Executive Q&A: Pat McCurdy, Kimball Midwest

Industrial Distribution speaks with Pat McCurdy, CEO, Kimball Midwest as part of ID's Executive Q&A Series.

Pat McCurdy, CEO, Kimball Midwest

ID: What about the upcoming year 2012 are you most optimistic about (either for your business or for the industry as a whole)?

PM: We believe 2012 will be another great year for Kimball Midwest. With the increased production in our manufacturing base and the general confidence building, in terms of our economic outlook, we’re confident that our customers will experience a great year in 2012 and, in turn, we’ll have an outstanding year. We also believe the entire industrial sector will show significant growth through 2012.

ID: What are your concerns for 2012 (either for your business or for the industry as a whole)?

PM: We recognize we can only control the things that are within our power. Here at Kimball Midwest, we are very fortunate to have great people doing great things every day.  However, on a macro level, outside factors, which none of us control, could impact all of us. Middle East unrest, natural disasters, or commodity shortages, for example, could result in an economic downturn.

ID: When did you begin your career in this industry and in what capacity?

PM: Kimball Midwest is a long-established, family-owned business started by my father, Patrick J. McCurdy, Sr. and two partners. I was fortunate to be able to start work for Kimball Midwest in April 1978 after my father’s last partner had passed away and he asked me if I would come in and run the business as the General Manager. At that time, we had about 10 employees and less than $1 million in sales.  That same month, my brother, Ed, began his career with the company, as well. My brother, Charles, joined the organization in 1984.  My brother, Dave, joined in 1986. Since that time, through the growth of our outstanding sales force, we’ve grown into a company with over 900 associates and a number 45 ranking in the Industrial Distribution “Big 50”.

ID: What would you consider to be the biggest changes you’ve seen the industry face throughout your career thus far?

PM: I believe the biggest changes influencing the industrial distribution market are related to the numerous advances in technology and globalization. It is just amazing when I look back and consider some of the things we used to have to do manually and now with the many upgrades in technology are able to do so much more productively. The increased efficiency and effectiveness is incredible. 

For example, we used to purchase products by reviewing index cards which were manually posted with “ins” and “outs” and then we’d mail purchase orders to vendors.  Today, our computer system generates a purchase price and purchase quantity, an email is electronically transferred to the vendor, and then a receipt comes back with a confirmation and a delivery date.

Another example is how we mail invoices. We used to fold, stamp, and mail them at a great expense of time and money. Today 85 percent of our invoices are sent directly to our customers via fax or email. 

Another dramatic change is that the number of SKUs that were domestically produced has moved from 80 percent domestic and 20 percent imported to just the opposite. Here at Kimball Midwest, we have remained committed to domestic quality.  “Buy American, Buy Kimball Midwest” is not just a slogan, but a commitment.

These many changes have certainly enhanced our ability to provide better service to our end-user customers and our sales representative customers. Regardless of all the changes with technology and globalization, though, we still believe that our business is based on personal relationships that are developed over time through the hard work of our sales force.

ID: If you could have any other job, what would it be and why?

PM: I enjoy what I do and am so involved in what I do that it’s very difficult for me to even imagine working in another job. I could say I’d like to be the coach of the Boston Celtics. Since this is an illusion, though, I feel I should also get to pick the time for my “other” job.  I would want to coach the Celtics when they were probably the greatest dynasty ever in sports, led by the greatest player ever, Bill Russell.  So, my coaching would have been in the 1960s! No, I love Kimball Midwest and am very proud of my role here. I can’t imagine doing something else.