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About 150 people, including reps, distributors and company personnel attended an Eemax open house, June 19, at the manufacturer’s Waterbury, Connecticut headquarters to honor the electric tankless water heater maker’s 30th anniversary.
The company packed a lot into the day, including celebrating key personnel, presenting sales awards, conducting site tours – and not to mention that the day coincided with Eemax’s partnership with a local PGA tournament.
The main site for the festivities was the Innovation Learning Center, which Eemax opened last November.
A 7,000-square-foot hub for training, creative exploration and water heating education, the Innovation Learning Center serves as a collaborative space for engineers, manufacturers representatives, wholesalers and contractors.
“We’re on track to meet our company goal of training 1,250 people in 2018,” said Jens Bolleyer, vice president and general manager. “A lot of that has happened at the Learning Center, but we’re also out in the field with our regional sales managers and reps training on products, and codes and regulations.”
Although the center is fairly new, Bolleyer says Eemax trainers have already made some enhancements for live fire and trouble-shooting training.
“We’ve also further segmented the training classes so they are truly specialized for either installers and engineers,” Bolleyer adds.
Eemax’s training goal is part of a larger plan from corporate parent Rheem to educate 5,000 people through its Learning Center network this year. Rheem operates other centers at its water heating division headquarters in Roswell, Georgia; primary distribution and warehousing hub in Lewisville, Texas; Raypak’s headquarters in Oxnard, California; and Canadian headquarters in Ontario.
Each center includes classrooms, live demonstration and instruction lab where equipment can be broken down and reassembled, digital portal, as well as a state-of-the-art product showroom that highlights the latest energy efficient water heaters, pool heaters, boilers and HVAC equipment manufactured by Rheem and its subsidiaries.
Awards and recognition
To mark the company’s 30th anniversary, Eemax honored Al Siegel, a co-founder of the company for his contributions to the business, as well as Al’s son, Aaron, vice president of business development and strategic accounts, for 25 years of work at Eemax.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi and serving in the U.S. Air Force, Al held a marketing job at a bank, but eventually went to work at Jackson Water Heaters based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While at Jackson, Al made a contact with an investor who was looking to launch tankless water heaters in the U.S. market.
“Al took the path less traveled and accepted an offer to be the sales director at Thermar, a start-up company in the gas (and eventually electric) tankless water heater business,” Aaron says in a recent edition of the company newsletter, Tankless Times. “When Thermar was sold in 1988, the rights to gas tankless products were acquired by another manufacturer and the electric tankless category became a new company … Eemax.”
According to the company’s website, Eemax was established in 1988 with a line of tankless water heaters for commercial applications ranging in size from 0.5 gallons per minute to about 1.5 gpm. The original Eemax electric tankless technology was patented and quickly emerged as the most versatile technology on the market.
Eemax’s first product, the 9.5 kW Series One, was developed in 1989 as a simple on/off device for hand-washing applications. This patented modular design led to other units with electronic thermostats, adjustable flow and up to 277-volt capacities, which expanded the market for electric tankless heaters during the early-1990s.
Other product innovations followed, and Eemax eventually moved its headquarters and manufacturing to Waterbury in 2012. The new location doubled the footprint of Eemax operations to 35,000 square feet.
The company changed hands in 2008 after a private equity company bought the business before selling it to Rheem in 2015.
Throughout that time, Al oversaw all aspects of sales and put together the organization and model for distribution that still exists today.
“His infectious enthusiasm and passion for tankless electric water heating captured the attention of the best plumbing spec reps in the industry,” Aaron adds. “The foundation for Eemax success in the wholesale channel was set in place.
For his part, Aaron joined Eemax in 1993 as vice president of sales and marketing, and spent 20 years working together with his father. The company credits Aaron for building and growing its wholesale business and developing one of the strongest distribution networks in the industry.
Al retired in 2013, and has spent his time traveling, going to Ole Miss football games and as a gentleman farmer at his home in north Georgia.
After recognizing the Siegels, the company announced its top reps for 2017.
Each year sales goals are established based on history, market intelligence, and expectations. Eemax sales managers and reps formulate plans that focus on organic growth, finding new opportunities and converting targets from competitors.
“Our regional sales managers and our director of wholesale sales pick the top regional reps based on, among other criteria, sales growth, training activities and spec work,” Bolleyer explains. “We received more than double-digit sales increases from these agencies.”
The 2017 Agency of the Year recipients for each region are as follows:
Each regional winner vies for the Agency of the Year, and for 2017, the title went to Barbieri & Kline.
While the reps were recognized for last year’s accomplishments, another edition of the company’s newsletter notes that “the start of 2018 has been strong. All regions have attained their monthly goals for January and February. Every region has a good chance to hit our 1st quarter goals. Stay focused and let’s work to drive sales one quarter at a time.”
Guests also toured the company’s manufacturing facilities and saw the recent addition of 45,000 square feet of space for finished goods inventory.
“This is a big improvement,” says Bolleyer, adding that before the new space the short-term solution to finished goods inventory had been to store the product in 43 leased trailers outside the facility.
With future growth estimated to be 10-12 percent annually over the next five years, the company determined that investing in the new space was necessary for many reasons, most importantly being cost and safety.
“This is all to support the rapid growth at Eemax,” Bolleyer adds. “The joke around the office is that we never add enough space to further-proof the biz, and we do expect to add more by the next two years.”
The open house coincided with the Traveler’s Championship, played since 1984 at TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut.
Eemax has been a sponsor of the tournament for the past three years, and this year upped his investment in the game by becoming a founding partner.
“It’s the highest level sponsor outside the main sponsor,” Bolleyer explains. “It’s been a tremendous partnership with the tournament, and helps us bring everyone together to have a great time and an unforgettable experience.”
While the professional golfers may have began the Traveler’s in earnest on June 21, Eexmax hosted its winning rep agencies along with their invited wholesaler guests, to play in a Pro-Am tournament, June 20 on the TPC course.
Bolleyer, for example, teed off with Zach Johnson, who has 12 victories on the PGA Tour, including two major championships, the 2007 Masters and the 2015 Open Championship.
“He gave us some pointers,” Bolleyer adds. “Whether they worked out or not, we won’t say.