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Imperial Dade

Categories: Distribution, Member Profiles

By ISSA Today Staff | July 27, 2021 << Back to Articles Imperial Dade

“An ability to anticipate evolving customer needs, changes in the competitive landscape, and identify opportunities for growth have allowed our team to guide Imperial Dade through complex scenarios and achieve profitable results,” Robert Tillis, CEO of Imperial Dade, claims.

This is one reason why Imperial Dade is successful as an independently owned and operated distributor of food service packaging, facility maintenance supplies, and equipment in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean.

Recent history

In 2007, Tillis purchased New Jersey-based Imperial Bag & Paper. He and his son, Jason Tillis, now president at Imperial Dade, embarked on a mission to create a company with national scale, but with the personality and customer focus of a local family business. The company grew both organically and through acquisitions, expanding the service area from the northeastern United States across the country.

“Today, we have 82 distribution facilities and over 3,700 associates that serve 65,000 customers. Our warehouse space totals more than five million square feet of state-of-the-art facilities, which we continue to build from the ground up. Our modern fleet includes 1,000 vehicles,” says Laura Craven, Imperial Dade vice president of marketing and communications.

As a provider of customized supply chain solutions, Imperial Dade serves customers in many business-to-business (B2B) market sectors ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. The company’s product offerings are vast, including janitorial supplies, equipment, industrial packaging, food service products, etc.

Growth and expansion

Acquisitions have been a main component of success for Imperial Dade in recent years. Imperial Dade includes 36 carefully curated acquisitions that have come together to create a national organization of distributors that remain rooted in their local communities. Each legacy company was selected because of its talented people and the success they achieved in their marketplace.

“As an organization, we leverage and cross-pollinate the ‘best of the best’ practices,” says Craven. “The cultures of the individual locations are maintained and add flavor to the larger organization.”

Employee internal communications programs are used, such as their Office Communication Lead Group and the Imperial Dade Insider intranet, to connect people across the country and share local customs, success stories, and more.

“We’ve created cross-functional and cross-location committees to address growth opportunities and solve challenges. These team members bring their unique experiences and passion to the entire system,” shares Jason Tillis.

The talent pool is extraordinary, as is their associates’ commitment to Imperial Dade’s mission of helping customers succeed, and this past year, helping them survive the pandemic. Many of their market areas have also been hit with national disasters over the years from hurricanes, fires, floods, etc., and the incredible resilience and human compassion demonstrated is inspirational.

“We have identified subject matter experts from every corner of the country and tapped those people to lead functional departments and market segments nationally,” Jason Tillis explains. “We’re also fortunate to have people that are well known and respected in the industry and very much involved in industry associations including ISSA, NETWORK® Services Co., the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), and many state restaurant associations.”

People + Passion = Success

People + Passion = Success. This is Robert Tillis’s motto. “As an experienced chief executive officer, I know that building a team of talented people that share a common goal of exceeding customer expectations is when the magic begins,” says Tillis.

Even as large as the company has grown, employees are valued as individuals at Imperial Dade.

The company is diverse, and its culture is one of belonging, of family. Imperial Dade is a quilt of family-owned companies that have joined together with multiple generations of family members working for the company.

“Imperial Dade is fortunate to have amazing associates! Many of our team members have been with the organization for decades, some over 40 years,” claims Craven. But how do they attract the best employees and keep them?

“We attract the next generation of associates often from referrals,” continues Craven. “We also have so many types of career paths, including sales, operations, procurement, supply chain, IT, and marketing. We have a history of promoting from within, nurturing people to reach their full potential. Over the years, warehouse associates have become branch managers and part-time administrative assistants have become senior sales executives. We also have modern, comfortable office and warehouse space along with late-model, well-equipped delivery vehicles.”

Imperial Dade sponsors national organizations such as the ISSA Hygieia Network, which promotes the advancement of women. Their branch locations are also very much involved in local community service programs.

Embracing emerging trends

The heightened focus on cleaning for health is the most notable trend that has emerged over the past year. Imperial Dade is well-equipped to assist customers with this critical process.

“Our sales consultants and specialists are fully capable of preparing customers with comprehensive programs including products, equipment, and processes that achieve the requirements,” claims Craven. “We provide training, virtual and on-site, and are always available for additional support. We work closely with our supplier partners to ensure we have the latest and most innovative products that bring value to our customers. And we develop our own solutions within our Victoria Bay product lines.”

On the food service side of the business, off-premises packaging has come to the forefront of customers’ needs. Imperial Dade has expertise in this area and couples their knowledge of food safety and sanitation with the packaging to deliver a complete program to these customers.

Sustainability is also returning to the spotlight as we emerge from the pandemic. Imperial Dade’s Greensafe Program will continue to be a roadmap to customers to achieve their sustainability goals through green cleaning and supplies. They have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professionals (APs), LEED Green Associates (GAs), CIMS-Green certified associates, and WELL Building Standard APs on staff.

Looking forward

The jansan business is a hands-on industry. Solving customers’ problems and helping them operate more efficiently requires demonstrations, testing, and detailed conversations. Technology is convenient but can’t replace personal interaction. Imperial Dade is ready to get back to business.

“We are excited to return to in-person activities, including our own Innovations Expos this year, starting with our event in Atlanta, Georgia on August 19, 2021, and in Secaucus, New Jersey on October 14, 2021. We are also looking forward to attending the ISSA Show North America 2021 in November and many other industry events,” says Craven.

The impact of ISSA

The folks at Imperial Dade feel that ISSA provides so many benefits to member companies. “First, it is the organization that helps companies and people across the industry connect and network,” Craven points out. “ISSA also provides support by monitoring and lobbying for legislation that impacts our industry. The industry news keeps us informed and ISSA Charities helps us give back. Lastly, the ISSA Show North America is one of the most important events of the year. We cannot wait to return this year.”  

Imperial Dade is also a supporter of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council™ (GBAC), a division of ISSA. “We have 100 sales consultants that have completed the GBAC Fundamentals Online Course: Cleaning & Disinfecting Principles last year, and some of our customers, including Hard Rock Stadium, are GBAC Star Accredited facilities,” Craven adds.

Word to the wise

What advice does this successful company have to give? “Give to get! If you have knowledge, share it,” Craven says. “If you know how to solve a problem, help someone else with their challenges. Invest in your employees and celebrate each person’s uniqueness. Stay connected to your local community and support it. No matter how large your organization becomes, it is the relationships built, the trust earned, and the focus on the future that will carry you through good times and bad.”


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