Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable
It’s not often we get to profile a company that is over 100 years old. Wiring Harness News was privileged to learn more about Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable in a conversation with Jason Kline, Director of Marketing. Jason provided some detailed history prior to our chat.
Originally founded as Mann Electric, the company incorporated in 1919 as Consolidated Wire & Associated Corporation in Chicago, Illinois. In fact, a listing for the original company can still be found in the US Government Printing Office’s Congressional Serial Set. Under the new corporation, Consolidated Wire manufactured and provided bulk wire and cable along with radio accessories to electronic distributors throughout the 1920s and ‘30s. With the world at war in the 1940s, Consolidated was enlisted by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for their core expertise, supplying the US military with wire and cable for communication purposes.
The company continued to flourish under that structure, but in the 1980s, a second generation of leadership broadened the business philosophy, bringing with it a new name for the organization, Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable Corporation. During this period, the enhanced Consolidated Wire moved further into the OEM marketplace and began forging strategic partnerships internationally. Versatility and a service orientation were solidified as the backbone with which the company would continue to build upon.
During our interview, Jason’s passion for his company’s pride in quality and customer service seemed to permeate into every statement. I was curious and dug a bit deeper to understand that Consolidated Electronic has been an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) company for over twenty years. As an ESOP committee member, Jason was able to share a bit about what makes this employee owned business model so valuable to its employees and in turn, its customers. “When I joined the Consolidated team, my previous experience was with a large corporation,” he recalled. “One of the first things I noticed when I got here was an employee removing items from the trash to place them in the recycle bin instead. That may seem insignificant, but that level of care was something new for me. I knew in that moment that this was something I wanted to be part of for a long time.”
Jason explained how the company is developing educational opportunities for employees to better understand how the business works. The Consolidated Electronic ESOP committee has developed a dynamic curriculum of adult learning comprised of various multi-media tools, as well as games and activities to bring information to employees in a way that is easily digestible while championing each team member with their rights as a stake owner of the company.
The whole notion of empowering through education and learning has transcended to the way they engage customers as well. The connection to customers became apparent immediately when I asked for an example of how this culture impacted customer service. “When you call Consolidated, a person will answer the phone, not a phone prompt maze. When you submit a ‘Contact Us’ form, someone with your specific account history responds, and you’ll never be routed from one silo of an organization to another.” Jason stressed that a qualified expert is picking up the phone to customize the experience to the inquiry or request. “Every single individual here is exceptionally qualified and an expert in the industry,” he explained. “It is fun being able to support our business partners in such a profound way, and I think that is why there hasn’t been any turnover in our business. You’re an owner here, you’re empowered to serve, so why would you want to leave?”
In fact, following our interview, Jason was off to join his ESOP committee peers in organizing an activity for team members. “We’re breaking the organization into teams of five, at individual tables with milk cartons that are 18 inches apart, supplying each team with straws, packing tape, twine and scissors. The goal is to build a bridge together, capable of supporting one of our 4-ounce spools. The winner will be whoever’s bridge can support the most weight!”
I noticed the theme of ‘education’ begin to repeat in our discussion and asked if that theme transcended to the way they interact with customers. “You’ve got it! One of the underlying themes, as well as obligations, to market in our B2B ecosystem is to share our expertise.” Jason stressed the marketing strategy isn’t just about branding at Consolidated, but rather engaging with customers and potential customers with a myriad of useful approaches to content. He is happy to have a powerful ally in that endeavor. “Our partners at ThomasNet help us to develop meaningful content that can aid folks through the buying process in our industry. Whether you’re a first-year procurement manager or a twenty-five-year engineer, we’ve got direction to help you make educated decisions.” He is specifically proud of a ‘Wire & Cable Industry 101’ eBook the company just published. You can check that out conwire.com and its available for download.
Jason also mentioned the company actually going to be a featured on an upcoming Thomas.net podcast. Our Director of sales, Tim Duncan is going to be speaking with Tony Uphoff, the CEO of Thomas, and discussing trends in the cable industry.” It’s extremely low-cost for the type of exposure they get and, as Jason emphasized, the person listening is likely close to the point of transacting business, and can easily pick up the phone or reach out via email for a quote.
Recent years have shown phenomenal growth at Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable, expanding over 25% year-over-year out of their humble main base in Franklin Park, Illinois. It’s rare to find a company with this much history that is still so motivated by innovation and growing at that pace. I asked Jason what else this success could be attributed to. “That’s easy,” he said, “We keep it simple and do the fundamentals better than anyone else, period. The customer is always the focal point; therefore, we listen.” He likes to say the company has a big company reputation, with small company values. “We can deliver on what is most important, fair pricing, expert guidance, relentless service, and quality products.”
Customer wire harness, overmolded cable assemblies and power cords are Consolidated Electronic’s bread and butter. I asked what else makes Consolidated unmistakable to their customers. “You should check out one of our blogs!” He specifically directed me to Conwire.com/standing-out-from-the-rest, where I learned more about how the company has established rock solid customer relationships spanning several decades. By utilizing their warehousing and distribution services, they are able to save their customers money while delivering product where and when its needed. What really impressed me, though, was the extent to which this group is willing to customize the perfect solution for each case and application.
Another key to success for the company, as Jason sees it, is the fact that they’ve worked with such a variety of customers over the years. “You likely haven’t heard the name Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable,” Jason explained, “but you have likely depended upon many products that have depended upon us.” They have been serving in every major industry, in every industry segment including automotive, lighting, telecommunications and agriculture. After getting to know these guys first hand, it seems likely they will be around for another 100 years!