Earlier this year, the Winsupply Board of Directors announced that it elected Jeffrey M. Dice as the new President of Winsupply Inc. Dice replaced former President John McKenzie who retired on Feb.28. Dice joined Winsupply in 2004 as a regional financial officer for Winsupply Group Services — Dayton. Soon, he moved into internal audit and then into leadership roles: first for electronic data integration, and then for acquisitions as a due diligence specialist. In 2011, he was named chief financial officer for Noland Company, Winsupply's largest acquisition to date. In 2016, he began leading more than 150 employees as senior vice president for Winsupply's Shared and Advisory Services. As Winsupply's chief information officer from 2018 to 2020, he restructured Winsupply's growing IT organization.
Dice became Winsupply Equity Group president in 2020, accountable for shareholder relations, finance, risk, real estate and acquisition assessments. Supply House Times Chief Editor Natalie Forster sat down with Dice to chat automation, PHCP-PVF supply chain challenges, his goals for the company moving forward and more.
NF: YOU ARE NEARING 20 YEARS WITH WINSUPPLY. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU’VE LEARNED THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER WITH THE COMPANY? WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF THUS FAR?
JD: I’ve held a lot of positions here at Winsupply and have learned from each one. I started in finance and accounting and worked my way up to CFO. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way and have learned to better my processes from each mistake.
One of the greatest things Winsupply has taught me is the importance of the art of communication. Because of our decentralized structure, we have to communicate constantly; the more you communicate the smoother things will go. I’ve also learned that transparency is key to being a good leader. Even if you’re delivering not so great news, if you’re transparent in your communication, people will accept what you have to say much easier.
Coming from a finance background, I’m obviously an analytical and data-driven guy. So being transparent and backing up decisions with data is my nature. It’s pretty hard to argue with data. Winsupply gives a ton of autonomy to the local company Presidents, so I’ve learned the best way to work with them is to visit them, put myself in their shoes and listen to their needs. They know their day-to-day customers better than anyone.
NF: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT WORKING IN THE PHCP-PVF SUPPLY CHAIN BUSINESS?
JD: My favorite thing is working within the Winsupply business model itself. I love helping build up entrepreneurs and being surrounded by hardworking, passionate people. Our job at the Dayton, Ohio service center is to provide the support systems and capitol necessary for our local company presidents to grow. The local company Presidents may not be finance, accounting or human resource experts, so our job is to provide them with those tools. Getting to work with them every day and providing entrepreneurs with opportunities they probably would never get elsewhere is what drives me every day.
NF: THERE IS STILL SOME ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY LOOMING. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE OUT OF THE REST OF 2023 AND EARLY 2024? WHAT MARKET SECTORS WILL THRIVE? WHAT ECONOMIC FACTORS DO WE NEED TO KEEP AN EYE ON?
JD: I just recently read that residential construction year-over-year is down about 22%. So our local companies are definitely feeling it. We saw a downturn starting towards the end of last year and really starting to hit them this year. Many local companies are still doing well in residential. There's other ones that are getting hit with that 22% today.
The nice thing is we do have a nice mix between commercial business and residential business, and the commercial sector is still doing very well. So that's offsetting the downturn on the residential side. Looking now in the future, we do see commercial slowing down third or fourth quarter, the backlogs are getting smaller. On the flip side, from everything that I have been reading, residential may hit its low point by a second quarter, early third quarter and then start having an uptick, especially if interest rates start dropping as expected. Mortgage rates might get down to this about 6% by the end of the year which should kick off residential construction once again.
If you’re going to fail, fail quickly. And then pick yourself up, learn from the failure and try something different next week. When you succeed, always share that information to your peers around the country because we want them to learn from your success as well.
NF: WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE TO BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING PHCP-PVF DISTRIBUTORS? HOW ARE YOU TACKLING THEM HEAD ON AT WINSUPPLY?
