This year marks AIM/R’s 47th annual conference, taking place Sept. 11–14 in Orlando, Fla. Known as the go-to organization where rep professionals come to succeed, they do so under the leadership and guidance of a dedicated group of volunteer leaders. Membership within the organization shows a healthy 304 manufacturer’s rep members and 102 manufacturers. Providing solutions that deliver resources for professional, independent business owners to elevate the bar for their agencies, AIM/R continues to grow and thrive.
We asked Rick Root, principal at Bailey Sales & Associates and the current AIM/R president, to discuss the industry, and how AIM/R continues to be the go-to resource for rep excellence.
The Wholesaler: Rick, you are a seasoned industry professional. How did you get started in the industry?
Rick Root: I was working for Nolan Northwest in 1996. Tom Bailey of Bailey Sales & Associates (a family-owned company that was started by Tom’s dad in 1958) purchased Nolan NW and I was a part of the acquisition and transition. In 2016, my business partner Kevin Jones and I purchased the company.
TW: What drives your passion for being a part of the industry?
RR: Interesting question; this would have a different response and reaction if I had been asked 20 years ago! Today, it’s still the drive to succeed and the relationships we have built over the years that go beyond just the job. Many have formed into personal relationships that will last a lifetime.
TW: The company’s motto is, “Your success is our success.” How do you define success, and how do you accomplish it?
RR: Finding the decision-maker in any scenario and being an agency of value to that individual we are helping provides them the ability to be successful and, in turn, helps toward our success.
TW: How long have you been involved with AIM/R? How has it helped you in your professional growth in the industry?
RR: From the beginning with Nolan NW, Bill and Nancy Nolan were members and shared knowledge of AIM/R with the sales team. I quickly understood there was a source for answers to questions I had as a young salesman. Others had experienced the same challenges and were willing to share or provide a different way of looking at something that I hadn’t considered.
TW: What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
RR: No matter how good or bad the day might be, if you are not doing something every single day to work on your business, you won’t have a business to worry about for long!
TW: What do you attribute to the success AIM/R?
RR: In a word, networking! If you get involved with AIM/R, it will help you build a network of unbelievable talent to utilize at any given time. I’ve created a core group of peers that I have the ability to reach out to anytime I feel I need some assistance, regardless if it’s a potential new manufacturer looking to interview, employee hurdles, education of sales staff, compensation of current or impending staff, contract review, HR, compensation in all formats, insurance, etc. The list goes on.
TW: What are the most significant challenges members face today?
RR: There is a wide range, from manufacturer acquisitions, e-commerce, internet sales and cross-contractual territories to changing regional managers, commission cuts, factory-direct salesforce, health care and the lack of new talent entering the industry.
TW: What tools does AIM/R provide to help resolve these issues?
RR: AIM/R provides a 24/7 proposition to its current members. In addition to the networking capability, it offers a website with contact info for subject/topic-specific industry white papers, networking groups such as LOT/T (Leaders of Tomorrow - Today), education opportunities via our conference and partnerships with the American Supply Association, Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH), Manufacturers and Agents (MANA) and our connection with legal counsel for the membership.
TW: What interested you in pursuing a seat on the board?
RR: I didn’t have the knowledge or interest to be a board member, but then I was appointed to it! Several of my mentors were board members; they came to me and said I fit the model. They believed I would speak my mind, not sit on my hands and go with the flow and not make waves. If they only knew then how right they were!
I want to acknowledge those mentors: Rick Banner (Keyline Sales), Bill Freeman (Spirit Group), Frank Parks (Parks Peyton), Pete Lewnes (Preferred Sales) and Mike Parham (Pepco Sales). These men, whether they are still active in their agencies or not, always take or return my call, regardless of my reason for assistance. I feel very fortunate to have these gentlemen as leaders of our industry!
TW: Describe your goals as president. What are some of the critical issues/initiatives set to be tackled in the coming year?
RR: AIM/R has an active group of directors and ExComm (executive board of directors) that can take on any challenge we face. Several years back, we implemented a strategic planning meeting (SPM) and executed the plan perfectly for the membership. Another SPM will take place in 2020 and my goal as outgoing president is to leave things in as good if not better shape than when I came aboard.
Over the years I have taken a personal interest to get more of a female presence on the board, to have each take an interest to work their way through the board of directors chairs to eventually hold the conference chair position. That accomplishment was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in this business; in 2017, my conference was held in Seattle and was widely attended by both members and manufacturers. We currently have two women holding director roles and two more coming onto the ExComm, giving the board a fantastically diverse group of talent for years to come. I can feel good about that for sure.
TW: What have been some of AIM/R’s significant accomplishments in recent years?
RR: We hold a Manufacturer’s Advisory Council (MAC) meeting annually at a given national trade show or conference and invite seven or eight people who are in critical roles within their manufacturing companies. The topics posted to the manufacturers are generally current and topical for today’s and tomorrow’s business. The candid answers provided are 100-percent anonymous and allows the outcome for insight into what our manufacturers are thinking and saying about us, the representatives, and the industry we all work in each day. This information is intended to help the AIM/R membership get a look “behind the curtain” and help us become stronger in what we do.
We also implemented a Wholesaler Advisory Council (WAC) meeting, similar in content to the MAC Meeting but geared to today’s world of the wholesaler, including their challenges and situations they face. The results are intended to be the same for the membership just as the MAC meeting is.
In 2014, we implemented the AIM/R Hall of Fame, established to recognize and honor those outstanding manufacturer’s representatives who have walked alongside AIM/R in the plumbing, HVAC, PVF, kitchen, bath and related industries. Each year the current board submits candidates to be honored at our annual conference. It’s another way to showcase that through dedication and volunteerism, AIM/R continues to be an organization dedicated to fostering the success, growth and evolution of the independent manufacturer’s representative.
In addition, several years ago AIM/R was in a position where we needed to change direction and select a new association management company. A detailed search was conducted, and we chose CM Services based out of Chicago. We have been very fortunate to have Stacey Woldt of CM Services as our executive director. Her understanding, organization, knowledge and leadership is probably the best thing to happen with AIM/R since I’ve been on the board. The entire membership is better for having her!
TW: This year’s conference theme is “Craft Your Vision.” What is new at this year’s event?
RR: More than 10 experts will present sessions on how to help you craft a vision for your business. More than 400 colleagues from the plumbing, HVAC and irrigation industries will be in attendance. We have partnered with the Disney Institute to the present the keynote address on Disney’s approach to customer service. And a LOT/T event trifecta: Workshop — John C. Maxwell’s Principles of Leadership; Session — Rep Profiles; and LOT/T’s Brews Happy Hour on The Boardwalk at Disney.
The conference will be held at the Walt Disney World Swan, in the heart of the most magical place on earth! Attendees will have a private viewing of the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks at Epcot, as well as taking part in Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. A special “Business Behind the Magic” tour with the Disney Institute also is available.
TW: How is AIM/R maximizing the manufacturer’s experience at this year’s event?
RR: By providing a robust day of business education on Sept. 12. That line-up begins at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 6:00 p.m. It includes “storytelling” from professional and in-industry presenters, such as:
TW: What does AIM/R offer its members that they cannot find elsewhere?
RR: A platform of like-minded people in a common industry!