20 Questions with Gary Daniels, President and CEO of Johnstone Supply

Originally published: 11.01.06 by Terry Tanker


It’s trendy to cut out the middleman — but not in the hvacr industry. Publisher Terry Tanker met with Gary Daniels, president and CEO of Johnstone Supply, for coffee and a conversation about wholesale distribution, contractors, adding value, globalization, and team sports at Johnstone headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

1. Martini or Manhattan?

A Martini in Manhattan.

2. Favorite Website?
Google, because it takes me everywhere else I want to go.

3. Have you ever Google’d yourself?
Yes, and the Gary Daniels that came up was some sort of kick boxer and actor. I didn’t realize I was that much of a star.

4. You were a two-sport All American. How did that help prepare you to lead Johnstone?
I manage the organization like a professional team. Almost all team sports concepts transfer to business, such as a discipline, character, dedication, preparation, motivation, and the value of team work.

5. In 1974 you were drafted by the Angels organization.
How much was your contract for? $550 a month and $15 a day for meal money. Even back then it was hard to eat on $15 a day.

6. You’re an avid golfer. What is your handicap?
Well, I try to keep it below 13.

7. Lowest round?
76 in a tournament.

8. Favorite Course?
Bandon Dunes, Pebble Beach, Augusta…

9. After graduating from Lewis & Clark College, what did you think you would do?
I received my degree in communications and had dreams of being a broadcaster.

10. You’ve been a driving force in developing a progressive company vision. What is it?
We think being progressive means a constant push toward being the best hvacr wholesaler in the industry. We captured that internally with our vision statement, which says our goal is to be a contractor’s best choice for products and services, our supplier’s best choice to distribute their products, and to be the best place to work in the industry.

11. Since your rise to CEO, revenue has doubled, and Johnstone has just opened its 300th store. That’s no accident; can you share some details about your Strategic Plan?
We are working on our third strategic plan in six years. We break long plans down into shorter segments like a navigator on a ship. We work toward one navigational point and then on to the next until we reach certain goals, but the destination changes over time, and we continue to adjust our course.

12. Talk about the importance of launching Johnstone’s on-line catalog.
We designed it as a technical resource tool for the contractor, and we have several million visits to it a month. A new version will launch in January and we’ve made it even easier to find product information and order online.

13. In 1989 you were GM of Merchandising, and then added VP of Marketing to your title a year later. Are you still involved with Johnstone’s marketing communication program?
It’s important I understand what we are communicating to the market. Our marketing team is very good, and our strategy meetings keep me up-to-speed.

14. What types of marketing and advertising are contractors most receptive to?
We try to be a technical resource for our contractors and our catalog is the most comprehensive resource for identifying parts in our industry. Our ability at the local level to provide a cross-referencing database allows the contractor to find any part he’s looking for. In a way, that’s the best advertisement we could have.

15. What areas are contractors most deficient in?
Technically they are great at what they’re doing. The area they seem to most struggle with is the business management and customer marketing side of things, simply because that’s not what they’re trained for.

16. What percentage of contractors are good marketers?
If you provide a contractor the opportunity to access the right tools and training, which is what we try to do, I think they can all be good marketers.

17. How does Johnstone address contractor training?
Training takes place at our local Johnstone stores. They hold training classes for contractors from technical training to NATE preparation to business development.

18. Would you discuss why NATE certification is so important?
It’s important because it demonstrates to customers that contractors are highly trained. They can be confident they are dealing with a professional and someone who keeps up-to-date with all the latest technology.

19. Globalization impacts manufactures, then distribution, and finally contractors. Can you discuss all three?
Globally, transportation is the equalizer for equipment, even though it may be produced less expensively overseas. U.S. manufactures have positioned themselves well with components and have taken advantage of global markets. It’s also helped stabilize the market as an offset to higher steel and copper prices.

20. When products become commodity items because of global competition, how will Johnstone insulate itself and become even more important to contractors?
Hvacr is still primarily a service industry. We feel that if Johnstone helps the contractor provide the best service so they can be competitive in their business, then that will offset pricing. Giving the best service to customers will make the commodity factor less of an issue, and that is what will speak for us and for the contractor’s work, not the price.

FEEDBACK?
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