Michigan Beer Distributor Talks Standards at Global Beverage Supply Chain Conference

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At the 2011 BevOps/Beverage Fleet Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Powers Distributing in Orion, Michigan, Gary Thompson, spoke to members of the beverage industry about how using a set of standards across the company has helped fortify its business.  Founded in 1939, Powers Distributing currently has over 200 employees and 45 trucks managing 85 brands through 30 different supplier relationships.

Thompson discussed how, since the implementation of a standards program in 2004, the company has received a total of 16 supplier awards.  Powers Distributing has also seen a 100-percent increase in sales plan execution in the past five years, increased customer satisfaction by 21 percent over the past three years and, in just the past year, has increased operating income by five percent.

In sharing the company’s best practice with attendees, Thompson outlined their six-step approach to success, which was subsequently featured in Beverage World magazine:

Step 1: Define Your Mission & Vision.  For Powers, the mission was to be the best distributor that it could be by pursuing the constant improvement of its people, its processes and its performance.  Its vision: To be the business partner of choice for its customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and community.

Step 2: Teams Define Important Measures.  Thompson explained that an enormous amount of time was spent on training employees as to why the mission and the vision were important and how they would be applied when executing day-to-day activities.  This was accomplished by holding meetings with employees to decide what the top “standards” were to sell beer efficiently and effectively while meeting the needs of customers.

Step 3: What is Success—Objectify.  “Everybody needs to understand exactly what success looks like, because that’s where we all get lost a lot of times,” Thompson said.  The company put in place visual representations of its standards whether it was a picture or a graph or something else to help employees visualize what success should look like.

Step 4: Make a Scorecard.  “Scorecard development takes quite a while. It’s very hard to find a way to distill down all of the things you think you need to do for success and have it be something that people can read in less than 10 seconds,” noted Thompson.  Two resources are FranklinCovey, a company that offers effectiveness training and productivity tools (Thompson is a FranklinCovey certified facilitator) and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.

Step 5: Score Yourself.  Thompson warned: “It can become very seductive to get caught up in all of the things that are going wrong. The experience has to inspire people to want to do better, be stronger, faster, smarter. So you really need to get caught up in what works.” One way to help measure success is through supplier and customer surveys.

Step 6: Create A “Cadence of Accountability.”  Powers conducts Wildly Important Goals meetings each week to discuss what is helping to accomplish those goals and what isn’t.  Then, at least two times a year the company goes through a gap closing, explained Thompson, where it reviews the standards with scorecards and works to close the gap.



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