In today’s ever-changing business landscape, strengthening the contractor/wholesaler channel is critical to survival. A recent general session at PHCC CONNECT drilled deep into the conversation. “How does my supplier make me look like a rock star?” asked Dan Callies, President, Oak Creek Plumbing, Inc., Oak Creek, Wis., during the “Collaborative Connections: Strengthening Supplier-Contractor Relationships for Read more
In today’s ever-changing business landscape, strengthening the contractor/wholesaler channel is critical to survival. A recent general session at PHCC CONNECT drilled deep into the conversation.
“How does my supplier make me look like a rock star?” asked Dan Callies, President, Oak Creek Plumbing, Inc., Oak Creek, Wis., during the “Collaborative Connections: Strengthening Supplier-Contractor Relationships for Success” general session at the PHCC Connect show last month in Cleveland. Joining Dan on stage was an all-star cast featuring emcee Robert Grim, Senior Vice President, Global Sales, InSinkErator, Mount Pleasant, Wis.; Scott Robertson, President, Robertson Heating Supply Co., Alliance, Ohio; Kathryn Poehling-Seymour, President and CEO, First Supply LLC, Madison, Wis.; and Jason Pritchard, Co-Founder, PriCor Technologies, Seattle.
That’s the million-dollar question, right? How does the supplier/contractor relationship make each other better at his/her jobs, and contribute to the overall company mission? Throw in the manufacturer here too, for that matter. Some of the fundamental tenets for strengthening that relationship—that were discussed at the general session—included collaboration, value distribution services, availability, technology and training, and expectations.
Can’t We Just Get Along?
InSinkErator’s Grim asked about the value of working together, and Poehling-Seymour stressed that collaboration is critical in this relationship. “We must understand the pain points and what is working and what isn’t.”
And with that comes better communication. “We are in a relationship industry where communication is imperative,” said Pritchard. If that means paying a bit more for that stronger relationship, then so be it, intimated Pritchard.
Callies echoed this but stressed right communication over more communication. The common thought is “wide equals pricing and deep equals relationships,” said Callies.
So, let’s go deep as an industry. When asked what the landscape is going to look like in five-to-10 years for the contractor/wholesaler/manufacturer, people, processes and services matter. Through trust and preferences, “Relationships are going to matter more,” said Pritchard.
What about expectations? “We want to be around for another 10-20 years,” said Robertson. “We want to see contractor loyalty in the channel,” continued Robertson. “And that means a loyalty to the wholesaler in your particular market.”
Let’s not avoid the 800-lb. gorilla in the room. With contractor loyalty, comes availability and pricing. For Robertson, inventory presence is critical so much so that Robertson Supply holds inventory for approximately 100-125 days. “Listen, we don’t make or install anything so we better be damn good at inventory management,” said Robertson.
Value distribution services ties right in here, “It’s about right product, right time, right price,” said Poehling-Seymour. “Be that added value family.”
It’s imperative for these brick-and-mortar supply houses to stay on top of the latest trends and technology. “The key to survival is to stay progressive and current,” said Robertson. Upon further self-reflection, “how do we make it easier to find product?” asked Robertson. “This includes being totally integrated with our contractor partners and researching and developing a technology that contractors will use.”
Poehling-Seymour added that First Supply LLC institutes “customer councils” to continuously get a pulse of the customer. “We try to make sense of the noise,” said Poehling- Seymour. “Where is critical mass in that noise so we can make the right decisions?”
Unless you’ve been riding under a technology rock, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has dominated the talk in most every corner of the tech universe, and it has crept into the PHVAC industry as well. While artificial intelligence, in and of itself, can sound scary and intimidating, according to Poehling-Seymour, “AI has real application in the industry purchasing and predictability.”
For suppliers, it’s imperative to keep all “moving-forward” options available, as Robertson suggests. This includes, and nothing new and earth shattering in our industry, maximizing e-commerce when necessary. “E-commerce presents the right tools at your fingertips,” said Poehling-Seymour. Robertson adds that for his company, online ordering represents 20% volume. Other tech advancements, which included the use of QR codes to streamline processes and online training, were mentioned.
InSinkErator’s Grim offered that in today’s business landscape, there is more need for training.
In fact, says Grim, PHCC members ask for training and education now more than ever. “With evolution and advancement comes training and education,” said Callies. Doubling down on this, Poehling-Seymour stated that First Supply opened a training center and offers a variety of training through streaming content.
Callies suggests that people still are the cogs in the wheel that makes this industry run, “Digital when you can, verbal when you must.” Pritchard and Poehler-Seymour agree, saying that people and the process are key through direct communication, and that includes all members of the channel—contractors, manufacturers, all the way down to the inside and outside sales, drivers, dispatchers, etc. within each organization.
So, let’s go back to the original question: How do we all make each other look like rock stars? Consuming all of the above, and, quite simply, “look for successes and build on them,” said Callies.
This article originally ran in PHCC’s Solutions magazine. You can learn more about the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors (PHCC) Association at www.phccweb.org.
