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In the dynamic world of the PHCP-PVF industry, wholesale distributors play a crucial role as the backbone of the supply chain. These diligent businesses connect manufacturers with contractors, retailers and professionals in the field, ensuring a seamless flow of products and services. But what truly defines success for these distributors?
Success means different things to different people; beyond the traditional measures of profitability and market share, these businesses embrace a wider perspective when evaluating their achievements. They strive to foster strong relationships with manufacturers and customers, aiming for loyalty, trust and mutual growth.
Moreover, successful wholesale distributors demonstrate the adaptability to changing market dynamics, staying ahead of technological advancements, and maintaining a deep understanding of their customers’ needs.
Join us as we ask our panel how they define success: Jack Bell, president and CEO, Masters’ Supply, a wholesale distributor with eight locations in Kentucky and Indiana; Claire Munch, president of Munch’s Supply, a wholesale distributor with locations covering Illinois, Indiana and Michigan; and Dan Sherman, owner of Pacific Plumbing, with 17 locations covering Washington, Montana and Alaska.
Ruth Mitchell: Customer service is the backbone to success. Please give us an example of customer service that exceeded expectation(s) — but, in reality, is your core way of doing business.
Jack Bell, Masters’ Supply: In 1992, we installed the first drive-thru service in the plumbing industry. The idea came from one of our salespeople. He stated that if a hamburger joint (McDonald’s) can do it, why can’t Masters’ Supply incorporate a quick service to get customers in and out?
So, we constructed a small building to house material and a dedicated drive-thru lane for order pickup. The customers call their orders into our sales staff, or they can use our order entry service on our website. They drive up to the building to receive their order. We average about 125 orders a day with our drive-thru service. Other service industry companies installed similar services when COVID-19 became prevalent in 2020.
Our goal is to make the customer experience unique. Our motto is, “Ease of Business = Profits.” We constantly strive to better our services.
Dan Sherman, Pacific Plumbing Supply: Our tagline has been “The Service People” since we opened in 1949 and is a very real part of our culture. We consider it a privilege to serve our customers and make it a goal to continually exceed their needs and expectations. We go out of our way daily for our customers to help them be successful.
Claire Munch, Munch’s Supply: It is no secret that supply chain issues have been abundant during the past several years. While our customers understood the predicament, there were still difficult situations where a no-heat or no-cool scenario created an emergency.
We needed to get incredibly creative to source product for our customers. Often, we traded with distributors of like brands, facilitated orders for our customers at competing distributors — and even drove hundreds of miles to pick up product from other states.
This approach of refusing to let our customer down is really our core way of doing business. It pushed us to the limits of what we thought was possible on many occasions, but our customers deserve that from us. We were grateful for the opportunity to give it to them.
RM: Giving back to the community is an admirable aspect of many successful companies. Could you share an example of how your company has done so and the impact it has had on both your organization and the community you serve?
JB: We are an employee-owned company, so we needed to find different ways to help the community. One investment we have been proud to serve the community with is helping the organizations involved in our trades. We supply material and assistance to local county schools with plumbing and mechanical classes. We also assist the local chapters of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America and the Association of Master Contractors.
DS: For the last 24 years, we have supported the Make A Wish Foundation through our annual golf tournament. Through 2022, we raised more than $300,000 for this very worthy cause. Helping to share the Make a Wish story is something we are very proud of.
Framed letters and pictures from Wish recipients are displayed throughout our administrative offices. This is an important part of our fabric and we’re proud to share this with our customers, employees, potential employees, vendors and reps who come into our offices.
CM: Munch’s Supply is passionate about generosity, and we focus our efforts on helping St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital each year because we know it’s about giving more than money: We are giving hope.
Last year, Munch’s Supply was the top fundraising team in the Chicago region, with a donation of $43,000. We do it through raffles, match campaigns, a walk/run and an online retail clothing store. This year, we are adding a golf outing to our fundraising plans, so we hope to make an even bigger difference for St. Jude.
The hospital’s mission to treat — and find a cure for — pediatric cancer at no cost to families encompasses the very principles that Munch’s operates on: integrity, family and advancement. It’s a clear fit for us.
RM: Building a successful company often requires a strong organizational culture. How did your company establish and foster a positive and productive culture that has played a role in its success? What values and principles are emphasized within your organization?
JB: We built our current culture by bringing in a culture coach about seven years ago. We were taught the importance of a strong culture will lead to success. All our managers attended and then took back to the rest of our employees a new set of vision and mission statements.
Our managers meet once a month and we find ways to improve and educate our employees of the core values we have built: trust, collaboration, pride, opportunity and dedication. We display banners throughout our company stating these values. Culture is King!
DS: I think the best answer here is somewhere between hiring great people and communication. Our diverse leadership team has strengths in different areas. We have structured/scheduled monthly meetings that give us the platform to work together to solve issues and push projects forward. We’re a family-first business supporting a healthy life-work balance that we believe has served the overall organization well.
CM: At Munch’s, our clearly defined values resonate throughout the organization, including communication, transparency and integrity. As a leader, I challenge my team to do the right thing in all cases — even if it’s not easy. This lends itself to better customer service, respectful employee interactions, and decisions that are based on facts and good intent, rather than fear.
RM: As a reader of The Wholesaler magazine, what was your favorite article, column or news story that appeared in 2022 — and why?
JB: My favorite article was the December 2022 issue with Patrick Kenny being promoted to president and COO of Kenny Pipe and Supply. I have known Patrick for 10-plus years and it is great to see a young man follow in his father’s footsteps as a leader. I, too, had my father in this industry for 40 years. His passion for the industry was handed to me through my 40-plus years in the industry. Good stuff!
DS: Two stood out to us. 2024 will be our 75th year, so we’re tuned in to other organizations with long histories. The story on Gerber Plumbing Fixtures in July 2022 was great. We’ve been a Gerber distributor for 25 years; learning about where they started and their path to today is a great success story.
The other is “Creating A Buzz Around a New Location” in March 2022. There were some gems in the article that we have added to our thinking about marketing and new location launches.
CM: I always appreciate the industry news sections to read about the great successes happening at other companies. And of course, the annual Wholesaling 100 is always a must-read!