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For any small business, creating a pipeline for growth and investing in the development of employees’ skills is paramount to success. Fostering a culture of continuous learning and professional growth attracts top talent and cultivates a motivated, engaged workforce. It also leads to the next generation of leaders for the company.

Wallingford, Connecticut-based Davenport Associates has done a phenomenal job at both these key strategies. The current third-generation rep agency owners are fairly young, yet already have the fourth generation succession plan in place. The rep agency’s proactive approach to talent development and succession planning have earned the company accolades as Plumbing & Mechanical’s 2024 Manufacturers’ Rep of the Year.

The back story

Davenport Associates was founded in 1966 by Bob Davenport. A regional sales manager from Fiat had told Bob Davenport to start his own rep agency and they would give him their line, so he did. Starting with just two employees, Davenport’s first ‘true’ line was Charlotte Pipe & Foundry, which put Davenport on the map as a viable rep agency in the state of Connecticut.

Today, the firm is run by his two grandsons, Ryan Davenport, 49, and Dan Davenport, 47, both principals in the company. Covering New England and upstate New York in the plumbing, heating, industrial and waterworks market segments, Davenport has grown to 60 employees with 18 lines.

“I started by working weekends in our warehouse as a kid but I got my real start by working in Charlotte Pipe’s foundry after I graduated from Boston College,” Ryan Davenport says. “Working in the foundry made me realize, as a 22-year-old, that our company’s efforts meant jobs for our partner’s employees. Dan also began his career in our pipe yard as a kid and joined Davenport Associates one year after me. He immediately got Davenport into vendor-managed inventory and barcoding and fundamentally changed the way we went to market from a logistics standpoint.”

Ryan Davenport notes that the firm’s mission is to drive growth for its manufacturer partners, increasing market share and protecting the brands. Davenport upholds the highest standards of ethics and integrity and offers comprehensive sales, marketing and services throughout the supply chain. The rep agency’s growth plan is based on winning market share in one territory and replicating that success in new areas.

Davenport Associates front office

Davenport Associates was founded in 1966 by Bob Davenport.

Phil Reid, 31, and Ken Reid, 33, also principals at Davenport, make up the other half of the leadership team. The Reid brothers will eventually succeed Ryan and Dan Davenport as part of the agency’s succession plan to ensure market continuity for its manufacturers and customers.

“I’ve worked for Davenport Associates ever since I graduated from Providence College in 2015,” Phil Reid says. “Dan and I each ran track at Providence College. The coach he had in 1998, Ray Tracey, also coached me in 2015. A few months before my graduation, Ray arranged for Dan and I to have dinner. It was obvious early on in our discussion that we had a lot in common. I accepted the job offer before the end of the meal on a handshake and the rest is history.”

Meanwhile, Ken Reid had spent his entire professional career in the financial industry working at a private bank, Brown Brothers Harriman. “I was working at their New York City office when Phil brought up the idea of leaving the financial world altogether and getting into the rep industry. I really had no idea what a manufacturers’ rep was at the time, but I knew that working with my brother would be an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I quit my job shortly after, moved my girlfriend at the time, now wife, up to Boston and jumped in feet first.”

Phil Reid points to Davenport’s commercial process as the backbone to its success.

“Job quoting by an inside sales associate and follow-up by an outside sales associate are things that all reps do, but few consistently do well,” he notes. “The reason being is it’s incredibly hard to get in front of the right decision maker, at the right time, with the right set of questions. Through our process, each salesperson maintains a personal pipeline of the major projects in their market, and they use that pipeline as a sniper to help navigate the supply chain as effectively as possible. We are able to glean accurate ‘win-loss’ ratios by manufacturer, analyze and reset market pricing when need be and build future forecasts based off real-time data.”

A caring family atmosphere

Davenport continuously invests in technology, infrastructure, and, most importantly, its team culture to stay ahead in a dynamic marketplace.

“Our culture is based on four pillars — communication, 100% effort, consistency and teamwork,” says Jeff Laconte, Davenport’s general manager who has worked at the frim for 28 years. “These principles help shape our company’s commitment to the personal and professional growth with our employees and customers alike.”

