“My biggest takeaway from AIM/R last year was succession planning,” the 23-year-old says. “It’s an extremely important topic and a reoccurring theme in the industry. Because of that my dad and I have been working on a business plan around that type of thing.”
Davis’ father, Lee, started current AIM/R member DSC Pacific in 1991. The five-person firm (4 in outside sales and 1 for inside sales) reps a variety of decorative and industrial products throughout its Northern California territory that spans from San Luis Obispo to Fresno and on up to the Oregon border.
One of DSC’s key clients is industrial PVF master distributor Smith-Cooper. DSC also reps Blanco, Hydrotech, Miro Industries, Sharpe Valves, EWS, Ginger, Hydro Systems, Newport Brass and Stiebel-Eltron. The firm is heavily involved with area architects and designers on a variety of commercial projects.
“The hospitality industry out here is crazy right now,” Davis says. “There are 52 active sky cranes in San Francisco for hotels and residential high-rises. We’re lucky we are in one of those hot-spot areas.”
Making the leap
While still in college at UC Santa Cruz, Davis worked part-time at DSC in a variety of roles including inside sales and warehouse operations. Right around when he graduated from Santa Cruz, a position became available at DSC.
“It was a pretty good fit because I already knew most of the lines,” says Davis, who works in outside sales and recently became a part owner in the company. “My roles started expanding in the job with marketing and working with specifiers. I had to get my head wrapped around a lot of different things.”
Davis admits he had some initial trepidation about becoming involved in the family business on a full-time basis.
“I was a little leery at first, but it’s been a lot of fun,” he says. “I believe in the products we sell. I have a passion for that. I always wanted to do something in sales and wanted to be an independent business owner. I look at my dad as that type of person you want to be. He’s an entrepreneur and a small-business owner. I definitely wanted to do something similar to that. I didn’t know it was going to be with him.”
Davis credits much of his rapid development in the rep industry to his father’s teachings. “My dad has helped me an insane amount,” he says. “He’s my hero and my mentor in this industry. He taught me how to run a business. College is one thing. You can take as many classes as you want. In the real world, it’s very different. He lets me make my own decisions. If I make a mistake, he’s there to back me up.”
Davis has many different forward-looking initiatives in the pipeline at DSC. He would like to expand the company’s inside staff and increase marketing-oriented efforts to architects and engineers on the specification side. A revamping of the company’s CRM system, Davis says, is aimed at taking organization and communication between staff members to an even higher level.
DSC’s staff stays on top of its accounts through the hosting of lunch-and-learns, joint calls with distributor outside reps and calling on top architecture and design firms across the region.
“It’s crazy busy right now around here,” Davis says. “We have great relationships with our manufacturers and customers. We keep the pipeline full all the time.”
Davis also is being proactive on the recruitment front through the establishment of an internship program with nearby San Jose State University. “We’re getting a program set up with their business school,” he says. “We’re looking for someone who can tag along with our outside reps, learn the industry and learn how to sell. We can shape and mold someone and by the time they graduate, if everything works out we could offer them a position. This helps get rid of the learning curve. The average age in this industry is in the 40s and 50s. It’s almost like we skipped a lot of a generation. Ideally you want a team where there are younger people mixed in with veterans. And you have to find qualified people to help with that expansion.”
Benefitting from AIM/R
DSC previously was an AIM/R member but did not rejoin the best practices group until last year. “We joined AIM/R again because of the progress it has been making and how much the organization has changed,” Davis says. “We talked to other member reps and heard the same thing about the progress AIM/R has made.”
Davis likes how the annual AIM/R convention — this year’s event occurs Sept. 29-Oct. 2 in Lake Tahoe, Calif. — brings reps and manufacturers together under one roof.
“Another thing I really liked about last year was the panel discussion they had where manufacturers sat down and spoke to experienced veteran reps and best practices questions were asked,” he says. “The reps and the manufacturers got a lot out of that. There were some open and honest discussions that occurred.”
Davis also is involved with AIM/R’s Leaders of Tomorrow Council, which features young executives from member firms.
“We’re able to talk with each other about a lot of different aspects of the business such as legal issues and contracts,” he says. “I now know there are other reps out there dealing with similar circumstances and I’m able to network with them. There are a lot of small businesses in this organization. Most have 20 or less people and others have 5-8 people. I met so many people at last year’s convention and was able to pick their brains about best practices. It was a lot of fun to see how other organizations run and AIM/R makes that possible. AIM/R shows you what’s out there and how to best operate in this industry.”