On July 5, 1996, I had my first interview for a job advertised in The Boston Globe, the position was for an Inside Sales Engineer for Exergen Corporation in Watertown, MA USA. After researching the company, I thought it would be a perfect match for me, as I worked as a production and test Engineer for Loral Infrared and Imaging Systems where they built missile warning systems for the department of defense. I learned so much about infrared technology there and also took some night courses to learn more about IR detectors and semiconductor processing. I got laid off from Loral in 1993, and took a job working for an entrepreneur as an Inside Sales Engineer, Dave Haley’s Axis Systems sold, repaired and calibrated machine tools and CNC’s. I worked for my friend John Alibrandi’s Chicken Wing restaurant, Worldly Wings, and we made the 6:00 news one night. I also attempted to start a business with my Uncle Ron Celeste building decks, he was an architectural engineer. We did some great marketing and landed a few jobs, we cleverly called DECKorations (“Custom decks at an affordable price”). Unfortunately the first job landed was too big for us to tackle, we under quoted, lost money and went out of business. Thinking about all of these experiences I had, gave me some hard lessons that I could take to a company, like Exergen. However, I did not land the Inside Sales Engineer job at Exergen, but a week later I got a call from the Sales Manager, Gareth Jones, who interviewed me and he said Domenic Pompei, the GM would like to meet with me to discuss another position. He was looking for an Applications Engineer, and he liked the skills and experiences that I carried.
So he hired me and my first day was September 3, 1996, 20 years ago. One of the questions he asked me was “Can you define emissivity?” I answered, “Yes, it’s the ratio of energy emitted by a surface, compared to a blackbody”. He said “Wow, you must have done your homework, we usually don’t get the right answer on that one”. I said, “As a matter of fact, I read one of my text books from my days at Loral to prepare”. When I accepted the position, I told Dom I had a vacation planned at the end of the month, and I would be in Florida for a week. He was OK with that, but I didn’t have any earned vacation time, so I couldn’t get paid for the week. And when I told him that I would be in Orlando, he mentioned that Gareth and the owner of Exergen, Frank Pompei would be presenting a seminar in Lakeland, FL at AA Electric, one of our distributors. And if I could make it, it would be great training for me as well. So I drove over to Lakeland in our convertible rental car, watched Franks’s presentation and took some good notes. The things that I learned at that seminar during my vacation time 20 years ago, I still use today to teach people about IRt/c, and it was amazing to put what I have learned in my experiences with IR detectors in Missile Warning Systems together with the technology of the Exergen IRt/c.
After the seminar, Gareth asked me if I could give Exergen President, Frank Pompei a ride to the Tampa airport, I said absolutely and I cherished the moments I rode with him, as I used that time to ask him lots of questions about Exergen that could help me thrive as an applications engineer with Exergen. When he got in the car, I asked “top up or top down”, he said “down”, so we basked in the sun cruising down 75 most of way to Tampa, and after he answered a bunch of questions, he stopped answering. I looked over and his eyes were closed, he was taking a nap after the long day he had, flying in and out on the same day, so he could get back home to take care of his business.
During my first few years at Exergen, we had 4 people in our department (Industrial Sales) leave to pursue other opportunities, we hired a Director of Sales and Marketing, Dave Madsen, Marketing Managers, Ellen Candela and Feyza O’Connell, and a few co-op students to help with customer service. I became the Industrial Sales Manager. I got to spend more time working face to face with customers and mostly our great distributors. One of which was a gentleman by the name of Doug Lee, Doug was a long time rep for one of our competitors, Ircon. Doug and I took a dog and pony show on the road to train most of our U.S. distributors. We went to New Jersey to train G.C.F. and Shingle and Gibb, and Faber Associates, Pennsylvania to see Power Modules, North Carolina to see Statesville Process Instruments and Cross Automation. Illinois to see Marshall Wolf, Wisconsin to see Pyromatic, Durable Controls and Sure Controls, and then over to Minneapolis to see Applied Thermal Systems and right here in our backyard, Merrimac Industrial and Process Control Solutions. During those presentations we taught some, learned some and built up relationships. Over the past 20 years, I am still in contact with many contacts at these distributorships, and many more. I’ve learned that in business and in life the importance of building relationships, with the right people.
