Since the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic in March, our lives have been marked by uncertainty. At times, we’ve all worried about the health of our families, how we can connect with friends or support our communities in crisis. Uncertainty has loomed over everything from the economy to the way we celebrate holidays and educate our kids.
In uncertain times, what do you have to guide you?
At von Drehle, our core set of company values has guided us through the pandemic in the same way they have helped us make decisions since our founding back in 1974. They haven’t failed us since.
Crisis has a way of amplifying flaws and strengthening assets, and we are proud here at von Drehle that our commitments to integrity, respect and growth have been not just amplified but bolstered during the pandemic. Our Director of National Accounts, David Hine, has exemplified these values along with his team, and their experiences during this challenging year underscore just how important things like family, community, collaboration and communication are.
Family is Everything
When asked what he loves most about working with von Drehle, David answers the way most people do: “I love the family atmosphere.” If you’ve read our blog long enough, it may sound like a cliche, but it’s true. For David, it starts with those core company values being part of our hiring process, but it doesn’t end there. “We also coach our own folks to try to live out those values — putting family first, respect for all, betterment for the team instead of yourself,” David explains.
The result is a family of more than 650 employees, all, as David puts it “marching to the same beat.”
That beat, the heartbeat of von Drehle, comes from our founders, owners and management team, and it trickles down to every level. David remembers some folks worrying that the company culture would change with the retirement of Steve von Drehle two years ago, but he now sees our management team living out those same core values today. According to David, that’s one of the things that makes von Drehle unique: “We’re big enough to compete and support our customers like big publicly-traded companies, but we have that small private company feel.”
Communication is Key
Helping his sales team determine the best solutions for customers is an important part of David’s work as Director of National Accounts, but he truly touches nearly every department at von Drehle. In any given week, he may be supporting sales staff with pricing, consulting with the marketing department on new projects or items and working with suppliers to line up needed raw materials. On some days, you’ll find him brainstorming with the operations staff to decide if a new product is operationally sound, and the next, he could be meeting with IT personnel to determine the needs of a customer.
Before the pandemic reached the United States, David traveled to different cities at least three times a month. Because our national distributors operate on larger, regional levels, traveling doesn’t mean road trips like it does for some of our staff. For David, it meant frequent trips to the airport to support his sales team in face-to-face meetings.
That all changed with coronavirus, as many of our corporate accounts and large companies have implemented “no visitor” policies, and we ourselves began working from home during the spring. Although David has been back in the office since June, he hasn’t traveled for work since March, and we’ve gone nearly 100% virtual in our communications.
Replacing face-to-face meetings hasn’t been without challenges, but David says “we’ve adapted well” to new technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others that enable virtual meetings. This technology has enabled von Drehle to maintain cross-communication between departments, which David says is the best its ever been.
Integrity is Our Most Important Asset
All companies want to grow and be successful, and von Drehle is no different. According to David, though, the way we go about finding success is different. Integrity has always been at the core of how we do business, and the growth of our national accounts under David and others exemplifies this. “To see how much we’ve grown while maintaining all of our commitments to our other business segments and doing it in a responsible, thoughtful way is something I’m proud of,” he says. “We always have our customers’ interests in mind, and if we are pursuing a piece of business and find out it would be to the detriment of another piece of our business, we back off.” That’s one of the ways von Drehle takes care of our customers, and David explains that it is “from the heartbeat of the von Drehle family. We take care of our customers and the people who have gotten us to where we are today. We won’t harm that, even if another piece of business looks bigger.”
The Importance of Work-Life Balance
One of the greatest lessons many of us have learned during the pandemic is the importance of work-life balance. Our sales teams, including David, are used to being on the road, and adjusting to working from home has been an interesting experience. Always looking for silver linings, David believes one of them this year is reassessing travel and learning what meetings must take place face-to-face and which ones can be conducted in other ways. He knows that many salespeople can get bogged down with the travel aspect of the work, but expects that to decrease going forward. That’s a major positive for people like David, who have families at home.
While he misses going to certain cities and seeing his customers who have become friends over the years, he’s relished having more time to spend with his wife Stacy and their four boys. Traveling less means getting to spend more time exploring parks, hiking in the mountains, enjoying afternoons at Lake Hickory and coaching baseball.
Teamwork is Essential
“When the pandemic first started,” David explains, “we were heavily focused on the away-from-home market, including restaurants, schools, hospitality spaces and universities.” You know what’s coming next — a big piece of our business shut down around the country. So, what did von Drehle do? In a matter of days, we developed temporary retail items to help support our retail segment and to keep our employees making paper. This was no small feat, but the commitment to teamwork in every department got it done.
It’s one of the things David is most proud of: “It was all employees, all hands on deck, and it really showed me how our entire company could come together. For us to come up with a product and get it on the shelves in just days was incredible and kept our folks in the factories, the lines running and our families fed. Everybody came together and made it happen.”
One of the reasons David exemplifies our core values so much could be because he’s spent a huge part of his adult life at von Drehle. In 2001, David was a college student living in the Hickory area, and like most college students, he was broke. He got a job at the von Drehle manufacturing facility and put in hours anytime he was home from school, including summers and Christmas breaks. During those four years, he got an education in how our products were made and gained an understanding of the capabilities of our manufacturing equipment.
When David graduated from college, he began work in the telecommunications industry in the Washington D.C. area for two years before an opportunity to take a sales position with von Drehle opened up. He took the job even though, as he says, “if you’d asked me in college if I thought I’d be selling toilet paper and paper towels for a living, I would have said you were crazy.”
After two years near DC as a Regional Sales Manager in Larry Cook’s jan/san division, David came back home to Hickory to fill a national accounts position. Two years ago, he became our Director of National Accounts.
David never imagined that those years in the manufacturing facility would help him in his profession, but that introduction to the business has served him well. Today, he interacts with our operations team and supplier base often, always looking for the next solutions to offer our customers.
“I’ve come full circle,” says David, and we are so grateful he took that job in college.