After reading my column last month about replenishing the workforce, an industry vet reached out to me to share his story.

“I was literally ‘born’ into this industry. My father, Carrol Varner, started a wholesale plumbing, HVAC and pool supply business in 1970 in San Rafael, California, called Varner Supply. I started out sweeping the floors in the warehouse when I was 7 years old. His business was very successful, and at one time, Varner Supply — with two branches and two showroom — was the largest Kohler distributor in Northern California,” says John Varner, a branch manager and mentor support specialist with California-based PHCP-PVF distributor, PACE Supply.

Varner goes on to tell me that thanks to his years in the family business, he has made several career moves within the industry before eventually landing a branch manager role at age 32 with Pace Supply; a company that started as a team of 50 people, and now employs more than 1,000 among its 27 branches.

“PACE Supply is an ESOP, which has made a huge difference in recruiting talent and developing current employees. In 2019, I decided it was time to step back from being a branch manager and move into a branch manager mentor support role.”

In his new role, Varner empowers and mentors employees to grow and make the most out of the careers within the industry and with the company.
“My wife of 32 years and I have put two sons through college and have a daughter who is a sophomore at our local junior college,” Varner explains. “We were able to do so because of the opportunities I’ve had in this industry.”

I share this story because I love hearing the many different paths that people have followed to make longtime, successful careers in our industry. And I love how passionate you all are to want to tell your stories. Many stories start out with a young child working with their parent in the entrepreneurial family supply house; and look what often comes out of that. I hope by continuing to share these stories, more and more 20-somethings will want to be that first entrepreneurial mind, or join PHCP-PVF companies with passionate backstories like this.