I started interviewing story subjects professionally back on a muddy soccer field 13 years ago in Brookfield, Wis. I have interviewed high-school athletes, coaches (both college and professional), fishermen, horse jockeys and more.

Then I came to BNP Media — first with Supply House Times and now pme — and have spoken on the record with company presidents and CEOs, top-flight engineers and manufacturers reps.

I never once did a classic “Hollywood double-take” until meeting with the inside sales team at pme’s 2017 Manufacturers Representative of the Year BWA South Co. April 17 in Hilliard, Ohio. For the full story on BWA South, a rep firm that continually innovates as its footprint grows, please read this month’s cover story.

There I was asking my questions, listening to the responses and chatter amongst the team, and taking notes when Bill Stemler revealed he retired in 2000.

I looked up from my extra-large yellow legal notepad and then down to make an entry. My head quickly shot back up when my brain registered what Stemler actually said.

“You’ve been retired for 17 years?” I asked, my jaw slightly slacked.

Stemler confirmed that I didn’t misunderstand him.

“Then what are you doing here?” I jokingly asked.

“I love the work,” he said.

The loyalty and employee capital BWA South has developed is something to behold. This was a major topic discussed during my pme Podcast with BWA South partners Jen Morton and Nick Hanes. Listen to the entire podcast with Morton and Hanes.

Hanes confirmed the long-tenured staff at BWA South gives the firm a head start in its territories. “What it does is provide consistency in the marketplace,” he says. “Not only for the manufacturers we represent, but to the customer base. From engineering firms, architectural firms, contractors and distributors, we have consistency throughout our footprint.”

The industry-wide discussion on how to attract new talent into our facilities must continue, but stories such as BWA South’s employee longevity can’t be sidelined. In fact, these stories need to be a major part of the conversation.

We need to show millennials how the industry will take care of them if they take the leap into the plumbing world and work hard. They have to know industry veterans are willing to work side-by-side and groom them as the leaders of the next generations.

Gaining the trust and convincing a millennial to stay at your company is going to be a difficult task. They have grand desires for work and life, but having the foundation in place is the best way to start.

Once they are in the door and show the ability to work hard and improve, then you will have to work with them so they can flourish. I know it sounds frustrating, but if they’re worth it, you must make it work.

BWA South has the perfect story to tell potential new industry members. Can you match it?


This article was originally titled “Roots run deep” in the June 2017 print edition of PM Engineer.