Advance Components

Advance Components pic

Advance Components builds strong relationships with customers, suppliers and employees by understanding their needs. 

By Jim Harris

Advance Components considers itself more than a distributor. “We work with our customers to understand their needs and challenges so we can build custom solutions,” says Gary Cravens, CEO of the Carrollton, Texas-based company.

“We don’t just set up shop and then try to sell our products to whoever we can find to buy them,” he adds. “As a true channel partner, we are committed to building our business around the needs of our customers. We listen and we respond.”

The company’s customers are primarily industrial distributors who provide vendor-managed inventory programs to manufacturers. “When our customers seek suppliers like Advance to support their programs, they are seeking long-term strategic partnerships. Communication is key to building a long-lasting relationship,” Cravens says. “The relationship with the supplier must mirror the relationship with their customer.” 

“Because of this, at Advance we view ourselves as program managers, and we seek to improve our customers’ core competencies,” he adds. “By making them better at what they do, we ensure their success and, of course in the process, our own.” Advance Components

The company regularly provides its customers with feedback on supplier performance metrics such as quantity ordered versus quantity received, advanced ship notice accuracy and on-time delivery.

“Many suppliers are being challenged today with a shrinking top line and are seeking ways to effectively manage their bottom line,” Cravens says. “We have good processes in place for handling many small orders quickly and efficiently. We are, in effect, a transactional machine – we receive, stock, bag, pack and ship just about as accurately and quickly as anyone in the industry at a very cost-effective price. This relieves a tremendous burden from our suppliers and also provides a lot of value to our distributor customers.”

‘Being the Best’

Advance Components is a master-stocking distributor of specialty fastening products serving roughly 2,000 customers – and that number is growing.

“We are keenly aware that we occupy a narrow niche in the industrial distribution market,” Cravens says. “By offering as many related verticals in this sector of the market as possible, we believe we create internal synergies as well as create value for our customers by allowing them to reduce their supplier base.”

The company prides itself on having the best-trained salespeople, the most products and the best value-added services in the industry.

“We believe we do what we do better than anyone, and there’s not many companies trying to do what we do. In fact, Advance Components is the only master distributor representing our suppliers that focuses only on selling to other distributors. It’s all about trust when you sell to distributors. They have to know you won’t be selling to their end user customers tomorrow. It also takes a significant investment and involves a lot of technical training of your sales people,” Cravens says. “Our mantra is if you want to be the best, you have to have the best. To us, that means having the best people, training, facilities, equipment and technology.”

Advance Components recently added two salespeople to its staff and created a proprietary sales training program, dubbed Advance Sales University. “We’ve worked diligently to get the right people on the bus and get them into the right seats,” he adds. “We believe that success lies first in hiring great people, then being willing to invest in their training.”

The company’s recent technology improvements include implementing a new customer relationship management tool that enables it to better share and track data.

“We make investing in technology a priority,” Cravens says. “We never hesitate to provide our team with state-of-the-art computers, scanners and the best communication tools. Additionally, we’re constantly seeking out the best new software to help us run our business more efficiently.”

The company operates out of its modern $4.5 million, 64,000-square-foot warehouse, which it acquired in 2008. “Creativity is collaborative and we have achieved most of our advances by working together as a team,” he adds. “We see our facilities and our workspaces as extensions of our culture and we never hesitate to invest in our culture.”

Taking on Challenges

Advance Components is keeping ahead of distribution industry trends and challenges. “The rapid rate of acquisitions by larger distributors taking place today is causing displacement with our customer base, as these larger distributors have direct access to our suppliers,” Cravens says. “Also, offshore competition is greater than ever, and it’s easier now for customers to buy imported products. To adapt to these changes, we’ve worked to improve our online store experience, increased team member training and focused on adding new suppliers to our offerings.”

The company recently contracted with a logistics management company to negotiate its less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload pricing. By partnering with this transportation analytics, freight and parcel audit company, Advance Components ensures it gets the best pricing available on its outbound truckload shipments.

Advance Components’ latest supplier additions include Micro Plastics, A-1 Fasteners, Davies Knobs & Handles and Vogelsang Fastener Solutions. “We have come to realize in the past few years that we walk a line between servicing the needs of our customers and those of our suppliers,” Cravens says. “While these needs are typically aligned, we must strive to create value both upstream and downstream to ensure long-term viability.

“We’ve been very successful lately in developing new supplier relationships that have provided us with the opportunity to offer new lines and products to our customers,” he adds. “I think what’s made our proposal so attractive to these new suppliers is our ability to clearly articulate our value proposal and to provide a solution with a proven track record for success.”

Moving Forward

Advance Components is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. The second-generation family owned company was founded in 1972 by Doug Berry when he was working as a sales representative for the Tinnerman Company.

In 1977, Advance Components moved to a larger warehouse in Carrollton, Texas, added more employees and a team of outside sales representatives. Over time, the company’s initial business formula of 80 percent OEM customers and 20 percent distributors reversed, and distributors became the primary clients.

In 2006, Berry’s daughters, Suzanne Berry Cravens and Pam Berry, joined the company and have continued many of the same traditions and business practices that their father started four decades ago.

Cravens has been president of the company for the past 10 years. “I’m fortunate to be just a small part of a tremendous legacy, and I’m very sensitive to what that responsibility entails,” he says. 

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