Beveridge Aims To Innovate Wholesale Distribution With New Book

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Dirk Beveridge insists that the wholesale distribution industry needs a fire lit under it. And to do so, he's unleashing a new book that he hopes brings a new spirit of innovation and drives new thinking.

"Innovate! How Successful Distributors Lead Change In Disruptive Times," available Sept. 15, is Beveridge's means of influence. The founder of UnleashWD, a business that helps wholesale distributors develop innovation strategies, says WD needs a catalyst for change, a need to get out of a status quo mindset, and he's happy to provide it.

"I really believe the industry right now needs a new voice, a new energy, and a new outlook," said Beveridge, an industry consultant of more than 25 years. "I think this book — in the story and lessons we're bringing in — does just that."

Beveridge's extensive research for the book included findings from a survey of distributors that showed the industry is overdue for change.

  • 76 percent of distributors surveyed believe they are living in an age of disruption.
  • 85 percent said it is important to reinvent their business before someone else does.
  • 72 percent believe the pace of change is too slow in their business.

The next step is making that change happen.

"The survey really peaked my interested," Beveridge said. "Ninety-five percent of those surveyed feel personally empowered to be a change agent. To me, that's exciting as hell. Now let's have the conversation. Let's look at our business in a way we haven't before."

That age of disruption stems from rapidly expanding e-commerce front of distribution brought on most prominantly by AmazonSupply, arguably the biggest threat to the 300,000-plus wholesalers and distributors.

Beveridge says that in order to stay competitive, B2B distributors need to enact a constant attitude of innovation.

"We've got to open our eyes in industry to say 'there are ideas from outside of distribution that we can lift and shift into our business,'" he said. "I think that's what this book does so darn well. It takes lessons from our industry and from outside of distribution and brings them together to show a new vision."

In the book, Beveridge discusses a principle of what he calls "the inherit inertia" that is holding distributors back from really making change beyond the normal incremental tweaks. It involes the multi-generational clash of incoming new-age thinking vs. the old-school mentality of those who've been in the industry for decades and know what it takes to succeed. Beveridge emphasizes the industry's infrastructure that's "built for yesterday."

"We've got this new competition and disruptive technology coming at us, and yet we've got this legacy thinking of how things were instead of how things can, and should be," he said.

Beveridge said his inspiration to write the book came from his good friend Saul Kaplan, the chief catalyst officer of the Business Innovation Factory in Profidence, R.I. The two met on the deck of the USS George Washington in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Following that meeting, Beveridge found himself at Kaplan's innovation conference in 2011.

"For two days I'm listening to all of these storytellers and the only thing they have in common is the word 'innovation,' he said. "I start thinking to myself, 'by and large, there's not a whole bunch of new ideas coming into distribution. The industry as a whole is not very innovative.'"

Beveridge came back and talked to his network about injecting innovation into distribution, and was stunned at what he heard back.

"They said things like, 'most distributors don't change until someone says we have to close a branch.' Some told me that many distributors are already out of business and they just don't know it,'" he said.

"Innovate!" has garnered rave reviews from a number of reputable CEOs and company founders, each commending the book for preaching the need for innovation and new thinking in industry.

"It's humbling, it really is," Beveridge said of the early reviews. "They reinforce that we have — with the help of the (National Association of Wholesale-Distributors) and everyone we talked to — that we've nailed it. We've put together insights that are desperately needed in this industry."

More information about the book can found on the NAW's website here, where it can also be preordered. Follow Beveridge on Twitter at @DirkBeveridge

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