There was no fanfare, strictly business. The vehicles belong to Electrolux, which announced in mid-December that its new North American Cooking Products manufacturing center, an investment of more than $190 million, would be located in Memphis.
Charles Ewing shares instructions for storing Electrolux employee vehicles with his warehouse manager, Charlie Cook. (Photos by Earl Stanback)
A driver with a firm contracted by Ewing Moving Service unloads the Electrolux employee vehicles that he hauled 1,100 miles from El Paso in 17 hours.
“Hopefully we will be working with them, relocating their employees as soon as they are ready.”
If so, it would not have been by chance. Ewing has methodically moved to position his small business to do business with a giant in the appliance industry.
“I would urge and encourage minority vendors, small businesses to go ahead and seek the early process of doing business with Electrolux. Don’t wait until they get here and think that is when you start seeking the opportunity,” said Ewing.
“You seek them now. That’s Mitsubishi (which is building a $200 million plant), that’s Electrolux; anybody that you hear is coming to Memphis. It’s a truth to the early bird getting the worm.”
Landing the deal
The excitement in Memphis about Electrolux’s move here has been tempered in some quarters by uncertainty about how much African Americans, including African-American businesses, would benefit.
“One of the things I did was send both mayors a letter and told both mayors that minority business representation at the table was going to have to come through them,” said Ewing, “because none of us were at the table. And we expected them to uphold our representation at the table when they were negotiating with Electrolux.”
Wharton said the aim is to see to it that everybody benefits economically from Electrolux’s relocation.
“When we let our businesses know that we are serious about full participation and that we have people here qualified in every way to do the work, they will respond accordingly,” said Wharton. “The key is that it takes involvement from the top down: in this case, a simple call from me to the top folks at Electrolux got the deal done. Formal programs are great, but nothing beats person to person interaction.”
Ewing said reaching out to Wharton and Luttrell yielded a connection to Jacob Burroughs, Project Director of Finance at Electrolux.
“I asked him if he had any moving needs. I think they said most of their employees that are coming here immediately are going into corporate living; they’re already furnished. The next wave of employees will be going in homes,” said Ewing.
“This is a good example of the fact that even though they are not moving their household goods or their offices, we still can be accessible to them with whatever their moving and storage needs are.”
Getting the job done
Off the hauling truck and drive them right in on the floor, Ewing said to Cook shortly after the Electrolux vehicles arrived – 1,100 miles in about 17 hours.
“They wanted those (vehicles) picked up on the 11th and in Memphis on the 15th. We picked them up on the 11th and they are here on the 14th,” said Ewing.
In this instance, Ewing chose to lease a hauler and got exclusive use. The arrangement with Electrolux initially had not involved storage of the vehicles, but when the company’s needs changed, Ewing’s organization made an adjustment so it could accommodate them.
“We never say no at Ewing Moving Service. Whatever it is that you need, if we don’t do it, we’ll find somebody that does and you still don’t have but one stop, and that’s here with us. We’re looking at any other opportunities that we can diversify and work with Electrolux,” said Ewing. “That means if they’ve got washing machines, they’ve got to have boxes. We handle boxes. We want to get a box for every washing machine they’ve got, whatever it is we want to be a part of it. We’re trying to get in early and find out what their needs are and to help them meet any of their needs that we can as a small business.”
Ewing’s business model has built-in flexibility, which helps his company stand tall among competitors. His other keys to success are equally simple:
• Know who you are and where you came from.
• Understand the free enterprise system.
• Understand the relationship between politics and business.
• Strive for excellence.
• Sell professionalism.