The American Supply Association (ASA) has geared up for one of the most anticipated events of the year: NETWORK! Looking back on this past year, the activity and excitement within the industry is unmistakable. From a wide range of product offerings to new digital initiatives, the industry is seemingly bursting at the seams with activity. We spoke with ASA President Scott Robertson to get a better look into not only the industry at large, but also ASA and NETWORK.
Danielle Galian: This year’s NETWORK theme is “Building Your Bottom Line.” What can attendees expect in this regard?
Scott Robertson: We’ve all been to conferences where you become inspired when you listen to the speakers — often big dollar speakers. You’re excited for a few days when you get back, and then the day-to-day grind strips you of that energy you got at the conference. Our attendees rave about the quality of our speakers and the upbeat nature of the conference when they left. This year we added a new level. We have been thoughtful to make sure that each speaker would offer attendees information targeted to building their bottom-line. From topics such as “The Four Things That Every Great Business Needs to Navigate Change” and “The Four Pillars of a Sales Professional” to “Why Procrastinators Procrastinate,” each session will offer tips, ideas and best practice suggestions to build a profitable or more profitable business.
DG: How has this past year challenged you as ASA president, given current economic and political climates?
SR: This year’s been a smooth and steady year for our business, and I assume our entire industry economically, and believe it or not, politically. I would say that most of our ASA wholesalers are up anywhere from 4 percent to 7 percent this year, and it’s been a fairly steady and consistent economic climate so far. I would say that I haven’t been challenged anymore as the ASA president in this regard as I would be as an ASA member.
DG: What has been the number one take-away for you professionally and personally as ASA president?
SR: My number one take-away from being the ASA president this year is just the overall satisfaction that I get knowing that I have helped serve the industry that has been my life and my family’s life for 80 years. I feel a great sense of pride to know that I have helped serve the industry that has served my entire family for three generations. I’m also very proud to know that our company is the first company to have three different representatives from the same company serve as the ASA president over its long history. (John Robertson, my grandfather in 1974, Ez Fogle, the president in 1987, and myself this year.)
DG: As ASA president, you brought on member access to the human-resource services. How important was this initiative for you?
SR: I feel this initiative was a necessary resource that we’re offering our distributor and manufacturer members. Most of our companies don’t have a lot of personnel issues, but when we do it’s critical to have good, sound expert advice that can help offset our initial/emotional reaction that may not be the decision that is best. To have this free expert advice available when you need it to each of our ASA members is super.
DG: Let’s talk Nashville! What was the deciding factor on choosing this city for NETWORK 2017?
SR: Why not Nashville? It is a highly exciting city; an up-and-coming city. Easy to get to by our members, great night life and great energy. It kind of reflects the excitement and growth of ASA. It’s an exciting city, and ASA has become an exciting industry association. It’s country, it’s friendly, and it’s happening!
DG: What will be some major highlights?
SR: I can think of a few major highlights. The economic forecast session, which has become a highlight for each NETWORK meeting. It’s our first chance to get a glimpse at what the next year will be throwing at us, which helps us to better prepare and position ourselves. Second, it’s our chance to connect with leading manufacturer and distributors not inside of our buying group networks; there are a lot of valuable connections outside of our own buying groups that we can benefit from. Another highlight will be the feeling we get from having every faction of our industry coming together to support our industry and the association that leads us. Also, for the first time ever, we will have four to six college students from the Texas A&M Industrial Distribution Program that will attend the NETWORK conference and be available for wholesalers to meet and network with, and possibly even consider hiring them when they complete their senior year.
DG: What can first-time attendees expect from this year’s conference?
SR: A WOW factor. There is just so much to experience at NETWORK. The first thing that hits you is the amount of educational sessions that one can attend. We’ve been very thoughtful to make sure that every session, including the meal events, has something that an attendee can glean and apply to their business. The second thing that hits you is the quality level of each presenter at each session. We invest significant resources to bring in experts to present at the 13 sessions offered over the two and a half days at NETWORK. The third thing that hits you is the attendees themselves. I don’t think there is an event in the industry that has the quantity of top CEOs all in one place. NETWORK is the industry event.
DG: Finally, share your advice with prospective ASA members looking to get more involved with the organization.
SR: An easy starting point would be to get your company to begin to participate in the “monthly pulse” report. This is a great sales report that takes less than 10 minutes a month to complete, and will help give your company, as well as other companies, an accurate look at how the industry is doing year-to-date in sales growth. A second way to get involved is to get your key employees and your new employees involved in the tremendous ASA education courses. We have more than 100 different ASA courses that have been prepared and will help your employees learn about our industry and advance themselves without your company having a formal training program, but instead use the ASA redeveloped formal training programs. NETWORK is a great way to see ASA in its biggest light, and a super way to rub shoulders, elbows and share conversations with upwards of 1,000 people from your industry. 2
For more information on ASA, visit www.asa.net