Any business hoping to stand out in a competitive marketplace needs to find the one or two things it can do better than everyone else. Now celebrating 75 years in business, Industrial Valco has spent the last decade perfecting the craft it is known for – delivery speed and inventory availability - while honing in on a unique niche in the commercial and industrial PVF distribution worlds – marketing and branding.
Industrial Valco was inducted into the Supply House Times PVF Ring of Honor in 2014. That article focused on the company’s continuous growth and profitability year-over-year for more than six decades at the time. Since that time, the company has become laser focused on its strengths instead of trying to compete in areas where they know other companies may have them beat.
“Our strengths have always been our depth of inventory, along with our process for getting the right material out to our customers in a very timely manner. Since there was not one word that encompassed these three things, we made one up,” explains Director of Marketing Jim Wakeham. “We finally settled on ‘Speedability.’”
“Speedability” promises Industrial Valco customers that products will be in stock, ready for an error free pick up or delivery in two hours or less.
According to Wakeham, the components that make up “Speedability” have always been what separates Industrial Valco. “Time and speed are what has always separated us from the rest. MRO has been what we are known for in the industry and we have always made ‘time’ the thing that we were selling, and PVF is the vehicle in which we sell time,” he says. “The two-hour time frame for getting out PVF was something that we noticed was unique but was never verbalized until we started marketing it.”
The company now averages 48 minutes to get an order out.
How does a niche promising in stock product and speedy delivery fare during sever supply chain disruption like the marketed endured over the past three years? Wakeham says it was key to be smart about what products they were selling.
“Our goal for Speedability on ‘in stock’ is 95% of all quote requests. This number made it especially important to be smart about what we were selling and how much we sold. While we were waiting for the supply chain to get back on track, we had to be incredibly smart with the purchasing and pricing.”
The second piece of the pie that makes up Industrial Valco’s niche is the marketing side. After all, great service and superior delivery needs to be marketed to customers and potential customers.
Today, Industrial Valco has distinct and recognizable branding materials and marketing campaigns. The company has a well-polished website, is active on social media and has a Brand Book that lays out the company values, mission statement, brand voice and much more.
Wakeham points out that before the company began marketing the big promises that lie within “Speedability,” they made sure the processes and commitment were unwavering.
“Before we started promoting ‘speedability’ to the PVF world we wanted to make sure that we believed it as a company. So, we marketed it internally first. We wanted 100% buy in before we released it to our customers,” he explains. “We did this by talking about it ad nauseam and having monthly ‘Speedability Spotlight’ winners. An employee would win if they could come up with anything or any idea that helped save money, time or headaches.”
Wakeham ads that the Industrial Valco team brought plenty of feedback and ideas to the table. “It was amazing seeing how many ideas our IV family came up with. We had some ideas that were just simple tweaks to processes and other ideas that were brand new and helped save incredible amounts of time. This helped our already strong culture with everyone constantly looking for ideas and ways to improve what we already do.”
The PVF industry isn’t known for its marketing and branding efforts, and yet Industrial Valco has invested heavily in marketing its niche, message and values. Wakeham admits marketing is time consuming and costly, but he still says the investment is well worth it.
“Marketing is not easy and is time consuming. That said, there are benefits, especially in our world of PVF. It is not being done very well in our industry in general terms compared to other sectors of the business world,” he says. “The main benefit is that we are able to help show who Industrial Valco is and what we can do for the customer.”
Social media is where everyone in our industry is, especially the younger workforce which we are always recruiting. Know your identity and be consistent. We have seen some great companies market their ideas, many times very successfully, but because of time and dedication it takes to do it, stopped with the efforts all together after a few months.
Social media is a specific area that the PHCP-PVF supply chain is a bit behind on, but according to Wakeham, it’s where PVF companies need to be present. “Social channels are where everyone in our industry is, especially the younger workforce, which we are always recruiting,” he says. “When getting started with social media, know your identity and be consistent. We have seen some great companies market their ideas, many times very successfully, but because of time and dedication it takes to do it, stopped with the efforts all together after a few months.”
