Leadership Letter
January 1st, 2011


Ryan Calkins

The question is, are you going to soak a little longer or are you ready to jump?

We’ve all heard the parable of the cooked frog who, when dropped in a pot of boiling water, jumps out, but when placed in a pot of tepid water that is slowly brought to boil, contentedly simmers until it’s too late. It’s a parable of disruptive versus gradual change. The frog is trying to teach us that sometimes it’s the gradual changes that will get us rather than the abrupt ones.

In business, we are confronted by abrupt changes all the time: a major customer suddenly goes out of business, a primary supplier pulls their line, or a key employee leaves your company. These abrupt changes happen so often that we become adept at managing their consequences.

But what about the gradual changes? Is the water getting warmer without you noticing because you’ve got your head in the day-to-day challenges of running a business?

One of the main sources of change is technology. From B2B to e-commerce to inventory management, technology is chipping away at areas of value that distributors have traditionally provided in the supply chain. We face external threats from technology experts who have experience applying their skills to other product categories and are now targeting the tile industry. Internally, manufacturers are pursuing technology options that allow them to reach our customers directly. And consumers show up in our showrooms armed with their smart phones to do comparison shopping while drinking our coffee and taking up our salesperson’s time.

Ignoring technology is not an option; no matter how much we might want to put the e-commerce genie back in the bottle, it’s here to stay. Doing business like it’s 1995 is no longer going to cut it. So how should we respond? With a little bit of business jujitsu: take the threat that technology poses and direct it to your own end. Adopt the innovation in your own business. Easier said than done, right? How many of us have the time or resources to investigate B2B systems, setup and run a website that gets a high search page ranking, or incorporate a social media campaign into our marketing strategy?

There’s good news. Together we have the capacity to address these challenges. In fact, the CTDA was established to provide the independent importer/wholesaler with just that kind of support. At Total Solutions Plus and Coverings in 2010, we heard from B2B, social media, and e-commerce experts. (Those presentations are available in the Education section of the CTDA website.) In addition, we are renovating the CTDA website to better connect tile consumers to CTDA members and steer them away from the unscrupulous fly-bynight sites that undercut your business and leave consumers dissatisfied.

As the site comes online, members can expect to see more traffic coming to their own sites from the CTDA, a more engaged online community, and a richer source of content for use in educating ourselves and our customers. Now, more than ever, taking an active part in the CTDA is essential to staying ahead of the competition. So the question is, are you going to soak a little longer or are you ready to jump?

Ryan Calkins, CTDA president

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