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AS THE WHOLESALER MAGAZINE CELEbRATES its 75th anniversary, we understand that to have staying power, a company must have a solid foundation built upon its mission and core values, with leadership that understands how to navigate challenges and roadblocks, while celebrating success and its customers along the way.
Many companies in the PHCP industry have celebrated 75 years and more in business, and we were curious as to how their leaders lead, adapt, survive and thrive during the good and bad times. While each company is unique, we found many similarities as to strategy and mission, and were surprised at some of the small changes that made the biggest impact.
Via our podcast series “Off the Cuff,” I initiated conversations with industry leaders to discuss their company’s mission, roadblocks, successes and failures — and lessons learned along the way. So many wonderful stories and lessons were told; so much can be learned from the past. In this article, we offer a snapshot of their stories — and encourage you to listen to the podcasts in full, which can be found at www.phcppros.com.
In the meantime, enjoy the stories from my guests:
What is your company’s core mission and values? How have they changed over the years and aided in the company’s success?
Scott Robertson: What your company is known for, the fabric of your company, gets set early on — and doesn’t change much. For us, it is integrity — that is our core value. We want to be a company that our customers and employees trust; people value that tremendously. We partner with our customers by “Experience with Vision.”
About 95 of our 303 employees are in our 20-year club, so we've got experience. We know this industry, we know what we're doing, but we're also willing to make tweaks and changes so that we're better next year than we were two years ago.
Jeff Pope: Our company’s mission statement, crafted by John Pope and Jack Hester in 1991, states: “The objective of the F.W. Webb Co. is to grow our distribution business by constantly and consistently improving customer service. Through the research and the implementation of better and improved methods of performing all facets of ‘delighting’ the customer, we ensure our growth — profitability — and survival.”
Another core value is “Every Customer Counts.” Being a privately owned family business, I also want to make sure the company is healthy and better every day and each year, and with each generation and leader. Since 1991, the Webb company has grown by offering different disciplines, and moving into more states in the Northeast.
But none of this is possible if we aren’t providing value to the customers every hour of every day. So, the core value of delivering quality customer service in order to earn their business is what Webb strives to do at all times.
F.W. Webb recognizes that with more than 2,600 terrific employees, it has to make sure it’s serving the “internal” customers, too. To keep them here and to attract new ones to build a bench, we continue to offer programs and benefits which help them and their families. As their needs and expectations also evolve, we stay on top of it to remain a valuable partner to them.
Chris Fasano: Every year we go through a process of looking at our core mission, vision and values as a way to establish in our business what are the guiding principles we are going to follow in our daily lives, and in the direction of where we are as a company.
If you look back over the last 103 years, most of our company's history and reputation have been around our operational excellence. We decided that we needed to go in a direction reflecting where the world was going, so we changed our mission and vision — actually clarified it for everybody that we need it to be “A Great Place to Work. A Great Place to Buy.”
It reflects the continuing question you get from most people about what makes your company different. Most companies will tell you it’s the people, but they never spend time thinking what that means.
In 2016, we started thinking about what it means to have the best people in the business, and what it means for our customers. It resulted in winning an ASA Innovation Award, which provided us a ticket to a Dirk Beveridge conference where we heard about his concept of employee engagement.
We thought about that as we continued down the path of looking at what it means to have great people as the driver of your business. We dug into more about employee engagement and listened to the stories of what were high-profile engaged companies.
In 2019, we formalized our mission of being “A Great Place to Work. A Great Place to Buy.” I don't see it changing for a while because we do think the hallmark of a good business is having great people.
Don McNeeley: Mission and values are the foundation on which you build your enterprise; they are the rudder guiding the ship and keeping your organization at its true north. The foundation is either strong or weak; that has profound implications on your survivability. Strategy changes over the years as markets, environment, and the economy changes — but I think mission and values do not change.
So, what's important to us is teamwork and quality — and employee development, which is a core value for us. We want to be good corporate citizens in all of our communities. You know at the end of the day that if you're not satisfying your customers, you're not going to be around long. You want to capture that teamwork and quality and development and citizenship and satisfaction, all under an environment of respect.
Some of those sound like apple pie and Mom and Chevrolet. They are important, but what brings about all those core values is probably our top three: integrity, safety and accountability.
Howard Traeger: Our superior service, quality products and fair prices have always been our core values. And they really haven't evolved that much; they have pretty much stayed the same while our business has evolved.
