Posted April 1, 2020

Associations offer help in time of need

STAFDA, PTDA and NAHAD are working to help members navigate the current crisis. 

By Rich Vurva, for Contractor Supply magazine

Distributor associations are working to get information to members that will help them make management decisions to get through the current coronavirus situation.

While some association members are reporting that business has slowed and they have already instituted furloughs or layoffs, companies in other markets are reporting that business remains brisk.

STAFDA helps keep members informed
The Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) is working to share resources with its members.

Georgia Foley, STAFDA CEO
Georgia Foley

“STAFDA is utilizing all of our Washington DC-based contacts. We’re a member of the Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC) which is really championing in getting the word out about Department of Labor regulation changes, COVID impact on small business. They have been instrumental in providing us information on the $2.2 trillion relief package. Everything we get from the SBLC we post to the members-only section of our website,” said Georgia Foley, CEO.

The SBLC held a webinar on March 25 on COVID-19-related legislation and its impact on small business. The webinar has been uploaded to the members-only section of STAFDA’s website.

Foley added that the National Association of Manufacturers is helping provide member associations such as STAFDA informed on issues that affect manufacturers. “That information is also posted on our website. We have a relationship with a consulting organization in Chicago called CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA). They have done webinars for us and are feeding us information,” Foley said.

STAFDA plans a webinar on April 2 called “How to Coach, Lead & Motivate Your Sales Team Through Today’s Virus-Impacted World,” hosted by Jim Pancero, a sales expert and instructor for the University of Innovative Distribution. Pancero will discuss strategies for leading today’s sales teams through the COVID-19 pandemic and how to develop a stronger selling process and become a better coach and leader.

Other resources that STAFDA has made available to its members include documents that help explain provisions of the Emergency Family & Medical Leave Expansion Act and pertaining to Emergency Paid Sick Leave of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act. The information was developed by STAFDA HR consultant Nancye Combs.

“We’re blessed to have so many phenomenal outside organizations provide us information with no bias and no spin, just straight up facts,” Foley said.

While some STAFDA members have been able to keep their stores open, others are adapting by providing curbside pickup to customers who don’t want to come inside. “It varies on a case by case basis as to how distributors are handling business in their area as far as keeping branches open and any types of furloughs. But distributors who are small and independent are nimble and able to roll with the changes to do what they need to do to keep business moving,” she said.

Plans are still in place to hold the STAFDA Annual Convention & Trade Show in Anaheim, California, Nov. 8-10.

“Our country can’t remain on lock down indefinitely and I feel good about our Anaheim Convention in mid-November. In seven months, STAFDA members will likely want to get together for a ‘socially-distanced group hug’,” Foley says.

PTDA offers "Essential Business" members much needed support

Ann Arnott
Ann Arnott
PTDA executive vice president/CEO

“Our members have been extremely busy. In their industry, they are considered essential because every manufacturer needs them,” said Ann Arnott, executive vice president and CEO of the Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA). “Nearly all of our members supply food & beverage manufacturers. A lot of them supply health care whether from an institutional or a production standpoint. Many provide supplies to infrastructure and utilities. Everything they provide is needed. Their customers are in a situation where they cannot go down.”

Arnott said some distributors serve manufacturers that are retooling their plants to begin making hand sanitizer currently in short supply. “All of that activity requires power transmission product to do those conversions,” she said. While distributors have been busy filling those initial orders, business is beginning to slow down.

Most administrative staffs of PTDA distributors are working remotely and the companies have adopted new procedures to protect employees and customers.

“Customers that used to come inside and put a product on the counter and say I need one of these can’t do that anymore. They’re getting pictures or video of the product or someone is bringing the product in and dropping it off at the door. They’re taking the product from the door, finding an alternative replacement and arranging for the customer to get out of his car and pick it up at the doorway,” she said.

Companies are using split shifts to minimize the number of people in the building at a time and staggering work breaks.

