George Morlan Plumbing Supply: 2019 EFBA Finalist “Generational Development”

Key milestones in the history of George Morlan Plumbing Supply

1927: George and his wife, Mary, moved from Arkansas to Portland, Oregon. He started his plumbing business with one helper and a Ford truck.

Mid-1930s: The new “electric water heater” was invented and George quickly realized the benefit to Oregon homeowners. He began selling and installing so many water heaters, that he was dubbed “The Water Heater King” by a friend and it stuck.

1965: George’s son Gary joined the company full time and, like his dad, he was a constant hard worker. George married Leone Kramien who, with her son Rick, had accompanied her first husband, a circus owner and magician, on the road performing. When they joined the Morlan family, they brought a major component that shaped the company going forward.

1989: Rick purchased the business and opened the second location in Tigard, doubling the size of the business overnight. The grand opening celebration made national news and over 10,000 people attended the event with a mini trade show, Elvis impersonator, and even elephant rides.

Since then, the business has expanded to eight locations, each with their own unique identity but harnessing the spirit of each previous generation.

Q&A with George Morlan Plumbing Supply, 2019 Excellence in Family Business finalist in the generational development category.

How are the third and fourth generations incorporating the historic values of creativity and entertainment in the running of the company today?

Rick, the third generation, particularly merged his show business background with the plumbing company. He was known in Oregon for major advertising campaigns, which at the time, was unheard of in the plumbing business. The George Morlan jingle “The Water Heater King” became widely recognized in the Portland area. The fourth generation, Rick’s children, Alex and Amanda continue these traditions with specialty advertising campaigns, participation in community events, and exciting customer events.

How has the work of long-term planning for the future of the business benefited the family?

About two years ago, Rick, with the help of Alex and Amanda, wrote a long-tern Business Plan and Strategy. The work that went into that has given us a solid plan for the future that undoubtedly will help us grow and thrive.

What’s the biggest challenge that has accompanied the substantial growth of George Morlan Plumbing and Supply? 

Our biggest challenge has definitely been hiring qualified and knowledgeable staff. It has been increasingly difficult to hire anyone with industry knowledge, and therefore, we must hire and train candidates who are completely green. We estimate is takes about three years for someone to learn most of what they need to know to successfully serve our customers. Fortunately, we have many long-term employees with more than 20 or 30 years of history with our company. They are invaluable to us in training new employees.

What is the legacy you hope that the current generations leave for the future owners?

George Morlan created his business on customer service, knowledge and expertise. Customers knew that they could come in with any issue, and he would fix it right at the counter or walk them through their projects. This is the essence of George Morlan that we want to continue in all future generations of the business.

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