Karla Neupert Hockley: I've been a part of the company for 28 years and am a member of the fourth generation. One thing that's always been a core value is integrity. And as we have continued through the generations, our purpose has become to enhance the quality of life for Northwest families.
People today want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and our team knows that is our purpose to help the businesses and communities we serve. We have a passion to serve and a strong belief in continuous improvement — which has pretty much been the standard bearers for all generations.
Any company's success is a product of the team and the members that we attract. That's really how Consolidated Supply has navigated 92 years. We have been blessed to attract strong people with the same values, who believe in the mission of the company, and earning the trust of our customer and vendor partners. It's really all about the people at the end of the day; it's the secret sauce of any business.
I thought the Great Recession was going to be our one big challenge. But then COVID-19 hit — and early on, construction was not an essential industry in parts of the NW for several weeks, and that was tough.
But we are here to protect the water supply of our communities. And whether it's with water heaters or beautiful faucets, people are choosing to do so many remodels today because they're staying at home. They've decided to invest in the place where we've all spent more time in the last few months. It's been very interesting navigating the roadblocks we've all been facing this year.
However, being essential, we're just so fortunate to be one of those businesses able to keep our team employed, albeit there's been some shared work, etc., but 473 noses before and we hope to have 473 noses at the Thanksgiving table. We did not want to lay anyone off in the pandemic in the early times in particular, especially in regards to health insurance, etc. We were going to weather the storm and keep everybody together.
Reed White: Our core mission is to support the communities we serve by offering best-quality products and services to anybody who needs them — from the professional down to the do-it-yourselfer. I think it probably has changed a little over the years as the wholesale industry has changed. But essentially, from 1950 until now, that's what we strive to do.
Beyond that, we strive to create a great place for people to work. We’re supporting families in the community as well by being a good employer. I think this aids in our success by having a great reputation as being a good community member.
Rick Fantham: Our core values are fairness and caring, trust and respect, generous listening, and straight talk. And building trust with each of our teammates — to be the best they can be. Our key business principles are: No. 1, our profit center managers (our local managers) are heroes; No. 2, our profit center is the heart of the business; No. 3, changing lives through sharing success; and No. 4, and perhaps my personal favorite, freedom to live into your dream and really a spirit of self-determination.
I am an accountant by training, so we have a formula for success: L(P X C) = R or Leadership times People times Customers equals Results. With the whole principle of developing world-class leaders who surround themselves with incredible people. They, in turn, target the customers, build powerful customer partnerships and you then achieve world-class results. We have followed this line of action for decades. With family ownership, it gives us the privilege to be boring but consistent on how we deliver performance.
What have been your company’s largest roadblocks over the years, how were they tackled, and what did you learn from these experiences?
Robertson: Like so many companies with the same longevity, one of the challenges is simply to be sure that you have the next management team on the bench. Because as you get, as in our case, 86 years old — that is good news and bad news.
The bad news is you have always got people retiring. So, I think one of the roadblocks or challenges is to make sure you've got a bench of people who are willing and ready to step up to take the place of someone who has worked for your company for many years. You have got to have people on the bench who are strategic and flexible.
Pope: Economic recessions are a big roadblock — as well as needing qualified people to fill the bullpen, and staff and open new locations. Cutbacks in people were minimal during the recessions, and no inventory reductions took place. The F.W. Webb Co. tackled the roadblocks and more with aggressiveness. This was strategic because we wanted to make sure customers would get all they wanted, no matter the economic circumstances — as every customer counts.
We also built up the human resources department to recruit and train people, so we have a group who’s ready to jump to new locations and new states. Finding good candidates is a never-ending process. Hunkering down is not in our DNA. We have to keep taking shots because we won’t score any goals without that effort.
Fasano: The economy in the Northeast has been a significant roadblock to us. More precisely, it's everything resulting from it that's the roadblock. We've lost a lot of businesses in our communities from the pandemic, and its forced people to leave the state. It has caused us to reevaluate the markets we serve — from businesses that would buy from us but also people moving out of state to other communities and other states.
It has been an uphill battle for us to grow our business and we were having trouble finding people. It’s also been an interesting past six months because of our proximity to New York City. As COVID-19 hit the city, many people made the decision to leave New York and then the surrounding metropolitan area; they've come to Connecticut.
