A Summit To Break Boundaries: Unleash:WD

For years we have been focused on best practices: it is phenomenal and we have got to continue that. Unleash:WD is not about best practices: it is about next practices. What we can do to transform our business and reexamine the model and build this business to create, capture, and deliver value in ways that we haven’t even imagined as of yet.

Industrial Distribution recently got the chance to speak with Dirk Beveridge on an upcoming summit called Unleash:WD. Beveridge is the President and CEO of the effort, and speaks about just why this conference for distributors is going to be ground breaking and innovative. Below is the Q&A and a schedule for the summit. For more information, please visit www.unleashwd.com.

What are you guys hoping to accomplish with Unleash: WD?

The challenges that distributors face today are widely known and are many:  the economy, technology, the war on talent. The challenges are known. In talking to distributors and owners and CEOs, we came to the conclusion that it was time to bring new thinking to the industry. What we are looking to accomplish is to bring distributors together, not by segment or by title, but we are looking to bring them together to infuse new outside-the-industry thinking to inspire the organizations to look at their business and their business model and to reinvent their future.

What kinds of people are going to be attending this seminar?

First of all, title is not who we are focused on. Unleash:WD is not just for CEO’s, not just for owners, not just for functional leaders, not just for that next generation owner who is going to be taking over the business in the next three-to-five years. Unleash:WD is for all of those individuals. We have built Unleash:WD for the distributor who is looking at their business and saying, “You know, we’ve had a great run. We are profitable right now - not as profitable as we used to be. We are looking to take it to the next step.”

Number two, Unleash:WD is for the individual who is a little scared. Who is quite frankly looking at the business and saying, “You know what, this technology – we are seeing that we are a bit old-fashioned, and if we are going to remain relevant in the future, I need new ideas. I need to bring new systems and ideas into the business.” It’s really built for both of those individuals. Those who are the innovators and who are the thinkers, and those who are looking to bring their business to the next level. It is also for those who are a little scared of the future, who need to get into an environment to find that optimism and to find that forward thinking.

You mention on page 5 of the Unleash:WD Whitepaper, that you want to get industry individuals out of their boxes, for pipe sellers to quit speaking with just other pipe sellers. Are you really advocating for a cross-training within the industry? Looking at other companies and the way that they do things?

I wouldn’t call is cross training, let’s call it random collisions. What I mean by that is too often CEOs have gone to CEO-focused meetings. Pipe distributors have gone to pipe distributor meetings.There is nothing wrong with that, we still need those kinds of meetings, but it is time to break down some of those barriers and to drive these random collisions, to allow a CEO or owner of a business to talk to a rising star from another complete segment, because if you get those two people together, you are going to find that they have the same interest, they are focused on some of the same problems, and they are seeing the world is the same way – but also a little bit differently. That is where the sparks are going to fly. It is not going to happen by sitting down at the same table with the same people that we have been sitting down with for the last  twenty years. We want to drive those random collisions, both by segment, and by title and function.

On page 8 of the Unleash:WD Whitepaper, Drucker states that “Every failure is a failure of a manager.” I noticed when I was reading that that it is very strongly worded. That’s putting a lot of pressure on the manager himself, throwing things like economic conditions out the window. Why does Unleash:WD feel that way?

Quick story: Thirty days ago I was on the phone with the owner of a distributorship who just bought her family members out. The company is dysfunctional, the marketplace has tanked, and when we ended the conversation these were her exact words “Dirk, I am scared. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I can do it.” So those are some pretty powerful words, and I believe that there is more than that one individual is going to bed thinking that way. But at the same time, if you look across the marketplace there are distributors that are succeeding in that exact same market. There are other businesses that have figured it out. There are other businesses outside of distribution that have faced similar problems. They have found ways to grow, enter new markets drive profitability, innovate and drive new thinking and results overall. In the end, it comes down to management. In the end it comes down to leadership. In the end it comes down to the fact that there is opportunity out there. No, the opportunity might not be the same that we were focused on the last twenty years, but are we prepared to change? Are we prepared to transform ourselves? Because I can guarantee you that the business that you are managing today is going to be outdated to one degree or another five years from now. It is up to you, the manager and leader, to accept that challenge, know that you can do it, leash that opportunity and come and sit with other individuals facing the same challenges as you that you haven’t met before and hear these stories from success and failures from outside the industry, and to be inspired and know that you can break that cycle and bring your business to a better, stronger future.

