Erb Co.

Erb Co. picErb Co. has supplied western New York with plumbing and HVAC equipment for four generations.

By Chris Petersen

There are a lot of ways to measure success, but for Buffalo, N.Y.-based Erb Co., the fact that it has thrived for four generations and more than 100 years is the best measure of its success. As Vice President of Sales Gary Bosley explains, the longevity of Erb Co. stands as testament to its ability to service customers with plumbing and HVAC distribution throughout western New York and gives those customers peace of mind that they will be dealing with a distributor that is going to be around for the long haul.

Founded by George Erb in the early years of the 20th century, Erb Co. initially provided irrigation supplies for local farmers. Over the years, the company’s product mix has evolved to include one of the broadest arrays of plumbing and HVAC equipment in the industry, from some of the most well-known manufacturers. The company has developed a strong base of loyal customers in the residential and commercial construction sectors, and the company says nothing is more valuable to Erb Co. than the strong bond it has developed with those customers. “The philosophy of Erb Company boils down to the importance of the quality of the relationship that is forged when doing business with valued customers,” the company says.

Even though competition in western New York is plentiful and always keeping Erb Co. on its toes, Bosley says the company has the qualities to remain successful long into the future. Erb Co. has been a constant presence in the Buffalo marketplace for multiple generations, and Bosley says there’s no reason to believe that will be changing anytime soon.

One-Stop Shop

One of the strongest advantages Erb Co. brings to the table is the breadth of its product lines. According to Bosley, Erb Co. has more than 25,000 items in its inventory, meaning it is more than likely to have whatever its customers need at any given time. “I think we’re very diversified,” Bosley says. “We do everything from residential and commercial plumbing to residential and commercial heating.” Erb Co box

Although Bosley can identify more than 20 different competitors in the western New York market, many of these competitors compete with Erb Co. in only a small portion of the company’s product mix. Because Erb Co. offers so much more, customers can be assured that they won’t need to go hunting around for everything they need. “I think the diversification we have allows us to be a one-stop shop across the entire industry,” Bosley says.

Among the product lines Erb Co. distributes are some of the biggest names in the industry, and the company’s longevity and reputation for quality service mean Erb Co. has developed some very long-term relationships with top-tier vendors. Bosley says the company’s relationships with vendors like Rheem have been in place for more than 50 years.

Another beneficial aspect of the company’s longevity is that Erb Co. has developed a strong sales force that consists of many long-tenured professionals. Bosley says this goes a long way to helping the company maintain good relationships with its customers and its vendors. “It’s not unusual for somebody to be here 30 or 40 years,” he says.

Bosley says Erb Co. also takes its position as a long-term presence in the industry seriously, and understands the value of being an active member of the distributor community. “I think we’re a good industry citizen, participating in a lot of American Supply Association (ASA) events and we’re very active in our buying group, Affiliated Distributors,” he says.

Stepping Forward

In recent years, Erb Co. has taken some dramatic leaps forward in terms of preparing itself for the future of the industry, and Bosley says technology is playing a big part in that transformation. The company will be upgrading its ERP system in the near future, and it also is hiring young professionals with strong technology backgrounds to help guide new initiatives such as online order entry for customers. “That will put us at the forefront of technology,” Bosley says.

The Internet has made significant changes to the industry over the last several years, making pricing much more competitive than in the past. Although Bosley says Erb Co. is focused on broadening its presence in the online sphere and bolstering its technology, he says there is no substitute for quality and service. By being the best in terms of product selection and customer service, Bosley says, Erb Co. expects to continue leading the marketplace.

Another significant challenge for Erb Co. is finding qualified people for entry-level positions. Bosley says the company is working to promote the idea that Erb Co. offers long-term job security as well as competitive pay and benefits such as ASA training.

As the company looks ahead to the future, Bosley says, Erb Co. believes it already has a lot of great people in place who can help carry the company’s traditions forward. With the company already preparing for the future, Erb Co. stands ready to serve customers for generations to come. “We’re going to continue to grow and we’re going to become more tech-savvy,” Bosley says. 

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