Meet the Wholesaler: Jake Way
After a strong launch, this South Carolina distributor makes adjustments to maintain its trajectory
Name: Jake Way
Company: Greenville Winsupply
Number of Locations: 1
Number of Employees: 7
Year Founded: 2014
Major Product Lines: Honeywell, LG, Champion, AO Smith, Hart/Cooley, and more
HVAC didn’t bring Jake Way to Greenville, S.C.— starting a location for another large national distributor did — but its charms led him to look for a business opportunity that would allow his family to stick around. Way found both the industry and the support in the form of Winsupply (“an awesome group of people to work with,” he noted).
Greenville Winsupply debuted in 2014. Read about its fast start and more in this issue’s Meet The Wholesaler.
Your company was winning awards by year three. Were there one or two key lessons learned or surprises along the way in those first couple of years getting up to speed? On the other hand, did something critical go exactly as you planned during this time?
Way: Being in the industry for 15 years and this being my second startup, I knew the main things that we needed to focus on from the start. First, you have to have the right inventory in stock at all times. Second, do what you say you’re going to do. Third, we want to change the buying experience for our customers. And fourth, treat your employees like family and create a winning atmosphere.
Because of these ideals, our team has been able to accomplish some pretty amazing things in our first five years of business. The one accomplishment that I am most proud of is the fact that we hit our five-year sales budget goal in three years. It’s a testament to how good our people are at what they do.
Now that Greenville Winsupply is past that initial stage of “liftoff,” so to speak, have you had to make major decisions as an organization to handle the next wave of growth?
Way: Yes. We are challenged every day by understanding the complexities of our market and how they are continuously changing. Five years ago as a small startup, our main focus was to sell enough to pay the bills. Now we have to make strategic decisions every day based on which products to carry, pricing, and our customers’ needs. As we continue to grow, we are also faced with the challenge of finding a new location and hiring the right people for the right job.
What was the worst business advice you ever received?
Way: I once had a sales manager tell me not to call on a customer because I was wasting my time as they were too small. They became my biggest customer. I learned that while you can’t sell to everyone, you sure can check them out and see if you are a good fit to help them grow their business.
Is there a business leader (or someone from any discipline or profession) whom you admire and who influences you in your work?
Way: I really enjoy reading business books and talking with people in different industries about their business. You can learn so much from other industries and apply it to what you do. Not listening and learning from people from different industries is the biggest mistake that people make in business. If I had to say anyone influences my work, it would be my grandparents and my parents. They taught me to work hard at everything you do and never give up on your goals.
What motivational approach/tactic has been most effective for you in your career with regard to the employees you manage?
Way: Be open and transparent with your employees. They are our greatest asset we have as business owners. We have monthly budget meetings that everyone is involved in, and they also help with our yearly goals. I want and need their opinion on so many things.
We’ve also adopted the policy that everyone in the company is required to be a part of interviewing potential new employees. While this may seem intimidating to the potential new hire, it gives them a good sense of what we expect out of our staff. Winsupply also has a policy of profit-sharing with all employees, and it is a great motivator. What better way to motivate someone than by showing them what they can earn if we hit our yearly goals?
What was your favorite college or high school course? Was it the content, or teacher, or both?
Way: I have a degree in economics, so naturally I love to talk and listen to business strategy and economics.
What’s a great vacation look like for you?
Way: My wife and I have four boys, and we love to travel. Anytime we travel, we always try to go off the beaten path and experience what the local people see. We also love our yearly family trip to the beach.
Is there a type of “minor” equipment that you’re seeing trending way up or way down these days?
Way: I think that as you see the minimum SEER rating continue to go up, inverter technology and mini splits will become more universally accepted in the United States.
I notice the company offers a rewards program for contractors. How has that gone, and do you have any advice for other distributors who might be considering one?
Way: Yes, reward programs do work. We as distributors have to continue to be innovative in our approach when trying to retain our customers. Trips and rewards are a good cost effective way to do that.
If you start a dream job elsewhere beyond the HVAC/distribution industry, what would it be?
Way: I would love to do something in the sports management field.
See more articles from this issue here!