Three PHCP-PVF executives were honored for their long-term service to the industry — one of the many highlights from the American Supply Association’s NETWORK2016 held in late September at the iconic Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
Knoxville, Tenn.-based Modern Supply’s Dottie Ramsey was given the association’s highlight honor, the Fred V. Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award, while Bedford, Mass-based F.W. Webb’s Ernie Coutermarsh was the recipient of the Industrial Piping Division Award of Excellence. Jeff New, of Elkhart, Ind.-based Mid-City Supply, was named the recipient of the Plumbing Division Award of Excellence.
Ramsey, who announced her retirement earlier this year effective Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, is a former ASA president who also was the first woman to hold both presidencies of ASA and Southern Wholesalers Association.
“To have my peers honor me with this after 51 years in the industry is the most exciting and rewarding thing to get,” Ramsey told Supply House Times at the event. “It’s been a lifetime of wonderful memories. I’m the luckiest person to have enjoyed 51 years in the industry growing up, meeting people and learning from people. I’ve had the best ride of my life.”
Ramsey is well-known for the mentorship role she has played during her career. “When I first started, (Modern Supply CEO) Pace Robinson’s father (Mitchell) was my mentor and he gave me a chance,” she said. “As I got involved in SWA, the men there took me under their wing and gave me a chance. When I kept growing in the industry, I did the same for other people.”
Robinson was effusive in his praise for Ramsey and her contributions to not only Modern but the industry in general. “I don’t know how I can answer that,” he said when asked how much Ramsey has meant to him and the company. “My whole career has been spent with Dottie. She’s a co-worker and someone I can bounce things off. She’s a mentor and all that comes naturally for her. It’s her nature to help people and recognize people and make them feel involved.”
Robinson said Ramsey’s mentorship has set Modern up for future success. “How do you replace the Lifetime Achievement Award winner?” he asked. “We have people ready to step up because she’s done a good job mentoring a lot of people in our company. They will thrive.”
F.W. Webb’s Coutermarsh started with the Northeast distributor in 1969. “I am very grateful and privileged to receive this honor,” he said of winning the IPD Award of Excellence. “I’m a lucky man for so many reasons, the first being my family and the second being my F.W. Webb family. This award is very special considering the previous recipients of it. It humbles me to be considered worthy of sharing it with them. It would be impossible to thank all the wonderful people in the industry for helping me be successful. Any success I’ve had always has been because of relationships in this industry.”
Mid-City’s New also is a former ASA president and is the association’s current Government Affairs Committee chair. “It’s very humbling getting this award,” New told Supply House Times. “I’ve gotten so much more out of ASA than I’ve ever put into it. I’ve enjoyed all my time meeting some wonderful people and being mentored by and learning from incredibly smart people. My participation in ASA has allowed my company to survive and thrive. I’m very appreciative.”
Winners of ASA’s safety awards included manufacturers Anvil International, NIBCO and PRIER Products, along with distributors M. Cooper Winsupply, The Collins Companies and Plumbing Distributors Inc.
As custom, a packed house was on hand for ITR Economics’ annual industry forecast. ITR’s Brian Beaulieu (his brother, Alan, also has presented at NETWORK) delivered encouraging news going forward for ASA members.
“We all will be doing better in 2017,” he said. “The economy looks to be stronger than 2016. There are rising trends that will continue through 2017 and there will be more growth in 2018. There are reasons to be somewhat concerned about 2019. But beyond 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 look to be up years. The trends show this is a good industry to be in going forward. There is a lot of promise and a lot of upside. It’s a good place to be.”
Beaulieu told the group there is one subject in particular to be concerned in the near term. “One of the key challenges we are facing is people — finding talent and holding on to talent,” he said.
In terms of the industrial PVF sector, Beaulieu also sees promise heading into next year. “We think $48 to $50 a barrel for oil and around $53 a barrel going deeper into 2017,” he said. “That’s nothing that will hurt the economy. That will give us a little lift in the oil patch. There is light at the end of the tunnel and not a train.”
NETWORK attendees also were treated to a plethora of educational sessions. Speaker, author and Supply House Times columnist Dirk Beveridge kicked off the conference with an in-depth look at the current relationship between distributors and manufacturers.
According to research Beveridge conducted among ASA membership, 92% believe there is a need to reimagine relationships between distributors and manufacturers.
“It’s a call to action,” Beveridge said. “Many of our partnerships aren’t working. We need to reimagine relationships. Our research shows there are friction and fractures and elephants in the room. You must have deeper conversations on the topic. The majority of us sense there is need for change.”
Among other educational presenters, eCommerceandB2B.com’s Justin King spoke about building customer loyalty and increasing revenue through e-commerce.
King pointed to recent Forrester research that shows 73% of business-to-business buyers prefer a website over a salesperson and 90% say they prefer to transact on a website and then talk to a salesperson. He also cited additional research that shows around 41% of traffic to B-to-B websites comes from mobile devices.
“Expectations are set prior to people going to a website,” King said. “They have an expectation on how easy they can find things on a website and how easy the transaction is going to be. They bring those expectations to your company and to your buying experience.”
Flying over blue skies
NETWORK2016 in New York City attracted 131 ASA distributor member companies — yet another attendance increase at the industry’s biggest show. The show, which drew 832 total people, has grown in attendance in each of the last nine years now.
ASA also reported a fifth year of net membership growth with distributors. As of NETWORK2016, ASA had 329 distributor members. The association also reported total membership in the group is up 55% from 2011, taking into account distributors, manufacturers, master distributors, manufacturers reps and service providers.
“It’s blue skies with very few clouds on the horizon,” ASA Chairman of the Board Rick Fantham (Hajoca Corp.) said. “The association is in excellent shape. Our goal is to accelerate member engagement. We encourage members to jump into the deep side of the pool with ASA.”
ASA Executive Vice President Mike Adelizzi added: “Our brand has never been better.”
This article was originally titled “Salute to greatness” in the November 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.