More than 120 manufacturers’ reps gathered in Rochester, N.Y. to attend Liberty Pumps’ annual sales meeting from November 1-3. The meeting also served as a celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary and a preview of the recent addition to its Bergen, N.Y. headquarters.
This year’s event started on a Sunday night with a fun-filled, casual opening night reception at the hotel. Attendees were able to spend time, outside of the office, with the order processing and technical customer service teams they interact with daily over the phone. Meetings were scheduled all day on Monday leading up to the final event, which was a formal 50th anniversary celebration and awards banquet that included the Liberty Pumps’ leadership team.
On Monday, the reps were bussed to the manufacturing plant in Bergen where they were greeted by Charlie Cook, president and CEO of Liberty, and welcomed to the newly expanded facility. After viewing the corporate video in the new employee lunch room that features an internet café, the groups were split into smaller segments and taken on tours throughout all areas of the company. Each tour of the plant was guided by the manager or supervisor responsible for that area. The reps were able to see the new R & D lab, visit the new sales and marketing training center, and actually walk through the plant to see the line employees hard at work and ask them questions. The plant was fully functional, which was a great reason to have the visitors in on a workday. This allowed them to see the plant in "full-speed" mode.
History has shown that no sooner does Liberty finish one expansion; it has had to continue with further construction to accommodate their growth. The expansion will virtually double the size of the facility, adding more than 123,000 square feet to the administrative offices and adjoining factory. A 23,000-square-foot portion of the overall construction will feature an 80-seat multi-purpose room, product display area for hands-on product training and demonstrations, as well as additional offices, a historical product display, and visitors lounge.
“As our products continue to advance technically, we realize product knowledge is critical – not only to our sales team, but for those that use and install our products on a daily basis,” said Randall Waldron, vice president of sales and marketing at Liberty. “The new product training center will allow us to better share this knowledge in a way that provides a great experience as well.”
Further expansion includes 81,600 square feet of additional manufacturing area. The added space will allow for new manufacturing cells, increased warehouse area for component inventory and expanded machining operations, and a new powder coat line.
The company also added 14,200 square feet of space to increase the research and engineering lab and service area, and feature a new lunchroom facility. The lab expansion allows for the addition of new equipment required for Liberty’s recent qualification as a CSA test facility.
The crowd gathered at the end of the day for a celebratory dinner to mark the company’s 50th anniversary. The reps heard from Cook, who discussed the history of the family-owned business.
Liberty was founded in 1965 by his uncle, Fred Cook. Liberty was originally a spin-off of a Buffalo-based pump company and made only sump pumps. But, sales of sump pumps are vulnerable to weather conditions, so Fred needed to come up with a line of pumps that could be sold any time of year. He designed a pump that was pre-installed in a basin, and contractors liked it because it was easy to install.
Charlie began his career at McDonnell Douglas after graduating from an aeronautical technology school in St. Louis. Charlie was later drafted into the Army, and his uncle hired him as an engineer after his tour of duty ended.
"The reality was, we only had seven employees in the company," Cook remembered. "We did everything. We would build pumps in the morning, in the afternoon, if I had a chance, I would do some design work or I'd go out on the road selling. We did whatever it took to get the job done."
Eventually, Charlie took charge of the company in 1975 when it had only about a dozen employees.
The night’s festivities included a round of honors for various top reps who earned recognition in a number of ways, including top sales and annual percentage sales increases.
No doubt, the highlight of the night was a surprise gift that the company gave to Charlie. Every day, Charlie walks the entire plant to greet each worker by name. Since Liberty has grown so much, the company presented him with his own Segway festooned with the Liberty logo.