Supplier of the Year - The Magnet Group
Meet CEO Bill Korowitz And Co.
With a maverick CEO at the helm, The Magnet Group has inspired legions of fans and produced a jaw-dropping number of magnets, quickly and accurately, each year. Read on to learn how they do it ...
If you want to know what sets The Magnet Group (asi/68507), this year's Counselor Supplier of the Year, apart from other companies in the industry, you could look to its complete dominance in its product category, its perennial presence on the list of Counselor Distributor Choice Awards winners, as voted on by its clients, or its near-perfect rating in ESP, again, courtesy of its loyal distributor customers.
But to get to the heart of Counselor Top 40 supplier Magnet and what makes it tick, you need look no further than its owner and CEO, Bill Korowitz, who – at 6' 5" – gives new meaning to the phrase "larger than life," on a multitude of levels. With a background as a trained economist and a rapier wit that can best be described as Oscar Wilde-esque, Korowitz is about as far from the traditional, cookie-cutter, by-the-book CEO as you can get. Think Southwest Airlines' legendary founder Herb Kelleher, with a side of Richard Branson's sarcastic sass thrown in for good measure.
"I came from a business crazier than this one – direct mail – which was extremely aggressive," Korowitz says. "I think I brought a sense of speed to the company – it used to take a month to do a million magnets. Now we can do an order for tomorrow, like, yesterday. When you come up through the magnet business you make everything from scratch and do it quickly – you get really good at figuring out what people want and filling their orders as fast as you can."
Bill Wood started Magnet in an old car wash building in the mid-1980s and the company was purchased by Seidler Equity Partners, which also owns Counselor Top 40 supplier Sweda (asi/90305), in 1992. "By 1996 the company was growing like a weed, it had doubled in size, but wasn't making the profits it should have been making," Korowitz says.
For example, he admits, the employee roster had ballooned to 800 workers for $23 million in sales. "So Seidler hired a recruiter, a firm that coincidentally had tried recruiting me earlier, and they found me," Korowitz says. "It was fate at work."
Since that point when Korowitz joined the company, the organization's growth and success is undeniable, with a 6% bump in sales from 2010 to 2011, increasing revenues from $70.5 million to $74.7 million and further growth in 2012 and 2013. "Our sales are up and picking up speed," Korowitz says. "We're anticipating a strong 2013 across all of our brands."
Today, the company has 368 total employees, 30 of whom are customer service reps. Magnet LLC alone processes 500 orders a day with an order accuracy rate of 99.5%, selling about 300,000,000 magnets a year. "That's not a typo," Korowitz says. "Three hundred million."
And through every order, Magnet ensures that it communicates with its distributor customers and provides a level of service that clients can consistently depend on. "Magnet is a terrific partner," says Mark Ziskind, COO of Counselor Top 40 distributor CSE (asi/155807). "They are collaborative, proactive, and genuinely interested in helping us grow our business."
It's that approach to customer service that provided The Magnet Group with across-the-board ratings from distributors that garnered it Counselor's Supplier of the Year award for 2013. In fact, when looking at the data and applying the various rating points from distributors over the past year (factors like communication, on-time delivery and problem resolution), The Magnet Group consistently came out on top among all of this year's Counselor Distributor Choice Awards winners.
"The Magnet Group has been one of our key suppliers for a number of years," says Dave Regan, vice president of sales at Counselor Top 40 distributor The Vernon Company (asi/351700). "We're very impressed with the professionalism of their organization at all levels. They're proactive as opposed to reactive, and in this day and age, that's a difference maker for us when working with suppliers and clients."
When asked why he thinks The Magnet Group has been such a success with distributors, Korowitz points to the company's employees first and foremost. "The Magnet Group has the best people I have ever had the pleasure to work with," he says. "To get to Washington, MO, you go to the middle of nowhere Missouri and make a left. And then keep going. Our people come from hardworking, determined stock. If there's more work, they work harder to get it done. We have mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers – generations of hardworking people. We actually have employees who haven't missed a day's work in 15 years. It's this consistency and amazing work ethic that makes our company great."
As for the future of the company, Korowitz ticks off a few items in the pipeline: "I see our product lines expanding along with a major overhaul of our website in early spring, which will give our distributors exactly what they want," he says. "We're going to leverage the considerable time and effort we placed on lean manufacturing, product safety and compliance, and customer service to really partner with our distributors in the marketplace. This industry needs a creativity makeover, and we want to lead that revolution hand-in-hand with our distributors."
And, has the man who's steered The Magnet Group to becoming 2013's Supplier of the Year made any mistakes? No doubt. "In retrospect, I do think buying five companies and launching two new brands in 18 months in the late '90s was a tad aggressive," Korowitz says, also conceding that his personality isn't the most conventional. "Listen, I'm definitely not your typical CEO," he laughs. "Can you just make me seem smarter than I am?"
No need. Distributor customers have already spoken. – E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @ASI_MBell