“It’s like Disney World for engineers and contractors,” said one visitor on the tour. The Mechanical Hub team made a quick visit to Apple Valley, Minn., to visit Uponor North America as the company celebrated the grand opening of its newly constructed Uponor Experience Center with a “pipe-cutting” ceremony. The team was treated to a Read more
“It’s like Disney World for engineers and contractors,” said one visitor on the tour. The Mechanical Hub team made a quick visit to Apple Valley, Minn., to visit Uponor North America as the company celebrated the grand opening of its newly constructed Uponor Experience Center with a “pipe-cutting” ceremony.
The team was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the new 4,500-sq.-ft. customer experience center, which features hands-on displays, full-scale residential and commercial training areas, and cutting-edge innovation showcases, and a place to bring MEP students from the area to get a taste of the trades. The new Uponor Experience Center is a flexible education and discovery space designed to advance the technical skills of current and potential customers. In addition, it will help foster innovation within the plumbing and HVAC industry and provide an immersive experience for employees and visitors alike.
The new Uponor Experience Center occupies the company’s previous customer training area, which was originally built in 2000 and renovated in 2010. It is at the center of the North American headquarters campus, surrounded by corporate offices, an R&D facility, and manufacturing space.
“The opening of our new Uponor Experience Center signifies the importance we place on keeping the needs of our customers, employees, and key stakeholders top of mind as we continue our mission of becoming the global leader in sustainable water and energy solutions,” says Uponor North America President Andres Caballero. “The ‘X’, as our employees have begun to call it, is a culmination of our rich history and decades of innovation coming together to generate awareness and create enthusiasm for moving water more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably.”
With original concepts beginning back in 2020, the Uponor Experience Center was several years in the making. The thoughtful design, which takes into consideration the company’s rich Finnish roots, resulted from many months of internal team collaboration, as well as feedback from customers, partners, and industry influencers.
As guests move through the front doors toward the back of the space, they first experience displays depicting who Uponor is as a company along with the customers served and the unique value provided to key audiences and the industry.
Then, there are product showcases and interactive displays for plumbing, fire safety, radiant heating/cooling, hydronic piping, and pre-insulated piping system solutions for residential and commercial markets. Finally, there is an oversized training area, featuring both wood and steel structures, where professionals will learn proper hands-on installation techniques as well as how Uponor’s emphasis on problem-solving and productivity delivers results for their businesses.
“We wanted the Uponor Experience Center to extend beyond simply training customers on our products and systems,” says Vice President of Sales Matt Bahr. “As a result, we’ve created a holistic experience that spans a broad spectrum of who we are as a company, showcasing the depth and breadth of our product portfolio and sustainable solutions as well as providing access to the best trainers in the industry.”
With the focus not only on customers but also employees and those in the community, Director of Training Des Clancy says the planning team was very thoughtful about creating an elevated experience for everyone.
“At any given time, we will have contractors, builders, engineers, owners, students, employees, civic leaders, and other guests coming through the doors,” he says. “From tours and training, to onboarding and education sessions, the Uponor Experience Center offers something for everyone, and we are proud to showcase all we are offering to the industry and our community.”
In today’s fast-paced world, leveraging the power of online resources is essential for the success of any plumbing contractor. Ferguson.com is that resource. As a busy service contractor, time is of the essence. When I plan out my busy week schedule, resource efficiencies are at a premium, and that includes stocking my truck adequately. Moreover Read more
In today’s fast-paced world, leveraging the power of online resources is essential for the success of any plumbing contractor. Ferguson.com is that resource.
As a busy service contractor, time is of the essence. When I plan out my busy week schedule, resource efficiencies are at a premium, and that includes stocking my truck adequately. Moreover, running a successful plumbing business requires access to quality products, reliable suppliers, and expert advice. In today’s digital age, having a robust online platform can significantly streamline your operations and contribute to your business’s growth.
In today’s post-COVID world, especially dealing with disruptive supply chain issues, it almost goes without saying; you can never have too much inventory on the truck or back at the shop. That’s why I rely on Ferguson.com, a comprehensive website that has plumbing contractor-specific resources available, all of which are literally just a click away. And that click provides real-time stock and pricing of more than 200,000 HVAC and plumbing products; I can see what’s in stock and my contract pricing.
My plumbing business relies on my wholesaler to carry a vast range of top-quality products from leading brands, and I trust Ferguson to provide those trusted, reliable, and durable solutions. Whether I’m looking for pipes, fittings, valves, fixtures, boiler parts or specialty items, I look to Ferguson.com.
Some really helpful features include “My Lists.” I am able to customize the order process with just a few clicks, instead of individually searching for the products I purchase regularly and organizing lists of the products I want. This ultimately has saved me time and has helped to streamline my ordering process. Ferguson.com even gives me the ability to share those lists I’ve created and keeps products I purchase under the “Bought Often” tab, which is automatically updated monthly.
The Quick Tools feature is a shortcut that makes it easy for trade professionals to quickly access other popular site features. It gives me the quick ability to order, reorder, find an order, or turn existing quotes into orders, all in one place. In some cases, I can even order online and have the order ready in an hour with Pro Pick-Up 1 Hour (at locations where Pro Pick-Up 1 Hour is available).
