To say Jeff New has earned his upcoming retirement after 40 years at the helm of Mid-City Supply out of Elkhart, IN, is an understatement. His legacy includes expanding the company from one location to nine and the staff from 35 employees to 130. Before he hands the keys to his sons, Jason chats with Jeff about the industry relationships that have helped Mid-City weather growing pains, multiple recessions, and that impending transition.
“My first year of running this company, I took my father's company, which had never had a losing year [ ] and in the first year we lost $180,000,” says Jeff. “I thought I was a complete failure.” In Jeff’s defense, the late 1970s were difficult for everyone. Fast-forward four decades. Mid-City is not only a success; it’s a prime example of a company that stays competitive in the plumbing, HVAC, and industrial products industry through a willingness to learn from even the most unpleasant lessons.
Trial and error is a less alarming process when you’re in the company of others who can commiserate and offer wise counsel. Jeff credits much of his on-the-job education to his organizational memberships. He’s an active participant in American Supply Association, taking on various leadership roles, including president in 2008 - amid yet another major recession. “Here I am, ASA president, big shot, flying around the country, giving speeches,” he laughs, remembering the extent to which everyone had to cut their budgets just to get by. “One year later, I'm cleaning my own toilets. If that doesn’t make you humble, nothing will.”
Belonging is rewarding, but only when members commit their participation. Jeff credits his connections to WIT (now Commonwealth Group) for putting him in touch with the people, strategies, and, yes, money that kept Mid-City afloat through tough times. “It really saved our company because, without that, we wouldn't have been here.” While many folks may oppose buying group membership, Jeff sees the relationship as an investment that pays big dividends. “This made us take a look at ourselves from a different viewpoint and made us a better company.”
As Jeff prepares to hand the C-suite over to his two sons, he’s looking forward to how their co-presidency will shape Mid-City’s future. “There are advantages and disadvantages of being co-president,” he admits, but his sons have a solid, forty-year foundation upon which to build.
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