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Major decisions are serious business. Especially making a top-level executive move that involves a new organization and a new home base. That challenge was recently put in front of long-time industry veteran Jack McDonald, who decided that the timing and opportunity were ideal at this point in his career.
McDonald had spent the last two decades with LASCO Fittings, most recently as its President. Based in Memphis and acquired by the global Aalberts Industries in 2007, LASCO Fittings manufactures injected molded PVC and CPVC fittings for a multitude of applications.
In early 2015, McDonald was announced as the new President & CEO of Matco-Norca. They are one of the largest independent-branded sourcing companies of valves, fittings, nipples, faucets and plumbing specialties for the plumbing & heating, industrial, waterworks and irrigation markets. Committed to quality and customer service, Matco-Norca prides itself on agility and ability — the agility to provide quality products and value-added services quickly from its four national distribution centers around the country, along with the ability to price them competitively.
McDonald recently sat down with me to talk about what drove his decision and what some of his goals are with Matco-Norca.
MJM: Congratulations, Jack, on your new position as President & CEO of Matco-Norca. You bring a great deal of experience to the table. Could you please give our readers a glimpse at your career and the roles you’ve held over the years?
McDonald: With the exception of mowing lawns and delivering newspapers, my career and, really, my life have revolved around building products. From a young age, I would repair and remodel things at my parents’ house. That eventually led to me working for home builders and contractors, which paid my way through college at Eastern Michigan University.
My first real job was as a District Sales Rep back in 1984 for exterior building products at Mastic/ALCOA. Besides selling, this often involved training contractors how to hang vinyl siding, install skirting and properly fasten shutters to a house. I advanced to National Sales Manager, but decided to leave when I was offered the position of Door/Window Product Manager at Phillips Products. It was also a building products company and I helped expand their portfolio into vinyl windows and steel entry doors.
From there, I was promoted to General Manager of Ventline, a specialty manufacturer of range hoods and bath fans. Continuing to build on my interest in building products, I became President of LASCO Fittings at the age of 32 and was with them for 21 years; I also ran LASCO Bathware for two years on an interim basis. Needless to say, it was a very fast-paced time for me.
So with this new role at Matco-Norca, I am still involved in building materials — albeit the plumbing type.
MJM: What are some of the key issues that are on your “go list” during these first few months?
McDonald: As a global sourcing company, continuing to manage our way through the slowdown at the West Coast ports is a high priority, as is continuing to explore future locations for expanded service and new Matco-Norca DCs.
On the product side of things, we’re putting a renewed emphasis on ensuring we continue to go deeper with core products to offer within our existing valve, fitting and nipple and faucet/plumbing specialties areas.
MJM: Matco-Norca has a very diversified product offering. Talk about the range of products you offer, and customers and applications served?
McDonald: For over 60 years, Matco-Norca has served the wholesale distribution community with a variety of pipe, valves and fittings. If it’s involved in the delivery or control of water, we offer it:
• When it comes to fittings, we provide a full line of malleable Pipe Fittings that meet or exceed industry standards. They range from 150- to 300-pound black and galvanized fittings in cast iron and forged steel; forged steel branch outlets; carbon steel weld fittings and flanges; merchant couplings; and a host of brass and non-metallic fittings.
• We have a broad offering of valves from the smallest self-tapping saddle valve for a 1/4-inch ice maker water line to a 36-inch butterfly valve designed for a municipal installation, and everything in between.
• Matco-Norca also features an outstanding line up of faucets and plumbing specialties that address the needs of residential, commercial and industrial applications. We have the right product to meet customers’ specific needs.
MJM: What are some of the latest developments in each area?
McDonald: For several years, Matco-Norca has been very involved in addressing the no-lead mandate. We were ahead of the curve in ensuring that we could provide product to California when the lead free legislation came about and we stayed ahead when the rest of the country followed.