Davenport Associates logo

Laconte notes that the Davenports’ dedication to the future of the company is why he made the decision to join the firm in the first place — something he is thankful for every day.

“They are dedicated, compassionate people who ensure we have the resources to do our jobs as efficiently as possible,” he says. “Our leadership leads by example and are dedicated to serving our manufacturers, customers and most importantly our employees. Leadership are friends and family at Davenport, not just a suit you never interact with. The family-like atmosphere means we all have each other backs and share a common goal to be the best at what we do.”

LaToya Felton, inside sales, is also a 28-year veteran of Davenport Associates. Her mother was an employee, and when the firm needed clerical help in the late 1990s, she was hired part time while she was still in high school.

“There was so much more paperwork and steps compared to how we work today,” she reflects. “The thing I love most about Davenport is working with our customers. Who doesn’t like to laugh and smile while at work? We have dedicated, hardworking wholesalers and I truly enjoy helping them solve the challenges they face. After so many years, I know them so well. Our leadership supports the team by giving us the autonomy to take on challenges without micromanaging us. However, they are there to give us support if things ever go sideways. It means a lot to know they are in our court. Watching and being part of Davenport’s growth make me proud to say I work here.”

Steve Lally, vice president of sales, was hired by Davenport to help develop its showroom division 19 years ago.

“Opinions and efforts are valued as part of a team,” he says about Davenport. “Employees are able to help shape the direction of the company, and my contribution is important for the lives, security, and success of our employees and their families. The employees are a reflection of the management team. The owners are respected and lead by example and you can see that reflected throughout the entire company.”

Kevin Southwood, warehouse manager, was another employee who joined the firm thanks to a family member. His father-in-law was brought on board in the mid-1990s and pulled some strings to get him a job as well.

“Being a family-owned company, the culture of family is an important part for all employees and carries through over into the office,” Southwood explains. “Our leadership is eager to help in any situation, business or personal. Overall, it’s been a great experience to work for Ryan and Dan, and they have brought in some decent folks along the way, including my son who now works outside sales. Even though we’ve grown a lot over my time here, we are truly a family company.”

Dave Kane, inside sales at Davenport met Ryan Davenport running the Boston Marathon seven years ago. The very next week, he met with Dan Davenport and accepted a position with the firm.

“I knew Dan from Bender Plumbing Supply, and I always thought Davenport would be a good fit for me,” he says. “We seemed to be like-minded, often chatting about running, cycling and what shorts are the best for carrying nutrition on long runs! The company culture is vibrant and energetic, for sure. It’s friendly and motivating, and we have strong values and ethics. I love the relaxed atmosphere and the casual dress, too — verifying you can be as productive in Jeans and a T-Shirt, as you can with a shirt and tie. If not more! The inside team asked for a basic treadmill to get us through the winter months, and we got a full-on fitness center built with both a Peloton tread and bike, etc. Our management team really cares about our happiness and well-being.”

Davenport Associates warehouse product distribution center

Davenport Associates offers unparalleled convenience through its capability to warehouse and distribute products with next-day service.

Though Courtney Matrix was hired in outside sales only a year ago, her story shows the dedication and commitment Davenport has to its employees and genuine connections. Matrix was hired after graduating college last year — she was impressed by the team’s sincere interest in her well-being during the interview process, which is one of the reasons she accepted the position and moved from Arizona to New York.

“When my company car was vandalized by a gas thief, resulting in a damaged gas tank, Davenport promptly covered the rental car and repair expenses,” she says. “However, what truly touched me was their additional offer to assist with my apartment relocation. They did not just show their financial support but showed genuine concern demonstrated by several team members who regularly checked in on me, ensuring my safety and peace of mind. Reflecting on this experience, along with many others like it, I'm continually impressed by the level of care within this team and the company. It speaks volumes about Davenport's culture, leadership, and sincere commitment to its employees' welfare.”

Commitment to the next generation

Davenport often recruits and hires college athletes, according to Ryan Davenport.

“We find them to be competitive, teamwork-centric, and goal-oriented,” he says. “We spend a lot of time, effort and money on our company culture which is based around our company’s four pillars of: teamwork, 100% effort, communication and consistency.”

