Not long ago someone from Thiokol Corp. called Industrial Supply Co., 1635 S. 300 West, to order a large quantity of short-sleeved laboratory coats.
Much to the chagrin of Industrial Supply officials, they didn't have any short-sleeved coats, although their inventory of long-sleeved coats was quite extensive.Without fanfare, an employee took the coats home to work on in her own time, cut off the sleeves, sewed the hems and filled the order in a few days.
Above and beyond the call of duty? You bet, and such dedication is probably why Industrial Supply Co. is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year as the largest privately held industrial distributor in the Intermountain area.
This company abounds with stories of how employees "go the extra mile" to satisfy their customers because, after all, without customers a company can't survive.
Once a salesman took an order home from work with the intention of delivering it to a customer the next day. But his wife took the car, so the salesman pedaled 20 miles on his bicycle and delivered the items.
Customer service is an important commodity at Industrial Supply, a creed pushed and practiced by Philip M. Thompson, chief executive officer, whose grandfather, Rudy Orlob, started the company in 1916.
"Take care of the customers first," was 19-year-old Orlob's battle cry, which since has been expanded by Thompson to include "give them what they want, when they want it."
It isn't unusual for an Industrial Supply driver to make a third trip in one day to Kennecott Corp., when an urgent call comes in for flashlights and batteries that must be delivered so the night shift can go to work. It's this type of dedication and hard work that has landed the company several awards prominently displayed in the company office.
Thompson said his grandfather started out as a traveling salesman for industrial rubber products, selling mainly to the mining industry, but wanted to be in business for himself and became a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. distributor in 1916, operating under the name of Mountain States Rubber Co.
His first store was located on State Street between 100 and 200 South, beginning in 1920. As the business grew when Orlob took on other product lines, he formed Industrial Supply Co. in 1927 and Metals Supply Co. in 1940. The companies moved to 131 Social Hall Ave. and remained there until 1963.
Orlob died in 1963, but he was praised by Thompson for having the foresight to purchase some property on 300 West with the expectation of someday moving into a building that could handle the burgeoning number of product lines. Orlob's wife and three daughters decided to keep the company rather than sell it.
Thompson said ground was broken in 1963 on their present facility and it was completed in 1964. His most recent construction and expansion project is changing some office space into display area that should be completed soon. Last November, 3,000 square feet of new office space was completed.
In the late 1970s, Industrial Supply bought the assets of the other two companies and it was during this time that two people, Ernest Agutter and Harold Smith, served as two non-family presidents of the company. Thompson started with the company in 1957 and became president in 1979.
From its three buildings on five acres, Industrial Supply serves the aerospace, manufacturing, mining and construction industries, but also counts as its customers utilities, steel fabricators, petrochemical, small businesses and even state and local governments.
The company also caters to individuals who want to purchase a power tool or one of the 32,000 items the company stocks.
One of the buildings is the paint center where flammables, aerosols and paints are kept and mixed. Chris Bateman, sales and marketing director, said there is a big market for industrial paints, especially for coating metal to prevent rust.
The other two buildings are stocked to the rafters with power saws, drills, sanders, hand tools, wrenches, hard hats, respirators, work clothes, safety goggles, drill bits, taps and dies, abrasives, sandpaper and thousands of other items. The company's market is most of Utah, southeastern Idaho, southwestern Wyoming, eastern Nevada and Las Vegas.
For the past several years the company has increased its sales 6 percent annually, even in the face of some Utah company shutdowns and layoffs.
Believing that satisfied customers are the result of satisfied employees, Thompson's philosophy is to hire the right employees and give them the power to make decisions. That means even his newest people can handle customers to make certain they are satisfied, and Thompson will back them.
Thompson has hired some minority members of the University of Utah football team during the summer, and two of them still work for him.
Knowing that it is getting harder to find qualified employees, Thompson said he is trying to give his employees a "big-business" atmosphere in a small-business setting. He holds an annual retreat where employees plan what they'll do the next year and they also try to anticipate what the economy will be like in several years.
Several years ago, Thompson set aside some room in one of his buildings and started buying fitness equipment. The employees can use the equipment during breaks at work, they can return after hours for a workout or they can attend regular aerobics classes.
Thompson, who believes in physical fitness, said large companies usually provide this type of facility, but he started spending $5,000 annually on equipment, showers and lockers and now has a first-rate facility for his employees. He said productivity and morale has improved because of the fitness center.
For his efforts, Industrial Supply was awarded the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness Award last November, the fifth consecutive year the company has won the award.