Caught Looking

If you “miss”—even one day—you can’t take it back. There is nothing sadder than a beautiful opportunity wasted, something I can attest to after spending a rare 80-degree April afternoon digging out pairs of shorts and “planning. " Recently, we had one of those strange 80-degree April days that caught everybody off-guard.

If you “miss”—even one day—you can’t take it back. There is nothing sadder than a beautiful opportunity wasted, something I can attest to after spending a rare 80-degree April afternoon digging out pairs of shorts and “planning."

Recently, we had one of those strange 80-degree April days that caught everybody off-guard. It was supposed to thunderstorm all afternoon, but wound up being partly sunny, hot and muggy—a welcome surprise for those of us in Wisconsin who aren’t good skiers and spend the winter mostly indoors.

My brother and I made plans to meet at the batting cages to hit some slow pitch baseballs. Slow pitch—in this case—being fast enough to kick the knob of the bat back against my wrists every time I made contact. The resulting bruises—and my brother’s tweaked back—were evidence that we were out of practice. After a few short rounds of BP, we were heading for the locker room.

I spent the next few hours digging out summer clothes and scanning websites in an effort to select which flashy beach cruiser to order—a task I’d been putting off, despite needing a new bike. By the time I got through this and started checking my hopper for dead tennis balls, the air was beginning to rumble with static and light. Though late to the party, the thunderstorm showed up anyway—noisy and belligerent—and drowned the afternoon. So much for a well-used 80-degree surprise.

Last month, Industrial Distribution’s cover story focused on New York-based MSC Industrial Supply. Many of you probably know the name well—an industry fixture since they first entered the market as “Sid Tool” in 1941.

While at MSC’s Melville, NY facility, I sat down with COO Erik Gershwind and CEO David Sandler to discuss the company’s recently announced executive succession plan. Sandler, a long-time MSC associate (and CEO since 2005), will transition to the role of vice-chair of the MSC company board of directors. Gershwind will take on the role of CEO.

What I found most interesting about this succession plan is that MSC has elected to dedicate two to three years to accomplishing the task. Despite the fact that Gershwind has spent 15 years with MSC, the company is determined not to miss a beat. Now that’s preparation.

Sandler explained it this way: “In a market like this one, you can’t afford to see management gaps that could affect the customer,” he said. “You can’t miss even once, any day.” I found this insight enviable and intelligent, and its resulting strategy one I doubt many would dedicate such time and meticulous effort towards. And Sandler’s right: If you “miss”—even one day—you can’t take it back.

There is nothing sadder than a beautiful opportunity wasted, something I can attest to after spending a rare 80-degree April afternoon digging out pairs of shorts and “planning.” Unfortunately, planning implies preparation—whereas I was sorting summer clothes into both piles “too little” and “too late.”

This latest issue is dedicated to the results and analysis of our annual Distributor Operations survey (see the digital version, to the right, for more information). As we spend those pages looking into the mirror, I think it’s a good time to start thinking about what we’ve learned in the past year, and how we might better prepare for the future. When it comes to our market, our employees, our products, and our growth strategies: Are we ready for the really great opportunities, the minute they arrive? In fact, I’d ask you this: Like the MSCs of the world, do you approach your long-term growth with care? Or are you like me last weekend: flying by the seat of your pants, when you really should be wearing shorts?

Thoughts? Email me at anna.wells@advantagemedia.com.

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