March 22, 2023
You better come prepared when tapped to refresh a stalwart cooperative of independent distributors in the industrial and construction supply channel. Good thing Bill Ward, CEO of Evergreen Supply Network (formerly Evergreen Marketing Group), has a game plan loaded with offense. But like any good coach, he’s careful not to reveal his best plays all in one go. Jason chats with Bill about the exciting changes in store at Evergreen, including a major rebranding effort, as indicated by the name change, and strategic initiatives that will fortify the organization’s already impressive menu of support services.
How do you follow a top mind like Kevin Higginbotham in the leadership role of a legendary buying group? You make moves that honor the company’s 34-year history and secure its relevance for future generations. That’s how Evergreen approached the transition (which began in 2021). That’s Bill's philosophy now that he’s in full command of the organization’s helm. “I believe wholeheartedly that it is all about value creation,” he says, ticking off a short but intense list of commitments that Evergreen has made to its survival: an extensive rebranding, website upgrades, total renovation of the organization’s physical headquarters in Texas, and curriculum additions to its comprehensive training and development programs.
Any one of the goals mentioned earlier could overwhelm a new leader. But Bill has benefited from a solid organizational foundation, making moves that reflect Evergreen’s evolution. He’s especially proud of EELA, the Evergreen Executive Leadership Academy, which positions the group for sustainable growth, the program designed to foster development of the group’s distributor members and preferred suppliers.
Bringing 50 distributors and 100+ suppliers together under one umbrella is no small feat, and supporting the unique interests of each partner is an almost Herculean task. Bill takes the challenges in stride. “I know which direction we're gonna go here at Evergreen, and we're gonna be very deliberate with the way we handle that.” Members can expect a development strategy that builds on Evergreen’s foundation of personalized service and offers next-gen differentiators. Just don’t ask Bill what those value-adds will be; he plans to reveal them all in good time.
DT028: Kevin Higginbotham On Cooperatives, Manufacturer Partnerships, And Planning For Profit
“It's humbling. I still learn a lot every day [and] you certainly think you come to this position with a fair amount of business aptitude, and you've seen a few things. I can assure you that I get reminded of that on a regular basis.”
“It all comes down to not only recruiting but retaining great talent. And if you're not working on giving these people the opportunity to advance within their own organization, then what are you doing? That retention issue becomes an issue.”
“At the end of the day, I still feel that the biggest challenge that the associations have today is making sure that they're creating that same value mechanism to get the suppliers to embrace it.”
“You've got to get out there, and you've gotta really take a broader approach, broader look at where you've been and where you're going––and quit looking in the rearview mirror.”
Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
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