Plumbing & Heating Wholesale thrives on EOS and strategic growth.
Sioux Center, Iowa-based Plumbing & Heating Wholesale is the perfect example of a business born out of true customer need. In the late 1970s three plumbing contractors — Leroy Plasier, Jerry Plasier and Dennis Walstra — identified a pain point in their Northwest marketplace: There was a significant amount of travel required in order to get their hands on supplies and products.
Setting out to solve this issue, the three joined forces with a salesperson for a nearby distributor, Dean Pfeil, and a new distribution company was born. Plumbing & Heating Wholesale was founded on the basis of serving customer needs, and it still lives by that mantra today, which is what has earned it Supply House Times’ 2023 Supply House of the Year Award.
Now CEO and Co-Owner, Mike Plasier, joined the company in the mid-1990s, slowly acquiring pieces of the business from its founders. In 2021, Mike Plasier completed the acquisition of Plumbing & Heating Wholesale from his father, Leroy Plasier, and today, Adam Kaskie, vice president of sales, Stacey Koele, CFO, and Benn Harms, director of operations, have become owners of the business alongside Plasier.
INVESTMENTS PAY OFF
Having been in the distribution game more than four decades, Plumbing & Heating Wholesale has had several key turning points that have shaped the trajectory of the company. The first being its decision to join the OMNI Buying Group (now IMARK Plumbing) in 1999.
“It seemed like a huge investment at the time; we were a small, three-location distributor who probably did not really qualify to be a part of the group,” Plasier says. “By the end of that first year, we could clearly see the benefits and how our membership had advanced the company.”
The rest is history when it comes to Plumbing & Heating Wholesale’s relationships and involvement with IMARK, along with other industry groups. Plasier says once he understood the true value of the networking that comes along with these groups, he knew more members of his team needed to be involved.
“OMNI, IMARK Plumbing, Blue Hawk and ASA all have played critical roles in the success and development of our people,” he says. “We are working now to get more levels of our company involved in opportunities with these organizations that can help the industry while allowing that individual to grow and develop personally and professionally.”
Plasier has served on the IMARK Plumbing Board of the Directors for the past 9 years including a role as Chairman from May 2020 to May 2023. It was through valuable networking with fellow IMARK Board member Wilson Teachey of Hubbard Pipe & Supply, that Plumbing & Heating Wholesale found one of its next major turning points — deciding to implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) into its business.
(Above left to right: Sioux Falls New Build Construction - Leadership Team, Central Kitchen and Bath Team, Sioux City Iowa)
An EOS is a business management system that empowers entrepreneurs to reach their goals while promoting transparency throughout the organization. Plumbing & Heating Wholesale adopted this model in 2016, and the entire leadership team agrees it has been a game changer for the business.
“We now have an accountability chart, Vision Traction Organizer (VTO) scorecards and a system that gives a voice to all members of our organization,” Plasier says. “The EOS has been instrumental in creating transparency and a shared vision for our company that I’m not sure we would have found otherwise.”
The benefits are certainly mutual when it comes to the relationship between Plumbing & Heating Wholesale and IMARK Plumbing. According to John Aykroyd, president of IMARK Plumbing and Luxury Products Group, Plasier has worked tirelessly and contributed to several major milestones, including navigating the merger of Omni Group and Equity Plumbing into IMARK Group.
“When describing Mike and his team at Plumbing & Heating Wholesale I reflect on several attributes including a family first culture, profit minded with humble confidence,” says Aykroyd. “They are passionately progressive with an unlimited willingness to share ideas and best practice with fellow IMARK members and with the entire plumbing channel. These are the same values and principals we work to instill in our entire organization.”
Plasier adds that another monumental turning point in the company’s history was the opening if its Sioux Falls, South Dakota location in 2001, which was the first location addition since late in the 1980’s.
According to Plasier, this move began a progression of looking to add locations, understanding that volume plays a key role in the success of a distributor. Today the company has 10 locations throughout the Midwest housing roughly 115 team members.
Understanding that volume is key, the company began to actively seek strategic acquisitions in 2019. The leadership team says that Plasier’s push to increase involvement with IMARK and ASA, along with the strategic geographic expansions, has led the company to “think outside its local box.”