PTDA’s annual spring meeting originally scheduled to be held in Pittsburgh last week was held by conference call. “It was a bit of a challenge. But it was a good opportunity to pick their brains to find out what was going on in their world and how we could help them.”
Arnott said members are asking help in sifting through information to help them navigate the new world in which they’ve been forced to operate. “There’s such an overwhelming amount of information now and they need help sorting it out. They need information that pertains to running their business, not another email from a hotel explaining their COVID response,” she said.

PTDA has sent several emails to members to share resources and is developing PTDA Community Conversations, conference calls where members can share ideas on how they’re dealing with the pandemic and ask questions.

The PTDA LinkedIn page has been especially active recently, with members having conversations around subjects such as what to do if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, and what resources are available to help companies sort through options for applying for government assistance.

With PTDA’s annual Canadian conference scheduled for June 3-4 in Ontario, the association board is closely watching the situation to determine if that event will be held.

“We adapt to what we know. Right now you can’t cross the border so that decision may be made for us,” she said.

Arnott has been in frequent contact with the PTDA board and executive committee during the pandemic.

“I have a terrific board and an even better executive committee. Knowing that they’re trying to deal with their customers and their businesses, employees and their families, and still take the time to help manage PTDA, I will be eternally grateful,” she said.

NAHAD responds with advice and resources
NAHAD – The Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution had to cancel its planned annual meeting and convention in the Bahamas scheduled for April 24-29. The association still hopes to hold a virtual meeting of members but the date hasn’t been set because members are currently busy running their businesses in these uncertain times.

Molly Alton Mullins
NAHAD executive vice president

“They’ve taken a number of precautions such as cutting down shifts, keeping people separated, doing more cleaning, leaving product outside their door vs. anyone coming inside. They’re being as careful as they possibly can,” said Molly Alton Mullins, NAHAD executive vice president.

Some members have had to lay off employees or reduce hours. Some have determined it’s better to do layoffs and furloughs so those employees can collect unemployment benefits rather than get reduced hours. Some are cutting staff by 10 to 20 percent and some expect to do more.

NAHAD members that serve the oil and gas industry have been especially hard hit because that industry has seen a sharp decline as a result of falling oil prices. “Members that are more diversified are reporting business is down 10 to 15 percent last week but they’re worried that orders are slower this week. Some are doing ok, especially on the fluid power side. But they’re also working with smaller crews,” she said.

She said some NAHAD members are using this as an opportunity to come in contact with segments of the market they hadn’t served before. “Some distributors are telling me this is why they had disaster plans in place. What steps would you take if you lose 10 percent of your market share? 20 percent of your staff? Those plans can help them navigate through a situation like this. Some have been smart in developing those types of plans,” she said.

Most administrative employees are working from home. “If you’re not used to working remotely, it takes some adjusting. If you don’t have the technology in place or people with the understanding on how to use the technology, that can be a big obstacle.”

Mullins said that members are asking for the association’s help in providing resources to help them manage their companies. “Our goal has been to provide as much information as we can so that our members know what resources are available to them. We have sent out quite a few communications related to disaster relief, employee leave requirements, tax deferments. We’ve also been focused on a series of webinars that explain how they can respond,” she said.

NAHAD is hosting a webinar on April 2 called “Take Advantage of Federal Resources to Help Your Business.” It will focus on the recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act provisions available to small businesses. The webinar will share employer requirements to offer paid sick leave, opportunities for federal forgivable loans and changes to help with cash flow as the economy moves into a temporary slowdown.

Mullins said that SEVEN 12 Management, the management firm that manages NAHAD and other associations, has pooled together resources for its member associations to access information to navigate these difficult times. The resources cover topics such as business loan programs available through the Small Business Administration, tax relief, family medical and sick leave requirements, unemployment insurance and other information. You can access that information at

Mullins said that association members also are making efforts to share information with one another.

“Everyone has been very good at sharing information with one another. These are the steps we’ve taken to keep our employees safe. These are the number of cuts we’ve had to make. These are the types of loans we’re looking to get. That kind of information sharing has been very helpful,” she said.