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Katie Parris on company culture, customer relationships, and generational shifts

Episode: 42

Katie Parris, CEO of The Part Works in Seattle, WA, is a second-generation owner who’s managing her commercial plumbing supply company from the intersection of old-school knowledge and innovative thinking. I caught up with Katie to discuss her path to the C-suite and find out why her company’s culture can top Amazon’s low prices any day of the week.

Anybody can be the cheapest when the part’s not on the shelf. But when a hospital risks losing $15,000 a day in revenue because a broken faucet prohibits the use of an entire patient room, they don’t price check with the giant online retailers. More often than not, facilities managers ring up The Part Works’ knowledgeable, responsive team and gets that part in hand within hours.

With its single location, The Part Works doesn’t bother paying too close attention to Amazon. Instead, they’re focused on the value they bring to their own counter. Beyond the relationships they’ve built with customers, Katie’s most proud of the connection and commitment flourishing behind the scenes.


Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.

This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.

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My first, biggest challenge was shifting the company culture, she says. Initially, her collaborative methods caused some growing pains in opposition to her father’s command and control style, even prompting some old-guard employees to exit. I wasn’t going to become my dad. I needed to build the future of the business around my own leadership style, she says.

Today, the 25-employee company is a blend of long-time staff and newer recruits. The culture combined with Katie’s ability to manage for the future helped The Part Works recently navigate a much-needed tech upgrade.

I would say 18 months of hell – but totally worth it, she laughs, secure in the knowledge that her self-inflicted headache has yielded the company over 50% growth in two years – with zero additional headcount.

Katie’s success points to a big generational shift coming not only to her industry but as across multiple distribution verticals. She has a tip for those looking for career advice. I think distribution is very ripe for opportunity.

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