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When you're in business, it's like a marriage

Merrill Cunningham of ADI, Inc. has certainly been married to the idea of hard work and success for a long time. His opportunity to run his own business came after a stint in the corporate world led him to working with a friend to grow a new business.
When you're in business, it's like a marriage
Adi family business

Merrill Cunningham of ADI, Inc. has certainly been married to the idea of hard work and success for a long time. His opportunity to run his own business came after a stint in the corporate world led him to working with a friend to grow a new business. Cunningham purchased the distribution side of the company and it became ADI, Inc., a wire distribution company shipping products all over the United States. ADI Inc. is known by customers for impeccable quality and service. His son, Scott Cunningham, soon found the appeal of working with family. “I decided to join the family business after having a job in a larger company as a recruiter. I realized that I wanted to have a say in the bigger business decisions and be a part of making a family legacy…after trying to make my own path, I decided that being part of the family business would help me achieve my larger goals,” said Scott. When Scott joined the team, he turned to the Kansas Small Business Development Center to improve his management skills. “My degree was in computers and not business management. I have had my growing pains in learning what works and what doesn’t, mostly by trial and error.”

Merrill was familiar with the KSBDC after they helped secure financing and SBA sponsorship on the loan for his business purchase. Over the years this relationship grew from conversations to workshops, seminars, patent help and marketing. “What I enjoy the most is having a source to get information from. I have called Tom Byler to get advice on industries, equipment, credit for customers, business operations and business law,” said Scott. Tom Byler, director of the Pittsburg State University KSBDC, said of the relationship that “Scott is always looking for ways to get better, so he’s very open to new ideas and suggestions and always good about giving feedback and input. This makes my job as an advisor enjoyable and worthwhile.” This partnership made Byler believe that ADI, Inc. was a great candidate for participation in Network Kansas’ Economic Gardening program. “As a result of these interactions, we have made several changes to our business. We scrapped our big expensive website in favor of a simpler, more search engine optimized one. We have signed up to compete for government contracts on both a state and national level. We have changed the way we market ourselves and where our focus on growth should be,” said Scott.

As with any good marriage, it’s important to know where everything (and everyone) stands. “Over the years I have talked with other business owners that are coming to their year-end and say ‘I hope we made money this year.’ We place a lot of value on knowing where we stand at all times. We use this for planning, purchasing, personnel, cash flow, expenses and budgeting. You can’t have too much of this type of information,” said Merrill. Fortunately for ADI, this marriage has grown to include family, both internally and with customers. Merrill’s son Scott Cunningham is now President of ADI, Inc. and believes “the secret to our success is the family business mentality. We have relationships with several customers that is as close as any friendship. Businesses should try to be more than just another company to their customers. What you have to do is be a partner with your customers in business.” This value of partnership and marriage of resources and knowledge is what has helped ADI, Inc. and the KSBDC to expand ADI’s sales and influence both locally and nationally.

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