The plumbing industry is full of rock star individuals. People that go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure their peers and the people coming in behind them have a better industry than what it was before. InSinkErator’s Rebecca Falish is the epitome of an industry rock star. In fact, to hear retired InSinkErator Vice President Joe Maiale say it, Falish “is a rock star turned superstar,” in the industry.
Falish grew up immersed in the plumbing industry. Her grandfather was a plumber in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Falish recalls running around his shop like it was a playground. As she turned 18, instead of heading off to college right away, Falish had her eyes set on getting a job, earning her own money and buying a car. After months of working with Kelly Job Services to find a job, she heard of an opportunity that “no one wanted.”
“The recruiter called and told me again there were no new jobs that week,” Falish says. “But at the last second she said, ‘wait, there is one thing, but I don’t think you’ll want it — it’s plumbing.’” Little did that recruiter know, a job in plumbing was music to Falish’s ears; this job was a perfect match.
Falish spent five years working at Burton-Anderson and Associates, a manufacturers’ rep, as an inside sales associate at their Green Bay office. From this point forward, Falish credits much of her early success in the industry to several influential mentors. “It was an amazing experience,” she says. “I had mentors like Jeff Carney, Bob Bender and Chuck Anderson.”
Early on in her career when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Falish said, “I want to be Bob Bender.”
“He was the regional sales manager at the time and I just thought it was the coolest job,” she says. “I was fortunate to learn from him and the other mentors about the plumbing sales world in those first five years.”
Once setting her sights on a larger industry role, Falish decided it was time to get her degree. After graduating college at 28 years old, she was ready to re-enter the plumbing industry. “I called Chuck to tell him I’m networking and looking for a job. He let me know Bemis Manufacturing was looking for someone,” she says. “I interviewed with Bemis’ National Sales Manager Mike Moore — who turned out to be another great mentor — and he wanted to hire me.”
Falish adds that Moore was the perfect person to break her into the industry. “He always made me feel included and comfortable at tables where I was often the only female in the room.”
A few years into her career at Bemis, Falish met what would become her next great mentor — InSinkErator’s Joe Maiale. The two connected at a networking event and Maiale let Falish know his regional sales manager based in the Midwest was retiring in a couple of years, and he would love to hire her to take the place.
“During this time in our industry, women at tradeshows were few and far between, and they often simply handed out literature,” Maiale says. “That wasn’t Rebecca. She was engaged, knowledgeable and front and center doing business.”
Always trying to be respectful of the industry and his peers, when the time came to hire, Maiale didn’t call Falish outright and offer the position. He put ads in several Midwest newspapers, making sure to include the Green Bay Gazette. “After a couple of weeks with no response, we blew up the ad in the Green Bay Gazette for the Sunday edition,” Maiale explains. “And I finally got the call from Rebecca.”
Falish joined InSinkErator in early 2005 and now serves at the director of wholesale sales.
BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY
From a very early point in her career, Falish began serving on industry association committees and boards. She first joined the Midwest Distributors Association (MWDA). “MWDA was my first exposure to the American Supply Association (ASA),” she says. “I joined to Board right away and we focused on driving attendance and awareness; we were essentially a marketing department for the association.”
From MWDA, Falish joined the Wholesalers Association of New England (WANE), which is where she met Mike Adelizzi, CEO of ASA. Around this time, NIBCO’s Ashley Martin and First Supply’s Katie Poehling-Seymour were in the beginning stages of spearheading ASA’s Women in Industry Division.
“Katie and Ashley came up with this amazing idea and just needed the power and numbers to get the word out,” Falish says. “I’ve been involved with Women in Industry since its inception and watched as people have jumped in to help the division grow to what it has become today.”
After 10 years serving on the Women in Industry Division Board — five of those going through the chairs, Falish was ready to move onto another division and let a new leadership voice be heard on Women in Industry.
She’s now been involved with ASA’s Workforce Development Council for several years and is currently the President of the ASA Educational Foundation which is governed by the Workforce Development Council and includes ASA University, the Masters of Distribution Management Program, the ASA Safety Committee and the ASA Career Resource Center.
When asked why she dedicates so much time — outside of her normal job responsibilities, travel and family — to volunteer roles at ASA, Falish says there is simply no other option.
“When you belong in an industry you have to make sure it’s the best it can be for everyone, not just yourself,” she says. “It’s a selfish thing to not be involved. You don’t just worry about your path, you worry about the others around you. We have to bring everyone along with us to succeed.”
Falish holds this mindset in every aspect of her life. She has four children ages 14, 16, 18 and 20. “I’m a part of parent committees and I coach my daughter’s softball team,” she explains. “There are never enough people signing up for these things, and I just want to make sure things are moving forward in the right direction. Plus, it sets an example I want my children to learn from.”
