Name: Kyle Cline
Title: Vice President, Operations
Company: Locke Supply Co.
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Number of Branches: 179
Number of Employees: 1,300
Year Founded: 1955
Major lines offered: Allied Air, Atco, Cody Co, Glassfloss, Mueller, Diversitech, Fujitsu, ADP
Wholesalers spend their Sundays a few different ways, but Kyle Cline has been spending his finishing up his college degree after a few years away. He’ll be juggling full-time work for Locke and his classes just a few more months. Meet The Wholesaler caught up with him on a Friday to see what’s been going on with him and what’s next for Locke Supply.
During this pandemic, it's easy to focus on customers that a company has lost for one reason or another. I'm curious about the customers your team has gained through all of this, and what you attribute that to.
Cline: We've actually had a pretty good year considering everything going on in the world and gained quite a few customers this year. One thing that played into that is that we were able to stay open during the pandemic and in the spring, when a lot of folks had to close their branches or maybe went to curbside only. We were able to implement some social distancing practices and some safety measures to protect our associates and customers, but we never had to shut the doors.
So we felt like that was a big benefit for us, and then also our company loves inventory. We tend to have quite a bit of inventory on hand in comparison to some other folks. So as we went further into the year and the supply chain started getting a little shaky, we had some inventory reserves that not everybody else did. So we were able to get some product to customers when some of our competitors may have run out.
We took an inventory philosophy several years ago that was more focused on customer service than on turns, and that was a huge benefit for us this year.
I heard that you made a 10-year bet with a colleague of yours about what percentage of your company's sales will arrive via e-commerce. Tell me about that, and what improvements you're planning for e-commerce in 2021.
Cline: That is true. That’s a bet I made with our CEO a couple years ago. He and I have some pretty interesting conversations about e-commerce.
We're actually in the process right now of doing a total website redesign. We have an e-commerce platform currently, and this year we’ve been able to have our web developers really get into it — try to rebuild it from the ground up with a more mobile focus, hopefully a little bit quicker product availability, and pricing and things like that. You know, just really redesigned it to make it a little more user-friendly for our customers.
We're a little behind the curve, maybe, but I feel like we're in pretty good shape on it. So I'm really excited about it, and we should be launching it towards the end of the first quarter of 2021. I can't wait to see what it looks like.
That has to be quite a project. Does Locke handle that internally, or do you use an outside partner for that?
Cline: We have an internal team. We started with some outside partners several years ago and just weren't very satisfied with the service level we were getting. So we hired a team of web developers in house, and they handle all of our e-commerce and our website and everything like that.
They're able to do some internal stuff for us as well that has really streamlined a bunch of processes and made things a lot easier on us. They're an incredibly talented team, and they make our lives a lot easier.
In your career with Locke, could you give us one idea that you’ve had for improving the company's performance that you're especially proud of now?
Cline: In the 2013-2014 timeframe, I was working as our HVAC director for a couple years. We had never really had a strong dealer program that offered marketing funds and rebate programs and things like that for our equipment dealers. So with the help of some other folks who are still involved, we were able to put together a dealer program.
Since then, I've moved into some different roles, but after being involved in the infancy of that project, it’s really cool to watch it flourish now.
Jumping back to the website for a second, I was interested to see your commercial services section, and a couple things I hadn't seen elsewhere. Would you talk about the project staging or the project trailer offerings?
Cline: Yes, so we certainly were a very residentially focused company. Over the last five years, we've developed a commercial focus, and we've got some warehouse space where we're able to stage jobs. So now we offer a free job site trailer to all of our customers. We'll load up all of their products onto the Locke Supply 53-foot semi-trailer and set it on the job site for them. It gives them a little bit of storage space and maybe a spot to work. And it gives us some really good exposure on the job site because the trailer’s obviously wrapped with all of our logos. So it's kind of a win-win for everybody.
What's your favorite job interview question?
Cline: Our tagline for our organization is “Character, Customer Service, Employee-Owned.” So I always tell people that the first word is character for a reason, and I’ll ask somebody to give me an example of a situation that would highlight their character. I'm always interested to hear what that is. Some answers are better than others, but it gives some good insight into how people can handle stressful situations and things like that.
Last question: What's your favorite vacation spot?
Cline: My wife and I always do beach vacations, and we try to find a resort or something like that. But this October, we actually took a trip to South Dakota and went and checked out some national parks and went to the Badlands. We loved that, so I think we're going to maybe get to Yellowstone or some other national parks around the country.