While traditional brick-and-mortar purchasing is still a viable wholesale solution, with Ferguson.com, I can gain access to a seamless and convenient online ordering system. This allows me to browse through products, check availability, compare prices, and place orders anytime, from anywhere. By simplifying the procurement process, Ferguson.com saves valuable time and effort, enabling me to focus on serving my customers better.
Furthermore, as a plumbing contractor, staying up to date with the latest industry trends and techniques is crucial. Ferguson.com offers a wealth of resources and expert advice to help me stay ahead of the curve. From informative articles and how-to guides to videos and product demonstrations, the website serves as a knowledge hub for plumbing professionals. Leveraging this wealth of information can enhance one’s expertise, expand a skill set, and ultimately elevate one’s business.
Sometimes I need to know what was on an order or the last time I bought a certain product. I’m able to find all of that online and end any confusion about my orders. If I need to see the status of an order, I can see it on my Ferguson Dashboard or Orders, and even get the proof of delivery. (Proof of delivery may not be available depending on how the order shipped or if it was signed for.)
Ferguson understands the importance of competitive pricing for plumbing contractors. By signing up for a Ferguson.com account, one can unlock access to exclusive contractor pricing on a wide range of products. This ensures that I can offer my customers competitive rates while maintaining healthy profit margins for my business. The savings one can achieve through Ferguson.com can significantly impact your bottom line and give you a competitive edge in the market.
It’s pretty simple, really. Creating an account on Ferguson.com provides plumbing contractors with a range of powerful tools to manage their business efficiently. By logging in, one can track his or her order history, access invoices, and manage one’s account settings, all in one centralized location. This streamlined account management feature eliminates the need for tedious paperwork and enables one to stay organized and in control.
What’s also cool about the site is that I can enroll for the free PRO Plus™ program. After I enrolled in this program, I now earn one point for every dollar I spent online. I can then redeem those points for cool prizes and earn Bonus Points faster by purchasing featured products. PRO Plus™ customers are also eligible for discounts with select businesses.
Ferguson.com boasts an extensive inventory of plumbing products, tools, and supplies, as well as expert advice and efficient account management, making it a one-stop solution for all of my business needs. By utilizing the features and capabilities of Ferguson.com, I can streamline my operations, relieve operational stress, and propel my business toward greater success. Sign up today and unlock a world of opportunities for your plumbing contracting business with Ferguson.com.
Are you happy in your current industry? You’re not alone if you don’t feel content with it. You want to be able to give your job your all but if you are finding yourself needing, craving something different, then you might consider starting a trade. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career right Read more
Are you happy in your current industry? You’re not alone if you don’t feel content with it. You want to be able to give your job your all but if you are finding yourself needing, craving something different, then you might consider starting a trade. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career right now, because learning a trade and starting your own business can and will make a big difference to your future.
Finding the right information about starting your own business often starts with running some research and statistics on small business success. There is a lot to learn about going it alone but that doesn’t have to be too difficult. The Lendio small business statistics list is always better to understand when you have a goal you want to aim for, and the infographic below can talk you through some of the things that you need to know!
Infographic Design By Lendio
Consistently through the years, Plumbing Manufacturers International has fulfilled its vision of “safe, responsible plumbing – always.” But now, “we recognize we’re at a time when our social contract is being extended into areas such as climate change mitigation and diversity, equity and inclusion,” PMI CEO/Executive Director Kerry Stackpole states. “A Plumbing Manufacturing Evolution,” the PMI Read more
Consistently through the years, Plumbing Manufacturers International has fulfilled its vision of “safe, responsible plumbing – always.” But now, “we recognize we’re at a time when our social contract is being extended into areas such as climate change mitigation and diversity, equity and inclusion,” PMI CEO/Executive Director Kerry Stackpole states.
“A Plumbing Manufacturing Evolution,” the PMI 2022 Annual Report, explores how PMI member companies are responding to new societal demands while remaining profitable and meeting the needs of customers.
Running through the report are examples of how PMI member companies are striving to become “net positive” by improving the well-being of everyone they affect – every product, operation and stakeholder, including future generations and the planet itself. The term “net positive” was coined by co-authors Paul Polman and Andrew Winston in their book, “Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take.”
In their letter for the report, PMI leaders Martin Knieps, 2022 Board of Directors president, and Todd Teter, immediate past president, say that even before the term “net positive” was coined, “PMI has worked to find solutions benefiting all water system stakeholders. PMI has always understood that the value of a toilet, showerhead or faucet is only as high as the quality of the water conveyed by it. As a result, PMI has always worked with the health and safety of water consumers in mind, knowing that their best interests are the same as ours.”
Report focuses on sustainability, supply chain and workplace
The report’s three main stories cover how PMI member companies are creating opportunities through their responses to challenges relating to sustainability and waste reduction, supply chain, and workplace and labor. Read the entire report at https://www.safeplumbing.org/communications/pmi-annual-report-2022.