If you visit BlackHawk Industrial’s “BaseCamp” in Broken Arrow, OK trying to find CEO Bill Scheller, don’t look for a guy in a business suit. Instead, expect to find the
company’s leader clad in a casual button-up golf shirt and
sandals and happy to share his business vision.
Scheller is a reflection of the culture he’s instilled at
BlackHawk, where a ‘relaxed, but serious’ atmosphere now
encompasses 800 employees, just six years after Scheller
himself was its first employee. Previously serving as the
CEO of ORS Nasco for 10 years, Scheller has led an aggressive buy-and-build business strategy that has turned
BlackHawk into a $450 million industrial distributor with
no intentions of slowing down. Be it with activities such as
warehouse scavenger hunts and ping-pong tournaments
at BaseCamp’s warehouse, or encouraging all locations to
pick a branch activity to do each month, or bringing the
entire sales force to the company’s annual Summit, Scheller
and BlackHawk have powered the rapid growth hand-in-hand with a unique culture.
“Work is important, but you want to work with people
you can mutually respect, and having activities that builds
comradery encourages that.” Scheller says. “We try to hire
Scheller started BlackHawk in the summer of 2009 and it
made its first acquisition in October 2010. The acquisition
total is now up to 24, with the most recent being Pioneer
Tool Supply, Pioneer Precision Grinding, and Cataleap, with
the transaction closing at the end of March.
Likewise, BlackHawk has climbed its way up Industrial
Distribution’s annual Big 50 List. After first appearing in
2011 at No. 47, the company jumped to No. 33 in 2012
with $260 million in revenue, was 30th in 2013, and
checked in at No. 29 last year with $350 million in sales.
BlackHawk’s 2014 revenue looks to gain it another 1-2
spots on ID’s 2015 list, which will lead the September/Octo-ber issue.
Buying In To ‘One BlackHawk’
Throughout that growth, the executive team at Black-
Hawk has been tasked with implementing its core values
and culture at each acquired location. “It’s a true mixture.
Some people are very welcoming and open to change, but
because of the pure number of our acquisitions, everybody
has a history of doing things a different way,” says Heather
Riggs, BlackHawk Director of Supplier Development. “It’s
not always easy. Some of the locations have that warm
fuzzy feeling right away, and others are more cautious and
are taking a little more time to adapt.”
Upon an acquisition, BlackHawk assigns a Core Value
Leader to lead the culture events within the new location.
This key role is given to someone who has perked to the
top with a personality keen to become involved. “Tradi-
tionally it’s not the general sales leader, who is usually that
button-down-shirt type of person,” Scheller says. “This
Lead also aids the general manager in implementing our
nine core values across all of BlackHawk, which is a huge
focus for us. Advocating and maintaining our core values
brings positive results. As the essence of BlackHawk’s iden-
tity, they support the vision, shape the culture, and reflect
our company’s values. It is this underlying competency that
BlackHawk Industrial has become a top player in the market in only six years, and it’s just
BlackHawk Industrial executive members (from left) Stephen Burns - CIO, Heather Riggs - Director of Supplier
Development, Ian Hartman - VP of Supply Chain, Bill Scheller - CEO, and James MacEachern - CFO. (ID photo)
BY MIKE HOCKETT