The wholesale business is in Evelyn Krug’s blood. She’s been in it since she was 20 years old except for a few years when she tried some other things. But she missed the customers and came back to wholesaling and Noland Company’s location in Mountain Home, Ark., where she previously worked.
Noland Company is a WinWholesale wholly-owned subsidiary with more than 70 plumbing, and heating and air conditioning equipment locations in the Southeast.
Evelyn, manager of the Mountain Home location, attributes missing the customers to the fact that she’s a people person. “Most of my customers are like brothers. I’ve known them for more than 20 years,” she said. This, no doubt, means Mountain Home customers are treated very well and are the first priority as they receive exceptional customer service.
No two days are the same
Over the years Evelyn paid her dues and learned the business from the ground up. She started with inside sales on the counter and continued to work the counter while taking on office duties. “Then we got a manager who probably hadn’t worked in a corporation so I helped him with his position. When he left I became the manager,” Evelyn explained. She’s now in her seventh year as manager.
“I like the challenges and learning new things. I’m all for change. In no single day do you do the same thing or have people ask for the same thing,” Evelyn said.
It’s fortunate that Evelyn is all for change because in 2005 change came for Noland when WinWholesale acquired the 90-year-old company to fill gaps in its Southeast market.
She has found the communication within WinWholesale and the information shared with her to be especially helpful in managing her local company. “The WinWholesale organization is so helpful. I haven’t found anyone not willing to help,” she said.
With the acquisition came WinWholesale’s business philosophy embodied in what it calls The Spirit of Opportunity. That refers to the entrepreneurial spirit of the company and its employees, and the opportunity to do well professionally and personally through investing in a local company. It also refers to working hard and smartly in that company to serve customers by meeting their needs.
Local companies make their own decisions – not the corporate office
At WinWholesale, local companies have the authority to make decisions that are best for customers and the company based on their market conditions and business circumstances. Local companies with the Win brand, such as Winnelson and Winair, are independent corporations with local ownership and WinWholesale providing a majority equity stake. WinWholesale provides centralized support services, such as accounting and IT, to Win and Noland local companies.
The local ownership business model is gradually being introduced to Noland locations, which is a change from the traditional branch/corporate top-down management style Noland used.
“The Spirit of Opportunity means the sky is the limit. You could start out as a truck driver and have your own store,” Evelyn said, which has happened more than once at WinWholesale. “It’s a matter of do you want to apply yourself and learn the business? With the Win companies you can excel and succeed to any level you want.”
Evelyn believes the person who has the best chance to succeed at WinWholesale, regardless of their job, is someone devoted to the business and wants to learn. The wrong questions to ask her are:
“What are my hours, and how long is lunch?” Ask her: “What can I do when I’m here, and is there a potential to go higher on the ladder?”
Evelyn: “I never thought I could excel to this level.”
For Evelyn, the independence and feeling of accomplishment has been surprising to her. “I never thought I could excel to this level. The help they (WinWholesale) give in trying to help you succeed is amazing,” she said. “My goal is to succeed and have a profit sharing check again this year.”
The slow economy hasn’t made that goal any easier, but Evelyn’s local company is dealing with it. Before the economy began to deteriorate, Mountain Home was heavily into supplying residential construction. Now the company is bidding on and getting commercial jobs and supplying repair work. “The economy has slowed us down, but it hasn’t stopped us,” Evelyn said.
Not long ago Evelyn hired a new truck driver. “I told him he couldn’t ask for a better place to work. If you’re career minded, the WinWholesale organization is definitely the place you need to be.” she said to him.
At WinWholesale it’s possible for anyone to grab The Spirit of Opportunity according to Jeff Porter. As a WinWholesale employee for 15 years, Jeff is qualified to judge what it takes to work for the company and succeed – whether it’s at one of the 550 local companies across the country or in the corporate organization.
"WinWholesale is not only a place for opportunity, but it’s a family committed to helping people prosper in their careers," said Jeff, operations director for WinWholesale Sourcing Services. WSS is responsible for product management and the company’s national distribution network supplying local companies with products. "The opportunities are endless for those willing to work hard and are dedicated to their job," he said.
Advancement opportunities and local company ownership potential
Jeff oversees WinWholesale’s four large product distribution centers around the country as well as purchasing and inventory management. It’s been a 15-year record of career progression leading to his current position.
It all began during his college days at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. There he majored in industrial distribution management. He took his first job after graduation with WinWholesale as operations manager for its Electronics Distribution Buying Association in Dayton, Ohio.
"One of the reasons I chose WinWholesale over offers from other companies was the advancement opportunities and local company ownership potential. Also, there was a deep support structure from the corporate to local company level," Jeff explained.
It was a good choice for Jeff and WinWholesale. He was with the buying association three years before becoming the assistant manager at the company’s Denver regional distribution center (RDC) from 1998 until 2003. Then the manager’s job at the Dayton RDC became available, and he was selected for the job.
During that time WinWholesale built a new Dayton RDC. Jeff was the point person as the 200,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility took shape and began operation in 2005.
Managing a regional distribution center carries much responsibility
Managing an RDC is a plum job at WinWholesale that carries a load of responsibility managing the workflow, people and outbound and inbound shipments. "The RDCs provide quality products and service to local companies and assist them and the WinWholesale organization to be profitable," Jeff explained about his job. "We help local companies to be profitable by enabling them to increase their inventory turns and reduce transaction costs by being a one-stop shop."
