Wilber A. (Gus) Stuart II
Centrex Electrical Supply Corp.
Industry: Electrical Supply
Perseverance Helps Centrex Electrical Supply Survive Over Four Decades
With a strong work ethic that began first in the military, working as an officer in supply and transportation and later as an electrical contractor, Wilber Stuart II developed the expertise and leadership skills necessary to forge a successful enterprise.
In 1978, he formed Centrex Electrical Supply Corporation. Today, as President of Centrex, Stuart has built on this extraordinary foundation with the unmatched experience of more than five decades in the industry.
Centrex Electrical Supply is a full-line, wholesale distributor of quality electrical and data/telecom equipment and supplies—stocked and ready for delivery from its 40,000-square-foot warehouse. Centrex sells its equipment and supplies throughout the country. Locally, the business has been involved with some of the most significant projects in the St. Louis area, including Lambert Airport, Gateway Arch, AT&T Building, Metro Link, and Highway 40 makeover.
When he began the business 46 years ago, Stuart put his home and car up for collateral to secure a $100,000 loan to get the business started.
“The bank didn’t think I would survive six months,” Stuart said. “It wasn’t easy, but we persevered. It was scary at the time. I pledged everything toward the business. The first six months were rough.”
Stuart would routinely come to work in jeans and work in the warehouse, then put on a coat and tie and make his sales calls. He secured Lambert Airport as a client six months after opening the business and slowly grew it.
“That was my first big project,” Stuart said of the airport.
Looking back over his career, Stuart said his father influenced his building the company most. His father owned Stuart Electric, an electrical contracting company in the 1960s and 1970s.
“My father was very entrepreneurial. He started his own business in the 1930s. He never had a job. He always worked for himself. I also had a couple of uncles who were self-employed. So I wasn’t afraid to go into business for myself. That was all I ever knew. It was natural for me.”
According to Stuart, the longevity and success of the company come down to simple perseverance and hard work. No smoke. No miracles. No fancy business strategies or philosophies. Just hard work.
“We have customers that are tried and true, and that is because of the relationships we’ve built over the years,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to build those relationships.”
His advice to other business owners: “Be all in.” “You either need to be all in or not in at all,” Stuart said. “You need to pledge your soul and your money to the business. If you don’t, you’ll never make it. You’ve got to pledge it all to do it all.
Sometimes I felt like throwing in the towel, but I had too much at stake. If you have everything at stake, you don’t want to fail. Failure is not an option.”
Said Stuart: “Forty-six years ago, the original banker thought I’d make it six months. Here I am 46 years later and I’m still here. I’m very proud of that.”