Family-Owned Distributor Achieves Continued Success
Independent, Large Company Banks on Customer Service Niche
|A strong work ethic, along with dedication to customer satisfaction, is promoted at M&A Supply Co.|
Headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., the distributor employs 160 people across 20 locations in eight different states. Run by second-generation family member Eddie Anderson, chairman of the board and CEO, M&A Supply concentrates less on hierarchy and corporate structure, and more on small-town values and focused customer service.
“Our multi-generational family business is fairly unique in the way it operates,” noted Anderson. “Our simplified hierarchy and strong work ethic across a large territory makes us different than many independent, family-owned companies and I am confident that we are closer to our customers than many other companies. With the third generation currently employed, M&A Supply Co. will be around for many years to come.”
Wearing Many Hats
M&A Supply Co. was started in 1969 by Anderson’s father Ed. The first branch he opened was in Nashville, and the wholesale distributor carried HVAC supplies, sheet metal, and rain carrying products. As the years passed, M&A Supply Co. grew its product line and began selling vinyl siding, windows, and residential and commercial roofing products, which were deemed a good fit for the company’s sheet metal customers. Over time, the distributor evolved and changed its focus strictly to HVAC equipment parts and supplies.
“This company was built by individuals willing to wear many different hats and doing whatever it takes to satisfy our customers,” said Anderson.
He was one of the individuals willing to wear many different hats. After graduating from college, Anderson began working in the warehouse of his father’s company and driving a delivery truck. He moved on from there and began working in counter sales and later outside sales.
“Outside sales is where I found my true passion. I loved calling on customers and I loved to sell,” he explained. “I have always wanted to be a part of the family business and I have done most jobs leading up to CEO. I definitely learned the business while wearing many hats along the way. Our employees are like family and willing to wear many hats as well. Because of the long history with the company, their dedication, experience, and great customer service is a huge part of the company’s success.”
Keeping Customers Happy
A strong work ethic is promoted at M&A Supply Co., but so is a dedication to customer satisfaction. For Anderson and his business, customer service is a prime driver in its business culture.
“Our slogan to our customers is that M&A Supply can be their ‘Single source for success,’ ” he said. “Customers are always satisfied one way or another.”
In dealing with customers, Anderson warns his staff not to get too bogged down in details, but to instead focus on the value proposition to customers. He cautions that margins have to be justified by the customers.
Overall, the family business treats its customers like family. As head of that family, Anderson knows many of the customers who deal with M&A Supply Co.
“I don’t know every customer that we have, but somebody on our leadership team knows almost all of our customers,” he explained. “We are known as a friendly company that focuses on the needs of our customers. For us, customer service is not a part of our business; it’s a trademark of our business.”
As part of its customer service strategies for success, M&A Supply Co. has invested in two, hands-on training facilities. One is located in Birmingham, Ala., and the other in Nashville. Together they total approximately 12,000 square feet of technical training labs and classrooms.
“We’re real big on training,” said Anderson. “We have a strong technical support team that not only handles issues in the field, but also issues on the phone. We ask for very little factory support in taking care of our customers so we take ownership of most of it ourselves. It’s another practice that sets us apart from our competition.”
The training facilities offer most models of major equipment stocked in the branches on its training floors. The systems are live and running. The company can fault these live training systems to mimic any issues found in the field.
Addressing Changing Times
What is keeping M&A Supply Co. at the forefront of HVAC wholesale distribution? Anderson believes part of it is a willingness to change with the times. Although generally not the first company to jump out on the technology limb, Anderson understands the need to remain relevant. He chooses to do this via a slow and steady process.
“Right now we are in the process of going through due diligence to totally upgrade the software system,” he said. “This is a major step for us to be able to streamline a lot of processes and help keep us more competitive.”
Facing Industry Challenges
Beyond technology growth, Anderson is leading M&A Supply Co. through some challenging times in the HVAC industry. He noted that dealing with the economy’s ups and downs has been a big issue for the distributorship.
“Probably one of the things we’re seeing now more than ever is the seasonality of our business tends to swing more dramatically,” Anderson explained. “We’re generally very busy when the weather is more extreme, but the slow down during the more moderate times is more pronounced and seemingly more dramatic than in years past.”
To help address this, the company is working to expand its customer base and product diversity. It has hired more territory managers to cover an area and has become more aggressive with marketing campaigns.
“The market seems to be rebounding a bit as the economy improves,” said Anderson. “Our immediate opportunities are commercial sales, residential replacement driven by pent up demand, and improved markets in residential new construction.”
Looking Down the Road
As M&A Supply Co. encourages a family atmosphere of hard work, customer service, and training, it is also keeping one eye to the horizon of the HVAC industry.
“We have seen a significant and continued shift to 13 SEER equipment, and we’re tuned in to the fact that there is a lot of pent up demand that hasn’t really released yet,” said Anderson. “We are also watching and concerned with the downward pressures we are seeing on margin.”
He expects that competition will continue to increase as the HVAC industry is often fiercely competitive, and suggests that wholesaler distributors find a niche and concentrate on that to help differentiate them from the competition.
“The niche that we have is a lot of seasoned folks that work hard for the company,” explained Anderson. “Find your niche and be really good at a few things. Remember that it’s not about you, it’s all about the success of your customers.”
Publication date: 7/8/2013