The consolidation of buying groups continued with the recent announcement that the BLUE HAWK HVACR cooperative was becoming a founding member of IMARK Group. That announcement comes on the heels of last year’s news that Omni Corporate Services, Luxury Products Group and Equity Plumbing were merging into IMARK Group to form IMARK Plumbing.
BNP Media Group Editorial Director Mike Miazga interviewed IMARK Group President Bob Smith and BLUE HAWK CEO Lance Rantala about BLUE HAWK’s recent move into the IMARK Group family.
What led to BLUE HAWK becoming a founding member of IMARK Group? How/why did the discussions start?
Lance Rantala: Shortly after IMARK Group announced that IMARK Electrical and IMARK Plumbing had come together to create a member-owned and member-controlled global distribution network, Bob Smith, IMARK Group’s president, contacted me to see if BLUE HAWK would be interested in becoming a member of IMARK Group as well. I’ve known Bob for over a decade and have often talked about the industry and the importance of cooperation among cooperatives.
What’s does BLUE HAWK’s addition mean to IMARK Group?
Bob Smith: BLUE HAWK is the largest purchasing entity in the HVACR supply chain and its membership in IMARK allows us to participate in this vital industry. BLUE HAWK has 215-plus distributor members with 1440-plus locations in 49 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In combination, IMARK Electrical (850-plus members), IMARK Plumbing (650-plus members) and BLUE HAWK have created the largest member-owned and member-controlled B2B wholesale distributor network in the world with cumulative revenue exceeding $25 billion.
What has spurred the expansion flurry for IMARK Group of late (Omni/LPG, Equity and now BLUE HAWK)?
Bob Smith: In today’s remarkably competitive business climate, economies of scale are paramount to survival. Every industry is faced with aggressive consolidation and new competitive threats. Plus, our groups were founded in the essential principle of cooperation. Hence, the concept of working together in lieu of going it alone makes perfect sense to the founding members of IMARK Group.
How would you describe the current IMARK Group landscape now with BLUE HAWK in the fold?
Bob Smith: IMARK Group is well-positioned for growth. Our founding members are the best of the best in our respective industries. We are networking with other financially transparent groups around the world that want to control their destiny and ensure the survival of their family-owned business owners.
How many current IMARK Group members are BLUE HAWK members as well?
Lance Rantala: Today, BLUE HAWK shares 29 member-owners with IMARK Electrical and/or IMARK Plumbing. The expectation is this number will grow through a coordinated strategy to recruit other independent wholesalers who are diversified in more than one business channel.
Will the BLUE HAWK name stay or go away?
Lance Rantala: BLUE HAWK’s brand equity is one of the strongest in the HVACR industry. The BLUE HAWK name will continue to be very prominent so we can leverage this strong brand equity to help IMARK Group attract wholesalers that operate in multiple verticals.
Are all BLUE HAWK staffers staying aboard?
Lance Rantala: BLUE HAWK is managed by a small, yet very talented team of cooperative leaders. BLUE HAWK will continue to serve its cooperative community with the same level of professionalism as in the past. IMARK Electrical and IMARK Plumbing will operate their respective cooperatives in a similar manner.
What does the future look like now for IMARK Group?
Bob Smith: Both Lance and I — and the member leadership of IMARK members in the electrical, plumbing and HVAC/R businesses see a very bright future. We have already started sharing best practices and we will capitalize on potential back-office synergies. We expect independent business owners will quickly recognize the importance of being truly financially transparent, member-owned and member-controlled.