Falish says her hope for any volunteer committees is that they “Show up, not just sign up.”
“If people have signed up and aren’t showing up to do the work, I’ll call them out on it,” she says. “We have to have action and not just seats filled.”
ASA’s Adelizzi echoes Falish’s passion for industry involvement and volunteer work. “There are few individuals that have the ability to make things happen. Rebecca has that unique ability to see the big picture and the passion to get consensus to drive others to that envisioned future,” he says. “Her various volunteer roles within ASA, from serving on one of our regional boards, to chairing women in industry and now chairing our Workforce Strategic Council has enabled the association to achieve some remarkable things.”
“When you belong in an industry, you have to make sure it’s the best it can be for everyone, not just yourself. It’s a selfish thing to not be involved. You don’t just worry about your path, you worry about the others around you. We have to bring everyone along with us to succeed.”
– Rebecca Falish
A CHAMPION FOR THE WHOLESALE CHANNEL
Having worked with Falish for two decades, Maiale has no trouble boasting about her numerous accomplishments and her passion for the plumbing industry. “I am her biggest fan,” he says.
“She is a real champion for the contractor, wholesaler and the showroom,” he says. “You just can’t find someone like her — someone with the knowledge, drive and passion — every day.”
Maiale says many people get to see how well Falish represents InSinkErator, but few get to see what she does behind the scenes. “She goes to bat for the wholesale channel. She’s extremely vocal and is joined at the hip with InSinkErator’s marketing department; she’s the eyes and ears of the wholesale channel for our marketing team.”
One example of this is Falish’s involvement with InSinkErator’s showroom collection of water dispensers. “We needed something new with elevated design. Rebecca did focus groups with our customers and spearheaded that entire launch — she did all of the stage gates on top of her usual job.”
To best summarize Falish’s go-getting attitude, Maiale says that no matter the task at hand, she marches. “At the end of the day, whatever decision is made on a topic, even if she disagrees with something, Rebecca will march, lead, give 110% and be the best representative of InSinkErator and the industry.”
InSinkErator's Vice President of Sales, Rob Grim agrees, saying Falish has been a significant contributor to the company and the wholesale channel team. "She is willing to engage in all facets of the wholesale channel. Her involvement in Women in Industry, ASA, PHCC and other industry associations are examples of her willingness to participate in the industry," he says. "It has been a great honor to watch Rebecca develop into leadership roles both in the industry and within InSinkErator."
Part of why Falish joined ASA’s Workforce Development arm is because she’s passionate about attracting and retaining individuals into the PHCP-PVF industry.
“We need more women, more diversity, more young people and older people,” she says. “I think it’s about messaging. We have to rebrand ourselves.”
Falish also notes the importance of promoting from within. “Oftentimes women come to our industry via marketing of showroom rolls. So it’s up to the leaders in our organizations to find those female leaders who have potential and give them the resources and support that will help them move up into other roles.”
Falish emphasizes that she will always be a proponent of promoting and hiring the best employee, no matter the gender. “I know when I came into the industry my bosses thought it’d be great to have a woman in this role or to add a women to the team,” she says. “But I proved myself as the best candidate for the role, which is exactly what I want from employees I hire today.”
With the goal of attracting more people altogether, Falish says it’s incumbent upon distributor, manufacturer, rep and association leaders to create a welcoming environment. “People get turned off very quickly if they're uncomfortable,” she says. “So ensuring every level of the supply chain is operating with a culture of openness, kindness and compassion is key to attract and retain.”
This mindset of welcoming newcomers is exactly why ASA’s Women in Industry Division continues to reach record attendance each year at its annual ELEVATE conference.
“We created the opening night newcomers’ reception to make sure first-timers were welcomed and comfortable,” Falish says.
Falish uses her own life as an example of the caring, open-minded culture our industry should always offer. Having raised four children throughout her career, she recalls being terrified to announce her first pregnancy to her boss at the time.
“I was so scared, but Mike Moore couldn’t have been more excited for me and supportive throughout the entire thing,” she says. “I’ve had numerous men in this industry ask me about my pregnancies, being a mother and the female perspective throughout the years because they truly care. Sometimes men get a bad reputation, but in my experience, that’s really not the case in our industry. This industry is genuine. Male or female, if you earn the respect of others you'll be treated as an equal.”
Falish’s ultimate message to share about the PHCP-PVF industry is that it’s fun, important and there is great opportunity.
“The door is wide open,” she says. “I’d tell people to just take a chance and join in. My opportunity came from one phone call in my early 20s, and now look at all of the great things I’ve gotten to be involved with.”