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Nearly 60 years ago, in a small town outside of Paris, France, named Brégy, the first known toilet macerating system was created. The system was developed by a relatively unknown designer of water treatment plant equipment, SFA. Today, the company is known as Group SFA, and is recognized as a leader in the plumbing market in France, Germany, the U.K., and its 21 other subsidiaries.
In 2000, Group SFA brought SFA Saniflo to the U.S., investing in advertising, training, and code development in order to make an introduction. The company firmly believes that its products can be installed anywhere, ultimately saving time for trade professionals and money for consumers. And, along the way Saniflo has built a customer base that agrees.
To thank their U.S. customers who were early-adopters, Saniflo decided to put together special promotion. Regis Saragosti, CEO of Saniflo USA, and Christopher Peterson, director of sales for Saniflo USA, were assigned the task of planning the promotion.
“After brainstorming, we remembered a lot of our customers have asked us for a trip to Paris. So, we decided to link this idea with a promotion in order for our customers to be able to make the journey with us,” Saragosti explained.
“Based upon my visit to Brégy back in 2007, I was always impressed with the scope and presence of SFA throughout France and Europe. I wanted our customers to have the same experience I had several years ago,” Peterson said.
The two came up with an international vacation to Group SFA’s home base in Paris, France, and titled the promotion, “Trip of a Lifetime.”
Earning a spot
The promotion was officially announced in the fall of 2014. Saniflo invited wholesalers and reps to participate. In order to qualify, participants had to hit a target amount in sales of Saniflo products in 2015 that exceeded what they brought in for 2014. The final prize for the promotions was an opportunity for each winning company to bring as many as 10 employees to Paris.
Saniflo wanted to include as many customers as possible, and worked around the clock to offer help to those who applied for the promotion. One major way that Saniflo assisted participants was by lending sales and marketing services, such as trade advertising, tailored post cards, and co-op marketing programs. Saniflo even shared market-specific data with participants on some of their best-selling products in the U.S. When it came to the types of projects that participants were told to focus on, Saniflo said that remodels and residential additions were most popular applications for their products. The Sanicondens Best was one of the products that Saniflo highlighted as a powerful, yet quiet innovative condensate pump that features a neutralizing cartridge in the pump. The Saniswift was also spotlighted as a drain pump with size, performance and cost that make it ideal for graywater removal.
“Saniflo is a fairly new product line for us, but our relationship has been good,” noted Chris Barlass, vice president of Purchasing at C&L Supply. “In our area, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee, we don’t have many basements, so trying to get people to think of this type of unit for other things, like if you’re adding a room in a garage, is hard work. But, doing the advertising has helped.”
The promotion took place from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. Then, in February of this year, the winners were finally announced. The winners included: Northeastern Supply, C&L Supply, Security Plumbing & Heating Supply, Standard Plumbing Supply, Vic Bond Supply, Ahead Sanitation Systems, Peabody Supply (Hajoca), Bender Plumbing, APR Supply, The Tap of Kansas, The Distribution Point, Thos. Somerville Co., Locke Supply, Robertson Supply, Supply New England, Plimpton & Hills, The Portland Group, Columbine Supply, Mid-City Supply, Green Art Plumbing Supply, McCullough & Associates, HMK Agency and Matthews Sales.
“It was very interesting to see that the winners came from all over the country,” Saragosti explained. “Our customers and partners really put in the work to earn their spots!”
The winners were divided into two groups in order to allow for a more intimate experience. The first group traveled to Paris on April 25-27, and the second group visited on April 28-30. PHC News, Plumbing Engineer and The Wholesaler attended with the first group to provide exclusive coverage of the event.
Saniflo reserved day one of the trip as personal time for guests to explore. With lodging at the L’Hôtel Du Collectionneur, a five-star luxury hotel, guests were within walking distance of the famous Champs-Élysées shopping district and could see the Eiffel Tower in the horizon.
“Having never visited Paris before, I was pleasantly surprised by the French hospitality,” said Steve Coppage, vice president of Business Development at Northeastern Supply, Inc. “Not speaking a lick of French, I and my wife had no issue getting around, visiting several museums, walking the streets between sightseeing opportunities, and stopping in local cafés.”