I hear a lot of what you are saying and it seems like you are really calling business owners and managers and participants to be proactive in running their business and not just reactive to what is happening around them. Is that what Unleash:WD is going to be about?

Absolutely, but you know one of the CEOs that I have talked to over the last several months said “Dirk, we need a catalyst for change.” He told me too many businesses, too many distributors, don’t change until it is too late. And he is right, and that is that reactiveness that you are talking about. But proactive is such an overused word. What does that mean? To me it means let’s take a look at truly understand the changes that are taking place in our business and in the world and then let’s look to the future and develop a strategy to take us where we need to be five years from now. For a lot of people, proactive means let’s make incremental change to improve this process by three percent and drive an extra half a percent in our transactional cost. That is not what I mean by proactive. That is not what Unleash:WD means by proactive.

What part of the conference are you personally most looking forward to?

I think without a doubt the opportunity to be in this environment with 18 or 20 storytellers who are going to share their insight that truly hasn’t been bought to the industry before, it is going to be a first for the distribution industry. Being a part of that, to immerse myself in the stories of what we are going to hear from our speakers is definitely up there, but it is probably number two.

What I am most looking forward to is the different conversations that this opportunity is going to provide during the breaks, during the reception, and as we continue collaborating after we all depart. What I am most looking forward to is creating this community of early adopters and innovators within our industry. Let’s come together and have this random collision during the two days and then let’s create that community and continue that conversation once we all leave.

I know we are all busy and you don’t need another conference to go to. I know that. I know that there are varying degrees of value that you have gotten from other conferences, but Unleash:WD is truly going to break the rules. This is going to be the first industry event with no industry speakers. Some are going to look at that and they are going to cross it off right away, and that is okay. But those that look at this and say, “Wow, what an opportunity to bring new perspectives and new thinking.” Those are the people that are going to be at Unleash:WD. There are going to be no panel discussions. There will be no power point lectures. We need to be in touch and inspired emotionally, not just logically, to give us the courage to go back and do something different in this business.

For years we have been focused on best practices: it is phenomenal and we have got to continue that. Unleash:WD is not about best practices: it is about next practices. What we can do to transform our business and reexamine the model and build this business to create, capture, and deliver value in ways that we haven’t even imagined as of yet.

This is going to break the rules of every other conference that you have attended as a distributor.

Agenda (subject to change)

Time Slot



8:30 - 8:45

Dirk Beveridge

Welcome & Expectations

8:45 - 10:00 AM

Bill Taylor, Founding Editor of Fast Company Magazine

Practically Radical - Not-so-crazy ways to transform your company, Shake up your industry, and challenge yourself

10:00 - 10:45

Break For Random Collisions

10:45 - 12:00 PM

Kevin Allen, Founder Kevin Allen Partners

The Hidden Agenda - Creating A Following To Win Business & Employee Commitment

Jim Fitzgibbon, Former President Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Creating A Culture Of Service And Excellence - From The Board Room To The Receptionist

Dr. Karie Willyerd, Chief Learning Officer, SuccessFactors, An SAP Company

The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today

Unleash Advisory Council Member: 

Lifting & Shifting - What Can We Take And Apply To Our Distribution Business?

12:00 - 1:15


1:15 - 2:30



Dr. Ron Ashkenas, Senior Partner, Shaffer Consulting

Simply Effective:  How to Cut Through Complexity In Your Organization To Get Things Done



Unleash Advisory Council Member: 

Lifting & Shifting - What Can We Take And Apply To Our Distribution Business?

2:30 - 3:00

Break For Random Collisions

3:00 - 4:15





Mark Allen, 6 Time Ironman World Champion

Producing World Class Performances - Turning Loses Into Galvanized Commitment

Unleash Advisory Council Member: 

Lifting & Shifting - What Can We Take And Apply To Our Distribution Business?