Mike Lepley at Embassy Group’s 22nd annual Spring Conference in Phoenix. Photo by Mike Miazga/Supply House Times
Mike Lepleyis in his first year as president of Geneva, Ill.-based Embassy Group. Lepley joined Embassy two years ago and succeeded longtime President Wally Gumm, who retired last year. Prior to joining Embassy, Lepley enjoyed an 18-year run on the vendor side of the business with the likes of Mueller Industries and Nomaco (where Lepley attended many Embassy meetings as a vendor partner). Lepley recently took time at the group’s 22nd annual spring conference in Phoenix to chat with Supply House Times on a number of topics.
Supply House Times: What impresses you the most about Embassy?
Mike Lepley: There is a high level of talent amongst our members and our vendor partners. It truly amazes me the amount of purchasing volume done through only 67 members. The level of collaboration between the wholesalers and vendor partners is really what makes Embassy special. The Embassy model is perfect for the independent wholesaler. Embassy keeps it simple, streamlined and transparent. Our members have a lot of independence within this structure. As a member-owned cooperative, our main goal at Embassy is to deliver the highest possible return to our shareholders.
Supply House Times:How important is the independent wholesaler today?
ML: The independent is extremely important. The independent’s ability to offer flexibility, adapt quickly to the needs of the local contractors and builders, and to the trends of a market is invaluable. Embassy offers the independents a platform to share best practices and pool resources. However, the driving component is the financial rewards that come with being part of a bigger group, which helps keep them competitive and remain independent.
Supply House Times:What has the feedback been like for Embassy’s training program (Embassy University)?
ML: It has been well-received. Embassy University launched several years ago and has gained a lot of traction. HVAC manufacturers have been embracing it for years, and more and more of the plumbing manufacturers are finding it very rewarding. There is a direct correlation between training and increased sales.
Supply House Times: How do members and vendors benefit from your annual spring meeting?
ML: Embassy always hosts a first-class event, typically in a warm climate at an upscale resort. Our vendors meet with every one of our wholesalers. It’s not hit or miss. During those meetings, 90% of the time the vendors will meet with the principal of that wholesale company. It’s like having 67 sales calls in two-and-a-half days. There is ample time during the meetings, as well as after hours, to move the meter and continue to build and develop relationships. One of the great things about this industry is it’s truly a relationship-driven business.
Supply House Times: Where do you see Embassy headed in the near future?
ML: Embassy is well-positioned for years to come. We’re a member-owned organization that is committee-driven. Our direction comes from our board of directors. We have solid leadership and direction and are committed to growing. Our future is bright.
Supply House Times: What does Executive Vice President Maureen Cosyns mean to the organization (Cosyns was honored for her longtime service at the recent spring meeting in Phoenix)?
ML: Everything! She is the glue in this organization. People are amazed by our limited overhead and yet we have the ability to manage a multi-billion-dollar cooperative. This is mostly due to not only Maureen’s business and technology acumen, but her attention to detail and relationships, as well as her work ethic. It was great for our board of directors and Embassy Chairman Bryan Schiff to recognize her in this fashion. The standing ovation Maureen received from almost 500 industry peers in the room was a testament to what she means to Embassy.