Stephanie Abeling is the fourth generation of California based Consumers Pipe. They are celebrating their 50th year anniversary and I had a chance to hear her story and learn that starting from square one is really the best way to excel in this industry.
Danielle Galian: What drew you to the PVF Industry? Or specifically accounting?
Stephanie Abeling: I started out as a business major in college, but during my junior year I changed my major to elementary education. I graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from Cal State Fullerton, but was offered a full time junior accountant position at US Airconditioning Distributors. I had been working in the accounting department while I was finishing school and was excited about the opportunities at US Air.
DG: Growing up, did you always know you’d start working for the family business?
SA: I have always wanted to work in the family business. As a kid, I can remember sitting in my car seat with a valve buckled in next to me and being told there is no “s” in the plural of the word pipe. This business was so much a part of our lives growing up that I’ve always dreamed of working for Consumers Pipe. My Grandmother, Mary Jane Abeling, was a former president of the company, my Great-aunt, Patty Borum, my uncle, Tony Abeling, and my cousin, Jack Abeling have all worked for the company throughout the years. I remember making catalogs in our garage during summer breaks, being the receptionist in high school, and taking a ride down to the office to pick up month-end reports. However, I did know that I needed to gain some experience under my belt before joining the CP&S team. This experience was provided through a great opportunity to work for the world’s largest privately owned HVAC distributor, US Airconditioning Distributors. John Scarsi offered me a part-time job during my winter and summers breaks of college, but told me he would not offer a full time position until I had finished school. That piece of advice stayed with me and was the most powerful tool he could have given me. Over those first few years, I was able to work my way through the ranks starting in the supply/literature room, then the marketing, billing, accounts payable and accounting departments. Once I graduated from college, I was offered a full time junior accountant position, and I eventually became a senior accountant. Ned Broadstreet and John Kelleher took me under their wings and showed me the ropes of accounting. As I learned more, I was given more responsibility which helped me to continue growing and maturing. I am truly thankful for the opportunities I received at US Air which helped me learn the major parts of a business and what it takes to be successful. The 10 years of experience and knowledge that I obtained are invaluable, and I continue to use them daily.
Now, I look forward to working with Eric Ruano, CP&S’s Controller. I have so much to learn from him and am looking forward to what the future has in store.
DG: What’s the best part of working in the family business?
SA: The best part about working in the family business is just that, it’s a family business. Not only do I get to work with my Dad and see him in action on a daily basis, there is this feeling that we are more than just employees and there is more to life than just work. Right now my Mom, Debby Abeling, is teaching a Dave Ramsey - Financial Peace University money class which is open to all of our employees. Yes, work is important, but I think it’s great an employer emphasizes family, finances and overall well-being as well. This is definitely something that makes Consumers Pipe unique, and I am so blessed to be a part of the team/family.
DG: What are you most proud of at Consumers Pipe & Supply?
SA: I am most proud of our 50 years in business. We are celebrating our 50th Anniversary this year. My Great Grandfather, Joe Abeling, started the company in 1965. Shortly after, my Grandfather, Bill Abeling, took over. Once he retired, my Dad stepped into that role. These men are driven, have a great work ethic, and they know what it takes to be successful through the ups and downs.
DG: Tell me about some hobbies or interests outside of work.
SA: Softball has been a major part of my life since I was 8 years old. I played ASA girls travelball for 10 years. As a pitcher, I traveled from coast to coast and was in national championship games at the age of 12. I played Division 1 NCAA softball in Florida and California, and also played in Stockholm, Sweden one summer.
DG: Do you still keep up with your passion for softball?
SA: Since graduating from college, I have coached girls age 8 & under city league teams and gave pitching lessons. Softball taught me what it was like to work hard for a goal, to put in the long hours necessary to be successful, and how to be a team player. It also taught me what commitment and dedication really looks like. These are all skills I use on a daily basis and I feel are essential for a successful career.
I also enjoy going to our local minor league baseball and hockey games, volunteering in the Early Childhood department at my church and spending time with my family.
DG: In your opinion, what makes a young person (just starting out in this industry) successful?
SA: According to Robert Collier, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” I believe if you do the little things right, the big things will follow. This goes back to my softball days, when my coaches would always say, “It’s the little things that win games.” The same is true in your career. Starting out, there might be times when you wonder why you have been given what seems to be a mundane or tedious task, but down the road you find it was just a small piece of the puzzle. Success is not going to come over night. It’s a process of giving 110% every day, and the success will follow.
Since I am just starting out in this industry, I am trying to take it step by step. Right now, I am continuing my education through ASA University’s Master of Distribution program, reading and educating myself as much as possible about what is going on in the industry, going to training courses such as the University of Innovative Distribution (UID), and working on my networking skills through events like the Young Executives conferences.
DG: Who is your mentor and why?
SA: My father, Mike Abeling, is my mentor. I have always looked up to him and he has taught me everything he stands for as a businessman and a parent. He has instilled within me his superior work ethic and dedication to everything he does. He has shown me what it means to “get dirty” and get the job done right from a young age. He is constantly learning, has great people skills, and is always thinking of ways to improve, change or better the company. He lives and breathes Consumers Pipe, and I look forward to learning as much as I can from him.
DG: What do you hope people can take away from learning a little bit more about this industry?
SA: From my brief time in the industry I can see people are dedicated, hardworking, and have a strong sense of pride. I’ve heard several times from several people, that the PVF industry provides great careers and opportunities. There are many family-owned companies, like ours, with people who care about their craft, their families, and our great nation.
DG: If you could travel back in time and meet one famous/historical person, who would it be and why?
SA: I would want to meet my Great Grandfather. He passed away before I was born, but I would have loved to witness his powerful drive and pick his entrepreneurial brain. He had business ventures that we would never have even thought about. He started an avocado grove near San Diego, had property in Hawaii, traveled the world and was in the 1901 San Francisco earthquake.
Visit www.consumerspipe.com for more information