In late 2022, Dan Kelly joined Affiliated Distributors (AD; www.adhq.com) as its senior vice president of supplier relations and the Decorative Brands Division (DBD). An engaging leader with years of success in multiple levels of wholesale distribution, Kelly brings to AD his unique leadership and mentoring style that will foster growth in many areas. We talked to Kelly to hear more about his role in the group and the path ahead.
Ruth Mitchell: Dan, you have an impressive background within the PHCP industry. Tell us how your path brought you to Affiliated Distributors and your role and responsibilities within the group.
Dan Kelly: Thank you, Ruth. Many years ago, 35 to be exact, I was fortunate enough to begin my career at the Thos. Somerville Co., a great independent wholesaler in Washington, D.C. I advanced through the company in the traditional way and started in the warehouse at 6th and Buchanan in the city. I can assure you many longtime industry veterans at the rep and manufacturer level remember 6th and Buchanan.
I eventually became executive vice president in 2014. Along the way, I managed a branch, ran a division, expanded the showroom division, and in the last few years, I was responsible for purchasing and overseeing the distribution center. So I did just about every job in the building. I learned a lot along the way and was lucky enough to work for a company that allows you to make mistakes, learn from them and then move on.
During my early years at Somerville, I still remember joining CL Watt in the early ‘90s and merging with AD a few years later. We were active members in AD as our chairman, Michael McInerney, was on the AD board for a number of years. I got to know the leadership team at AD very well and served on several committees.
When this position came open and AD called, I thought I had the skill set to succeed in both the supplier relations role and the DBD. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kyle Cline. Kyle is our director of supplier relations and was hired the same day as me. Kyle and I work together on member and supplier issues and, most importantly, drive value to our members and suppliers daily. We were both welcomed by an incredibly talented PHCP team at AD that has produced years of record earnings.
RM: The Decorative Brands Division is under your leadership. Please tell us the group’s history, how many members and suppliers make up the division, and how many events are held each year.
DK: Sometime around 2017, Jeffrey Beall, our PHCP president, formed a committee to develop a showroom division within PHCP. At that time, Thos. Somerville was expanding its showroom business. So I joined the committee, along with a few other strong independent wholesalers who were also developing their showroom businesses.
In 2018, AD formed the DBD with the long-term vision to be more than just a “plumbing” showroom division. It looked toward expanding our offering to include lighting, hardware and other complimentary products. Spending all those years at Somerville certainly gave me tons of real-life experience; I can quickly relate to our members and, more importantly, understand how to bring value to members and suppliers.
Speaking of members and suppliers, we have 50 members and more than 60 suppliers in DBD across the United States and Canada. And we’re growing. We are always in an active recruiting mode for quality members and constantly reviewing our suppliers to ensure we have the best-in-class suppliers to satisfy all our members’ needs and the markets they serve.
In terms of events, AD and DBD have several events mixing business and fun throughout the year. We have quarterly board meetings led by our DBD Chairman Jeff Wool. The board gives us direction on strategy and ongoing market conditions. We have two product committees (plumbing and lighting) that meet regularly to review, analyze and promote our supplier partners.
The board and product committees are full of people with a lot of industry knowledge and have big personalities. It makes for entertaining and productive meetings. We recently added some new people who are extremely talented and have great knowledge of the showroom business. I’m very excited about what they will bring to the division.
You may have heard we moved our annual DBD show to the spring and will meet in Boston. We’ve had total support from members and suppliers in moving the meeting from the fall to the spring. It’s always reassuring the first big decision you make is met with acceptance from the members and suppliers.
RM: What is the focus and mission of the division?
DK: First and foremost, we are driven to constantly improve our members’ return on remits. We do this in various ways that create wins for the members and suppliers. One of my long-term initiatives is expanding our reach to our members’ salespeople. We need to gain a stronger connection with the people on the sales floor generating revenue every day. I feel this is an area we can greatly improve on through more efficient communication.
We’re currently evaluating the many different technologies and media to gain a greater foothold in the hearts and minds of our salespeople. Our goal is to create a connection with the salespeople that matches the tremendous loyalty we see from the owners and managers across our membership.
RM: How does the division support AD members?
DK: The list is endless and constantly evolving. Depending on where the member or supplier is on its journey, we can do things such as provide access to 6 million SKUs through our ecommerce platform. We can also create specific marketing programs for our suppliers to bring new products to the market quicker than what they could do their own. DBD and AD have a powerful marketing suite of scalable and customizable tools to meet any need.
Beyond that, our membership would tell you that our greatest strength is bringing people together. On a large scale, our annual Decorative Brands Show has always received great feedback, especially inside the networking events. However, on a smaller scale, a day does not go by that I am not on the phone bringing a member and supplier together. I’m still old-fashioned and prefer to pick up the phone and talk. I love connecting members and suppliers who just need an introduction to raise their sales. It is part of the job I still enjoy the most.
RM: The division has a meeting scheduled in April. Can you give us highlights of the event focus?
DK: We consistently receive great feedback from members and suppliers about the event. We pack in many opportunities to do business together and mix in valuable time to truly network. We have some structured settings and one big event where we’ll go offsite and do something fun.
We have a great team of people dedicated to planning meetings and they always deliver a wonderful setting for members and suppliers to gather together. Everyone always comes away rejuvenated and energized to get back to work and increase sales together. In many ways, the meeting continues all year. The last session is our networking meetings; many of our networks continue to meet virtually all year. If I had to describe the best part of the meeting, it would be the momentum it generates for the year ahead.
RM: If you had to sum up the value proposition that AD and DBD offer to the independent distributor, what would it look like?
DK: We are constantly driven to provide solutions to all our members, no matter their size and scale. Our reach mirrors their sales process. We offer ways for members to improve their displays, and increase lead generation, hiring, training and leadership development at best-in-class networking and meeting events. We have much to offer our members and suppliers in short-term planning and longer-term initiatives. Decorative Brands is ready to lift off into a new level of value-added resources to keep our members as best in class in our space.