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2022 30 Under 35 Profile: Rich Kuempel

Rich Kuempel, 35
Regional Vice President
Butler Supply

Rich began working in the warehouse at Butler Supply—a company opened by his great-grandfather in 1941—during high school and started full-time after graduating from college in 200v9. “My brother Brett and I are fourth-generation family members involved in operating the business,” Rich noted. “After further warehouse training, I moved to counter sales. Inside sales and branch management subsequently followed.”

In his current position as regional vice president, Rich is responsible for managing four branches; he is also learning the corporate side of the business. “My connection to Butler Supply has been life-long, watching and listening as my grandfather and then my mom and dad ran the business,” he said. “I always knew that I wanted to be a part of the future growth and success of the company if the opportunity presented itself.”

Asked about a major problem the industry is currently facing, Rich pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the supply chain. “In the past few years COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our industry,” he explained. “The supply chain has been disrupted, creating material shortages and extremely long lead times to obtain products. This year, inflation has added to an already chaotic situation. Not only are materials hard to get, but also prices are skyrocketing across the board. Pricing guarantees are non-existent right now.”

Rich identified increased communication as a way to help manage the problem. “It has become even more essential across our 25-plus branch locations to our growth and success,” he said. “Problem-solving and sharing ideas among our associates, managers, and corporate leadership has helped us to better navigate through the many issues we are facing right now. Keeping everyone informed regarding product shipments and delays, inventory availability, and pricing fluctuations is a daily battle we are fighting. In turn, communication with customers has escalated in importance as we strive to keep them apprised of the fluid changes in the supply chain as well as pricing changes. Butler Supply has always endeavored to achieve excellence in customer service and our current situation makes this part of our job even more difficult because there are so many unknowns in the equation right now. A customer may be waiting for one item to be able to complete a job and the product arrival time is uncertain. Frustration levels run high primarily due to monies being lost and credibility being questioned.”

He added that manufacturer communication is another point of emphasis. “With their help, we look for alternative opportunities to strategically purchase products,” said Rich. “They also provide us with the crucial product and timeline updates that we need to keep our customers informed.”

Looking ahead, Rich’s ultimate goal is to lead the company with his brother, Brett. “In the meantime, I am working toward taking on additional responsibilities in sales and management as well as increasing my knowledge base in different areas of the business such as strategic planning, acquisitions, and finance,” he noted.

Asked what he would I tell someone just entering the industry, Rich replied: “to be motivated to learn and to always ask questions to further their industry expertise. I would also emphasize that communication and establishing an atmosphere of teamwork with associates, customers and manufacturers is essential to creating and maintaining a thriving business.”

When he’s not working, Rich enjoys spending time with family and friends. “My wife Natalie and I have fun hanging out with our two dogs and cat,” he said. “We both love to dance, workout, and snow board. I am also a huge fan of golf and enjoy playing with my dad and brother and watching tournaments on TV.”

Each year tED magazine recognizes 30 of the industry’s best and brightest under the age of 35. Please visit tedmag.com/30Under35 for nomination information and updates about the 2023 program. Questions can be sent to tED Editor Misty Byers at mbyers@naed.org.

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