Even with 16 locations and 170 employees throughout southern Louisiana, Teche Electric Supply boasts a small-company feel that encourages entrepreneurialism within the work force. As far as President Bruin Hays is concerned, this is just the right size for his family’s company to succeed.
“Our strength is that we’re still a relatively small business and we can respond to customer needs with strong customer service,” Hays says. “The larger you get the more you have to make everybody conform to certain policies and procedures. But here, each branch is operated by a manager that has a relative amount of autonomy to do what he or she feels is necessary.
“If there’s an issue that has to be taken care of on a local basis, that manager handles it,” Hays continues. “Usually, they just do what’s in the best interest of the customer and the company.”
Teche Electric was founded in 1962 by Hays’ father, Magruder “Mac” Hays, in a 5,000-square-foot building with four parking spaces. Today, the company’s headquarters occupies 52,000 square feet on 5.5 acres of land to go along with 15 satellite locations across southern Louisiana. The company is still family owned and operated with Tommy Hays as senior vice president, David Hays as vice president and Mary Hays as the showroom manager for the Lafayette location.
With the recession in full swing, Teche Electric intends to grow market share in niches. Since the commercial and residential industries have been hit the hardest by the poor economy, Bruin Hays is guiding his company toward the marine market.
“It’s required getting some additional staff that know that industry,” Hays says. “It’s like a flywheel; it slowly starts spinning. You need to have a relentless persistence to get into that market by doing the right thing, like having product or service information on anything they need or finding products that aren’t available to them yet.”
Hays says Teche Electric has been attempting to break into the marine industry for two years. He admits grabbing market share – like any other sector – has been trying because potential customers will remain with their current suppliers unless they are blown away by an alternative.
“It’s mostly just the fact that everybody is busy and not looking to find new suppliers out there,” Hays says. “When you’re in an incumbent position, you have to maintain a level of service in most cases. So, we have to give a customer a reason to at least consider changing, and that’s tough to do.”
“If we can’t offer competitive prices, quality service or a reason to change, and we can’t take of their business, we don’t deserve the business,” Hays says. “Customers don’t owe us the business; it is up to us to best figure out how to earn it.”
Renewable energy products is another new market for Teche Electric. Although Hays acknowledges it is an attractive market, he says his company is only involved in renewable energy products on a limited basis because the margins are not where they should be – yet.
“We were anxious to try going back to it a year ago and had some studies done,” Hays adds. “But there are certain limits as to what the product can produce and certain limits as to what the government will rebate back. If you have a large project, the numbers don’t work. They will one day, but who knows when because it’s not even close.”
Bigger in Texas
Hays admits Louisiana has been good to his family’s business, but he hopes to break into the Texas market very soon. Considering Teche Electric has had so much success in the competitive Louisiana market, Hays expects even more sales once he enters the Lone Star State.
“If you can do business in the state of Louisiana, then you can do business anywhere,” he says.
“But I’d like to get into Texas because it is a pro-business state,” he adds. “I know some players in the market, and it would be relatively easy to step into it now. It’s a great state with great people, and it will be a great opportunity for our company to be a part of that economy.”