While several of the companies featured in Distribution Center’s Top 50 Distributors of 2018 list had banner years, few accrued as much success as Winsupply Inc.

The Dayton, Ohio-based company, which ranked No. 6 on this year’s list, surpassed $3.2 billion in sales last year. Yes, that's billion with a ‘B.’

“Our sales were up 8.1 percent over last year,” said Roland Gordon, president and CEO, Winsupply, at the company’s 2018 Strategic Planning Meetings. “This increase came from organic growth within our companies as well as the opening of 11 new locations and five acquisitions we made. We’ve got a lot to celebrate this year.”


The Model Company

The privately held company employs more than 6,300 individuals across 600 wholesale locations in 45 states and operates in numerous verticals, including HVAC; plumbing; industrial; electrical; pumps and irrigation; pipe, valves, and fittings; and more.

“Winsupply was founded in 1956 on one simple unchanging idea: If we support hard-working, courageous entrepreneurs, they’d rise to the challenge. Winsupply is loaded with courageous entrepreneurs who are achieving things they never thought possible.”
- Monte Salsman, COO, Winsupply

Through its current business model, the president and local team can own up to 40 percent of an individual company while Winsupply retains at least 51 percent ownership. The local presidents then have the benefit of Winsupply’s ample back-office support system that provides essentials, such as inventory, IT, accounting, marketing, training, and more.

Monte Salsman, COO, said Winsupply’s entrepreneur model offers its presidents an unrivaled opportunity in wholesale distribution.

“Winsupply was founded in 1956 on one simple unchanging idea: If we support hard-working, courageous entrepreneurs, they’d rise to the challenge,” he said. “Winsupply is loaded with courageous entrepreneurs who are achieving things they never thought possible.”

Among the company’s verticals, HVAC has provided the greatest level of growth in fiscal year 2018.

“We have around 200 HVAC companies, and the growth of that sector has been a driving force for us,” said Gordon. “A growing trend within our companies is to diversify. Many of our plumbing companies are showing an interest in HVAC, and several of our HVAC guys are interested in branching into plumbing or another vertical. This has also helped drive sales.”

Salsman said the company’s leadership has set a goal to become the best company to do business with in the world.

“When our customers walk away, we want them saying, ‘That was the best experience I’ve ever had anywhere,'” he said. “We don’t just mean as a wholesaler; we mean anywhere in any line of business. Winsupply is the best when each and every one of its companies are the best in their local markets. We know this is an aggressive goal but with big dreams come big results.”


Stock 360

In the last several years, Winsupply has unveiled several services designed to help transform its presidents from great to elite. One such program is the company’s Stock 360 web-based inventory-management platform.

Stock 360 is designed to reduce the time a contractor spends managing inventory by assisting them to automate, standardize, and organize their stocking shelves or trucks. It can be setup to match a contractor’s existing product names and SKUs as well as Winsupply’s proprietary SKUs.

The program also allows contractors to establish minimum and maximum inventory counts and subscribes to recent purchasing trends, which allows contractors to replenish their stock before their resources are exhausted.

“Customers are searching wildly for cost savings,” said Brian Henderson, director, Stock 360. “Stock 360 provides visibility to contractors’ inventory, creates accountability with technicians, increases inventory turns, and reduces carry-on costs. All of these advantages can be significant for wholesalers.”

While the program has existed for less than two years, those utilizing it are reporting favorable results.

“Local companies that have used Stock 360 have increased their cumulative gross margin dollars by 35 percent,” Henderson continued. “In February, their year-over-year margin dollars increased by 50 percent.”

Henderson believes Stock 360 can revolutionize the industry.

“This is a huge opportunity,” he said. “Our competitors are not utilizing this technology, thus there needs to be a sense of urgency on your part because this window of opportunity won’t be open for long.”


Mastery Academy

The following Winsupply companies were honored at the 2018 Winsupply Strategic Planning Meetings:

Plumbing Company of the Year:
Central Oklahoma Winnelson (Keith Jones)

HVAC Company of the Year:
Portland Winair (Keith Kruysman)

Industrial Company of the Year:
Baltimore Windustrial (Vince Brown)

Electrical Company of the Year:
Odessa Winlectric (Carl Long)

Waterworks Company of the Year:
Kansas City Winwater (Scott Wilson)

Fire Fabrication Company of the Year:
Newburgh Windustrial (Dean Lucas)

Specialty Company of the Year:
Midland Winpump (Erick Gladish)

Irrigation Company of the Year:
Santa Rosa Wyatt (Scott Leytem)

Showroom Awards:
Aurora Winnelson, Lexington Winnelson, Myrtle Beach Winnelson, Lawrenceburg Winsupply, Winsupply of Essex, Winsupply of Owensboro, Winsupply of Indianapolis, Winsupply of Savannah, and Security Plumbing & Heating Supply of Albany

Sourcing Services Company of the Year:
Denver Winair (Tom Weinrich)

National Sales Company of the Year:
Denver Winair (Tom Weinrich)

Acquisition Company of the Year:
Carr Supply Inc. (Greg Essig)

Rookie of the Year:
Albuquerque Windustrial (Dale Reinhard)

Best Turnaround:
K&J Winsupply (Mike O’Neill)

Two years ago, Salsman began brainstorming the definitive steps it would take for a Winsupply president to obtain financial freedom. Through this, Winsupply’s Mastery Academy was born.

The Mastery Academy focuses on five characteristics all leaders should possess: ownership, expertise, relationships, worth, and communication.

“The very best take ownership of themselves,” Salsman said. “They take ownership of their attitudes, habits, and results. Expertise is not acquired by accident. It’s the result of having a daily approach to becoming the best you can be. The very best select a product and study it inside and out until they’ve mastered it. Then, they pick a second product, and this continues throughout their careers.

“The very best own their relationships with customers, employees, and mentors,” continued Salsman. “They follow a specific set of steps that allows them to transform strangers into top customers and, ultimately, personal friends. Also, the very best know their value and demand they are paid accordingly. The very best ensure everyone makes money, including the vendors, customers, and themselves. Finally, communication is the fundamental piece that brings everything together. Being a master communicator is the most important leadership skill.”

Winsupply’s Mastery Academy welcomed 20 individuals in its first year and 21 more in its second year. The program’s second year, which was sponsored by Johnson Controls Inc., focused on Champion equipment, and this year’s program will concentrate on A.O. Smith water heaters. In a matter of days, the program reached capacity.

“Our anchoring concept within ownership is gaining clarity over what you want to do with your life,” Salsman said. “If you’re committed and have a clear idea as to what you want to accomplish in life, you have better control over the results.”


Success Personified

Winsupply’s success is personified by the triumphant results of its presidents.

After being acquired by Winsupply in 2016, Mike O’Neill, president of K&J Winsupply in Pensacola, Florida, a distributor of industrial pipe, valves, and fittings, turned his revenue from a negative to a positive.

“My company was acquired two years ago, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect,” O’Neill said. “The whole Winsupply culture has exceeded my expectations. Little did I know I was joining such a fine group of ethical, hard-working, smart people. I look forward to many more successful years working under the Winsupply model.”

Tom Weinrich, president of Denver Winair, was recently named Winsupply’s Sourcing Services Company of the Year and National Sales Company of the Year. In 2017, the company owned 75 percent market share in its local area, experienced 11 percent sales growth, and increased its gross margin 10 percent.

“This is the most amazing group of companies I’ve ever been involved with,” Weinrich said. “I lead a career that is beyond my wildest dreams. Winsupply is entrepreneurship. My family, friends, and really everyone succeeds because of this organization. There is no ceiling. I’m so proud to be a part of this organization.”