An industry consultant shouldn’t be doing this. But we are. Just as no one asked us to create the industry’s first and only innovation summit, we weren’t asked to travel the country each summer to create broadcast-quality films championing distribution. But we are. You can find the full story of this innovative pivot below.
Independent distributors remained committed to their employees, customers and communities before, during and following the pandemic. So, Dirk Beveridge – founder of UnleashWD, Executive Producer at We Supply America, and champion for the noble calling of distribution for over 36 years – set out to tell their stories.
What he found was so much more than he bargained for. He rediscovered a passion to advance the growth, relevance and transformation of the industry and help distributors thrive — one story at a time.
Look through Dirk’s eyes and read how We Supply America was born:
I could hear the sound of a pin drop in the vast hotel ballroom.
Just a moment before, my voice was amplified through the sound system. You could hear the scratch of pens across paper, capturing snippets of lessons from my presentation.
Yet now, the pens are still. The only movement in the room is of those leaning forward in their seats. Watching closely. Listening even more closely, not to me, but to the We Supply America video clip on the large screen featuring Tony, a rugged, large man with strong arms and a muscular chest nearly bursting from his fitted black T-shirt.
It’s 6:30 in the morning, and Tony is standing on the warehouse dock with six fellow drivers.
Just 15 seconds into the video clip, this burly man starts to cry, fighting to hold back the tears. He tells us about when he contracted COVID and couldn’t walk. He thought he might die.
He looks directly into the camera and tells us he doesn’t know what he would have done if not for the team at the distribution business he works for. He describes how each one stepped in to take care of him in the frightening moment.
And there it is, the reason I came to speak. To share powerful stories of distributors like this.
The video ended. My voice filled the ballroom once again as I detailed the seven characteristics that define a noble family culture. The feverish sounds of pen on paper resumed. Because at that moment, everyone in the room yearned to have what they witnessed in that 90-second video clip.
It all started when the pandemic began. At first, it didn’t seem real but bit by bit, through conversations, on the news and over the internet, I started hearing more and more about the Coronavirus. A virus unlike any other. A virus that had been killing people — a lot of people.
Then, the news cycle took hold. Death counts were reported. The NCAA canceled the beloved March Madness basketball tournament. The NBA and NHL closed down.
In a flash of realization, at 10:00 AM on March 13, 2020, I understood that “this pandemic was going to change the world.”
And it did, overnight. We all locked down. Over the next 72 hours, that realization became a black hole of uncertainty.
My business and revenues were turned off. And locked down.
As “two months to flatten the curve” became “we are entering the second year of the pandemic,” the weight took its toll. With no end in sight to the pandemic, the questions were all-consuming:
I had to re-find my purpose.
Fast-forward to the height of the pandemic. What was I doing in Miami at an expensive conference with 2,000 others? We were told to stay home and I questioned my decision to invest 5,000 hard-fought dollars for a three-day conference.
Yet, here I am, sitting in this ballroom without a microphone. I’m on the other side, at Grant Cardone’s 10X Growth Conference. It’s just me, an attendee, with my pen and paper to take notes, unsure of what’s to come.
Over the next three days, illustrious icons came to the stage. Tommy Hilfiger, Drew Brees, Bethenny Frankel, Pit Bull, Daymond John and more took their spotlight — including our host, the brash Grant Cardone.
From pages of notes from big-name and billionaire speakers, three thoughts entered my soul:
$5,000 for a three-day conference and three phrases to show for it. Would I find my purpose in these statements?
As I boarded the flight home, I had a hesitant, yet newfound belief in myself. No plan, no answers. Just belief. I felt excited again. This was already fueling my passion to take care of what mattered to me: My family. My business partner. My clients. The distribution industry. And this country.
The question remained: “What am I going to do about it?”
My journey from there was not linear. After I got home, I had a loosely devised concept, the We Supply America tour. I went to Camping World with the intent to buy a large RV and travel the country visiting distributors to hear their stories.
Standing in the RV’s living room, I chickened out. My rational mind took over. How could I justify six figures for an RV when I had trouble explaining five grand for a conference ticket? I couldn’t. So, I walked away. Defeated.
I hadn’t explained my plan to my wife or business partner yet, because there was no plan — just a constant pinging in my mind: “Create bigger problems.”
I knew those closest to me didn’t want problems. They wanted solutions. They wanted things to be the way they were, and it was my job to deliver that stability.
But when I walked away, a piece of me died. I acted against who I was and what I believed in.
48 hours later, I was back on the Camping World lot, purchasing a 38-foot Georgetown RV. She was a thing of beauty; she sat on a Ford truck chassis with a V-10 Ford gas engine, one-and-a-half bathrooms, getting just 7 miles to the gallon.
There was still no plan, but a belief in the mindset, “Commit first, then figure it out.”
Feeling a sense of relief and liberty (and debt) … I took action.
My first stop was Sticker Dude, who took my partner’s design and transformed this rolling house on wheels into the We Supply America RV.
I left Chicago and headed to Londonderry, Connecticut, then south to Savannah, Georgia, and across the land to St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver and Portland, Oregon. I swung back home by way of Phoenix, Houston and Dallas, with many stops in between.
For 97 days, I covered 35 states and 16,599.4 miles, meeting with and learning from hundreds of professionals in 34 different distribution businesses.
There I was – on the road Championing the Noble Calling of Distribution, the importance of what you do and the goodness of your people.
I had no idea of how touched I would be or the lessons I’d learn. Honestly, I feel a sense of humility and inadequacy. It is the people I met, not me, who supply America. I could not capture, remember and share every story and lesson that deserved to be told.
And thus, I created another “bigger problem” to be solved as we enter year two of the We Supply America tour.
Being on the dock with Tony and the other drivers is just one scene in that story, one lesson that played out hundreds of times throughout my journey. As I think of every one of them, my heart is full and my mind expanded. My belief in humanity and the inherent goodness of business and capitalism is high.
I am proud of what we have done, we committed first and figured it out as we went. There is a nobleness in our quest to share your noble calling.
In the end, it’s not the miles Dirk traveled. It’s about the people he met, the stories they told, the hugs they shared and the lessons he learned.
And what did he learn?
It’s time for Dirk to get back out on the road and tell your story — the story of those who can proudly and nobly say — We Supply America.
Want to tell your story? Secure your stop on the We Supply America tour.
We Supply America is a property of UnleashWD, a design, strategy, and innovation firm committed to helping independent distributors and the 6 million distribution professional who keep America supplied thrive. The firm is led by:
Personal Note From Dirk: Innovators make strategic bets. We are beyond grateful to the entire Infor team who bet on an out of the box idea when We Supply America was not much more than the back of a napkin idea and dream. We Supply America would not be possible without the early bet and continuing support. To the entire Infor team – THANK YOU!
Get immediate access to the full interview between Dirk and IBT Industrial’s CEO Jeff Cloud With Bonus Carin Sampson Interview
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As Dirk crosses the country this summer, stay up to date on all the We Supply America happenings. We’ll be sure to remind you when the episodes begin to air this July. You won’t want to miss any!