Thursday, May 28, 2020


“What About Bob?” was a 1991 comedy film which told the story of a patient who follows his psychiatrist around on a family vacation. Our Bob – Bob Hipp – promises not to do that to our customers, but he does exhibit some of the positive traits portrayed by the character in the movie such as having a great work ethic and treating people well.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting or talking with Bob, Comstar’s Regional Sales Manager for PA and Western NY, he’s a storyteller – and a damn fine one at that. So, what about OUR Bob?

Q: Tell me your favorite story.  
Bob: Before I start to ramble, I would like to congratulate my daughter, Emily, on her graduation from Temple University this May!  Corona derailed her ceremony but not her spirit.
Bob and his family celebrating Emily's graduation

My favorite work story is my first real lesson in communication and something I share whenever I work with someone new to our business.
In my first sales job, I had a customer in Hammond, LA, who bought two hundred TV remote controls from me because he was a CATV operator and was setting up a tent at the local grocery store to sign up new subscribers.  He ordered them on a Wednesday and asked that I ship them UPS 2nd day air so he would get them on Friday. 

Young and aggressive, I wrote the order and hand carried it to our Sales Coordinator Diane.  I handed the order to Diane and proclaimed, “SHIP THESE UPS 2-DAY!” as my customer requested.  Diane shipped them UPS ground that afternoon.  He didn’t get them on time.  I killed his event.  

After some discussion in the office (this was during the stone age of hand-written orders), we figured out that Diane heard me exclaim “SHIP THESE UPS TODAY!”  That simple lesson has helped shape my career.  I see one of my primary responsibilities as anticipating and avoiding mistakes by really understanding what’s going on and communicating that as best I can.

Q: How and when did you join Comstar? 
Bob: I started in June of 2014. 

Comstar's Bob Hipp
I was working as a manufacturer rep and was looking to get back into distribution.  I interviewed with a distributor and had an offer on the table.  Many years ago, Earl Punchard (Founder of Comstar and whom I had never met personally) called me because he had heard that I was making a move.  I remember the conversation as being so pleasant and supportive from someone I didn’t know.  He basically wished me luck and told me if I ever wanted to move again to call him.  I promised him I would. 

Not long after that conversation, Earl passed away.  I “met” him at his funeral service.  That phone call stayed with me for years and impacted me to the point that, when I was ready to make another job move, I felt compelled in some way to “tell” Earl and Comstar. 

I didn’t feel I knew Chad well enough to share that phone call with him so I called Mike Hartwick—a Comstar employee, friend and colleague I had known for 20 years.  I just wanted Mike to know.  I wanted to keep my promise to Earl.  I called Mike.  Mike called Chad.  Chad called me.  We met the next day.  I really didn’t think there was any way I would work at Comstar as I had a very fair offer on the table from a good company.  Chad, Todd and I talked for an hour.  I was hooked.  Best move I ever made.  Thanks Earl!

Q: In your opinion, what’s the best thing about working at Comstar? 
Bob: The people, right?  Isn’t that what everyone says?  And that is definitely part of it.  The culture here is amazing and supportive and generous and loving and fun.  I am closer to the end of my career than the beginning and I am so lucky to be at a place that feels like home.

Q: What would you say about your customers? 
Bob: Simply that many of them have become friends.  Honest, hard-working people who, as we sit here, are working through some pretty difficult conditions.

Q: What would your customers say about you? 
Bob: Hopefully, that I am honest in my dealings with them.  That is extremely important to me.

Q: You’re very philanthropic and involved in your local community, how did you get started in that and what are some of the organizations that you serve? 
Bob: In my early 20's, I may or may not have gotten into a little trouble with the law.  I was sentenced to community service.  My first “volunteer” work was in patient transport at a local hospital.  I used to wheel patients in chairs or in beds to X-ray or a dozen other places within the hospital.  Many times, they were suffering.  I always tried to make them smile, at least for a second.  That small gesture would help them feel better and made me feel great! 

I always tell people looking to volunteer that I do it because I am selfish….it makes me feel better about myself!  I am currently a member and past President of Perkasie Rotary, an amazing organization.  In my history, I have been involved in everything from Special Olympics to Homeowners organizations to various non-profits.  Get this….I am “on the Board” of the local free library!  Shout out here to my wife Donna and daughter Emily.  I drag them into every volunteer event that I work.  They are great at it and I think it has provided Emily with a great foundation. 

Q: You’re also a big Philly sports fan – stack rank the teams in terms of your passion? 
Bob: Finally, an easy one. EAGLES, FLYERS, PHILLIES, SIXERS.

Q: I also know you golf from time to time, who’s in your dream foursome? 
Bob: Living?  Tiger is a definite.  Charles Barkley is the guy in my cart and George W Bush. “W” is an odd one for me politically, but I think he is so misunderstood as a person.  It would be cool to get to know him.  He and I would ride together on the back nine.  Wait!  Second nine.  If we are dreaming, we might as well play Augusta.

Q: One more story? 
Bob: You asked for it!  This story comes with a photo.  I am not in said photo.  In 1983, I worked at a movie theater.  It was one of the old-time main street type theaters with the roof over the sidewalk and the marquee above. 

My friend Jim and I were seniors in high school and we both worked there.  We were only 17 but they gave us keys to the theater so we could lock up at night.  I think they probably changed that policy in June of ’83! 

Anyway, the Sixers win the NBA title.  Jim and I call each other and a bunch of our friends and we all met at Hatboro Theater.  Hatboro was one of those towns where they would close the main drag as people poured into the street to celebrate. 

We unlocked the theater, propped the side door open and went up onto the roof in front of the marquee.  We took the movie names off the marquee and replaced them with “SIXER NO ONE” “DR J” AND “LAKERS SUCK”.  Our 17-year old brains thought “who from Budco (they owned the theater and a few others) is gonna be in Hatboro.  No way we get caught!” 
Local newspaper photo of the marquee, Bob and his friends.

The next day (que photo) we were on the front page of the local newspaper.  The regional manager, whom I had never met, called the theater and told the manger to fire us.  For years, I kept that newspaper and told that story with long lost teenaged pride. 

Fast forward to 2008, my family and I moved to a new house.  One day, I’m cutting the grass and there’s my next-door neighbor. We introduce ourselves and start talking.  His name was Charlie Fogel.  I asked him what he did for a living and he says, “Well, I am retired now but I worked in the movie theater business for 35 years.”  I thought for a second and said, “Charlie Fogel!  You fired me from Hatboro Theater in 1983!!”

That’s right.  25 years after the 1983 Sixers Championship, I randomly moved in next door to the guy who fired me!  Charlie has since passed away, but we had a great laugh that day and he lives with me forever.  On a side note, everyone I know has probably already heard this story at least once so sorry to all of you.

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