Electric Supply and Equipment Co.

For Brad McCormick, having happy customers begins with a happy staff. “I think everybody needs to feel good about the job they do,” the Electric Supply and Equipment Co. president and CEO says. “If our employees are happy, they can be better focused on our customers.” The company, founded in 1935, marked its 75th anniversary last year.

The Greensboro, N.C.-based electrical supply and automation equipment distributor supplies more than 2,000 industrial, manufacturing and other customers out of three locations. In addition to its headquarters in Greensboro, Electric Supply and Equipment also operates warehouses in Apex and Rocky Mount, N.C.

McCormick says the company’s focused and happy staff is a result of his and other managers regularly seeking their input and making efforts to understand each employee’s role. “I like to be pretty hands-on,” he adds. “I’ll dig in and sit down with somebody and either go over a task or perform the task myself in order to better understand it. “I don’t think you can really steer a job function without understanding it on a nuts-and-bolts level.”

The company gathers input in part through anonymous surveys, suggestions and recommendations. These are discussed during regular supervisors and management team meetings. “We try to keep everything as open as possible, put ourselves on the spot, and make sure we’re listening to issues that come from all levels of the company,” McCormick says.

McCormick also promotes providing a positive internal culture. “We’re pretty easygoing and understand our people have lives outside of work,” he adds. “Our employees have the time and desire to care for customers because they’re not bogged down in bureaucracy or interoffice politics.”

Major Influences

McCormick became the company’s permanent president and CEO in 2010 after serving as interim CEO for three years, succeeding his father Jim McCormick, who passed away in November.

The elder McCormick and his business partner Dana Smith Sr. purchased the company in 1976, selling it to their sons Brad McCormick and Dixon and Dana Smith Jr. in 2004.

Brad McCormick began his career with Electric Supply and Equipment after earning a degree in industrial design from Virginia Tech 11 years ago, but had long worked in the mechanical and electrical realm. “I’ve always been mechanically inclined … when I was a child I learned how to weld and thought it was fantastic,” he says. “I worked for a few of our current customers as a fabricator while I was in high school, and that really opened my eyes to the world of automation and sent me down this path.”

McCormick says both his father and Senior Vice President John Russell had a significant influence on how he approaches his position.

“They’ve both been a huge influence on how I approach problems and conduct business in general,” he adds.

Serving Customers

McCormick says the company seeks to continually improve the ways it serves customers. “We may not create the items we offer, but our product is creating a solution for our customers and delivering it to them,” he adds. “We treat our business like a product and improve it in the same way as if we made tangible goods.”

In addition to serving as an electrical equipment wholesaler, Electric Supply and Equipment offers automation equipment used in the industrial market. These are sold both as standalone equipment and as parts of machines that are sold commercially.

The company is a major distributor for Rockwell Automation and Allen-Bradley, earning from both a No. 1 ranking for customer satisfaction and No. 2 ranking for customer loyalty out of all of Rockwell’s North American distributors.

McCormick attributes the recognition in part to its ability to offer customized turnkey solutions to customers. These include system architecture design, installation and post-sales support. “One of our strengths is understanding and appreciating every customer’s need to be different,” McCormick says. “One customer may want a product delivered in a certain way, while another may demand the exact opposite. Six Sigma is not the right choice for most distributors.”

“We try to excel at doing whatever the customer may ask us to do with a smile and enthusiasm, it’s what differentiates us.” Electric Supply and Equipment documents all of its interactions with customers, a practice that enables it to demonstrate how it provides value and exemplary service.

“We’re able to present to the customer what services we’ve provided them and how much money they’ve saved by working with us,” he adds.

Customer loyalty plays a large part in the company’s ability to thrive despite the sluggish national economy. “Last year – our 75th anniversary – was the best year we ever had,” McCormick says. “When other companies were reducing salaries or expenditures, we were doing the opposite.”

The company looks to continue its growth through entering new markets. “We’re looking to take some of the successes we’ve had and lessons we’ve learned in the automation market and apply them to different sectors of the wholesale electrical business,” he adds.

Technology Improvements

One recent company initiative aimed at improving customers’ experiences is a newly installed e-commerce system that offers customers the ability to order items either by a catalog number or by part numbers used internally by each of its customers.

Electric Supply and Equipment offers nearly 2 million SKUs from more than 100 top manufacturers on five separate websites through the system. Customers can also view their order history dating back to 1996. “This is a pretty advanced step for a company of our size,” Mc- Cormick says.

Planned technology investments include automated vending machines, an additional e-commerce platform for national customers and customized e-commerce pages for specific customers. “We’re embracing technology as a tool to ensure our employees can deliver a reliable and high-performance interaction with our customers and then go home happy,” he adds.

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