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A manufacturer’s salesforce can take many forms — internal sales, external sales or partner with a manufacturer’s rep firm to represent the company and its brand. A manufacturer’s representative is an integral part of the industry channel and an extension of the brands it represents.
In the early 1960s, Sloan Valve Co. — a Chicago-based plumbing manufacturer — faced a challenge. Business was good, but the manufacturer’s representatives selling the products were having difficulty; a breakdown in their internal communications was seriously affecting sales. When a large project in Sloan’s backyard was lost to a competitor, Charles Allen, a third-generation family member heading up the company, knew a change needed to be made.
Family-owned and -operated since 1906, the company and family take pride in ownership, quality and service. Allen had to find a new manufacturer’s rep firm — but which one? He phoned his son Chuck (who lived out of state and just celebrated the birth of his son, Kirk) and asked him to return to Chicago and start a rep firm. Additional instructions included asking Andy Wehrli, the gentleman who worked for the competitor that landed the big job in Sloan’s backyard, to be a part of the powerhouse manufacturer’s rep firm Allen wanted to build for his brand.
Repco (short for rep company) was born to meet this need. Founded by Chuck Allen, Wehrli and Don Iwicki (who was working in customer service at the time), the company is now owned by Brian Mazzocchi, who runs it like family.
This year marks Repco Associates’ 50th anniversary. Mazzocchi notes that the two lines the fledgling rep firm carried were Sloan and Beneke toilet seats — a nod to the line Wehrli carried at his former company. “Valves and toilet seats, not even toilets — just the seats,” Mazzocchi says.
Located in Addison, IL., Repco services the commercial plumbing industry in northern Illinois, northwest Indiana and eastern Iowa. With the recent acquisition of Ziel-Carlson, the company represents ABT, Anaco-Husky, Elcoma, Eemax, Josam, Lochinvar, McGuire Manufacturing, Metcraft Industries, Oasis Coolers, and Sloan. The rep firm has come a long way since its inception but remains true to providing the highest level of customer service and maintaining the integrity of the manufacturers they represent.
Mazzocchi entered the business on June 1, 1996. Its’s an important date for many reasons. Mazzocchi’s father ran a family business in the gas industry, selling everything from pumps to tanks and everything in between. “My brother and sister worked there, and they assumed I was going to work for my dad,” he recalls. Life has a funny way of aligning the stars. “When I was in college, I was dating Adria Sloan, who is now my wife. When the relationship got deeper, my (now) father-in-law asked me to consider working for his rep office.”
At that time, the founding members of Repco were older and realized they needed to build a succession plan. Mazzocchi had a life-changing decision to make; to stay with his family’s company or make a start on his own. He thought about it for weeks. “I didn’t want to let my own family down,” he recalls. But he went into Repco on that June day and met with the team — and took the job. “I fell in love with the company and still am,” he says.
Mazzocchi started as an inside salesman and became president and owner in 2007. He is determined to keep the culture of customer service, product knowledge and solutions provider and customer satisfaction first and foremost. It is what sets the company apart from others. Repco has 11 team members working together to provide excellence in product knowledge and customer experience. “With a combined 300-plus years of plumbing industry experience, Repco knows the product lines and plumbing systems as a whole,” Mazzocchi says.
Dedicated to providing solutions
Training and educational tools are vital to providing an exceptional customer experience. Webinars, online videos, lunch-and-learns, training at manufacturing facilities — understanding the full plumbing system means that employees also understand that what customers might ask for is not necessarily what they need.
For example, Mazzocchi notes how a manufacturer may reference a tailpiece as the part that goes from the valve to the shut-off. In the plumber’s lingo, the tailpiece is from the bottom of the valve to the top of the fixture. Repco’s extensive training allows team members to avoid any confusion on the exact product needed and provide the solution.
Repco primarily services the wholesale plumbing distributor, but “we have a much broader customer base these days because a lot of the decision-making is changing in this industry.” Mazzocchi explains. With Repco Associates specialized in assisting the architect, designers, contractors and engineers, they are familiar with all levels within a building process. These “all-in” services complement the company’s slogan: “Serving you from the underground up.” Repco can help a project by supplying drains up to the finished products that go in last — the faucets, sinks, etc.
