participants he has been fortunate to work with over the years.
“This is the best place to network amongst other wholesalers, manufacturers and manufacturer reps around the country — whether you compete with them or don’t,” said Worly.
Taking the forum next, Jahnke spoke on leadership and how leaders in this industry can have an impact on the next generations of professionals. Leadership, according to Jahnke, is an ongoing commitment that needs to be upheld at all times. “Each day you go into work, you have to live up to your expected role. Every day you choose your mood, you choose what kind of leader you’re going to be.”
Jahnke also made a point to urge Young Executives to reach beyond the boundaries of their business. According to Jahnke it is not enough to understand the internal processes of an individual business. In order to explore more networking options, shared experiences of others, lessons from experts, industry trends and best practices and growth opportunities, “sometimes you need to look outside your business. ASA can help there,” he said.
Jahnke’s speech had a resounding effect on many of the attendees, especially those on his own team who have the privilege of following his lead day-to-day. One of those, Mark Whittington, said, “Tim Jahnke’s comments on leadership to the ASA Young Executives was right on point. As each of the attendees makes the transition to assume leadership of his business, it’s important to remember that people are watching and emulating the leader’s actions. The leader can’t have an 'off' day. He must be focused and understand that people are now looking to him.”
Dinner’s last announcement detailed ASA YE’s raffle and fundraising efforts to benefit Operation Rise & Conquer, a program that sends wounded soldiers to Colorado to participate in a week-long outdoor retreat that will help motivate and give them a break from hospital rehabilitation. Each YE board member helped sell off tickets to win a Yeti Cooler, donated by Coburn Supply, with the proceeds going to sponsor a wounded vet.
“As a group the YEs decided to be a voice for Operation Rise and Conquer,” said Earl. “This is an opportunity for wounded veterans to get a piece of their lives back. They get an opportunity to relearn a skill, to gain some self-confidence and feel empowered to gain control over their lives.”
In a matter of several hours, the YE council members raised close to $22,000 and are able to send not just one, but 6 additional soldiers to Colorado. Ongoing industry participation is still encouraged. Operation Rise & Conquer’s goal is to incorporate 50-70 veterans each year. Sponsoring one veteran is $3,000, which includes all air and ground transportation, housing, meals, activities, programs and equipment.
“Our goal was to raise enough money to send one soldier. It is a great blessing to see everyone buy tickets to help. As the evening progressed, manufacturers and wholesalers sponsored spots for an additional 6 soldiers. It was truly amazing to see so many caring and supportive people in our industry. This is what helps to make our industry great. We support each other and those around us,” said Earl.
During Part 2 of Director of Education and Design, Elkay, Robb Best’s presentation, Best lectured on using neuroscience and its responsibility in buying and selling habits of behavior. Using the “science of selling,” Best has developed a methodology to help sales professionals achieve high results for their companies.
“I was always curious why some salespeople always did better than other salespeople. This led me down the road to neuroscience in three areas — decision-making, creativity and communication,” said Best. “When I started to research that, I realized there were huge implications based on the latest findings in brain research and what selling is all about. What I’ve done is connected those two together.”
Best first lectured on how specific functions in our brain can tell us a lot about why we do the things we do. For example, because of the way brain uses certain chemicals and stimulants, our behavioral responses act accordingly. For example, our brain’s dopamine intake tells us a lot about why decision-making decreases after 7:00 p.m. Another important one is our brain’s emotional process. Best used the neuroscience lens to educate sales professionals on how to sell and stimulate emotion process connected to buying.
The next step after understanding these processes is by consciously putting them to work, Best said. Anyone who has been superbly skilled at anything, or what Best calls, a “ninja” has been able to slow down the specific process and work on it in smaller increments, a process called neural coding. Renowned guitar players and famous ball players were able to work on their skill or talent piece by piece to achieve excellence. Best said that studying our patterns of behavior will prove to be useful to business and also allow us to break ones that are detrimental to it.
One important process connected to buying is what Best calls “binary selection.” Binary selection says that instead of giving customers several options to work with, give them two at a time. This is because it is virtually impossible for the brain to process several options at once. Giving customers too many will cause their brain to overload and will hurt the overall sale. This also frequently leads to buyer’s remorse.
“Binary selection is not the whole wall of faucets. It’s simply this faucet or that faucet. Give your customer only two choices at a time to improve their buying experience,” said Best.
Finally, Best went into length about the four types of buying and selling personalities: Driver, Manager, Artist, Engineer. The key to any sale, Best said, is to “match your sales technique to the buyer.”
Best has presented his findings to multiple audiences in various venues. He hopes that people can bring some of the fundamental aspects back to their companies and the work they do as individuals.
When asked why people in our industry should take it more seriously and incorporate it into our business of selling products, Best said, “For so long, there’s been this myth that you’re either a great salesperson or not such a good salesperson. All the research shows is that’s not true. You can absolutely develop your skills, and by understanding the neuroscience, anyone can put the energy into becoming a great salesperson.”
Best hit home with many of the event’s participants. “Mr. Best’s presentation teaches salesmen how to understand and adapt to different personalities and to the way the brain receives and processes information. His research is on the cutting edge of science, yet the lessons he teaches are logical and should be easy to implement. It was a very enlightening presentation,” said Sam Gordon, Vice President of Operations at Mayer Malbin.
After Best was keynote speaker Mark-Hans Richer, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Richer, who quickly shook off formality, spoke briefly on Harley’s experience with brand building by appealing to emotion and personal freedom. Richer touched on how the company has been able to widen the range of their products to encompass various other demographics. In various revamping efforts over the years, Harley has been able to reach younger populations and also women, for example. Richer also spoke on the company’s social media marketing efforts. “Harley-Davidson was the original social network,” joked Richer, commenting on the company’s “rider mentality.”
The last part of the event included a bus ride over to InSinkErator and a tour of their manufacturing facility in Racine, Wis. InSinkErator is the world's largest and the only U.S. manufacturer of food waste disposers. In 2013, InSinkErator produced 150 million disposers alone. The company also manufactures instant hot water dispensers for home and commercial use.
President Tim Ferry walked tour participants through a brief presentation on the company’s history and structure. He also shared a brief look with the group on his own experience as a leader.
Participants broke into tour groups and were led through individual value streams, separate stations overseen by employee teams, which ensure that all products run at the same speed when going through its specific mechanical process. InSinkErator’s facility incorporated advanced automation technology and robotics.
Overall, the ASA YE Spring Forum event provided a rich experience for many young professionals — arming them with new, inside industry knowledge. More than that are the personal connections associates made with each other.
“I hope that everyone can take back with them a new contact and how to communicate better with other people,” said Earl. “One of the big things I think we lose in life is how we communicate with people. A lot of what we see is texting and e-mails.
"And yet, there’s a very personal connection in our industry that we tend to miss — it's that one-on-one making things happen and relying on each other, and realizing what other people’s knowledge can do to help us in our everyday lives.”