One of the biggest joys of the journey—in addition to the time spent discovering the inner workings of each of these game-changing distribution companies—has been the meet-and-greets in multiple locations. What I love about them is that I get to see the personal impact distribution has on so many people. We’re not talking about the practical side of the company—we already covered that when I was on-site—we’re talking about the “who” and “how” of the company’s mission.
When I visited First Supply in Madison, WI, I spoke with CEO Katie Poehling Seymour. As we chatted about the We Supply America visit and experience, she told me that one of the most impactful things about our visit was that we ask good questions. “It’s been fantastic to be able to tell our story to you, you ask such thoughtful questions.” So often, the questions I ask are off the cuff. Sure, I have some standby questions planned and things I know I want to ask, but in reality, the direction of our conversations is always driven by a desire to enable others to tell their story. Each conversation is my way of transferring the focus to you—so your story is out there.
We Supply America is about passing the microphone, enabling people to be seen—especially after the pandemic, when the industry—and the 6 million people in the industry—was so deeply affected. COVID-19 created a situation where distributors pressed on behind the scenes, as their customers operated at a distance, closed down temporarily, moved online, or shuttered entirely. Another team member at First Supply said they were encouraged to bring people back together after months apart. “I think it’s just great that we’re all getting out again. The pandemic isn’t over, but there’s definitely an emphasis to get out and be in front of our customers and vendors together. There’s that interaction, that relationship, that partnership that we’ve been talking about.”
One of our distributors from last week, Cee Kay Supply in St. Louis, MO, had a particularly impactful role in the eradication of the coronavirus pandemic—they manufactured the dry ice needed to ship and distribute the vaccines. In fact, a large percentage of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the country were shipped on dry ice from Cee Kay. That’s an incredible impact they’ve had on this country. Timm Evans, Vice President of Sales at Cee Kay, put it really simply, “Cee Kay is the people. That’s who you have to take care of.”
In many ways, that’s our mission on this We Supply America journey as well. We want to take care of the people who take care of people. We’re showing the value and impact of these often-neglected distribution employees—from the warehouse associates and drivers to the administration and sales individuals—because people need to see the faces of the people who drive the American economy. This really resonated with Timm. “You guys are touching on everything we do day-in and day-out. It’s great to be recognized for what we do for America and for the service industry. It helps bring the knowledge to the public about what we do to keep this company going.”
Timm told me that, in all of their management meetings, the team scores the time spent together to keep a tally on how effective and impactful the meeting was. They always score from 1-10, with 10 being the highest. When I asked him how he felt about the time we spent together at Cee Kay, he said he was overwhelmed by the positive response and interactions we had. “Today was a 10. We just knocked it out of the park. You did not see one frown on an employee or one negative comment. They were thankful. It was awesome.”
I feel so fortunate to be able to make this journey, to meet these people and see how they each fit into the fabric of our country. I hope you all feel seen, heard, and supported, and I hope that, by showcasing the noble calling of distribution, we’re inspiring the next generation of people who take up the calling.
Team members at First Supply talked about how our We Supply America mission demonstrates what an incredible life people can have while working in distribution. It opens up a world of opportunities for community members to take on interesting careers that support their families, so they can enjoy their lives while working in a family-oriented company. Chief Strategy Officer, Seth DuPuy said: “I think We Supply America is showing the opportunity that exists right here for employment. When you can find a company like First Supply that is family-owned and driven, you can really make a difference. Not only make a difference for your company and employment but make a difference for your family. The opportunities are endless in this business to really provide a great life for your family.”
I want the next generation of distributors to have a voice and a seat at the table. Let’s start now, by elevating this noble industry and telling the stories of distributors around the country.
Follow along the We Supply America journey and join us as we get riled up about the impact of distribution.