In the early months of 2020 — before the pandemic scrambled the status quo — Darren Rawson took up the mantle of president and CEO of AZP Multifamily and has presided over sales growth in excess of 69%. The Phoenix-based maintenance parts and repair company was founded by David Schlecht in 1985 when he started to sell and deliver supplies directly to owners of apartment complexes. Today, the company has warehouses in 13 communities across nine states.
Originally from upstate New York, Rawson has spent much of his career at industrial commercial distribution businesses, including Honeywell, W.W. Grainger and HD Supply, even running his own consulting firm at one point.
Early in his career — at 26 years old — Rawson led a team that, by the time he left, was up to 40 employees. “We were running integrated supply programs where we managed all the purchasing and inventory management for companies such as Procter & Gamble, American Airlines and Ingersoll Rand,” he says.
The decision to come to AZP Multifamily happened over a six-month period when the owner of the business sought out Rawson’s advice on multiple occasions.
“I would explain what I thought he could do with the company,” Rawson notes. “And at some point, he said, ‘Why don’t you come run the business?’ We agreed to that, and I started in January of 2020.”
essentially means that people are willing to do exactly the bare minimum to get their job done, and nothing more.”
Not long after taking the job, the COVID-19 crisis meant businesses had to quickly adapt to an entirely new set of circumstances. Rawson explains that in the beginning of the pandemic, there was a stoppage of work orders being filled at apartments as tenants were reluctant to let anyone enter their space to make fixes.
“But once everyone realized we had a way to live within the confines of COVID-19, everything started to open up,” Rawson says. “Unlike a meal that wasn’t eaten at a restaurant, which is considered lost revenue, the toilet that was leaking for three months was still leaking, so we didn’t lose any sales per se.”
The core of the business generated $67 million in sales a year prior to Rawson’s joining and ended 2020 with about $66 million while also acquiring another company. Since then, AZP Multifamily has inked more than 100 new corporate agreements. Rawson expects to close 2022 with $155 million in sales and aspires to reach $225 million next year.
“What we do serves and supports an industry that provides homes for people. That really matters,” Rawson concludes. “When you set high expectations, it’s amazing how [employees] will excel in those environments. There’s nothing sexy about what we do at the end of the day — we’re selling toilet seats and flush valves. But it really is important to the customers that we work with.”