thought piece Jason Bader blog 2


Jason Bader, principal of The Distribution Team, has been coaching wholesale distributors for two decades. Before that, he worked as a wholesale distributor in the construction supply space, giving him a wealth of experience in the distribution space. 

While Bader also spends time speaking at events or coaching at the executive level, he spends a lot of time working with branch managers. 

"One owner shared with me that branch management is the backbone of their organization. These are the people that really keep the whole thing together,” Bader said.  

One of the primary issues he sees is that a lot of branch managers are appointed because they were good at their previous roles, but they aren’t given training for their new position. This is backed by research: a 2018 study by West Monroe shows that 34% of managers surveyed received no training, and another 32% received 8 hours or less, numbers that have likely only increased since the pandemic. 

“I've been focusing on them, frankly, because they have been set adrift. They were never really given formal training,” Bader said. “It's been about 8 years now that I've been focused on really trying to make sure those folks are taken care of and give them a set of tools so they can feel a little more confident in their jobs.” 

Another struggle related to that is with ensuring the growth of the manager’s team. 

“Employee development and training is another area these folks are really struggling with—they don't understand ‘How am I supposed to develop this person, when nobody gave me that?’ 

So how can managers grow themselves and develop their teams? 

Set clear benchmarks & take time for personal development.  

One of the biggest things Bader said he does as an advisor is work with the manager to set clear goals on what they want to improve, which can be reviewed regularly. Additionally, he recommends making a habit of building an end-of-day routine, which involves dumping out thoughts as a to-do list for tomorrow, as well as taking a short e-Learning course to build an education mindset. 

“We're planting seeds. When they come across a difficult situation, or just something that they haven't played with before—that's when we hope that they will draw on some of those seeds that have been planted and be able to work through a challenge." 

Use online & in-person training in conjunction with each other. 

“It's too darn expensive to send our people to places all the time. It's just too expensive and it's not efficient,” Bader said. “When you do a two-day seminar, these folks are drinking from the fire hose. They're getting so much bombarded at them, how are they going to keep that straight?” 

With e-Learning, managers are in charge of their own time, and can take courses when they have half an hour. However, Bader also recommends talking to a higher-up or another mentor in the company about how these courses fit into the broader context of one’s company to get the most out of it. 

Even with in-person seminars, it’s helpful to have recordings to review later. Even when a company works with a consultant like Bader, it’s good to have courses that can be taken on an ongoing basis so the development continues even after he’s gone. 

Work on time management & delegation.  

These are two of the biggest skills that Bader sees branch managers needing to develop, and the statistics agree: the West Monroe study showed that 59% of managers spend 3 or more hours a day on administrative tasks, and 23% spend 5 or more. 

Once these managing and delegating skills are in place, the manager becomes more efficient, freeing up time to focus on developing their associates—and when their associates are developed, it saves even more time. It’s a win-win. 

Provide e-Learning for associates.  

It’s not just managers who can benefit from personal development—Bader recommends giving associates access to online training, whether they’re currently customer-facing or hope to be someday, to give them background knowledge on their product. 

“On the product knowledge side, this is where I've seen it heavily hit. The other area where it really has been effective is holding margins,” Bader said. “Let's say somebody comes to a counter and they're asking for a particular power tool... Instantly there's going to be a potential price objection. I think this is where our associates get in a lot of trouble, is that they can't sell the features and benefits.” 

"Something like an e-learning platform, not just long videos, but a short snippet, is going to say ‘hey, I'm going to give you the teeth to be able to face this price objection, talk about the features and benefits, talk about the services,’” Bader said. "All of a sudden, now that person becomes very effective...they are a person [the customer] can come to in the future for solutions.” 


By leveraging educational support, whether in the form of an in-person advisor or online learning, branch managers can grow in their role and educate their team. Of managers who receive 9 or more hours of training, studies show that 85% feel like they clearly understand their role and responsibilities, while 92% feel they have a good work-life balance.  

When a manager is supported, they can better support their team, who can better support customers, who have a better experience with the company: everyone benefits. 

To learn more about Jason Bader’s work, you can find him and the Distribution Team here. 

To learn more about how BlueVolt can help you develop your managers and associates, contact us here today. 

Source: Companies are overlooking a primary area for growth and efficiency: Their managers | West Monroe 

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