Mayer Electric Supply
Mayer Electric Supply wants to become a $1 billion company by 2018 and its motivation to get there is not about simply reaching that dollar amount, but about becoming a bigger factor and being more relevant to its current suppliers. “The larger you become, the more important you are to select suppliers, the more negotiation power you gain with suppliers, and the more effective we can be with the supply chain,” Executive Vice President of Business Development Glenn Goedecke says.
The Birmingham, Ala.-based company began as The Electric Supply Co. when Ben Weil founded it in 1930. In January 1979, Charles Collat and his wife Patsy purchased the company stock from Patsy’s brother Leonard Weil, the founder’s son, in a leveraged buyout and left the Collat family as the sole owners of the business.
Today, Mayer Electric Supply is a wholesale distributor of electrical supplies, gear, lighting, factory automation, tools and communication equipment. Mayer Electrci Supply serves customers in 11 southern states from 54 branch locations.
Mayer Electric Supply, headed by the third generation of the Collat family, has expanded its operation to service not only customers in commercial construction, but also customers in the energy, industrial and utility markets. “One of our mottos is ‘continuous quality improvement,” Goedecke says.
To ensure it is meeting its customers’ demands, Mayer Electric Supply focuses on maintaining a large inventory, training its associates and staying abreast of the latest technology. “To distinguish ourselves in the market we have a vision to be ‘first choice’ – the first choice among our customers, associates and suppliers,” Goedecke says. “We try to distinguish ourselves through our inventory, trained salespeople and technology to be the best choice for them. We have to always be looking for ways to be a low-cost provider for our customers. This does not mean low price; it means we have to find ways to save our customers money. If we can do that and reach that mission, it gives us a head’s up on the competition.”
Mayer Electric Supply has a strong focus on inventory and the bulk of its stock is warehoused in its seven redistribution hub locations. Each redistribution hub carries anywhere from $3 million to $6 million in inventory dollars, and distributes nightly to the branches. Each smaller branch carries anywhere from $300,000 to $700,000 in inventory, and can service customers the same day or overnight. Mayer utilizes an inventory system that reads movement of inventory several times during the sales day in every location, defines order quantities and creates replenishment shipments prior to the end of each day. This would include both inventory replenishment and customer orders.
“The system looks at our inventory and utilizes 17 different formulas to craft inventory usage,” Goedecke explains. “It then creates purchase orders with our suppliers by modifying and adjusting orders based on what we put out and buying trends.”
To stay agile and flexible, Mayer Electric Supply knew it needed to upgrade its technology before the year 2000, but found nothing on the market that would meet what it wanted to accomplish in technology. Over a span of two-and-half-years, the company developed its own management system in coordination with JD Edwards (now Oracle) that is still used today and is modified to incorporate the latest technology advancements.
This move to a new system and new processes was not easy for Mayer Electric; however, its advisory board challenged management to move toward improved systems, and felt like the IT associates on board today were not the ones that needed to be there for tomorrow. Charles Collat, chairman at the time, agreed with accepting the challenge to upgrade the system, but strongly disagreed with replacing the people. “We have great people that work here, and they are extremely capable of learning new technology and helping Mayer Electric builds a system for the future,” Collat says.
“It took about 15 to 20 Mayer associates sitting in a room with a similar number of software manufacturer associates for two to three years to build the system we have today,” Goedecke says. “Today, most of those IT associates that built our system, which we still use, are still here today.”
Mayer Electric Supply devotes a significant amount of time to selecting and training its associates because although it has a vast inventory, that means nothing if its people do not have an understanding of the products. “Our customers expect our expertise,” Goedecke adds. “We hopefully give our people a knowledge level that allows them to be distinguishable in the marketplace. The company’s goal is that each associate receives 30 to 100 hours of training.”
Charles Collat wanted to ensure Mayer Electric Supply would be left in good hands when he passed the business down to his children. To do so, 25 years ago he established a requirement for the family to meet with a family business consultant three to four times a year to better understand the business, understand family conflict, understand what it meant to be owners of a business and, if a family member wanted to join the business, what would be expected of the family member as an associate.
“Charles asked his children, did they understand what it meant to be an owner of a family business?” Goedecke says. “All the kids could answer was, ‘We think so!’ Charles said to the kids [that] he did not think they understood what it really meant. It was at this point the family engaged with a family business consultant.”
Goedecke explains that there are two things that can destroy a family business, especially one in the third generation: family conflict and greed. “The succession planning allows the team to walk through the four stages of team development: form, storm, norm and perform,” he says. “It was this process that helped eliminate the conflict and greed.”
The team of nine, which includes spouses, meets four times per year. That practice is being passed down to the fourth generation, and the four stages of team development are also being learned. Each child is expected to join the team when he or she turns 16 years old. “They will go through the same process to understand what they have as owners,” Goedecke says.
An opportunity to work for the company is not guaranteed to anyone in the family. Policies have been set in place by the third generation that require each child interested in joining Mayer Electric Supply full-time to achieve a four-year degree, work two to four years outside of the family business and gain a promotion or have success in that job.
Mayer Electric Supply has a strategic plan in place that extends to the year 2022 and guides the business towards dramatic growth, maximizing its earnings and achieving its goal of being a billion-dollar company by the year 2017. “Everything we do and the plans we create go towards that goal,” Goedecke adds. “We want to always exceed our customers’ expectations, be the best company to work for and be a good partner to our suppliers. We want associates reaching their personal and business goals. When we provide that kind of foundation, we become a place to work for our associates’ family members in the future, as well.”