In the past several months, we’ve seen a surge of business from people who have been relocating to the communities we serve. So, it's been an interesting byproduct of what we've been going through.
What has gotten us through the roadblocks of the past six months is this: you know that when you have an engaged workforce, they're willing to stand by whatever needs to get done to get the company to either make it to the other side or thrive in the future. The valuable lessons we've learned are: No. 1, employee engagement; and No. 2, customer experience and the operational component to make sure we're current with customer expectations.
McNeeley: Our roadblocks almost parallel the roadblocks of our nation; we're pretty much battle tested.
In World War I and World War II, Chicago Tube & Iron supplied steel to those efforts. Then came Korea and Vietnam. We also navigated nine recessions, including the Great Depression and the industrial recession of 2009.
If you ask me the what is single largest roadblock I’ve witnessed in my 40-year career, I think it’s the current pandemic. It is because of the reaction to it — or a case could be made of the overreaction to it. Some 40 million jobs were lost; most of them temporary, but not all of them. About 110,000 companies won't be back. So, there's still challenges in front of us, roadblocks as we restart the economy — that is what we are navigating right now.
You're going to periodically encounter what I call points of inflection — our industry's equivalent of unanticipated, nonpredictable black swan events. And it is in these periods of inflection where a company's future is in question. If it's not navigated properly by appropriate leadership, those companies don't survive, nor the people with them.
Leadership is the stewardship of others. How dare you bumble that responsibility! That's the one thing I've learned during these roadblocks; never underestimate the value of leadership.
Traeger: One of our biggest roadblocks has always been our products and territory mix. The easiest solution to that was diversification. Before I joined the company, we were originally the Cuban American Export Co.
And when Cuba went south in the 1950s, we were in deep trouble. We were concentrated in that market, but through diversification, we expanded our territories into the Caribbean Basin, as well as South America and Central America, and our business really prospered.
Hockley: Karolyn Neupert Gordon (my mother, and our chairman of the board) took the helm of Consolidated Supply at the end of 2002 with the passing of my father, and she has done a remarkable job.
We only had 10 days to respond. Honestly, there was no manual in the right-hand desk drawer. Jeff Konen, who had been with us for 20-plus years at that time, took the helm for a couple of years. He really helped the third and fourth generation transition it back to family leadership. He guided Karolyn and all of us through the hardest challenge.
Karolyn is my favorite woman on the planet — she brought a warmer environment to the Consolidated Supply team. She chose to keep the company family-held — not to transition into or sell if you will — and she remains a vital part of the operations.
She is the chairman, but on her business card is MH for Mother Hen. Karolyn has really taken us all literally under her wing — from the leadership team to employees across three states. And we feel as if we're in a good environment, a warm and safe place.
She has positioned us to be a better recruiter and attractor of talent. That is really important when people are choosing where they work today; they have a choice. There are fewer teammates out there than the demand for people to join companies for our growth today. We are blessed to have her, and she has made a big difference for the generational change from third to fourth.
The hardest challenge we will have ever faced is the loss of Dad. That was tough. He was an industry icon and a leader — a leader of the company and the family.
To make it through, we had and continue to have open and honest communication; between channels, customers, teammates and leadership. The root cause of most problems in any relationship is when communication fails.
White: Among several things that every business goes through over the years, economic hardships are probably one of the most challenging times. With volatility in the economy in the ’70s and ’80s, and then the recession in the early 2000s, they were all trying times for the company.
It's never easy to downsize if it's necessary during those times, and I think a lot of people in this industry really had to make some tough decisions. The hardest things we've had to endure and the main thing we try to do is to be prepared for those situations, similar to what we're facing with the pandemic now.
We want to stay as agile as possible, and make sure the company's always in great shape financially so we can continue to employ our folks. I’m happy to say we've had zero COVID-19-related layoffs. I’m so proud of our staff for making sure we're ready for whatever the world throws at us.
Fantham: The biggest challenge, and I’m going back about 15 years ago in Canada and about eight years ago in the United States, is that we had grown so dramatically from 2000 to 2010. We weathered the storm of the Great Recession, and we started to see a recovery in the U.S. market in 2011.
What we found was that our leadership cupboards were bare; we had voids all over the company in terms of local leadership. When your profit center manager is a hero; that’s a big problem. Then in 2011 we purchased HD Plumbing Supply – and became bigger. But the cupboard for leadership was still bare.
