Listen to the Interview:

Links mentioned in this interview:

R. L. Williams Website

Contact R. L. Williams:

Phone: (800) 845-0086

Email: orders@rlwilliamscompany.com

Interview Transcript:

Sherryl Stoner:

All right, today on Supplier Spotlight, we have RL Williams. Rob, thank you so much for joining us. In a sentence, what can RL Williams do for Universal Unilink members?

Rob Williams:

Well, first of all, thanks for having me on. RL Williams Company has been working with your members, I think the main thing is growth in facility services, and to truly differentiate themselves from the competition I think is more important today than ever.

Sherryl Stoner:

Tell us how RL Williams got started.

Rob Williams:

Well, RL Williams started, Bob Williams, who is my father, it’s a family business. Tracy High, who is my sister, who is also in the business. We started when really the textile rental industry wasn’t doing much in facility services at all, and so what we found was, basically starting with paper products, that this was just a great fit for the industry.

Rob Williams:

So center pull towels, then jumbo roll tissue, had just come over from Europe, I would say this is in the mid nineties. So we started working with the industry, independents, and going out and literally taking a duffle bag of products and going out and training, and going out and hitting the streets with our partners to introduce them to facility service products, to their customers, and going out and working with their teams and developing business. So many times it was from the ground level and then just growing it from there and then into adding additional products as we went on through the years.

Sherryl Stoner:

How have your products evolved over the last years?

Rob Williams:

Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. Like I mentioned, we did center pull towels and jumbo roll tissue, really were the mainstays to start with, and then as we grew with our partners, the facility services market segment, we added more things. So natural progression was odor control, so that’s air freshers, urinal screens and bowl clips, that was a big edition. And then also on the hand care, and then can liners and gloves and really most of the consumables that you think of facility service products we added. Then we felt like as the business grew we needed to, we expanded location wise, we went from East Coast, West Coast, added two facilities, and then we also have two up in Canada.

Rob Williams:

Then a natural progression for us was about four years ago we started manufacturing our own paper products, which has been, just gave us more control, more vertically integrated, and it just was a good progression for us. So the product line expanded, our services expanded, and then of course supporting those products across the board, much like when we first started with our initial products, it is supporting them out in the field as well.

Sherryl Stoner:

Let’s talk about your customers. Who would you say is a typical customer, for RL Williams?

Rob Williams:

Yeah, so our focus is the textile rental industry. So where a lot of these facility services products are really marketed towards Jan|San companies, and so we made a decision early on… so all of our people, and we’ve got a great support team from a sales manager who’s been in the business 20 plus years, my director of marketing 20 plus years, most of our representatives, actually all our representatives have come from the textile rental industry. So that is who we support, our products and everything really reflect that. So, you know, a typical customer for us can be anybody to a couple routes, to the medium to large size in our industry. So that’s our sole focus. We don’t sell to the Jan|San companies. We focus strictly on this industry.

Sherryl Stoner:

Tell us about the training, what kind of training and support do you offer in the field?

Rob Williams:

So that’s where our passion is, in the training support, from the very beginning to where we are now. And so different tools have been helpful. You mentioned the growth of the programs, so we’ve put a couple of different things in place.

Rob Williams:

So for one we have an LMS, which is a Learning Management System, that allows us to put all of our, for every product we have, we basically have training courses for each one of those products. So really it allows us to give our partners this platform of consistent training for all of our products. And then if they have new hires, they can come in and they can go into this online portal and be able to take the course and get trained. So that was very nice. Like I said, from scaling all of the products that we do have, doing promotions and everything’s very consistent. And so you have that platform.

Rob Williams:

Then we also, as far as the field support coming in during the route training meetings, working with the sales team and then also, going from the classroom is one thing, but going out in the field, so we offer that field support going in for mainly off route rides, go out in the field. We’ll spend, you know a week to whatever the case may be, to make sure that all the people involved are successful out in the field.

Sherryl Stoner:

That’s great. The training is what really helps the reps out in the field. Now let’s talk about your custom dispensers. That’s new and exciting.

Rob Williams:

Well we are so excited about this because I tell you, with the market, and you know there’s just a lot more and different competition out there. We see Staples is a big competitor of course, Amazon. And then we feel like the best thing for our partners is to be able to differentiate themselves, and we’ve come up with a unique way to do so, to where we can now actually put the logo of the end user customer, say it’s a restaurant, on our dispenser, and we also match it up to the color options that we have. And again that’s across the complete product line from towels, tissue, hand care, and then odor control, matching the color as well.

Rob Williams:

So you put color with branding, it’s fantastic. And I really think a lot of people can relate to it from a standpoint of logo mats, when they first came out. So our challenge with this is, one be able to offer this great unique look that customers love. They love seeing their branding, especially put it with their colors. This is a slam dunk when we go in there, but the big thing was to make it accessible to all of our end user customers, that they can, from small mom and pops to the medium to the large.

Rob Williams:

In order to do that is we needed low minimums. So our minimum is one printed, what we call a shield on the dispenser. So we have a minimum of one, and then our turnaround time is ten business days. So what that did was it actually brought in every single one of our partners customers to participate in the program, which is exciting, and no one else in the market is doing that out there. So our close rates probably, when we print that shield and we show it to the customers, probably in the 85% range, which is just off the charts, just a lot of fun and bringing a whole different element to the facility services side.

Sherryl Stoner:

Now I know what you do is you take and put the logo, show it on a dispenser on a PDF. How do you go about getting that done? Is there a lot to do in that artwork?

Rob Williams:

Very simple, and what’s kind of nice is the mindset of logo mats is already out there. So very simple, all we do is get the artwork, send it into us, and then we do the artwork approval and then the turnaround time, we print the shield. And then I think another thing is we have the ability, for instance, if you know you’re coming in, you have a large call next week, and what we do is we have these, a sample shields that we get the artwork in. We print a sample shield within two days. It’s one shield that we’ll print and the shield is, is the part on the dispenser where the lens usually is on the dispenser. And then what we’re doing is we have that to where we can print that. So I’m referring to a lens as a part on each one of the dispensers.

Rob Williams:

So we print that and it’s printed, it’s not a label. It looks fantastic. We can do any colors of logo, just really pops on all the dispensers. So we can print that sample shield in two days, send it out, and then you can go put that on the dispenser and have it available for the sales call, which is a home run. But it’s a very simple process. We just get the good artwork and we get the artwork approval and we print them and away we go.

Sherryl Stoner:

I know this is exciting and it really sets you apart out in the market. And it’s something that the reps can get behind and say that they’re the only ones that can do with RL Willims. And so we really appreciate that. Now tell us, how does one of our members become a distributor for RL Williams?

Rob Williams:

Well, first of all, so everybody who is in your group, certainly we’d love to have on board and then reach out to us. And I know we have also been reaching out to all the members, and, yeah, just contact RL Williams company. If we’ve not already been in touch with you, we can get you signed up and really do kind of a needs assessment of where you are, go through the program, and then we have a very concise playbook that takes a new distributor from the start to to a product launch, and then have the support to make them successful out in the field.

Rob Williams:

So yes, we would love to work with your team and again, our mission is to grow revenue and differentiate. And I think with what we’ve got, it’s just a fun way to go out and present the use of these products, that maybe some things are a little stale with or maybe this is brand new for them, but it sure is nice to go out with something that’s very refreshing.

Sherryl Stoner:

Well, Rob, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re really excited to have RL Williams as a preferred supplier for Universal Unilink and we look forward to talking to you soon.

Rob Williams:

Thank you so much and really appreciate all the opportunity and look forward to helping in any way that we can.

Sherryl Stoner:

Thanks.