Andy Hayward Celebrates 40 Years at CES
In 1979, Andy Hayward saw a credit manager position open at City Electric Supply in Leamington Spa, England, and he decided to apply for it — but he had just one small problem.
“I didn’t know anything about credit management,” laughed Hayward, who is now the Vice President of Finance.
“The guy that interviewed me assured me it was fine, but he also wanted the GM to interview me. So, I go back for a second interview, and I get absolutely beaten up. I didn’t know if I even wanted to work here after that,” Hayward joked. “But I got a call back the next day and they gave me a job as a clerk. I breathed a sigh of relief!”
Right Place, Right Time
Andy Hayward likes to describe most of his career at City Electric Supply as “right place, right time,” but there’s no question he put in some serious work to get where he is today.
“When I got the job, I just put my head down and got to work,” he explained. “As a clerk on the receivables side, we only had two divisions: one upstairs and one downstairs. It was very old school. We’ve come a long way since then.”
For a few years, Hayward stayed committed to his position as a clerk. Then, a controller approached him to be his assistant, a position that didn’t even exist at the time.
“I had no idea what was going to happen,” he admitted. “Eventually, the controller that hired me as his assistant left to go join the church! Then, the guy who replaced him said he didn’t even need an assistant.”
Fortunately for Hayward, he received a call right after that to become a credit manager for the Southwest division in Kenilworth, England.
“When I got there, it was a very competitive atmosphere,” Hayward recalled. “Very dog eat dog world. We just had to knuckle down and get on with things.”
That lasted for about two and a half years until he was given another huge opportunity. However, it didn’t seem that way at first. Hayward remembers that someone named Phil Flaherty — now the Chief Financial Officer at CES — was given a chance to relocate abroad to Canada first.
“The chief accountant, Roy Jenkins, told me that he was naming Phil as the temporary controller for Canada,” Hayward said. “I’m wondering, why isn’t he sending me? After all, credit management is the springboard for everything in the beginning, it’s just how you really grow and expand new locations. Then Jenkins tells me, ‘Well, I thought you wanted Florida. In six months, you will be there.’”
Sure enough, albeit a year or so later, Hayward found himself in the Sunshine State. At the time, City Electric Supply was just opening its 30th U.S. branch in Coconut Creek, Florida.
“That was 23 years ago,” he said. “I was beyond happy to find myself in Florida. England was far too cold for me.”
Hayward’s First Years in the U.S.
In 1997, Hayward was the credit manager working out of the accounts office in Mount Dora, Florida, which was in an old house. Even though he liked Florida, Hayward had to deal with a total culture shock before he could finally settle in the U.S.
“Stores were open all the time,” he said. “That was a big difference. In the UK, everything closed at 5 p.m. except for the pubs! But in the U.S., we used to go to Walmart at midnight just because we could. It’s true what people say: the U.S. and the UK are two cultures separated by a similar language.”
Besides the stores being open 24/7 and driving on the other side of the road, Hayward was a little closer to the equator than what he was used to.
“Florida is very welcoming, and the lifestyle is fantastic. Except for the heat and the humidity,” he admitted. At first it didn’t bother me, but it does wear you down eventually.
In those early days for Hayward, he wasn’t just getting used to a new country and a new climate. City Electric Supply was booming. After all, he was there to help springboard new locations and develop new territories.
“The new branches came quick and fast. In one period of explosive growth, in just about two years, we opened about 200 stores. It was practically a competition to see who could open branches the fastest in those early days.”
As Hayward helped launch one of the biggest growth periods in the 70-year history of City Electric Supply, he was reminded why he enjoyed working for CES so much.
“This holds true today, just like it did 40 years ago when I first joined: commitment is rewarded in ways no other company would reward you,” he said. “Anyone can make it if they put in the hours and stay late. Anybody can be anybody at City Electric Supply if they commit to it.”