Our response was simple. We declared that we would hire 100 trainees. We knew what our goal was, and we went in and hired recruiters. We invested in relationships and targeted college campuses. We then heavily invested in a development program for our new managers as well as our veteran managers.
Today, it continues to be a challenge, but not our No. 1 threat. Many of our profit center managers today are graduates of that program, and we are excited about where we are heading.
What's fascinating is that when we went onto college campuses and talked about the Freedom to Live into your Dream — it resonated in a more powerful way with the current generation than it did the baby-boomer generation. I think we were fortunate that the current generation is looking for that sort of self-determination.
What are some of the tough decisions made at your company over the years?
Robertson: Fortunately, we don't have that many tough decisions. But the toughest decisions we’ve had to make, and it doesn’t come often, is when you must lay employees off or terminate employees due to a slowdown in the economy.
We pride ourselves in that pre-2009, we had gone 30 or 40 years without a layoff. Then we had the economic downturn, and earlier this spring COVID-19 happened. Those are difficult decisions, as we consider our employees as family. We're not so big that we don't really know all of our employees. And so, when you're asking that person to take time off, whether it's temporary or permanent, those are tough decisions.
I think for all owners and managers, just dealing with the coronavirus pandemic — the changes and the modeling, trying to find the balance between keeping your business running and then servicing your customers — is really tough.
Pope: The toughest ones are about people. Webb is an extremely loyal company, but it has grown quite a bit. The job expectations also have increased. Some dedicated employees are not able to step up to the next level; that can turn into an uncomfortable discussion.
Fasano: The biggest thing that comes to mind is making the shift to culture first.
When we talk about who we choose to hire and who we choose to do business with — we have to make sure that culture comes first.
That means parting ways with employees, suppliers and certain customers. They do good business with you or they know their stuff, but culturally they're not a fit. We do not tolerate customers who berate our employees, or employees who berate each other, or suppliers who do not stand behind their products. We partner with people and suppliers with matching culture. The tough decision was to put culture before everything else.
McNeeley: An old adage says the further your seats are from the field, the easier the game is. I think it is two challenges that kept me up at night.
One was after 90 years in Chicago’s Southside — in the industrial Back of the Yards neighborhood — we needed to move out of the city. We felt that the city was becoming more service-oriented and had lost the embracement, or affection, for the industrial sector.
The writing was on the wall and we had to relocate. We were worried about the potential disruption; how could we avoid that? We have the longest average tenure in the United States’ steel industry; our average employees have been with us for 12.8 years. Wow! And here we are, picking up the company and moving it 31 miles away.
But 96 percent of our employees made the move with us. We did very much so agonize over abandoning the city in which we were raised, schooled in, and which we love.
My business partner and I were together for 35 years; he was part of the family that founded the company back in 1914, so technically he was the fourth generation. I like to say my core is job creation — nothing excites me more than that! We felt we had an opportunity, if not an obligation, to create jobs. And we did.
But then, over time came ridiculous regulations; the government became the roadblock to us creating wealth and employment for others. My partner came to me and said, “When did we become public enemy No. 1?”
So, here's a guy that was fourth generation family ownership, and he wanted out. For me to buy him out would have cost me a lot of money, so I lined it up with the bank. But if you have to service debt in times when businesses are soft, you have to lay off people to generate the cash flow — and that wasn't acceptable.
As a result, we merged and went from a private company to a public company. It was probably the toughest challenge and decision we had to make; a lot of sleepless nights making that decision. Today, we're about one of the top 10 in the nation. As tough as that decision was, we ended up with a great deal. and we share the same values and mission.
Traeger: I guess, when you hit a rough patch in the road, stick together and keep your heads down. And keep working! We have been very fortunate to be able to keep our Traeger family together throughout all the ups and downs. Even now, as we are growing into new markets, we're looking at other ways we can bring engineered solutions to our customers.
We keep trying to reinvent ourselves and adding services to assist our customers and their needs.
Hockley: For me, it was definitely the significant layoffs of the Great Recession. It was agonizing every quarter or six months that went by — how can we do it, how can we continue to be viable financially? We had to share with employees that we were laying them off and we would do our best to rehire them once we could.
But it was those gut-wrenching conversations with branch managers and regional managers — who was going to remain in the Consolidated family? Just restless, sleepless nights, working through those decisions and choices that had such great impact on families who had been there for us.
