Gordon Electric Supply Inc.

Gordon Electric Supply is a full-line wholesale electrical distributor and certified woman-owned business serving Illinois and northwest Indiana. “I’d describe us as a small company with very sophisticated technology,” CEO Cara Gordon Potter says. “We provide the capabilities of a large company but we are flexible and nimble because we are small.”

Gordon Electric Supply was established in 1953 and today serves the commercial, industrial and residential markets. The company has extensive inventory and guarantees that its top 200 products will always be in stock. “With a fully stocked inventory we are able to offer same-day shipping or delivery on many of our products, such as switchgear, lamps, wiring devices, circuit protection, grounding and termination devices, generators, and electrical wiring,” the company says.

Open Doors

The company is a certified woman-owned business enterprise (WBE) in Illinois and Indiana. “We differentiate ourselves as a WBE but also within the WBE category,” Gordon Potter says. “Unlike many other WBEs, we carry major manufacturer lines including Square D.” 

In fact, it is a premier Square D Distributor. Being a woman-owned business has opened a lot of doors for the company, Gordon Potter shares, but that is where the work begins. “Our certification provides support so we are invited to participate in large-scale projects in which we might otherwise not be invited to quote but we still have to compete like everyone else,” she says. “It is no guarantee of winning business but it has definitely provided us with opportunities we might not otherwise have had.”

Gordon Electric Supply is a WBE supplier to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and at the Circle Campus in Chicago as well as the Argon and Fermi National Laboratories in northern Illinois. “We do quite a bit of business in the Chicago metro area,” Gordon Potter says. The company has locations in Kankakee and Mokena, Ill. 

“We are able to turn around quotations very quickly,” Gordon Potter says. “We have a very responsive sales team.” Utilizing Eclipse software, Gordon Electric Supply manages inventory in real-time with sophisticated forecasting tools. The company is dedicated to solving customer problems, even opening on Sundays for emergencies.

Digital Marketplace

The industry has changed over time with more online business activity, Gordon Potter says. Although she states the role of local distributors remains crucial, the company has responded to this industry trend with more digital services and up-to-date tech offerings. 

For example, Gordon Electric Supply launched a mobile ordering app one year ago. “A lot of customers still prefer to call in but some of the younger contractors like to use their mobile devices to place an order so we have both,” Gordon Potter explains. The company also provides access to account information on the app.

“There is a lot more online competition these days,” she states. “So we are matching this competition with our own online presence. But we also have local capabilities for solution selling, project management and value-added engineering, which a lot of online sources can’t provide. We do a lot of one-on-one consultation and assistance.” Local delivery is critical. 

“Even though there is online competition, I don’t think the local distributor can ever be replaced,” Gordon Potter says. Growing consolidation has also impacted the industry, she notes, but that’s where the company’s skill as a resourceful, quick-acting small distributor has helped grow its market share even as commodity prices of copper and aluminum remain flat. 

Another industry change is the increasing importance of energy management and conservation. “We are very involved in energy efficiency and management,” Gordon Potter says. “We perform lighting audits, resulting in energy-efficient replacements, and energy management audits that are especially useful in manufacturing settings.”

Committed to Expertise

Gordon Electric Supply succeeds because of its outstanding workforce with a sales staff averaging more than 19 years of industry experience per person. 

“We pride ourselves on our technically trained and experienced sales team,” the company says. “We are committed to having the expertise in-house to help solve technical problems.”

The company utilizes skills training programs from the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) and product training from the IMARK Group, a member-owned marketing group made up of more than 900 independently owned electrical distributors throughout the United States, on which Gordon Potter serves on the board of directors. Gordon Electric Supply has been named IMARK distributor of the year three times.

The group “provides opportunities for networking and rebates as well as small group interaction to share best practices,” Gordon Potter says. “It is very helpful.”

NAED offers “a three-tiered technical training program that takes several years to complete,” she says, providing product knowledge and improved selling skills.

This has helped because “the Chicago market did not swing back as quickly as other parts of the country after the recession but business is now better and stronger,” Gordon Potter says. “We are looking forward to a very good 2015.”

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