Glimpse of a global operation
On the second day of the trip, guests were bussed out to Brégy, France for a tour of the Saniflo manufacturing plant and warehouse. Brégy is about one hour away from Paris, not far from the Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport. Upon arrival at the facility, guests were welcomed with a breakfast of French pastries and juice.
With full stomachs, the group was divided into sets of five to seven people for the tour. At one station on the tour, guests were shown how the plastic and rubber used in Saniflo products is molded. Guests were also shown the room that houses the Saniflo molds, which is fire protected. The company takes such precaution because Brégy is its largest factory and facilitates the majority of its manufacturing. While on the tour, guests were also able to interact with factory staff. The factory employs many of the people living in Brégy. It is open five days per week and operates 24 hours per day, with three shifts taking place in that time.
It was fascinating to see the assembly area of the factory, as all of Saniflo’s macerators are assembled by hand. The factory puts together an average of 1,200 macerators per day, which is close to one macerator per minute. It was also interesting to watch employees carry out quality control checks for requirements such as weight through a random selection process.
“We toured the entire facility and spoke with the people in their testing lab who were testing products with well over one million cycles on them, just to find out which part would break first,” Coppage explained. “I left very impressed not only by their products and processes, but also by their commitment to their employees. They are the foundation of the local town and community where the products are made and shipped worldwide. I would encourage anyone visiting Paris to take a day and tour the facility!”
Before boarding the bus, guests were given a special presentation from Peterson and Saragosti. Peterson shared some background on Group SFA, as well as case studies of Saniflo installations in the U.S., including Starbucks, LensCrafters and QuikTrip. Saragosti rounded out the presentation with a look at the new messaging Saniflo is sharing with the U.S. market. The short and simple version is that these products allow professionals and consumers to avoid the cost, hassle and clutter that come with breaking through concrete to install conventional, below-floor drainage.
“We knew our factory was impressive, but seeing the light in the eyes of our customers during this visit was priceless,” Saragosti said. “My customers often think I’m passionate about my job, and I am. But, now they understand why. We offer the best products in the category. We are innovating and improving our process all the time. It was important to share this with our customers, so they understand the reason why Saniflo is investing massively worldwide and especially in the U.S.”
Seeing the sights
On the trip, Saniflo showcased the best of Paris; from the Eiffel Tower and Le Lido to the Arc De Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral. To start the final day of the trip, guests we treated to lunch at La Gare Paris, a modern French delicatessen restaurant.
A highlight of the sightseeing was the guided tour of Musée de l'Armée, which is the national military museum of France. The 120,000-square-foot museum, which used to serve as a retirement home for veterans and still offers a hospital, features seven spaces and departments that contain 500,000 artifacts collected between the 1300s and 1900s.
Guests were first taken through the main courtyard, which features some of the cannons that are a part of the museum’s artillery collection. This collection features artifacts from the French Revolution and explores how the battlefield equipment was created.
A significant part of the museum tour was also spent at the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides. The cathedral was designed as a combined royal chapel and veterans’ chapel that allowed the king and his soldiers to worship together. In the 1800s, the king’s entrance later became part of the cathedral expansion to include the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was fascinating to see the red quartzite tomb, which is still fully intact.
“Saniflo made us feel welcomed and showed us some real history that I would not have wanted to miss,” Coppage said. “In the past, all of our dealings have been with our local rep, Rob Weed, with Weed-Studnicky Associates, and Regis Saragosti. It was very nice to earn the opportunity to visit Paris and see the Saniflo factory.”
Barlass added, “If you are a wholesaler like us, I’d definitely recommend participating when Saniflo does the promotion again. It really was very nice, truly a trip of a lifetime.”
The trip concluded at La Grande Roue de Paris, where the city’s Ferris wheel is located. Yet, the fun with Saniflo will not stop there. Saragosti and Peterson expressed that the company will continue to host promotions in an effort to familiarize the U.S market with its global footprint and show gratitude to its customers.
“We have a wonderful team on each side of the ocean,” Saragosti confirmed. “The trip was such a success that we are looking into a Paris promotion in 2017 for a trip in 2018.”