Bob Hoff, who recently retired as Omni’s longtime president, recalls one of the buying group’s first meetings under his auspices. “It was called ‘Winds of Change,’” he says.
Some three-plus decades later the winds of change are again upon Omni in an extremely positive way. The group’s recent Spring Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, featured a retirement tribute to Hoff during the general session that also acted as a symbolic passing of the torch to new president and longtime industry executive John Aykroyd.
Hoff said he will remain with Omni through the end of the year and then will take on a consulting role with the group. “This is a bittersweet time in my life,” he told me during lunch in San Antonio. “I’m used to doing this. It’s like tying your shoelaces in the morning and now you are putting on loafers. It’s been 33 years here and 43 years in the industry and I love it to death. But it’s time to move on. I want to smell the roses along the way.”
Under his leadership Omni has grown into a PHCP buying group that has significant membership, a strong vendor partner roster and annual group purchases into 10 figures.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done here,” Hoff says. “Omni has grown and we’ve impacted our members. We’ve helped level the playing field for them and that’s important especially in times when those margins have been slim. We were successful in the early years before everybody was predominantly affiliated with a buying group and if you’re not in one now, you should be.
One of the key factors in our expansion is our participation models. When we went member-owned in 1993 and implemented participation policies, members paid more attention to what they bought and specifically what they bought through Omni.”
Plumbing & Heating Wholesale is one of those companies that has benefited from its Omni association. “We were given an opportunity to join as a small Silver-level (one rung on Omni’s FBI member participation system) distributor that worked to grow within the group so we could achieve and benefit from Platinum (highest level) member status,” Plumbing & Heating Wholesale CEO Mike Plasier says. “We are forever grateful for that opportunity. Bob’s vision and leadership has led to many stories like ours and will continue as John Aykroyd builds on Bob’s and Omni’s success. Bob has displayed commitment and respect for the independent distribution channel.”
Frank Marchese, CEO of New Jersey-based Atlantic Plumbing Supply, has equally high praise for Hoff. “Bob helped companies like Atlantic Plumbing Supply secure industry relationships, making both member and vendor partnerships we could not have accomplished without his help and leadership,” he says. “I have learned a lot from Bob and will be forever thankful for the work he has done in Omni for all our members and vendors alike.”
Hoff’s wife, Linda, the executive director of Luxury Products Group, Omni’s luxury bath and kitchen arm, says one key to her husband’s longtime success has been his affable personality.
“It’s how genuine he is,” she says. “Bob truly cares about the people in this group. He wants everybody to be successful whether it’s members, vendors or our staff members. I’ve been here 35 years, Harvey Wasserman has been here close to 30 years and Ann Travarca will be here 22 years in August. That shows you what kind of person Bob is to work for.”
Aykroyd, who has hit the ground running since beginning president duties last year, says one of the main reasons he made the tough call to leave Sloan Valve after a decade and come to Omni was because of the family atmosphere the group exudes.
“When I left Sloan, it was extremely difficult,” he says. “Sloan is a family-run organization and Bob has created the same thing here — a family atmosphere. Part of his legacy that I want to continue on here is maintaining that family atmosphere in Omni.”
Marchese adds: “Bob helped us all grow together.”
And with Hoff’s foundation in place and Aykroyd’s leadership and vision for the future, Omni has plenty to look forward to.
This article was originally titled “One big family” in the March 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.