This month's Personal Profile focuses on Joel S. Becker, Chairman and CEO of Torrington Supply Company (TSC) in Waterbury, Conn. Joel is probably familiar to many readers because of his frequent speaking engagements at regional and national events. Joel's been a tireless supporter of employing technologies in our industry to enhance the efficiency and profitability of the channel.
TSC is a plumbing, HVAC and PVF distribution company with 7 locations in Connecticut, employing about 100 people. Joel joined the company in 1975 after completing 3 years of graduate school. (He has a master's in physics and a year of graduate work in biochemistry.) He was invited to join his wife's family business, together with Fred Stein, representing the 3rd generation in the enterprise. He worked his way from the warehouse to the sales counter to inside sales and purchasing. Over the ensuing years, he and Fred soon gravitated to a comfortable division of duties: Fred to sales, estimating and pricing, and Joel to operations. Ultimately, Joel rose through the ranks and in 1990 was named CEO on the retirement of the company's president, Morris Stein.
Joel's wife, Nancy, also has worked for the firm for the past 15 years. They have three girls, all in their twenties, the eldest of whom is married to an attorney who will be joining the TSC team this year.
Joel has traveled the country sharing a surprising number of details about his own company in an effort to communicate just how much impact technology can have on a firm's productivity and customer service. And in his "free" time, he served for several years on ASA's IPD Executive Council, including two years as its Chairman. He has also devoted time to ASA's Education Foundation Board of Trustees, ASA's Board of Directors, and a variety of other committees and task forces.
When asked why he does so much, Joel says, "I believe in change through involvement. I was taught that by my parents and have always volunteered to effect change. However, my involvement with ASA came from an early desire to be around other managers who did what I did and dealt with the same issues. One of my first exposures to this was a local credit group, where I enjoyed listening to my peers and hear them talk about their businesses and various 'war stories.' I started looking for more peer-to-peer contact and then became active in ASA. I always look forward to getting together with my peers and I have often found answers to our most perplexing business problems from my ASA colleagues. They are interesting, enlightening, stimulating, smart, and fun to be with."
We guess it takes one to know one, Joel. Thanks for all you do!
Last month this section included excerpts from our soon-to-be released course, Essentials of Profitable PHCP Distribution - a program developed specifically to introduce new and sometimes not-so-new employees to basic economic realities of PHCP distribution. Since we received multiple calls, e-mails and other indications of interest, I concluded that I needed to tell you a bit more about the program concept, content, availability and successful use.
The concept of the Essentials program came from the ASA and Education Foundation Directors. Like many business owners they were perplexed about what to do with sales people who seemed too eager to give away a few more percentage points of discount as the easy (but often unprofitable) way to close a sale. They voiced concern that employees seem to think that a 25% markup gave you a 25% margin. And, they expressed more than a little irritation at the common misperception that almost the entire margin goes directly into the owners' pockets. What everyone seemed to need was a straightforward course that explained the key concepts of the distribution business and engaged the employees in meaningful discussions to improve the business.
So, as a dear departed uncle of mine used to say, when louder doesn't work, it's time to make things clearer. Here are the 10 chapter areas we developed to bring clarity and understanding about our businesses to your distribution team members:
- Wholesale Distribution in the US Economy
- Channels of Distribution
- How Wholesalers Make Money
- Additional Ways to Increase Profits
- Pricing - the All-Important Business Strategy
- The Impact of Pricing on the Bottom Line
- Sales and Marketing in Distribution
- How to Deliver Great Customer Service
- You Make the Difference. (Impact of 1% improvements)
The Essentials course will include instruction, self-tests, glossary, final exam and certificate of completion. It will be available for sale by mid-October.
As with any training program, Essentials can deliver tremendous value to you and your team if used properly and supported with other strategies that impact employee performance.
Essentials can be used for home study. However the supply houses that field-tested the program report that when they use individual chapters as the focus for discussion in company and branch meetings, interest, enthusiasm and the output of creative solutions increase markedly. One creative company likes to project their P&L statements in their financial software onto a screen. The group then suggests activities to improve results in cost and revenue areas. When these are punched into the software, the impact of the improvement becomes immediately apparent.
To our knowledge, this program is a first in our industry, and many operators will enjoy greater success if they have some help getting started. Towards that end, we have arranged for Dr. Kathryne Newton from Purdue University's Industrial Distribution Department to teach a 3-1/2 hour "train-the-trainer" program at the ASA Convention and ISH-NA Trade Show in Toronto. For more details, please call the Education Foundation at 312-464-0090 or visit www.asa.net.
We hope to see you there.
Joel S. Becker