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The Association of Independent Manufacturers' Representatives (AIM/R) has inducted three new members into its Hall of Fame with the additions of Rick Banner, Stew Chafee, and Mike Parham at the association's annual conference in Miramar Beach, Florida, Sept. 12-15, 2023.
Rick Banner was president and principal of Keyline Sales, Inc., a premier manufacturer's representative agency in Southern California, from 1999 through 2016. He recently retired from his career in the plumbing industry, which began in 1974.
Rick served AIM/R as a board member, president in 2007-2008, and chairman and is one of AIMR's first graduates of the Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR) program. Having graduated from the CPMR program in 1998, he continues to be an outspoken advocate of the program's merits and continued significance in creating a high level of distinction for accredited representatives.
Banner started his career by getting a haircut and a new suit in 1974 to interview for his first position in the plumbing industry. Now, having retired, he intends never to get a haircut again.
Banner said in his speech during the Hall of Fame ceremony at Sandestin Resort, “AIM/R as a group has told the rep story to the industry. I would say to the younger team here, if you think you can contribute to the AIM/R story, don’t be afraid to get involved. There is always a place at AIM/R for those who want to help the industry.”
Stewart (Stew) Chaffee started his working career as a third-generation brick and stone mason before entering the Rep Industry. He had sustained an injury, and as luck would have it, he was offered an outside sales position at Rich-Tomkins Co., from which he retired 38 years later.
Stew recalls the interview process, "Stu Rich asked me if I had ever sold anything. My answer was that I would sit in people's homes and tell them how I'll take my chain saw to their living room wall, make a big hole, then build them a beautiful fireplace before the end of the week, and they'd let me do it. Mr. Rich and Mr. Tomkins hired me on the spot."
Stew became a partner six years later and, ultimately, became Rich-Tomkin's fourth President. During his Rep career, Stew served on countless industry and manufacturers' advisory boards, sharing his common sense and logical approach. He served a full term on the AIM’R executive board, including AIM/R president in 2016-2017.
“I’ve never been so humbled,” Chafee said, as he began his speech during the AIM/R Conference at Sandestin Resort.
Chafee went on to describe how technology evolved over the course of his career and the role AIM/R played in helping Rich-Tomkins. “AIM/R bridged the gap from the caveman activity of payphones from when I joined this industry to how we operate today. Our success was because of AIM/R and competitors from the same marketplace sharing ideas to raise the entire industry.”
Stew and his wife Jeanne retired from Rich-Tomkins and can be found riding motorcycles across America or riding tractors on their farm in upstate Pennsylvania.
Mike Parham started working in this industry at ten years old, sweeping the first-ever Pepco warehouse floor on Saturday mornings in 1968 while going to the office with his dad. Although Mike had various jobs through high school and college, including working at gas stations, chicken farms, restaurants, and a paper route, he always worked the summers at Pepco. He drove a truck, worked in the warehouse, and helped in customer service and inventory management from 1974 through 1979.
After graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University, where he played baseball, he immediately went into insurance sales. He enjoyed the personal contact and the ability to have control over his income. Several months into the insurance business, he was approached to work in outside sales at Pepco. Having worked several summers there, he agreed. Thirteen years later, he owned the business outright along with his brother, Phil.
During his Hall of Fame speech at Sandestin Resort, Parham spoke to a piece of advice from a former baseball coach, “What is it about AIM/R? Well, a coach once told me years ago that you never outperform your preparation. That really stuck with me, and the folks at AIM/R talk that same talk.”
From 1993 Pepco forward, Pepco diversified into the HVAC industry, commercial plumbing, and waterworks to complement the RNC focus. Pepco expanded its warehouse space and went on a serious growth spurt.
Needing ways to continue to be on the front end of the wave, Mike was approached to become an AIM/R member, and Pepco joined AIM/R in the early 2000s. Mike soon became a board member and the first conference chair to have manufacturers attend in 2008. Without a doubt, AIM/R was very instrumental in the growth and direction of Pepco. Mike was also instrumental in creating the Leaders of Tomorrow Today (LOTT) and Rep Round Tables. He was AIM/R president in 2010-2011 and served on many rep panels during his tenure on the AIM/R board on topics ranging from succession planning, warehousing, buy-sell arrangements, and strategic planning.
“I remember walking away from my first AIM/R thinking this is pretty cool,” Parham said. “AIM/R became the difference for our business. It was our spring training as a rep. It had everything we needed to work on our business and put us on the front end of the wave as we grew.”
Mike has always felt giving back was essential, and he currently sits on the SFASU Rusche College of Business executive council and is past chairman of Kids Matter International. In addition, Mike finds time to mentor students from SFASU. Since unofficially retiring from Pepco in 2017 and officially in 2020, Mike went on to coach high school baseball in NM for several years and now writes articles for the Rolling Stone Culture Council. In addition, Mike enjoys travel, hiking, scuba diving, and anything outdoors or with family.
Mike always says it was his wife Kim that made him successful, as she was a rock behind the scenes. Mike and Kim have four children and two grandchildren and now reside outside Austin, Texas.