By Janice Hoppe (view magazine article)
Paramont EO is behind the electrical distribution of some of the most notable places in the Chicago area, including Millennium Park, Brookfield Zoo, Trump Tower, the McCormick Place expansion and the Soldier Field parking lot. “Sometimes you look back and you are surprised it has been 50 years, and that you are still excited about the work, happy to help people and build the marketplace,” CEO and owner Ken Gallagher says. “It’s both rewarding and a little humbling at the same time.”
The Woodridge, Ill.- based company formed in 2013 after the union of two electrical distribution companies: Paramont ES and Evergreen Oak Electric Supply, both located in the Chicago suburbs. Paramont ES was founded in 1982 and focused on high-end commercial businesses while Evergreen Oak was founded in 1964 and focused on electrical distribution.
Today, Paramont EO is a family owned electrical supply company focusing on the commercial, residential and industrial markets. The company provides a complete array of electrical supplies and services, including switchgear and lighting design, 3-D lighting modeling, logistical services for product storage, material expertise and colored feeder cable with in-house installed pulled heads. The company represents thousands of material vendors that offer controls from molded case circuit breakers to ceiling fans. Paramont EO is large enough to furnish multi-million dollar projects, yet small enough to be nimble and flexible to meet daily needs.
Paramont ES and Evergreen Oak Electric Supply had a combined 10 locations until the two joined to become Paramont EO and the number of locations was downsized to three. The company now serves the market with these three locations in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, New Lenox, and its 80,000-square-foot hub location in Woodridge. “With the previous distributed location approach, we had the inventory needed to supply a construction project, but it shipped from multiple warehouses,” Gallagher says. “This cost our clients and ourselves money. We now house deeper inventories under fewer roofs ensuring complete and accurately filled orders.”
One of the advantages Paramont EO has seen from the consolidation is smart vehicle routing. Of its 22 delivery vehicles, 15 are dispatched from its main hub in Woodridge, which allows the company to have enhanced route control to better service its clients, Gallagher explains.
Before making these dramatic changes, Gallagher and Operations Manager Mark Willey met with every employee for a non-timed, one-on-one session to listen to what worked well for them and what they felt needed improvement. “They live in the trenches every day and we wanted to hear their opinions,” Gallagher explains. “Their input helped us tremendously.” Sustaining a family culture in the business is important to Gallagher and Patty Cunningham, co-owner and Gallagher’s sister. “We are truly thankful for our staff, our clients and vendors,” she says. “We value all as extensions of our family.”
To continue increasing efficiency, Paramont EO centralized its purchasing in 2012. Prior to the consolidation, each location had its own buyers, deals and favorite partners to work with, Gallagher explains. Today, weuse four buyers for the entire company. “We consolidated all agreements into one location, which allows us to have better control over what is on our shelves and manage dead stock more efficiently,” he adds. “We spent a little under two years working away all the dead stock accumulated over 50 years. We worked closely with our suppliers to remove outdated inventory and replace with movable inventory. We couldn’t have done it without a focused procurement group and strong vendor relationships.”
Paramont EO knows it’s the people – its suppliers, employees and customers – that make the business strong. The company listens to its people’s needs and does what it says it’s going to do. “One of our challenges of the last two years was learning and understanding the various philosophies represented from the separate companies,” Gallagher says. “The people from both companies were proud and honored to work for who they worked for. We combined two competitors into one business. We quickly had to evolve the two philosophies into one and only take the best parts. This was by far our biggest challenge and we are delighted with the outcome.”
The recent changes made by the company have allowed it to continue promoting that unity. Gallagher believes retention is high because people see the changes being made are for the betterment of the company. Paramont EO opened up its office space to create an open atmosphere where people can communicate freely, share ideas and give solutions for its clients. “We all have each others’ back and we all work together,” he adds.
Because the company listens to its people and clients, Paramont EO added space in its new headquarters dedicated for project staging. Clients with commercial projects involving tenant remodeling have issues with storage on the job site. Paramont EO designed the new warehouse with 180 skid locations to stage project material so the client can receive the material, as they need to install.
“This also enables us to better address our client’s logistical challenges of waiting for a common freight carrier to make a delivery as needed in downtown Chicago,” Gallagher notes. “Sometimes the clients can only have access to the freight area during non-standard hours and we can deliver a solution.”
In the future, Paramont EO looks to grow from what Gallagher calls its “simple business philosophies” of coming to work happy and expressing ideas and opinions to help the client. “If the clients need something we are going to respond and do something, whether that be delivery at 10 p.m. or at 4 a.m.,” he adds. “We have the ability to go outside of a normal box and say ‘yes’ to help them out.”
Paramont EO is not trying to be the largest supply house, but Gallagher says it strives to be “the best supplier for our customers to purchase from, and a business our people want to work at.”