There were 71 member companies and 190 attendees at the 2019 Embassy Group shareholders meeting in August at Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.
“We are a strong and united group, and today we have the opportunity to control our future,” said Mike Lepley, president of Embassy Group. He kicked off the meeting recognizing two key vendors (Delta Faucet Co. and Wieland-Kessler), as well as three new members.
Suzanne Chreene, director of trade sales at Delta Faucet, talked to the Embassy Group about driving demand, increasing opportunity for profitability, and two new lines available exclusively to the trades (Broderick and Dorval).
“Our company name means change,” she said. “There is a lot of change going on in the industry and we anticipate quite a lot more change coming in the future. We are committed to the trades and our trusted trade partnerships. The first element in a strong relationship is the desire to drive demand.
“We want your input so we can continue to get better together,” she continued. “Delta is providing two collections that will only be available in Q4 through our trade partners. We hope to deliver more lines in the future and continue to build on this great foundation that we have.”
Tim Hagan, president of master distributor Wieland-Kessler, talked to Embassy Group members about the history of Wieland, its investments and acquisitions, its next target for growth and what empowering success means to the company.
“My goal today is to introduce you to who Wieland is,” he said. “We haven’t been in the U.S. for long, but our footprint in North America is growing significantly. Having started in Germany in 1820, we are celebrating our 200-year anniversary soon. We have a culture of excellence and innovation.
“For the last three years we have had a heavy concentration in the North American market,” he added. “About a month ago Wieland purchased Global Brass and Copper for $997 million. Part of our strategic plan is to emulate the growth and footprint we have in Europe, in both North America and the next target will be Asia. Our global growth strategy is ‘strength of the core business through internationalization. Wieland-Kessler makes sure it is in multiple markets so it doesn’t get caught short in any one individual market.”
Attendees capped off the day with a networking dinner cruise aboard the Odyssey.
The following day Embassy highlighted two of its shareholders.
“Milford Supply has six locations and two Kohler kitchen and bath showrooms to reach a wide customer base, as well as 40-plus employees,” CEO and President, Tim Milford said. “But it hasn’t always been this way. When it began — in the 1960s — it was just a dream of my father and his brother-in-law. It started out in a parking garage. The location was not advantageous and there was no opportunity for growth, but when they did finally move, they picked a developing area with easy interstate access. Eventually, my dad stepped down as president because he really loved sales and wanted to run the company that way and wanted as little to do with management as possible. He loved being with customers.
“I remember in 1991, it was an ASA convention, and my dad said ‘Go see Embassy,’ and I was skeptical because back then buying groups didn’t have the greatest reputations, but I went and returned to my dad and told him, ‘Dad, these guys are the real deal,’” Milford continued. “They brought our buying power to a national level, and allowed us to compete with the national wholesalers that were just coming into town at the time. And we loved it — great leadership and relationships unified all of us to speak with one voice.”
Audrey Loder and Drew Wilkinson, owners of Wilkinson Supply Co. (along with sister Courtney Wilkinson, not in attendance) about the foundation on which their company was built on. Started by their grandparents — Bill and Martha Wilkinson — in 1965, they had only three plumbing contractor customers.
“My dad told us about a counter day with oysters for only six people including my father and grandfather,” Wilkinson shared. “With honesty, determination and hard work, the business flourished and we’re lucky to say our counter events have a much larger attendance these days.”
“We are constantly trying to think of ways to innovate and outshine our competition,” Loder said. “We built a tankless water heater training center and conduct trainings for contractors and staff on a regular basis. We also host our local architects and designers for continuing education courses a few times a year. Both our contractor and showroom customers alike utilize our FastTrack program to pick up their orders quickly.”
In 2015, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary and in 2017, the three siblings bought the company. Many members congratulated the siblings after the presentation.
Embassy Group announced earlier this year that it and fellow buying group WIT had signed a letter of intent to merge the two organizations. Meetings about the merger took place among Embassy members during this shareholder’s meeting.
A photo gallery of the event can be found at www.SupplyHT.com.
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