Entrepreneurs' Blog

27 Jun, 2011

Business In The Spotlight – Electric Wholesale and business owner, Andy Smith

Posted by: Bev James In: Business In The Spotlight|Business Mentoring|Business Tips|EBA News|Interviews|Marketing|Mentoring|Millionaire Mentors|Tips For Success

Business In The Spotlight - Electric Wholesale and business owner, Andy Smith

Bev James interviews, Andy Smith for this months EBA Business in The Spotlight.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS

Electric Wholesale does very much what it says on the tin – we are an electrical wholesaler. We are primarily a business to business wholesaler, selling over 10,000 product lines to a growing number of account holders. In the main our customer base consists of electricians and electrical contractors, but we have also established accounts with a number of other businesses that employ their own electricians or maintenance crew. As well as every day electrical products we also specialise in the supply of site electrical products ranging from complete installations including lighting, power and cable through to the everyday items such as plugs, sockets and workwear. We operate from three key locations – Bristol, Birmingham and London. From here we can service the entire country on a same day delivery basis.

WHEN DID YOU SET UP YOUR ORIGINAL BUSINESS?

I started the company in 2005, following a career in various parts of the electrical industry where I have worked for almost 20 years. I had got as far as I could within my existing role in a large multi-national wholesaler, and was being lined up for a middle-management role. I decided that I couldn’t be a “yes-man”, in a company, whose vision and ethics I didn’t share, so decided to go out alone.

I identified a gap in the temporary site electrical market for an electrical wholesaler who could supply tailored products and specialist support to customers focussing on this area. The idea being, to establish ourselves as the market leaders within this niche area.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BIG BUSINESS IDEA?

To be honest I didn’t really come up with the idea, the idea came to me. My whole working life has been involved with the electrical industry and it was mainly through seeing how all the main players in the wholesale market were attempting to be “jacks of all trade” whilst only becoming “masters of none”. This gave me the idea of making Electric Wholesale a specialist in niche areas, at the same time as offering the same products and services expected from an everyday electric wholesaler.

WHAT IS YOUR USP?

Our customer focused approach is what makes us unique and helps us build loyalty and retain customers.

In site electrical we are now quite widely recognised as “the UK’s Site Electrical Specialists”, making us something of an authority on the topic. We believe we are as much a resource for specialist site electrical information as we are a wholesaler. Being a resource for site electrical information brings enquiries, this in turn gives us a platform to strike up relationships which we can then convert into sales.

As an everyday electrical wholesaler we focus on building friendships as well as working relationships. Our account holders visit our trade counters to firstly have a cup of coffee and a chat and secondly to buy our products. We ensure our branch staff know their customers by first name and they also understand what they like or dislike. This allows us to be always ready to do business in the way that suits each individual. An important part of our messaging comes through in our tag line “the UK’s Local Electrical Wholesaler”. Through this we try to communicate that we’re not just another faceless national wholesaler, instead we care about our customers individually, with our depots retaining the feel and welcoming atmosphere of a local shop, but one which is growing on a national scale.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST BUSINESS CHALLENGE TO DATE?

It may sound like an obvious choice, but the recent downturn in the market. Being only a fledgling company, the recession was predicted to hit us harder than most. It was definitely a worrying time, especially as we’d tabled expansion plans that were past the point of no return. Whilst many in our industry have been consolidating and making redundancies, we have been expanding and recruiting, (in the last two years, staff numbers have gone from 10 to 32!). It was a high risk strategy, but I was confident that our focus on niche areas of the industry, and our excellent team of staff, would pull us through.

I certainly don’t believe that the economy is out of the woods yet – in fact, we often feel like we are “tip-toeing through the insolvencies”, on a daily basis – but we have enjoyed growth rates in excess of 30% each year since the company was founded, with last year seeing the largest growth rate yet! There is always plenty of work out there, it’s our challenge every day, to work out what we are going to do differently that will make us get more business than we did the day before, and more than our competitors.

WHAT ELEMENT OF THE BUSINESS DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST?

Seeking new opportunities – new salespeople, new premises, new products – I guess I must be a bit of an adrenalin-junkie!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle

WHAT PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES DO YOU THINK CONTRIBUTES TO SUCCESS IN BUSINESS?

Enthusiasm, energy, resilience, fight, humility, a genuine care for others, a need to constantly improve, objectivity, the ability and desire to listen to everyone around you, and a passion and belief in what you do. Lastly, the ability to know when to use the appropriate attribute – discretion.

