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Reece-Hopper Sales’ mission is to be the rep agency of choice in Texas and Oklahoma for plumbing, pumps, HVAC, and hardware wholesale. It provides revenue growth for its customers through comprehensive consultation, product training and knowledgeable customer service.
The formation of Reece-Hopper Sales is unusual — both in how the conversation started, why, and how it moved so quickly into the new partnership.
It was a chance meeting in November 2017 — principals of the manufacturers’ rep firms RRR Industrial Sales and Ron Henson Co. where attending the same meeting, hosted by a manufacturer they both represented. Both companies had gone through transitions over the years in ownership, adjusting and growing within their respective territories and led by individuals with solid reputations and relationships within their field.
Jarrett Hopper who, along with Chick Kindig, was a principal of Houston-based Ron Henson Co., covered the South Texas markets for plumbing, HVAC, and hardware wholesale. He struck up a conversation with Don Reece, a principal of RRR Industrial Sales (Triple R), based out of Dallas, and a rep of pump equipment and accessories serving the North Texas and Oklahoma territory.
Both gentlemen had a crossover in their lines with one manufacturer, and they started a conversation about industry relationships, territories, and their own companies — and where each was headed. While both were not immediately looking to change, the questions of growth, strategic planning and succession planning were discussed — and what to do to grow.
“The conversation started organically, and I thought, if I want to succeed in this business, I need to offer more than pumps — expand the inventory and territory,” Reece recalls. “When I started talking with Jarrett, I realized he had the same issue, but on the plumbing side — all the industry relationships, product knowledge and different territory.”
The conversation continued, and both realized they could grow — together. “We realized we could build a platform.” Reece says. “We have the people in place and can expand. We could take the years of knowledge and expertise of the pump arena and place it in the Houston area, and the same for plumbing in Dallas and Oklahoma. We could morph our company into one that had a unique offering and expand our footprint.”
What started as a chance meeting in 2017 culminated into the formation of Reece-Hopper Sales LLC, in 2018 — an establishment of a new agency built upon the solid reputations of both companies, with a combined knowledge of more than 100 years in the industry and its territory covers Texas and Oklahoma for plumbing, pumps, HVAC, and hardware wholesale. Headquartered in Farmers Branch, Texas, it has 21 employees and two stocking locations. Today, is it run by principal owners Don Reece, Jarrett Hopper and Chick Kindig.
Relying on the Instinct of Personal Character
A few years back, Reece’s brother Jim had met Hopper and mentioned to Don Reece that he should talk to him — he had a vast knowledge base and was a man of solid character. So, when the two got together at that sales meeting — both with knowledge of one another and within the same circle — the conversation was easy.
“Over the two days we were talking, we realized we had similar interests,” Hopper says. “We knew that mergers, acquisitions and buyouts in the rep world are a necessity. People should not be afraid to set out there, ask the questions and take a risk. But we also realized that you should look for someone you can grow with, not just merge. Go outside your comfort zone and find a potential partner that expands the lines, has the same values, so you can grow together.”
He adds: “My partner, Chick and I knew that to be sustainable, we needed to grow, and we saw that the agencies were covering just north or south Texas — not both. The larger agencies were state-wide or covered multiple states, and were the ones getting the opportunities with new lines. The agencies that covered just north or south Texas seemed to be stuck with limited opportunities for growth. We knew that as the rep firms were dwindling, that is what we needed to do. When I talked with Don at the sales meeting — who was thinking the same thing — we thought about what it would look like to merge our two companies.” It is the classic saying of “opposites attract” and here it was seeing that different lines, different territory , and seeing the opportunity of coming together would bring new opportunity.
The solid reputations of their previous companies and the reputations in the field of integrity in service made the conversation-starting easy — and the trio trusted each other.
“You must have trust and confidence with and within each other,” Reece notes. “We spent a lot of time and asked a lot of questions to complete our due diligence that the merger would be a successful and healthy start to a new company. We did the right things to make sure there was not anything that could trip us up later. From financial due diligence as well as operationally what we would look like — we went in full force to make sure the merger was doable, and that it looks on paper as we had envisioned in our minds.”
