When the word “opportunity” is bandied about in business, the first thought typically goes right to dollar, cents and the bottom line.
But according to Indianapolis-based P-M & Associates COO Steve Hullett, that is not a bad thing. It is critical to think about making money. However, it is not the only thing that matters.
P-M & Associates, led by Hullett, President Rick Meyer and Vice President Michael Henderson, makes a concentrated effort to create a workplace environment where its employees will thrive. For its efforts, P-M & Associates has been named the 2015 pme Manufacturers Representative of the Year.
“My personal favorite saying is work hard, play hard. We do both,” Hullett says. “We do play hard, but we do work very hard. That’s the only way you’re going to get it done.”
During pme’s late April visit to P-M’s 40,000-sq.-ft. office and warehouse facility, it was clear the mission to cultivate a productive yet exciting environment had been accomplished. There was at least one spontaneous rubber-band fight that broke out between the inside sales team consisting of Darren Jaynes, Adam Arrivo, Amelia Little and Ryan McBride along with the quotations team of Jim Bova and George Haake, and Controller Debbie Ford.
But, when it is time to get down to business, P-M & Associates does so in spades.
Filling out the lineup card
The company was born out of the 1998 merger with G.E. Meyer & Associates, founded by G.E. “Bud” Meyer (Rick’s father) in 1959 and P-M & Associates, which was founded by Fred Munds and Joe Pindell in 1974.
Today, the company has 13 full-time employees, represents 20 manufacturers and covers the entire states of Indiana and Kentucky with 70% of sales coming in the commercial market. Hullett believes those lines are the perfect mix right now. The rep’s product line card is comparable to a baseball manager’s lineup card; every manufacturer fills a role that helps the team.
P-M has enjoyed great success in its territories’ healthcare buildings, including a Good Samaritan facility, a major hospital in Shelbyville, Ind., and many medical office buildings. P-M also has left its mark in the major area universities including, Notre Dame, Purdue, Indiana and Butler.
The company reports it is bidding on projects at a very strong pace. Henderson notes the amount of quoted projects in 2012 compared to 2014 is virtually the same. But, he adds, the overall value of those commercial projects is down 20%. Because of that shift in value, the team makes it a priority to squeeze as much product in per square foot as possible in each project bid, using a new CRM-based quote and job-tracking system.
“Every line plays off each other, which allows us to work that content per square foot,” Henderson says. “We are able to talk about that and it means something to the engineer.”
P-M prides itself on its ability to maintain long-standing and profitable relationships with its lines. The company’s partnership with Zoeller goes back 56 years, Zurn 44 years, and Symmons and Weiss for 40 years apiece.
“The key to our relationships ultimately is you perform, you sell and you do a good job for them,” Hullett says. “That’s how you maintain a relationship. We know the people from top to bottom. We are personal friends with most of them.”
When the Great Recession hit, P-M & Associates weathered the storm from 2009 on after a couple flush years in the beginning of the downturn. The team learned it had to be more nimble.
“When you see a downturn like we saw then, at the manufacturing level there can be mass chaos,” Meyer states. “They are sometimes thinking they have to change reps because their sales are going down.
“That particular cycle, maybe in some instances, had to do with the rep, but mostly it was economics. Changing reps was good for people such as us. We picked up three or four solid lines during that timeframe.”
The engineer landscape
Henderson says P-M’s value to the plumbing and mechanical engineering community it serves has been enhanced, particularly after the economic downturn. Those firms are “running leaner,” he points out, so having a wide array of products to discuss is critical.
“We represent a package of products,” Henderson says. “So when we are working with an engineer we are talking more content per square foot than if we just represented one piece of a project. That’s nice for the engineers because they know they can get one point of contact. We can come in and we can talk about everything behind the wall, everything in front of the wall, etc.”
Will Maltby, P.E., of Indianapolis-based Genesis Engineering Group, says his working relations with P-M dates back to his time right out of college when Hullett would stop by the office with products and information. He appreciates that P-M understands it will not be “everything to everyone” and the company will not overstep the limitations of the products it represents.
“They do not try and push their product into a direction it is not well-suited for,” he says. “They have learned over the years, just as well as I have learned, when you try to force something that is a square peg into a round cylinder it does not work well.”
