Reps often move into new market areas to supplement their core electrical business. But you don't find many reps like Hugh M. Cunningham Inc., which serves not only the electrical market but also seven other distinct business areas.

Headquartered in Dallas, the 110-employee Hugh M. Cunningham is an independent manufacturers' representative agency representing eight separate business groups, including fire and water, flow control, retail hardware, warehousing and factory service. The 55-year-old agency sells these products in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The company's primary lines include products for the plumbing, mechanical, electrical and lighting markets.

“It's not so much that we're smarter than anyone else,” said Dan Townsend, director of operations. “It's more that what we've done is an example of ‘survival of the fittest.’”

David Cunningham, the agency's president and CEO, saw and understood the need for business synergies. To grow and be successful, he realized he had to change, diversify and provide a full range of value-added services to the customers, said Townsend. “What we've done is different, although it might be considered a little like integrated supply. We glimpsed the future, and we got there first. Look across other industries and you'll see concepts like this at work. Our goal is to be the sole-source provider for our customers, much like the many manufacturer acquisitions and distributor consolidations that we see every day.”

This strategy set the agency on a course to provide a diversified range of products and services to its manufacturers and customers, but Townsend says it made sense for another reason.

“Because you have the back office infrastructure in place to begin with, it's not as if you have to increase the overhead tremendously to take the next step. You're already doing the human resources, computer and accounting functions, so it doesn't matter whether you're supporting a five-person operation or a 100-person operation. Instead of supporting just one group, all those functions now support several groups.”

Along with the product groups that Cunningham supports, the firm offers a full range of value-added services. According to Mike Carruth, electrical products group manager, “This concept has proven to be very successful for us. For instance, we have a group of people who only call on architects and engineers, contractors and general contractors.

“We'll start our efforts with takeoffs at the general contractor level, and then track the activity. Many times we know before the distributor who the electrical and plumbing contractors are going to be on a project. A lot of our distributors see what we're doing and work closely with us to secure business. This allows Hugh M. Cunningham to help pull through the business for electrical distributors.”

“This helps us to stay ahead of the curve. We're able to look at plans ahead of time and identify the supply needs for our salesmen who only call on distributors,” adds Dan Townsend.

Carruth says the firm's approach has worked well in the competitive marketplaces in which they operate. “With the system we're operating with, we're not claiming to have all the solutions to everyone's problems. But there aren't many agencies that can provide the combination of products and services that we do.”

One challenge the company faces is the perception that it focuses primarily on plumbing, says Carruth. “We're not a plumbing rep who also does electrical,” he says. “For each of our groups we have separate sales forces. The salesmen from the electrical group sell electrical products. They focus all their energies on that market because the company realizes each of these markets is different and to serve it properly really requires a distinct focus.” Adds Townsend, “When Mike Carruth and our salesmen are sitting in front of manufacturers, they know 100 percent of their efforts are devoted to their products.”

While the company plans to expand in the future, it will always use the same central core operation. “Whether it's more diversification or growth in geography or markets, there will certainly be future changes,” says Townsend. “David Cunningham and everyone in the agency remain very aggressive in their desire to serve our markets. We're always looking for new opportunities. We'll take advantage of those opportunities as we see them.”

Along with all that the agency has been able to accomplish on its own, Carruth is quick to compliment NEMRA and the benefits the association offers independent electrical manufacturers representatives. Along with working as a liaison with its manufacturers, NEMRA helped the company join the Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR) program run by the Manufacturers Representatives Education Foundation (MREF).

MREF's CPMR certification program for managers of rep firms and manufacturers who manage reps is a three-year classroom program. Several of Hugh M. Cunningham's reps have taken the course.

REP NEWS

Pfeiffer-Hawkins Sales Co., with headquarters in Louisville, Ky., adds the role of Ferraz Shawmut sales representative for the state of Indiana to its territory of Kentucky and southern Ohio.

Allied Moulded Products, Bryon, Ohio, announced the appointment of New Century Sales Inc., Indianapolis, as their sales agent for nonmetallic electrical boxes and lamp holders in Indiana.

Ferraz Shawmut, Newburyport, Mass., announced that Miller Electrical Sales Inc., Phoenix, has joined its team as the company's new sales representative for the state of Arizona.

Halco Lighting Corp., Atlanta, has appointed Al Roach Sales, Chandler, Ariz., as stocking representative for the Halco Lighting product line.

Heyco Products Inc., Toms River, N.J., has appointed EMX Enterprises Ltd., Markham, Ontario, Canada, as its sole sales representative throughout Canada.

Beacon Products Inc., Sarasota, Fla., has announced the appointment of four sales rep firms for the eastern United States. Design Light, Nashville, Tenn., will represent Beacon throughout the greater Nashville area. LaFace & McGovern Associates Inc., Altoona, Pa., will represent the manufacturer throughout western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. LHI Lighting Sales Inc., Louisville, Ky., was appointed for the state of Kentucky and southern Indiana. For the state of Virginia, S & S Inc., Glen Allen, Va., represents Beacon.

Rockscapes, Chatsworth, Calif., has appointed five new sales reps in Florida. Throughout the Naples, Fla., area: Anderson Lighting of Estero, Fla.; throughout the Jacksonville, Fla., area: Architectural Sales & Illuminations of Jacksonville, Fla.; throughout the Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Fla., areas: Gulf Lighting of St. Petersburg, Fla.; throughout the Orlando area: Landreth and Associates of Maitland, Fla.; and throughout the Miami area: Southeast Florida Lighting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

REP WORLD IN EW

Rep World is Electrical Wholesaling's newest monthly department. It will explore the function of the independent manufacturers' rep in the electrical market.

This month, Rep World profiles Hugh M. Cunningham Co., a rep firm hitting the market from an entirely different angle.

If you have an idea for a topic for this department, news about a rep agency or other related information, please send it along to Editor Jim Lucy at jlucy@primediabusiness.com.