Name: Ron Vallan
Title: Executive Vice President
Company name: Young Supply Co.
Number of locations: 18 branches
Number of employees: 180
Year founded: 1935
Main lines: Rheem, Honeywell, Copeland, MARS, Sporlan, Mitsubishi Electric, Nu-Calgon
Ron Vallan is part of the third generation of his family at Young Supply Co., a privately owned HVACR distributor serving Michigan and northern Ohio. Young was founded in Detroit in 1935 as a refrigeration supplier. Vallan’s grandfather, Dominic Vallan, was an employee, and along with other shareholders bought the company from founder Leon Young in 1966. Vallan’s father, also named Ron, began adding HVAC products.
The younger Vallan has a bachelor’s of science in humanities, a certificate in technical communication, and a certificate in meeting management. With the help of Zoom,Distribution Trends sat down with him to talk about his work and the company. Here, edited for length and clarity, is the conversation.
DT: How did you get your start in distribution, and what kind of jobs did you have before your current role there?
Vallan: I grew up with memories of opening up the shop with my dad as a kid, and, you know, my grandpa talking about it at the dinner table. But I think that it was always a part of my life. And I worked a little bit in the business when I was 16, as well as some other part-time jobs, until I got through school.
When my dad took a step back from the business, my brother (Anthony Vallan, president and COO) was already involved. And he suggested that I join the team.
When I got involved, there was a marketing niche that needed to be filled, because our marketing was basically handled by our accounting department. So it was a kind of a stretch on how we were handling all the marketing things. My dad and brother were doing this on the side. So because of my background in communication … it felt like a good fit for us to put me into the marketing role.
DT: Am I correct in saying that you didn’t go to school necessarily with the idea that you would go into the family business?
Vallan: Yeah, it just happened that way. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
The reason I started at Lawrence Tech (Lawrence Technological University) is because I wanted to be an architect. … I found real soon in my student career that it was not for me. But I did like Lawrence Tech; I stayed there.
I enjoy communications — that kind of goes hand-in-hand with marketing. I feel like the communication is not only to the customer, it’s internal communication at the company, which really helped me in my role today.
I learned more in my college career about problem-solving and listening, which helped me in what I do today.
DT: Tell me about how Young has navigated some of the challenges facing HVAC right now.
Vallan: Communication has been the main key for us, communicating with our vendors, communicating with our customers, and, most of all, communicating with our entire team. Throughout the changes, our purchasing team and our leadership team have made a valiant effort to keep the product that our customers need.
DT: Explain a little more about that. How does communication smooth a way/smooth a path for contractors who are anxious to get their equipment?
Vallan: It just makes them feel more comfortable that we’re going to have what we have when they need it. And we added more storage space, rented more space during all this for equipment, and tidied up some of our warehouses so that they can accept more equipment.
Our purchasing team is very talented. I put them up against anyone in the country. I’ve been at a Mitsubishi meeting … and they’ve had our purchasing person stand up, because his track record is amazing — how he forecasts and orders. He’s not necessarily listening to what the computer tells him; he worked at the counter for a long time. So he knows what we’re going to need, and he talks to our salespeople constantly.
Our customers aren’t getting pushed aside. That was one thing that helped us: giving our customers the assurance that, for the most part, we’re going to have what they need, or will have something similar to what they need.
DT: What keeps you motivated about your work, aside from the obvious of earning a living, providing jobs and managing a company?
Vallan: I think working with the people. We have a family atmosphere, so I enjoy what I do. That famous quote “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” might sound like fantasy, but I think our family atmosphere at Young makes it easy for me to come to work every day.
I can remember stories of my grandfather … talking about the team of people that he had on board. And then my dad formed a team, and then my brother and my team make it easy, because we enjoy what we do, and we enjoy the people around us.
With our dealer incentives, I incorporate travel into my career. … So it’s one of my passions. But the people are definitely the main reason why I love coming here every day.
Executive vice president, Young Supply Co.
DT: So what is the worst career advice you’ve ever received?
Vallan: The worst career advice I’ve ever received is that business is something that can be taught or something that you can learn in a classroom.
I think that business is more of an art. It’s ever-changing. I think these last few years have been a huge testament to that. Our team has been through some really interesting things, as has everyone in every type of business in the country, if not the world. … And it’s the way that we react to these changes.
We needed to keep our company you know, growing and keeping people motivated. And I think that that is the biggest fallacy, thinking that you can find that in a textbook.
DT: What was the best?
Vallan: The best is appreciating people. I think my dad taught me that years ago: If you find good people, and you give them the tools to do their job, and empower them, they will help you run the company, and I think that’s the case today. It’s definitely a people business.
DT: If you were not in distribution, what would be your fantasy career, however realistic or unrealistic?
Vallan: Based on what I get to do with luxury resorts, like on our dealer rewards, I think I would definitely be working in an executive or a leadership position at a high-end resort or a cruise line.I just see travel that, luckily, I’m able to incorporate into my job today. But travel would definitely be something that I would have been in, for sure.