In terms of client retention and longevity, OTR Wheel Engineering Inc.’s client list looks much the same today as it has for the majority of the company’s 28-year history. “We have not really lost any major customers,” CFO Bob Owens says. “Once we land a customer, they tend to stay with us because of the quality of our products and service we provide.”

The Rome, Ga.-based company provides tires, wheels, mounted tire and wheel assemblies, and rubber tracks. The company’s name – OTR stands for “off the road” – best describes its specialty. “We’re in diversified industry segments that have the fact that their products are not used on the highway in common,” Owens adds. 

In a wholesale and distribution industry dominated by men, Modern Supply isn’t afraid to show its feminine side. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based kitchen, bath and lighting distributor’s marketing and social media efforts are centered on “Millie,” a “kitchen and bath fashionista” who appears in print ads, radio advertisements and in the company’s showrooms. The spokesperson/character also offers tips about home décor and promotes products on social media as well as a blog. “We wanted to go for a softer image in our advertising, and that’s really helped us stand out,” says Dottie Ramsey, the company’s president and COO.

Millie’s radio spots typically focus on the level of customer service the company is known for as well as its local ties, which extend back to 1949, when it was founded as a plumbing supply company. “We really push that our people are experienced professionals that help, advise and care about our customers, as well as the fact that we are locally and family owned, which distinguishes us from the big-box stores,” she adds. 

Magnussen Home has been in business for 85 years, growing from a small maker of occasional tables to a leading furniture supplier. The New Hamburg, Ontario-based company understands that its relationship with customers is a big reason for its success. Indeed, the company takes a variety of steps to ensure that its clients are successful.

“We supply the middle market,” President Nathan Cressman says. “We pride ourselves on helping our dealers flow product. We buy large volumes of furniture and are able to parcel it out.” That strategy benefits the dealers in multiple ways. First, they save money because Magnussen Home receives discounts for purchasing furniture in large volume. 

Besides providing valuable training in the uses of the commercial and residential plumbing products it represents, Harry Warren Inc. inventories products that distributors don’t want to carry or that are often required at the last minute. An example of the latter cited by President and owner Bob Mycoff is a product that not only is designed for an emergency, but sometimes also is installed in an emergency.

“It’s usually an emergency eyewash or a drench shower by the chemical room that they forgot that is needed to finish the job,” Mycoff says. Sometimes the contractor for such a job did not realize such emergency equipment was required. Mycoff estimates that 50 percent of such emergency equipment is sold in an emergency.

Over the past 50 years, Gemaire has grown into a leading HVAC distributor with 90 locations spread across 10 states. But the company’s adoption of technology tools during the past two years has propelled it to new heights.

Gemaire knew immediately that the integration of a mobile application and e-commerce platform would transform its operation, and the company’s decision was almost immediately endorsed by others in the B2B industry.

“[This business] has been done the same way for a very, very long time,” says Jamie Eatmon, product manager. “There’s no question that the addition of technology to the company’s overall strategy was a difference-maker.”

Values are everything for Eastern Industrial Supplies Inc. (EISI), including living up to its promises to clients, President and CEO Kip Miller says. “We do what we do when we say we will,” he says.

Greenville, S.C.-based EISI distributes pipe, valves, fittings and commercial plumbing products. Miller notes that the company’s history goes back to 1980, when three partners started EISI after leaving their jobs at a competitor.

Today, the company employs a staff of 250 and serves the mechanical, industrial PVF and commercial plumbing markets, Miller says. EISI serves them from 16 locations throughout the Southeast.

In the past, supply chains were mainly designed to minimize costs while maximizing customer benefits. But global logistics company Deutsche Post DHL expects that approach to change as companies adapt to today’s business environment. “Future supply chains have to be more resilient and must be built around risk management,” says Reg Kenney, president of DHL’s Global Engineering and Manufacturing sector and head of DHL’s Customer Solutions & Innovation, Americas Region. “If they don’t, companies could encounter significant losses in brand value, profits and share price.”

According to a 2013 World Economic Forum study, disruptions in the supply chain cut the share price of impacted companies by an average of 7 percent. To counter the potential damage from a supply chain disruption, DHL is designing products and programs to protect sales, maintain service levels, reduce emergency costs, recover quickly from a disruption and protect the customer’s brand and marketshare. 

DXP Enterprises Inc.’s Metal Working Products Division, formerly C.W. Rod Tool Co., not only makes sure it has a strong supply of products, but also technical expertise to help its customers. “That’s how we keep the competition back,” President Chuck Rod declares.

Based in Houston, the division provides industrial cutting tools and supplies including fasteners, power tools, lubricants and fluids. Rod notes that its roots go back to 1978, when his parents, Charles W. Rod Jr., Lorraine Rod and his brothers, Ron and Randy Rod, started C.W. Rod Tool Co.

“We [began with] very little working capital to start the business,” Chuck Rod says, noting that it grew significantly before DXP acquired it in 2011. The two have fit well together, he says.

“DXP’s acquisition model is to acquire winners, not losers,” Rod explains. “They basically let us do our thing and helped us along to where we needed to be.”

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