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Re-Engineering Effort Takes WPF Member SupplySource, Inc. to the Next Level

February 1, 2016  |  by Workplace Furnishings

When Larry Basile joined Williamsport, PA-based WPF member SupplySource, Inc. as its Vice President of Sales in September of 2013, President and CEO Ray Thompson made it very clear what his top priority would be: to transform the long-time Herman Miller dealer from what had become an operations-driven organization into one that was driven primarily by the need for sales growth.

In many ways, Basile was uniquely qualified for the job. To begin, he was already very familiar with the dealership and its particular strengths and weaknesses.

Back in the late '90s, when Basile was just beginning his industry career, he spent four years at SupplySource as a sales consultant. And even though the company he returned to in 2013 had come a long way since then—with significant sales growth and the addition of four branch locations across central Pennsylvania—he found a lot that had a very familiar look and feel.

Basile also brought with him other qualities, including a fresh new perspective and some out of the box thinking that would prove critical to the dealership’s re-engineering.

After leaving SupplySource in 1999, he spent nearly 15 years in senior sales and sales management positions, initially with mega office products player Corporate Express and then later with Construction Specialties, an architectural products manufacturer with over 30 locations in 20 countries worldwide. That experience in the large corporate world gave him an in-depth appreciation of what would be needed to re-position SupplySource—in terms of both people and infrastructure—in a way that would put it on a new and more aggressive growth track.

Most importantly, perhaps, Basile came to the company with a fierce entrepreneurial drive and a passion to function both as an effective change agent for the organization as a whole, but also as a mentor who could take what was already a strong team at the dealership and move them up to the next level.

As Basile started to map out his re-engineering plan, he found much to like that was already in place at the dealership.

”SupplySource as an organization wasn’t broken by any stretch of the imagination,” he explains. “We had an outstanding group of people who in many ways represented the core strength of the company. They truly cared about how we were performing and the vast majority of them they would do whatever it took to help their fellow workers and keep our customers happy.” That was all well and good but if Basile was to meet the ambitious goal his boss had set for him, he knew more was needed.

In two fast-moving years since returning to SupplySource, Basile put in place a program of change that has impacted virtually every aspect of the dealership.

One of the first areas that got attention was basic decision-making at the dealership. “There was too much ‘management by committee’ which tended to impede our ability to respond quickly to emerging challenges and opportunities,” Basile recalls. Today, all that is history and team members are empowered to make their own decisions, secure in the knowledge that mistakes are tolerated and confident that if a decision turns sour, they will still have a job.

On the sales management front, Basile implemented a company-wide CRM program to enable the organization as a whole to better manage its opportunities. “The CRM program not only has given us a way to keep our salespeople on task,” he explains. “It’s used by our project managers, designers, and customer service team as well and that has improved communications and accountability throughout the organization.”

Also new: a commission structure to provide greater incentives for new business development. “The SupplySource sales team included some of the best account farmers I have ever met. But you can’t grow a business solely on the basis of existing accounts. Hunters are as important as farmers and you really need a balanced mix,” he contends. Today, four of the current 11-person sales team are new hires, ambitious millennials who are technology-savvy, self-managed, self-motivated, and eager to learn.

Another key area that has undergone significant change in the past two years is the dealership’s product mix. Previously, Basile explains, the sales team had pretty much of a free hand when it came to specifying products or particular manufacturers. Today, the setup is far different.

Working with Suzanne Swift and her team at SpecSimple, Basile developed a virtual library of product from just 50 manufacturers—Herman Miller, Global, the Workplace Furnishings portfolio of supplier partners and ten additional vendors—and he told the sales team they could go outside those manufacturers for products in only the most exceptional circumstances.

“I felt it was really important to bring greater focus to our product mix and build relationships where we could be important to a smaller group of manufacturers,” Basile explains. “Our membership in Workplace Furnishings was a big help in that effort since Greg and his team had already done much of the work for us in terms of vendor selection.”

Indeed, Basile views Workplace Furnishing as a key resource in his re-engineering efforts on several levels. “Membership in Workplace Furnishings has given us access to quality manufacturers on a level that would have taken years for us to develop on our own,” he points out. “And because we all belong to the same organization, these manufacturers already understand our goals and priorities. Even more impressive, the WPF organization holds its manufacturers accountable and plays an active role for us in helping us build relationships.”

Basile also gives the organization kudos for the networking opportunities it provides. “The WPF dealer community represents a priceless source of industry knowledge and experience and there’s a remarkable willingness to share ideas and discuss common issues and concerns that helps all of us,” he says. “As we move forward, the resources WPF provides are only going to become more important for SupplySource.”

It’s been a fast-paced two years for Larry Basile and the rest of the SupplySource team. The way the dealership operates today and the culture that drives it are both very different from when he came on board as VP of sales.

And while, like most entrepreneurs, Basile says he’ll never be 100% satisfied with how the dealership is performing, he’s clearly very pleased with progress to date and excited about future prospects.

“After all the changes, the foundation for new growth is in place and we’re poised for what I truly believe will be our dealership’s best year ever,” he reports proudly. And he can rest assured, as his dealership grows, WPF and its resources will be helping to keep the momentum growing every step of the way!

 

For more information on Workplace Furnishings, visit: workplacefurn.com/home

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