A fundamental part of the spirit of distributors is their unrelenting commitment to their people—their employees. While visiting over 30 independent distribution companies during the We Supply America tour, I repeatedly heard “I am not just a number” and “they truly care about us as people.” And I have seen this in action. So many of these companies are committed to providing a culture of training, mentoring, career paths, support, and more.
At the core of the noble calling of distribution is a sense of purpose. While this purpose varies by each individual business and their unique value system, an underlying theme runs through them all: they are driven by a purpose and meaning deeper than meets the eye.
My goodness … the world hasn’t gotten any less volatile, complex, or uncertain in the last week. What is going on in Afghanistan for instance both enrages me and hurts my heart as I see our soldiers and marines lifting children over walls, providing water, and cradling infant babies.
“[It’s about] making sure that the whole team knows and understands that they’re not just picking a product, they’re delivering a key component, a finished product, that our customers rely on us to deliver.”
Twelve weeks ago today, I packed the We Supply America RV, pulled out of my home in Barrington, IL, and began the We Supply America tour. Since then, I’ve traveled 10,000 miles and visited over 20 different distribution companies in more than 10 different states. I’ve met with countless company leaders and employees, given hugs, shaken hands, laughed, cried, and—most importantly—celebrated the noble calling of distribution.
“Hill and Markes is family-oriented. We care about the community; we care about our customers, and we care about our employees. We will do anything. We will always make it happen. We will always rally and make it together.”
It’s funny what can trigger an idea in your mind. Labor Day popped into mine earlier this year—it seemed many were thinking “we just need to get to Labor Day.” This moment that signals the end of summer was a marker of whether or not we “made it” through the pandemic.
This week I had a chance to meet so many individuals who dream big and take big actions to achieve those dreams.
I’m strolling down pit row looking up at the stands of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The space feels grand and exciting even though it’s empty. Wally Brant, owner of Indiana Oxygen, walks beside me.
I asked Julia Klein, CEO of C.H. Briggs, what she thinks the role of distribution is in our society. What she said about distribution struck me. “People call us the middleman, but I’ve said for years that we lead from the middle.”