Harry Warren Inc.

Besides providing valuable training in the uses of the commercial and residential plumbing products it represents, Harry Warren Inc. inventories products that distributors don’t want to carry or that are often required at the last minute. An example of the latter cited by President and owner Bob Mycoff is a product that not only is designed for an emergency, but sometimes also is installed in an emergency.

“It’s usually an emergency eyewash or a drench shower by the chemical room that they forgot that is needed to finish the job,” Mycoff says. Sometimes the contractor for such a job did not realize such emergency equipment was required. Mycoff estimates that 50 percent of such emergency equipment is sold in an emergency.

“So the contractor comes by the distributor and he’s out of them,” Mycoff continues. “Those are the kinds of things we may supply. It’s knowledge of what are the kinds of things that are the hot button. We do a lot of that, along with instantaneous water heaters as boosters. We do that where all of a sudden, you’ve got a boiler package and you did not run that copper to the last bathroom over there on the plant floor, and you have to have hot water. We sell point-of-use water heaters for applications like that.”

Harry Warren has warehouses at its headquarters in Orlando and in Tampa, Fla. “The Orlando distribution center is around 20,000 to 25,000 square feet because we store a lot of the big bulk valves,” Mycoff says. “The Tampa warehouse is right around 6,000 square feet, and then we have offices and inside salespeople over there.”

The company represents from 15 to 20 lines of luxury residential and commercial plumbing products, although many of the major lines have additional subsidiaries that it represents. “We’re very diversified,” Mycoff emphasizes. “We specialize in not only inside but outside support in industrial and commercial waterworks and luxury residential marketplaces. So we staff and we actually support our line card into those various silos and actually work independently but focus on each one of them, as it’s a true business unit. We get into all kinds of backflow, safety products, piping and industrial flow piping.”

Mostly Commercial

Mycoff estimates that 60 percent of the company’s business is commercial and the rest is residential in dollars. Of that residential, approximately 75 percent is single-family and the rest is multifamily. “In our Florida market, the majority of the business right now is vertical buildings – high-rises – and it just depends on how you define a 25-story condominium building,” Mycoff says. “In our marketplace, we consider that commercial.”

Sales representatives spend an estimated 60 percent of their time with engineers, builders and owners, and the rest with plumbing and mechanical contractors on commercial projects. The reps also check with distributors to ensure that they have up-to-date products. “Our real task in a lot of this is to pull through the business for the distributor,” Mycoff explains.

Harry Warren also modifies parts for customers. “We may take apart a valve and modify it for a particular situation and have that available for pickup, where it may be a lead time of weeks at a manufacturing facility to get that product,” Mycoff says. “In every application, you have shelf items that are going to be coming out for the entire marketplace, and then you may have an application – you may need a bypass because of different codes for a municipality that may not be anywhere else – you can stock it special or have a regular product and modify it upon demand. We really provide support just by having the knowledge and wherewithal to have products that are really tied into what type of applications we have in Florida.”

Lunch and Learn

Mycoff observes that in the last 10 years, the role of the sales representative has changed. “We spend the majority of our time talking about specifying products,” he comments. “We’re also passing on the knowledge and training – whether to engineers or architects – and the benefits and features of the product, as to why they should use it for an application. So we’re not really selling to an architect or an engineer – we’re training them and making the product knowledge available to them to make the right decision for their application.”

To accomplish this, Harry Warren cross-trains its employees in different industries and also has specialists for each industry in which its products are used. The company’s goal is for its specialists to answer approximately 80 percent of the technical questions they are asked by customers and to refer the rest to specialists or research the answers with manufacturers.

The company holds approximately two lunch-and-learns for customers weekly in south Florida and three weekly in western and central Florida. Some are held in customers’ offices. “If you can get them to have lunch with you in their place of business, they don’t have to go anywhere and you’re going to draw more people,” he points out. Off-site locations are used for larger groups and to demonstrate products in sessions. “We can get through a large amount of people by having a single location offsite and having them cycle through,” Mycoff adds.

Harry Warren plans to continue to grow its luxury products. It is adding young employees to the staff and having experienced employees share their knowledge with them. Mycoff – who owns the company with his wife, Leigh – have a succession plan in place. Mycoff attributes the company’s success to placing employees in good positions. “We try to put people in the positions that best suit what they’re qualified to do,” he says.

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