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In the corridors of Cooper New England Sales, there’s a voice that resonates wisdom passed down from its founder, Gary Cooper: “Your only competition is the person looking back at you when you look in the mirror.”
“For 50 years, this hasn’t just been a motto but the DNA that is woven into the very fabric of the company,” states Scott Cooper, son of Gary and now owner and president of the Bethany, Conn.-based manufacturers’ representative firm.
The company is well-aware of what its competition is focused on in the marketplace, and the team behind Cooper New England Sales stays laser-focused, “We will continue with the conviction that if we continue to improve and sharpen our skills and focus, the results will take care of themselves,” Scott Cooper explains. And for 50 years, Gary Cooper’s wisdom has enabled the firm to pave its way.
In 1973, Gary Cooper was well-entrenched in his career as a manufacturers’ representative in New England, having spent 19 years working for a local rep agency. It was his time to carve his own path; however, it was an endeavor filled with uncertainty as a noncompete agreement was in play. However, true to Gary Cooper’s belief in facing his own reflection, a deal came about, paving the way for his legacy to begin. With three young children and a mortgage, he would form his own manufacturers’ rep company, the Gary Cooper Co. From a humble office in his basement, the company’s trajectory was set — onward and upward.
Gary Cooper would focus on what he knew best — to be the manufacturers’ representative of choice for PVC pipe, wastewater pumps and bathtubs. He was “selective” in the manufacturers he partnered with, Scott Cooper notes. After all, it was the family name on the door. Gary Cooper led the company on the basis of his core values, which would be the foundation of his company: “Act with honesty, integrity, and enthusiasm; treat everyone with respect; and think win-win.”
Over time, the company changed its name to Cooper New England Sales. Today, it proudly represents manufacturers of products serving the underground utility, plumbing and heating, construction and remodeling markets.
Longstanding, Stable Customers
In 1980, the company was hitting its stride and would soon move its office out of the basement and into a new building, adding a new employee — a secretary. Growth was taking place with new partnerships formed; Liberty Pumps would sign on with the agency and continue as a partner today. GPK Products is another longstanding partner, celebrating 31 years with Cooper New England, and many manufacturing partners are celebrating within the 10- to 20-year mark.
“This kind of stability means that we choose wisely when we sign a contract to represent a manufacturer, and our customers have come to rely on us when they see that we are bringing a product into the market,” Scott Cooper explains.
So valued and trusted is the partnership between a rep and its manufacturers that Gary Cooper built his company on a philosophy that this generation has boldly stated on the company’s website: “Leveraging one product line for the benefit of all of the others it represents makes us invaluable to our partners in the market.”
In 1988, Scott Cooper would leave the bustling streets of New York’s motion picture industry and join the family business, where today he sits at the helm as its president. In 1993, Dave Kinnier, CSP, would join the firm; today, he and eight other team members and one mascot, Augie, uphold the company’s motto: “To be the source for the products we represent and the services we provide. And delight our customers and partners, exceed their expectations and consistently deliver an exceptional experience.”
Agility and Teamwork
Cooper New England Sales started with a commission-only model. In 1995, it moved into a small freestanding building — adding warehousing, evolving from 4,000-square-feet of space to a sprawling 30,000 square feet by 2005. “We operated a full-scale warehousing operation consisting of buy/sell, consigned inventory and delivery,” Scott Cooper says. During this time, the company was built on three pillars: education, professionalism and distribution.
The 2008 economic downturn brought introspection, and the company would need to change. “With the downturn, we realized we had to right-size our business to match the economic climate,” Scott Cooper explains. “By the end of 2011, we were entirely out of warehousing and sold our building. With the move back to conventional office space, we readjusted our focus on the pillars of education, professionalism, and customer service.”
The nine team members at Cooper New England Sales are a tight-knit group. “We have great chemistry; everyone is willing to pitch in to help another teammate at a moment’s notice,” Scott Cooper says. And it’s all about working together to achieve a higher level of personal and professional achievements. “Cooper New England has always provided high-quality products to sell, along with continuing education and training opportunities to our sales team,” adds sales rep Kinnier. “We believe in a team concept where we all act as a resource for each other to make the team strong.”. And he should know; he has worked within the company for about 30 years.
Team members helping others succeed includes the same drive to assist their customer’s success, again supported by the company’s motto of education, professionalism and customer service.
“All outside salespeople train and receive their Certified Professional Sales Consultant credentials upon three years with the company, and their Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative credentials after 10 years,” Scott Cooper explains. In addition, the company has tailored a curriculum with the American Supply Association (ASA) University as part of its onboarding program for inside and outside team members. “We also support and encourage team members to pursue other training and coursework they feel will be helpful to them in their jobs or for professional development in general,” he adds.
Teamwork also applies to the many organizations the rep firm is a member of and active volunteer within. Scott Cooper is a board member of the Association of Industry Manufacturers’ Representative and advocates for the group and its membership. In addition, he and the company are active in ASA and other industry organizations.
Exceeding customers’ expectations is essential to Cooper New England Sales, and it helps support its customers’ success in several ways. With an onsite training facility in Bethany, Conn., the rep firm provides specialized training sessions on the many products and manufacturers it represents. These training courses offer customers hands-on knowledge and training, allowing for a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of Cooper New England’s products.
Training also takes place on the road — from sponsoring trips, to visiting its manufacture partners and training at their facilities, to bringing the training directly to its customers via its custom trailers. One is a Liberty Pumps trailer Cooper New England has had for three years, and the other is a bathing solutions trailer. “We do sales calls in the field, going directly to architects, engineers and jobsites as needed,” Scott Cooper notes.” We also do joint sales calls with wholesaler salespeople, counter days and trade shows.”
It all comes down to partnerships, and Cooper New England Sales understands the value of relationships, not just transactional purchases. “We believe that being a valued partner starts by listening to your customer,” Scott Cooper notes. “Not every customer needs the same thing from us. Most often, if you take the time to listen, your customer will lay out the roadmap to be successful for you. Too often, salespeople will try to bulldoze their way through the process, and we find that doesn’t work in the long run.”
The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and there is no slowing down. “We have always taken the approach that to be successful, not only do our salespeople need to be the best-trained reps in the market, but so do our customers,” Scott Cooper explains. “This is our commitment to anyone who partners with our agency.”
Cheers to Cooper New England Sales’ 50 golden years!