White: As with any small business, one of the tough decisions is how to expand your business. It could be through new online sales revenue or expanding geographically into new markets or taking on new product lines such as we've done with more of a concerted effort.
Those are always tough decisions, but that is what’s exciting about being in business in the first place — getting together with your team and deciding exactly where you're going to leap.
Fantham: You learn by making mistakes and being comfortable with learning by doing. We try to create a high comfort zone with making mistakes. One thing I love about the wholesale distribution business is there are very few challenges that will bring a company down; we are a transactional business, not a big bang industry. We try to create to the philosophy of learning by doing, and we and will make mistakes along the way that we can learn from.
Another thing we learned — be obsessed (or paranoid first and then be obsessed) with the selection and development of world class leaders.
In terms of tough decisions, it’s a little different for us. I'll start with earlier in our careers, we all had progression based on being control freaks. For example, when you are new in sales and you get the order, you enter the order and follow it all the way through - watch it being loaded on the truck, ensure the truck driver leaves and then call your customer. A lot of our early success in our careers is based on being control freaks and yet, we are in a model that is based on Freedom to Live into Your Dream — which is based on empowerment.
I moved into a leadership role in the United States in July 2007; just in time for the Great Recession. I had to learn to trust the front line; I really had to build powerful conviction on,” It’s up to you,” and leave the decision to the people in our local markets.
My goal is to never make the decision; I know that doesn't sound very presidential. I'm getting better and absolutely believe that the folks in Philadelphia will make the right decisions for the folks in Philadelphia, or the folks in Dallas for Dallas, etc. They are the ones making the decision on the front line, so a lot of it is getting comfortable with empowerment. It’s almost as if I have over 7,000 bosses! That is the sort of freedom we encourage.
In the past five years, what is the smallest change that was made that had the biggest positive result?
Robertson: It goes back to what I was saying about the bench. About four or five years ago, we made a conscious movement to bring in college graduates into our company so they could begin to learn this industry, gain the experience and become our future managers. In some cases, these individuals will likely be future executives of the company. I have a son who is 27; some of his friends came into the company.
And those hires are already making a difference. What's awesome is we were able to hire a few of them and they are in the same building. They feed off of each other, get along and do things together, which is key because they're just a different group of people as many people have written about. For them to have their own peers growing with them, I think it allows them to stay here longer and figure things out together.
Pope: In the past, sales and operations were fairly separate silos, yet two very important areas within any company. Within the last five years, these department engaged in a higher level of communication. By doing so, both sets of personnel now have a better understanding of where challenges are and work together to find solutions and a better outcome, for both our internal and external customers.
Fasano: I think the smallest change — and I'm not sure it's a change — is to continually remind yourself that the little things matter. It’s easy to get caught up in the 20,000-foot views; the pandemic has been a challenge to remember that the little things matter, things such as handshakes, hugs and phone calls. People tend to get emails and texts, and they forget that there's the human element of most everything we do.
It could just be a check in with an employee who isn't expecting your call and you ask, “What can I do for you?” or, “How can I help?” or, “What do I need to know?” And it's that one-on-one small thing that matters. It’s not so much a small change but a continual reminder of what is important.
McNeeley: I think this might be my most controversial response. We grew up in an environment where you never say no to a customer, the customer's always right. And we want to strive to be all things to all people. And so, what I have learned in the latter stages of my career is if I do some self-introspection, is it arrogant to think you're the right supplier for everybody? I think it is arrogant for anybody to take that position.
Some relationships tend to engage in a never-ending exploitative connection and then call it a partnership, when it's anything but. So, the small change that we made is contrary to how we grew up. We did customer pruning; we concluded there are certain customers that we were not for them, nor they healthy for us.
We are much more surgical about who we want to partner with. And we pursue relationships with customers we want. They are not just customers who appreciate us, but customers who, through their challenging of us, make us a better company. The end result is we both end up better.
Traeger: People have been a big part of it. I've been extremely fortunate to have worked alongside some of my family members through the years, past and present. We've also been very fortunate to hire the right people; it has made a big difference.
I'm just amazed how getting the right person and fit can have the biggest positive results throughout the company. It's always wonderful when you get the right person in the right seat.
Hockley: I would not call this a small change because it was undoing a generational commitment: We changed buying groups from WIT to AD.
