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
Technology is our greatest ally and accomplishment, but do the costs outweigh the benefits? In my ...
Britech Corp, one of Canada’s largest heating cable companies has signed a formal agreement with ...
Leaders and innovators from business, government and the education sector gathered for this ABB ...
Hitachi has a deal with industrial giant ABB to purchase 80% of their Power Grids division for ...
I can still remember August 5, 2014 like it was yesterday. This date marks my first day as a ...
In setting growth plans for the coming year, one should ask, “What percentage of my customers might ...
The stigma behind dealing with contractors has forever been “they are a tough group to build a ...
Perhaps the better question is, “Why does it matter what young marketers want?” The answer is that ...
The Channel Marketing Group / William Blair Q3 2018 Pulse of Lighting Report shows that the ...
Following months-long renovations, Deschenes officially opened a renovated service counter at its ...

 

Taylor GerrieBy Taylor Gerrie

Technology is our greatest ally and accomplishment, but do the costs outweigh the benefits? In my opinion, they absolutely do! As consumers we use technology in almost everything we do. We use it for entertainment when we watch television, we use it to control the temperature in our homes, we use it when driving to destinations we have never been to. Technology has made our lives so much more convenient and efficient. Technology has brought out these benefits in the workplace as well. This technological phenomenon has also had a huge impact in the electrical industry. 

Read More

 

 

 

CybersecurityDuring a recent Industrial Control Systems Joint Working Group meeting, representatives from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and International Society of Automation (ISA) outlined a new program to address the growing risk of unprotected and under-protected building control systems in the U.S. and abroad.

Building owners, users, and manufacturers of control systems continuously work to find practical ways to create safe and more secure environments.

 

Read More

 

Carol McGloganBy Carol McGlogan

No one likes to hear that they are behind. And that is exactly what the results are when it comes to diversity within Electro-Federation Canada’s membership. Most within our industry already know this, but does everyone understand what the impact could be on our businesses? There are many studies and reports that show that diversity improves competitiveness. A study by McKinsey shows that top quartile performance in diversity yields between 15% and 35% improvements in profit. 

 

Read More

Kim QuelchBy Kim Quelch

What a great conference that Electro-Federation Canada (EFC) has put on once again this year in beautiful Quebec City. We as YPNs (Young Professionals Network) had the opportunity to take part in the proceedings with a panel discussion centred on the future of the electrical industry. Three members from EFC’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) participated in this panel discussion a few weeks ago (Dave Branscombe, Independent Electric; Lori Bagazzoli, Viscor; and Jonathan Perlis, Standard-Stanpro and Chair of Quebec Region’s YPN committee).

Read More

 

AztecAztec Electrical Supply is one of the most dynamic, fastest growing electrical and automation distributors in Canada. The supplier has four Ontario locations, in Concord, Cambridge, Burlington and Mississauga.

They specialize in supplying quality automation and electrical products to electrical contractors, manufacturing plants, OEMs and custom machine builders. Their comprehensive inventory includes electrical and pneumatic products for breakdowns and emergencies, as well as everyday contractor and MRO requirements. They also work closely with their partners to source specialty products that may be required for major projects.

Read More

Changing Scene

  • Prev
Phoenix Contact Canada is pleased to announce that Roger Hallett has accepted the position of ...
As Group President, Mr. Connolly will lead all business units within the HPS Group. Mr. ...
Electric Elle brings together women of the electrical industry for a 9-hole round of ‘Best Ball’ ...
Located in Guelph, Ontario, the Green Energy and Technology (GRE&T) Centre will make energy ...
Richard Do joined Westburne’s Senior Leadership Team as the new Divisional Sales Manager for ...
The Great Canadian Data Centre Symposium was held on June 19-20 at McMaster Innovation Park, ...
At Electro-Federation Canada’s recent Annual General Meeting in Quebec City, the Nominating ...
Pilz Canada officially opened their Canadian Facility surrounded by Industry Partners, colleagues ...
Dr. Jayson Meyers, CEO of NGen — Next Generation Manufacturing Canada — will present on the topic ...
Last week, over 540 industry members and guests gathered at the EFC Conference in Quebec City, ...

MersenMersen Knowledge Center – Electrical Power is Mersen Electrical Power North America’s official online self-registering E-learning portal for electrical distributors, engineers, and end users. Our newest training module, “Application Basics: Photovoltaic Fuses in Solar Applications- M307E," will help you learn about the main components of a typical photovoltaic installation, understand the different segmentations of solar market, and identify Mersen fuses and fuses holders designed for use in photovoltaic installations.

 

Read More

 

 

Roger HalletPhoenix Contact Canada is pleased to announce that Roger Hallett has accepted the position of General Manager, taking on leadership for our Canadian operations.

Prior to joining Phoenix Contact, Roger held a series of senior management roles with Festo, Siemens and ABB. Originally from the UK, Roger’s international career has involved living and working in Germany, South East Asia, and Japan. After a 5-year posting in Japan, in 2002 Roger relocated to Canada and after some years decided to settle there. He became a Canadian citizen in 2007.

 

Read More

 

Jules MarchildonTechspan Industries is pleased to announce that Jules Marchildon has joined our Fusetek division in the position of Ontario Regional Sales Manager.

Jules comes to us with over 30 years of experience selling Power Electronic products, most recently as the Electrical Sales Manager at Mersen. He has also worked for a Distributor and for a Manufacturers Rep Agency, which has given him a broad understanding of the entire electrical channel. Jules brings with him proven leadership and technical sales.

 

 

Read More

 

 

Looking Back

  • Prev
The best memory I keep from CEDA is the way that they accepted me when I came into the business. ...
In the 1930s to 1940s, CEDA’s Western Canada membership was very stable with old line independent ...
Prior to the late 1950s there was little if any involvement in CEDA by the so-called “national ...
  As 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we take a look back at an aspect of ...

Copper $US Dollar price per pound

Kerrwil Publications

538 Elizabeth Street, Midland,Ontario, Canada L4R2A3 +1 705 527 7666
©2019 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