Companies are known by their culture — how they invest in employees, the communities they impact and the industry channel. In today’s world, those seeking employment are researching beyond just the job opening – they want to connect with an employer that shares their same values. And this new generation of employees are very interested in how a company enhances the lives of its employees through the culture they’ve created, as well as investing in and giving back to its community.
Established in 1976, Porter Pipe, a family-owned and operated wholesale distributor based in Addison, IL, serves commercial and industrial mechanical, plumbing and manufacturing markets throughout the Chicagoland, Northwest Indiana and Indianapolis, Rockford, Southern Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa markets. The company headquarters also houses their central distribution facility, which has 260,000 square feet of indoor space, as well as an additional 70,000 square feet of storage. They have four branches and more than 185 team members.
What sets Porter Pipe apart is that its foundation was built upon faith in God, which is central to their Mission Statement:
Through faith in God, we are dedicated to superior service, honesty, and integrity in all we do. A positive attitude and attention to detail will ensure complete customer satisfaction.
It’s been vitally important to the Porter Pipe ownership to enrich team members’ lives through empowerment and give back to its communities. They are dedicated to providing a workplace culture that emphasizes values and personal character every single day.
As Nick Porter, Chief Operating Officer and one of the third-generation family members at the company, says, “Faith gives you the strength to take a lot of steps that you might not have otherwise taken. It’s a core value of our company and the integrity we demonstrate in the way we do business. And faith is part of the ‘Golden Rule’ of treating others the way you want to be treated. It is a guideline for our business.”
Andrew Peck, who serves as Marketing Manager and Training Coordinator, describes what it’s like to be part of Porter Pipe.
“It starts with a focus on team member engagement, satisfaction and success,” he notes. “The term ‘employee’ is not used at the company – each individual is considered part of the overall team that drives the company’s success. Faith, Family, Fun, Safety, Excellence and Integrity aren’t just some words we put on the wall; they are a way of life for our owners and leadership and have been embraced by all the team members.”
The atmosphere at Porter Pipe feels like an extended family. When you walk into the company’s headquarters, the camaraderie is immediately evident. Their website puts it like this: “It’s how we give back to the people who are important to us. We take a lot of pride in that. It’s everything to us. Our culture brings together our customers, our vendors, our team and our community—and Porter Pipe wouldn’t be what it is without healthy service to all four.”
The investment they make in their team is one of the drivers of that atmosphere.
“It is instilled in each team member that he or she is an important part of the Porter Pipe Family,” says Peck.
That is accomplished by actions that are creative, sincere and can be witnessed throughout the company. Here is a look at several of them:
The selection of Team Member of the Month. Flashing signage near the entrance congratulates Porter Pipe’s Team Member of the Month. Everyone in the company is eligible, and the honoree is treated to the use of a luxury Cadillac and a coveted parking space near the front entrance for the entire month. Since its inception, all of the people who have been selected are listed on a Hall of Fame that graces a long hallway at the headquarters – another way to keep recognition and respect for team members alive.
The Dream Program is based on the idea of enriching the personal lives of team members by fulfilling wishes that are important to each person. “It’s not performance-based, it’s about passion,” describes Porter. “A dream is a dream – regardless of how big or small.”
One team member had dreamed of spending a weekend in downtown Chicago and enjoying all the city has to offer – a horse-drawn carriage ride, sightseeing and some of the restaurants that make the city great. Porter Pipe made that happen.
Another’s dream was to hold a fundraiser for a local Ronald McDonald House and hospital. The event was a success thanks the generosity of other team members and the local community – and a Porter Pipe truck delivered the donations.
Festive holiday parties and summer picnics annually bring all team members and their families together to celebrate. It creates a bond between the families, which goes hand-in-hand with the company’s family atmosphere. The hallways of Porter Pipe are filled with large collages of photos from these events and are a great reminder of how all family members play a part in the company’s success.
