Posted July 25, 2022

Exclusive: Obliterate ‘Just’ from the Dictionary

Three ways to empower employees to see themselves beyond ‘just’ their jobs.

Dirk Beveridgeby Dirk Beveridge

One of my favorite things about being on the road, crisscrossing the country for behind-the-scenes views of distribution companies of all sizes as part of the We Supply America tour, is the people I get to meet. It’s a privilege to hear the stories of these people who make up the noble calling of distribution.

I recently ate lunch with about 25 warehouse associates at ProSource in Greenville, S.C., the distributor II was visiting that day. One of the men I met was Jay. When I asked him how he’s getting on after 90 days as part of the team, he told me he loved the job.

So, I asked what it was.

And he said: “I’m just in receiving.”

Just …

I want to obliterate the word ‘just’ from the dictionary. When someone tells me they’re just a [blank], they’re undermining themselves, their contribution to their company, team members, customers, suppliers, the industry – it goes on. The false narrative that you’re just a [blank] needs to go.

“I’m just in receiving.” “I’m just a driver.” “I’m just a picker.” “I’m just in accounts receivable.”

On the surface, the responses are innocent enough: “My job is just my job.” But when we peel back that surface, we see these responses for what they really are. I believe people who say “I’m just a [blank]” don’t believe they’re as valued as somebody else at their company. They don’t see the value in the hard, important work they’re doing.

Yet, they’re actually playing a vital role in the $7 trillion economic engine that is distribution.

3 Ways to Empower Employees to See Themselves Beyond ‘Just’

No matter how many distributors I meet, I am constantly amazed by the magic of what they do. Somewhere across the world, a part is made. Then through the supply chain and with the help of computer software, that part gets picked, packed and placed on the right truck heading to the right store and placed on the right shelf. It’s magic, and I want to obliterate the “I’m just a [blank]” from the industry and empower the people at every level who help make this magic happen.

I spoke with Jeff Steinecker, strategic accounts executive with Slimstock, in a recent webinar, and he shared a story about one of the first companies he ever worked for. “Their concept was ‘everybody sells,’ and we had it on our shirts and other swag. Whether you were in customer service or finance, it didn’t matter. We were all there to help sell,” he said. “There’s interdependence between every job at a company, and people need to know that.”

It Starts with Leadership

Emphasizing the value in every job starts with leadership.

It’s a trickle-down effect. On the same webinar with Jeff, another guest was Will Quinn, director of industry and solution strategy at Infor. Will is no stranger to leadership. He spent 12 years serving our country in the Marines before entering the civilian world of distribution, and he believes that it’s a leader’s role to ensure people understand their true value. This understanding can stem from something as simple as making sure everyone does a task they enjoy and are proficient at.

“Everyone in my distribution center was performing a necessary task that was important to servicing our customer and providing them with a great customer experience. No matter what the position was – whether you’re the general manager, receiver, forklift driver, inventory control, quality control, customer service, sales – it didn’t matter. Everything was important because it’s not one person. We’re a whole team that works together to make this company run and make distribution happen,” he said.

Support Your Team with Technology

One of the ways leadership can ensure everyone is doing a task they excel at is making that job as efficient as possible. When one team member sees the value in their role, the entire company benefits.

“People want to do the best job they can for their employer, but sometimes they don’t have the appropriate tools,” Jeff said.

Finding ways to simplify a process frees up your employee’s time to really excel at their other strategic tasks.

“People want to be efficient. If a company is opportunistic and on the offense from a technology perspective, then they’re also being forward-thinking and giving their people the best tools to do their jobs. Employees are then more focused on long-term success and strategy.”

Find the Best Fit

Adela Perez is a fiery, petite mother of four who started off in packing at L&R Supply, one of the stops on my We Supply America tour this year, but had bigger dreams: She wanted to be a forklift driver. She wasn’t sure she’d be given the chance because she thought only men were drivers, but after coworkers encouraged her to go for it, she did.

Her leadership team embraced the idea, and within 30 days, she was in the training program. Today, she’s an absolute boss on the forklift at L&R.

Our businesses are a platform for more than just moving goods: They are a platform for developing and supporting people. There’s no way Adela would say she’s “just” a forklift driver. She knows the value of her job and how hard she worked to get there. For all the folks who think they’re “just,” listen up: Your job adds value. Your company couldn’t do what they do in their warehouse, in the distribution industry, in this world without you. You are part of an economic engine that creates 6 million jobs. You’re helping a $7 trillion economic engine run. Without you on whatever shift you’re on right now, the rest of the people in your company couldn’t do their jobs. You’re part of making product flow around the warehouse and around the supply chain.

And that is noble as hell. CS

Dirk Beveridge is the founder of UnleashWD, Executive Producer at We Supply America, President of the Beveridge Consulting Group and Champion for the noble calling of distribution for over 36 years. His one-of-a-kind perspective on the future of wholesale distribution has guided his mission to advance the growth, relevance and transformation of the industry, helping distributors thrive. Learn more about Dirk by visiting