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Do You Have a “Swillmaster”?

How a dinner conversation sparked a new training program at ProSource University.

I got a chance to hang out with Sherry Dantonio, ProSource’s director of education, a bit at this year’s Spring Summit in Texas. It’s funny how the years can pass punctuated by brief encounters without really getting to know someone through conversations that only come from breaking bread together. Sherry and I grabbed our plates and sat down amid the din of The Rustic, a cool BBQ-meets-live-music venue near La Cantera on the outskirts of San Antonio.

Pigs eating swill
Pigs eating their swill. Keep reading — it will make sense soon. Photo: Getty Images

I asked Sherry about how she came to ProSource and she stepped through her background a bit. My eyes widened as I cottoned on to the fact she’d run purchasing at one of the largest integrators in CI. She was not only a badass in her role, she was a macro-badass, perfectly positioned to figure out whether or not prospective and current members are making the right choices to be “buying right,” a substantial part of the ProSource mission.

I shared a little bit around how we manage purchasing in my own CI business, Livewire, and beamed with pride as I talked a bit about our logistics manager, Ben Dalton. He’s amazing, makes his own hot sauce from peppers grown in his backyard, and has developed solid relationships with our vendors to the point where, if he needs something, it’s a phone call away. Ben is constantly fighting what we call “The Battle of Next Week” in his role, and we’re lucky to have him. Ben sends out weekly updates to the sales team, joins their huddle calls, and frequently runs incentives designed to move out the oldest stock on the shelves.

We somehow ended up on the topic of product sitting in the warehouse too long. We call this collection of items “The Pantry.” “Oh,” said Sherry, “you mean ‘swill.’” “Swill?” I said quizzically. “We had a Swillmaster,” answered Sherry, “whose job was to constantly churn out old products and keep our inventory turn rates low.”

Also by Henry Clifford: Bridging the Gap Between “Solid” and “Killing It”

I mused that, while our industry and buying groups like ProSource reward the result of good buying behaviors, we don’t do a good job of teaching ourselves how to do it properly. Clearly there are lessons to be learned from those who’ve gone before.

The good news here is that conversation led directly to an effort birthing a Swillmaster training inside ProSource University, which should debut in the coming months. We’ll be talking to industry experts to uncover common pitfalls and best practices. Hopefully we’ll soon be deluged with new Junior Woodchuck Swillmasters by the beginning of next year!

It’s amazing what a little dinner conversation can spark. Thanks to Sherry and the ProSource community for the inspiration!

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.