HOW IMPORTANT IS SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR BUSINESS?

To date this has not played an important part in our business growth, but in the last three weeks (following an excellent presentation by Guy Levine), we have joined Twitter for the first time. It’s very early stages, but even during this very brief period, we’ve managed to acquire a new customer from it (thanks Guy, I owe you a drink!).

WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING A BUSINESS FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Listen to your customers and adapt – even after you’ve done your research and everything points to this new business being an odds on winner, if your customers are telling you something isn’t working, listen to them. It can be difficult to lick your wounds and put it down to experience, but continuing to “flog a dead donkey” will ultimately lead to your downfall. We can’t get everything right all of the time, so for me the real entrepreneurs are those who recognise this and adapt accordingly, realigning their product or service in a more appropriate way. It is often just a slight change, such as a tweak of branding or simplifying routes to market, that can transform your business.

WHERE DID YOU HEAR ABOUT EBA?

Through The Market magazine.

WHY DID YOU JOIN EBA?

I had always been cautious about accepting advice and support in the past because each time I did a little research about the people or companies involved, there was very little evidence that they could, “walk the walk”, themselves, leave alone guide other people!

I am fortunate enough to have known Bev, Dave and their team for over 20 years, which gave me instant confidence, and when I also saw the Business Dream Team they had assembled behind them (James Caan, Nic Rixon, Richard Denny to name a few), it was a “no-brainer”.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE CORE BENEFITS SO FAR?

For the first time since I started the business, I feel that I have someone to turn to, and people that are far more capable than I am, with a lot more experience. I feel more secure, more orderly, I am beginning to understand why we achieved the successes we have achieved so far, and I know how I will be able to keep the company growing at the same frantic pace, whilst retaining a little sanity!

WHAT WOULD BE THE MAIN REASON YOU COULD RECOMMEND THE EBA TO DATE?

I’ve long held the view that before being allowed to form a company, potential first-time Directors should have to sit some kind of basic competency test. We have to study the laws of the road, and demonstrate ability to safely drive a car before being allowed on the public highways, why should it not be the same for company directors – a failed business can cause an awful lot of damage, to an awful lot of lives.

The EBA is kind of a Racing School in this driving test analogy, going way beyond the basics, and exploring what is possible if you work hard and smart. They’ve assembled a team of highly gifted people, looked at every single problem, challenge or opportunity that a business can face – and then devised the right methodology to get over, get past, or make the most of all these situations, quickly.

If you were to work tirelessly 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, from leaving school to retirement at around 75 – you may, just may – pick up the wisdom that you can get from 12-18 months membership of the EBA. I’ve got better things to be doing!

Andy Smith

Owner of www.electricwholesale.co.uk

http://twitter.com/ElecWholesale

IN SUMMARY

Bev James says: “I really admire Andy’s desire to learn and develop, he is already running a very successful business but far from being complacent he continually strives to learn more and surrounds himself with the right people. Andy is destined for great things. He’s pushed boundaries and embraces new ideas but most importantly, he takes action. The number one reason that businesses fail is because of lack of knowledge and skills of the business owner and Andy is making sure he doesn’t fall into that trap.”

James Caan says: “I was particularly pleased to read about the people-element ethos of Andy’s business which is close to my heart, as many people know. I agree with Bev’s comments and Andy continually shows his commitment to his customers and his team. A fine example.”

1 Response to "Business In The Spotlight – Electric Wholesale and business owner, Andy Smith"

1 | Electric Wholesale Limited | Entrepreneurs' Business Academy Blog

July 13th, 2011 at 11:49

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[...] Electric Wholesale provide a complete buying service for busy electrical and construction companies. [...]

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  • Morgan Grage: I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up. "No man is wise enough by himself." by Titus Maccius Plautus.
  • Derek: Brilliant article Bev, thanks for sharing. coincidentally the kilimamjaro example used is on my 2014 to do list! Ps thanks for the tips you gave me
  • jackson: thanks for your great article about developing your business idea to great business Jackson mutebi

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The Entrepreneurs' Business Academy is a unique and highly practical one stop resource for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, providing a range of courses , EVENTS and materials that give step-by-step guidance for entrepreneurs on their business journey. The EBA's courses have been put together by James Caan and Bev James MD of EBA and The Coaching Academy, and specifically designed to teach its participants the skills required to take an idea and turn it into a reality. Read more...

 

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