Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

July 5, 2016

Line Goyette

François Anquetil? You’ll never get him to sit down for an interview, people told me. He’s too busy. However, this conversation between two francophones feels like an informal chat over a glass of wine. François Anquetil, President of Sonepar Canada and Chair of Electro-Federation Canada’s Board of Directors, is engaging, and happy to share his vision of the industry.

To start, I address the issue of time. “Yes, I am organized and results oriented, it is a management choice. We have 2,000 employees in Canada, 105 branches, 5 major divisions, 5 executive committees, more than a dozen people who relate directly to me, and I try to meet with all other organizational levels (sales, logistics, marketing, etc.) to go into a bit more detail, discuss ideas for the next generation, retail challenges… I travel so much. I pay attention to my time, but there is always room for improvisation. I like the open door concept.”

The most stimulating challenges and others

A graduate of the SKEMA Business School of Lille in France, his country of origin, Anquetil has devoted his entire career to Sonepar and electrical distribution. He’s known challenges. Which proved to be the most stimulating and the most difficult?

After reflection, he states five challenges. “I would say first that opening a new branch is an exciting challenge, but it can fail in difficult markets. We must be patient, know how to leverage employee skills and expertise. Maturity may take five to seven years, but organic growth is very motivating.”

The second challenge: integrating acquisitions. "When we acquire companies smaller than ours, the challenge is how to sustain their culture. There will invariably be operational changes, but preserving the original culture — the company’s unique energy — is essential. I am a strong supporter of decentralization; decisions must remain local to serve each market.” 

The third challenge: managing technological change in warehouses and distribution centres. “You can’t automate a warehouse without changing the way people work, how orders are processed, etc. Upgrading is very complex and the risks are great. Computer interfaces are complex and training is a huge challenge. Automating a warehouse can mean a full year of perspiration,” he says, laughing, “but you have to anticipate and avoid all risks to ensure a smooth transition between the two systems.” 

The fourth challenge: running a business that extends geographically across the country. “Managing companies remotely is exciting, but it's also quite a challenge. You have to be confident, and be prepared to travel. Distances in Canada are great, and there are many time zones. However, it is essential to continue growing the business. 

“The fifth challenge, not just for me but for the entire industry, is recruiting new talent. The size of our country can be an obstacle. In Western Canada, for example, the problem is worse because the oil boom drew all the talent. Plus, industrial distribution is less sexy than retail distribution. We must treat our brand as a technical brand, but we have the advantage of evolving in a field where agility is very important. We must remain close to customers and their needs. 

“For people who aspire to be entrepreneurs, career opportunities are more important than they are in manufacturing. People without any background or an engineering degree have access to sizable managerial opportunities and can develop rewarding relationships with clients and suppliers, which adds value. We are just the opposite of Taylorism.”

Technologies that will have an impact on our industry…

We continue our conversation by discussing technologies that, according to François Anquetil, will significantly impact on our industry. For him, there is no doubt that e-commerce and digitalization will alter distribution. The future, says Anquetil, belongs to the omnichannel distributor. 

“Digitalization is coming quickly, and we need to respond with an integrated system. We have to synchronize our platform with the client’s, with mobile devices and webshops. It is said that today e-commerce is 8% and in five years it will be 25%. We must be ready. 

“Another technology that may have an impact on our industry is product specialization. We will have to sell more solutions — industrial controls as well as lighting systems. The LED revolution has led us to create lighting specialists, and this phenomenon will accelerate. Then it is necessary to monitor the evolution of analytics. For the moment, we make little use of the data we have. With data that come from the Internet of Things and the Cloud, marketing could be more creative. We could better analyze customer needs and meet them.”

... and our industry challenges

“The Canadian economy is dependent on the energy sector, and on mining and natural resources. Our dollar fluctuates a lot and will continue to do so on longer cycles. We have to work on differentiation and adding value so that we can get away from the hell of the lowest price. Our industry must also recruit new talent, not only for demographic reasons but also to promote innovation.”

