November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11
By Ken Ryan
Over the last two decades Rob Tarver built a reputation as a go-getter whose background in sales and marketing, sourcing, design and product development for Wilsonart and later Wellmade made an impression on customers. During that time, he served in a number of different roles and familiarized himself with both domestic and foreign production of laminate, wood, tile and vinyl.
Bruce Buckwold, president of Buckwold Western, thought enough of Tarver to name him president of the Wanke Cascade subsidiary in the Pacific Northwest. “He’s knowledgeable, energetic and understands what it takes to grow a company,” Buckwold said. “His diverse flooring background and entrepreneurial spirit made him a perfect fit for our company.”
Hired in November 2016, Tarver said the first year has been about as smooth and seamless as he could have envisioned. “Probably the most important asset has been the variety of roles I have performed over the years,” Tarver told FCNews. “I haven’t seen anything this first year that would surprise me. Even though I hadn’t been in distribution I did sell through distribution so I was pretty familiar with the process and how it worked.”
Headquartered in Portland, Ore., where it also operates a state-of-the-art distribution center, Wanke Cascade runs fullservice branch facilities in Seattle and Spokane, Wash. If it were a stand-alone wholesaler, rather than a subsidiary of Buckwold Western, Wanke would be a top 30 distributor in terms of revenue.
For Tarver, perhaps the biggest adjustment in year one has been navigating through freight logistics in a large geographic territory. As he explained, “The Pacific Northwest is not the easiest area to move material around in a timely and cost-effective manner. There are hidden costs with distribution that you need to understand to optimize your profit. It takes a good six to 12 months to evaluate a market across the board—internal to external—getting to know your customers, your channels. Year two will be where you see a lot of the benefits of some of the changes, additions and strategies.”
Tarver said his short-term goals are to look introspectively at the company and identify areas of weakness or places that need improvement, and then create a plan that addresses those needs. “Long term, we want to be more important to our customers by adding value at every phase. Meaning, we need to be sure we have the right product for the right price; our sales associates educate our customers and become an asset to their needs, and we service the market with speed and efficiency.”
Even before he took the reins of Wanke Cascade, Tarver understood the role of a distributor has evolved from merely delivering product in a timely and efficient manner. “Distributors have local inventory, multiple will call locations, knowledgeable sales associates and dedicated customer service teams to support their markets. Distributors are also developing their own private-label programs to meet local needs in regard to product and style. Therefore, distributors are in a position to provide the right products and designs our customers need.”
As for Wanke Cacade, Tarver said, “There is great opportunity for us.”