For more than 25 years, we belonged to the WIT buying group; you have friendships and networks, and a commitment the company had made to that buying group. The pivot to AD — with its resources, particularly ecommerce; the companies they had set up for us to work with, allowed us to become a viable 21st century distributor — has been unbelievably positive.
Sometimes for legacy companies, that continue evolving, that pressure to keep moving and stay viable, while technology is constantly changing so fast, is challenging. It's difficult to make that leap into something we understand that hasn't brought us to where we are. But we know it is instrumental and required to get us where we want to go.
So that gut-wrenching decision was a phone call. I won't say it was small, but the shift has been huge for Consolidated. It catapulted us forward to be ready, so when the unforeseen pandemic hit, our digital branch was already set up, running and operating for three years. We're very fortunate to have made that difficult but positive decision.
White: The online storefront has been huge for us. It’s the ease of use and ease of ordering for our customers, as well as stock checks, price checks and so much more. Beyond the ecommerce side, we make sure that stock levels, product depth and breadth have been sufficiently addressed at every single point of sale so our customers are never waiting for anything they need.
We put a lot of time and effort and again, a big financial investment into our inventory levels at every point of sale. Our customers have definitely recognized that; it makes life easy for everybody.
Fantham: I’ll start by talking about a catalyst. We go into 2016/2017 and we can see the changes in the evolving landscape, watching the impact of Amazon, and some of the Big Box stores, getting stronger in our market. We developed a strategic plan — and we hadn’t been a strong strategic planning company, we very much relied on the power of our business model, but we saw the way things were shifting. So, we developed a detailed strategic plan - a first for Hajoca.
But the small thing we did was we treated it as a hypothesis. We treated it as a discussion for possibilities. And the small thing we've done that has had big dividends is we had shared it with our teammates, vendors and select customers to get their fingerprints on the future of Hajoca. I believe, over the last three and a half years, we've had more than 2,000 fingerprints from the input we received from the sharing. It creates a sense of co-invention and co-ownership.
I’ve probably done 35 or 40 interactive sessions around what we call our compelling path forward in the last few years, and I haven't had one yet where I didn't go back and modify our path forward. So, I think being collaborative has been a big win.
How has The Wholesaler helped your company be successful?
Robertson: There is something refreshing to see the magazine show up either online or in the mail, or both, and see yourself on the front cover — or an industry friend. Maybe it’s somebody in your buying group or a person you've gotten to know over the years by attending an event but you may only see him a couple times a year.
The second thing is it just stimulates idea and thoughts when you read the articles and individuals talk about their company and what makes them successful. And new product news, too.
We are pretty involved in the business and don’t get to see everything going on outside, so we read the magazine and someone always has a morsel in there. We get to hear the ideas they share with you and other readers. Then we get that morsel and it gives us something to talk about and say, “Maybe it is something we should consider.”
And we look forward to the Wholesaling 100 rankings — it’s like a competition!
Pope: The Wholesaler Magazine, with its 20,000-foot view, does a great job identifying winning ideas and what is happening across the country. F.W. Webb uses this information to see what and how we can implement this within our business. It is also a good source for advertising.
Fasano: I look forward to getting The Wholesaler every month, and I like getting the print version. I always enjoyed the smart wholesaling features written by Rich Schmitt; he had written one (maybe 2001) on being a primary supplier, and it covers everything we were just talking about — to get your own visual and personal connection to what’s happening in business. I laminated the feature and it hangs in my office.
There are always gems in his features and others; you get a good perspective on what is important in your business and where the world is going. So, from my perspective, The Wholesaler is one more touch point we have with the wholesale community, to remind us of where we need to be and where we need to go. It's very valuable to us as a company, and me personally, to read it every month.
McNeeley: I speak for different trade associations in different industries, and one commonality is successful industries need a respective medium of communication. How do we communicate with one another? Typically, it's going to be through some medium, some publication. And I think The Wholesaler has positioned itself as the industry organ.
Your value would be what you do different than other publications, and I see one is the stability of ownership. You know you’re not being sold every five years — you know people aren't buying it, running up the value and spinning it. Also, the stability of the editorial staff — they are not using it as a career steppingstone and are genuinely interested in learning the industry, and in the real story.
