Business continuity is the ability of an organization to continue its operations after experiencing some kind of disruption or disaster, whether a natural disaster or a man-made event. Business continuity is vital to every company’s strategy because it ensures that it can operate normally, even during emergencies.

A Mercer study found that nearly half of all businesses worldwide don’t have a formal business continuity plan. In addition, only 20% of companies have tested their methods against real-life scenarios. This means many organizations aren’t prepared for the worst-case scenario. In 2021, one North Carolina organization realized they were one of the many businesses without a solid business continuity plan and sprung into action.

Making Contact 

Southland Electric Supply Company is a second-generation family-owned business based in Burlington, North Carolina, founded in 1987. Southland distributes electrical supply products, including industrial & commercial circuit breakers, motor control centers, E-houses, transformers, motor starters, switchboards, panel boards, variable frequency drives (VFD’s), programmable logic controllers (PLC’s), fuses, etc. and rebuilding all of the aforementioned products. Southland takes pride in delivering quality service and dependable products through six regional offices throughout the southeastern United States.

Christine Elder, the owner of Elder Consulting Group, recommended that Southland apply for an Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) grant for business continuity training. Elder connected Southland General Manager Greg Martin with Regional Manager Mary Tillery from NC State University Industry Expansion Solutions (IES), an NCMEP network member, to achieve their goals.

Through Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) created the EAP to provide services that support manufacturers’ ability to respond to the coronavirus and improve their competitiveness as the market adapts to the coronavirus disruption “We learned of NCMEP’s EAP through a contact I had in Charlotte named Jeff Woolard, an IES regional manager.”, Elder continued.

Seeing the Bigger Picture 

Southland used the EAP grant to implement a more robust leadership program, work on risk identification and business continuity to work toward an ISO certification for manufacturing companies and government contracts. “We wanted to improve on risk management and business continuity planning because Southland was in the process of planning to make a push in the automotive industry and automotive companies require businesses that work with them to have a solid business continuity plan,” Elder stated. 

IES provided Southland with a risk analysis and GAP assessment to identify pain points and then created a custom business continuity plan. Elder said, “IES is so good at detecting what a company truly needs and tailoring that with the solution they provide.” 

By working with IES, Southland has adopted a “big picture” perspective – considering all disruption possibilities carefully. Elder disclosed, “One of the practices Southland participated in early on was an exercise called “3X”. Southland was learning to think about the business as three times the size it currently is: three times the staff, three times the payroll, three times the customers, three times the revenue and build your business plan around that. Through that thought experiment, Southland learned that envisioning a 60 million dollar company instead of a 20 million dollar company allowed us to make better decisions about business planning.”

Reaping the Rewards

Fortunately, Southland successfully navigated supply chain issues during the pandemic. When things started to open in 2021, Southland began seeing tangible returns on their IES implemented training. “Participating in the business continuity and risk mitigation training that IES provided protected Southland from experiencing supply chain crisis. Through the training, Southland planned how to manage the supply chain disruption and now their sales are up 41% from last year as of August 2022,”  Elder says. 

With the IES training, Southland realized $500,000 in increased sales, a total cost saving of $200,000, the creation of 6 new jobs, and a total investment of $1,025,000.

Elder expressed, “Mary and Jeff have been fantastic. I’ve worked with IES on projects for different clients and have seen firsthand how they have helped many small businesses. You can’t always have someone with 30 years of industry experience on staff but you can have them for two weeks or two months with IES.”

General Manager Greg Martin added, “We consider IES and NCMEP strategic partners and will continue to apply for assistance. We are blessed to have been selected as a participant and plan to use resources for current/future planning business development/retention and general operational improvements.”