City Electric Supply

City Electric Supply is an international, family owned wholesale electrical products distributor. It provides service and support for customers in residential, commercial and industrial markets. 

City Electric Supply has a family based culture, says Thomas Hartland-Mackie, president and CEO. It gives branch locations the autonomy to provide the right parts for their particular regions. 

“I think we can attribute our success to the model we have,” he says. “Our network of smaller branch locations has a tremendous group of employees in North America and beyond.”

The company excels with its service including last-minute deliveries as well as finding and sourcing difficult to locate items. It is also a leading innovator pushing forward with mobile applications, eCommerce and social media.

“People might be surprised to learn how nimble we are,” says Gary Smith, Raleigh region general manager. “We provide unparalleled service that competitors struggle to match.” With so many locations in the marketplace, City Electric Supply easily outperforms competitors who operate rigid format delivery services, Smith says.

“We are different in how we go to market and how we allow profit centers to go to market from the top to the branch level,” says Jim Glass, senior group manager of the Midwest region. “There is a tremendous amount of autonomy given to make marketing, selling and purchasing decisions. We don’t take a cookie-cutter approach in how we go to market and this attracts entrepreneurial people. When you let somebody run their business the way they want to – within reason – it brings out the best in people.”

At other national chains, top-heavy layers of management create policies and procedures that turn location managers into robots. But City Electric Supply avoids this with its unique company culture.

Plenty of Space

Founded in 1951 by Tom Mackie, more than six decades later, City Electric Supply’s U.S. network spans 30 states. Its  local teams are “dedicated to providing unparalleled dependability, quality and service,” the company says. “We strive to earn our customer’s business by providing a service level that is second to none.” 

The company has 880 locations around the globe. In the United States alone, it operates 385 branches with 2,087 employees and 1,250 vehicles. It excels in the marketplace thanks to its excellent customer service, Glass says. Its service-first attitude helps it continue to expand organically. When Glass joined the company 17 years ago, City Electric Supply operated 60 U.S. locations.

Although some of its competitors expand with acquisitions, City Electric Supply generally prefers organic growth in the United States and Canada. Glass recently spearheaded a 16-store Ohio expansion, for example. “We mapped out the market and decided where we wanted to put the stores,” he says. Gaining acceptance from new customers as well as manufacturing agents who had preexisting relationships was one challenge it faced. “We were the new guys in town and existing distributors put up a fight, but it still went pretty well,” Glass notes.

City Electric Supply has plenty of more room to expand. It aims to open 20 to 25 new stores per year in North America.

This growth presents challenges, as well. “It all comes down to finding the right people,” Hartland-Mackie says. “You can have a great location and great market but if you don’t have the right people at the branches it doesn’t mean anything. So we are focused on attracting and finding talent.” 

City Electric Supply grows via word of mouth. With the opportunity for healthy profits and competitive compensation, new recruits can rise through the ranks with hard work. “In my opinion, hard work is the key to success,” Glass says. “It obviously takes some knowledge and experience, but the No. 1 component to success is hard work and dedication.” 

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