2016’s NetPlus Annual Meeting theme, “Plan & Grow,” set the tone for a successful event centered on proactive growth in today’s increasingly competitive industrial distribution markets.
More than 390 came together Oct. 2-4 for the third-annual NetPlus Alliance Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Over two days, more than 1,500 booth session meetings were held between distributors and manufacturers, which were organized by the industrial buying group.
“We’ve done so much this year, and I am excited about what NetPlus can accomplish in the coming year together,” NetPlus Alliance President Jennifer Murphy said. “We wanted our members and suppliers to use this meeting as an opportunity to say yes to new channel relationships, to reigniting old ones, or to a new technology or business process – all critical to moving forward and growing together as a group.”
This goal was especially important in a year when growth has been more difficult to achieve for many distributors. Dan Judge, chairman and founder of NetPlus Alliance, put things in perspective during his introduction at the business luncheon when he spoke about the company’s past (when they were Ward Brothers Mill Supply Company): “If you are worried about business now, how about these sales figures during the Depression? In 1928, sales were $445,000; in 1931, $127,000; and in 1932, $73,000.” Despite that, the business adapted to meet the needs of emerging industries in its markets, and by 1951, the company broke $1 million in sales.
“You can’t always control what’s happening outside of your business – and you certainly can’t control the economy – but you can choose how you will respond. Choose to be proactive rather than reactive,” Murphy told attendees at the lunch.
In this spirit, the Growth Plus joint sales planning program was launched at the meeting, championed by NetPlus Vice President of Distributor Development Paul Byrnes in a breakout session. Growth Plus brings key channel partners to the table to talk about challenges and opportunities they are facing and build a joint plan for growth in 2017.
This proactive mentality continued throughout the event in educational sessions hosted by NetPlus Alliance, industry experts and manufacturers.
Keynote speaker Seth Mattison encouraged attendees to embrace and adapt to the changes happening in the makeup of the work force, rather than resist them. He spoke about how the more traditional top-down leadership typically practiced by the Baby Boomer generation is giving way to a more collaborative and flexible approach to managing people and performance – more commonly embraced by Millennials.
His advice: Recognize and bridge the differences between generations. It doesn’t mean you have to throw away your top-down style. Instead, open your mind to a new style of management and work that, when combined with traditional approaches, may bring new ideas and leaders to the forefront.
In his session, Brian Gardner, founder of SalesProcess360, told NetPlus members to be proactive rather than reactive in how they manage their sales for a true competitive edge. Most distributors offer up the same answers as their competitors’ when asked what their competitive edge is. But Gardner encouraged distributors to go to battle, so to speak, with different weapons. “If your goal is to excel in a competitive market, continuous attention to systems, methods and processes that offer a competitive edge is essential,” Gardner said. Distributors can control process, no matter the external factors that come their way. He provided a framework for focusing on the front end of the sales process to uncover and convert more sales opportunities.
After business and education wrapped up, attendees connected with old friends and met new ones at the opening party on day one, a Western-themed happy hour on day two and other social events, continuing the conversations they started during their meetings. The Annual Meeting concluded with an afternoon of distributor networking, where members shared with and learned from their peers.
The event also featured the first-ever NetPlus Women in the Industry Reception, bringing more than two dozen NetPlus members together to network. Members spoke about their experience in the Industrial Supply Association’s networking group Women Industrial Supply Executives (WISE) and made plans to connect after the annual meeting for ongoing support within the NetPlus industrial buying group organization.
New ISA President and CEO Ed Gerber attended the reception and the rest of the annual meeting as a special guest.
Thank you to our sponsors and to the distributors and suppliers that invested their time to come to the 2016 Annual Meeting.
The 2017 NetPlus Alliance Annual Meeting will be Oct. 8-10 in Orlando, Fla.