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The Little Things Still Add Up

July 1, 2004
Electrical Wholesaling devotes a fair number of editorial pages each year to painting the big picture of the electrical industry for our readers. In last

Electrical Wholesaling devotes a fair number of editorial pages each year to painting “the big picture” of the electrical industry for our readers. In last month's issue, along with publishing our annual listing of the largest electrical distributors, we reported on how those 200 distributors contribute to the consolidation trend reshaping the industry.

Each November, EW reports on distributors' sales forecasts for the following year in our popular Market Planning Guide. Throughout the year, we attempt to decipher how macroeconomic issues like the decline of the U.S. industrial base affects the electrical business or the global need to slash energy consumption translates into sales opportunities for distributors.

EW often publishes company profiles on how these trends affect a particular distributor. Such is the case with this issue, where the cover story explores the strategies behind the march of Sonepar USA, Berwyn, Pa., across and the United States. It's a fascinating story to be sure.

But as I got to thinking about how fast Sonepar was growing, I began to realize that so much of its story — of any company's story really — relates to the success or failure of the dozens if not hundreds of decisions that occur everyday. Sure, really huge game-changing decisions forever change a company. But day-to-day, the little things add up.

In my research for the Sonepar article, I read the 2003 Annual Report that Viking Electric prepared for its employees. I was most impressed with how the dozens of little things accomplished by Viking Electric associates at its branches throughout Minnesota and northern Wisconsin pulled the company through a tough economic year. It wasn't one blockbuster order written by a sales stud that helped the company get through 2003. No, service basics, like the sound blocking and tackling of a solid football team, seemed to make more of a difference. For instance, because Viking Electric added delivery vans to its Blaine, Minn., and Plymouth, Minn., locations, the company could make deliveries on a daily basis into areas not serviced by competitors. The purchase of those vans enabled it to secure more business from residential projects in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities.

When a big company like Viking Electric adds two vans to a delivery fleet that already had over 50 vehicles servicing 19 locations, it may not seem like much. But it made a difference in those markets.

You don't have to invest in two delivery vans to make a difference at your company. Little things really can mean a lot. For example:

  • You meet a new customer at a trade show… just because you decided to work the booth an extra half hour, when competing exhibitors went to the bar for drinks.

  • You learn about a new piece of business… just because you made that one extra sales call on a customer late one Friday afternoon, when plenty of other salespeople were out at the golf course for 18 holes.

  • A customer gives you a nice piece of discretionary business… just because you made a simple follow-up call to ensure an order was received in full and on time.

  • Your company's sales start climbing … soon after you made it a no-no for salespeople to ever make sales calls without product samples.

Write down five or ten times when just a little added effort made a difference in your company. You might be surprised how quickly the little things add up to mean a lot.


Electrical Wholesaling magazine won several awards for editorial and design excellence in this year's American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) annual competition. The magazine won three honors in the 2004 ASPBE Western Region Competition: a gold award in the How-to Article category for its “2004 Market Planning Guide,” November 2003; a silver award in that same category for “Making the Upgrade,” January 2003; and a gold award in the Front Cover — Illustration category for “The Profits of Lighting,” April 2003. The April 2003 cover illustration also won a national gold award.

About the Author

Jim Lucy | Editor-in-Chief of Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing

Jim Lucy has been wandering through the electrical market for more than 40 years, most of the time as an editor for Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing newsletter, and as a contributing writer for EC&M magazine During that time he and the editorial team for the publications have won numerous national awards for their coverage of the electrical business. He showed an early interest in electricity, when as a youth he had an idea for a hot dog cooker. Unfortunately, the first crude prototype malfunctioned and the arc nearly blew him out of his parents' basement.

Before becoming an editor for Electrical Wholesaling  and Electrical Marketing, he earned a BA degree in journalism and a MA in communications from Glassboro State College, Glassboro, NJ., which is formerly best known as the site of the 1967 summit meeting between President Lyndon Johnson and Russian Premier Aleksei Nikolayevich Kosygin, and now best known as the New Jersey state college that changed its name in 1992 to Rowan University because of a generous $100 million donation by N.J. zillionaire industrialist Henry Rowan. Jim is a Brooklyn-born Jersey Guy happily transplanted with his wife and three sons in the fertile plains of Kansas for the past 30 years. 

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