Founded in 1955, Locke Supply serves contractors throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and northern Texas. The company started with a small shop in Bartlesville, Okla., and since then has grown into a network of more than 165 locations in five states. The company also boasts one of the broadest selections in the industry, with products from more than 600 suppliers including industry-leading brands such as Eaton, Bradford White, Allied Air and DeWalt.
Orman says the competition Locke Supply faces is varied and numerous, ranging from larger national distributors to small independents.
“There’s a plethora of competitors because we cover so many markets,” Orman says.
Mom and Pop Mentality
Started by Don and Wanda Locke more than 60 years ago, Locke Supply continues to behave like a small family company despite its size and scope today. Orman says maintaining that “mom-and-pop character” is one of the company’s biggest priorities because of the advantages that gives. For example, the company is proud of the strong relationships it has with its suppliers, and Orman says those are as strong as they are because Locke Supply takes the time to interact with each one on a personal level and truly listen to each supplier’s thoughts on the marketplace.
That mentality also extends to the way in which Locke Supply deals with its contractor customers. Orman says the company is dedicated to resolving problems with customers in a straightforward, ethical manner, and that’s something that is rooted in the company’s strong internal culture. In turn, that treatment inspires customers and suppliers to treat Locke Supply with respect. “We feel that our expectations and the way we do business and our ethical standards are quite high,” Orman says.
Locke Supply wouldn’t be able to offer the level of customer service it does without a strong team of professionals providing that service, and Orman says the company believes strongly in recruiting and developing the best people for the job. “We place a lot of emphasis on character,” Orman says.
The company is a member of Character Core, a program developed by Oklahoma City-based Strata Leadership. The program focuses on developing and recognizing core strengths in individuals that lead to positive values and good character in the business world. Orman says concentrating on developing and fostering strong character in employees does a lot to ensure Locke Supply maintains its small-company culture despite its size. “If you put a lot of emphasis on character, the rest of it kind of follows suit,” Orman says.
With the importance Locke Supply places on having the right people on its staff, recruiting strong personnel as the company grows is one of the company’s biggest concerns right now, according to Orman. To stay competitive in the labor pool, Locke Supply counts on its strong compensation and benefits to draw in the best and the brightest. “We feel that we have a very strong benefits package to offer our associates,” Orman says.
Locke Supply’s status as an ESOP provides the company with another strong advantage when it comes to recruiting quality employees. Orman explains that offering new employees the opportunity to share directly in the company’s success is a perk few other distributors in the marketplace have to offer. On top of those, Orman says the company continues to look for new ways to bring quality people into the fold.
“We’re trying to venture out in a couple of different ways to attract new talent,” he says.
Locke Supply will need new people quickly as the company continues to expand throughout the Southwest. Orman says Locke Supply is adding capacity in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, for example. He says having more locations than the competition is important for the company because it provides customers with easy access. “Mr. Locke had the early vision to say, ‘I need to take our products to the customer,’” Orman says.
The company is growing so fast that it is building an additional 110,000 square feet of warehouse space, but Orman notes that it still won’t be enough to keep up with the growth. “We’ve been in a growth mode over the last several years, and we’re going to continue to do that,” he says.