The 43-year-old prioritizes continual learning and growth and is focused on streamlining the distributor’s contract tool program down from more than 300 options to a select few that work best for specific industries and applications.
Mike Butler got his start in distribution right out of college, working his way up in the industry from a field demo rep to territory manager to sales management, and now marketing leadership as the director of marketing at industrial and wholesale distributor LINC Systems. Since taking charge of marketing, Butler has built a complete pricing analysis system and approval process that has rolled out company wide. The system yielded more than $500,000 in incremental margin in its first year.
Looked to as a leader within LINC, Butler uses data analytics to standardize tools used in the field to create efficiencies for the business. His colleagues say Butler has many attributes that make him a leader, including a constant desire to learn more and improve, a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the industry that comes from innovative thinking and an ability to take initiative and make things happen — topped with a willingness to listen to those around him.
“Someday, he will be a senior leader in our business and in this industry,” says Joe DeMarco, vice president of business development & communication at LINC. “His depth of knowledge and reasonable demeanor make him a go-to person whom you seek out for both advice and opinion.”
Driven by Analytics
About halfway through his time as a history major at Texas A&M, Butler realized he didn’t want to follow through with his initial career plans to be a teacher and soccer coach. Instead, he worked for Stanley Black & Decker, taking on different roles such as events marketing, product demos and sales and marketing before moving on to LINC.
Several years into his time at LINC, the opportunity came up to diversify his skills by working on a new way of pricing LINC’s products. Led by MDM’s Distributor’s Guide to Analytics, Butler found the confidence to develop a pricing program. Traditionally, sales reps were paid off of gross profit based on the price they set for products. Butler’s program transfers the decision-making power from individual reps to an analytics-based pricing system. LINC now uses a Microsoft-based tool that allows the company to look at different pieces of information, such as how many people were priced at a specific level, what geography the price was set in, sales volume and more, to set a pricing scheme for sales reps and customers.
In its second year with the program, LINC has increased its price book by about four percentage points, Butler notes.
“I watched his leadership skills grow, his management skills grow, just his ability to juggle balls and solve problems. He’s been successful at every level and all we do is just continue to try to challenge him in new ways and watch him succeed,” says Bill Andreson, LINC’s vice president of sales.
Never Stop Learning
At 43 years old, Butler is the elder statesman among MDM’s Future Leaders, but still comfortably within the younger half of the distribution industry where many are within a few years of retirement eligibility. His relative youth “allows me to be a little bit more open minded,” Butler says. “A lot of our employees have been here for years in some cases — which is amazing in itself. When you bring in someone that is younger — I’m going to include myself but also as we bring more millennials into our company and try to become more diverse in age — I think it brings a fresh style of thinking because you will look at things a different way.”
Butler says he prioritizes continual learning and planning for the future. That’s his advice for people just entering the field.
“Learn as many different sides of the business as you can early on in your career to become well rounded. That’s important, because whether or not you’re going into sales, marketing, operations or finance, it’s definitely beneficial to understand all aspects of the business,” he says. “The other thing is to never stop learning. If you can really invest in yourself and your education, then that’s going to pave the road for new opportunities in your career.”
At LINC, Butler continues to look at ways to maximize efficiency and improve operations. One element under scrutiny right now is the company’s contract tool program for customers. LINC loans tools and provides service on them for free as part of its fastener purchase program. An effort is in place now to standardize the tools as much as possible so that the warehouse can get tools to the customer quicker, ensure it is carrying all of the parts essential for maintenance and repair, all while not having to stock 300 different products.
Butler developed a form to show which tools perform the best for specific industries and applications, and then standardized it to give the sales team a list to select from.
“Mike has good, intuitive decision-making abilities. He’s a leader. You don’t have to manage in the weeds with Mike,” says DeMarco. “I always trust Mike is working smart and he’s making good business decisions for us.”