Maltby, has 26 years of design experience, including work on projects in the United States, Puerto Rico and Brazil. He stresses the bond he and P-M developed grew quickly and beyond a standard working partnership.
“Over the years, we built a relationship,” Maltby says. “A lot of it based on the equipment, but quite honestly, it is a personal relationship. They have always been there for me and I have always been there for them.”
Charlie Wilson, CPD LEED AP, with Schmidt Associates in Indianapolis, has worked with P-M for 20 of his 30 years in the business and continues to get one-on-one product knowledge from the company.
“The whole team is responsible and helpful,” he says. “P-M and the manufacturers it represents stay on top of the leading edge of design and water savings. A lot of people have quality, but the people who provide the best service are the ones I continue to work with. That is what keeps P-M & Associates so successful.”
From the outside in
The outside sales team at P-M consists of Ron Lauter (covering Kentucky and southern Indiana), Clark Boyles (handling northern Indiana) and Shannon Ambrose (working with architects).
Lauter was born and raised in Kentucky, which is critical to making sales in the market. Lauter and Henderson – another Kentucky native – say that customers in the Bluegrass State are loyal to their own.
“Being homegrown and living in that market there are certainly things we can relate to with those guys working the counters to even presidents or managers of companies,” Lauter states.
Boyles makes a point to bring something new to the table every time he sits down with an engineer. “Engineers are very thirsty for knowledge,” he states. “Just giving them good information, the vast majority of them greatly appreciate that. If you show them a good product, service and knowledge, they will be on your side.”
Ambrose fills a new role for P-M, where she directly contacts architects of projects, particularly in the multifamily and hospitality markets.
“It is a new role here and I have not met many people who do what I do,” she says. “I am mainly doing cold calls right now and some AIA sessions.”
Ambrose reports architects are very focused on the millennial generation and want modern products for their jobs. Lauter believes P-M is ahead of the curve in the rep industry in that regard and manufacturers will be taking notice.
“Shannon’s job for us is critical and it is going to become more important,” Lauter says. “Our manufacturers want to see someone in that position.”
The new wave
The inside sales team is the “first line of defense,” according to Hullett, and they place a lot of trust in the core four of Jaynes, Arrivo, Little and McBride.
Jaynes and Arrivo have each been with P-M & Associates for five years. Jaynes appreciates the stresses that Hullett, Meyer and Henderson place on the team along with the latitude needed to ensure a breakdown does not happen.
“Steve talks with us in the bullpen about it being a pressure cooker,” Jaynes says. “There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on us as an inside team and as a company as a whole.”
Arrivo can see the trust P-M has developed with manufacturers, especially with ones that span more than half a century such as Zoeller Pumps. Arrivo continues to see first-hand how that partnership pays dividends.
“Our relationship with them is exceptional,” he says. “They trust us and we trust them. That trust comes into play when others are looking at us for new representation. We use past experience for new avenues. Our pedigree is strong and we have a good foundation.”
Little has been with the company for nearly two years after working at a plumbing wholesaler for more than five years, while McBride has only been with P-M for a couple months. Each of them appreciates the chance to grow their product knowledge.
“Instead of having 500 different products lines at the wholesale level, here you have 20. But, you have more time to hone in and become a pro,” Little says. “That was the big plus for me. I am informed and enthusiastic about the products.”
Henderson – who Hullett and Meyer credit for leading the charge in getting P-M active in social media – believes it is imperative for the future of the company to reach out to the changing dynamics of the incoming workforce.
“We’ve got a really young, dynamic group,” Henderson says. “As we continue to recruit people from that millennial generation we really try to make this a place where they want to come, they want to have fun and interact with each other. That has been a real benefit.”
McBride adds: “I am so happy I made the transition to come here because working with these guys is the best job I have ever had…hands-down. It is a great environment and the customers are appreciative.”
In the back
According to the executive team the most popular man on campus is Warehouse Manager John Clark. P-M and Clark, who opens the counter area of the 11,000-sq.-ft. warehouse at 6 a.m., will stage projects in the back. The drainage market is where P-M sees the most requests for staging and Clark will arrive early if needed and get everything just right for customers.
