Living in rural Ontario, Garnet McBride understood first-hand the importance of a driveway alarm that would alert him to visitors arriving or when someone came on the property unannounced. “My wife and I saw the need for a device that would alert us of visitors approaching our home day and night. I have a background in electronics, which gave me the knowledge to build our first driveway alarm. It worked well and soon we were selling them to neighbors and family, ” he explains. “The rest is history.”

When Eric Ford was in his 20s and first began traveling to New Zealand to seek out lumber sources, every time he called his company back home he had to borrow someone’s phone or find a payphone. But in today’s connected world, everything is done on the fly. “If you have an iPhone or iPad you’re connected every second,” says Ford, the owner of Western Lumber Co. Through his devices, Ford receives a stream of currency updates and key information about the political and economic situations from across the world that are impacting the lumber market. “There is commerce happening all the time,” he says.

Taking a global view of the lumber industry helped Western Lumber adapt and survive during the Great Recession. Ford was traveling internationally in 2007 when the recession hit and the lumber market tanked. But while opportunities were drying up at home, he saw that activity continued in other parts of the world. “My thought process was, ‘We’ve got to figure out a way to be a part of this,’” Ford says.

After five decades, Victor Distributing Co. stands as a rarity in its industry, Vice President Kevin Barnum says. Based in Clearwater, Fla., the company is one of the last independently owned and operated HVAC products distributors in its home state.

With so many major corporations in the market, “An independent in Florida is rare,” he says, noting that this status gives the company more flexibility. “Being independent allows us to service our customers how we want to.” 

Traeger Brothers & Associates prides itself on treating employees the way it wants them to treat customers. “What really sets us apart is our family values and the way we run our company differently than the way corporate America operates,” says Howard Traeger, president of the Miami-based company. “Our employees are not just a number – when they come to work here, they’re treated with a lot of respect.”

As an example, the company is often flexible in its time-off policies for employees with extenuating personal circumstances. “The rules here are not as hard or as cold as in more corporate environments – we’ve granted leaves of absences or extra time off when people have needed it,” he adds. “Our philosophy is that we’re all in this together, instead of it being ‘us against them.’”

The Star Supply Company has seen a lot of competitors come and go since it first opened for business in 1959, but the competition has only become more intense over the years. CEO Larry Cohen says the HVAC and refrigeration marketplace has become more and more crowded with each year. “We have more and more competitors and people keep growing, so it gets tighter and tighter,” he says. 

Despite that increased competition, however, The Star Supply Company has continued to hold onto a strong position in the marketplace as the largest single source for HVAC and refrigeration equipment & supplies in New England. Larry and his son, President Greg Cohen, say the company’s success over the years has been no accident, but is due to its unwavering commitment to customer service, strong partnerships and ability to evolve with the times. “The key to our success is truly the team of people we have here. The quality of our employees is what differentiates us from our competition. We have some of the most talented and passionate people in the industry supporting our customers.” The average tenure for the employees is over 10 years.

For more than 70 years, Shealy Electrical Wholesalers has been one of the nation’s premier distributor of electrical supplies for a variety of customers throughout the Southeast and nationwide. To maintain its position as one of the most respected suppliers in the country, Shealy Electrical Wholesalers understands that it needs to be plugged into the needs of its customers as well as to the needs of its community, and so it makes philanthropy as important a goal as it does fulfilling its customers’ orders. With the company’s strong focus on delivering for its customers and people in need throughout its service area, Shealy Electrical Wholesalers has put itself in a strong position to serve customers well beyond its 70th anniversary this year.

After three decades, RGF Environmental Group Inc. is the leading provider of environmental systems in its market, President Ron Fink says. “We have two million products out there,” he says. “Nobody comes close to us.” 

Riviera Beach, Fla.-based RGF designs, engineers and manufactures total turnkey systems that provide safer air, water and food without the use of chemicals. A veteran of the nuclear industry, Fink founded the company in 1985 with a focus on wastewater recycling.

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