As the country rebuilds following the lean times in 2008-2010, we have put an emphasis on filling out our waterworks offering of valves and fittings while continuing to expand our offering in core products that feed the energy sector. Most recently, we introduced a broad range of stainless steel fittings and nipples, along with carbon and stainless steel ball valves that so many of our industrial customers have asked us for.
MJM: How are your sales divided up among those product categories?
McDonald: From a top-level view, we see ourselves being 55% residential plumbing and 45% commercial; about half of our products are distributed through traditional plumbing wholesale distributors, 25% through the waterworks and irrigation channel and 25% through our industrial customers.
MJM: You’ve got some highly respected industry veterans at Matco-Norca. Talk a bit about some of those key people and the roles they play?
McDonald: In my career, I have had the pleasure to work with some great people of real character, and Matco-Norca is no exception. Many employees have more than 20 years of service, and it seems strange to be the new guy with not even a year’s worth of tenure. The Matz family began the company over 60 years ago and Dov Matz is still very engaged in the business today. Dov’s son Michael Matz has been involved for nearly 20 years.
Scott Bardreau, our Vice President of Sales and Marketing, is an industry veteran and the consummate sales professional. I thoroughly enjoy his sales approach, customer relationships, energy and, of course, his analogies. This guy could sell ice cubes to Eskimos — is that considered a building material in Alaska?
Our sales representatives also have long and successful tenures in the industry and several are second generation taking over from family.
MJM: Scott, please share with us what Jack coming on board means to the team at Matco-Norca, and to your customers?
Bardreau: We are thrilled that Jack agreed to join Matco-Norca as our new President and Chief Executive Officer. This is an exciting time for Matco-Norca and our customers.
There are many issues confronting our industry today — ranging from value propositions, Green initiatives, the need to continually reduce costs while improving customer service, and supporting the expansion in new markets and product lines. Be assured that Jack possesses the qualities we need at this time in our company’s rich history, including an appreciation and respect for our associates, a keen business and financial acumen and unquestionable ethics.
The experience in our industry that Jack brings to Matco-Norca is yielding results already along with a clear vision of where we go from here. Jack has both the required skills and knowledge for the position as well as the ability to be our leader. An exhaustive search has resulted in the hiring of someone who we look forward to working with for many years to come.
MJM: Despite all the e-commerce advancement and streamlined communications, relationships still seem to be king in our industry. Talk about the relationships Matco-Norca has built with its wholesalers?
McDonald: We understand that one of the very best ways to grow our business is to satisfy our customers. We do that in a number of ways:
• One way we deliver value is by offering quality products at competitive pricing.
• Another is through our brand. Nearly all of our products are built to our exacting specifications and carry the Matco-Norca name on them. • Accountability and traceability sends a message to our customers that we stand behind our products.
• Another of the value disciplines that we employ is not just delivering what a market is asking for, but specifically providing what our wholesale distributor customers are asking for.
We do our very best to maintain exceptional relationships with customers across all markets. In addition to our Regional Sales Managers who work closely with customers, we also have market-specific managers who work equally close with our manufacturers’ representatives and Regional Managers. They act as a conduit for information to flow freely between Matco-Norca and our valued customers. There is a great deal of information coming to us from customers daily that we constantly evaluate and analyze to ensure we source the right products at the best possible cost without compromising quality.
MJM: What are some of hte most important lessons you've learned along the way that continue to drive you?
McDonald: To sum up my career and in looking ahead at the opportunity at Matco-Norca, I go back to advise that my parents gave me a long time ago when I was just a boy. My father worked long, rigorous hours during his 40 years at Ford Motor Company and instilled a strong work ethic in me. In his description of the working world, “John [as he called me when I was in trouble or he was being serious] work hard, but find something you enjoy and you’ll never work a day in your life!” My mother had a different approach, “Jackie, always offer more than the other guy and you’ll be rewarded.” Of course, I never realized how profound these words were, nor the long term effect they would have on me. So at Matco-Norca, I’ll continue to follow the path that I was taught, to work hard, add value for our customers and enjoy what I do each day.