Spotlight on NAHAD Membership Committee Chair Marvin ‘Skip’ Bruce, President of Catawba Industrial Rubber Company
Skip Bruce has been a member of NAHAD's Board of Directors since 2011. Bruce, owner and president of Catawba Industrial Rubber Company, is NAHAD's Membership Committee Chairman.
NAHAD: Tell me about Catawba Industrial Rubber Company.
Skip Bruce: Catawba is a full-service distributor of industrial and hydraulic hose, hose assemblies and components, and sheet rubber and conveyor belt. We also provide an in-house water jet cutting service.
NAHAD: I understand Catawba was passed to you by NAHAD founder George Carver in 1999, following his retirement from the business in 1995. What do you think he would say if he could see the business today?
Bruce: I think George would be very proud to know that the business he founded in 1963 is still growing and thriving. As far as things he might be surprised by, there probably are a few. Smartphones, for example, have made a big difference in our business. In 1995, we certainly didn't have the smartphone technology that we have today, with employees being able to access their email and those kinds of things. I think he would be surprised by that.
NAHAD: What's new at Catawba?
Bruce: Our biggest project lately has been the installation of a water jet cutting machine. We had always outsourced that service, but late last year we bought our own machine and hired a person to run it. I had been considering the water jet for a long time, and had always been hesitant about making that fairly large purchase. But what I've learned from the experience is to just go with your instinct. Getting the word out that we have that in-house has brought in a tremendous amount of business, so I've learned not to be so hesitant if I have a good idea for adding a service.
NAHAD: It sounds like you haven't had to spend much on advertising to promote that.
Bruce: That's right. Word of mouth is the best advertising, so I don't spend a tremendous amount on other types of advertising. We did print up some fliers that our salesmen take out into the markets, and we've also put them on the counter. But word of worth is the greatest advertiser for us.
NAHAD: In what markets are you seeing strength right now? Has construction picked up for you over the past year?
Bruce: Our strongest markets have been MRO and NASCAR racing, but the construction market has been steadily strengthening since the recession. We've got a lot of road construction going on in this area, and we see quite a bit of business from that. Up to this point, we haven't had to add any new people due to the pick-up in business, but I'm now looking at adding one more person.
NAHAD: What other trends or external factors are affecting your business?
Bruce: The biggest external factor affecting our business this year has been the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Our health insurance company offered us an early renewal because our normal renewal would have been February, so the plan would have had to have been in compliance with Obamacare. They couldn't tell us what our costs were going to be if we renewed in 2014, so they offered us the December renewal to keep the current plan with the same costs.
We had to decide by October 31 whether we were going to take the early renewal, so I chose the fixed cost. We went through that whole process, then with the problems they had with HealthCare.gov, they extended that out. So we could have renewed in February without having to meet Obamacare, but we didn't know that at the time.
NAHAD: How are you involved with NAHAD?
Bruce: This is my third year on the Board of Directors, and it's my second year as the Membership Committee Chairman. The committee evaluates all new applicants for membership, making sure they meet all of the requirements to become a Distributor, Associate or Manufacturer Member. We review the applications, give our opinions and vote on whether to allow the membership of the applicant.
We've been busy on the Membership Committee; applications have definitely picked up. Usually right before the annual convention, it picks up quite a bit, but it's remained steady. We had a long-term goal to reach 300 distributors, and I believe we've passed that now.
NAHAD: What are the greatest benefits you’ve enjoyed through your relationship with NAHAD?
Bruce: The biggest benefit has been that I've met great lifetime friends. The other very important thing I've gained from my many years of being with NAHAD is being able to learn from the best and brightest people in our industry. Without a doubt, it is the premier association for our industry and has been for a long time.
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