Today’s business environment is more competitive than ever with national chains and online businesses all vying for a piece of the market. Being able to serve customers quickly, accurately and with superior knowledge are a few ways companies can stand out.
That’s been the secret sauce for Peninsular Electric Distributors, an IMARK member and family-owned distributor in West Palm Beach, Florida. Even before the sun rises, customers are lined up outside the company’s doors at 6:15 a.m. Once the doors open, they’re welcomed by a staff who knows them by name and offers them a hot cup of coffee.
“Our company and culture are very open,” said Andrew Zeeman, CFO of Peninsular. “Our customers don’t have to go through three to four levels to speak to the owner about issues or problems. He personally gets back to them. If there’s some kind of issue, he’ll be down in the warehouse to talk with them. It’s a very hands-on approach from ownership. The customers see that and the employees see that. It’s more like a family atmosphere instead of a corporate one and that’s what really separates us from our competitors.”
For more than 70 years, the company has been a leading electrical supply distributor, servicing residential, commercial and industrial contractors. Peninsular’s extensive inventory and attention to customer needs have been hallmarks of the business since the beginning.
Peninsular has an interesting origin. It was started by a former FBI special agent after World War II. Pierre Larmoyeux Sr. founded the electrical wholesale company in 1946 after returning to his home state of Florida. The business catered to the construction trade, as electrical contractors were involved in many projects as Palm Beach County development grew. The business was located in downtown West Palm Beach and consisted of three employees, a 5,000-square-foot warehouse and one delivery vehicle.
Larmoyeux’s son, Pierre Larmoyeux Jr., helped grow the business from the 1960s to the early 2000s. His son, John Larmoyeux, now runs the company that has grown to 80 employees, 20 delivery trucks and a 65,000-squarefoot warehouse.
Residential contractors are the majority of their business, representing about 60 percent of their customer base. Customers come to them because of their extensive inventory. “People know if they can’t find it somewhere else, they can find it at Peninsular,” Zeeman said. “We already have it so they don’t have to wait two, three days or a week for a another distributor to locate material from a regional distribution center.”
Peninsular’s counter business also helps distinguish the company from others in the area. The company prides itself on having a knowledgeable staff and all of its counter team has at least 10 years of experience in the electrical industry. The purpose? The team members want to be known as problem solvers, so when customers come to them, someone can answer questions and give expert recommendations. It’s just another way to differentiate themselves from competitors.
The results prove it, as 12-15 percent of their business comes from counter sales, according to Larmoyeux.
One of the challenges the company faces is competing against larger distributors, especially on pricing. But partnering with IMARK has helped tremendously in that area.
“Working through IMARK as a conduit to our vendors helps us with cash flow issues,” Zeeman said. “The vendors they use are preferred vendors in our area. When you factor in IMARK’s rebate program into our overall business operations, it’s essential to us to be competitive in our marketplace, especially since we compete against national and international chains. “Without IMARK, it would be difficult to compete against larger distributors. The information they provide to us as far as training is also helpful for our sales team and purchasing team.” Despite challenges, Peninsular is experiencing unprecedented growth. For the first time, it has opened a second location, expanding to the western part of the state. “We started a branch in Fort Myers in February this year,”
Larmoyeux said. “Customers who are in the east also work in the western part of the state and they wanted us to service them over there.”
Knowledge, service and speed have worked for Peninsular for 70 years. With those ingredients, the company expects customers to line up outside its facility bright and early for years to come.