CEO and third generation family leader Rob Raban points out that internal marketing is just as important as external marketing. “An example of internal marketing is the IV Video newsletter, a monthly video with our company President that highlights the key goings on within Industrial Valco,” he explains. “Within this video we have Speedability Spotlight, whereby we acknowledge, encourage and reward ideas from all employees that will make our processes more effective whether by saving time, saving money, and/or reducing stress. Values Victors is our program to reward employees who can recite what our Vision, Mission and Values are and have exhibited these traits in their day-to-day work.”
Also implemented since the 2014 article is Industrial Valco’s video training program, IV University, which features easy to digest demonstration videos on various topic related to valves, fittings and accessories. Wakeham points out that video training has been a game changer.
“With the success of IV University, it is no surprise we feel that the advent and ease of having video training is the biggest game changer for training. We can use IV University as a training source internally and for Lunch & Learns with our customers and their end users,” he says. “Having a library of videos that is accessible from a smart phone, makes it easy for customers to view training on their schedule.”
Raban agrees, noting these videos help both seasoned and newer members of the industry. “We made the strategic decision to invest in marketing our business to demonstrate in a fun and creative way how IV helps distributors grow. We created IV University with ‘how to’ videos to help both old and new industry participants better understand how the myriad PVF parts all work together.”
When it comes to internal training, Industrial Valco has always been active with ASA University, the American Supply Association’s education and training program. “The ASA training has been and will always be a big part of the training we do as a company. We also have a nice array of internal videos including the IV University videos that are also available to our customers. These videos help not only our sales staff, but the warehouse to make sure they know the product they are preparing for will or shipping.
When they pull an order it’s not just a skew number to them, they know the products, and this has helped our error-free delivery to be at an incredible 99.9 %. Speedability is (in stock, error free,2 hours or less), it doesn’t matter how fast we get the order ready, if it’s not the correct item or there are pieces missing it is not Speedability.”
2023 is a monumental year for Industrial Valco as the company is celebrating 75 years since its inception. Raban says the biggest turning point for the company thus far has been its management structure.
“By far and away, the biggest turning point for IV over these last 75 years was to evolve from a flat corporate structure of everyone reporting to our company founder to a professionally managed structure with empowered managers,” he says. “This means shared information across departments, defined KPI’s that managers are held accountable for and the creation of a meaningful Vision, Mission and Values that are clearly communicated and endorsed by all employees. Having trusted experts in key positions has enabled IV to grow far more than our original mom and pop orientation.”
Since Industrial Valco’s last appearance in Supply House Times, the company has made some significant investments and changes – in addition to the commitment to marketing and “Speedability” mentioned above - to continue to outperform itself year after year.
Raban says moving to a professional, systematic management program has allowed to company to operate more strategically. “We chose Gazelles, which is similar to EOS and essentially lays out a template for keeping everyone aligned with the key goals for your company. Starting with your company’s annual goals, breaking these down into quarterly goals, and further breaking quarterly goals down to milestones and action items,” he explains “Then, each manager has their annual goal, quarterly goals, milestones and action items that are all in alignment with the company’s goals. Having a systemic approach to management has helped IV to operate more strategically, save time and be more focused.”
Another major investment the company has made over the past decade is its commitment to embrace e-commerce. According to Raban, patience is a virtue when it comes to implementing e-commerce. “We made the strategic decision to invest in e-commerce. It’s been long, painful, costly and we’ve made many mistakes, but we stuck with it, listened to our customers and have produced an online resource that empowers our customers to do business with IV 24/7,” he says. “It has also given our inside sales team more time to work on higher value work.”
With so many large investments and changes over the past 10 years, Industrial Valco’s President, Matt Arellano, Industrial Valco’s president says the goal is simple: Continue to grow in operational excellence.
“We want to continue to grow in operational excellence in order to make the entire purchasing process more enjoyable for all our customers,” Arellano says. “This means we will grow in having more inventory, no errors and continue to strive to make the wait time more immediate.”
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