An industry veteran becomes part of WinWholesale and seizes the opportunities
In 1971 singer Judy Collins recorded a song called “Both Sides Now.” While it not may be the stuff of ‘70s song lyrics, Colin Davis, manager of Noland Company’s West Palm Beach, Fla., company, has had the chance to look closely at both sides of the business at WinWholesale. That is, the side with a traditional corporate compensation model, such as Noland, and with one built on the WinWholesale entrepreneurial approach. And, he has an opinion about what he thinks works for businesses and the people who work in them.
When WinWholesale acquired Noland Company in 2005, it welcomed a long-time leader in the wholesaling business in the Southeast operating on a traditional corporate model: a headquarters with top-down decision making, salaried and hourly employees and local branches.
That contrasted with WinWholesale’s model of local company ownership, local decision making, compensation based on company performance (in addition to some salaried and hourly employees), all backed by support services from a central office/headquarters.
As a wholesaling industry veteran for almost 20 years (11 at Noland Company), Colin has accumulated a considerable background to be able to compare the models.
Colin built his wholesaling experience
“Noland hired me in 1997, but prior to that I had several years of experience in the industry at Ferguson Enterprises and Hajoca Corporation – both in Richmond, Va.,” Colin said.
Colin honed his skills at Ferguson and Hajoca making deliveries, working inside sales , systems administration and as assistant manager in addition to other positions. He then joined Noland’s Richmond location as a commercial sales specialist. There he did job quotes and organized the department before becoming Richmond’s operations manager.
“The move to Noland Company was a career move. There was more opportunity for advancement by going to different locations in Noland,” Colin explained. Continuing to work his way up, in 2000 Colin became manager of the Winston-Salem, N.C., location until 2002 when he moved to West Palm Beach, Fla., to be the company manager there.
WinWholesale offers increased opportunity
Then along came WinWholesale in 2005 with an offer Noland Company couldn’t refuse. “Although there was some concern about change, there was some excitement about increased opportunity,” Colin explained about the acquisition. “WinWholesale wasn’t in the Florida market in a large way at that time, but it was a significant industry player.”
In fact, one of the reasons WinWholesale acquired Noland was to have a bigger presence in the Southeast market by acquiring more than 100 Noland branches (as they were called then) in 13 states.
It didn’t take long before Colin began to see how the way Noland (as well as other wholesalers) and WinWholesale were different, and to wonder if the acquisition and blending the company cultures and people was going to work out.
“The biggest difference is the autonomy the managers have in WinWholesale companies. There is much more opportunity to operate your business they way you see fit. It’s your business to run, within certain guidelines, but without having to go up the ladder for approval.”
Colin said he also sees that autonomy as good for the business. “You have more of a personal stake in the outcome of your location. What you do, the changes you make and the decisions you make at the local market level have an impact on your business,” he said.
What’s the “Spirit of Opportunity”?
Opportunity. It’s a word that Colin frequently uses in describing the business. The word goes to the very heart and soul of WinWholesale. So much so that the company’s motto is “The Spirit of Opportunity”, and it’s on the back of employee business cards. It refers to the entrepreneurial spirit of the company and its employees, and the opportunity to do well professionally and personally through investing in a local company. It also refers to working hard and smartly in that company to serve customers by meeting their needs.
“The Spirit of Opportunity is the chance to earn an income based on the effort you put forth and the results you achieve,” Colin said.
WinWholesale has pushed more decision making down to the local company level in Noland. In addition, a compensation system for Noland locations in now in place that is similar in many ways to the rest of the organization.
As Colin explained it, “Now that profit sharing has been allocated to each Noland location, there’s a greater emphasis on individual locations and the results that your team puts together. They benefit from that effort.”
Advancement is available to anyone
On a personal level, Colin believes that the opportunity to advance is available to anyone willing to make certain sacrifices. It’s all about putting out the effort individually and as a team, he said.
“I think being a team player is really important. We need people who are ambitious, who can multi-task, and probably as important as anything – someone who understands that their value to the company is in their ability to do whatever the company needs to be successful,” Colin said.
To a finer point, Colin went on to say, “We’re going to look at the person who can get into the delivery truck, jump on the sales counter, receive inventory, do a sales quote – all those things. Those skills translate into future managers – people who are looking for that Spirit of Opportunity and to advance in a career as managers and local company presidents.”
The emphasis is on customer service
Market changes – up or down – drive the business. In good markets and bad, the goal is to separate the Noland business from competitors through superior customer service and high quality products. For example, some competitors cut back on service when markets drop, but Colin said it’s important to fill every order and back order. That’s part of customer service.
“In the past, Noland was more price driven. Now there’s more emphasis on customer service,” he said, and believes in the long run good customer service will make the company more money.
Colin: We operate in a more entrepreneurial way now
And in the long run, how does Colin feel about the acquisition of Noland by WinWholesale?
He admits that at first he was skeptical it would work out because of the different ways of doing business between the two companies. But after more than three years, “The skepticism is almost all gone,” Colin said. “I think it’s all been worthwhile. There probably will always be differences in the way the two companies operate, but we operate in a more entrepreneurial way now, and I’ve tried to take advantage of the opportunities.”
What advice does Colin have for someone thinking about joining a WinWholesale company? “You’re going to work longer hours, possibly relocate and make a few sacrifices, but if you’re interested in advancing your career and having financial stability, joining WinWholesale is absolutely worth it. There are very good opportunities with this company,” he said.