Distributors See Opportunity Ahead
Communication is Key
When a tree falls on your building knocking the power out and destroys $150,000 worth of inventory, you might ask, “Why us?
When the utility company cuts your power line during clean up, you don’t ask any more you just attack the situation. At least that’s what John Garcia, co-owner of Lakewood Automation, did in August.
“Hey, we’re busting our tails trying to keep customers happy. Being proactive in our communications. Handling challenges. Helping them where they need it. Then this tree falls on our building. Tough times are when you prove your meddle. You just have to dig in and get at it,” Garcia said.
Garcia and Alan Watson bought Lakewood Automation in Westlake, Ohio, eight years ago. They have been going full speed ever since and a fallen tree wasn’t going to slow them down.
“Alan is the engineer and I’m the sales guy. We make decisions together and go as fast as we can to get our customers what they need,” he said. “The way you do business is changing, so Lakewood Automation is making changes to meet customer needs. We are creating ways to stay relevant.”
“That means having open communications with your customers and developing a plan that we both can follow. A plan that provides value-add services that are specific to each customer. You have to have an open, honest business conversation with them. That’s not always an easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.”
“When you find ways to show you care about the customer by understanding their business and giving solutions specific to them, they’ll see you as a good partner. That’s how you grow your business.”
Lakewood Automation has been a strong partner with Yaskawa for about 20 years, Garcia said. “It’s been a very good relationship for us. Great product. Solid support. Yaskawa is part of our success.”
Cliff Gronemeyer, Sales Director at Standard Electric Supply Co. in Roselle, Illinois, says his company – largely targeting OEMs, is following a similar game plan. Standard Electric is an authorized Yaskawa distributor in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
“You need to have a strategic conversation with the customer,” he said. “It used to be 20 years ago where you could do the milk run. Get the order. Go to lunch. Call it a day. Now you have to be more intelligent in your approach and create value and solve problems more than ever. We work with Kevin Carlisle at Yaskawa frequently. He’s a big help in developing those strategies.”
“Our jobs are to become trusted advisors now. To understand the customers’ challenges. To know their competitors. To give them ideas on how you can help them set themselves apart. Then I have to know my competition and position against them, too.”
Building those relationships now should strengthen the Standard Electric business down the line, Gronemeyer said.
“We’re trying to deal with all the same issues everyone else has right now, while still looking five to 10 years out,” he said. “How do we maintain our growth in the face of tremendous challenge? That’s a tough question to answer. I think many companies are enjoying sales growth and might see that same success in 2022, but after that we may see a drop off based on projections from ITR Economics.”
As a field service-oriented company with nine engineers, Control Concepts in Buena Park, California has seen a lot of opportunity amidst the chaos of the last 18 months, according to President Caston Dalon.
“We provide turnkey service from installation, getting the drives up and running through any troubleshooting or support,” Dalon said. “We’re the first ones out when our customers need help. Our business model is different. We look to be the all-around solutions provider for anything they need – and that’s worked out pretty well for us.”
Yaskawa plays a critical role in Control Concepts’ business model. “Yaskawa is our largest line by far,” Dalon said. “We are very loyal to that brand because of the quality product and the service they provide.”
In fact, Control Concepts enjoyed its best year ever during the pandemic, Dalon said.
“A lot of maintenance people were not at that plant as much as usual,” he said. “That meant opportunity for us to get in the plant when there were issues and help those customers out. One large customer wanted us to be on call and in the plant just in case something happened.”
“Our guys were working 60 hours a week. Customers relied on us because they knew we were the smartest guys on the floor.”