Pacific Northwest-based Hollabaugh Brothers & Associates President Chad Hollabaugh says, “You can’t beat feet on the street,” referencing a phrase commonly used in sales.
Hollabaugh says having not only feet on the street, but high-quality and well-trained “feet on the street” is one of the major reasons the 74-year-old rep firm that covers Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, and parts of Idaho and Montana continues to excel in a highly competitive marketplace.
Hollabaugh Brothers & Associates, the 2019 Supply House Times Manufacturers Rep of the Year, currently has 37 employees split between its Kent, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Spokane, Washington offices. Each location features a stocking warehouse.
“The geography we cover from a landmass standpoint is probably the most of any agency in the country,” Hollabaugh says. “Having feet on the street in those markets and having access to those stocking warehouses is important. You cannot operate from one specific area with the amount of geography we cover. You must have people living in different parts of the territory to make it work effectively.”
Quick history lesson
Hollabaugh Brothers & Associates was originally started in 1945 as the Roy Hollabaugh Co., by Chad and his brother Casey’s great-grandfather Roy Hollabaugh Sr., who passed it on to his son Roy Jr. (Chad and Casey’s grandfather), who then passed it on to his sons, Brad and Chris. Chad and Casey’s dad, Brad, retired in 2015, setting up the brothers as the fourth generation of family-owned leadership. Chad and Casey, the company’s vice president, run the company along with business partner Jeff Woodard, HBA’s vice president of operations.
“A lot has changed over the years,” Chad Hollabaugh says. “We have gone from being primarily a residential rep to one that is diversified between commercial and residential. It’s been a process of a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice among the generations to get to that point of having the diversification and the size we do.”
TOTO USA Senior Regional Sales Manager Steve Mastrandrea has taken notice. “Hollabaugh Brothers and Associates has one of the youngest ownerships of any agency in the Pacific Northwest,” he says. “They use cutting-edge technologies and traditional concepts to create a forward-thinking approach to sales. Their talented team members have a way of generating lasting relationships with architects, engineers, designers, plumbers and wholesalers. Chad and Casey have figured out the right mix of decorative and commercial products, which gives them a very consistent base. Each manufacturer works in harmony with the other, creating a systematic sales approach.”
Charlotte Pipe Regional Sales Manager Bruce Murray notes the company’s sales in the Pacific Northwest have gone up “significantly in the last five years,” he explains. “To a large extent, that’s due to the Hollabaugh agency and its focus on the marketplace. What separates them from the pack? First, it’s the strong relationships they’ve built, both with the wholesalers and contractors. Next is the size of the organization. They probably have more personnel, inside and outside, than any other rep organization in the Northwest. Third is the leadership and years of industry experience within their management team. They take care of the details. It seems simple, but it’s amazing how that helps set them apart.”
Having offices in Kent (where Chad is based) and Portland (where Casey is based) helps AIM/R member HBA best service a large customer base between the two cities that are a three-hour drive apart.
The Spokane addition two years ago came out of further necessity. “It’s our third-largest market,” Chad Hollabaugh says. “We listened to a lot of our customers. One of our lines, Watts, wanted us to have inventory both on the regulator and drainage side. To have that in Spokane allows us to participate more in that business. A lot of times there are opportunities that if you have product the day of, people will come pick it up.”
Woodard adds: “In that Inland Empire side of territories (which centers on the greater Spokane area), it’s a pretty burgeoning market when you include northern Idaho. We see a lot of growth in that area with tons of development going on. And when you kick in the Tri-Cities area, south Washington and southeast Washington, it’s a pretty big area of growth.”
Another area of growth for HBA continues to be the decorative products/showroom side of its business where Chad Hollabaugh’s wife, Jaliene, the company’s director of marketing, spearheads that movement, along with key assistance from 16-year company veteran Debi Fuccella.
