A Conversation with Ron Black, Director of Human Resources, Southern Pipe & Supply

Ron Black, HR Director of Southern Pipe & Supply


Business leaders often say, “Our company is like a family,” but few back up that claim as well as Southern Pipe & Supply Company, Inc.  

Over 70 years and four generations, this Mississippi- based, family-owned, independent wholesaler has grown to 94 locations in seven states. Key to Southern Pipe’s success is a culture rooted in relationships. Employees at every level of the company, from its central distribution center to the corporate headquarters, are referred to as “family members.” Southern Pipe is committed not only to the professional growth, but also to the personal growth of all 650 family members.            

Ron Black is the director of human resources for Southern Pipe and has been a family member for 30 years. He runs an extensive training program and is in charge of ensuring that each family member is performing not only up to Southern Pipe’s standards, but also to his or her own personal best. The company provides more than 10,000 hours of specialized training each year, offering family members opportunities to enhance their skills and advance within the company.            

“Southern Pipe offers training that not only gives family members an opportunity to increase their value to the company, but an opportunity to enhance their careers,” Black says. “We hire for attitude, then train for skill. Southern Pipe looks for energetic, hard-working self-starters who are interested in building long-term careers with our company, then we give them the training and the freedom they need to succeed. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”  

Southern Pipe understands that investing in its family members is critical to retaining the best people in the industry. As a branch manager recently shared with Black, “I’ve seen the impact of the company’s training programs first-hand. The first advantage of training is obvious - it makes our family members better at their jobs, which makes our customers happy and benefits the company. But family members who are well-trained and empowered and know they have the potential to advance are also more satisfied in their jobs. They have a great opinion of the company they work for.”            

Southern Pipe & Supply Co. has invested in its own learning management system, enabling the company to not only provide easy-to-use, online training programs, but also to manage the progress of all 650 family members. Over the years, Southern Pipe has used most of the programs available from the ASA Education Foundation, with focus on both the ProductPro® and Essentials brands.             

“I’ve been pleased to see how the ProductPro® product knowledge courses have progressed in my 30 years in the industry and I’m excited about the Foundation’s current initiative to convert this content into an online, interactive learning experience,” Black said. “The online and interactive tools are my favorite training products offered by the Foundation. The new 3-D Residential Schematic is a fantastic tool for a new family member – a picture is worth a thousand words.”  

When it comes to training, Southern Pipe is on the cutting edge, both in its commitment to investing in its family members and its willingness to embrace new tools and concepts in training. One of Black’s favorite quotations comes from Tony Robbins, a famous motivational speaker, who said, “If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always got. And if I always think like I’ve always thought, I’ll always do what I’ve always done.”            

Wise words for a company built on innovation, high performance and growth, making its mark as a great place to build a career.

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