The trio strategized to explore ideas and, in a true brainstorming session with collaboration from both sides, made a plan to develop the new company.
“We had the same ideas and the same market strategy, and knew we wanted and could take a new company to the next level,” Hopper explains. “We communicated everything to make sure there were no surprises along the way. We based this upon the trust we have for one another.”
He adds: “To successfully accomplish a strategic merger, you must have the ability to adapt to manufacturers agencies’ changing world. One must realize they always need to be moving forward to grow, including how the market changes — and staying relevant, staying current and being of full service to its customers.”
Chick Kindig knew the opportunity to partner would be a strong strategic move. “We knew, if we did it right, it would open up doors for us. It has done that by providing opportunities with new customers and new manufacturers. It has been fun to watch our teams mesh and begin to play off each other’s strengths. Even through the challenges of Covid-19, we have seen our momentum continue.”
Serving their customers and helping them succeed would be a cornerstone of the new rep firm.
Customer Service and Operational Excellence
The new company’s foundation was built on comprehensive consultation, product training and knowledgeable customer service. To accomplish their goals, the three colleagues knew they would need to start internally, to make changes and upgrades to maximize efficiencies. “The fun part was figuring out how do we get better?” Reece says. “It’s one thing to merge companies that are a little different. But how do you take them to the next level?”
As they made changes, they needed to ensure that doing business with Reece-Hopper Sales remained easy and confident.
The partners wanted to build an efficient platform on business inventory management, sales management, time management, as well as the software needed to support the buying and selling of inventory. And how it would work with their talented sales team’s strengths?
Building the new operational management has been a “big hit,” Reece notes. “It’s helped us be more productive for our customers.” Operationally speaking, Hopper and Reece spent the time seamlessly integrating both companies into a new one, while transforming and building new efficiencies for its employees to continue and expand on customer service.
Reece-Hopper Sales takes great pride in its technology to keep its employees and customers informed and involved, as well as its ability to adapt to the new sales and service landscape.
Customer service remains at the core of the company mission. By integrating operations and having stocking warehouses in Houston and Dallas — with sales professionals in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas, and Oklahoma City — the company provides complete statewide coverage for Texas and Oklahoma.
“It no longer made sense to look at Texas as two territories (north and south),” explains Kevin Mustee, vice president of marketing at plumbing manufacturer E.L. Mustee and Sons. “The maturity, youth, energy and understanding of our industry of both agencies made our decision easy. Under Reece-Hopper, we have unified our presence to a wholesaler that expands all of Texas and Oklahoma. Also, we are reaching out to primary contractors and builders. Reece-Hopper is also a lot of fun to be with.”
George Werner, vice president of sales, Brasscraft Mfg. Co., notes: “Our company takes pride in knowing that behind our products is an outstanding team of people. This includes our sales agencies, who are ambassadors of our BrassCraft brand to customers and pro contractors in the field. “We have a 40-plus-year relationship with the team at Reece-Hopper. We see them as an extension of our organization and value their support in protecting and promoting our brand leadership.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how business is being conducted. A new frontier is being built, addressing how companies will operate — across all industries. “The role of the manufacturers’ rep has been changing, and you need to stay relevant. We pride ourselves on accountability and our technology to help our customers build their book of business,” Reece says. “We are a margin-building partner for the wholesalers, and we work every day to prove our worth — we are a true partner.”
Hopper and Reece attended their first AIM/R Conference in 2019 and found it to be a great support system with networking opportunities.
“We were taking part in the roundtable discussions and saw one on succession planning. Having just gone through ours, we understood the importance of networking and talking about these issues and challenges,” Reece recalls. ”There is another way — by going outside your comfort zone and merging with a company not like your own to grow. Take a risk and don’t look at a company that looks like yours — don’t be afraid to set out there and look for someone you can grow with, not just merge,” says Hopper.