For Gary Reese, “opportunity” is not just a word
Gary Reese, president of Lincoln Winlectric Company (Nebraska), “wore the tools”, as they say in the trade, for several years as an electrician and electrical contractor. Then one day he had a change of heart that led to a change in direction. The WinWholesale entrepreneurial Spirit of Opportunity was calling him, and he didn’t even realize it at the time.
“When I was an electrician, the guy from the supply house would take me out for coffee or lunch, take my order, then get in his climate controlled car and take off. I said to myself, ‘That looks like a job I’d really like to have.’”
Success bred success
After that self revelation in Fort Collins, Colo., in 1984, Gary began calling every supply house in town looking for a job. He got to Nelectric in the Yellow Pages, the precursor to Winlectric, and through persistence landed a job in outside sales. That began a path that would lead Gary to great success in the WinWholesale organization as president of his own company, Lincoln Winlectric, and in helping to start seven other Win companies and investing in them.
He actually helped start Lincoln Winlectric in 1985 after leaving Fort Collins. Then the president of Winlectric Inc., as WinWholesale was organized at the time, asked Gary to go to Bowling Green, Ky., to help a Winlectric company in the fall of 1986. “I knew the only way I was ever going to get my own company was to do that sort of thing and work my way up the ladder, so going to Bowling Green was a stepping stone for me,” Gary explained.
Not long after arriving in Bowling Green, he left for Yuma Ariz., to be a manager at the Winlectric there – but again just for a few months before he returned to Lincoln Winlectric in 1987 to help the struggling company. Gary was proving his worth as a person who could help companies become more successful.
Opportunity is not just a word
The difference when he went to Lincoln Winlectric this time, however, was that he bought the current president’s stock in the company. In the three years since opening the Yellow Pages in Fort Collins to find an electrical wholesaling job, The Spirit of Opportunity had become firmly planted in Gary, and he was the president of his own electrical wholesaling company.
“The word opportunity means that a warehouse person, a college graduate or even a competitor can go to work for WinWholesale and make it as grand as they want,” Gary said. “The opportunity is absolutely endless. To start a supply company with the amount of money a company president has to put in is pretty remarkable. The opportunity is there for anyone who wants to take advantage of it"
Local company; local decision making
Gary always wanted to have a successful business some day and said the WinWholesale model helped make it possible. With that model, he has ownership and makes the decisions for his company based on local market conditions and has the use of central support services such as accounting and vehicle fleet services. “WinWholesale is the only company that I know of where I can have a small business with all the backing of a big business,” Gary said.
Not everyone wants to own their own business and be a company president. For those people, local Win companies also offer opportunities. According to Gary, the type of person who does well at WinWholesale is a person who wants to invest in themselves in terms of hard work and be successful in a local company. “Every president has great people who work for them,” Gary said. “But for people who want ownership, the Spirit of Opportunity works. All the tools are here to make it happen.”
If the right person came to Gary and said they wanted to start their own Win company, Gary’s response would be simple: “Let’s put a plan together and see where it takes us.”
Gary wouldn’t trade his WinWholesale experience
Nevertheless, a successful company requires long hours and building and maintaining customer relationships. That includes helping customers (and employees) accomplish their dreams as they run their own businesses.
Gary said Lincoln Winlectric tries to provide as much information as possible about the business – and advice. Which, says Gary, happens quite often since he’s been in the business a long time and has become a trusted supplier and friend to his customers.
“I can give that advice because I’ve already made the mistakes. It’s a great satisfaction to me to be able to help others,” Gary said. “We treat apprentice electricians at our counter as though they’re going to become a big company some day. When they do go on their own, we’re usually the first wholesaler they come to because we developed a relationship with them when they came in to buy their first set of tools.”
Day to day now, Gary spends less time selling products like he used to and devoting most of his time to managing the company – keeping up with technology and growing Lincoln Winlectric at a healthy pace.
“It’s always been fun, but now it’s more of an easy fun,” Gary said as he summed up his WinWholesale experience to date. “I wouldn’t trade the work of loading trucks, building racks and the rest of it for the world, but being president is even more fun.”