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07/14/2011

Interview: NAHAD President Tim O'Shaughnessy

After years of leading his father's fluid connector business and serving on NAHAD's board of directors, Tim O'Shaughnessy was recently elected as president of the association.

O'Shaughnessy brings years of experience from warehouse and sales work as a teenager to serving as president for the Cleveland-based Shamrock Hose & Fittings Inc. His father, Don, founded the company in 1976 to serve the region's manufacturers, contractors, service industries and small businesses. O'Shaughnessy became president of the company in 1997 after his father passed away. Shamrock now carries a broad range of product lines including Parker, Anchor Fluid Power, Band-It, HoseMaster, Mead Fluid Dynamics Reelcraft and more.

As president of NAHAD, he looks forward to furthering the association's Hose Safety Institute and Hose Assembly Guidelines initiatives, launching the new NAHAD website and driving business value to all members.

NAHAD: How was business for Shamrock Hose & Fittings in 2010 and what predictions do you have for 2011?

O'Shaughnessy: For Shamrock, 2009 was a tough year and 2010 was certainly when the recovery started. It's been a little softer than recoveries in the past but still a recovery. We're growing and the economy is growing. Shamrock is still advancing so we're happy about that.

NAHAD: Can you tell me a little about the history of Shamrock?

O'Shaughnessy: My dad, Don, had been in the fluid power business since he graduated college in 1958. He'd always wanted to own his own business. In 1976, he took a buyout from Parker Hannifin Corp. and used that money and his savings to start Shamrock. So he became a Parker distributor. The business then took off. From his experience, he saw that a lot of distributors went after what he called "elephants," very large car plants and steel mills and very big consumers of fluid power products. He thought that part of the market that was underserved was the small OEMs and maintenance shops, where they would be a $5,000 account instead of a $50,000 account. He thought that part of the market was underserved. That's what he went after from the very beginning.

The company also began an active front counter staffed with experienced people there - customers could seek service without a product part number. A lot of other companies that have front counters must have customers identify a part number before they could order it for them. We had experienced employees that could work with you and figure out what you wanted. That was an important part of the company's success. We also went after the smaller guys and it seemed to work.

NAHAD: What is your background in the industry? How long have you been working in it and how did you get to where you are now?

O'Shaughnessy: I got into the industry in 1990. My dad had started Shamrock in 1976 after a long career at Parker Hannifin Corporation. I worked for Shamrock part time in high school and college. Then I joined the company in 1990. My dad passed away in 1997. I started out in the warehouse for training, then purchasing and inside sales. In 1997, I became president.

NAHAD: Which markets for the company are strong and which are weak? What impact does this have on your business?

O'Shaughnessy: Our markets are almost all stronger than last year. Construction is a big part, injection molding, machine tools and small OEMs. The economy in those four areas has grown reasonably well in northeast Ohio and we've grown along with them. In northeast Ohio, we have a lot of small businesses that make equipment that requires hydraulic and pneumatic parts. We offer them 24-hour service to repair those parts. These businesses are running three shifts a day, seven days a week. So if a hose breaks and they don't have the ability to repair it, they can call us and we have the ability to do that for them.

NAHAD: You became a member of the association's board. Did you expect that you would someday serve as NAHAD's president?

O'Shaughnessy: I was actually a little surprised that I was asked to join the board. There are so many smart people that have been in the industry for a long time. I felt honored to be asked to be a member of the board. I didn't have further expectations beyond that. After three years on the board I was asked to go on the officer track, which was also an honor. I don't want to say it was unexpected, but I didn't have that on my mind from the beginning. I was honored and did the best I could in my three years on the board and thought I contributed.

NAHAD: What do you hope to accomplish while president? What are your goals this year?

O'Shaughnessy: The NAHAD Hose Assembly Guidelines initiative has been a core value of NAHAD for the past several years. And now with the introduction of the NAHAD Hose Safety Institute, we will be driving more powerful value to all participating members. We want to clearly communicate this value to the members in the coming months. The second big project is we've allocated a large capital expenditure toward updating the NAHAD website over the past two years. That will be rolling out very soon and will provide a far more useful tool, with more valuable business content, for all members. And, as the former NAHAD Treasurer and now its president, I'd also like to the run the finances in the black, which I think we'll be able to do.

NAHAD: What are you looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to the next annual NAHAD convention in Las Vegas in April. This is our 28th year and this is the first time we've been in Las Vegas. It was a lucky combination of events that allowed us to have the convention in Vegas. It should be a nice place to have it and I'm looking forward to that. 

NAHAD: Is there anything else you'd like to add about NAHAD?

O'Shaughnessy: NAHAD has really enhanced my knowledge of the industry and really helped me make Shamrock a professional organization. I'm very happy with NAHAD. I hope I can give back as much as I've gotten from it. The Executive Forum program, where they put together five or six non-competing distributors from different geographic areas of the country, is one example. They get together and share insights on finances, personnel, marketing and vendor relations. I've been a member with five other NAHAD members since the early 90s. It's served as my de facto board of directors. I'm very close friends with them. They've been very helpful with the decisions I make as a business owner.

NAHAD also has the University of Industrial Distribution and we send our employees to that. It's very helpful. As a member of the Hose Safety Institute, you have access to high quality products for training your hose assemblers on fabrication techniques and design techniques. We have a good number of employees certified with that. NAHAD also has a great newsletter. It's really chock-full of industry news that keeps you up-to-date about the products, companies, new vendors and more.


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