Let’s not Forget: Distributors Built
America (and Supply It)!

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As part of a distribution company, whether the CEO or the warehouse associate, you do more than punch a timecard. You are part of a living, breathing industry that involves 6 million jobs and 30,000 distributors in the U.S. working in harmony every day—no matter what the world, your customers, and even a pandemic throw at you. You keep America pumping. But did you know the vast majority of these distributors are family-run and led businesses? Most likely just like the one you belong to.

They do not stop; they cannot stop—every job within these family-led companies plays a vital role in the economic vitality of this country. During the past year, distributors, individuals, and families at these businesses have fought a battle every single day to maintain distribution lines under the threat of mandated shutdowns, unreliable supplies, and, frankly, the health and safety of their employees while business continued in a new and uncertain way. 

Distribution companies are more than just a business. They represent the economic engine (to the tune of $6.9 trillion dollars) that drives the United States forward with relentless dedication. 

Back on March 13 in 2020, at about 10 a.m., I was learning more and more about the virus coming to get us, and it turned my blood cold. I knew the distributors I have gotten to know and respect would have one of the most challenging years of their lives, personally and professionally. Just about overnight distribution networks were shut down, challenging these businesses to get products, critical products, where they needed to go.

Knowing the challenges they were going to face, I wanted to help. So I committed to four main ways to help these colleagues of mine called to the noble business of distribution. These are: 

  • To reach out to distributors across the country
  • Provide inspiration so that they could keep going and keep driving the economy
  • Provide insight, sharing the knowledge gained from one business to other businesses 
  • Connectedness, we are in this noble calling together, and we can support each other – and give a hug whenever we can 

That’s where the We Supply America campaign began. In the summer of 2020, I then published an Open Letter to Wholesale Distributors about the devastating effects of the Covid-19 virus on our companies and your inspirational actions to this crisis. 

WE SUPPLY AMERICA CAMPAIGN

Through the We Supply America campaign, I am the fortunate guy who gets to wake up every day in a new town and meet these independent distributors to film their stories. I get to have conversations like the one where an owner said, “Every one of these employees has given their lives to my family and me. I owe them everything.” And then I get to see how he treats them—as part of his family. 

Yes, this $6.9 trillion industry (the third-largest in the world) is for profit, but the people that make up these companies are also the heart and soul of our society. They care. They do amazing good in their local community. They create jobs that provide purpose and meaning for their people. They work to not only grow the business but to grow their employees both personally and professionally. Companies like First Supply out of Madison, Wisconsin, whose leadership team went through a 12-month program to improve their professional skills — or Berlin Packaging who displays a T chart that lists what the company owes its employees, are just a few examples of how companies are supporting their employees in unique ways. They offer leadership, growth opportunities, training, and coaching to help individuals grow as people and professionals.

This country was built by these businesses that are now second, third, and fourth-generation family-owned—people who have genuinely given their lives to the company, their communities, their employees, and America. 

I think it’s time we champion them. 

And so, with this campaign and the docuseries I am producing and filming, I want to demonstrate the connection and purpose that drives these independent distributors and the strong, caring, extraordinary people that make America run. Because right now, we are divided. We are divided by 240-character tweets, by what news channel you listen to, by social media posts you don’t agree with, and the list goes on. In this series, I want to spotlight the individual employees, business owners, and customers of the 30,000 distributors that make up America — the America that is not spotlighted on the nightly news.

Through these stories, I will demonstrate that capitalism is not a bad thing. Capitalism has raised more people from poverty than any other force in the history of the Earth. So what distributors do is of vital importance to this country. So, shining a spotlight on the heart and soul of these individuals, how much they give and contribute to our society is vital.  Extremely vital. 

I hope you’ll join me in spreading the inspiring stories about these people that not only are a large part of building the economic vitality of the United States but are helping it recover from the devastation of Covid 19. Most of these independent distributors are family-owned and operated. Families are working with each other, expanding the definition of family to include employees and customers. Caring families trying to make it work every day and striving to be better and leave a positive, lasting impact on society. 

You know what? They are succeeding. Let’s champion them! Let’s tell the stories of the lifeblood of America, the fantastic people that have answered the noble calling of distribution. 

I invite you to become a part of this story yourself. Find opportunities through social media and even articles that you write to tell your own stories. Share this article. Comment on my LinkedIn posts. Subscribe to the WSA newsletter

And most importantly – don’t forget to watch the series premiering on July 8. Each episode will include a meeting kit so that you can take the conversation to your own company. Each meeting kit will consist of:

  • An agenda to help facilitate the conversation
  • A poster to print out about finding the story of your business
  • A Powerpoint presentation
  • Questions you can ask to get the discussion going

Episode Recording Schedule:

  • June 1 – Great Lakes Supply in Southfield, Michigan
  • June 3 – Porter Pipe in Addison, Illinois
  • June 15 – Wiseway Supply in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • June 18 – Indiana Oxygen in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • June 23 – Hill & Marks in Amsterdam, New York
  • June 24 – Benco Dental in Pittston, Pennsylvania
  • June 29 – TBD
  • July 1 – TBD

Do you have your own story of success or inspiration in the distribution industry? I want to hear it! Drop me a line at  Dirk@unleashwd.com

We’ve only just begun to tell the stories that make America great. Make sure you subscribe today

With a humble heart, I thank every person that has taken the time to share these stories today. 

Dirk

Infor is proud to be a Sponsor-Partner of the We Supply America tour in partnership with Dirk Beveridge and UnleashWD. Infor is a global leader in business cloud software specialized by industry, with a special focus on wholesale distribution. We use data-driven insights to solve emerging industry challenges and provide our customers with the modern tools they need to innovate and transform their businesses.

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