• Friendly rivalries are played out with the healthy competition of game tournaments. From table hockey to foosball, they give everyone in the company a chance to showcase their gaming ability and have fun together.
“This sense of engagement carries through to knowledge enrichment and helping each team member realize the importance of their role in helping our customers, our vendors and our business be successful,” says Peck.
Team leaders are chosen to be guides and advisors within their departments. There is also cross-training to foster growth, monthly training to expand product knowledge, promoting from within and opportunities to participate in programs like American Supply Association’s Emerging Leaders. All of these helps to enrich team members’ experience.
“Having many great leaders within the company is important,” emphasizes Porter. “Our team members are surrounded by people who can put together answers to challenges, which helps drive our company forward.”
Partnering with Customers
“Partnerships only exist when all groups benefits,” says Porter. “We tell our customers we won’t ask for their business unless we have a plan to help them improve it. We focus our energy on helping our customers be more profitable.” Accolades on partnership from customers abound on the company’s website — one of which sums it up by saying “The people at Porter Pipe understand it isn’t a one-way street. They give back.”
Porter Pipe also finds innovative ways to thank them. One is a tradition that began in 1983, when Bud Porter, second generation, and uncle of Nick, was making deliveries and kept coming home hungry. Hungry customers’ in the field would see his lunch bag on the seat and ask what he had packed, which led Bud to frequent gave them his lunch. When his mother got word of what was happening, she started sending him out with numerous goody bags each day. Those special treats were a hit. Ever since, goody bags filled with snacks and sweets are included with customer orders.
Other ways Porter supports its customers are:
A BBQ wagon that makes its way around to job sites and customer offices, providing grilled meats and cold drinks to customers.
Hosting Customer Appreciation parties at all of their branch locations.
During the summer months, the company hosts a classic car show at its headquarters.
“One of our core values is ‘Fun’ because life is too short and we like to see our customers enjoying their lives,” says Porter. “People like to do business with people they like and have fun with — and when you are genuine and do things with integrity, it inspires trust. That is a big part of the reason we engage with customers in so many ways.”
Investing in Community
Porter Pipe leaders believe in supporting the communities they serve and those that their team members call home. Some of the ways they do that are by raising money and awareness to help those not as fortunate or able, they often hold toy and food drives and are actively involved with many charitable organizations.
“These communities are where we do business and live, so we look for ways to make a positive impact,” says Porter. “Our branch locations support their local businesses daily – which is one way we reinvest in those communities. Strong community involvement has always been part of our desire to give back.
“There is a saying that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ and that’s the way I was brought up. I couldn’t imagine not giving back and helping others. While there are a lot of good reasons to engage in that from a business standpoint, it is first and foremost the right thing to do.”
Porter Pipe also finds ways to honor team members and their families who have suffered a loss. They are currently holding a charity raffle for a motorcycle. The proceeds will benefit Team Karen (teamkaren.org), an amazing woman who lost her battle to cancer in 2017. Karen was a beloved friend of many Porter Pipe team members. Flyers have been posted at all branch locations, and the motorcycle is on display at the headquarters as a reminder that communities support community. The Team Karen website describes her life motto as “A legacy is not leaving something for people so much as leaving something in people” — a beautiful reminder of why giving back is so important.
As Nick Porter describes, “Our vendors are more than suppliers to us. They are partners in helping us provide a higher level of service to our customers.”
The channel partnership is the cornerstone to any business, and Porter Pipe partners with vendors that share their values and commitment to customer service. Their vendors consistently host lunch and learns at Porter Pipe’s and customers’ locations, which is a valuable tool to keep up with detailed product information.
Training trailers and counter days are more ways that vendors support the company and its customers. And, they also invest in Porter Pipe’s local communities with contributions such as charitable partnerships like breast cancer awareness.
Porter Pipe’s mission of empowering and improving lives is evident in all of these and more. And beyond following their hearts through “Partnership with Purpose,” it’s easy to see the advantage their culture and endeavors give the company in attracting talent to join their extended family.