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A day in the life of a manufacturers’ rep (Part 1)

Jan. 12, 2018
As this year begins, I’ve decided to take some time out of my normally busy schedule and do some ride-alongs with some of the many segments of the hydronic heating industry.

As this year begins, I’ve decided to take some time out of my normally busy schedule and do some ride-alongs with some of the many segments of the hydronic heating industry. These segments include manufacturers, manufacturers’ representatives, wholesale distributors, and hydronic contractors. I’d love to go further in depth with each one of these necessary organizations, but find I am going to have to limit myself to these key elements. Otherwise I’d be writing a book instead of an article.

I will start out with manufacturers’ representatives. Here in the United States, manufacturers’ representatives, as the name implies, represents the manufacturers. They are an important part of our American way of life. Generally speaking, each representative will usually carry numerous non-competing brands, for which they provide representation.

For this article, I’ve chosen my long-time friend and business associate Greg Gibbs, who works for Shamrock Sales Inc., a well-known, well-established organization serving the Rocky Mountain region. I’ve known Greg for around 20 years. He’s been in the rep business for 35 years, having started out with another rep agency named Mountain Standard Sales. This company was owned by Shad Garnett, another well respected hydronic representative, who has long since left us for a higher calling in heaven. Shad’s son, Bill, also works for Shamrock Sales and continues to carry on the fine family hydronic representative tradition.

I was originally scheduled to meet with Greg in the wee hours (5:00 AM) in the foothills of Colorado, and head west to his mountain territory town of Vail, Colorado, in the historic Vail Valley. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to drive an extra hour west to meet Greg in the sleepy town of Silverthorne. He had to spend the night in Silverthorne due to a closure of Interstate 70 the night before. The only down side of this extra hour’s travel time, meant that it was one less hour that I’d be able to pick Greg’s brain about some of the things he sees out in the field, and how I, as an educator, could possibly help avoid some of those situations moving forward, through education. The extra hour’s drive on my part was a minor inconvenience for the opportunity to spend a day with this renowned hydronic wizard.

 He started at the bottom, pushing a broom for Shad Garnett and has worked his way to the top.

Greg is one of numerous employees who work for Steve and Neil Duggan, owners and operators of Shamrock Sales. They represent numerous hydronic component manufacturers including some of the best boiler lines available, some of the most intelligent circulator manufacturers available, along with many other hydronic and comfort related products.

I envy Greg, in that he has come up through the ranks. He started at the bottom, pushing a broom for Shad Garnett and has worked his way to the top. He has seen and worked on more interesting projects than most people who work in this industry will see in their lifetime. I’ve often said that he could write a book, and should title it “You can’t make this stuff up…” Greg spends a significant amount of his time doing teaching and training for wholesalers, as well as the engineers and contractors responsible for installing the products he represents.

On this particular day, he’d been asked to travel to Vail to teach a two-hour class for Jim Harper and Jim’s employees at PSI, a well-known, top-notch plumbing, solar and hydronic service company serving the Vail Valley. We got to Jim’s office at 6:30 AM, and were teaching over a dozen employees about the nuances of the Lochinvar modulating and condensing boilers at 7:00 sharp. Greg has a huge catalog of prepared Power Point presentations that he works from, along with his collection of photos of how NOT to do hydronics.

His teaching style is one that many people strive for because he gets the students’ attention, and holds it for as long as it takes to get them educated. He speaks to these folks in terms that they can relate to and understand, and is willing to stop, and clarify the topic being taught. At the end of this class, the employees gave him a rousing round of well-deserved applause. You don’t see that happen in the field very often, but it happens with Greg all of the time.

From there, we traveled to the wholesale outlet of Dahl Inc., a major player in the supply of plumbing and hydronic components to the Vail Valley. There, we met with their lead hydronics designer, and took off to meet with one of their customers, who was experiencing some not-so-normal conditions with a brand-new boiler. We met the contractor on site, and Greg and his able-bodied assistant, Brandon, dove into the boiler, noting conditions and discussing control parameters, and decided what needed to be done to bring the appliance online. In short order, they had rectified the problem, and brought the boiler online, trained the installer on the recommended programming of the controller, and we were then on our way to the next job,

The manufacturer’s reps stock the products they represent, and deliver them to the wholesaler. They also provide technical support, and warranty services and training to the wholesaler’s employees and their contracting customers. They are the “go-between” between the manufacturers and the wholesale distributors.

Tune in next month as we continue to look at the job of a manufacturer’s representative.

Mark Eatherton material, in print and online, is protected by Copyright 2017. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the express written permission of Mark Eatherton and CONTRACTOR magazine. Please contact via email at [email protected]/

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