Our Story

75 Years of Innovation: A Conversation with CEO Drew MacDonald

By Royal Brass and Hose Marketing February 07, 2024

Our journey at Royal Brass and Hose began with modest roots, tracing back to 1949 when our founder, John MacDonald, started the business by selling brass fittings out of the trunk of his car. From those simple beginnings, we've expanded significantly, now operating 11 locations across 10 states. Additionally, our journey into Ecommerce has enabled us to extend our reach nationwide, serving customers across the entire country.

Royal Brass and Hose CEO Drew.

In honor of our 75th anniversary, we had the opportunity to sit down with Drew MacDonald, our CEO, for an in-depth conversation. We discussed the nature of our family-owned company, the remarkable growth we’ve experienced, and the exciting direction in which we’re headed.

A family-owned business

Interviewer: Tell us about how Royal Brass and Hose came to be.

Headshot of former CEO John MacDonald.

Drew: My father’s work ethic was paramount. He was in the office six days a week, which greatly influenced me. He was also an entrepreneur, involved in various ventures like angel investing and a founding investor in the ice hockey team in Knoxville. His commitment was to ensure all four of his children completed college, which we did. My siblings and I pursued different careers, but his work ethic and customer focus were the key lessons. He believed in meeting customer needs to grow the business. This philosophy has been central to our growth, finding niches and solutions for our customers.

My mother, Dorothy, also played a crucial role in the business. She was skilled in accounting and bookkeeping, balancing the administrative side while my father focused on sales and operations. Her meticulous approach to finance and her partnership with my father laid a strong foundation for our business. Growing up in such an environment naturally inclined me towards a business career.

Interviewer: Could you share insights about any other key individuals who played a significant role in shaping the success and growth of Royal Brass and Hose over the years?

Headshot of Jere Ingram.

Jere Ingram was integral in growing and shaping the company. He started with RBH in 1972, starting his professional path "on a brass truck". His dedication and skill soon led him into Sales Management. Jere's first significant objective was to overhaul the Wagon Jobber system. This system, which was mostly manual in its operations, limited the sales teams’ capacity to only a few customer service calls a day, because their time was taken up by paperwork, delivery, stocking, and transportation of merchandise.

Jere was emphatic we had to adopt a new system, and by this time in 1975, UPS had expanded to cover nearly the entire United States, encompassing all of RBH's territory. This expansion played a crucial role in RBH's strategic shift from the brass trucks to a more efficient delivery model. Jere led the initiative to transition to shipping merchandise directly to customers. But we knew we had to maintain a high level of service. Salesmen often continued to personally stock customer bins with brass fittings to ensure steady supply for MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operating) parts.

Jere's ascension to the presidency of RBH came after the passing of my mother in 1978. Jere retired from his active role as President in 2019. Jim Arbuckle succeeded him, coinciding with the initiation of the company's ESOP. Jere then transitioned to the position of Board Chairman, later becoming Chairman Emeritus. Under his leadership, RBH's branch network expanded significantly and warehouse capacity increased. His legacy at RBH includes the addition of branches in Little Rock, Marietta, Orlando, Charlotte, West Virginia, and Fort Worth, Texas, marking an era of significant growth and evolution for the company.

Evolving with the times

Interviewer: How did RBH evolve over time, especially with technological advancements?

Drew: Since 1977, we've integrated technology deeply into our operations. Our early adoption of computing systems, even before PCs became mainstream, has been a significant advantage. IT was a burgeoning field, especially in our industry. Recognizing the potential, we took the initiative to dive into the world of computers and software. It was a pioneering step, and we were at the forefront, collaborating with IT experts and friends from the University of Tennessee. This was more than just implementing new technology. It was about bringing a vision to life – a vision where efficiency, accuracy, and innovation could thrive. Our IT advancements have played a critical role in tailoring our services to meet specific customer needs. Whether it was about refining our inventory management or enhancing our order processing, the IT department has been central to making these improvements a reality. We've developed custom software solutions that have improved efficiency across various departments. This integration of technology has been a key factor in our continued success.

Expanding our product portfolio

Interviewer: Can you speak about RBH's product evolution and partnerships?

Drew: Our approach to products and partnerships has been both proactive and reactive. We've adapted to market needs, diversifying our offerings, and forging strong partnerships with companies within the industry. Our collaboration with Gates Corporation stands out as particularly noteworthy. This partnership has been a significant part of our growth story and a testament to our commitment to providing top-quality products and services. Working with Gates has enabled us to expand our product offerings significantly. Their range of high-quality products has allowed us to serve our customers better and address a wider range of needs. This partnership has not just been about product access; it's been about aligning with a company that shares our values of quality, reliability, and innovation.

Interviewer: How does RBH plan to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving mobile equipment industry?

Drew: Looking forward, the future of RBH is set on a path of embracing automation. We recognize that the landscape of our industry is rapidly changing, with technology playing an increasingly critical role. Integrating automation in our operations is not just about efficiency; it's about staying ahead of the curve, ensuring precision, and enhancing our service delivery. These steps are crucial in our continuous journey of growth and adaptation. As we embrace these changes, our focus remains steadfast on our mission and the values that have brought us this far.

Keeping our employees at the center

Royal Brass and Hose staff image. Royal Brass and Hose staff image.

Interviewer: What about your commitment to employee satisfaction? How has that contributed to RBH's success?

Drew: I've always believed that the strength of a company is directly tied to the quality of its employees. That's why we've put immense effort into finding individuals who not only have the necessary skills and qualifications but also fit well with our company culture and values. We look for people who share our commitment to integrity, hard work, and customer satisfaction.

Interviewer: As you celebrate RBH's 75th anniversary, what message do you have for your long-time employees?

Drew: I'm grateful to our employees, especially those who've been with us for decades. It has fostered a family-like atmosphere within RBH, where employees feel a deeper connection with each other and with our collective goals and mission. This nurturing environment benefits not just our employees but the company, creating a harmonious and productive workspace. It's rewarding to see how their efforts translate into tangible benefits for them and the company. This sense of ownership and commitment is what sets RBH apart.

Looking forward to the next 75 years

Interviewer: Finally, what message would you like to share with your customers as you celebrate this milestone anniversary?

Drew: I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all our employees and customers who have been part of RBH's incredible 75-year journey.

To our employees, your dedication, hard work, and creativity have been the driving force behind our success. You've not only been a part of RBH's story, but you've also shaped it with your commitment and innovative spirit. Whether you've been with us for decades or have recently joined our team, each one of you plays a vital role in making RBH the company it is today. I am profoundly grateful for your contributions and look forward to continuing our journey together.

To our customers, thank you for your trust and loyalty. Your support has been paramount in our growth and success. You've challenged us to be better, to innovate, and to constantly improve our services and products. Your feedback and commitment have been invaluable, helping us fine-tune our offerings to better meet your needs. We are committed to continuing to provide you with the quality and service you expect and deserve.

Together, we have built a company that we can all be proud of. Here's to the next chapter in RBH's story, where we continue to grow, innovate, and lead with the same commitment and passion that have brought us this far.