I think that's why your calls are getting answered quickly and you get returned calls. It is not the case with other publications. I read every one of your columns and I find value. How do I determine if I find value? Well, it's the frequency in which I’m making margin notes on them and then circulated through a routing with our company, or to my students at the university. Your comments are valuable, so that's how you brought value to our industry, and our company, and to me as a leader.
Traeger: We, as a group, love participating in our industry and networking within the industry — and with our customers industries and associations as well. Being a part of The Wholesaler allows us to network with our peers and learn best practices from them. We also are able to connect with manufacturers in a multitude of a relationships and business opportunities.
Recently, we were very happy to have the honor of being recognized by The Wholesaler as No. 37 within the PVF segment of The Wholesaling 100. This is something we are incredibly proud of and displaying in our marketing literature.
Hockley: Well, there's no question that being connected within this industry is important, and we all learn from each other. I love opening up the magazine and keeping up with friends and seeing what's going on in the vendor community, what branches are opening up, what happened in the latest conference as well as keeping track of your trends.
I do appreciate the publication and we have been happy to be a part of the 75th celebration of The Wholesaler Magazine.
White: It's been a great partnership over the years — and really for decades. This year, we partnered with The Wholesaler magazine to honor Beverly Sanders — one of our owners who passed away this year — as well as participating in surveys and industry updates. In our boardroom is a framed picture of Gary Sanders and his former partner Norm Sanders on the cover of The Wholesaler — probably from 1978. It’s awesome to see. So much history!
The magazines help us with getting publicity out there and helping with our marketing campaign. We love to read about our fellow brethren in the publication; it's nice for us to be able to share a little bit about us with them as well.
Fantham: Congratulations on 75 years! And let me start by saying thank you for being a beacon of longevity!
It's a big deal hitting 75 years, and so clearly The Wholesaler has been agile and able to adapt to the changes along the way and continues to thrive. If I could capture the role of The Wholesaler, as I see it, in one word it would be connections. It’s really wonderful in creating connection: creating connections around information, connections around creating a forum for debate and connections around education. I clearly see that as its role and being part of the glue of our industry.
What one word do we want your customers, employees and partners to have in mind regarding your company?
What award do you want on the company’s wall?
Robertson: Probably the effort award — it’s how I look at my life. It's all about giving 100 percent, and I want to make sure we did it, I did it. Our people did it. It can't be said that we didn't try. Mistakes are going to be made and there will be disappointments, but at the end of the day, I want to make sure our team gave 100 percent — which they do.
Pope: The F.W. Webb Co. will continue to be humble and strive to earn our customer’s business. The only thing we want is for the phone to keep ringing, the trucks to keep delivering, visits to our websites to keep happening and for customers to continue to come into our locations. That is much more important to us than any award on a wall.
Fasano: The award I would want on the wall would be the best fifth-generation family business in our community.
This idea of family business is so important to Torrco. The underlying reality is that the past generation did all of the right things to get the company to the next generation — and pass down something they can have as their own.
Our customers pass their businesses down to their next generation and continue to buy from us. It's really the passing of the torch — that is the next level.
My boys are all pretty young, but there would be nothing better than offering them the opportunity to lead this company.
McNeeley: An award I would be proud to have on our wall — if you limit me to only one — would be a safety award. An award representing that we had no fatalities, that we got everyone home every day in the same or better condition than when they arrived. So, if only one thing can hang on the wall in the form of an award, I want it to be a safe working environment safety award.
Traeger: It's an award every day coming in and seeing our family name on the wall, knowing we have a great support staff of family members, trusted old friends, and simply great employees and coworkers. The growth and the future of Traeger Brothers is in good hands. That’s probably enough — I don't think I need an award.
Hockley: I think we are rewarded and win an award every day when our customers choose to shop with us. And when our team chooses to have their career with us. We believe in being good community citizens and giving back, we believe in being stewards of the industry and participating in national associations and education.
At the end of the day, our award is 93 years, building on 94, building on 95. We are blessed to be a company that can be trusted by the team, and by our customer base.
White: I would have to say, we strive to be the best independent plumbing and heating supplier in the Rocky Mountain region. That would be a nice plaque have.
Fantham: I don't know if there's a formal award for this, but it would be an award for fulfillment. That our key stakeholders found their job experience rewarding, aspirational, holistic and consistent with our commitment. Rewarding in terms of financial rewards, career and emotional reward — that would be the award.