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Creating an environment for employees to prosper personally and financially enables businesses to flourish. And reducing barriers to opportunity enhances a company’s growth, as investing in your employees inevitably increases productivity and, ultimately, your bottom line.
St. Louis-based American Piping Products — supplier of carbon, specialty and chrome-moly pipe, tube, fittings and flanges used in the processing, energy, manufacturing, fabrication and construction industries — has successfully maintained 25 years in business by adhering to a shared set of organizational guidelines. They underscore the company’s core values and underlying mission to build an organization that allows motivated people to succeed professionally and financially while encouraging unlimited personal growth.
Matt Danis, president of American Piping Products, says the company wants to give people every opportunity to prosper. “I think this makes us a bit different from other companies in the industry,” he says. “Our adherence to our core values and dedication to motivating each other to succeed is what sets us apart from our competitors.”
With steel processing facilities in Houston and Chicago, American Piping Products has quick access to the Port of Houston and shipping channels in North America, allowing rapid shipment to nearly any location worldwide.
The Houston facility holds the majority of American Piping Products’ inventory, as well as the equipment needed to cut, profile and bevel pipe before delivery. The company’s Chicago facility gives APP the ability to process and deliver steel pipe to the upper Midwest, East Coast and Canada with shorter lead times. This facility features cutting and other value-added services.
About a third of the company’s employees are located in St. Louis, Danis notes. “We have about 25 salespeople and about 50 yard operations staff,” he says. “The balance of our 100 employees are in accounting, human resources, purchasing and operations.”
With annual sales of approximately $250 million, Danis says the company provides unsurpassed customer service and value-added solutions, including sizeable in-stock product lines, cost containment, inventory management, productivity enhancement and scheduling proficiency.
“We carry large inventories of carbon, chrome-moly and specialty pipe at the ready for any project, anywhere in the world,” he says. “Along with our extensive inventory of seamless and welded steel pipe, we also stock tubing, fittings and flanges to match any need in the processing, energy, manufacturing, fabrication and construction industries.” Whether it’s for service in high- or low-temperature settings, Danis says American Piping Products has the inventory ready to ship, on-time, with the right specs.
Since beginning operation in 1994, APP has been dedicated to providing more than just material supply. “The company has helped customers reduce costs and improve their bottom line,” he explains. “This approach to partnering with customers has made us one of the fastest growing companies in the business.”
Danis joined the company as CFO in 2009. “When we were fortunate to attract Matt to work for the company, he was hired as the CFO but I wanted him to learn all aspects of the business, not just the financial side,” says Al Rheinnecker, CEO of American Piping Products. “To accomplish this goal, we added a desk to my office; Matt and I shared that same office for several years. He overheard and eventually participated in all the conversations I had in my office.”
Danis says he had a wonderful teacher in Rheinnecker. “I listened and learned from him,” he recalls. “That is how I learned this business and eventually put myself in a position to become the president.”
Danis says three major factors contributed to the company’s growth and success — an increase in inventory, an increase in salespeople, and an increase in services and technology.
“The company has had incredible growth over the years, due in part to an increase in inventory,” he says. “We have increased the products we carry and the number of SKUs. It’s been a big driver of our growth. Our inventory size has quadrupled over the past 10 years.”
Another big driver, almost to the same factor, says Danis, is an increase in technically skilled salespeople. “Our salespeople are the highest trained, most-skilled salespeople in the industry,” he says. “We have hired the best people and given them the tools to provide the best service to our customers.”
The third major factor contributing to American Piping Products’ growth has been an increase in services and technology, Danis says.
“Receiving the required documentation to operate in our industry is fully automated with 100-percent traceability, and we have a document library available to our customers via a web portal,” he explains. “We’re trying to put ourselves in position to interact with our customers in whatever way is best for them, whether that’s online, by email or phone. We always respond quickly with the information they need so they can do their job efficiently.”
A steady stream of new products allows you to grow your business and fulfill your company’s vision, Danis notes, adding that it’s the customers who lead American Piping Products to its new product lines. “The way we go to market is how we think about the future,” he says. “It might be an unorthodox way to think about things, but it works. It makes sense to us. We allow the customer to tell us where the growth is going to come from. We’re lucky enough to service 2,000 customers a year, and they guide us into new product inventory.”
This year alone, the company has added 200 new SKUs based on consumer ask. “It’s a low-risk way to build inventory for our customers,” he says. “Our customers are pointing us in the direction we need to take the company. It aligns with our strategic plan and our path for the future.”
An actively followed value system is essential to achieving a company’s strategic goals, Danis says.
“I learned over the past 10 years that as much as I attribute the growth of the company to increased inventory, services and investment in technology, a great deal of our success has come from maintaining our focus on bringing people into the company who share our values,” Danis notes.
It’s the company’s shared values that puts everyone in a position to meet their financial goals. “I feel my greatest achievement over the past 10 years has been being a part of creating more jobs for people, allowing them to meet their financial goals and take care of their families,” he adds.
Danis believes that people don’t want to work when they don’t trust in the values of the company, feel the company is lead from the top down or the same set of rules doesn’t apply to everybody.
“In our company, we are big believers in working when you are at work,” he says. “We believe everybody gets to the office at the same time and everybody leaves at the same time. In fact, everybody takes lunch at the same time. That way, we are all available to service our customers. It’s part of our culture, part of our value system as a company. We value being available to our customers during their business day.”
The company also highly values transparency. “We’re honest about who we are, we do what we say we’re going to do and we don’t hide from anything,” Danis says. “We know what we’re good at and we focus on that. We’re willing to adapt, but we know our stripes; we’re not going to try to change them.”