Vice President, Buffalo Electric Supply
By Joe Nowlan
Patrick McCarroll’s grandfather founded Buffalo Electric Supply, so the company has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember.
“I guess I first heard about it the day I was born,” McCarroll laughed. “I grew up here learning the ins and outs of the company. Some of my earliest memories here come from when I was in elementary school, sweeping the floors and taking out the trash after school.”
Today he is vice president of Buffalo Electric, located in Birmingham, Ala. He still has fond memories of those early days—whether it was hanging out with the counter staff or staying with his father while he finished up for the day.
“I remember some weekends it would just be me and my dad in the building. I figured I may as well make myself useful and started sweeping the floors to help pass the time,” said McCarroll. “In my small world, I wanted to find a way to help out, even if that meant just straightening up the shelves—little tasks like that.”
McCarroll’s grandfather founded Buffalo Electric with his best friend in Houston, Texas in 1942 after working for Buffalo Electric & Engineering in Buffalo, N.Y. It eventually made its way to Birmingham when McCarroll’s grandfather established a branch of the company in 1955.
After earning his finance degree from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, McCarroll studied accounting at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“After I got here, I wanted to dig into the actual finance side of the business. So I took [accounting] night classes for two years after graduating,” he explained.
McCarroll’s accounting skills came in handy a few years ago when the company bookkeeper passed away somewhat suddenly.
“It was a little scary. The bookkeeper [Teresa Jackson] passed away, and that was a huge learning experience for me,” he said. “I had to step in there and help out. There were a lot of lessons to learn for sure.”
While some in the industry are hesitant about Amazon Supply, McCarroll and Buffalo Electric make no secret of their success and challenges as early adopters. It gives a smaller company like Buffalo Electric flexibility with its inventory. If a customer wants them to stock a particular item, McCarroll explained, the company can do that.
“We go out and ask our top customers, ‘What are we not stocking that you would like us to?’ And they can make demands and within a week, we’ve got it stocked for them,” McCarroll explained. “I think it kind of goes back to living out my dad’s business model [to] be dedicated to stocking what our customers need in order to fulfill their goals.”
When he has some free time, McCarroll enjoys combining work with his newest hobby.
“This year, I picked up golf. I have really enjoyed that, especially because I can decompress and make a sales call at the same time,” he said.
McCarroll also enjoys participating in auto racing at nearby Barber Motor Sports. “Those are Indy tracks. That’s something that I’m starting to get into. Of course, that is not a cheap hobby,” he laughed.
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Utilize the competitive advantage we have as the younger generation that has grown up in a digital age. Leverage that technology to your advantage. Our digital focus has been a big key as to how we’ve been able to improve things at Buffalo to better serve our customers—taking advantage of technological tools helps our team work more efficiently.
Another thing I would advise is if you see a better way to do something, then speak up. Tell a manager or supervisor if you think there is a better way to do something. And show them how. These open communications lines are another way we are improving our bottom line. If the guys who are in the warehouse are seeing an inefficient way of doing something, we will come up with a better way to do it. More times than not, the way they suggest is a better way for the company. Change is not bad—you just have to present it the right way and communicate it effectively. There has been a lot of trial and error and a lot of learning. I’ve had to take risks in order to make mistakes, learn from them and improve.
Q. What do you think is the biggest opportunity within the industry?
A. You already know the answer to that one—the Internet. It is a huge problem or huge opportunity, depending on your perception. Electrical supply companies can make major improvements, whether it be getting rid of old stock, surplus inventory or locating hard-to-find items. Just because we can’t sell something here, doesn’t mean there’s not somebody looking for it somewhere else around the country. The Internet has changed our industry and at Buffalo Electric, we are embracing that change to continue to live up to our responsibility to all clients to have what is needed in stock and ready for delivery at any given time.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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