One of the best-kept secrets each year at the AIM/R annual conference is the recipient of the Golden Eagle Award.

This prestigious award was established as a way to recognize senior-level plumbing manufacturing executives who have actively supported independent reps and the important role they play in the supply chain. During the 2019 AIM/R conference in Orlando, AIM/R board member Michelle Lewnes-Dadas (Preferred Sales) announced Elkay Executive Vice President Mark Whittington had been selected for the honor.

Throughout the year, AIM/R reps are encouraged to nominate executives who value their representatives and recognize that they are the most efficient and cost-effective method of going to market. The winner is determined by a vote in the months leading up to the conference, and only a few people within the organization know who it will be until the award is presented.

Whittington was not able to be at the conference because of a previous commitment, but his colleagues and AIM/R reps who attended quickly assembled for a photograph with the trophy and couldn’t wait to share the news with him. He later was presented the award at ASA’s NETWORK event in Washington, D.C.

“I was speechless when I received the photo of our AIM/R reps and the trophy,” he said. “It is a humbling experience to be given an award like this. I have such high regard for my peers who have previously been recognized, and I am honored to be included among that group.”

To be considered, candidates must meet the following criteria:

• Work cooperatively to develop and maintain strong partnerships with manufacturers representatives;
• Efficiently communicate information to their reps, keeping them up to date on the industry and the manufacturer’s product lines;
• Facilitate their reps’ efforts through prompt filling of orders, timely payment of commissions, backup support in the event of any issues, and closely working together to ensure customer satisfaction; and
• Utilize manufacturers representatives, support AIM/R, promote the industry, and actively participate in industry events.

Whittington was originally recruited by Elkay in 1999 to manage its Broadview, Illinois, plant. He went on to head the company’s operations in the U.S., Mexico and China, first as a director and then as vice president of manufacturing and supply chain. When Elkay’s leadership asked if he would consider a move to sales,

Whittington said it seemed like the natural progression to round out his career. He became vice president of sales and market development for the western half of the U.S., and had a measurable impact on sales performance. Whittington was named to positions of increasing responsibility before being promoted to executive vice president of plumbing trade sales and operations in 2016.

“My focus had always been operations, but I knew that moving into sales was an important step in rounding out my career,” he said. “And it has been extremely rewarding. There is a great deal of mutual respect and trust with our independent reps, and we consider them part of the Elkay family.

“We are proud that Elkay is turning 100 years old, still owned by members of the Katz founding family and still based in the U.S. That is not something that can be said with frequency in American manufacturing. Elkay’s success is directly related to the strong values that have been passed through generations of family ownership and dedicated leaders, as well as solid business partnerships. We are proud to be affiliated with AIM/R. The professional, open engagement they have fostered with their manufacturer partners benefits all parties. Elkay is represented by some of the best rep agencies across the country that are the face of Elkay in their day-to-day interaction with our customers in each market. They continue to be the cornerstone of our sales efforts.”

Whittington believes AIM/R plays a significant role in facilitating open dialogue and deeper understanding between rep agencies and their manufacturers. He is particularly appreciative of being chosen for the 2019 Golden Eagle Award.

“On behalf of AIM/R I would like to congratulate Mr. Whittington as the 2019 recipient of the Golden Eagle Award,” said AIM/R board member Brian Morgan of The Morgan Group. “The membership has voted and recognized Elkay and its management for their ongoing support of manufacturers representatives and the role we play in the industry.”