Winsupply Chief Operating Officer Monte Salsman talked at length during the distributor’s recent Strategic Planning Meetings & Vendor Showcase in Nashville, Tennessee, about the successful Mastery Academy training program he developed.
Thus far, 41 Winsupply local company owners have completed the high-level management training program that centers around five practices that are common to who Salsman calls “the best.”
That quintet starts with ownership. “The best take ownership of themselves, of their attitude, their habits and results,” he told attendees of the company’s general session in Nashville. “They don’t complain.”
The second practice deals with expertise, particularly when it comes to product knowledge. “The best know how to develop expertise,” Salsman said. “The best know that becoming the best is not an accident and is the result of a daily workman-like approach and studying every day. And once they master one product, they pick a second and a third.”
When talking about the third practice of fostering relationships, Salsman said: “The best own relationships with their customers, employees and vendors. The best have a specific set of steps to take a relationship from a stranger to a top customer to a personal friend.”
The fourth practice centers on financial success. “The best get paid what they are worth,” Salsman said. “The best know they have value and demand to be paid for it. They are not price-cutters but are not price-gougers. They make sure everybody makes money from vendors and customers to themselves.”
Salsman said the most important skill of the five is mastering the communication piece. “Communication is the most important skill in business and leadership,” he said. “The best invest in mastering communication. Communication gives power to the other four practices and pays off big.”
All systems go
Winsupply continues to thrive in its marketplaces as evidenced by the Dayton, Ohio-based company revealing an 8.1% increase in sales for fiscal 2017 to $3.2 billion. Winsupply has about 600 local companies across the country.
“We attribute the growth to an increase of same-store sales and a little bit with acquisitions,” Winsupply President and CEO Roland Gordon said during a one-hour briefing with national media members in Nashville.
Salsman, who added the company is off to another strong start based on data from the first two months of 2018, revealed the company dispersed $82 million in profit sharing to its local companies. “We do that through a dogged defense of the entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “We raise our game by being different on purpose.”
In fiscal 2017, Winsupply opened 11 new locations and acquired five companies. Winsupply Vice President of Finance Ward Allen noted three of the acquisitions came in the last 45 days of the fiscal year and totaled around $80-90 million in annualized sales. The five acquisitions did about $139 annualized, Allen noted. Two of the companies, Allen said, were purchased from private equity — the first time that’s happened in Winsupply history.
Allen said the company remains in acquisition mode. “We probably have a backlog of six or seven companies we currently are working with,” he said. “We’ve completed due diligence on one company in the Northeast that we are excited about and there is another one with several locations in the south. There was a lot of forward motion last year and it seems to be gaining this year.”
Winsupply also reported continued success with a number of key services it offers its local companies. In addition to forward momentum with its internal pricing company, the distributor’s Stock 360 managed inventory program continues to snowball.
“We saw industry competition out there attacking customers,” Winsupply Chief Technology Officer Jeff Dana said. “We needed to find a solution that adds value for our customers. Our customers asked for this. We are getting product in there and driving about 25% of labor hours out of the customer, which allows them to keep their technicians in the field. Two years ago, operations identified this as the No. 1 priority. Local companies rave about it.”
Brian Henderson, who drives the Stock 360 program for Winsupply, reported during the general session that an Alabama customer has saved about 30% on total inventory value by implementing the program. “He’s adding $300,000-$400,000 back to his bottom line,” he said. “The competition can’t match that. Local Winsupply companies who have put Stock 360 into play with customers have increased gross-margin dollars by 35%. It’s a huge win for all of us.”
Winsupply also is the midst of rolling out an expansive new e-commerce platform that replaces the company’s current offering. “The demand for this from customers has gone from a rumble to a roar,” Winsupply Chief Marketing Officer Steve Edwards said. “We’re hearing from customers they want that 24-7 access and they want to check on price and availability and access to products. Anybody can put up a website, but you must have content that is valuable. You have to create unique and personalized information.”
Edwards said Ft. Collins Winlectric is the first local company to test out the new e-commerce platform and more local companies are in the midst of going online as part of a 50-company pilot program.
Looking at the future, Gordon has big plans for Winsupply. “By 2028 we’re hopefully at $5 billion in sales and still going strong with 1,000 local companies,” he said. “We want to continue to grow.”
Edwards added: “We have to make sure we stay true to our model and philosophy and make sure our younger generation of leaders are well-engrained and have that philosophy instilled in them.”
During the company’s annual awards dinner attended by more than 1,400 guests, Santa Fe Springs (California) Winwater was named company of the year. NIBCO (rough-in plumbing), A. O. Smith (finished plumbing), MTI (plumbing showrooms), A.Y. McDonald (waterworks), United Pipe & Steel (industrial), Liberty Pumps (pumps), Spears (fire protection) and Milwaukee Tool (tools) earned vendor of the year honors in their respective categories. Oatey’s Bob Bender was named national account manager of the year.