Davenport accomplishes this by offering internships to college athletes from a number of local and regional colleges.

“We built a new headquarters with a modern, open office that is attractive to younger hires and promotes our pillars of teamwork and communication,” Ryan Davenport adds. “But what really sets us apart in the hiring process is our company culture.”

Phil Reid notes the younger generation tends to get turned off by the idea of working in the plumbing industry.

“That is until they come in and see what we actually do on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “In the last two years alone, we have hired seven people under the age of 29 with our next generation of ownership only just over 30. This sets us up for the next 50 years.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Davenport sets its employees up for success through training.

“We provide a lot of product-specific training for our employees,” Ryan Davenport says. “This enables us to ramp up new employees and educate employees so they can then, in turn, provide training to our customers. We also invest in sales training like CSP and CPMR for our employees. We see these investments as important to our company’s marketplace effectiveness and provide a path for our employees for growth. Bradford White and T&S both recently co-oped an outsourced sales training for our employees which focused on sales techniques rather than products. It was excellent.”

Phil Reid adds that training is essential for employees in this day and age.

“Especially when the influx of new hires is coming from outside the industry, with very little product knowledge,” he says. “We rely heavily on our manufacturing partners to train our new employees. Either at their centers, or at our at our state-of-the-art training facility in Connecticut. We then work to create the space for them to make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes! We stand behind our people and maintain a long-term view of the role they will play in Davenport’s ultimate success.”


In addition to focusing on employee growth, development and well-being, Davenport also prioritizes forming lasting relationships within the industry. For example, Davenport Associates has represented Charlotte Pipe & Foundry for over 50 years.

“They’re an extremely professional organization, and they are fun to be around,” says Roddey Dowd III, vice president of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, regarding the rep firm. “They are very effective at what they do. They’re just good, hardworking and trustworthy people.”

Dowd notes one of the things he likes most about Davenport is its focus on talent development.

“They focus on getting the right people in the right place, and having a strong culture and strong team mindset sets them apart,” he says. “It doesn’t hurt they have high-quality manufacturers they work with, either. I think manufacturers gravitate toward them because they have a strong talent base and they’ve done a good job in succession planning across the organization.

Employee loading a truck
Trophy case

In addition to focusing on employee growth, development and well-being, Davenport also prioritizes forming lasting relationships within the industry.

“They’re just good folks,” Dowd adds. “We really enjoy working with them and hope to keep it going for another 50 years! I’m excited they won this award.”

Morris Group International (MGI), which includes brands such as Jay R Smith, Acorn Engineering and Murdock Manufacturing, has been working with the Davenport team for over a year, according to Barrett Morris, president of Acorn Eng. Co. & Jay R. Smith Mfg. Co.

“What I appreciate most about working with Davenport is their shared values,” Morris says. “Like us, they care about their customers, and it shows in their level of service. They have a distinct way of tracking projects from their inception, allowing them to anticipate their customers' needs. It is this level of planning that fuels their ability to deliver. With their Shamrock Express delivery trucks making weekly rounds, they have become really good at getting the right stuff at the right times to our customers.”

Though MGI has a wide variety of brands, the Davenport team has quickly become the territory experts on its products, often conducting regular training with customers, Morris adds.

“What sets them apart from other reps is the way they embrace technology,” he says. “They have built unique tools to help customers better understand our products. Some of the tools have become so useful there are plans to deploy nationwide. MGI is excited to be partnered with such a dynamic and capable team.”

Kevin Walsh, COO for Canton, Massachusetts-based EM Duggan, has worked with Davenport for over 37 years.

“Ryan and Dan have taken their family business to the next level,” he says. “Davenport only represents quality products. My team at EM Duggan greatly appreciates working with the Davenport team of experts — they are educated in their product lines, and it is demonstrated on a regular basis. They can provide timely information with a knowledge and understanding of product application. They help solve problems.

