“The two constants in the distribution business always have been how close you are to your manufacturer and how close you are to your end user.”
Joe Clover, COVA Flow Control
On a recent trip to Houston, I spoke with Joe Clover for the first time in probably 15 years. He opened a master distribution business in March to sell industrial pipe, valves and fittings to PVF supply houses across the country. If you’ve been to Houston, you know PVF-related companies are as plentiful there as barbecue joints and steakhouses. The only difference right now is business is better at the restaurants due to the down energy markets.
But Joe is confident his company will succeed because he has been around the distribution business long enough to know you need great relationships either with the manufacturers whose products you sell or with your mutual customers who buy what you’re selling. Best-case scenario is you’re close to both.
Just by coincidence, Plumbing & Mechanical’s 2016 Supply House of the Year — Texas Plumbing Supply — also is based in Houston. What is no coincidence is that Texas Plumbing Supply has built its success on its unswerving focus of staying close to local plumbing contractors.
“Every decision we make is based on one simple question: ‘Would this change help the plumber?’ If the answer is yes, we do it,” co-owner Glenn Fuller says.
One such decision came when Fuller decided not to open a showroom at any of the company’s four locations. TPS pledges to sell only to contractors and not to its customers’ customers, be they homeowners or other end users.
As you can read in Associate Editor Nadia Askar’s feature story on Texas Plumbing Supply in this issue, one local contractor is Mike Wood, president of MTW Pipe Works. “A good supplier is crucial to a successful business,” he says. “Exceptional service along with competitive pricing, great product selection and availability of products make them someone I can count on.”
Another local contractor is Southwest Plumbing’s Vice President Ashik Revdiwala, who says: “With all success there has to be a backbone, and Texas Plumbing Supply has been that for us. Texas Plumbing Supply has always made us feel that we come first.”
Staying close to your customer is easier said than done. TPS does it by training its employees to become product experts who can advise customers on which product would fit a specific application.
TPS stays close to its customers by keeping communication channels open. Fuller and his branch managers’ business cards carry their cell phone numbers so contractors can reach them directly when a need arises. He empowers his branch managers to make the day-to-day, on-the-spot decisions that allow business to flow quickly and seamlessly.
When PM names a Supply House of the Year, we select a company that not only does an exceptional job of serving its customers, but also is a good industry citizen. TPS fills the bill here, too, by getting involved in issues without a direct impact on its bottom line.
Fuller was instrumental in forming Responsible Plumbers and Associates, which five years ago merged with the Texas Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors. Today, Fuller sits on the local chapter board of the Gulf Coast PHCC. Fuller also is an active member of the American Supply Association whose Government Affairs Committee advocates for issues that affect the plumbing industry.
Plumbing contractors today have many options of where to buy product and from whom. It’s in your best interest to stay as close to your suppliers as it is for them to stay close to you.