Trust Matters

GAWDA’s IP Committee puts distributor-supplier relationship front and center.

84a_partneringinter03GAWDA created the Industry Partnering Committee to “provide a proactive forum for manufacturers and distributors dedicated to the continual improvement of the welding supply equipment and gas distribution industry. The purpose of the IP Committee is to communicate to GAWDA’s membership ideas regarding operational, marketing and systems approaches to improve the quality of service to the customer base and serve as a vehicle to facilitate communication and understanding between manufacturer and distributor, leading to improved profitability for both parties.”

The IP Committee acts as a sounding board, providing feedback to the management team on various topics and keeping a finger on the pulse of the association at large. The committee can and should be viewed as the “voice” of the members to the Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

Composed equally of both distributor and supplier volunteers, the IP Committee regularly provides insight and recommendations on timely topics. For 2007, President Bob Ames articulated three areas of focus for the association: partnerships, relationships and respect. The IP Committee is uniquely positioned to facilitate and promote President Ames’ vision for members.

Let’s Get Together
A forum took place at the 2007 Spring Management Conference in Phoenix where members shared areas of concern and opportunities for improvement specific to the supplier-customer relationship. The GAWDA-facilitated open communication format was heralded as valuable and worth continuing.

Universally, suppliers and distributors attempt to develop closer relationships, expecting revenue and profit growth from:

  • Lower product costs
  • Reducing time to market
  • Improvement in quality
  • Advancing technology
  • Better service levels.

Research has found that as businesses move toward a relational perspective with their suppliers and/or customers, they may find those relationships to be costly and not delivering promised benefits.

One of the themes that emerged from the dialogue in Phoenix was that of “trust.” Trust is important because with it one can expect to raise commitment levels and sustain efforts without the need for constant monitoring. Although the concept of trust is very basic, the attainment is complicated, since the matter of trust is visceral.

Three Building Blocks
Strong distributor-supplier-customer relationships distinguish themselves in three areas: trust, interaction and commitment. Excelling in trust, interaction frequency and commitment will make a difference in the quality and benefits derived from the relationship. Attaining high levels of trust, interaction and commitment is complicated, yet critical to the development and sustainability of the relationship.

Trust must occur at both a personal and an organizational level. It is important to note that trust is not the same as credibility and that building relationships requires the building of trust.

Trust is the expectation by individuals and businesses that they can rely on your word. It is built through integrity and consistency. A fundamental building block of trust is listening, and if you listen well and take action based on what you heard, people and companies will place trust in you.

The tools needed to gain trust are:
  • Willingness to share information
  • Openness to being influenced
  • Operating fairly
  • Fulfilling promises.
Further determinants of trust may include reliable role performance, professional credentials, individual behaviors and interaction frequency.

The frequency of interactions is rooted not only in subjective business activities, but also the volume of business transacted. Communication frequency will affect the perception of value, and the volume of business can reflect the influence a customer has over the supplier. Sharing information is fundamental, both personally and organizationally.

To view a complete list of Industry Partnering Committee members, visit GAWDA’s Web site at

The real commitment to a relationship incorporates the perception of dependence, importance of the resource, amount of discretion over the resource and availability of alternatives. Collaborative relationships operate upon mutual dependence. Commitment will manifest itself with an investment in time and resources.

Strengthening the Relationship
Going forward, the IP Committee has the opportunity to further advance the association and play an active role in the communication between GAWDA distributors and suppliers. The IP Committee encourages feedback from all members. However, it is incumbent upon the individual members of GAWDA to develop meaningful relationships. GAWDA will continue to provide an environment in which to create and enhance supplier-distributor relations, and the IP Committee is a conduit for specific ideas to be reviewed, shaped and implemented for the association.

To improve personal and business relationships, recall the words spoken by Gandhi: “For things to change, first I must change.” And remember, as in life, strong business relationships will emerge over time if both parties realize positive outcomes.

Trust me.


Meet the Author
Mark J. Blakely is chair of GAWDA’s Industry Partnering Committee and vice president of Western Enterprises, located in Westlake, Ohio, and on the Web at

Gases and Welding Distributors Association