Plumbing & Mechanical in late July interviewed Lloyd Coppedge, president and CEO of Wolverine Brass. Coppedge came to Wolverine Brass as president in 1987.
PM: What’s your outlook for the plumbing industry for the rest of this year and in 2013?
LC: Although Wolverine Brass has been growing for almost two years, we are still assuming a relatively flat overall plumbing marketplace through 2013. We’re fortunate in that we sell only to professional plumbing contractors across the United States. Our relationship with professional plumbers has remained a good way to go to market even in difficult times.
PM: What can contractors expect to see from Wolverine Brass the rest of this year and in 2013?
LC: We have significantly increased our product offering and will continue to broaden our line. We will maintain the quality standards that our company is known for. Our delivery performance is excellent and we expect that to continue as well.
PM: Why does Wolverine Brass play such an active role in Quality Service Contractors, Nexstar Network, Plumbers’ Success International and other industry groups?
LC: Our customer is the professional plumber. We try to stay as close as we can to our customers. We try to get as much input from them as we can. The groups you named and others are part of the process because the folks in those associations are our customers. Our support of these groups is part of our business model. Our involvement gives us a great chance to listen.
PM: Do you plan any changes in your nationwide sales force?
LC: We currently have a sales force of about 85 men and women scattered across the United States. We plan to bring that up to 90 by the end of 2013. Our goal is to continue to be a company that has qualified, factory-trained sales personnel in the field calling directly on professional plumbers.
PM: How is Wolverine Brass growing the toilet side of its business?
LC: Wolverine Brass began selling a new toilet at the end of last year, which was our first venture into the china side of the business. It’s a 1.28 gpf water-saving model. We’re very pleased with the response from our customers. We’re developing a second model to introduce at the end of 2012.
PM: What’s been Wolverine Brass’ experience with social media?
LC: For me, it’s too soon to tell but I feel positive about the effect social media will have on our business. Through our Facebook and Twitter accounts we get comments from a number of our customers. That’s especially true for our new product offering. The traffic on Facebook and Twitter is not a great volume currently, but it’s certainly growing.
PM: What sets Wolverine Brass apart from the competition?
LC: Our commitment to the professional plumbing contractor. Starting with the founding of the company in 1896 and continuing through today, we sell exclusively to the contractor. This allows our customers to offer to their customers a high-quality product as an exclusive offering that is not sold to retail. This also allows the contractor to sell a higher-quality product at a higher profit margin.
PM: If you had one piece of advice to give to plumbing contractors, what would it be?
LC: First, I would prefer to get advice from contractors rather than give it to them. However, I would say that, now and in the future, consumers need and will need the professional plumber. I think they’ll need the professional plumber even more in the future than they do today. If I were to give anybody advice, I would say that a professional plumbing contractor today - using high-quality products and installing those products with a trained service representative - has, and will have in the future, a really great business model.