Philipe Filion, sales manager at Montreal, Canada-based decorative kitchen and bathroom products manufacturer BARiL, notes the company hired Hollabaugh less than a year ago and already is reaping the benefits. “They have been extremely proactive,” he says. “They helped us conclude a deal with a top player in their territory and they make sure our client respects their obligations. They are very organized, their enthusiasm is obvious and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”
Along those same showroom lines, HBA takes great pride and care with the relationships it has within the distribution channel. “Our relationships with distributors are very important,” Chad Hollabaugh says. “Distribution is the mouthpiece to our factories and they do a lot of business with contractors. They are the bank. They have strategic locations that enable us to run product through them to the contractor. It’s a very powerful relationship. We fight very hard as a company to be relevant with all the major distributors and we’ve gotten that accomplished.”
Casey Hollabaugh adds: “We have the ability to walk through every one of those distributors’ doors and work those channels where some people may not necessarily have that. We believe in our distributors’ growth. We’re on the ground and so are they. And by partnering up to pull through, that’s how the business has always been successful.
“Distributors do business with all sizes of contractor. We’re a decent-sized rep agency, but we only have 13-14 outside guys so we have that 80-20 rule where we have to spend our time wherever the return is going to be the best. We can’t get to everybody, but the distributors do business with all sizes of contractors, and with our knowledge and the products we bring to the table, it’s a good relationship that has enabled us to work together to go see more people and sell to more people. We feel we have a pretty good reach, but the partnership with the distributor really enables us to connect with a lot of people.”
Woodard notes numerous innovations on the technology side have enabled HBA to add even more fuel to the rocket in recent years. For starters, the company installed a VOIP phone system that connected the three offices, as well as two remote employees who live in Tennessee and Wisconsin. “It allowed us to have those customer-service calls tied to each other,” he explains. “Now, we get daily phone statistics that tell us how many calls are coming in, what the pickup rates are, and who is picking up the calls. It’s another asset for management. We’ve found out we’re fielding anywhere from 300-350 phone calls a day. One stat we keep an eye on is dropped calls, which are dropped opportunities. Having those stats right there, we can show everybody and set expectations. People are competitive and they don’t want to be seen as the one not picking up the phone.”
Additionally, HBA added a chat function on its website at www.hbarep.com, and went paperless five years ago. Another IT-based innovation features a workflow tracker that shows the various stages an order is in. “It gives us more data and more feedback, and at the same time we know exactly where orders are sitting in the process,” Woodard says.
HBA also rebuilt its data management system, a job spearheaded by Jaliene Hollabaugh. “We rebuilt the system from scratch,” Woodard says. “It’s allowed us to have a lot more consistent product in the workplace. It’s reduced the amount of mistakes that happen on a daily basis. Everybody is going to the same place to get the pricing structure they have. It’s had a huge impact on the business.”
Casey Hollabaugh points out yet another driver in the company’s growth related to the IT end has been the use of the Salesforce CRM platform. “With the line package we have, we need something to completely embrace all those lines we rep that we can track, build a contact database, an account database and deal with mass marketing when we need to. We’re using things such as mass marketing features and it starts snowballing for you, and you start feeling the effects of how beneficial it is.”
Chad Hollabaugh adds: “Casey did a great job with the CRM. We have a system in place now that helps us communicate the activity level to our factories as well as some distributors. It’s pretty cool when you can go to a distributor and immediately show them how many records or data points you’ve done within their company over the last three months.”
Working with the best
HBA places a large emphasis on working with factories that have like-minded value propositions within their companies. “We’re very family-oriented and have a strong culture in that regard,” Casey Hollabaugh says. “It’s fun to do business with factories that have similar types of culture. It’s the connections and the relationships that matter to us. We could have 30-40 lines easily, but that would eliminate the opportunity to have strong relationships. We’re always looking for that family element.”
