In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, Dirk Beveridge embarked on what he said would ultimately be “both the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my entire career.”
The longtime distribution industry consultant bought an RV, compiled a filmmaking crew, and drove around the country to meet and document industrial suppliers. The “We Supply America” tour ultimately visited 34 companies across more than 16,500 miles.
Beveridge wrote that the project reinforced the importance of distribution to the country as a whole, as well as the stark reality that despite its frequent emphasis on products and technology, people make the difference in the distribution business.
Nearly a year after he first set out on the road, Beveridge said that he also learned that the industry’s leadership is changing, as well — perhaps faster than anyone could have anticipated. He hopes to explore that dynamic, in particular, in the second season.
“The pandemic and other forces are changing the way we live, the way we play, and the way we work,” Beveridge told Industrial Distribution. “As a result of that, we cannot be the same leaders we were going into the pandemic coming out of the pandemic.”
We Supply America announced another round of company visits and episodes in early April. Beveridge said the tour would begin later this month and run through the end of August.
Eight featured distributors will be profiled in episodes set to premier every Thursday beginning in September; the initiative will also include a “Sea to Shining Sea” campaign that will visit 35 to 50 additional companies.
If the first season encountered an industry finally emerging from the throes of the pandemic, the second will see one fundamentally changed by it — from its customers to its executives to its employees.
“I believe that the future of distribution is going to be defined by leaders who are bonded by values and purpose,” Beveridge said.
He said a new generation of company leaders was forced by the pandemic to change their thinking. They aren’t necessarily wedded to conventional ways of doing things, and they tend to be biased in favor of new technology.
More importantly, they’ve been forced to consider the shifting demands of both their customers and their employees. Beveridge said he’s looking forward to talking with what he called the “noble generation” about it.
“I think it comes down to the need to reimagine and rethink the culture of our businesses,” Beveridge said.
We Supply America called for distributors across the country to participate in the second season; the bulk of the lineup is expected to be completed in the coming days.
In addition to a slew of new distributors, the second season will also feature a production team with a year of experience under its belt. Beveridge said the route would be more planned out, and although it will still champion the distribution sector, he hopes to offer more “nuance” this time around.
“It's going to remain organic, but we've got a head start.”