Plumbing industry gathers in Banff

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By: Simon Blake

Cautious optimism expressed for Canadian economy

An economist had reassuring advice for the older delegates attending the Annual Business Conference of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating.

“If you’re 57 or older, you aren’t going to be in business the next time a recession comes,” remarked Brian Beaulieu, CEO of ITR Economics, Manchester, New Hampshire.

“Brexit notwithstanding, the world is generally getting better,” he reported to over 260 delegates and companions at the conference, held at the beautiful Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alta. June 26-28.

He noted that, in Canada, industrial production is up, employment is up and oil prices are gradually increasing and will likely be in the $55-57 a barrel range in 2017.

He noted that Ontario retail sales are up 7.7 percent in the past year while Alberta is still hurting. “Ontario is one of the places to be in all of Canada right now.”

However, at the same time he remarked that Canada, and especially Ontario, is being “hollowed out” as “manufacturing is drifting away from Canada and going to Mexico.” New labour and environmental laws aren’t helping, he said.

He advised CIPH members that today is a good time to invest in their own businesses while interest rates remain low.

Keep it simple

If there was a common theme among a strong speaker lineup, it was to keep things simple.

“Get over ‘go big or go home!’ Take small steps,” advised Calgary-based high performance coach Michelle Cederberg. “Ten minutes of doing is a lot better than an hour of thinking about it,” she added.

John Rossman, a technology strategist with Alvarez & Marsal in Seattle, suggested one of the biggest concerns for businesses is that they become too big and morph into a bureaucracy. He offered “the two-pizza rule” which states that any team within a business that cannot be fed with two pizzas is too big.

Staying with the lunch theme, he added that often the best way to test new ideas is simply to “launch and learn.” Or in other words, don’t overthink it – just put it out there and see how things work out.

Buying groups on board

The CIPH Annual Meeting usually passes without controversy as the accomplishments of the past year and plans for the future are detailed. However, this year, a proposal to create a new membership category for wholesaler buying groups created a stir.

Members voted in favour of adding buying groups as non-voting associate members. To be eligible, a significant number of their members must be CIPH member wholesalers and the buying group must have been in business in Canada for a reasonable period of time, as determined by the board of directors.

In essence it is the administrator of the buying group that is eligible to apply and join and become the member. The individual members of the buying group will not derive benefits of CIPH. The topic has been under discussion for about 10 years and has undergone a number of modifications, noted chairman Siân Smith, senior director of strategic procurement at Noble Corp., Concord, Ont.

Members also voted to add another manufacturers agent to serve on the board of directors. Currently there is one with Andrew Dyck of Barclay Sales serving in this capacity.

Key priorities for CIPH include the harmonization of plumbing codes and standards across Canada and North America. In fact, the plumbing councils are urging governments to automatically adopt the National Plumbing Code each time an updated version is published, which is every five years, reported CIPH president Ralph Suppa. Currently, some provinces tend to be slow to adopt changes.

Bringing young people into the industry continues to be a priority. Over 3,000 students were introduced to the CIPH Career Tap program at career fairs in the past year.

Habitat for Humanity Canada has long been the primary charity supported by CIPH members. The most recent two-year campaign raised $2.2 million in cash and products for the organization.

New executive elected

The meeting also saw Smith, the first ever female chairman of CIPH, complete her term and hand the reins over to Bill Palamar, president, Weil-McLain Canada Sales Inc., Burlington, Ont.

Palamar, the 69th CIPH chairman, joined the industry in 1979 at age 22. Fresh out of university, he went to work for industry veteran (and CIPH chairman in 1990-91) Charlie Hagedorn as a junior salesman in Toronto. The first few years weren’t easy.

After six months Hagedorn convinced Palamar that he should go into business with his own sales agency. Tallying up the results at the end of the first year, Palamar figured he was doing pretty good with $22,000 in sales. That was until he looked at his expenses and realized he’d spent $30,000. The following year he broke even. “From that point on I managed to do okay in this industry,” he laughed.

Joe Senese, vice-president operations, Ontario, for Groupe Deschênes was elected first vice chairman. Allen Taylor, president and CEO of Taylor Pipe Supports, Burlington, Ont., became second vice chairman. Smith moves into the past chairman’s role and was also elected treasurer.

CIPH will hold its 2017 Annual Business Conference in Ottawa as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary. It will take place at the Delta Ottawa City Centre Hotel June 25-27. For more information, visit www.ciph.com.

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