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Bill Shaw, president of Standard Supply and Distributing Company

Originally published: 07.01.06 by Terry Tanker

Bill Shaw, president of Standard Supply and Distributing Company

How does someone who started out in the cosmetics industry become one of the most successful HVACR distributors in the industry? Publisher Terry Tanker sat down with HARDI President Bill Shaw, to find out about his start at Mary Kay, the cosmetics giant, and his current role as president of Standard Supply and Distributing Company, Inc. and Bartos Industries.


1. Golf or Tennis?

Definiely golf.

2. Favorite Course?

Pebble Beach.

3. Phil or Tiger?

From a marketing standpoint, Tiger is the man.

4. How did you meet your wife?

I was looking through a high school yearbook and found an article titled, "Through the Eyes of the Editor." Accompanying the article was a photo of only of her eyes. I knew right then I wanted to meet her, now we've been married for 42 years.

5 . You used to work for Mary Kay. Do you drive a pink Cadillac? 

(Laughs) No, executives weren't allowed to have the pink cars. Those are only for consultants.

6 . You were Director of Sales Training and Motivation at Mary Kay. What techniques do you still use from that experience?

Motivating people to believe in themselves by providing an atmosphere to excel. It led Mary Kay from $25M to a $1B company in 10 years.

7 . How do you stay organized running two companies?

Microsoft Outlook.

8 . How has business been lately?

Fantastic. The economy is conducive for growth.

9 . What is the best idea you've implemented recently?

Allowing my employees to make more decisions and their own mistakes. I was too hands-on before. It's truly a blessing to see them grow.

10. What's the best question to ask during an interview? 

I ask them to describe a typical weekend, from Friday evening to Monday morning. You can learn more about a person's interests, motivations and values with this question than with any business-type question.

11 . HVACR Business believes contractors must become "retail marketers." Do you agree?

The word "retail" has a stigma for contractors. Many of them believe they have to act like used car salesmen in order to be marketers, but what they should realize is that marketing is really educating, not selling. They can make money by meeting customers' needs. It's as simple as engaging in a dialogue with them and solving problems. It's the add-ons and warranty- type of things that bring in the money.

12. As a fundamental part of good business, how important is it for contractors to learn successful marketing techniques?

It is crucial, as the companies who are implementing these techniques are going to be the most successful financially. We have to recognize the value of customer education.

13. How difficult is it for them to learn these marketing techniques?

I don't think it's difficult. It is, however, a different mindset for contractors, and that makes it difficult. The truth is that they would be shocked at how successful they'd be if they could make that switch.

14. you think the appropriate tools exist?

The right tools are out there, though they aren't as organized as they should be. A few do it right but there's definitely room for improvement.

15 . Does a technical background prevent a contractor from spending time on marketing or understanding or even wanting to spend time on marketing?

Once contractors make that leap to thinking about marketing as customer education, it can be a real plus. Customers don't expect technicians to be salespeople, so they're open to hearing technicians' expertise in recommending products.

16 . As products become more technically advanced, does that impact the contractors' ability to market effectively?

Most homeowners just want to know what a particular product will do for them, not the technical details. As long as the technician can talk to customers about the benefits of the product in plain language, I don't think it's much of an issue.

17 . Contractors are wearing so many hats, how can they juggle learning and implementing marketing techniques while keeping the doors open?

You have to make the time. Customers are likely to go with companies who understand their needs over those who provide low prices. There's value in the long-term customer relationship.

18 . What do you see as the potential for the growth of the residential (retail) market?

Roughly 80 new homes are built in the Dallas-Fort Worth area every day, and there are parts of the country where there's even more building going on. There's growth potential in all areas. There are a whole lot of older homes out there that need replacement systems as well.

19 . What role will IAQ play in future growth?

New homes have been built so tight that IAQ is a real issue. Fresh air intake, mold control, humidification and dehumidification — these are all areas that play into future growth.

20. The Dallas Cowboys are building a new stadium. Who's getting the HVACR contract?

It'd better be one of our companies!


About Terry Tanker

Terry Tanker

Terry is the owner of JFT Properties LLC and publisher of HVACR Business magazine. He has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming JFT Properties LLC in January 2006, he spent 20 years with a large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace.

In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, NATE and ABMA. 

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