It’s The Best Of Both Worlds For MID-SIZED COMPANIES

More customers. More resources. More employees. More locations. Some distributors say more headaches. All the distributors of mid-sized companies expressed gratitude for their growth. Some are looking to continue that growth into a larger business, others are content to focus on the advantages of being in the middle, which they indicate, are many.

“We are able to hire individuals who have expertise in certain areas, including human resources, safety and compliance. In a smaller company, the owner or manager must wear a variety of these hats.”
Scott Chenoweth, President
Texas Welders Supply Co. (Houston, TX)

“The size of our company is not what’s important. It is our focus that counts. If everything we do or not do is with the customer in mind, we will not be terribly wrong.”
Gary Kennedy, President
Red Ball Oxygen Company
(Shreveport, LA)

“As an independently owned company, I am the guy in control of making every decision.”
Nathan Stringer
B & R Industrial Supply,
Inc. (Laurel, MS)

Mark Haun, president of Haun Welding Supply (Syracuse, NY), says that when his company was much smaller, his relationship with his bank was taken for granted. “We didn’t borrow that often because we really had no need to. As we expanded the business, our banking relationship has become more of a valuable resource to us. Once we grew to a certain size, our bank paid more attention to us and was more eager to provide additional resources which have helped us to grow.”

At one time, Airweld Inc. (Farmingdale, NY) relied on private investors to financially support its growth. CEO John Zak says, “Our company’s size now requires us to maintain a line of credit.” Still, Zak notes that his company has never been one to create financial reports detailing the merits of his company’s finances for lending purposes.

Scott Chenoweth, president of Texas Welders Supply Co. (Houston, TX), points out that a larger company has an ability to command the attention of a more senior lending officer who is able to offer more service and more tools that are of greater benefit.

Tom Smith, president of DeLILLE Oxygen Company (Columbus, OH), points out a challenge faced by many mid-sized companies when it comes to working with banks. “Small companies can tap into the Small Business Administration and other such groups for preferable rates, and large companies have greater access to government assistance to procure rates to move things around. Mid-sized companies, however, pretty much have to rely on the payment terms.” Smith acknowledges, however, that there are many advantages a mid-sized company brings to market. “We are able to work on larger projects more easily than a smaller company can. Once we have focused on a particular project, we have the money and the personnel to support our commitment.”

Gary Kennedy, president, Red Ball Oxygen Company (Shreveport, LA), also acknowledges several advantages mid-sized companies have over their smaller brethren, offering the best of both worlds. “We are large enough to make the best use of current technology while tapping into more resources on behalf of our customers, but small enough to still be accessible to them.”

Chris John, president of Airtec Inc. (Altoona, WI), notes the advantage of operating several branches in various markets. “Each branch is able to learn from the others by sharing information and capitalizing on the opportunities which result from our mass.”

When President Herbert Weiler, Jr. compares his company, Weiler Welding Company (Dayton, OH), to larger companies, he is thankful for the advantage of being able to make immediate decisions. “In a large company, you have to go through a layer of management to get an answer to a question, usually slowing down the process.”

Robert Boshears, president of Welsco (North Little Rock, AR), is able to demand more from his vendors than he could when his company was smaller. He says, “While some may believe that the mom-and-pop company is able to provide better service, I believe that it is just a myth. It’s all based on the relationship between the customer and the salesperson, supported by the entire branch. Everyone is geared to make the customer the first priority.”

B & R Industrial Supply (Laurel, MS) is not product-specific, and Nathan Stringer, president, believes that his ability to provide his customers with everything from soup to nuts is his number one achievement. He says, “It’s all about customer service, not product.”

The number of employees at mid-sized companies ranges from 17 to 135. Employees directly reporting to the president range from 1 to 20.

Several distributors acknowledged that their company’s buying power is better now that the company has grown. However, Mickey Wilton, president of Central Welding Supply (Lynnewood, WA), says that while his company enjoys better buying power now, it may have been easier when the company was smaller. “When the company was smaller,” says Wilton, “everything was scaled down and it seems like there were less things to do. There were less employees to take care of, less paperwork, less everything. Now it takes a lot more time and attention to keep up.”

Presidents of MID-SIZED COMPANIES would never delegate…
Customer and Vendor Key Accounts

Company Financials

Strategic Focus

Hiring Decisions

Legal Activities

“We have the ability to attract a variety of resources, including technical personnel and financial resources, which enable us to continually support company expansion.”
Mark Haun, President
Haun Welding Supply, Inc. (Syracuse, NY)

“Before buying groups became as functionary as they are today, buying power used to be an advantage for a mid-sized company. Now the advantages come from employing the right kind of people and having a number of branches to better service our customers.”
John Zak, CEO
Airweld Inc. (Farmingdale, NY)

The Art of NOT Delegating
No matter what size a company is, some things just can’t be delegated. According to Chris John, “Our key customers require a level of service that will always command my attention. As a middle-sized company, those key customers will always be extremely important to us.”

The larger the company is, the more employees and differing personalities there are to manage. Airweld’s John Zak says, “I think I am a calming influence among my employees. My job is to support their efforts as they successfully work together as a team.”

Mark Haun indicates that the buck stops with him when it comes to providing final approval for all decisions to hire and terminate employees. He explains, “I must approve all decisions.”

Tom Smith says, “Someone needs to manage our managers. Other responsibilities that can’t be delegated would include anything to do with unions or contractual agreement.”

Scott Chenoweth explains that relationships are what he focuses his attention on. “When it’s a customer relationship or a vendor relationship in which we must choose a brand to stock, I must be involved. An employee may not understand the benefit of a long-term relationship with a particular supplier and may not understand the benefits associated with the margins when single sourcing products.”

Herbert Weiler, Jr. notes, “It would be hard to delegate the responsibilities of pricing and sales policies, employment policies and salaries, and negotiations with suppliers.”

When all is said and done, perhaps Central Welding Supply’s Mickey Wilton says it best:“Maintaining the bottom line will always be my number one responsibility.” Words that can be said by everyone, regardless of a company’s size.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association