“Through these turning points we’ve been introduced to different companies and different ways of doing things,” Koele says. “Starting to think outside the box has really propelled us to success.”
Kaskie agrees, saying he feels that Plumbing & Heating Wholesale is currently in a transition period, preparing for the next 10 years of success. “We’re taking things to the next level with two new locations (new builds), a heavy investment in our showroom side and a new ERP system,” he explains. “All of this, along with a heavy focus on strategic acquisition, feels like we are preparing ourselves for the next decade of growth.”
(Above: Leadership Team at Quarterly 1 day meeting)
A CULTURE OF ‘YES’
The basis of Plumbing & Heating Wholesale’s culture lies in its EOS principals. According to Plasier, the accountability created by the EOS is core to company culture; it keeps the entire company “rowing in the same direction.”
“Our culture is one of inclusion, acceptance, accountability, humility and fun,” he explains. “Everyone has the opportunity to contribute through the L10 process and all are encouraged to recognize each other when someone is clearly demonstrating or living our core values, this recognition is known as the ‘PHW High Five.’”
Harms agrees, adding that open and honest communication is a staple in the company’s culture. “Everyone in the company has the ability and is encouraged to speak up, share opinions and propose changes,” he says. “We firmly believe that the people working in their various positions each day have a better understanding of their job functions than we do.”
Through EOS, Plumbing and Heating Wholesale has used a document called a Vision Traction Organizer, or VTO, to outline its core values: People, Integrity, Hunger, Teamwork and Productivity. The company uses EOS to define each core value and highlight those in the company that are living and breathing them each day.
“Although we are primarily a sales organization, not everyone here is customer-facing,” Koele says. “So when we’re talking about relationships and people, we mean everywhere from HR and finance to customer relationships as well. The emphasis on our relationships amongst employees and leadership is a large part of the reason I’ve stayed with Plumbing & Heating Wholesale for nearly three decades.”
Plasier adds that the company views vendor relationships as just as important as the ones mentioned above. “I don't think all distributors view their vendor relationships as critical, but that’s not how we view it at all,” Plasier says. “We think vendor relationships are just as important as every other relationship we hold. Purchasing groups and ASA have played a large role in our ability to develop those strong vendor relationships.”
The company describes its second core value — integrity — by always remaining true to its small town values. “The majority of our locations started in what we would call small towns,” Koele says. “It’s important that we remain true to our small town roots no matter how large of a company we become.”
The backbone of an EOS for Plumbing & Heating Wholesale is that the company remains growth oriented. Plumbing & Heating Wholesale calls this principal “hunger.”
“We’re looking for team members to join that are committed to personal and professional development,” Koele says. “We’ve increased our emphasis on training and education in recent years, relying heavily on ASA for that, to ensure our team is always bettering themselves and our company.”
The Plumbing & Heating Wholesale leadership team describes their culture as a “culture of yes,” where teamwork takes on a serious meaning.
“The notion ‘that’s not my job,’ isn’t acceptable here,” Harms says. “We all know what needs to be done and everyone will jump in to help wherever is needed.”
Dave Tinklenberg, purchasing manager, adds that the teamwork is evident when looking through the P&H High Fives. “A lot of those High Fives are people saying that someone jumped in to help with a task that they needed assistance with, even though that isn’t their normal job.”
Vendor partners can vouch for Plumbing & Heating Wholesale’s culture of teamwork. Jeff Shreiner, vice president of sales at Legend Valve, says he believes the culture that Plumbing & Heating Wholesale has developed is what sets them apart.
“Mike and his team have focused on quality products, a culture of teamwork with his staff and providing the best service possible to the contractor community,” he says. “The synergies between our two companies are a huge factor in our growth over the years. Mike and his teams’ commitment to our industry also stands out.”
This teamwork coincides with the company’s final core value of productivity. “Since we want that feeling of camaraderie and teamwork, productivity has to be a part of our culture,” Koele says. “We want a productive use of our time and talents to ensure we’re all pulling our weight and getting the job done.”
(Above: Holmes Supply Acquisition happened in April 2023)
SERVING THE TRADES
While its continuous investment in EOS and industry involvement leads to numerous benefits company-wide, Plumbing & Heating Wholesale always holds one primary goal top of mind: To serve the trade professional with its distribution center strategy.
