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Jeff Wool is the third-generation business owner of Wool Supply in Florida. I had a chance to speak to him about what it was like to grow up in the business and how important it is to get the next generation involved in our industry.
Danielle Galian: How did you get started in the business?
Jeff Wool: I grew up in the business. I started when I was 12 or 13 years old working summers in the warehouse and I did that through high school. I went to school at the University of Maryland and I ended up working at an engineering company for four years. Then I moved back to join Wool Supply in 2006.
DG: What’s your favorite part about working at Wool Supply?
JW: For me, it’s great to carry on a family legacy. Just to be able to carry on something my grandfather created is a rewarding experience. It’s a relationship business and it’s about family. There are very few family owned companies left in the U.S. in any industry. To have a family owned company is a little different than working with a corporate owned environment.
DG: Would you say that’s also what you’re most proud of at Wool Supply?
JW: Yes – to be a successful family run company and survive against these corporate giants says something about our company. We’ve got a lot of employees who’ve worked with our company for over 20 years. Were a third-generation company and that’s something to be proud of.
DG: Who would you say is your mentor?
JW: I don’t have a mentor per say of somebody at the company. We’re fortunate to have a lot of people at our company that are able to help me. From our sales manager to our operations manager, I’m constantly learning from them. I’m learning from my father who’s obviously been in the business a long time. The other area is our buying group Affiliated Distributors; there’s just an incredible amount of knowledge and a lot of people in that group that I have learned a lot from.
DG: What qualities do you bring to the business as the next generation?
JW: Everything is changing so fast. And a lot of wholesaling businesses are family owned and the people who are running them are the older generation. I think it’s extremely important to get young people involved because the market is changing so fast – the technology that’s out there, the way people are going to market, and the way consumers are buying. Consumers under 40 are buying a lot differently than consumers over 40. If you’re not getting young people involved in your company you’re going to be missing out. My brother and I are definitely bringing a more technology-based approach to analyzing reports and sales data. We bring a little bit of connection with the younger employees, too.
DG: How do you keep the two (work life and personal life) separate but equal?
JW: My father said when we [my brother and I] first started, “When running a family business, it’s not easy keeping work life and family life separate.” And he was right. And I don’t think you can [keep the two separate]. The business is our life. It’s 24 hours a day for us.
DG: What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
JW: I love photography and music.
DG: Do you play?
JW: I’ve played guitar and piano for 15-20 years.
DG: What are some exciting things happening for you at Wool Supply?
JW: There’s a lot going on. We’re launching our Tampa location in weeks. It’s one of our largest locations. We’re re-building our largest, Ft. Lauderdale location from the ground up. And we’re launching our Ft. Myers showroom!
DG: What is your “top tip” to make it in this industry?
JW: Get involved. The way I’ve been able to be successful in our company is by getting involved in everything. I’ve done a little bit of everything and I think that’s what made me successful because I understand our company almost from top to bottom.
For more info on Jeff and the company, visit www.woolsupply.com.