Bookmark and Share
Home Product Categories Company Bios Add Your Company to our Site Commentary and News Learn More About Us Contact Us
Genova Products
7034 E. Court St
Davison, MI 48423

Telephone: 810-744-4500

Year Started: 1962

# American Employees: 300
  Robert F. Williams epitomized the word "entrepreneur" during his lifetime. He was a man of constantly evolving ideas and endless vision. Although he experienced a success in his lifetime that would be the envy of most people, he never could quite understand why some held him in awe. He was a man of simple tastes whose true happiness came from evoking happiness in those around him. Material things meant little to him... he often said that "money was merely a badge that showed that one had moved from one place in life to another." He was surprisingly frugal in choices for himself while, at the same time, boundlessly generous with those around him. He was a hard worker who came up the hard way. Born in England, he first came to this country with his parents, his older brother and a younger sister in 1923. There were no other relatives here and none followed later. His father had a wanderlust in seeking his opportunities in life and that wanderlust resulted in the family moving back to England three times and to Toronto, Canada twice before finally coming back to Flint for good in 1936 when R.F. Williams was 19 years old. In 1936 he met and married an American girl, Athelone Ballard. Because his father had never applied for American citizenship, R.F. Williams celebrated his 21st birthday still a British subject. He applied for and received his naturalization papers six months before his son was born in 1941. In 1944, a daughter came along to complete the small family unit. Williams was apprenticed as a tool and die maker at a small tool shop in Grand Rapids and his initial home was a 14 ft. house trailer. After obtaining his journeyman's card, he moved the trailer back to Flint and went to work at the General Motors plants. He was considered by his superiors to be a good mechanic but definitely not supervisor material and although he continued to progress in his job and better himself financially, something was still missing in his life. The Williams family tree is filled with people who have always worked with their hands in factories and mines, but somewhere in the branches there had to have been a trader. Many times Williams would buy something from one end of the shop and resell it to someone at the other end, always making a few dollars in the process. When it became apparent to him that his dreams were not going to be accomplished at General Motors, he quit and started a small appliance sales and repair business in Fenton in 1945. Williams wasn't a gambling man but he was willing to bet his all on ideas that he had gendered. In his first big gamble, he sold the house that he and his wife had built themselves and made a down payment on an old building in the center of the town of Fenton. He renovated it himself, putting in 20 hours a day to accomplish the task as quickly as possible. He used the other half of the money he had received from the sale of his house -- $3500 -- for inventory purchases which, on opening day, consisted of twelve bottle warmers, two small oil space heaters, and two gas stoves. He opened the doors and waited for the customers to come. As you might have guessed, they didn't come in droves as he had originallyexpected, even though he stayed open from 8:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night each day waiting for them. In his first year in business, he showed a loss of $2100 on total sales of $5500. If it hadn't been for his ability to persevere as well as his ability to fix anything from toasters to washing machines, he would have surely gone broke in those first lean years. He and his wife held living expenses to $15.00 per week during that difficult period and the family lived in a two car garage on the outskirts of the town. Williams' older brother, who had been apprenticed as a plumber, returned from the service at about that time and, at his parents urging, Williams took him in as a partner. The family then moved to Flint, but after two years in business with his brother, they parted amicably, and Williams continued on alone. During the time he and his brother worked together, Williams burned the midnight oil and secured his Journeyman Plumber's license. After they parted, he continued to work on his license and secured his Master Plumber's license, passing the test the first time around. Even though he continued on as an installing plumbing contractor, his heart was really in sales. He found a little piece of land at the right price due to the fact that it was an old gravel pit on a dirt road (now Grand Traverse Street in Flint, Michigan), filled it in, and built a 22' x 35' wooden shed on it. He put up a wire fence around the remaining half acre of dirt and started to sell plumbing in what turned out to be the forerunner of today's warehouse discount store concept. He bought by the truckload from manufacturers who knew that he would rather starve than not meet his bills and then sold the merchandise, still in the crate, to customers who came to his out-of-the-way location by virtue of a very unique and "homey" type of newspaper advertising that he developed. Because his "expert" advice was always available with every purchase, a growing stream of satisfied customers referred their relatives and friends to Williams and, over a period of eight or nine years, Genesee Plumbing & Heating Supply Company was built into a respected and prosperous business. He worked on the premise of selling merchandise as cheaply as he could and giving the customer a better value than he could achieve anywhere else. He created a solid business and started to think about the possibilities of retirement as he came up on his fiftieth birthday. He had given his son a job who had worked in the company since he was in high school. His son was being positioned to take over the helm of this solid little business he had built when he was ready to throw in the towel. But the best was yet to come. Williams had become interested in the possibility of substituting plastic pipe and fittings for plumbing instead of the conventional metal materials being used at that time. He devised a complete plumbing waste system from the few fittings and pipe available from the few small manufacturers who were just starting to make them. He included his new concept of utilizing plastic pipes for plumbing in a bid he submitted for supplying the plumbing materials for a series of relocatable houses to be installed at air force bases located in the upper Midwest. After traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan and infecting the government contractor with his excitement, he got the job. The story of all of what happened after is too long to tell here, but it wound up in the creation of Genova Products, Inc. a few years later. He had bucked the odds, and staked the solid Genesee Plumbing and Heating Supply Company business he had spent the first two thirds of his life creating and pushed it to the center of the table as collateral for his life's biggest gamble... creating a brand new business and industry. His unique combination of merchandising and people inspiring abilities, coupled with his thorough knowledge of mechanics and plumbing know-how, and his tenacious "never say quit" spirit allowed his new venture to successfully buck well-heeled companies and entrenched interests and build what has now become one of the largest suppliers of plastic plumbing and building products in the U.S. and, perhaps the world. Genova and Williams are one. Genova was the culmination of his life's achievements and he spent every effort to make it successful. He created the products, he worked tirelessly to change the codes to allow plastics in plumbing, he developed the basic merchandising concepts and, along the way he inspired a multitude of people. His dream has become an important national industry which provides the livelihood for countless families, to say nothing of the economic and enhanced quality benefits it has provided to the housing industry and the countless millions of people that industry serves. His initial idea of using plastic piping for residential Drain, Waste, and Vent systems has become the accepted way to install plumbing and is found in virtually every U.S. home built today. Williams was a small man physically but he was actually bigger than life. He wasn't afraid to fight for his ideas and possessed the unique quality of being able to gain the respect of even those who were violently opposed to his thinking. He made many friends throughout his life and few enemies. He was an ordinary man with extraordinary perception and energy. He led by example; he would never ask another to do something that he had not already done and he could instill a desire to excel in those he worked with, not for monetary rewards, but just to please him. He demonstrated a work ethic that few could match right up to the day he died. He was a very private person, not given to beating his chest to herald his accomplishments, nor was he one to share his problems or his grief. Williams placed a special value on family and personal relationships. He and his wife had a very special thing and they together accomplished in their lifetime, under great odds, the things that dreams are made of. He didn't leave too many roads untraveled in his life and he leaves a legacy that will endure for generations to come.  
Product Categories:
Thoughts on America:
We are a true American success story -- having grown from an idea to one of Americas largest suppliers of PVC building materials. We would be proud to be included in your MADE IN THE USA products list.
  © 2009 - 2011 It's In The Click, LLC   All rights reserved.