First place: Williams Distributing, Grand Rapids,
Partnerships Promote Growth, Mutual Business
If you were to ask Jim Williams, president and CEO of Williams
Distributing, to describe his business philosophy, the word
“partnership” would probably come up a lot in the conversation.
Blending a willingness to team up with dealer and retail
customers and designers, along with a shrewd business sense,
Williams has seen his business grow from a $200,000 venture into a
$60-million sales enterprise within the wholesale and retail
arenas. In fact, it was this astronomical growth the result of
these partnerships, and an overall, well-run operation that won the
company top honors in Category Two of K&BDN’s second annual
Industry Leadership Awards.
So, how does he do it?
First, Williams has put into action a series of inventive
dealership programs, assisting dealers with their marketing and
advertising efforts, and, as a result, providing a unique and
much-valued service within the industry. For example, the company
produces a newspaper advertising insert twice a year for dealers.
Williams designs and produces the ad, which promotes an event to
which a Williams-provided incentive (i.e. a KitchenAid mixer) is
The company also uses incentives to encourage home buyers to
visit builders’ homes. It’s not unusual for Williams to put up
airline tickets or another type of attractive perk for a prize
drawing. Of course, to win the prize, the homebuyer must register
at a Williams builder’s home.
While incentives are a good way to lure homebuyers, Williams
also uses a host of other concrete business strategies that have
cemented his reputation for excellence. He offers a variety of
sales support services to customers, including extensive product
training. Through these, Williams is able to augment dealers’
strong areas, helping them grow their businesses.
In addition, the company provides next-day delivery of many
in-stock kitchen and bath items to a majority of its customers,
helping to enhance customer satisfaction, Williams notes.
Williams notes that the true value of the company’s
multi-pronged success strategy is this: If his customers are
successful, he is successful.
The result for the company has been an increased inventory line
(Williams Distributing expanded into cabinetry in 1985 and now
offers heating and air conditioning, plumbing, outdoor power
equipment, and custom solid surface and laminate countertops, as
well), continued retail growth (an additional seven other retail
locations have been opened in Michigan), and a continually
increasing staff size (the com-pany has seen its staff grow to a
whopping 225 employees since its inception in 1970).
Even though he provides solid support for dealers and retail
customers, Williams makes sure to include sales support for builder
clients in his “bag of tricks.”
By partnering with builders to staff home shows, Williams hopes
that if his designers can sell the kitchen in a model home, perhaps
they can sell the entire home for the builder.
This combination of partnering, risk-taking and industry
knowledge has earned Williams other awards for his sales prowess,
as well, such as the StarMark Platinum Sales Award.
But what Williams is most proud of is the number of customers
who have remained with his company for years, or even decades. This
kind of loyalty can only be earned through hard work, quality and a
commitment to service, Williams believes.
Second place: The Plumbery, Sacramento, CA.
Employees Boost Growth by ‘Owning’ Their Own Success
Getting the kind of commitment necessary to making a “whotail” firm
a success is a lot easier when the employees own the company. So
says Ken Waite, g.m. for Sacramento, CA-based The Plumbery, which
won second place honors in Category Two of K&BDN’s second
annual Industry Leadership Awards.
The distribution of company stock enhances employees’ commitment
to the company. Investing in employees takes many other forms at
The Plumbery, and employee training is high on the list. New
employees receive training from The Plumbery personnel as well as
key manufacturing partners. Training encompasses everything from
preferred product lines and selling techniques to the effective use
In fact, software plays a major role in The Plumbery’s success,
with wholesale distribution software used to link the company to
its wholesale parents.
With three showrooms in the North California Bay Area
(Sacramento, Dublin and San Francisco), the firm divides its
business between the trade (60% of its distribution) and retail
(40%). The showrooms, which focus on high-end decorative plumbing
and appliances, each target different arenas.
For instance, the San Francisco showroom is all trade business,
focusing on the interior design community. By contrast, the Dublin
showroom targets custom homebuilders and Sacramento targets the
Both the Dublin and Sacramento showrooms feature working
installations with live kitchen and bath displays. The company also
hosts ASID meetings in its San Francisco showroom to gain
visibility with its target market. Additional publicity comes from
advertisements in newspapers and magazines.
The bottom line goal for the firm is to achieve the highest
level of efficiency possible. To that end, Waite explains, “We are
focusing on lowering transaction costs with respect to inventory
[and] accounts receivable, and focusing on the point-of-sale
experience. We want to make the experience on the floor more
Based on the company’s profit margins (decorative plumbing
region profits are at 38-40% and appliances are at 20-22%,
according to Waite), it appears that his goals are being met.
Third place: Broc Supply, Allentown, PA.
Filling a Need in the Marketplace Creates a Success
Prior to starting his business in 1992, Chris Birosik, president
and owner of Broc Supply, was a carpenter. While working on a
project, he tried to acquire a certain countertop when he
discovered that what he was looking for was unavailable.
It was then that he realized there was a need to be met in the
kitchen and bath market and his company has been filling that need
for builders and contractors (as well as for retail and remodeling
customers) ever since. In fact, his success in meeting a need and
growing a company around that has won him third place honors in
K&BDN’s second annual Industry Leadership Awards .
Initially manufacturing countertops, Birosik soon expanded Broc
Supply to supply kitchen and bath cabinetry, hardware and
It’s a formula that has proven successful for him. By “simply”
filling a void in the marketplace, the company has grown from a
two-man countertop shop to a full-scale “whotailer” with 25
employees. The com-pany plans not only to keep on growing, but to
work toward “dominating the market.”
To that end, Birosik and his staff focus on proven success
strategies, such as keeping up with the latest trends and
technology. The company accomplishes this through both attending
and providing seminars to enhance training and keep abreast of the
Seminars may be held in one of Broc’s two showrooms,
at its production facilities. Additionally, Birosik has plans to
expand the seminar program in the near future to include cooking
Furthermore, with both ends of the firm’s business (which breaks
down 70% to 30%, builders to retail customers), “everything is done
in-house,” giving the company complete autonomy over its
As Birosik explains, “We don’t rely on other people. We control the
whole gamut. If you want a remodeling job, we control it all. The
advantage is we don’t have to worry about subcontracting.”
To ensure quality, employees also receive three months of
With a well-trained staff, a home-based operation that allows the
firm to control projects from start to finish, and a willingness to
keep filling needs in the market, Broc Supply anticipates a future
filled with continued success.