“We consistently strive to grow business organically through share of wallet expansion, conversations with existing customers, vertical expansions and working to establish new relationships with customers who are not currently engaged with us,” Plasier says. “We are also very open to strategic acquisitions and greenfield new starts in markets where we feel we can add value.”
Plasier adds that the company’s long-term goal is to serve the tradespeople as they always have while expanding operations to serve new customer bases they haven’t traditionally called on.
Harms agrees, summarizing that the company is always looking for that next opportunity. “We like shiny, new things,” he says.
The “culture of yes” is evident when it comes to growth strategy. “I train my salespeople to always say ‘yes’” Kaskie says. “Whether it’s answer a question or finding a product, the answer is, ‘yes, we can do that for you.’”
Plasier says the company is always looking to better serve and grow its customer base by both strategic and opportunistic expansion.
“Locally, we're strategic about our growth, and where we want to put new locations or where we want to make an acquisition,” he says. “But we’re also opportunistic — if a type of company came available in a market that we're nowhere near, but we see good value and synergy between our two companies, we’d definitely be interested in that conversation.”
ON ANOTHER LEVEL
Plumbing & Heating Wholesale’s commitment to service, growth and internal development certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. Vendor partners describe the team as one that “exceeds expectations,” and one that is “on another level.”
For example, Zachary Cooper, national sales manager at Zoeller says, “Plumbing & Heating Wholesale demonstrates an exceptional commitment to customer satisfaction, consistently exceeding expectations in terms of service quality and responsiveness.”
“The partnership between Zoeller and the team over Plumbing & Heating Wholesale is unique and one not too often found,” Cooper continues. “A true partnership is more than just a transactional relationship. It’s much deeper than that; it’s a joint collaboration or connection that is built on trust and shared success and goals. We keep all lines of communication open good or bad, so that we can get better in our efforts to help them serve their customers. Plumbing & Heating Wholesales exceptional dedication to our shared success sets them apart as a standout partner in every sense, and we look forward to continuing our many successes in the future.
(Above: Sioux City counter, Sioux City Addition Pic from Opposite end of existing building)
They possess an in-depth understanding of products, applications, and trends allowing them to provide expert guidance and tailored solutions to their customers. This allows them to effectively market and distribute our products ensuring they reach the right customers at the right time. They also have a willingness to go the extra mile to address customer needs. The combination of these factors – expertise, reliability, adaptability and a customer-centric focus – that takes P&H to another level.”
Giving complete credit to the team of people that make up Plumbing & Heating Wholesale, the leadership team says they are incredibly proud of the company for doubling in size over the past eight years, and that pace of growth is a goal for the next several years as well.
“We’ve been able to gain a stronger identity through this massive growth while maintaining focused on shared goals,” Harms says.
Koele echoes Harm’s point, saying that she’s proud the company has never lost sight of its team through this growth and expansion. “With growth often comes losing sight of your employees,” she says. “I believe we have instead strengthened our relationships with the team and shown them we support them personally and professionally no matter what.”
Again bringing things back to the “culture of yes,” Kaskie says he’s most proud of the company’s open-mindedness and agility.
“We have a company-wide willingness to explore and seek new opportunities,” he says. “Not every new idea sticks, but the openness to discuss it and make that decision as a company is what I’m really proud of.”
Tinklenberg brings up an interesting point, saying that over the years Plumbing & Heating Wholesale has become a part of something bigger than itself.
“As distributors we aren’t all necessarily competing against each other, but more so competing with larger entities taking our market share,” he says. “Through our industry involvement we’ve been able to branch out of our small towns and become a part of something working toward the benefit of all distributors like ourselves.”
No company grows without adapting. Plasier says he’s immensely proud of the company’s willingness to adapt and change over the past forty-plus years.
“Our company started how most small businesses do — somewhat like a dictatorship,” he says. “I knew when I became CEO that in order to grow in the fashion we want to, that style of leadership won’t work today. We’ve been able to adapt and trust that we have great people in each role, knowing mistakes will be made along the way. The new way of communicating we’ve adopted into our culture has been vital to our growth, and it’s why I believe we are in a position to double again in five years, taking this company to the next level once again.”