The Good, The Bad, & the Memorable
“I had a few run-ins with CEO and founder Tom Mackie throughout my career, and each time I learned something from him,” Hayward reflects.
The first time? Hayward thought he could impress the CEO and founder Tom Mackie while he was running an audit meeting earlier in his career.
“I was definitely blowing my own trumpet,” he said. “I told him we did this and we did that, and then at the end of the meeting, Tom looks at me and says, ‘Well, isn’t that what I pay you for?’ It brought me right back down to Earth.”
That certainly wouldn’t be the last time he shared a memorable moment with Tom Mackie. He even shared a beer with him later on in his career as they were both flying from Boston to New York.
“That one evening in the airport, he was telling me some of his war stories,” Hayward said. “I’ve always had so much respect for him. Not just what it took for him to open this business with nothing in his pockets, but also just the courage and commitment it took for him to do what he did in the war.”
“And even though he did all of these amazing things in his life, no matter who you were, he wouldn’t treat you any differently. I have been with the company for a long time, but those meetings still changed my life.”
As it turns out, Hayward’s first-time meeting Tom’s grandson, now CEO and President Thomas Hartland-Mackie, wasn’t any less memorable than the moments he shared with Tom.
“We were at the TAMCO warehouse in Port St. Lucie, and Thomas was covered in dirt and dust just counting inventory. I turned to someone and went, ‘Who is that?’ They told me it was Tom’s grandson. Knowing his grandfather, I wasn’t surprised a bit.”
Hayward certainly has some more stories to tell, including one where 9 people were piled in the back of a Rolls Royce on the way to a Ruby Tuesday’s in what he can only describe as a “sort of clown car,” but that story might be best left for when you see him at a conference wearing a crazy suit.
The Crazy Suit Guy
“It’s my trademark now,” he joked. “When the 2014 North American Managers’ Conference rolled around, I was asked to emcee the event. I consider myself a showman, and I’m always willing to do something that makes me look funny. Ever since then, it’s been a long-standing thing that I do, but only at conferences. And as it turns out, people are actually excited about my suits!”
Speaking of his crazy suits, it certainly seems that Hayward’s wardrobe precedes his reputation.
“I cannot stress how wonderful our people are,” he started. “Last conference, I took my suit off and I wasn’t in the best mood. Some of our guys came up and were like, ‘Hey! It’s the man in the suit! Come have a drink!’ And they cheered me up and got me out of my funk.”
But aside from wearing crazy suits at conferences, Hayward and his long career at City Electric Supply doesn’t go unnoticed, either.
“I was at the last conference and I was asked to say something about my time here.
My advice: try and do a little bit extra every single day. You never know what chance you are going to get. Do that little bit of extra every single day and you will get there.”
As for Hayward’s favorite achievements in his career, it was just helping the branches do what they do best.
“In my 40 years, I didn’t accomplish anything great other than supporting our branches,” he said. “I will walk away happy if someone says you have done a great job supporting us.”
“I do know this,” he continued. “In 40 years, a few things haven’t changed, and this is one of them: I never know who I am going to speak to and who I am going to work with. I never know what will happen next, but I do know that I’m always available to try to make a difference, and that’s exciting.”
Hayward isn’t talking about retirement just yet, and for good reason. He wants to show people that having a lifelong career at one company is still possible.
“People live day to day and don’t see what is in the future, but if you have vision, there isn’t anything you can’t do. CES is full of people who have gone from being a driver — or a clerk — to a VP. If you have that vision for yourself, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Hayward is a living testament to that culture. Even though he may not be at CES for another 40 years, he’s still excited for what lies ahead, and he’ll continue spreading that message.
“Anything is possible. All you have to do is commit and do the work. This is still a company that you can work at for 40 years, still do well for yourself, still aim to higher places. We need to get the message to those joining now that we are a company you can spend your future with. The last few years, I’ve made sure everyone knows that it’s possible. It has been forty fabulous years.”