Industrial Distribution speaks with Graybar's Bill Mansfield as part of ID's Executive Q&A Series.
Bill Mansfield, VP, Industrial and Commercial, Graybar
ID: As industrial distributors emerge from the roughest economic conditions in recent memory: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from the recession?
BM: It’s important, regardless of the economic conditions, to always keep your focus on the customer. No matter what is happening to influence or enhance the distribution channel, customers are the ones creating the business.
ID: How might you recommend the industry prepare for and/or react differently if we had a “do-over”?
BM: I would stress the importance of listening to the customer and really understanding what’s important to them. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work, and customers’ needs and priorities change. By tailoring your solutions and products to customers’ specific needs, you can prove to be a valuable distributor.
ID: The economy has shown steady and sustained growth over the course of the past several months. Are you optimistic that there will be future growth, and how has your company responded to the improving economic conditions?
BM: We are optimistic. We are investing in the industrial market and making plans for future growth in that sector as well as other parts of our business. We’re hiring a consultative sales force with a strong focus on assisting customers and working with them to solve their specific problems. By doing this, we are providing the best overall solution for their individual needs.
ID: What do you consider to be the biggest issue facing distribution today?
BM: We must continue to add value in the channel. As an industry, we must move from our traditional fulfillment role to one that focuses on creating end-user demand. Many manufacturers have reduced their sales personnel, and someone needs to fill the gap. To remain viable and profitable, distribution needs to be that someone.
ID: When did you begin your career in this industry and in what capacity?
BM: I have worked my entire career at Graybar, starting in 1987 as a management trainee, working in the warehouse, at the counter, and in customer service roles.
ID: What would you consider to be the biggest changes you’ve seen the industry face throughout your career thus far?
BM: The biggest change I’ve seen is going on right now. It’s no longer just about products - it’s about listening to customers and focusing on solutions that increase their profitability and help them achieve their long-term goals. We look at current conditions as a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate our value in the supply chain and how we work to our customers’ advantage.