President’s Reflections: Bridging Generations for Success

President’s Reflections: Bridging Generations for Success

Bridging Generations for Success
By Arthur Barrett, President, Barrett Distribution Centers

I had the pleasure of chairing the 2012 Annual Convention & Exposition for the International Warehouse Logistics Association which was held this year at the historic Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill in San Francisco. The conference theme was, appropriately, “Bridging Generations for Success.”

After the Sunday afternoon golf tournament, we kicked off the three-day convention with an invitation-only dinner featuring an entertaining talk by the inimitable Willie Brown, a 30-year member of the California State Assembly and its former Speaker, as well as the 41st mayor of San Francisco. Mr. Brown railed against term limits (which in California drove him from the state Assembly), declaring that it is the veteran politicians in both California and Washington who enjoy the experience and seniority that allows them to push through the most important legislation.

Monday morning’s keynote speaker, Matthew Kelly, is renowned for motivating audience members to become “the best version of themselves.” Author of The Dream Manager and other books, Mr. Kelly effortlessly elevates and energizes people to pursue the highest values of the human spirit. He drew a powerful connection between how employees can achieve their personal goals and ambitions while contributing to their company achieving its goals. Matthew was recruited to speak by IWLA Vice Chairman Paul Verst of Verst Group Logistics.

On Monday morning we also heard the perspective of Walt Rakowich, CEO of Prologis – the largest owner of industrial warehouse space in North America and major landlord for many IWLA members. Walt described how an improving and changing economy and other market forces are impacting both pricing for existing real estate as well as development opportunities in different industrial centers. He said the key to the future is locating distribution hubs and warehouse facilities near major population centers.

A panel moderated by IWLA Chairman Linda Hothem of Pacific American Group focused on IWLA’s Sustainable Logistics Initiative. It included Richard Bank, founder of the Sustainable Supply Chain Foundation, which provides the independent verification for participating SLI warehouses; Lisa Harrington, professor of supply chain management at the University of Maryland and Mr. Bank’s partner at SSCF; and Dr. Dale Rogers, professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Rutgers Business School.

The panel outlined the path for operators of third-party warehouses to verify their sustainability achievements for customers and government regulators. Dr. Rogers also reviewed research that shows companies with sustainability programs are more profitable, and that more corporate customers are requiring that their vendors be able to prove results of their sustainability efforts.

On Monday afternoon we set aside free time to explore all that the beautiful city of San Francisco has to offer, including several organized excursions. A trip to Alcatraz was one of the more popular activities. Some attendees chose to catch a cable car ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf and others toured the Anchor Steam Brewery and Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. Monday evening’s informal reception offered plenty of networking opportunities for both warehouse members and exhibitors of the products and services we use to ensure we provide our customers with leading-edge technology and tools.

Tuesday morning we honored Dr. Rogers with the IWLA’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award. Ms. Hothem presented the award, remarking that Dr. Rogers has contributed enormously to the progress and growth of the warehouse industry. “He gave his time and knowledge, free of charge, to help IWLA establish its Sustainable Logistics Initiative,” she said. “He has dedicated much of his personal and professional life to researching how to environmentally improve logistics processes.”

We were then treated to a great roundtable of past, present, and future IWLA leaders. We were honored that past Chairmen Pete Dodd (1982-83), Del Conner (1992-93) Nick Weber (1993-94) and Bob Auray (2005-06) could join IWLA Treasurer Tom Herche and President Joel Anderson on stage.  These veterans of our association captured our attention as they took us through the changes they witnessed in both the AWA/IWLA and the 3PL warehouse industry.

We hope they will return to our convention in Orlando in 2013 for a repeat panel discussion. Recognizing the value of these past IWLA leaders’ contributions, IWLA created a new Ambassadors Council made up of past chairmen that will allow us to draw on their experience and wisdom.

Before we broke for an afternoon of concurrent educational sessions, family business succession expert Tom Deans provided his unique and sometimes unconventional views about passing on the family business to the next generation of leaders. His talk also served as a lead-in for the half-day of workshop on the same topic that took place the next day.

The Chairman’s Reception and Banquet on Tuesday evening had the highest attendance in recent memory. Linda Hothem hosted the gathering in the Crown Room atop the Fairmont Tower, with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Bay. At my table along with my family I was honored to have Del Conner; Immediate Past Chairman and Mrs. Gary Mayfield; and their guests, Dr. and Mrs. Dale Rogers (who also were celebrating the recent birth of a grandchild).

The energy was palpable throughout a tremendous three-day conference, but especially during the Chairman’s Banquet that crowned Linda Hothem’s distinguished career in this great industry. I hope one day to earn a small fraction of the respect that these great business leaders have earned from their years of distinguished service.