Chris Reynolds, of Columbus, Ohio-based Plumbers Factory & Supplies, knows the PHCP industry has a glaring problem staring at it.

“Not only is our customer base aging, so is our workforce, and it is up to individual companies with help from the American Supply Associationto inform young candidates of the incredible opportunities in our industry,” he says. “Successfully attracting the next generation of young, capable and credible distributors is a challenge, but it’s also paramount to the success of the industry.”

However, one hurdle that has become a common refrain throughout the industry in recent years is demonstrating the true benefits of a PHCP-PVF career.

“We have to communicate the opportunities and stability that exists,” Reynolds says. “Our industry is not as sexy and exciting as the technology industry or as flashy or prestigious as the banking industry, but we operate in a secure, successful and honest business. That being said, it has not been easy getting the attention of young applicants. We need to be the ones to pursue the ace candidates. We can’t wait for them to walk through our door.”

Reynolds believes the industry is well-positioned to do just that thanks to the efforts of ASA’s Young Executives Division and the trade association’s proactive involvement with outside resources such as Industrial Career Pathways, as well as a recently launched program designed to help ASA member companies best present themselves at local schools and career fairs. ICP is an initiative of several industrial distribution associations to build awareness of the available careers in industrial distribution for young adults.

“It’s a step in the right direction and helps to more favorably position ASA-member companies,” he says.


Wearing many hats

The 36-year-old Reynolds is the fifth generation of his family to actively manage at Plumbers Factories & Supplies, a member of the WIT & Co. buying group. The company was founded in 1936 by Reynolds’ great-great-grandfather, AW Reynolds, who previously had served as Ohio Adjutant General, owned the Reynolds Plumbing & Construction Co., while also being president of Columbus-area companies Grandview Lumber and J.E. McNally Lumber. Chris Reynolds’ grandfather, David Reynolds, who also worked in the family business, passed away last year. Reynolds’ father, Bill Reynolds, is the company president, while his uncle, Tom Reynolds, serves as vice president. “I am very proud of our family history and am honored to be able to continue that legacy,” Reynolds says.

Today, the company operates a single branch, which includes the Bathworks Selection Center showroom. P&F mainly stocks plumbing products with hydronics and HVAC also part of its inventory. P&F serves customers in the central Ohio region as well as customers with a presence across the U.S. and around the world. “We have been able to nurture relationships with brands who utilize our products in their store expansions,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds graduated from Colorado State University in Fort Collins with a degree in business administration and marketing. Prior to graduating, he studied abroad at Bond University on the Gold Coast of Australia just south of Brisbane. “I was able to meet a lot of different people,” says Reynolds, who moved back to Columbus and began work at P&F soon after his Australian junket. “I garnered a lot from an incredible experience. I was very fortunate to have that opportunity.”

While Reynolds has the official title of director of marketing, his role is much more varied — just the way he likes it.

“Marketing, by definition, covers product, price, promotion, positioning and people, so it has a broad scope to begin with,” he says. “I touch everything from showroom management and customer-development strategy to 401K administration, promotions management and buying-group and trade-association involvement. It keeps everything interesting. Every day is a little different when you are involved in so many different aspects of the company. Spreading around to the different areas helps me to prepare and grow my role for the future.”

When asked what has allowed the company to thrive for more than 80 years, Reynolds says the answer lies within a long line of exceptional P&F employees. “Customer service makes a big difference in our industry and our people realize that,” he says. “It’s how we are able to differentiate ourselves from a sea of similar and often bigger competitors in the marketplace. We take the time to problem-solve, and nurture and develop relationships.”

Reynolds notes the company is constantly looking for ways, whether through technological advancements in the back office or through forward-thinking marketing ideas, to advance customer service to even greater levels.

“We continue to develop intangibles we feel will be front of mind with our customers and will shape the future strategic growth of the company,” he explains. “It all comes down to relationships and the customer’s ability to feel the effort we put toward service. If you can compete on a service level and your customers enjoy doing business with you, you can compete with anybody.”

Reynolds appreciates being an independent distributor in a metropolitan environment. “I enjoy the people I work with and I enjoy the small-business aspect we have,” he says. “Who we are and the great companies that we serve reside at the heart of the American entrepreneurial spirit that helps to fuel, drive and grow our economy.”


Giving back to the industry

Reynolds, who along with wife, Jocelyn, are the proud parents of Aubrey (7) and Shea (4), is active in WIT where he helps to develop its NEXT Group that facilitates networking, knowledge and relationship building among up-and-coming leaders within WIT owner companies. He has also been involved with ASA’s Young Executives Division the last 10 years.

“I can’t say enough about the Young Executives Division,” he says. “For me, a good part of my growth and understanding of the industry has come through YEs. As I transitioned into the wholesale-distribution business it helped me connect with and create contacts and friendships with both distributors and vendors nationwide, as it continues to do today. I’m grateful to serve on the YEs board and hope to help provide to others who participate in YEs a similar experience to the one I have enjoyed.” 

Reynolds also is a major supporter of the Young Execs work with Operation Rise & Conquer, an organization that provides rehabilitative services to wounded veterans at its facility in Crested Butte, Colo. Reynolds was part of a recent YEs trip to Colorado where he was able to witness first-hand the good ORC does for disabled vets. In the two short years YEs has been involved in Operation Rise & Conquer it has raised close to $250,000 for the organization.

“It’s been incredible working with ASA and its donor companies on this,” says Reynolds, who lauded former Globe Union President and CEO Michael Werner for his vision in creating the ORC initiative. “It is amazing to see the transformative work they do for these heroes who have sacrificed so much for our country. Going to Colorado and watching them in action was an inspiring experience. I would encourage others to go see first-hand what the Adaptive Sports Center is doing for our soldiers who have helped sustain the American way of life.”

Seeing the industry band together like it has for Operation Rise & Conquer is one of the many facets Reynolds feels would be an attractive selling point to a young person looking for a rewarding career path.

“There are robust opportunities for someone looking to join our industry,” he says. “Ambition and respect in this industry will go a long way. If you have the drive and desire to be great in the PHCP industry, you can achieve that goal with knowledge, perseverance and consistency.”

This article was originally titled “Shaping the future” in the April 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.