AD Canada’s Rob Dewar on Investing in Canada and More

Rob Dewar

Mar 11, 2021

By Line Goyette

Rob Dewar is President of AD Canada as of this past January, when AD announced it had made the strategic decision to establish AD Canada as a distinct business unit, serving the more than 150 members of its three Canada-based divisions. I recently had the chance to virtually meet Rob. I met a passionate leader about his new challenges. “There are many projects in progress and specific to the Canadian industry and industry players. Interesting initiatives for the fall of 2021 will be announced shortly”. As Rob Dewar confirmed, “We took a high road as an organization and are making a lot of investments in Canada. I’m probably one of the proudest Canadians you will ever meet.” Read on as we ask Rob about AD Canada investments in its members and suppliers.

Q. As we start this interview AD Canada in total has 155 Canadian-based members with collective sales of over CAD$6.25 billion. You have a stable of 379 Canadian suppliers. With these results and the fantastic history that goes back to the days of COPEL, what’s your opinion on why AD has been able to consistently achieve above level market growth and consistently attract the best of the best independents?

A. We are passionate about bringing growth-oriented independent distributors and best-in-class suppliers together to outperform the market and to stay ahead of the competition. We are constantly evolving and enhancing the resources that we provide our members and suppliers to ensure we remain the best in class and provide the most relevant resources for the challenges independent distributors face. We have 155 of the best independent distributors from across Canada. We leverage their incredible knowledge and passion to help guide us and ensure we provide world class, relevant resources. We also leverage our unique economies of scale, robust financial systems, and people-first approach to help our independent distributor members outperform the competition.

Q. Rob, you have had a great career and most recently served as the current president of AD’s Canadian Industrial and Safety Canada Division and just prior to that served as president of the Independent Distributors Inc. (IDI), prior to the merger with AD in 2019. How did that role prepare you for this new role at AD Canada?

A. Serving as IDI’s President gave me an incredible foundation of knowledge and real understanding of the will and dedication of the independent distributors to service the Canadian market. Through the AD merger in 2019 and in my role as President of AD’s Industrial & Safety Division Canada I was able to obtain a solid grasp of the wonderful programs and services AD provides its members and suppliers. Throughout the transition and continuing today I have ben able to build a strong network of people, both at AD and in the industry, to help me. It truly has been an incredible experience, we have so much knowledge and wisdom within the AD community; our members, supplier partners and the AD team. There’s always someone I can reach out to for guidance and support.

Q. Members of AD Canada on the electrical side represent many of the strongest independent electrical distributors and collectively they are the number 2 distributor in Canada after the recently brought together Anixter /Wesco Group. AD Canada also has other divisions, including Industrial and Safety and Plumbing and Heating alongside the Electrical. How do you see that working moving forward? Will you be able to leverage the strength of AD Canada’s $6.25 billion sales across divisions? The market dynamics are prompting end users to buy differently and source differently as technology in building, factories, and process automation drive integration across Electrical and HVAC, for example.

A. We will absolutely be able to leverage our resources across all three divisions of the AD Canada business unit and the synergies that already exist. There is a tremendous opportunity to share learnings and best practices, not only within each division but across the entire business unit, while at the same time continuing the division-specific activities that have driven our success. From a resource standpoint AD is going to have dedicated, Canadian-based resources focused on each division, as well as being able to leverage cross-divisional talent, all focused to serve our members and suppliers. AD’s commitment to the Canadian market is at an all-time high.

AD is constantly evolving to meet the challenges our members and suppliers face and will continue to do so. With the incredible support and dedication of our members and suppliers I am confident that we can overcome any obstacle and the AD independent members we have the privilege to serve will continue to grow and thrive.

Q. I know it’s early but what is your take on the biggest challenges that are facing the electrical industry specifically and distribution overall?

A. In my opinion the biggest challenges we face today is managing through COVID and managing the supply chain. Keeping our employees and customers safe is a priority while doing all we can to ensure a reliable supply and distribution of product to our customers. Global supply has been disrupted and product supply in many cases is on allocation or very limited. We are working hard with our members and suppliers to work through these challenges.

Q. Keen to understand your feeling on supplier rapport and relationships. Strong suppliers can drive your members’ top line. How do you see this important component of the AD Canada on your watch?

A. We have strong relationships with our supplier partners, and it is something that we take very seriously. We work very hard with our suppliers and view them as partners. We have many AD programs that assist our suppliers in working with our members and we have dedicated resources that support our suppliers in their efforts to drive business and grow relationships within the AD community. I cannot stress enough that our suppliers are our partners.

Q. You are not new to the distribution industry. What is doing well and where do you see more opportunities to grow for your members?

A. We listen and work closely with our members and suppliers as true partners and we are always looking for ways to improve. We work hard to ensure that the resources and services that we are providing are relevant and helpful to our members and suppliers to grow their business. We have 155 members and 379 suppliers participating in AD Canada across three divisions, we have an incredible opportunity to leverage this vast amount of knowledge and experience to support and grow the AD community. We are able to leverage significant Canadian focused resources while also leveraging the incredible AD Team in the USA. AD has made an investment in Canada, an investment that will allow us to continue to provide best-in-class resources and services to serve our members and suppliers.

Q. Can you shed any light on how the AD Canada electrical team will look? We understand your 20 current employees will continue to be dedicated to specific divisions while others will serve all the members and suppliers within the business unit. Can you share any insights?

A. We will have a dedicated team to serve the AD Canada Electrical members as well as additional resources that will serve all three divisions. Our focus and support of the Electrical division and all divisions in Canada has increased. We will provide all the services and support our members received in the past and we will leverage additional resources to drive AD programs to support our incredible members and suppliers. AD is invested in Canada!

Q. We are keen to understand how the Canadian-based office and warehouse will function. Will it include electrical products moving forward? Our understanding is it had previously focused on the Industrial and Plumbing and HVAC segments.

A. Our new Canadian training centre and warehouse has many resources for our members to leverage. There is a large training room, boardroom, and offices for our members to use. Our members can leverage these resources for meetings, market planning, offsite events, etc. These resources are here for our members.

The warehouse is a resource for all members and suppliers to leverage across all business divisions. The current product offering is primarily focused on the Industrial, Safety and Janitorial markets. Our product offering is determined by working with our members, Product Committees, and suppliers to ensure we always add value to the distribution channel, creating a win-win situation for both our members and suppliers.

Q. What do you see for AD Canada moving forward, or asked another way what are your personal goals for AD here?

A. My personal goal for AD Canada is to continue to provide best-in-class resources and services for our Canadian members and suppliers that deliver exceptional growth and endless opportunities. Our goal is to leverage existing and incremental resources, to uncover new ways of supporting the AD community in Canada and to do everything possible to ensure the Independent market continues to grow and thrive. We have an incredible team, the best members and suppliers, and we have invested to drive the Canadian market.

Q. You are now running the largest distribution company in Canada. Could you tell us about you, your family, your hobbies and what you do outside the office?

A. That is a truly humbling statement and one I cannot accept alone. I am part of an incredible team of AD associates, members and suppliers all focused on a common goal. This is an opportunity of a lifetime.

I am very honoured to have recently celebrated 25 years of marriage to the love of my life and have three incredible children who are exceeding my every wish and dream for them.

I enjoy exercising and I am trying to improve my golf game. I also support the Ontario Home Builders Association and proudly serve on the Board of the Guelph Home Builders Association.

Line Goyette is Managing Editor of Kerrwil Publications’ Electrical Group.

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