I begin asking him what is the one thing he would change in our industry if he could. “Nothing really, even if we have gaps at the level of innovation. I never thought I would spend my whole career in electrical distribution and yet… 

“I think that we in distribution basically have entrepreneurship in our DNA. Every branch manager has the power to establish their own strategy, to forge close relationships with customers, and develop managerial skills. It's a really exciting world.”

Passionate about his work, growth projects, technologically savvy, how does Anquetil balance his private and professional life? He laughs and tells me, “It doesn’t exist. It’s a myth and we should accept it. We must have passion for what we do because we travel a lot, this is very demanding physically. There is no balance, but it is necessary to establish rules and for me it’s saving my weekends for my family,” says the father of three grown children 25, 22 and 17.

One is not born President of EFC. You become one and maybe it never leaves you

Last spring, François Anquetil was named Chair of EFC’s Board of Directors. Is it not too much? 

“EFC has a team of competent professionals. Chairing the association is not an everyday task, it’s about influence. The Chair has 12 months to achieve his goals, which is part of a 5-year plan. You have to continue the ideas of your predecessor and make your own contribution. 

“I am very intrigued by Product Information Management. Centralizing knowledge, working specifically on Canadian products, having reliable, up-to-date information confirmed by Canadian manufacturers and adopted by IDEA is the challenge I would like to raise during my term at EFC, which is a privileged place where manufacturers can discuss technical topics without competition posing a problem. EFC’s Young Professionals Network also appeals to me, and I look forward to its immediate success.”

I finish the conversation asking what is or was his source of inspiration for his career. 

“I would say that Steve Job impressed me with his ability to anticipate customer needs. Some politicians have also impressed me, but in the business world the founder of the Sonepar group, Henri Coisne, has inspired me the most. He took big risks in the 1960s, he was able to do so and I inherited this culture and made it my motto in a way. You have to be able to take risks, what counts is what lasts, but to last you have to know to adapt.”


Line Goyette is Managing Editor of CEW

 

 

Latest Articles

  • Prev
As every distributor knows, there is a labor and driver crisis in every market. It affects hiring ...
Real gross domestic product rose 1.1% in February, the largest monthly growth rate since ...
Wholesale sales rose 0.3% in March to $79.8 billion, with the largest increases coming in ...
According to a recent study from market research firm Graphical Research, The North America ...
ABB recently hosted Billions of Better Decisions - Empowering the Workforce with the ...
The Ontario government is working for workers by investing more than $13 million to provide free ...
In March, Southwire celebrated its 72nd birthday. In the week of May 6, its longest tenured ...
Hammond Power Solutions Inc. has announced its financial results for the first quarter 2022. ...
EFC members have an opportunity to be recognized for marketing excellence and trail-blazing ...
At the beginning of 2022, global material shortages and rapidly increasing costs havenow become the ...

 

CEW-31-UNEnvironment-WorldAccreditation-400.jpgClimate change poses very real risks to people and the environment. Extreme weather events like the destructive storm we just saw in Ottawa that left thousands without electricity for days, and damaged homes and critical infrastructure, are a stark reminder that we must take action, now.

Countries around the world agree – achieving a more sustainable future is a top priority. Commitments like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the landmark Paris Agreement and the ISO London Declaration, bring nations into a common cause to undertake the ambitious efforts it takes to tackle one of our time’s most critical challenges.

Read More


 

BirdRecently, Bird Construction Inc. was pleased to announce that it has been selected to lead the design and construction of a state-of-the-art, net-zero plant protein processing facility for Phyto Organix Foods Inc. in Strathmore, Alberta. The value of the progressive design-build contract is approximately $125 million.

Bird will lead the design and construction of the facility and the 3D connectivity to the processing equipment. The 100,000 square foot facility will be the first net-zero plant protein processing facility in North America, employing industry-leading technology solutions to recycle and reuse water, leverage low emission energy sources, and reduce overall energy consumption. 

