Fred Siilverstein (pictured on the left) is one of the two newest members of the DPHA Council of Fellows (the other inductee will be talked about next week). The Council was established to recognize career contributions of industry leaders and to provide a forum where those leaders can continue to give back to the industry that they have helped shape. Case in point is the DPHA Alberto Comini Memorial Scholarship. The Scholarship program is run by the Council of Fellows and rewards two $3,000 annual grants to the children or grandchildren of DPHA members.
A true pioneer of the decorative plumbing industry, Fred Silverstein founded Plumbing World, a small plumbing supply house in Long Beach, California, back in 1977, and was willing to take the risk of being an early adopter, building out an extensive showroom, and becoming one of the first distributors to promote such lines as Grohe, Artistic Brass and Harden. He never looked back, and has spent every year since then innovating and supporting not only the decorative plumbing industry, but also the independent channel.
After growing Plumbing World into a local decorative plumbing destination and a brief stint distributing decorative faucets on the West Coast, he created California Faucets in 1988. In an industry that accepted 6 to 8 week lead times as normal and acceptable, Fred strove to do better. Whether through improved operations, increased stock levels or "quick ship" programs, the entire industry now benefits from this massive shift as what is viewed as an acceptable lead time.
While the two companies Fred founded obviously speak to his exceptional entrepreneurial talents, they also represent a very rare accomplishment: Fred has been a pioneer on both the dealer and manufacturer side of the business. He intuitively understands the nature of each, and he is undoubtedly among a very small group of individuals who truly developed and deeply impacted the growth and trajectory of the decorative plumbing industry we know today.
As Fred likes to say: "You can tell if you have a real partner, not when things are going well, but when there is a problem." That's when you find out who's really supporting you. In plumbing, there are always going to be occasional problems. It's how you handle them that matters. A short anecdote to illustrate this philosophy: When Noah Taft first joined California Faucets, he took a sales trip with Fred to learn the ropes. At the first stop, Fred succeeded in convincing a new customer to open an account and order a display on the spot. With the hard-won order clutched in-hand, Noah's jaw dropped as Fred proceeded to say, "Thanks for the order and I can't wait until we screw-up for the first time". Fred went on to explain to the new customer, as well as to his neophyte sales executive, that we are all human and "stuff" inevitably happens in this business - it's how you handle those problems that truly define the success of the business relationship.
As for Fred's support of DPHA, he was a charter member of the organization and has supported it, not only with annual sponsorships and exhibiting at the annual conference, but by encouraging key people in the company to get involved. Most notably, when DPHA Past President, Steven Weinberg joined California Faucets, Fred encouraged him to continue his involvement by remaining on the Board. By nature, Fred is not a public figure. Not everyone contributes the same way to organizations or industries. Fred is an intense behind-the-scenes "doer" by nature, but his impact is large.
Fred recently turned 85, yet he still goes to the factory every day. Why? Because the independent decorative plumbing industry is in his blood and he doesn't want to miss anything. He lives and breathes the industry, which is why his induction into the DPHA Council of Fellows should come as a surprise to no one.