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Excellence in service and a belief that people make a business successful — these are hallmarks of Lawson Products, and they reflect the vision founder Sidney L. Port instilled in the company nearly 65 years ago. This tradition holds true today, even in Lawson’s approach to mergers and acquisitions, which focuses on companies that are like-minded in values, ethics and business philosophies, where there’s a good cultural and organizational fit.

As part of its growth strategy, Lawson seeks to combine with well-run, respected organizations, acknowledging their customer relationships and investment in their employees. Our acquisition strategy emphasizes a well-defined, efficient and collaborative process from which all parties benefit. At the center are the people who are guided by clear communications, agreed upon timelines and pre- and post-acquisition plans centered on leveraging the best of two successful companies.

In the last few years, we’ve taken deliberate steps to ensure our future success by:

  • Adopting Lean Six Sigma methodology and tools.
  • Transitioning the sales force from an independent sales agent model to company employees.
  • Investing in a new enterprise resource system.
  • Opening a state-of-the-art distribution center.

These actions have created a stronger foundation for sales growth and make it possible for us to ensure the successful integration of new employees.

Acquiring talent, enhancing customer relationships

Lawson Products is not solely acquiring assets or books of business with acquisitions. We’re acquiring talent — individuals with sales experience and the motivation to take advantage of additional product offerings, develop underserved territories and accelerate growth. New sales team members are welcomed into the Lawson culture, which offers the stability of a legacy organization combined with the energy and heart of a startup.

Check out Industrial Distribution's November 2014 Distributor Profile of Lawson Products Here

With the support of local sales management, new sales representatives are encouraged to leverage our extensive product line and make an impact on their customers and their own success.

Our approach results in retention of sales representatives and customers, enthusiasm, enhanced sales and service performance, and a customer service model without compare. Sales reps and customers benefit from access to more high quality MRO consumables, including a vast selection of highly engineered, high-performance private-label products.

A Lawson Products salesman at work.

Employee Integration Tips

  1. Designate an overall project team accountable for the success of the acquisition and develop a workforce integration plan that identifies functional leaders accountable for key process areas such as sales, operations and accounting. This plan should address training needs and duplicate functions. Lawson ensures accountability by using the same team to perform due diligence and key project integration management.
     
  2. Leverage already existing or develop new tools to ensure a smooth transition for new employees. These may include orientation programs to introduce the company culture, business practices, policies and benefits; mentoring programs to match up new employees with counterparts in the acquiring company; and regular meetings and events for learning, information gathering and networking.  While the reps Lawson gains as a result of an acquisition already know how to sell, they still need to learn Lawson’s systems and unique and proprietary products we sell. Lawson has been able to leverage the same programs developed for onboarding all the new sales reps it has been hiring for the last few years.
     
  3. Communicate frequently and consistently, internally and externally, to ensure employees stay connected, productive and aware of the process. Lawson stays connected with the management team and sales reps of the company being acquired via meetings and weekly conference calls throughout the entire integration process.
     
  4. Develop employee-retention strategies, procedures and actions that will help ensure that employee trust and motivation is maintained.  Some of the many tactics employed by Lawson include having new employees visit Lawson’s headquarters and conducting training at the location of the company being acquired.
     
  5. Gather feedback. Don’t wait until the end of the entire integration process to gather employee feedback. Gather real time feedback throughout the entire process so it can be used to fine tune or replace strategies that may not be gaining traction. Through frequent communication, Lawson gains an understanding of any pain points that need addressing to ensure the conversion to its systems is void of frustration for its new employees and customers.

Take a closer look at what our formula for acquisition integration success has produced to date:

West Coast Fasteners

  • Vancouver, Canada
  • October 2015

The founder and CEO of West Coast Fasteners took the opportunity to retire from the business once he saw his employees and customers would be in good hands. He feels so strongly about Lawson’s people-first acquisition process and post-acquisition integration, he insists on serving as a reference when other potential sellers want to know more.

From a sales representative: “I’ve spent most of my career here, and I had initial concerns: an American company acquiring a Canadian company — what would customers say? Deciding to join Lawson Products was a leap of faith for me. It looked right and felt right, though, and it couldn’t have worked out better. My customers are happy and my sales are up.”

In the nine months following acquisition, sales reps have been trained on several new product categories including chemicals. The training enables them to offer a greater selection of products to their customers, resulting in sustainable sales growth. 

Perfect Products Company of Michigan

  • Clinton Township, MI
  • March 2016

Like Lawson’s Kent Automotive brand, Perfect Products serves automotive repair shops, body shops and industrial customers. With its outstanding reputation for high-touch, customer-focused service, the small, family-owned auto parts distributor was an excellent strategic fit. Lawson gained four more Kent sales reps with industry expertise. Working together to ensure a smooth transition for our customers and new sale reps, our four new Kent sales reps have also gone through the initial stages of product training and have an understanding of the application and use of these new products. This will continue to provide growth opportunities for the sales team and bring greater value to our customers. 

F. B. Feeney Hardware

  • Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
  • May 2016

From a sales representative: “We’re not a big company, so Lawson seemed like a giant. But they made a point of visiting us in person, so we could talk and ask questions face-to-face. That was impressive. They made themselves completely available to us. They answered every question or concern, they walked us through transition and integration plans. They were really invested in the people side of the process, which said a lot about Lawson. I knew this was going to be a good move.”

Leading together

Our goal is to make every acquisition a success for the people and companies involved — that means owners, sales representatives and customers. Our continuous improvement approach to acquisition means we are capturing key learnings to ensure successive acquisitions go even more smoothly.

Lawson Products has gained annual industry recognition for its leadership in helping customers increase productivity and profitability with Lawson managed inventory services, as well as being the only industrial distributor named to the Top 50 “Best Companies to Sell For” by Selling Power Magazine for several years running. Lawson is No. 38 on Industrial Distribution's 2016 Big 50 List of the largest MRO distributors in the U.S.

Lawson Products is an employer of choice with a collaborative, inclusive culture; an industry leader with a comprehensive line of products and technical expertise that drives customer relationships. 

Shane McCarthy
Lawson Products Senior Vice President of Supply Chain & Business Development

Learn more

To learn more about Lawson Products’ acquisition(s) strategy, contact Shane McCarthy, Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Business Development at 773-304-5442.

About Lawson Products, Inc.

Founded in 1952, Lawson Products is an industrial distributor of maintenance and repair products. Lawson carries a comprehensive line of products and provides inventory management services to the industrial, commercial, institutional and government maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) market. With five strategically located distribution centers in North America, Lawson ships to customers in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Under its Kent Automotive brand, the Company supplies products to collision and mechanical repair shops as well as automotive OEMs. For additional information, please visit https://www.lawsonproducts.com/ or https://www.kent-automotive.com/.

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