Clark has been with P-M for 20 years after being a customer for 20 years before joining the company. In the new facility, P-M – which used to be located in the suburb of Fishers – is closer to its wholesale customers. “We have been booming forever,” Clark says. “We have so many lines and so much area in the warehouse. It has been very helpful.”
Henderson says P-M’s warehouse acts as a liaison or partner with its distributor customers. If a wholesaler feels any trepidation to stock a newly-released product, P-M will take the lead and drum up interest with engineers.
“It helps us get product into the market quicker,” he says. “What’s nice about our facility is that we can put it here and we can help the distributor to go create demand or work with an engineer and build the specifications of the jobs up for that product. When the product is introduced and there is some movement on it in the field, then the distributor feels more comfortable bringing it in.”
Douglas Crogan, Navien’s central U.S. sales manager, notes P-M was one of the first reps hired by Navien when the company started selling product in the U.S. in 2008.
“We saw they had strong lines,” he states. “They have the relationships with the engineers, wholesalers and installers as well as a great succession plan. They have the right blend with seasoned veterans Steve and Rick and the younger group with Michael, Clark and Ron accompanied by a great inside support staff. That is what we look for when he hire someone.”
P-M has three live, fully functioning Navien units installed in its state-of-the-art, 4,000-sq.-ft. training facility and Crogan has been alongside from the start to see the benefits. He reports when a Navien training session is held at P-M’s headquarters, typically 30-40 people attend.
In 2014, P-M hosted more than 500 people throughout the year in its training facility including engineers, architects, owners and contractors, giving the company a great asset for its customers.
“Training equals sales,” Crogan states. “I can tell when there has been a big training session at P-M because there are orders that immediately follow. I have never seen anything like it in my life. We are just seizing the moment.”
Zurn’s Vice President of Sales Sean Martin recalls how Hullett and Henderson sat on the Rep Council at Zurn. Martin says Hullett is “a great voice” for the company to better understand the challenges Zurn brings to the rep network. Henderson’s tenure “brought a different point of view.” which Zurn used to develop a new quote system across the U.S.
“Between the two of them and their leadership they really helped better align the reps not only in their region, but across the United States,” Martin says. “It allowed each of us to take share in our markets and improve one another.”
Mark Whittington, Elkay’s vice president and general manager of the plumbing division, says his customers are getting premier service from the inside sales group.
“You show me an effective manufacturers rep and I will show you a company that has built a great inside sales team,” he says. “When our customers call P-M & Associates, the phone gets answered, the order gets placed and they get what they need.
“They are developing that talent inside, on the phone. Those are the people who will step up as others exit the industry and retire. They will be ready to go into the field and understand it. And they will be the ones developing the next set of workers.”
In the wings
Hullett and Meyer know they have tabbed the right person in Henderson to take the lead at P-M when they are ready to retire. Each member of the company believes it as well. The duo has yet to set a date when they will ride off into the sunset for the company they helped grow, but they are pleased to know the foundation they set is solid for generations to come.
“We have done our due diligence and spent a lot of time forming a good succession plan,” Meyer says. “We’re a good ways through that process. On the inside of our agency, we are getting good, young people to complement our older people.
“We’ve spent some pretty serious money along those lines to make sure that evolution is going in the right direction. When the transition takes place, everybody here and, more importantly, our manufacturers, will know the new people coming in and will have a comfort level.”
And when Henderson is in the big office, P-M & Associates will not deviate from its tried-and-true work hard, play hard mentality.
“The one thing they see from us is when the bell rings in the morning, you’re there ready to go and up and at it,” Henderson says of the younger staff. “The nice part about what Rick and Steve have created here is that it’s not outside and inside. We’re all one team. Then they see that we all can have fun and still get up the next day and go to work.”
Hullett adds, “All work makes for a very dull boy.”
P-M & Associates Line Card
• Charter Plastics
• Cooper B-Line
• Elkay Products Corporation
• IPS Corporation
• Lasco Fittings
• Navien America
• Praxis Companies
• Symmons Industries
• Topp Industries
• Turbo Torch
• Weiss Instruments
• Wilkins – A Division of Zurn
• Zoeller Pump Company
• Zurn Industries