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The Golden Eagle Award is one of the most prestigious honors within the plumbing industry, and particularly within the Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives. The award, established by AIM/R and presented annually at the group’s conference, recognizes senior-level plumbing manufacturing executives who have actively supported independent reps and their important role in the supply chain.
AIM/R Senior Vice President Katie Hubach of signature sales announced that Matt Kozak, vice president of sales at Bradford White, was selected as the 2021 Golden Eagle Award recipient. The announcement was made at the 49th Annual AIM/R Conference, held Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.
Each year, AIM/R members are encouraged to nominate plumbing manufacturing executives to be considered for the Golden Eagle. The winner is determined by a vote in the months leading up to the conference, and only a few people within the organization know who it will be until the award is presented.
Past recipients embody excellence in all of the following criteria to be considered during the selection process:
• Belief in the value of independent representatives and that reps are the most efficient and cost-effective method of going to market. • Work cooperatively to develop and maintain strong partnerships with manufacturers’ representatives
• Use efficient, effective communication that keeps reps up to date on the industry and the manufacturer’s products
• Substantiate the value they place on their reps’ efforts by prompt filling of orders, timely payment of commissions, backup support in the event of any issues, and closely working together to ensure customer satisfaction
• Utilize manufacturers’ representatives, support AIM/R, promote the industry, and actively participating in industry events.
Kozak described his initial surprise at receiving the award: “Those who have previously been honored have set the bar very high, and I don’t always see myself in the same vein. I can sometimes be a bit impatient and too abrupt — not exactly traits that endear you to manufacturers’ reps. But my intent is always to ensure our mutual success and I believe our reps have trust in that.
“As my career progressed, so did my active involvement with AIM/R. And it became clear to me why independent reps are so important to manufacturers like Bradford White. I found that AIM/R provides valuable resources on issues like succession planning, sales techniques, and running a solid business — all of which are of vital concern to their manufacturer partners. The support and tools offered by AIM/R enable reps to improve their business practices and strengthen the partnership and communication between reps and their manufacturers. We are such big believers in the group’s value that Bradford White strongly encourages, just short of requiring, all of our reps to belong to and be active in AIM/R.”
Bradford White’s long commitment to AIM/R and its reps is evident. In fact, Kozak is the fifth executive from Bradford White to be selected for this achievement, following in the footsteps of Bob Carnevale, Nick Giuffre, Bruce Carnevale and Jim McGoldrick.
“Those leaders set the tone for how Bradford White as a company views and treats its reps, and I am pleased to be carrying on that tradition,” Kozak said. “We continue to only sell through wholesale and we use manufacturers’ reps as a conduit to our wholesale customers and their customers. Our reps are a huge part of who we are. They represent our company, they are our salesforce, and they have daily interactions with our customer base — whether it's with our product line or one of the others they represent. We treat our reps like family because if we do our job and take care of them, they will take care of us.”
After beginning his career at Burnham Boilers, Kozak joined Bradford White in March 2007 as regional sales manager. Over the next few years, he was promoted to director of sales East and then national sales manager. In 2020, he was promoted to his current role, vice president of sales. In this role, Kozak is responsible for all customer-facing sales activities and business development. Kozak leads a team of talented sales professionals who are responsible for selling Bradford White’s products to wholesale and plumbing professionals across the United States and Canada.
“I thoroughly enjoy the relationships that we have with all of our reps,” Kozak noted. “Each rep firm has their own unique business plan, and I love getting to see their plan in action and how it helps them and us achieve success. I explore opportunities to learn from each of them and learn new ways to help Bradford White and our agencies gain an advantage in the market place. Our industry is changing at a pace that is faster than at any time in my career. It’s exciting trying to keep pace with that change and mapping out a plan to stay ahead of it, and our reps are a critical part of that process.”
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