Ferguson Enterprises sent a letter to its vendors and manufacturers representatives that is intended to discourage the "raiding" of its employees.

Ferguson Enterprises sent a letter in late April to its vendors and manufacturers representatives that is intended to discourage the "raiding" of its employees. Saying that it spends millions of dollars annually to recruit and train its associates, the company asserts that it will protect that investment "in every way legally possible.'

"We're proud of our people," Charles A. Banks, president and CEO, told Supply House Times. "They're our best asset. If you look at our turnover and the stability of the company, it's not like we're losing thousands of people. But if we lose even one associate to someone we feel is our business partner, we feel that's unethical. The letter is basically a heads-up to people who shouldn't take advantage of being in our house."

In the letter, signed by Banks and William S. Hargette, vice president/sourcing, Ferguson says it will consider prohibiting access to its buildings and people and may refrain from doing business with those who raid its employees.

"We do not expect those who are invited into our buildings and given access to our people to abuse the trust that we have placed in them," the letter says. "We expect our vendor and rep partners to hire and train their own people."

One recipient of the letter, who requested anonymity, pointed out that for more than 90 years firms at all levels of the plumbing industry have been hiring personnel from other companies.

"Ferguson apparently does not understand or accept that good employees do not just leave or are enticed to do so 'for the money,' but because they are unhappy for one or more reasons and let their 'availability' be known," said the person, whose comments appear in our Letters page. "Threats to manufacturers and reps will not change this."

To put an ad in the newspaper or to hire a headhunter is one thing, Banks said. "But to come into our building everyday and to use that opportunity to steal people is wrong.”"

"It's a free country, and we support those freedoms," Banks said. "If people are unhappy working here, that's one thing. But to take advantage of a friendship to hire a key employee is something else."

Banks told Supply House Times that he is not happy with Ferguson's turnover rate. "There's more turnover than in the middle of the recession," he said. "We would like people to stay with us a long time. When we hire someone, it's designed to be a career."

The unnamed recipient of Ferguson's letter said that wholesalers and contractor customers had been exempted from the warning.

Raiding by competitors is not unexpected, but it's a different matter with vendors or reps who act as partners to the wholesaler, Ferguson's letter states.