Petra Industries Evolves With Its Market
These days, starting a business often involves incorporating concepts like "exit strategies" and "acceptable losses" into the very foundation of the company—often before it even begins to function. Risks are assessed and profits are projected on tight schedules with little flexibility or room for error. The company's actual mission sometimes seems to be only of secondary concern, and this unflinching, often harsh formula has led to the rapid creation and destruction of many businesses—frequently within their first year of operation.
But things were a little different 18 years ago. In the late '80s, it was still possible to build a company from the ground up with little more than a dream and some sweat equity.
When Bill Stewart decided to take a crack at electronics distribution, following a pre-existing "business model" wasn't on his mind. Starting Petra Industries out of his Oklahoma City, Okla., garage in 1986, Stewart set the company's course with a slogan that became its mission statement: "Providing the highest level of service, integrity and product value to ensure customer satisfaction." Granted, these same words probably grace the mission statement of virtually every commercial enterprise, but for Petra, it's been a mandate, not a slogan.
Throughout the years, Petra has experienced nearly exponential growth in virtually all areas of its operation, including its staff, product inventory and facility. Despite this impressive progress, Stewart's original vision of customer service seems to have maintained its initial importance to the business.
"The customers have evolved the business," says Stewart. "And it continues to evolve and change day-to-day."
In continued pursuit of this goal in an ever-changing marketplace, Stewart assembled a strong team to focus on the electronics accessories segment of the market. As Petra expanded, Stewart's original small staff has developed into a large group, with individuals specializing in areas such as custom installation, car audio and e-commerce.