Jeff received a promotion in 2007 to RDC operations manager overseeing all WinWholesale distribution centers. One of the challenges in that job is perfection, he said. "We constantly strive for perfection and want every order to be perfect – priced right, complete, accurate and delivered on time to local companies."
Those challenges have been met by streamlining processes in every RDC to ensure accuracy and quick turnaround on outbound shipments. WinWholesale also built "top-notch" teams in the RDC network. For example, during a typical month that the four RDCs process hundreds of thousands of products for shipping, the order selection accuracy is well over 99.9 percent, Jeff said.
In 2009 Jeff was given the added responsibility of overseeing the RDC purchasing and inventory management functions when he received the latest promotion to WSS operations director.
Jeff’s success story is not unique in WinWholesale
Jeff’s story of accomplishment and career progression is not necessarily unique in WinWholesale. He understands how to be successful, whether it’s working in one of the local companies or in the corporate organization. "I worked very, very hard, was dedicated to the job and fortunate enough to be surrounded by knowledgeable people," he said.
Yet, success at WinWholesale is not reserved for a select few. "In my mind, anyone can succeed at Win if they want it bad enough," Jeff said. "I’ve heard so many stories of people starting by sweeping floors in the warehouse or driving trucks, and now they’re successful Win local company presidents."
There are also many other jobs leading to successful WinWholesale careers such as dock supervisors, inventory analysts, IT workers, accountants, customer service representatives, warehouse workers, office managers and sales people.
Regardless of the job – at WinWholesale or anywhere else – Jeff believes there’s a formula for personal success. "I’ve always said you have to have a good work ethic and a passion to succeed," he offered. "The way to do that is to set short term and long term goals. Ask yourself where you want to be in one year and five years, then develop a plan to get there."
At WinWholesale, you can add to Jeff’s formula: Grab The Spirit of Opportunity and go for it.
For Greg Jackson, president of Dayton Windustrial Company (Ohio), the Spirit of Opportunity has been a life changing experience. “It turned me from a kid with no direction into a person vitally interested in where his company was going. The direction the company was going was basically the direction my life was going and changed every aspect of it.” Greg recalled.
Working in the WinWholesale organization and having the opportunity to work his way up into company ownership is a vastly different experience from his high school and college peers, Greg said. The experience molded him as a person.
“So much of that molding has taken place because of the people I’ve been lucky enough to be associated with at WinWholesale who are success stories and pushed me new directions that were the right way to go,” Greg explained.
Because of this experience, Greg sees it as his job to pass on the Spirit of Opportunity legacy to others. “I want to give what was given to me (opportunity) back to the people who deserve it, want it and have the ability to pursue it” he explained. “The most satisfying part of the job is handing the legacy down and getting someone into a successful new company. That’s what we strive to do.”
The potential for ownership spells the difference
The biggest difference in working in the WinWholesale organization and other companies is the potential for ownership, which is a great motivator, according to Greg. He believes that most people want to work and collect a paycheck, but at WinWholesale everyone is attached to the Spirit of Opportunity. “Even if you’re not going to own your own company, at least you can move up in the company where you work,” Greg said.
Whether a person aspires to be a Win company president or not, being part of the WinWholesale organizations requires hard work to succeed. According to Greg, the type of person who does well at a Win company regardless of the job is one who wants to learn, grow and will work hard to achieve their goals. It doesn’t matter what a person’s background is, he said, or who you are – high school or college graduate. The organization allows – even forces – people to grow.
Greg worked his way up in the company
Greg has experienced all of this first hand. In 1982 he started as a truck driver at Dayton Windustrial. The small staff at that time required him to progress fast by doing several jobs in rapid succession, some at the same time. Besides driving, he worked in shipping and receiving, inside and outside sales. He took on more and more duties, including marketing and learning and building the business.
In 1992, he decided to start Cincinnati Windustrial. After a year he was asked to return to Dayton Windustrial as president to lead the company. He sold his interest in the Cincinnati company and concentrated on growing Dayton Windustrial, which has grown each year since then.
It takes a team to make a successful company
But it takes more than the president to make a company successful. If a company president thinks he or she can do it all, they’re doomed to failure, Greg said. The one thing that made Dayton Windustrial successful is the people in the company Greg has surrounded himself with over the years, he said.
“Hardly anyone leaves the company. I try to be fair to people and everyone feels like we’re a team here. Every one of us knows how important our particular job is to get the goal accomplished,” Greg said. “I give employees direction and the tools to do their jobs and grow. Then I let them do it.”
If you’re thinking toward the future about opening a Win company, you may have what it takes. While you’re thinking about that, Greg has some closing thoughts that sum up the Spirit of Opportunity.
“Being a president takes some time and effort to make these things work,” Greg said referring to successful Win companies. “It’s not a 9 to 5 job. You’re not always going to have your weekends to yourself. There are going to be times when you have to sacrifice for the good of the company to make it successful. But all that work in the short term can pay huge benefits in the long term. It’s probably the greatest opportunity a person will have in their life, and if you work hard at it, great things will happen to you and those you surround yourself with.”