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Jason Stein executive vice president, sales & marketing, Border States Electric and chairman, NAED Education & Research Foundation
Wes Smith president, Mayer and chairman, NAED Board of Directors

The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) Education & Research Foundation, founded in 1969, has a proud history of conducting research, delivering education, supporting career and leadership development, facilitating collaboration and sharing best practices within the electrical distribution industry.

“Our goal is to remain the industry’s trusted source of knowledge leadership and knowledge sharing for our members to effectively develop their employees and profitably grow their companies,” said Jason Stein, executive vice president, sales & marketing, Border States Electric, who currently chairs the foundation.

Distributors play a pivotal role in providing guidance to NAED staff with important feedback to develop research, training and education priorities. During a research project, for example, members provide input through surveys, interviews or reviewing materials to help ensure it will be relevant to members. Depending on the specific project, staff will also work with those who have day-to-day knowledge of various subjects to make sure we hear their perspectives, provide input and share ideas that may help others. Staff also works closely with HR and training professionals to identify gaps in resources available for talent development as well as creating tools for recruitment, onboarding and succession planning for the industry.

The NAED Foundation collects suggestions and ideas from several different sources including post-conference surveys, volunteer leadership, and meetings with individual members on how NAED can make the biggest impact on their businesses. “We continually review this information to determine which topics should be on the radar,” Stein said. “We cover a wide range of topics that center on operations, profitability, best practices and business opportunities. Most recently, many suggestions have centered on technology, leveraging data, digital transformation and the economy. All have impacted the way distributors do business, so we’ve focused on what the changing landscape of business means for the industry. It is from these sources that we develop research topics and educational content for the NAED volunteer leadership to consider.”

Some examples of research studies that have been most popular with NAED members over the past few years include:

All things related to digital transformation

Resources that focus on digital transformation continue to be at the center of NAED’s research efforts. Building a Connected Business (2019) provides a comprehensive look at how digital transformation impacts the industry in different ways. The publication includes more than 20 different digital capabilities to optimize processes or develop different revenue opportunities. NAED continues to look to this report for additional resources that focus on technology, value proposition and integration.

This includes an interactive evaluation tool, the Connected Business Readiness Assessments. The original report includes a roadmap to help build out a digital transformation roadmap, but this means different things to different companies. “There is no one-size-fits-all plan to build a business’ digital capabilities to increase efficiencies, enhance customer experiences or create new revenue streams,” said Wes Smith, president, Mayer and chairman, NAED Board of Directors. “Companies often struggle to pinpoint their next steps. The readiness assessments help take the guesswork out of where to begin by providing readiness scores on a scale of 1-4 to determine your digital capabilities, technology stack and capacity to manage change. Based on NAED’s Building a Connected Business report, critical success factors are the core of these questions to give you a baseline of your company’s digital maturity.”

Another area of focus is the development and implementation of services, including those that focus less on products and more about digital solutions and outcomes. Look for more details soon.


Data points and benchmarks are also popular offerings. They remain important to distributors and help serve as guideposts for individual company performance and the industry overall. “Each year, we feature several benchmarking reports that cover various areas of business,” Stein said.

In 2021, publications will include:

  • NAED PAR Survey and Report®
    • NAED’s annual financial benchmarking report for distributors to better evaluate their operational expenses in comparison to their peers. In addition to the annual overview, individual companies can access reporting via a convenient online portal to further analyze results. Whether it is by sales volume, region or customer emphasis, the NAED PAR Report’s key financial breakouts provide participants with key financial data points to identify areas that may warrant improvement or growth.
  • Distributor Services
    • Every two years, NAED asked its distributors about the types of services they offer to their customers and how they approach their pricing guidelines. While existing services are important, other types of services centered on technology and digital capabilities, are also being introduced into the fold—where do distributors stand on expanding their services portfolio? This report provides those benchmarks to see how your service offerings stack up to others.
  • Market & Product Overview
    • This report will focus specifically on the products and market of the electrical distribution industry. It provides a well-rounded look at what distributors sell, the size of the market and what factors impact the decision to add more products. It provides a great synopsis of the industry to both new hires and industry veterans alike.

Readers can learn more about the NAED Foundation’s research at Many of these studies are free or available at a reduced rate to NAED members thanks to the generous support of NAED Foundation contributors. Even if a reader is a not a member of NAED, research can be purchased at non-member pricing, though many of our studies include a free executive summary.


“While the war on talent may have taken a backseat to more pressing issues, we expect this challenge to be reignited post-pandemic,” Smith said. “The market is competitive and finding those with the skills needed does not happen quickly. Key leaders are retiring, and distributors need succession plans ready to implement to fill those leadership roles. In response to this, we developed, in conjunction with Dale Carnegie, the NAED Leadership Development Program.”

The NAED Leadership Development Program is a 12-month curriculum specifically designed for developing leaders in the electrical distribution industry that focuses on leadership competencies that are critical for leaders to embrace, embody and exemplify to be successful in the future. It provides a mixture of assessments, one-on-one coaching, peer coaching and blends learning and development best practices.

NAED offers content specific to the electrical distribution industry that isn’t available anywhere else. Courses such as Intro to Electrical Distribution, Bottom Line Basics and Sales, Warehouse and Counter Pro provide targeted onboarding and training for associates who are new to the industry or new to their role.

  • NAED’s Electrical Products Education Course© (EPEC) has become known as the gold standard for product sales training in the electrical distribution industry. The six EPEC courses (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Lighting, Automation and Datacom & Video) provide in-depth information about the products we sell, their applications and how they work with other products in electrical systems.
  • The Certified Electrical Professional (CEP) course that NAED offers takes sales training to the next level. CEP includes competency-based content from sales and negotiation professionals designed to train all levels of selling roles in the industry, including counter, inside and outside sales associates.

These courses are offered through the NAED Learning Center. This cloud-based, centralized destination for industry employees offers companies the opportunity to uniquely brand and customize their own learning portals all as part of a free member benefit for NAED members. “In addition to industry specific content, we also offer more than 300 complimentary manufacturer courses,” Smith said.

NAED provides its members the tools they need to ensure success. One way the NAED Learning Center proves valuable is in its robust analytics platform that delivers strategic insights on the impact of learning which ties back to retention. This system is also flexible and offers company training administrators autonomy to manage employee data, create courses and assign courses and learning plans as needed.

Additionally, NAED regularly offers educational webinars and conferences, both virtual and in-person. “We have been supporting our members throughout the pandemic with content relevant to today’s world, including working remotely, virtual sales and relationship building, stress management and current public policy,” Smith said. “We have been able to take our conferences virtual to continue to provide timely educational content as well as networking opportunities.”

NAED also has a team of experts on staff to assist members with talent development. “Our experts will help NAED members develop customized learning plans and curricula to best meet their training needs,” Smith said.

“This is great work for our industry, no matter if you are a member of IMARK like Wes or a member of AD like Border States Electric,” Stein said.

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