“The customer is always right.” It’s an old adage that has been attributed to numerous businessmen and women over the years. I think Marshall Field is the true origin of the quote, but regardless of who said it first, it has certainly been said a lot. I don’t doubt that it has been said by distributors from time to time, though the relationship between distributors and the businesses they supply goes beyond a right or wrong dyna
Distributors play a unique and important role in our society because they are, quite literally, in the middle of everything. Distribution is in the middle of every industry. There is a myth that those in the middle, standing between manufacturers and the businesses that serve consumers—middlemen—don’t add value.
When I visited Benco Dental for the third episode of the We Supply America docuseries, I was inspired by their family culture and their devotion to their customers. They go above and beyond just providing a product and stellar service, they believe that their role is to partner with their customers to help them grow their businesses and treat their patients.
As I’m closing out this journey, I’m taking some time to think back on and connect with the people and companies I visited while filming each of our We Supply America episodes. It’s been incredible to reflect on this experience, and it’s been a pleasure to hear how our work has impacted others in the industry.
Dang! How do those that do, get out there and run all those miles each day!? These days I’m happy when I get down to my basement and power up Apple Fitness+ to do a brisk 30 minute walk with Emily, Scott, or one of the other Apple trainers on the treadmill.
I’ve nearly made my way home from this months-long journey and the long drive has given me an abundance of time to reflect on the inspiring people I met during the We Supply America tour. When I set out to highlight the Noble Calling of Distribution, I was looking to inspire people after a long year battling the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. As it turns out, the tour ended up inspiring me too.
Season one of the We Supply America tour has come to an end and, after visiting some of our country’s best distribution companies, I am headed home. As I make my way back in the We Supply America RV, I’ve been reminiscing about every step of this journey. From the beginning, I have been surrounded by leaders and team members who are in touch with this noble calling of distribution. I set out to find the hardworking people who are supporting America by supplying America—I certainly found them.
Good leaders are accountable to their businesses. They are accountable to their customers, their staff, and the community at large. And I’ve witnessed this type of accountability at all levels during the We Supply America tour—titles don’t matter; function or role in the company is not an issue—everyone takes responsibility for their part in the company’s greater purpose. Everyone has an ownership mindset—they own what they do, and they care about outcomes.
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, that “this place is like family.” This sentiment rolls off the tongue like a platitude. It is rarely defined in a way that speaks to the actual significance of a business culture that is nurtured with the spirit of “family”.
The truth is that while the statement “we are a family” can seem like a cliche in most businesses, I’ve seen true, honest, authentic family cultures throughout the We Supply America tour.
Yesterday I backed the We Supply America RV into my Barrington, IL driveway at about 4:36 PM. After 97 days and 16,599.4 miles this simple act brought season one to an official close.