How long do you have to work in an industry before you’re considered a true veteran in your field? Five years? Ten?
At The Macomb Group, our veterans have made pipe, valves, and fittings into a lifelong career. In this issue of the Macomb Pipeline, we celebrate three senior sales people who have been in the PVF industry for over 40 years — and they’re still going strong!
Executive VP and majority stock holder Keith Schatko notes that, at The Macomb Group, experience truly is valuable. “It means a lot to us when guys like these still want to work for us, even when they’re transitioning to retirement,” he says. “In addition, a lot of our customers appreciate how we treat experienced people. A lot of companies replace veterans with younger, cheaper folks. That’s not us. We like to keep our best people.”
“These experts bring experience that allows them to be creative in solving customer problems,” Schatko says. “A younger guy might only know a few ways to solve a problem, but an experienced person has seen a lot of alternatives and can often come up with solutions that younger team members just wouldn’t think of.”
In 1973, Dan Scherrer started his 40-year career in the PVF industry. But he got his true start much earlier, working as a caddy at a local country club to earn the club’s coveted Evans Scholarship. He worked hard to maintain his grades while becoming an honors caddy, then competed in both written and oral categories to win the full scholarship to Michigan State.
As an inside sales person for The Macomb Group, Keith says Dan is “as reliable as the sun coming up. He’s meticulous, he works out and stays fit both physically and mentally, and it wasn’t that long ago that Dan would wear a tie to the office every day.”
That reliability and steady pace of work are what customers love about him. Dan’s consistency matches the needs of the customers he serves, he says. “You see many of the same people, both vendors and customers. They may be at different companies, but they stay in the industry.”
Because Dan stays closely in touch with those customers, he has a great understanding of their industries, their companies, and their needs. That deep knowledge has become increasingly important, says Dan, because over the years, he’s seen a change in the way companies buy pipe. “There’s been a rise in the use of commodity managers instead of true purchasing agents,” he says. “As a result, our sales people have to ask many more questions in order to get the correct products to our customers.”
But Dan takes pride in helping customers not just with basic orders, but with specialty and emergency orders. One of the best parts of the job for him is “taking care of customers in a timely and accurate fashion,” he says.
Keith agrees. “He’s always available. He’s one of those guys that if you could clone him, you would.”
“I entered the PVF industry in 1967 because I was going to college full time and needed to work to help pay for a new family and for school,” says Jim Gutek, inside sales manager for The Macomb Group. “I’ve seen major changes in the PVF industry on the electronic end of things — including going from fax to email for orders. There have also been significant changes in the names of the industrial wholesalers in the PVF industry, especially in the Michigan and Ohio markets.”
But some things have stayed the same, he says. “The competitive pricing and the requirement for daily service have not changed.”
Keith says, “Jim is a buyer; he does a lot of our purchasing and has a wealth of knowledge in his head. He knows how to find things when other people wouldn’t even know where to look.”
Jim says that’s what makes his job fun. “The best part of the job is the satisfaction from both buying and selling. There are a number of ways to help a company when you know how to do both sides of the business.”
Jim loves to golf, and he’s a very early riser; sometimes he’s in the office and working by 4:00 a.m. He’s always looking for ways to get a competitive edge for his customers and takes great pride in hard work. “A long time ago, I told Bill McGivern that no one could out-work me, and I still stand by that,” he says. “However, in this business it’s necessary to be humble because you never know when you will need help in one way or another.”
We hope he’s passing that balanced view along to the newer members of our organization. He enjoys working with them, he says. “It is nice to see some of the younger people in the organization grow and mature in a business which at times can be very fast-paced.”
Terry Brouillard utside sales person Terry Brouillard started working in the PVF industry in 1969 for the American Standard Supply Division. Today, Terry is still invested in the industry, but he conducts business on a more flexible schedule. “He’s technically retired,” says Keith, “But he works with customers here part-time during the summer months. During the winter, he stays in touch with customers from his retirement home in Lakeland, Fla.”
Keith describes Terry as “French, but an Italian wannabe.” He enjoys cooking, is a sports nut, has three children, and is a grandfather. But even when Terry is in Florida, he still calls his customers. He stays in touch, and they feel that he’s connected to their company.
Like his fellow sales reps, Terry appreciates the benefits of technology. “Over the years, one of the most dramatic changes in the industry has been the ability to receive material take-offs and quotation requests electronically. This has saved lots of time for salesman doing take-offs in the field.”
“However,” he notes, “Although many changes have occurred in the industry, the relationships we form with our customers have not changed. They are still the formula for success. My work philosophy has always been listening to customers. Once you understand what their needs are, you can provide solutions in a timely and efficient way.”
Leadership for the future
These smart, experienced professionals bring value to customers every day in the PVF industry. In addition, says Keith, they offer a positive example to newcomers looking for a solid career path.
Keith says, “The hard part about our business is that it’s not glamorous, so not a lot of young people consider coming into the piping business. Outside looking in, they say, ‘Who buys all that pipe?’ But it’s the guts of industry.”
The Macomb Group supplies pipe and fittings for everything from food-grade systems to caustic chemicals. Every industry needs what we provide, so the industries and applications for what we provide are endless.
“It’s a good business with good people — down-to-earth, intelligent, hard-working people. It’s an industry where you can truly build a lifelong career,” says Keith.