MDM Podcast: Scott Schuenke on Sonepar’s Growth & Strategic Development - Modern Distribution Management

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MDM Podcast: Scott Schuenke on Sonepar’s Growth & Strategic Development

Scott Schuenke discusses Sonepar North America’s growth, evolution and innovation during his 16 years with the company, which culminate with his retirement this month as VP of Strategic Development.
Sonepar mdm podcast

Scott Schuenke, Sonepar North America Vice President of Strategic Development, is preparing to ride off into the sunset. And after 16 years with the company — with retirement in sight at the end of this month — Schuenke is on the short list of executives who have carefully shaped Sonepar’s growth and strategic development over nearly the past two decades.

“It’s been an incredible ride,” he said. “To not only be see the growth here within the U.S. but North America and then globally, as well. And to kind of be exposed beyond just the markets that I knew in Minnesota and the surrounding areas to a global perspective has been a really fascinating journey for me.”

Schuenke, whose career started almost 40 years ago, recently sat down with MDM CEO Tom Gale for the latest MDM Podcast, and the two discussed precisely how Sonepar has been able to evolve and innovate during his tenure.

Scott Schuenke

Sonepar North America ranks No. 2 on MDM’s 2023 Top Distributor List for electrical, data & security distributors, with $14 billion in 2022 revenue. Sonepar North America operates 450 branches with 10,000 Associates and accounts for approximately 40% of the company’s global revenues. Globally, Sonepar as a whole recorded 2022 sales of $33 billion.

The company has been strong on the acquisition front over the past 20 years, inking deals with companies such as Capitol Electric, Cooper Electric Supply, Crawford Electric, Irby, North Coast, One Source and Springfield Electric, among others. (Sonepar announced this week that subsidiaries Crawford and Irby would merge under the Crawford brand sometime next year.)

Schuenke has been able to see that growth first hand.

I remember when I first went to the headquarters in 2008,” he said.We didn’t need a very big room for all of us. It’s been remarkable to watch us grow and what an organization needs to look like to support a $12 billion business versus a $2 billion business. It’s been fascinating to be part of the whole journey of growth.”

A large chunk part of Schuenke’s responsibility as VP of Strategic Development focuses on research — not only regarding the competitive landscape within distribution, but also outside in other sectors in terms of innovation. He also must ask what he can bring into the company to map out what its future success looks like.

To be able to effectively create a strategic plan that goes out five years, companies have to spend a great deal of time not only analyzing themselves and knowing who their performances are, but also answering the question “What are they doing?”

“What are they looking like? What’s their growth strategy? What’s our M&A acquisition strategy, then?” Schuenke said.What are we doing in other parts of the world that we need to bring here? What can we leverage that others have blazed a path that we can then learn from and improve our adoption speed dramatically? Because we’re already grabbing something that’s proven and bringing it in? Then how do we take that into our customers? How do we look at where we’re successful, where we might be not performing as well as we are? And when you triangulate all of that — and then you start looking outside the industry, listening to what other distribution channels do around strategic pricing, sales, leadership, specialist, sales, transformation — all that kind of gets put all together. And you blend that all up. And then you got to bring that back and make it operational indigestible for your own organization.”

Check out the full episode via the audio player above, and you can find all of our past MDM Podcasts via our webpage for them here.

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