October 12, 2022
You can call Richard Lawless many things––trailblazer, communicator, innovator. Just don’t call him ready to retire. This easy-going founder and president is still having too much fun growing the Lawless Group, his decades-old Dallas-based product rep agency.
Jason caught up with Richard to uncover the secrets to his industry longevity, smart talent acquisitions, and successful expansion strategies.
While moving products for manufacturers of construction, electrical, industrial, and safety products efficiently takes more than physical space, having 600,000 sq ft of dedicated warehouse in which to stock said items doesn’t hurt. Add to that the 18 additional regional warehouses operated by Lawless Group and you’ve got a logistics superpower that knows how to save time, save money.
Going the warehouse route has become a lucrative pillar of the Lawless Group solutions portfolio. “We’ve put stuff in this warehouse that we probably shouldn't have,” Richard laughs, “but, it’s given us the opportunity to get some lines in that we might not have been able to get without it and to then grow those lines.”
Operating a warehouse comes with plenty of financial hazards, which is why many of Richard’s contemporaries shy away from doing so. Their reticence is understandable; any blip in the economy or, say, a good-sized recession and, suddenly, folks are sitting on real inventory with real bills due.
Richard steered Lawless Group through the financial worries of 2008-09, and has so far navigated the Covid years, proving that maintaining stock is a sound investment. “We don't ever say no to a manufacturer. If they want to add more product, then we can make money out of it so we're gonna continue to go down that path.”
One of the keys that make Richard and, thus, Lawless Group, so successful is a focus on relationships first. Products are personal to both the manufacturer and the distributor; Richard has built his career on creating equitable solutions for both.
“We always wanna make sure that we treat everybody fairly and ethically,” he says. To that end, Lawless Group is careful about who they partner with. “We don't wanna open the house up to everybody; we wanna be particular.”
The Lawless strategy has worked well for 40 years and counting.
“We're real believers in the logistics component of our business. We believe that if we can have products somewhere close to the ultimate consumer and distributor, it gives us a little bit of an advantage.”
“Unless we can get the right deal, we just don't; it's just not worth it.”
“The challenges with expansion, particularly if you've got a good network of friends out there, is you're expanding into other’s sandboxes, and that can be challenging because these are your friends.”
“It's all about the people; you gotta find the right people and that's very, very difficult today.”
“I'm 68 years old but I will tell you I still love what I do. It gets challenging and I don't think anybody that's ever had a business will tell you it's easy cuz it's not, it's not easy.”
Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: Moblico, helping businesses do more business on mobile devices.