Over 915 confirmed GAWDA attendees heard that independent distributors will go through the silver tsunami, when one generation in a business passes the reins to another generation that will then take on the leadership rights.
“Most family businesses will go through this and be a part of the silver tsunami,” he enthused.
In a room where many family-run companies have gathered together, the exploration of the silver tsunami, and analysing how one can best transition a business from one generation to the next, couldn’t be more topical.
Looking at the distributor market alone, Beveridge said that market is part of a $7 trillion economic engine that is creating over six million jobs. “And they not just jobs,” he told the room. “They create meaning and purpose for each individual and help serve key industries.”
Putting into perspective just how important distributors are, he said, ”Independent distributors are the backbone of this country. Nearly everything a consumer ends up with, has been touched or handled by a distributor in some shape or form.”
With this in mind, it is clear there are big shoes to fill when it comes to Building a Bridge for Future Leaders, the theme for the year’s GAWDA Convention.
Beveridge is no stranger to the distributor space, however, and is in fact working with many in the space through We Supply America. An organisation that is now celebrating the mission of the novel generation who is moving distribution in the future.
To do this, Beveridge, through We Supply America, set out to tell the stories of independent distributors who remained committed to their employees, customers and communities before, during and following the pandemic – and has worked with multiple GAWDA members to do this.
Again, telling the stories of some distributors at the GAWDA Annual 2022, Beveridge moderated a panel discussion with James Kissler, Chairman of Norco, Nicole Kissler, CEO of Norco, Jim Earlbeck, CEO of Earlbeck Gases and Technologies, and Alison Earlbeck, Chief Operating Officer of Earlbeck Gases and Technologies.
Both family-run US distributors, Earlbeck and Norco each have a unique story to tell – and both of these were highlighted through a series of discussion and debate as Beveridge dived deep into a series of anecdotes from each panellist.
Nicole Kissler and Alison Earlbeck, both of whom are second generation leaders in their family business, had a different story to tell for how they ended up in the industrial gas distribution space. For Alison Earlbeck, it took time, for Nicole Kisser, she knew she wanted to be a part of it from a very young age.
Speaking on her experience, Alison Earlbeck said, “When I first came into the business 11 years ago, I wasn’t totally sold on it [going into the family business]. However, after a lot of discussion about this, I realised that I had to find my purpose of why I wanted to be a part of it. And I did.”
”My purpose was that I felt very protective and loyal to employees and customers. Once I found that purpose, it was a lot easier for me. In order for this to happen, however, my dad sent me out with everyone in the whole company for a couple of days to get to better know each and every role in the company.”
“As part of this, there was a day that I spent eight or nine hours with one of our drivers, and he was bold enough to ask if I was going to stick around [in the business]. I had never thought about it before from an employee’s perspective, but then he almost sold me on me remaining on the company. He said that employees were thinking about it and they wanted to know what was next.”
“That made me realise that it was such an honour to help these guys and help to continue with the family legacy.’
Nicole Kissler’s story was different, however. She always knew. Elaborating on this, she told attendees, “I had a different transition. I knew from very, very early on that I wanted to be a part of Norco. I was very lucky to have that direction. My grandfather’s planning gave me that course, spending time with other business and then making my way up in Norco. It’s been an incredible experience, but very different because I knew from the get-go that I wanted to be a part of our great business.”
Relating back to Alison Earlbeck’s important focus on people, Nicole Kissler highlighted that this is also an important factor for her. “People are the key, and a busiess is the people. Our incredible team, the time and the energy that they put into the company and our customers is incredible and they make such an impact on our customers and they get to feel a sense of pride and purpose. That people piece is key,” she enthused.
It goes without saying that both of these woman are now set to be very key leaders in their company, but what is it like on the other side of the story? What is it like as a CEO or leader that is soon to pass their company onto the second generation. That’s exactly what Beveridge asked James Kissler and Jim Earlbeck.
Sharing his perspective, Jim Earlbeck explained, “There’s an end. I think it becomes difficult for some leaders to let go because it’s all they’ve known their entire life. For me though, it was not difficult. My work effort does not define my whole meaning of life. It’s easier to make the transition if you know what you’re going to transition too. You need to think about what’s going to give you value and what will give you stimulation.”
”It’s a matter of getting the mindset of saying ‘alright, this is the circle of life, and I am ready for it’ and you can get to share your experiences with those that are coming up in the business. I also remember being in the second-generation position, the position Alison was in, and you’re thinking what’s happening next. I reflected on that, and I knew that it was time to move on.”
“I realised that for as long as I’m sitting in the leader’s seat that Alison couldn’t be in the leaders seat. Looking beyond this, for our customers, we owe it to them for the continuity of our business. We need to make sure we have a company that can go two, three, or four generations and provide them with the same reliable products and services that we offer today.”
Taking a similar stance, James Kissler said, “We’re all going topass, so we’ve got to be thinking about your own mortality. You have to build a team that you can trust. Nicole is stepping up in her role and building a solid team that understands that our culture is key. As you get older, you’ve got to give it away for others to take the reins.”
“It’s inevitable. The circle of life. You’ve got to look at it that way, and when your time is up for leading that company and you need to pass it over. I saw it work for my father and I replicated what he did.”
In addition to the above, this morning’s pannel discussion also saw more discussion take place around the silver tsunami, and further changes that are happening within in industry. More discussion and debate will be explored through further gasworld coverage of the GAWDA Annual 2022 Covention in the Novemer gasworld US Edition.
This evening, event attendees will gather on the USS Midway for the President’s Farewell Gala.