It's probably safe to say that nobody goes into this business for the glory. Managing a warehouse or running an industrial plant may be far more important than a lot of jobs, but they definitely lack cachet. Small children dream of becoming fire fighters or ballet dancers, not warehouse supervisors. Ambitious MBA students choose concentrations in finance or entrepreneurship, not something as pedestrian as distribution. As far as Americans are concerned, distribution is something that happens behind the scenes, and they're happy to have it stay that way.
Why should you care whether the world sees your work as a less than glamorous endeavor? Well, suppose I said such work is indispensable to a modern economy? Suppose I added that without what you do, the engines of commerce would shut down? Suppose we point out that without your part of the business, there would be no movies, television, airplanes, or cars? That schools and supermarkets would be forced to close? It's true. If you don't work, nobody else works.
So how is that Hollywood and Washington, D.C., have all the glamour? What would happen if those two towns shut down? It wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem for the rest of America or the rest of the world.
Let's face it. The field has an image problem, and the consequences go well beyond the practitioners' self esteem. The lack of status—glamour, if you will—is a big part of the reason why we have so much trouble attracting highly skilled and highly motivated workers. Perhaps the fastest-growing import into this country is young software engineers and technicians who have the training needed for jobs in industry in general and distribution in particular. The want ads are proof enough that industry and distribution are in need of far more young people than they attract. No status, no attraction.
It seems to me that we're partially responsible for the muddle we're in. We need to speak up and out to the rest of the nation. We need to register our pride. We have every reason to be exceptionally proud of what we do. Why not show it? You rarely see anyone from this industry hit the speaking circuit—universities, school board meetings, television talk shows, and other venues. Why not?
Another part of the problem is the ignorance of the general public about the crucial nature of our work. Here we need to confront and address, wherever and whenever possible, the lack of awareness about industry, warehousing, and business in general. Next time you read a blistering letter to the editor about your industry, respond and respond forcefully. Next time you hear a politician say something completely misguided about your industry, respond and respond forcefully.
Survey after survey has shown that young people believe the rewards are far greater in jobs outside of industry and industrial distribution. They dream of careers in law, medicine, and the movies. They see our world as boring, soulless, dirty, poorly paid, and lacking a future. Not so, you say. And you're right. So we need to correct this misunderstanding. Your work is actually exciting, fulfilling, international, and essential in today's global economy. It can even be called fun.
It's time to engage the rest of the country in a more positive way about our work. It's crucial. It's important. It's interesting and dynamic. We all know that. We need to say so!
You and your colleagues, your company, and your business have every reason to stand tall and hold your heads high. Why not take your message out into your community and the world at large? You'll have the satisfaction of knowing you've made a difference in someone's life by opening the doors to an exciting and fulfilling career. And you may even get the respect you deserve.