IPEX recently announced the retirement of Don Riches, General Sales Manager U.S.:
Mention a major construction project almost anywhere in the United States — residential, commercial, municipal or industrial — and Don Riches' wheels start turning.
That's because he likely knows about it or had a hand in it.
And as he heads into retirement as General Sales Manager U.S. for IPEX, one of North America's largest manufacturers of plastic pipe and fittings, Riches admits he'll miss the cut and thrust of daily business. After all, the wheels on his IPEX career bus have gone 'round and 'round — and very successfully — for some 36 years.
Now, at 66, still spry and quick to smile, he's looking to spin some new retirement wheels that will surely involve a lifelong love of travel shared with his wife of 46 years, Sally.
“We've travelled a lot over the years,” he smiles. “But we have yet to visit Australia and Africa, so those two places are on the list. Our goal in two years is to say we've cruised the world.”
Born in Lethbridge, Alberta and educated in Vancouver, British Columbia, Riches became an apprentice electrician after high school, then a journeyman and later a foreman, when he began wondering how he'd feel as age crept up on him doing the same job.
“Even back then, I wanted to be in sales — and not an electrician for the rest of my life,” he says. “I always liked interacting with people.”
So in 1981, he joined Scepter Manufacturing, the predecessor company to IPEX, as Regional Sales Manager, Electrical Products, for British Columbia. A few years later, he took charge of Scepter's national accounts — all while heading up the company's largest PVC molding plant.
In 1992, Scepter merged with Canron Pipe to form IPEX, which over the next decade, would become one of the world's largest pipe and fitting manufacturers. Then in 1995, after IPEX purchased Multi Fittings Corp. in the United States, Riches became General Sales Manager, U.S. Electrical Products. He passed this torch to his successor, John Gaither, on his retirement, April 28, 2017.
With no cell phones in the early years, he recalls keeping pockets filled with quarters and making sure he could find a dry phone booth to contact his customers and sell orders.
But one thing hasn't changed for Riches: “We exist for our customers.”
“In 1995 when IPEX moved into the U.S., no one knew us,” he recalls. “We started with very low sales volume and grew to hold more than a third of the market over a range of product lines. “I'm a huge believer in building trust relationships; I have a lot of people I know from business that I'll call friends for the rest of my life.”
If he had it to do over, would he do things differently? “I wouldn't change a damn thing. I've had a glorious career with a great company that's given me the freedom and resources to do what had to be done to grow our U.S. presence.”
But now that the career bus has rolled to a stop, other wheels — the ones on a golf cart, among others — are about to spin for Riches. As well, he plans to explore volunteer work in his community — when he and his wife aren't traveling, of course.
Asked if there's anything else in store, the grin widens a bit and his eyes light up.
“Well, I bought a BMW Z4 sports car last year, and it's only got 4,400 kilometres on it,” he confesses.
So the wheels will keep on spinning for Don Riches as he travels new roads into retirement.
Tagged with retirement, tED