There has been an abundance of lessons learned by distributors ever since the pandemic hit last year, but Motion President Randy Breaux says some of the biggest include a better human touch with employees and a continued focus on customers.
“It has been a challenging past 18 months, and I think the last few months of this year will continue to be as difficult,” Breaux says. “What I’ve learned matters most when you are in times like we’ve been in — specifically related to the pandemic — is be honest and transparent with your employees. They can handle the truth about what is going on and what needs to be done, but not knowing is what they hate most.
“I’d also say that it is imperative to focus on your customers and don’t put all of your energy focusing on internal problems. Listen to your customers and they will tell you what they need and how you can help them. Invest in that communication and act accordingly. Finally, don’t abandon your strategy and plan if it was solid before the adversities of the pandemic. Just call an audible and adjust to the moment, but don’t abandon what got you to where you are.”
Long distribution history
Breaux’s career in distribution had an inauspicious beginning as an HVAC repair technician in high school before an auspicious move to Motion in 2011. Breaux took over the helm of Motion when he was named president in 2018.
After high school, Breaux continued working in the electrical distribution space during college, and then went to work for his first industrial manufacturer after graduating. Breaux spent a total of 26 years on the manufacturing side with the last 21 at Baldor Electric.
Having experience on both the distribution side and the manufacturing side has served Breaux well in his current role for Motion. Motion, the industrial parts division of Genuine Parts Co., is a distributor of maintenance, repair and operation replacement parts, and a provider of industrial technology solutions.
“I understand both sides of the business,” Breaux says. “The relationship between the manufacturer and the distributor is critical, with gives and takes on both sides. If you understand what each needs to win the customer or win the order, the relationship seems to be much stronger.
“I also think that because our manufacturer partners know that I’ve spent time in their shoes, they have a greater level of respect for me and what we are trying to accomplish at Motion. If we both don’t win, then it is only a tactical relationship, and strategic relationships with our supplier partners is what we really want.”
Motion was deemed an essential business at the outset of the pandemic last year. Around the same time, it was wrapping up a new version of its website when the pandemic hit. The new site launched midway through 2020 with better search capabilities, more rich data, better graphics and images, and product configurators, among other features.
“The result is a two-fold monthly increase in our online business over the past year and we expect this trend to continue for the next several years,” Breaux says. “ Of course, we will continue to make further improvements and continually give customers better digital options.”
Robust and dynamic supply chain
Breaux says Motion is in a “pretty good spot” in regard to this year’s ongoing supply chain issues because the company’s procurement team is utilizing better data analytics to assure that Motion has “the right products at the right time in the right place.”
“You have to realize that over 50% of the time, our customers do not know they are going to need something from us until the product breaks,” Breaux says. “So, it’s imperative we have a robust and dynamic supply chain, which we do.”
Breaux says the biggest concerns he hears from Motion’s customers are supply chain challenges with product shortages and extended lead times, followed by inflation and price increases. Going forward those challenges, along with high freight costs, look like they will bleed into 2022.
“We are all pretty much in the same boat with the same headwinds,” he says. “I don’t think we are out of the rough water yet, but I do believe that we will see improvements in the supply chain and a moderation of inflation in the next six to nine months.
“2022 should be a good year for industrial distribution in general as consumers have pent up demand. There is a lot of money in the market to be spent and our customers need us distributors to continue to bring solutions to keep their plants running and profitable. That sounds like a good formula for growth to me.”