In the main hallway of Rancho Dominguez, Calif.-based Industrial Valco’s headquarters are a series of quotes on the wall from founders Charles and Dorothy Nichols.
A few samples from that wall include: “You watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves,” and “You’ve got to keep growing or die!”
But Industrial Valco President Rob Raban, Charlie Nichols’ grandson, says that quote wall of fame encompasses a greater purpose — the master distribution company’s main guiding principle, one that has allowed it to thrive for nearly seven decades.
“We serve distributors that serve industries that serve people,” Raban recites.
Industrial Valco continues be one of the industry leaders in the master distribution of industrial PVF products such as weld fittings, flanges and valves. Industrial Valco’s continued growth, forward-thinking practices and industry stewardship are the basis for the 115-employee company being the inaugural recipient of the 2014 Supply House Times PVF Ring of Honor award. The PVF Ring of Honor award is given annually to a manufacturer or master distributor (individual or company) that has enjoyed recent success in the industrial PVF marketplace through the execution of progressive and cutting-edge best practices.
Raban, who joined the family company 25 years ago, has seen Industrial Valco continue to grow in terms of profitability, size and depth of products and services offered. He notes the company has turned a profit every year it has been open — a streak of 67 consecutive years. “I don’t know if there are many examples like that out there,” he says.
Industrial Valco currently operates eight locations throughout the country. It’s most recent opening was in Baton Rouge, La., in 2009.
“Baton Rouge, though not an upstream market, is very similar to Bakersfield (Calif.),” Raban says. “We have Bakersfield wedged between two major markets and that branch has grown dramatically and has opened our eyes to the viability ofthese smaller markets within close proximity to major markets.”
Industrial Valco’s ninth location is set to open in Odessa, Texas, early next year. “The shale plays have a lot to do with the growth of Odessa,” Raban says. “We have a lot of distributors out that way that we serve from our Houston hub, but to be closer to our will-call customers allows us to be a bigger part of their businesses.”
The company’s continued growth, Raban notes, would not be possible without a laser focus on providing the highest-level of customer service — starting with getting product where it needs to be in the timeliest manner.
“We have an intense passion for same-day service,” he says. “We want our customers to get whatever they need on the same day. Everybody here is focused on that objective and that’s something that sets us apart.”
Ron Stevens, Industrial Valco’s territory manager/national accounts, had great familiarity with the company prior to joining it in 1990. “I had to get flanges from Allentown, Pa., to Los Angeles in a timely manner,” says Stevens, who previously worked for PVF manufacturer Bonney Forge. “Industrial Valco was my warehouse in the field. I sold more stock orders for Industrial Valco because of how fast it could get orders to customers.”
Industrial Valco Vice President of Business Development Robert Vick, the recent recipient of the 2014 ASA IPD Award of Excellence, says the company’s passion for expedited service has deeper roots.
“We’re not about just shipping and billing,” says Vick, an industry mainstay who is retiring at year’s end. “We take a more consultative sales approach with our customers to better understand their needs and then we tailor programs to best meet their goals.”
Global Director of Quality Javier Vergara adds: “We have a clear vision of being the supplier customers love and can’t live without.”
Raban takes great pride in the fact Industrial Valco has stayed true to a longtime policy dating back to his grandfather’s days of selling only to wholesalers. “Selling only through distribution is about reputation and trust,” he says. “When customers give us an order, it’s safe. We’re not going to go after their customer.”
The next level of service
In order to provide the timeliest service possible, the company has invested in taking its operational processes to the next level. For starters, Industrial Valco scrutinizes fill rates in a variety of ways. “We measure in terms of geography, will-call areas, four-hour driving distance and even thousand-dollar-or-less orders,” Raban says. “Our fill rates are more than 98% with our thousand-dollar-or-less orders, which is our core. The role of the master will continue to increase, especially with the focus on just-in-time inventory. We have to be prepared.”
Industrial Valco also is heavily investing in employee training, whether through courses provided by the American Supply Association’s ASA University or internal means. Case in point is the company’s new initiative with sales-call training.
“We’re developing a coaching program for salespeople that will go over phone skills,” says Raban, who is involved with a variety of ASA initiatives, including being a member of the association’s Vendor Member Division Executive Council. “With the customer’s permission, we’ll record a call and go over it with our salespeople and talk about what was good and what we can work on.”
Director of Operations Vern Preston, who started at Industrial Valco in 1984, appreciates the company’s forward-thinking philosophies. “The owners listen and want you to grow,” he says. “Our staff is held accountable to our vision, mission and core values.”
For the first time in company history, a national sales meeting recently was held at headquarters in Southern California, bringing together 40-some sales associates from the various branches. “It’s the best meeting we’ve ever held,” Raban says.
Director of Sales and Marketing Matt Arrellano, who came to Industrial Valco earlier in 2014 after working outside the industry for a number of large Fortune 500-type companies, brought in former Major League Baseball player Steve Springer to talk about professional fundamentals. Industry great Morrie Beschloss also spoke to the group via video conferencing.
“Steve talked about what a quality at-bat is in baseball,” Raban says. “In our language, what does a quality sales quote and a quality sales call look like? We’re not necessarily focused on the sale, but focused on the fundamentals that lead up to that.”
Duane McClanahan, Industrial Valco’s territory manager for the Rockies and a 30-year veteran who started with the company out of high school, notes the company investment is a two-way street.
“We come to work every day with the mindset of how can we make us bigger and better? What difference can we make today?” he says. “I come to work to hear how Industrial Valco has helped out a customer, which in turn, has helped out another family. Our values are not just what are written on a piece of paper. We are investing in inventory and our people to supply a broader range of customers the highest level of sales knowledge and support in our industry.”
Raban also is acutely aware of the importance the Internet is playing in today’s business setting. He notes the company is in the process of advancing its online presence to best connect with its customers.
“For us, I’m not totally convinced the Internet is fast enough,” he says. “We know customers want product immediately, but there are a lot of moving parts. A customer might want five of this, six of that and seven of this and they need it to go to this address with this tagging information. To get all that input yourself on the Internet and being able to relay that we got the inquiry and will get it out today without verbal confirmation can be a challenge. We have to make sure we are accommodating customers wherever they are and however they want to do business with us.”
Another key driver for Raban is the fact he’s carrying on with the company his grandfather started from scratch in 1947.
“It’s hard to say what Industrial Valco means to me without crying, quite frankly,” he says. “My grandfather’s main goal with this company was to feed his family, not create this niche. His guiding principles are still in place. Industrial Valco is my family. Our family of employees has been providing for us the last 67 years with their labor, heart and soul. They have grown this company and are driven to do better for our customers. Our people set us apart, for sure.”
Eddie Lujan, the company’s territory manager for the West Coast, adds: “We’re blessed with a great team to work with. Rob has created a family environment and a great company culture.”
With a forward-thinking game plan squarely in place, Raban is optimistic about Industrial Valco’s future in the master-distribution landscape. “I see us growing internationally and I see us getting into some more specialized products,” he says. “I see us being a bigger value to our customers. Our core value is to make it easy for our customers. The customer has a variety of needs and we want to handle those needs so they don’t have to worry.”
Vick adds: “Service is what we sell. We get you what you need, when you need it and at a competitive price. Nothing is more exciting or satisfying than being known as the problem-solver.”
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