Q&A with IPD awardee Ernie Coutermarsh

The IPD Award of Excellence was established in 2008 to honor a member of ASA’s Industrial Piping Division for achievement specifically related to the industrial and mechanical PVF segment of the PHCP-PVF industry. Criteria for this award include a record of significant accomplishment in the PVF industry with overall influence on the current status of the channel; a history of dedicated service to the IPD; an active participant in the division’s activities; a positive industry image as well as a positive impact on the industry overall. This year the award went to Ernie Coutermarsh, Senior Vice President at F.W. Webb Company. I aked him to describe his feelings, motivations and philosophy in his position of leadership.  

Danielle Galian: How did you hear the news of being awarded the IPD Award of Excellence?

Ernie Coutermarsh: Jeff Pope, the President of F .W. Webb Company, came into my office and said that it was important that I attend the next ASA meeting in NYC. When I asked why…he said because you have been selected to receive the ASA IPD Award of Excellence, Congratulations!

DG:  What does the IPD Award of Excellence mean to you now as an awardee?

EC: I feel extremely grateful and honored! I am aware that this is a privilege bestowed with input of an entire industry. I also know the previous award recipients and I am humbled to be considered deserving.

DG:  Who are your influencers?

EC: John Pope first and foremost. He gave me so many opportunities to grow professionally and personally. Frank Morris of Shore Distributors who sparked my passion for this industry, Eric Fast retired CEO of Crane, Morris Beschloss who has been a mentor and friend for many years and Bill Weisberg CEO of Affiliated Distributors for giving me a global view of distribution.

DG:  What are three things you wish you knew in the beginning of your illustrious career that you know now?

EC: How quickly time passes. Surprise is great at a party but not in business. Good competition keeps you sharp!

DG: How as ASA helped and impacted your work/career?

EC: ASA gives all its members credibility with a national focus. It provides so many opportunities from education, training, benchmarking, leadership, legislation, technology and beneficial forums for distributors and manufacturers. They keep a focus on tomorrow.

DG: Explain your work philosophy.

EC: Leadership has an obligation to shine the light on the future. Change is always an opportunity. There is an inherent responsibility to not only tell people what we are doing and where we are going, but more important, telling them why. 

DG: How do you stay motivated?

EC: We share a passion at Webb fueled by the pride of 150 years of history. There is a sense of shared pride and respect for our legacy and the contribution of so many people that preceded us. Jeff Pope has a great team sharing the responsibility of leadership today and generating enthusiasm for where we are going in the near future.

DG:  You’ve seen a lot of changes within the industry over the decades. What do you worry about now in this industry?

EC: The internet is an obsession that can disrupt the distributor-manufacturer relationship or make it better. Our mutual customer needs us to be in synch now more than ever.  Too many channels results in commoditization and profit drain.

DG: How do you define success?

EC: Every time a customer says “Thank you.” 

DG:  What is a motto or phrase you like to reference? 

EC: Semper Fidelis  (the United States Marine Corps’ motto)  “Always Faithful.” You shouldn’t take “No” from a person that can’t say “Yes!” Just because you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean that the circus left town! 

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