Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Poised for Growth? Absolutely.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Aggressive product roadmaps, big future business ideas, and changes in strategic direction are common growth strategies. But Lawson Products, a 67-year-old, NASDAQ-listed, consumable maintenance supplies (MRO) distributor takes a different approach to growth, one with tremendous impact that truly delivers a WOW! factor: continuous incremental improvement.


Beginning in 2010, Lawson Products embarked on a revitalization program that has resulted in top-line growth, adjusted EBITDA growth from 0% to over 10%, operating leverage over 30%, all while maintaining gross profits of 60% over seven years. Continual growth and progress.

We accomplished these results through two foundational growth strategies: continuous process improvement through the adoption of Lean Six Sigma and a commitment to continuous incremental improvement in all aspects of the company and its value proposition.

Process map the enterprise

Lawson introduced lean in early 2013 with the primary goal of improving employees’ quality of work life. It was quickly and broadly embraced across the company. Twenty year-long projects later, lean is now part of the Lawson Products DNA. Teams have significantly improved customer support service levels, reduced supplier non-conformances, and improved quoting cycle time for special order items. A cross-functional group of employees representing HR and field sales reduced the recruiting cycle time by 56% by improving the company’s social media presence, simplifying the job application, and better defining the sales representative position.

We use lean as a competitive advantage. Our sales and service reps ask customers, “What’s in your way [literally and figuratively]?” and “What’s weighing down operational excellence?” Lawson Products enables its more than 70,000 active customers to plan better and work more efficiently. With its Lean Six Sigma advantage, Lawson Products has improved customer retention from 88% to 92%.

Big data, big advantage

The second foundational growth strategy, broad-based continuous incremental improvement, is based on the application of and company-wide commitment to data analytics. This has enabled team members across the company to explore process improvement and execution effectiveness across departments and functions. This approach to growth has touched all aspects of the company.

The human resources department changed our hiring and onboarding process. Product management and marketing refined their approach to lifecycle management, core products, and our ability to fill a hierarchy of needs for customers. The company advanced its commitment to the optimum balance of superior performance private label products with service intensive vendor managed inventory (VMI). And by embracing knowledge sharing software combined with a collaborative culture, more than 1,000 field sales reps in the U.S. and Canada answer each other’s technical questions every day.

Improvement, achievement, success

This approach to growth takes more time than big ideas or big changes in strategic direction; however, if the company’s value proposition and strategy are sound, continuous incremental improvement can result in a more robust enterprise, enabling lower risk performance improvement and less volatility in financial performance.

It can also result in a broad-based evolution of the company culture.

In a sense, each team member is re-engineering the workplace. It defines us. It unifies us. And it makes a good company a great one.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.