Company Of
The Month

Palmer-Donavin

History

Palmer-Donavin is a wholesale residential building products distributor and door fabricator headquartered in Grove City, Ohio. The company provides a wide range of products including cabinets, decking, entry doors, and siding products from over 75 building products manufacturers including AZEK Building Products, CertainTeed Corporation, Owens Corning, and Therma-Tru Doors.

The company began over 110 years ago in 1907 when Fred Palmer, an employee at Carmen Manufacturing, and John Donavin, a salesperson at the same firm, acquired the company. Over the next 20 years the company moved out of noodle production to prime sheet metal and tin ware manufacturing before taking on the distribution of building materials in the 1930s. The company was purchased in 1967 by Arthur Wiles, Robert Woodward, and Thomas Doucher, who led Palmer-Donavin into further expansion and multiple acquisitions. 

 

Just this year the firm announced a corporate rebrand for the entire company, which now operates as two divisions – Palmer-Donavin Building Materials Division and Palmer-Donavin Door Division. The rebrand also included the launch of a new company logo, a unified website, and external positioning for customers centered on, “We Deliver More.” 

Competing in Today’s Building Products Industry

Palmer-Donavin competes with both national and regional distributors of building products, who more and more have eliminated or transformed external sales capabilities into internal sales or account teams. In line with its mission to, “Deliver products, expertise, and solutions that help customers succeed,” Palmer-Donavin has remained laser focused on bucking this trend and continuing to provide customers with personalized service. The company focuses on serving core customers including independent lumberyards, specialty distributors, and national home centers. Through every interaction, external sales representatives build trust and provide customer feedback to help the firm continually enhance ease of doing business with partners.

In line with its dedication to service and continuous improvement, Palmer-Donavin incorporated automated business analytics and has significantly invested in employee training to provide real-time dash boards that are unique to division or customer needs. Looking toward the future, the firm plans to bring on an additional data analyst and further develop its customer stratification strategy.

Culture

 Palmer-Donavin is 100% employee owned with an employee stock ownership plan for its 500 employees that’s been in place since 2007. This employee ownership model embodies the value the business places on employee’s vested interest and customer-orientation in every aspect of its operation. Palmer-Donavin emphasizes work-life balance and works to build a sense of camaraderie that unites all if its employees. 

The culture of community extends beyond the walls of Palmer-Donavin, and employees are encouraged to volunteer through work-promoted activities and on their own time. Not only does Palmer-Donavin actively engage with the United Way, Life-Care Alliance, and the Salvation Army, but it built the Franklin County Residential Services-run Palmer-Donavin House which serves as a temporary home offering specialized care for children with developmental disabilities.

“Giving back to the community has been a long-standing tradition at Palmer-Donavin, and we will continue to invest our time and efforts in supporting the organizations that offer food, housing, education and safety to those in need,” said Amber Haycook, Executive Assistant and Community Relations Coordinator.  “It’s important to give volunteer opportunities to our employees, allowing them to come together and create a bond beyond normal work projects.  Allowing our employees team up and give their valuable time to charity has added to our culture of camaraderie and team building.”

When looking for top talent to join Palmer-Donavin, the company continually looks for ways to make the hiring process more efficient, utilizing technology to improve communication with candidates and streamline the application process. The quality experience doesn’t stop there. Every new employee is assigned a mentor during onboarding whom they meet with weekly through at least the first 90 days of employment. The firm also supports employees through an Emerging Leaders program to develop talent from within. Learn more about what it’s like to work at Palmer-Donavin.

The Next 100+ Years

 Palmer-Donavin is continually looking at potential acquisitions in new markets. The company currently operates 8 facilities in 3 states across the Midwest and hopes to add new products and territory to the organization in the coming years. 


The firm is also preparing for a change in leadership to lead them into this exciting future. Ron Calhoun, the current CEO, plans to step down in May 2020 after 39 years with the company. The next CEO will be only the 6th CEO in the company’s 112-year history. Pulling from this history of success, Palmer-Donavin recommends other middle market leaders focus on developing a strong culture, identifying a competitive advantage they can grow with, and using the right data to measure success.

Ron Calhoun, CEO, commented, “I am confident that our culture will continue and only get stronger beyond my tenure.  It is important that we continue to invest in our people; and it starts with attracting and retaining the right people.  I like the concept of ‘no experience is preferred’, but we do require that each individual live by our core values. It is our people and these values that will continue the successes of Palmer-Donavin into the future.”