Rory Sherman has never been one to let things just come to him. If that were the case, he might still be working as an auto mechanic in Phoenix. That is what he was doing in 1977 when he spotted a blind ad for a sales position with a local water dealer. He answered the ad, and all of a sudden a new world of opportunities opened for him.
He got the hang of the water business quickly, moving up the ranks into management before long. Eventually he relocated to Utah to hire and train new employees. In 1979—just two years after jumping into the water treatment industry—he started United Distributors Inc. in Cheyenne, Wyo. What began as one office swelled to 12 offices in seven states. Eventually, Sherman picked up roots and relocated to Omaha, Neb., where United Distributors remains today. The original offices were sold to the various management teams at each location.
A Proactive Approach
The go-getter attitude is what has kept United Distributors hopping along all these years. “Our customer service team is the best,” Sherman said. “We call our customers for regular service and filter changes on a consistent basis rather than waiting for them to call with a challenge.”
This philosophy has helped the company weather the difficult economic climate of the last several years. “People are in a wait-and-see mode,” Sherman said. “The key is responding to our customers in a timely manner and working with a proactive approach to everything, making it happen instead of waiting for something to happen.”
The company as a whole has continued to grow, expanding its reach across numerous markets. Currently, United Distributors offers products and services for the residential, commercial, industrial, food service, medical, business-to-business, municipal and government sectors.
While the residential market is currently the company’s biggest draw, Sherman said the food service industry is rapidly pushing its way onto the scene. “From ice machines, fountain machines, coffee and espresso to steamers, proofers and dishwashers, they all need some type of water treatment equipment,” he said.
According to Sherman, technology plays a big part in his customer outreach strategy. “Information is available to everyone with the touch of a button,” he said. “The use of e-mail has been a more convenient way of communicating with our customers. By promoting traffic to our website for customers and potential customers, it gives them a noninvasive way to learn more about our business.”
Ultimately, Sherman said the company relies on word-of-mouth as its primary marketing source. He remains heavily involved with the Water Quality Assn as well. “It adds that extra credibility and gives the customers confidence that you care about the industry,” he said. Sherman prides himself on being the “go-to” water man in the area.
Striving for the Best
Sherman makes sure his employees have the same desire to grow that has driven him all these years. “I think it’s important to hire the right people who have a commitment to excellence and are always striving to do better each day,” he said. “Making people feel like they work with you instead of for you makes a big difference, and leadership by example is important to any business success.” At present, Sherman has 13 people on his staff. In-house and on-the-job training are part of the regular workflow, in addition to seminars and dealer training classes, he said.
Looking to the future, Sherman sees more opportunities on the horizon waiting to be seized. “I’m excited more today than I have been in a long time,” he said. “The opportunities for continued success are better than ever.”
In the end, Sherman tells fellow dealers: “Take care of your customers and be proactive. Customer loyalty is crucial to long-term sustained growth.”