2011 Manufacturers Rep of the Year: B.J. Terroni Co.
As we drive south through the Philadelphia suburbs into the city on Interstate 95, John Terroni points to his right. A series of row houses are in clear view out both passenger-side windows.
Terroni motions to a barely visible athletic complex. He recalls scoring his first soccer goal there and getting his first baseball hit at that facility.
Bart Terroni Jr., seated behind the front passenger seat, remembers being present for that bit of baseball history. Chris Terroni, seated behind John, joins in on some good-natured ribbing during this drive beside memory lane.
Welcome to Northeast Philly where those row houses still beam with the same local pride and a distinct sense of family - just like when Bart, John and Chris Terroni were growing up there.
It was from this neighborhood where 2011 pme Manufacturers Representative of the Year B.J. Terroni Co. began as the dream of their late father, Bart Terroni Sr.
Starting From NothingBart Terroni Sr. had already been successful in the industry, first as a direct salesman for Taco and then for various manufacturers reps, when he decided to venture out on his own. John Terroni, the company vice president and CEO, recalls the day his father first talked to him about starting a family business.
“He was 50 at the time and was sales manager for another rep,” he says. “It was a down economy. If he was willing to sacrifice everything he had for this crazy idea, working with two kids with no experience, I knew he was serious.”
To say the least, things started out slowly for the Terronis back in February 1981.
“We had no capital,” company President Bart Terroni states. “The first order we received (from Taco) could fit on this table. Putting that order’s inventory on the shelf took about nine minutes.”
A key component in the birth of the company was the hiring of current Comptroller Harry Snavely, who was already a veteran of the rep business. Taco suggested Bart Terroni Sr. meet with him.
“We were brand new to the industry,” John Terroni says. “Bart and I shared one phone. We would take turns taking sales calls. Bart Sr. was out making sales calls. We would get the info and tell the person on the phone to hold and then ask Harry how to handle it. We were surviving from one month to the next.”
All About AttitudeOne word Bart Terroni Sr. frequently used has stayed with the brothers all these years and is part of the company’s core philosophy.
“When anyone asked him what he owed his success to he would tell them three things,” John Terroni says. “The first is attitude. The second is attitude and the third is attitude. If you don’t treat your customers right, they will not view you in the proper manner and your position in the market becomes vulnerable. He instilled in the three of us the values we employ today. Even though he passed away in 1993, his view of running a company has been the cornerstone to our success.”
The Terroni brothers have taken that philosophy and ran with it over the years. Constant contact with clients and superior customer service radiate throughout the company, whether it’s Joe Lotz and Jim McAlinn running the well-oiled 17,000 sq.-ft. warehouse or the pleasant greeting and conversation from front desk receptionist Tara Flanagan.
“If we didn’t have the right people as an organization, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” John Terroni states. “Technology will change, but it is still a people business - your manufacturers, company staff and your customers. It comes down to the attitude you exhibit.”
Mark Hershman, owner of M.P. Hershman, PE, Consulting Engineers in Southhampton, Pa., was recently working on a design for an older building and invited B.J. Terroni outside sales tech Paul Silvestre to assist with the retrofit.
“We were putting in variable-speed pumps and Paul offered to take a look and make sure we were applying them correctly,” Hershman says. “We know engineering and we’re good at engineering, but we can’t possibly know as much as Paul and Sean Conner (B.J. Terroni’s commercial sales manager) because they deal with a broad range of products. It’s invaluable. It’s almost like quality assurance on our designs.”
Alderson Engineering Vice President of Engineering/Director of Sustainability Travis Alderson, PE, LEED AP, knows he can count on B.J. Terroni to come through in a pinch.
“This business moves at a fast pace these days,” Alderson states. “When we need things for specification and design, we can depend on them. They are very team-oriented in making a project successful. That support during design and construction is important. If something gets stamped wrong or a contractor makes a mistake, they make us look good in front of our clients.”
Steady GrowthB.J. Terroni has grown in recent years to a company of more than 30 employees. Company sales have increased 2 1/2 times from the period 2001 through 2010. However, that growth in recent years brought the brothers to a crossroads.
“There are times during a company’s growth where you ask, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Bart Terroni explains. “You need to continue to grow, but how do you do it?”
As they were evolving, the brothers - all equal partners in the company - decided they needed to build an infrastructure from within, which resulted in the establishment of a management team.
“We were growing too rapidly for the three of us to do all of this on our own,” Bart Terroni says. “We needed to develop a management team - each with different objectives in different departments of the company.”
