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On Distribution Talk, we dive into the stories, struggles and solutions from interesting characters who have chosen to make a career in the distribution industry. My goal is to entertain, educate and inspire you through these brief conversations.  Thank you for visiting.  If you like what you hear, come visit us often. -Jason

Apr 22, 2020

I've told our people over the years say, we're not just selling pipe valves...we're actually helping build automobiles and airplanes and chemicals that are used in just about everything in the country and I tried to paint a bigger picture of, you know, how important we really are. -Kip Miller

Kip Miller, president and CEO of Eastern Industrial Supply Inc. out of Greenville, SC, shares with us some of the lessons he’s learned about managing - and growing - through challenges. Our conversation touches on Kip’s initial trial by fire and the question anyone who wants to become a better leader and a happier person should ask themselves: How do you want to live?

“The only place where real, true learning takes place is trial and error through making mistakes.” And, with that, Kip busts the myth that exemplary leaders are infallible from day one on the job. 

His story, and that of his company, is one with peaks and valleys to rival any great novel. The fresh-faced college grad lands a great job just before recession hits the early 80s and stays on through a buyout, loyal to the man who originally hired him. 

But his good fortune is followed by bittersweet opportunity when his boss is struck by illness and a massive heart attack, leaving the company in his hands. Kip was just 29 years old when he inherited Eastern Supply’s 12 employees and debt load. “I certainly didn't have the leadership or the business experience I needed. But, I certainly went through a quick business education.” 

The original dozen stuck by him, forging on and slowly paying down the debt. “Then we picked up a huge... project of a new textile mill being built. We were off and running and we've not looked back since.”


Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.

This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.

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The company may not be looking back, but Kip has. As an introspective thought-leader, his posts are refreshingly transparent. He’s not shy of detailing his struggles or discussing the changes he’s put into practice on his way to becoming the leader - the person - he’s always wanted to be. 

“I used to be a person that played their cards really close to the vest and didn't want anybody to see you sweat,” he says about his earlier management persona, the silent intimidator. “So, I had to learn about who I was, what my personality type was, where I was challenged in those areas, and what steps I needed to take to overcome those.” 

He credits his original employees for bringing some of those early management shortcomings to his attention and for helping him create a company culture that remains, to this day, steadfastly aligned with its five core values: caring, honesty, integrity, self-responsibility, and positivity.

Kip views those principles as the bedrock of Eastern Industrial Supply’s service to the country, painting the bigger picture as he reminds his staff that they’re not just selling plumbing parts, they’re actually helping to build all the industries that keep the country running. 

Kip’s message is doubly important as the world ventures into the uncharted territory of a global pandemic. And now is the perfect time for leaders at every level to ask themselves his simple question: “How do I want to live? I think that's a tremendously important question.”

Listen in to find out how Kip’s planning to live his answer.


BONUS BOOK CLUB: Recommendations from Kip’s own reading. 

The Man In The Mirror - by Patrick Morley

Halftime: Moving From Success To Significance - by Bob Buford