General News - Members & Suppliers

August 12, 2022

Sphere 1 – Leveling The Playing Field

Our series on “Get to Know your Board of Directors” continues…


In the words of our own.. Suzanne Brunnemer…

A Level Playing Field – Our company is roughly 0.00002947019 times the size of Home Depot. How does a small company compete with big box and online giants like Amazon? As a part of Sphere 1, Mann Tool and Supply matters. I don’t believe for a minute this single location tool house in the practical capital city of Columbia, South Carolina, (Go Cocks!) would be surviving and thriving if not for the strength in numbers our Sphere 1 membership affords us.

Sometimes it’s tough to stay focused and positive when you are running a business. Things come at you from several directions, all day, every day…leaky faucets, personality conflicts, damaged shipments, broken websites…You’ve all been there! Knowing Sphere 1 surrounds us with the best and brightest in our industry boosts my confidence and gives me a certain peace of mind. That has a direct impact on how I lead, and my team responds in kind. I preach Sphere 1 to our team. My goal is to give them the same confidence I have, knowing we can go head-to-head with the big players and win. Between our agility as a small business, and our buying power through Sphere 1, we know the odds can swing in our favor.


My Dad joined Sphere 1 before I was directly involved in management – I thought he was a little crazy for handing over what seemed like a lot of money to a co-op just entering its second year. My journey has taught me his intuition was right on the money. Once I started attending meetings and learning about the programs Sphere 1 offered, I went to work putting Sphere 1 University and Gateway for Growth into practice. This helped with team engagement and deepening our relationships with suppliers. Further, I made a point of prioritizing our Sphere 1 supplier partners when attending trade shows and hosting in-store events, pressing them for the additional support we needed. As a result, our Sphere 1 suppliers have really stepped up when it counted most. Most importantly, I began reaching out to other members, supplier management, or Sphere 1 management, when I needed a solution (goes back to that confidence thing!). Leaning on one another allows us to make the most of the built-in support system Sphere 1 provides. As Rob Moe called out at the 2022 annual meeting, iron DOES sharpen iron.

Over the years, Sphere 1 management has been proactive in developing programs for member and supplier collaboration by thinking outside of the box in order to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. More importantly, they keep going back to the chalkboard to re-design the plays as the game changes, making a point to recruit and foster small to medium size members alongside their larger distributor counterparts. But most importantly, Sphere 1 management continues to make themselves visible and accessible. Stepping down out of the press box and onto the sidelines, Rob, Mike, Sharon, and Katherine encourage us to get out there and shine on a level playing field.