In addition to the three brothers, Mark Amoroso is the inside sales manager and oversees the inside operations staff. Tim West, who shares operational duties with Amoroso, is also the outside sales and marketing manager for residential products. Snavely heads the finance division, while Conner runs the commercial side with a big assist from Silvestre, who also is ASPE’s Region 1 director. This ensures the company’s 12 lines (longest-tenured manufacturers include Taco, Modine and Skidmore) receive constant care and attention.
“All decisions the company makes are generated by this management group,” John Terroni says.
That includes the decision of building expansion. The company’s Bensalem, Pa., 20,000-sq.-ft. headquarters - nestled in a small commercial area - is about to get a neighbor. The brothers purchased a vacant building directly across the street and have big plans for their new acquisition, including the establishment of an onsite training facility.
“Harry wasn’t happy,” laughs Chris Terroni, the company treasurer and secretary. “He asked if we thought he had a bucket of money.”
Bart Terroni adds: “People ask us, ‘You bought a building?’ We took advantage of the market and we needed the space. This gives us 40,000 square feet of office and warehouse. We can expand at our own pace and do it right.”
Never Stand PatDuring lunch at The Diner, a Bensalem family-style eatery, B.J. Terroni outside commercial sales tech John Appleby, who covers northeast Pennsylvania, joins the management team for lunch. Appleby reports he has three big jobs on the books, including one at a local chocolate factory.
Appleby works in one of Terroni’s five internal markets that encompass the territories of central and eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware. Each market within the territory has a sales tech on both the commercial and residential side.
“We have a much higher visibility with our customers than ever before,” Bart Terroni states. “In poor economic times, people downsize. I find times like these to be the biggest opportunities for success. We felt it was time to attack. We’re calling on our specifying engineers, while continuing to maintain our commitment to distribution.”
The purchase of the new building is a major part of the company’s attack plan going forward. Terroni hired Anthony Reikow to be its training specialist. As a precursor to having an onsite training facility, the company purchased a van and trailer so Reikow can take his expertise and live-fired product lines directly to the customer.
“We’re bringing education directly to the field,” says Chris Terroni, who also handles the Lochinvar part of the business. “The onus is on us as a rep firm to be the education source for our customer base.”
Bart Terroni adds: “We will be able to bring the customers to us. Our customers will see our commitment to inventory. It’s time to sell our two biggest assets, our inventory [which averages more than $2.5 million from month to month] and our personnel.”
Forward ThinkersInvesting heavily in green technology has proven to be another mark in the succes column for B.J. Terroni.
“We’re very aggressive with green,” Bart Terroni says. “If a manufacturers rep isn’t, I think they are behind the eight ball with things such as LEED and high efficiency. It puts us in a desirable position. We made a decision to focus on high efficiency.”
Chris Terroni adds: “If we don’t keep up with new green products and ever-changing system technology, we’re done.”
The company also saw a key opportunity to distinguish itself in the marketplace by how it presents inventory.
“We’re not a component supplier,” Chris Terroni states. “We’re a system supplier and integrator. Here is a boiler and here’s the education about supplying controls for it and here’s some other piece of equipment that helps it operate at maximum efficiency.”
“That’s the brass ring and it is still out there,” Bart Terroni interjects. “Our ultimate goal is to deliver that concept to the companies we represent.”
Eyes and Ears on the StreetTaco President Johnny White entered the business around the same time as the Terronis.
“These guys came from nowhere,” he says. “They never take for granted their success. They are in a tough market there, but they have a sheer, dying determination to succeed. We could never have the feet on the street a rep provides, particularly when it’s people like the Terronis. I can go to sleep at night knowing we’re absolutely being protected to the best of their ability.”
Conner stresses the relationship between manufacturer and manufacturers’ rep has to be a two-way street.
“We’re tied to the manufacturer,” he states. “We don’t make anything, but we’re their arm. We’re the boots in the soil to get it done for them. In our area, we put a face on products. We want to be the experts in the here and now.”
Lochinvar is a company with a varied product line, which dictates partnerships with rep firms educated in different disciplines.
“We have a very broad line that covers the various industry segments,” Lochinvar Vice President of Sales Mike Lahti says. “It takes a unique rep to go and serve those markets. B.J. Terroni represents the best interests of the manufacturer and always keeps the customer in mind. It has made investments that suit our needs well.”
The Terroni brothers are determined to continue to evolve as a business. Just ask Snavely - who the brothers describe as a man of few words. His response when asked why the company continues to thrive is the equivalent of a thousand words.
“In two words, hard work,” he says. “We never have been at a point where we level off. We keep growing and growing.”