Customer Service Pays Dividends

Welders Supply Company-Raimy stands up for customers.

In a market dominated by manufacturing and the fabrication shops that support them, commoditization is a fact of life. That’s why Welders Supply Company, a division of the Raimy Corporation, takes technical expertise very seriously. “Every business is trying to do things more efficiently, removing unnecessary resources from the company,” says Mark Raimy, third-generation Chief Executive Officer of the family-owned and operated company. “Our opportunity is to make our customers more efficient and therefore more competitive. If we achieve that goal, we can truly partner with our client base.”

Jack H. Raimy set the bar high for taking care of customers, a long-standing tradition that continues into the third generation.

Welders Supply Company’s focus on customer service is what makes the company so successful. “We maintain a competitive edge through our technical expertise that is available to all our clients as a part of doing business with us, and we invest in the latest technologies to be able to make value-added offerings,” says Raimy. Our goal is to help our clients become the strongest competitor in their respective marketplace. If we help make our customers more competitive, we help them secure their future and ours also.”

Welders Supply Company provides welding equipment, gases and services to customers in northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York. Headquartered in Erie, Pennsylvania, with a second location in Jamestown, New York, the company has fine-tuned the art of customer service and value-added offerings that help customers become better at what they do.

“I’m Coming Back”

Mark Raimy Elected to GAWDA’s Executive Committee

“Define your offering and defend it.”

Welders Supply Company has been a member of GAWDA for 62 years. When Mark Raimy joined the company in 2005, he thought that one of the best ways he could help his company was to fully participate in industry events. He knew that GAWDA provided networking with peers across the country, contact with suppliers and their top management, access to regulatory expertise, best practices and more. His first convention was in 2005 and he has not missed one since. In 2011, he was elected a member of the Board of Directors serving as Vice President. Elected to the Executive Board in September 2014 at the Annual Convention, Raimy will become GAWDA’s President in 2016. From his background in finance and his experience as a successful independent distributor, he views association membership with a critical eye.

A staunch proponent of technology and innovation, Raimy knows that how we as an industry integrate technology and advance it to our customers’ benefit will play a large part in how we do business. He refers to technology as a knowledge source and knows that vertically integrated technology on the distributor side, regardless of the size of the company, will be an important factor in a business’s success.

Two hot-button issues that continue to face the industry are the commoditization of products and services and consolidation of both suppliers and distributors. From experience, Raimy knows there are ways around the commodity dilemma, and he does not believe the customer should define the distributor. “You have to define your offering and defend it. You can never go wrong with a customer-focused, value-added platform. As long as you have those disciplines and pay attention to where the market is going, you’re able to find a critical path to success.”

The industry consolidation that is changing GAWDA’s membership profile must be heeded. “With this trend, our association may become smaller in number, but those who remain will be a strong core group committed to their business model, will have strategic business and succession plans, and will be able to navigate changes, including market and generational.

When not working, Raimy spends time with his family: wife Kathryn and children Lauren, 9, Jack, 7, and Lindsey, 4. He also likes to fly fish, ski, hunt pheasant and deer.

Mark Raimy made his way back to Welders Supply Company - Raimy Corporation via Boston and New York City. Three generations of leadership have fine-tuned the 67-year-old company’s focus on caring for customers.

Jack H. Raimy purchased Welders Supply Company in a divestiture from Airco in 1946. His two sons, Bruce and Gary, joined him in the business several years later. Younger son Bruce took over leadership of the company and when it came time for his son Mark to decide on a career, the option to join the family business was on the table.

A graduate of Denison University with a major in economics and a minor in philosophy, Mark Raimy did not follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he moved to Boston to work in the financial sector. Six years later, he took a job on Wall Street as an institutional equity trader, where he stayed for ten years…until he received a phone call from his father that changed everything. It was 2003 and Welders Supply Company was at a point where a succession plan was crucial. The process took two years for Mark to return to Erie.

