In It All The Way

I like to think of gases and welding as an all-or-nothing industry: You need to have your heart in it 100 percent, or you won’t make it. Luckily for me, it’s an easy choice. I’ve been at Vern Lewis Welding Supply (Phoenix, AZ) for 12 years, and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s the constant challenges and novelty of this industry that keep me in it all the way.

Earlbeck Gases & Technologies delivers service. “Our staff's knowledge of the industry is our company's strongest product line, and we ship that every day,” says President Jim Earlbeck.
Business Manager Veronica Robles, 38, welcomes new challenges each day at Vern Lewis Welding Supply.

I currently serve as business manager, in charge of payroll, HR and accounting. I have worked in nearly every other position here, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, counter sales and advertising. Before I started as business manager, the position didn’t exist; but as the company grew it became necessary to have someone the employees could go to with concerns and issues. Rather than wait in line to speak with the operations manager or another higher-up, employees can now come to me—I’m sort of the go-to person for a lot of them. I think the employees feel more secure knowing they don’t have to fight their way up the chain of command to be heard.

The current economic climate has kept me extremely busy, considering we currently average about three bankruptcies a week among our customers. My initial reaction upon receiving a bankruptcy notification is first to determine how large of an account it is. Unfortunately, there’s little I can do once a company has filed Chapter 11, but I can usually find a way to work with companies that alert us beforehand. I like to keep a close eye on any company that is contemplating filing or is struggling with payments, and I make sure they aren’t making any more major purchases from us. The occasional phone call to these companies typically helps ensure that we receive our money, because if we aren’t calling, then someone else is, and that someone else is going to get the money.

Just because I’m in our accounting department, however, doesn’t mean I don’t know how to get my hands dirty. A while back, when business was slow, I was asked to work part-time at the counter because I speak Spanish. During this time I learned how to roll cylinders, fill propane, load trucks, drive the forklifts and perform many of the other warehouse duties. And I learned to do this all while wearing heels and without breaking a nail!

My ultimate goal, in any position, is to serve our customers to the best of my ability. I’m a very hands-on person, which means I take every chance I can to teach myself about the complexities of this industry. I am much better equipped to help a customer if I can understand what he or she is talking about. Learning how a warehouse functions allows me to understand more clearly some of our customers’ needs and concerns and makes it easier for me to help them.

I never let myself get bored in this profession. If you like what you do, then it’s easy to stay busy, whether that involves keeping the books or filling the tanks. I love my job, I love the company I work for and I look forward to the new and unique challenges I face every day.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association