Zoeller Pump Director of Sales and Marketing Mark Huntebrinker appreciates HBA’s vast knowledge base. “Hollabaugh provides outstanding technical expertise from both its inside and outside sales teams,” he says. “They are able to effectively communicate solutions to our customers’ complex challenges.
“We are currently investing heavily in our engineered products brand. Hollabaugh’s technical knowledge and overall superior product support in the Northwest has helped to maximize our investment.”
Greg Wolfe, Western regional sales manager at Bradley Corp., says HBA is astute at uncovering large, high-profile projects “even before they are on the street,” he says. “They don’t hesitate to go to work immediately with not only the architects and engineers, but the owners as well. They understand that once they get the spec, the hard work is just beginning. They follow through the entire process until the order is secured. Year after year, they have procured large projects such as the Sea-Tac and Portland airports that have had a very positive impact on our business.”
A. O. Smith Senior Vice President of Sales Jim Margoni is a big fan of HBA’s training capabilities. “Hollabaugh Brothers and Associates’ success is measured beyond just sales and market-share growth. It starts with prioritizing contractor training and product application in the field to equip their customers with the right knowledge for the best possible installs,” he says. “For the past 25 years, Hollabaugh has represented A. O. Smith with a high level of professionalism and leadership, and we are proud to call them a partner.
“Hollabaugh Brothers and Associates’ phenomenal success comes from an extraordinary team dedicated to serving the Washington and Oregon markets with hot water solutions. Their key relationships with contractors, builders, distributors and consulting engineers has opened A. O. Smith up to endless opportunities and success.”
Uponor Director of Sales Cindy Albrecht adds: "Hollabaugh puts a tremendous emphasis on recruiting, training and maintaining good people, and then ensures they are completely focused on the customer. They are very well-rounded with regard to their ability to support all aspects of the customer base--the technical needs of the engineer and mechanical contractors, and the support and training needs of the wholesaler and plumber. They are well-respected for the depth and breadth of knowledge and support they provide, the resources they offer in terms of feet on the street and in-house expertise, and their command of the market. They enjoy high market share with many of their lines.
Albrecht adds HBA has lead the way for the manufacturer's rep agencies when it comes to driving commercial market sales, "while still maintaining and growing the residential side of their business. Long before Uponor was a player in the commercial market, Hollabaugh was developing engineering and mechanical relationships, and gaining and understanding of the needs of this segment, which helped us tremendously as we put more focus and resources to the commercial segment. In addition, their long-standing relationships with the residential customers and clear understanding of their business needs makes Hollabaugh an ideal partner for Uponor. They aren't afraid to invest where it makes sense to grow the business, whether it be people; technology, such as Salesforce for sales tracking and planning; and training for their teams on a frequent basis."
Gary Rogers, who once owned a rep agency in North Carolina, came to HBA when it took over the Bradley line. “These guys are focused on making sure all the manufacturers we represent get equal time, and that’s the hard part in this business,” he says.
Looking into the future, it’s not necessarily expansion that’s at the forefront of HBA’s strategy, rather continuing to perfect its processes with the end goal of providing even higher levels of customer service. “It comes down to meeting the need of the customer faster and even more accurately,” Casey Hollabaugh says. “A lot of it is dependent on the technology we continue to integrate into the company. There’s a tremendous upside in investing in training our employees and the trade. We will become even more sophisticated with our trainings and how we connect with people to make sure they are being consulted properly on the products we represent.”
That doesn’t mean expansion and diversification aren’t in play if the right opportunities present themselves. “We must have an understanding of how our markets are moving so we can continue to remain in that position,” Chad Hollabaugh says. “We always are evaluating the need to diversify because the markets always are changing. Our ability to understand systems and ensuring their installation success is where we are. The old days of dropping off donuts and literature are gone. Our value is the solutions we provide our customers.”
Kris Russell, a five-year veteran who works inside sales out of the Kent office, has a good inkling why the firm continues to thrive. “This is like a mom-and-pop place,” he says. “They take care of everybody.”