“On a project, we start early on and finish when they’re cleaning everything before they turn the building over,” Mazzocchi states. Being all-in from the beginning allows the rep firm to assist in all facets of building, making it a valuable resource.
The company sets itself apart by its high level of customer service and by its familial company culture.
Wanting to be the “go-to” in the industry for product and service, the office opens each day at 6:30 a.m., and calls are answered by an associate — not an automated attendant. “Every call is equally important,” Mazzocchi says, so the phones do not have caller ID. Employees take great pride in connecting with Repco’s customers, providing the personal touch and, ultimately, solutions to customers’ problems. Calls are routed to the appropriate department. If service is required, the call is directed to one of Repco’s dedicated service technicians, who can handle the problem in a short amount of time — usually the same day. This fast turnaround in service helps keep customers up and running, saving them time and money.
Specializing in having the odd item needed — typically not stocked by a wholesaler — allows for a quick response rate. It’s not unusual when a Repco technician delivers the solution to the jobsite to also have another product in hand that might be needed. After all, having such a personal connection to each customer, techs know what the customer has ordered in the past. Having an extra item that may be needed is how Repco goes above and beyond, instilling loyalty in its customers.
Culture of respect
The service technician’s true title is that of “Vice President of Field Services.” The vice president title is given to each of the company’s employees, who have direct input on how their VP title should read. The moniker empowers Repco employees to make decisions as required, and customers understand they are speaking with decision-makers.
Employees thrive in the culture that is steeped in making one feel like a family member. “I grew up in a family business and I loved the atmosphere,” Mazzocchi says. “I treat employees like family — at times individuals spend more time at work and doing their job then spend time with their own family.” This shows the dedication on both sides and the high level of respect each has for the other.
Employees work hard and deliver not only for the customer but also for the respect they have for the old-school values and integrity of Mazzocchi. An employee, speaking on behalf of the group, notes that Mazzocchi “takes great care of us and we are incredibly grateful for his care and concern. He trusts us to do our jobs and if a mistake happens, we correct it and move on. He wants us to be happy, and when times are tough, whether personally or professionally, we know we have someone to turn to.” This incredible show of a unified team is how and why the company remains so successful.
The employees wanted to mark Repco’s 50th anniversary in a special way. They thought it would be fun to make a company video — but with a twist. After brainstorming, the idea to incorporate the companies they represent into the video in a unique way resulted in homage to the movie “The Godfather.”
“Everyone’s got to come and try and sell me on a product, and we tie in our product lines,” Mazzocchi explains associates selected the company they wanted to represent, wrote a script on pitching the company to Mazzocchi, who played the godfather character. Each had free rein on what to write as well as their costumes — and the pitching of products highlighting their line card is industry Oscar-worthy. The fun and corroboration they had making “The Repfather” video is an excellent representation of how much the company operates as a team. The video is posted on the company website (www.repcoassociates.com).
Another festivity to mark the occasion will be a formal anniversary dinner celebrating all of Repco’s customers – past, present and future.
Mazzocchi is a Certified Professional Manufacturer Representative and believes in the power of organizations that help him and the company stay best in class. As a member of AIM/R, the takeaways he receives from the organization and the conference are immediate. “The professional interaction and networking are unbelievable,” he says. “The speakers’ AIM/R brings to the conference are on-trend and relevant.”
His old school values and traditions are evident when it comes to articles he receives from AIM/R that he wants to share internally. He places a Post-It™ note that states “please read and pass around.”
The best piece of advice Mazzocchi has ever been given came from one of his predecessors.
“He said, ‘Until you have a purchase order in hand, kid, you don’t have the order.’ I’ve been saying that for years and tell everyone I know,” Mazzocchi notes. “It boils down to this — no one could match the service our company provides to our customers. Just give us a chance.”
The true spirit of going above and beyond, Repco Associates is a true family in the PHCP-PVF channel, working hard to make things right for the customer.