“Having a family business and recognizing its history made me understand how special it is. There were two paths: I could move back to Erie, find out that I made a mistake and then rebuild my career in New York; or I could stay in New York and always look over my shoulder at the what-ifs. The choice of returning to Erie became clearly the risk to take. ”

“I’m coming back,” Mark told his father, and it didn’t take long for him to recognize that the move and career change was no mistake. He quickly found out how much he enjoyed running the family business and how exciting the gases and welding industry is. Plus, he was attracted by the opportunity to improve on the technology platform in use by the company. He explains, “Making Welders Supply Company more efficient and getting our technology platform a few steps above the industry standard was an opportunity I found irresistible.”

Defining Customer Focus

One of the first things Raimy did when he took over the business was to become involved in the larger accounts to better secure them, decision maker to decision maker. Raimy firmly believes being vertically integrated with the customer as much as possible. It was a good move, and it cemented Welders Supply Company’s reputation as truly customer-focused. He also understood that businesses were looking for ways to save money and wanted a more efficient way to do things. “Customers are asking how they can do more with less, and there is opportunity for us if we can offer a solution.” Raimy also recognized that being ingrained in the customer’s business makes it difficult for them to part ways.

“It’s bigger than deliveries,” Raimy says. “You can get too focused on efficiencies and overlook ways to define your competitive advantage, thus losing a lot as to what makes your business special or different.” Instead, Welders Supply Company mindshares with customers and shows them alternatives. “We do our job, and sometimes we also do the customer’s job. We want to be intertwined with the customer and make it easier for them, essentially by being another employee.” Raimy says that if it’s structured correctly, great opportunities are there for the taking.

To maintain and promote this customer-focus mindset, employee training on customer service skills is crucial. “Once employees start thinking about customer service and they learn the skill of continually thinking of the customer as they do their job, it permeates the entire process…from order to delivery and beyond. Raimy uses the example of a dispatcher who may call a customer at the end of the day to ask if they need anything additional if the order seems incomplete. “In a perfect world, we would not have to make that 25-second phone call. But it’s better than an extra delivery of a cylinder that was not on the truck. Plus it keeps us in front of the customer.” This is where Welders Supply Company’s customer service becomes defined.

“Customer inefficiencies or mistakes sometimes get blamed on the supplier. If we show up and don’t have something they need, there is a risk the blame gets placed on us as their supplier. We should know their patterns, what they are working on, and know if something is missing or not right.”

Market Growth

Welders Supply Company is one of the largest northwest Pennsylvania suppliers capable of filling argon, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, propane and HPG cylinders. The company also supplies helium, hydrogen and specialty gases to research facilities, laboratories and educational institutions.

The company’s predominant market is made up of small and midsize manufacturing firms. Erie, located in the nation’s Rust Belt, is a declining market. It is in this market that Welders Supply Company has developed a market approach to excel. Raimy knows that growth will not come from new customers, but will come from making current customers more successful, and it’s the reason why so much attention is given to being customer-focused. “Each market has its own set of opportunities, and each one requires a fine skill set and discipline.”

For many of these local, small manufacturing firms, the use of technology enables them to be more efficient and productive. Because there is a lot of repeatability in their processes, automated solutions make a lot of sense. “Robotic welding is big for us,” says Raimy. “The perception in the marketplace is that smaller manufacturers can’t afford automation, or it’s not applicable to what they do. That’s usually not the case. There are multiple price points, and cells come in all sizes.”

Raimy acknowledges that Erie is a small town, and he points to the advantages this smallness brings. “Everything is interconnected, and if we do a good job in one place and there is recognition by the top decision maker, that word will spread. The opposite is also true. We have to execute at high level at all times. New opportunities don’t come around too often here. You may have to wait a long time to recover from a mistake.”

Welders Supply Company must be doing something right in this small town. Now in its 67th year, this third-generation, technologically savvy business has fine-tuned the art of customer service and is poised for further growth and success.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association