JD: The economic uncertainty is definitely a challenge because, especially with the decentralization of our decision making, every market's a little different. So the nice thing about our model is that we are very nimble on a local market basis so they can make their decisions how to react to the change of conditions. Here in Dayton, we give them the information, but they need to apply that information to their own markets. The local companies are still facing the challenges of the two years of supply chain chaos. They're in still rebalancing their inventories.
The local company Presidents are looking at how to get their inventories right size for today's market conditions. I know that some of the discussions I've seen, is that there's going be a lot of onshoring of manufacturing from overseas, which puts our local companies in good position to take advantage of not only the building and manufacturing, but the infrastructure surrounding that these big large manufacturing plants.
NF: WHAT ROLE IS AUTOMATION AND AI PLAYING IN DISTRIBUTION TODAY? WHAT AREAS DO YOU SEE IT ENTERING OVER THE NEAR FUTURE? IN WHAT WAYS IS WINSUPPLY EMBRACING AI AND AUTOMATION?
JD: We've always had a culture here of automation. When I came here about 19 years ago, our former CFO Jack Johnson always said, “automate, automate, automate!” This is why we couldn't produce 650, uh, balance sheets, income statements for our C corporations in just 24 hours. We're trying to get every process we have that automated. AI has now gone from the shiny object to more mainstream over the last year or so. We are looking at using AI with our inventory optimization, looking at where inventory is being hung up at our local companies versus where the inventory should be placed.
NF: HOW HAVE THE CHALLENGES OF THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS (DISRUPTION, PANDEMIC, MATERIAL SHORTAGES, PRICE INCREASES, LABOR SHORTAGES, ETC.) PERMANENTLY AFFECTED THE SUPPLY CHAIN? WHAT ABOUT WINSUPPLY SPECIFICALLY?
JD: It may be too soon to really know the permanent effects of the past several years. Everybody's trying to figure out where everything settled. What I have seen is our local companies did challenge themselves during the supply chain shortages and during COVID on how to go to business with their customers. Some companies have totally overhauled their processes and delivered the services to their customers in a very different way.
NF: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS — BOTH PERSONAL AND FOR THE COMPANY — AS YOU LEAD AS COMPANY PRESIDENT?
JD: I always look at it as a company forward, not focusing on myself. Over the next five years I want to see this company be over $10 billion sales. I want to see us have over 800 operating companies in the field. I want to see through our ERP modernization rewrite, the largest project we've ever undertaken in this company.
Also in five years I would love to be in a situation where I have four or five leaders that are ready to succeed me as President. My philosophy is the stronger the team around me, the better this organization is and the stronger this organization will be. Some people see that as a threat, but I see that as a strength; to have strength surrounding me. I want to look around and say, “I got five people that are better than me below me." That makes me feel comfortable about the future of this company.
NF: WHAT IS ONE THING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
JD: Well this one was a tough for me to respond to because people at work know me one way and people outside of work know me another way. So I'll start with the people outside of Winsupply. I'm very introverted and humble. I don't like draw attention to myself. I'm the type of person that compliments actually make me feel very uncomfortable. It's kind of funny, when they announced me as President, about 80 to 90% of my acquaintances or friends had no clue I was even anywhere near a position that would even equate to a president. They were actually shocked.
Something people internally at Winsupply may not know is that I’m ultra-competitive. I grew up playing a bunch of sports: basketball, baseball and soccer. And then through my career, I have been ultra-competitive. I hate to lose and that really helps drive me today in business. Wanting to win drives me on a daily basis helping lead this company.
NF: WHEN YOU AREN’T WORKING YOU ARE…..
JD: I'm usually at the ball field watching my kids play sports. They're both in high school. I have a senior in high school, Jacob and I have a freshman, Lucas. So depending on the time of year I’m at the baseball field, the football field or on the basketball court watching them.
I just got done coaching baseball for eight years with my kids. I love teaching kids and I actually learn a lot from the kids that actually played daily here at work. The lessons are the same. It's just how you apply them.