Published on April 21st, 2016 | by UC&D Magazine0
Randy Evans may only have fleeting memories of Industrial Supply Company founder Rudy Orlob — but every day he goes to work, his grandfather’s legacy is in plain view all around him.
“I vaguely remember sitting on his lap at their home,” Evans said of his grandfather, who passed away when Evans was around 5. “I used to always hear that Grandpa Rudy used to hand out silver dollar coins to his kids and grandkids. I have many of them still to this day. I think that was one of his calling cards. He was very generous.”
As might be expected, Evans, who is now the president of constructionand mining at Industrial Supply, grew up around his grandfather’s company.
“The earliest memories of the business were going down to the counter with my dad to buy tools on Saturday to work on weekend projects,” Evans said. “We used to borrow the big truck once in a while. I used to play on the two-way radio and talk to the warehouse. When I was about 13, I used to cut the lawn and clean up around the buildings on Saturdays for a few weekend bucks.”
Industrial Supply Company got its genesis in 1916 when Orlob founded his first business — the Mountain States Rubber Company — to supply products to the mining industry. That company, and two others that Orlob founded, continued to expand and diversify, before eventually all merging under the Industrial Supply banner in 1975.
This year Industrial Supply — which is headquartered in Salt Lake City — is celebrating the company’s 100-year history in the service industry. The company is marking the occasion with a customer thank you at its annual tool event on June 23 and a centennial dinner on June 24. Several community projects also are planned throughout the year to fete the milestone.
Hallmarks of the company Orlob founded include adaptability, diversity and an extreme dedication to customer service. The company has survived economic and technological challenges along the way to becoming the region’s largest privately owned maintenance, repair, operational and production distributor. In addition to its main Salt Lake location, the company also features seven other branches in Utah, Nevada and Wyoming.
The company — still owned and managed by Orlob’s descendants — boasts more than 50,000 products while servicing the construction, aerospace and defense, utilities, government, electronic, mining and manufacturing industries.
“Because we’ve been around for 100 years, we have learned how to weather recessions and downturns,” said Jessica Yurgaitis, vice president of sales and marketing — and a great-granddaughter of Orlob. “It hasn’t always been easy, but with each economic shift, we have come out ahead. Continuity and reputation have helped us.”
Speaking of reputation, Industrial Supply Company’s has been built on one of going-more-than-the-extra-mile customer service.
Chris Bateman, the company’s CEO, said a clear hallmark of Industrial Supply has always been a commitment to customers, employees and community.
“We have always tried to find ways to say yes to our customers and provide them with valuable solutions for their businesses,” Bateman said. “The spirit of committed customer service has always been a hallmark of the company and continues to this day. We are devoted to taking a personal interest in our customers and their businesses — while offering them the best supply-chain solutions available anywhere.”
Bateman said the company has maintained those standards by consistently sending that message and hiring employees who naturally fit the model for providing service and solutions to customers.
Mark Loera, an area business manager for supplier 3M Industrial Business Group, based in St. Paul, Minn., has been working with Industrial Supply since 2009. His interaction with Industrial Supply has involved a variety of business partnering activities that include working with customers to provide solutions, developing business plans to grow their businesses in the markets they serve and implementing merchandising and marketing programs.
“In my years of working with Industrial Supply, I have not heard of a customer criticize their service level — which speaks volumes of their ability to consistently provide a high level of service,” Loera said. “No doubt this is why they have been in business for 100 years.”
Paul Heiner, a sales rep for Stanley Black and Decker, has been working with Industrial Supply for over 16 years now, and sings similar praises,
“I would rate Industrial Supply’s customer service as the best in the industry,” Heiner said. “I wish we could clone Industrial Supply’s business model, because it works. They are a rare breed in the industrial supply arena today, as they truly develop and work a true partnership with both their vendor/suppliers and key customers. It has been the highlight of my career to have the relationship I have with Industrial Supply.”
Diversification has been a key strategy in Industrial Supply’s success. According to Yurgaitis, the company branched out to the construction field in the 1980s. Soon thereafter, it entered the aerospace and defense segment, servicing the large aerospace companies in the Utah area.
Today, Industrial Supply’s main business segments include construction, manufacturing, aerospace, utilities, mining, natural resources (oil and gas), and state and government.
“Certainly they are all never strong at the same time, but luckily they aren’t all weak at the same time either,” said Yurgaitis, who in 2014 was named one of “Thirty Women to Watch” by Utah Business Magazine. “We rely on diversity to keep on growing, and we are always looking for new markets to serve.”
Industrial Supply Company obviously has a strong family history – but it also boasts a tremendous family atmosphere. “I consider that we not only support our employees, but their families, too,” said Evans. “This is truly considered one-large family company. Not just ownership. If you take care or your employees, they will take care of our customers.”
With an employee pool of 170, according to Yurgaitis, who is the daughter of Chairman of the Board Philip Thompson, only nine are actual family members — and seven of those are on the fourthgeneration level.
“We’ve always said that there has to be a skill set to match the job or it won’t work,” said Yurgaitis, who worked her way through high school and college in the company’s Will Call department. “We don’t employ family just because they share the same DNA. All members of the family that work here bring something special to our team. We’ve fired family members, and we say no to many who wish to take a stab at working here. We want to set a precedent to our employees that you can advance here without being a part of the family, and we are looking for talent always.”
Bateman is a great example of that approach. Now the CEO, Bateman, who is not a family member, began working in the warehouse before advancing to Will Call, the front counter, the office and then the sales organization. He points to the great camaraderie among the employees throughout those years.
“We all worked together to help one another and serve our customers,” he said. “It was work – but it was fun. I had friends from the warehouse to the president of the company. It was a great place to work, and it felt like family.”
Evans has four sons that work at Industrial Supply. He said they grew up listening to conversations about the company around the dinner table.
“I used to take them down at night and weekends,” Evans said, “and they would help me rake leaves and pick up around the building like I used to do when I was their age. Wow! … I believe we have a very strong fourth generation.”
One gets the feeling that’s just the way Rudy Orlob would have wanted it.