“Operating a family business and keeping an eye on the future is a difficult task,” Walsh continues. “Knowing where you are going is crucial to future success for any organization and the people that rely on you. Ryan and Dan, with the addition of Phil and Ken Reid, have already set a course for success. Davenport Associates sets a gold standard for the representation of quality products in New England. They are a pleasure to do business with. Congratulations to them for being recognized as 2024 Manufacturers’ Rep of the year, well deserved!”

Daniel Bent, executive vice president of American Plumbing & Heating Corporation in Norwell, Massachusetts, has worked with the rep firm for over 40 years.

“Davenport is a hands-on rep that is always there to take your calls and get you the answers you need,” he says. “Davenport supports us with information in regards to products they represent, in addition, keeps us updated on any new products, lead times, production issues and future cost increases. They are a family-owned business that treats everyone like family, they truly care about the plumbing industry and not just one project or one sale.”

Bent adds that Davenport has also always supported the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association, often sponsoring fundraising events, which helps give back to the community and supports the youth. “The GBPCA gives scholarships to college-bound children of the women and men working for our contractors. This year our association is giving out over $70,000 because of generous supporters like Davenport. Davenport is a great rep and does an incredible job supporting us.”

What’s next

Ryan Davenport views the greatest challenge to the manufacturers’ rep business to be the consolidation of wholesalers, contractors and manufacturers.

“As our customers and manufacturers expand, the demands on the rep agency increase,” he says. “The days of being just an outsourced sales force are gone. The rep of the future is able to manage sales, distribution and warehousing, in addition to social media, digital marketing, job tracking, specification and can provide real-time sales analytics and forecasting for their manufacturer partners. Sales is much more ‘pull through’ than ‘push’ across a much broader territory than it was 20 years ago. The modern agency needs the size and resources to manage these demands and the relationships to manage a sales process that might sprawl beyond a given territory.”

The principles of Davenport Associates. From left to right: Phil Reid, Dan Davenport, Ryan Davenport and Ken Reid.

The principles of Davenport Associates. From left to right: Phil Reid, Dan Davenport, Ryan Davenport and Ken Reid.

He fully expects consolidation within the industry to continue.

“We’re seeing Home Depot make forays into our ‘professional’ segment of the industry,” Ryan Davenport says. “Lowes needs a path to grow. When Amazon bought WholeFoods, it awakened a lot of our industry to the fact that eventually, they will be a player in professional plumbing and heating. No industry is safe from them. All of these mega-companies seek to commoditize the products they sell. Amazon actually states that providing the lowest possible cost is part of their value proposition and in order to do this, these companies devalue brand names. This makes the rep agency the guardian of the brand. Our job is to ensure customers ask for our products by brand name and to drive sales for our brands back to our partner distributors.”

As to what’s next for Davenport Associates, Ryan Davenport points to the fact the firm has already begun the transition to its next generation, Phil and Ken Reid.

“It’s important to have a clear succession plan so that the company can do effective long-term planning,” he says. “Our succession plan allows for the company to continue to make the necessary investments in technology, real estate and people. Rushed succession planning or forced buy-outs put a financial burden on an agency that inhibits investment. We have a number of long-term goals but we expect to double our revenue over the next five years.”

Phil Reid notes that the mergers and acquisitions market of the last few years has taught him the future cannot be predicted.

“We have worked extremely hard not to allow changes in the market to dictate how we operate as a company, and I see that continuing,” he says. “What’s in the best interest for Davenport, and our people, is partnering with quality manufacturers and maintaining a focus on best-in-class service for our customers. If we can do those two things better than anyone, the rest will take care of itself.”

He adds that as a manufacturers’ rep, you never know what’s in store, but the fluidity of the work is something Davenport thrives on.

“You can build a structured plan for your week and set goals, but when that phone starts ringing and you get pulled in multiple directions, it’s important to reprioritize your expectations and find the best path forward,” Phil Reid says. “You find very quickly that unlike other industries, at the core of repping, all that really matters is your relationships. Once you realize that, the hysteria that is a day in the life of a rep falls into place.”

Ryan Davenport adds that the people of this industry are his favorite thing. “Some of my best friends in life are manufacturers, wholesalers and contractors. I am truly lucky to call these men and women friends first and customers/partners second. When I retire from the industry, I’ll be friends with these people for the rest of my life.”