Read More


 

 

Statistics CanadaReal gross domestic product rose 1.1% in February, the largest monthly growth rate since March 2021. Inflationary pressure remained in April 2022, when the Canadian Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 6.8% year over year, a slight increase from March 2022 (+6.7%).

After surging by nearly 340,000 in February, employment rose by an additional 73,000 in March as Omicron-related restrictions eased, and was little changed in April. After reaching a record low of 5.3% in March, the unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage points to 5.2% in April.

 

Read More


 

Changing Scene

  • Prev
As part of its ongoing modernization efforts, Southwire has announced the installation of new ...
Supporting its long-term modernization strategy and building on its goal to remain generationally ...
Franklin Empire Inc., the largest independently owned electrical distributor in Canada, and MONTONI ...
Franklin Electric Co., Inc. is pleased to welcome Kyle Carron to its Industrial & Engineered ...
Adding continued investment in Canada to its core foundation of innovative Design, installation ...
AD and Torbsa Limited are announcing an agreement to merge the two groups. The ...
AimLite is proud to announce that its Products Warranty has been awarded certification by the ...
Industry Data Exchange Association, Inc. (IDEA) is acquiring the award-winning data management ...
S&C Electric Company recently announced Anders Hultberg as its new president of S&C ...
43 years ago, Steve Silverstein bought a table saw and a delivery van and began a revolution in the ...
 

 

AD and TORBSAAD and Torbsa Limited are announcing an agreement to merge the two groups. The merger is expected to close July 1, 2022. Established in Ontario in 1966, Torbsa is a shareholder-owned group made up of twenty-seven independent building supplies distributors, with 48 locations across Canada.

Rob Dewar, president of AD Canada, discussed how Torbsa's strong leadership and financial success made the buying group an ideal match for AD. Rob Dewar, president of AD Canada, discussed how Torbsa's strong leadership and financial success made the buying group an ideal match for AD.

 

Read More


 

IDEAThe Industry Data Exchange Association, Inc. (IDEA), in collaboration with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), announces the launch of the Harmonized Data Model (HDM) Advisory Council.

The Harmonized Data Model (HDM) initiative is defining a unified data model in IDEA Connector that enables manufacturers to easily syndicate to multiple formats and empowers distributors’ eCommerce experiences with more consistent, normalized product data.

 

Read More


 

 

AimliteAimLite is proud to announce that its Products Warranty has been awarded certification by the National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) Trusted Warranty Program. The NLB Trusted Warranty Program recognizes excellence in lighting companies that meet objective quality standards and practices regarding their warranty administration.

In order to obtain that certification, AimLite was assessed based on five criteria: formal warranty process, warranty language, length of business/warranty insurance, technical evaluation, and claims review evaluation. By complying with the five evaluation criteria, AimLite clearly demonstrates its commitment to providing quality products and services to its customers.

Read More


 

EIN FE LEED 400

Franklin Empire Inc., the largest independently owned electrical distributor in Canada, and MONTONI are excited to launch the construction of the company’s new headquarters designed to support future growth. This family-owned 4th generation company is also celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. In summer 2023, Franklin Empire employees will move into their new facility of nearly 190,000-square-feet, conveniently located along Autoroute 40 at the junction of Autoroute 13 in Saint-Laurent and close to the Ericsson and VSL campuses developed by MONTONI. The building, which will be targeting a LEED certification, will triple the firm’s warehouse space and double its office area, while improving the customer experience and providing employees with a work environment adapted to the new reality of today’s job market.

Read More


 

Copper $US Dollar price per pound

Kerrwil Publications Great Place to Work. Certified December 2019 - December 2020

538 Elizabeth Street, Midland,Ontario, Canada L4R2A3 +1 705 527 7666
©2022 All rights reserved

Use of this Site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy Policy (effective 1.1.2016)
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Kerrwil