One of the relationships I have built up was one I met at my first international sales meeting in 1997. Bart van Liempd was the Sales Manager at Vic Sensorcontrols in The Netherlands. Since then he has started up our OEM Global Division and it has become successful because of his long term relationships with his customers and myself, along with bringing in the right talent to complete the team. Frank Pompei has even called his team, The A-Team! As they handle all the special projects that require “Grade A” service. Since the kickoff of The A Team, I have worked closely with Bart and his key accounts such as HP Indigo and Heidelberg. Bram Stelt, his OEM Sales Director, has a degree in biomedical engineering and that skill set and knowledge has taught us a lot about the aesthetical and medical OEM market, where he serves OEM’s such as Sparton, Syneron, BioRad, and Tecan. Newly acquired Walther van Puijvelde has a great prespective on the Global Distribution plan and we are working hard together to set up a solid distribution network from Asia to Europe to Australia to Canada to South America to South Africa, a true world wide network.
Ellen Minkels, Exergen Global’s Chief Marketing Officer, has also given us all a great new look on the marketplace and her drive and creativity has us all focused and busy writing, creating videos, and collecting info from all accounts so we can market our products in the modern day, high tech, internet savy world we lived in today. Since day one, Ellen and I have connected and shared lots of creative ideas in marketing. She was once on the marketing team for Apple and now on the A Team! All A’s there!
On the customer service side, I have the pleasure of working with Donna Hurley at our home office, and Tamara van den Nieuwenhuizen, and Jose van Schijndel from the Global office in The Netherlands. I have to say they keep our back office running as smooth as silk. Tamara and Donna get the orders out the door effectively, and communicate immediately with our customers when problems arise. Jose gets our OEM Global leads taken care of immediately so our A Team can support them before the likes of our competitors sneak in.
On the personal side, I’ve made lots of friends along the way, who I can hang out with outside of work, have a beer and watch a ball game with. That’s easy, as lots of guys my age like beer and sports. However over the years I have not had much luck with the ladies. Until 5 years ago, I met Sandra Ou at Exergen. Well we met 12 years ago, but it took me 7 years to ask her out on our first date 5 years ago. And both of us were not fond of dating co-workers, but we said “Let’s give it a shot”. And in January, 2017, we will celebrate the 5th anniversary of our 1st date. Our rule is that we don’t discuss home at work and we don’t discuss work at home. Sometimes we break that rule, but it’s all good!
One of my other roles at Exergen is Marketing Manager, where I work directly with Dr. Frank Pompei to buy media from sales reps of national radio networks. So in that end of business I am a buyer, not a seller. I’ve learned so much about that part of business from how to spend your dollars effectively and how to be creative with your copy points. It’s been a lot of fun, and also have built a great network of connections in that end of business who are also great sales people who have that same belief of building up relationships. And they also like to go out for beers and ball games. The good ones are the ones that listen to our needs and that is what I do when I am on the other end, listen to what our customer’s needs are.
We have a lot of important distribution partners, who I have worked with over the last 20 years. Omega Engineering was the first distribution company to carry all Exergen industrial products worldwide. Omega founder, Betty Hollander, met Exergen founder, Frank Pompei, at a trade show in Chicago, almost 30 years ago, and they added IRt/c’s and Industrial Microscanners to their Big Red Catalog. That’s 2 pioneers who started business in their homes (Betty in her kitchen, and Frank in his basement) starting a long lasting relationship of 30 years. Since day one, I’ve worked with Mike Falkenstein, who runs their temperature group, we’ve helped many Omega customers find the right temperature solutions and have some fun with my Red Sox, and his Yankees, along the way!
Another pioneer, we’ve built a relationship over the last 20 years with is founder of QHi, Ross Kennedy. Ross started QHi as supplier to the rail industry and then got involved with thermal detection of electrical switchgear in the oil and gas, finance, and data center industries. Exergen’s slogan “We’re changing the way the world takes temperature” holds true for what QHi is doing, as they are changing the way these industries take temperature by thermally monitoring, 24/7.
Hans Wolf started Marshall Wolf Automation at his home, just outside of Chicago. Now they are one of Chicagolands most recognized, industrial distributors, and Exergen’s top U.S. distributor. Their temperature guy, Fred Swanke has been an asset and key technical sales engineer who has close to 40 years experience measuring temperature. Wolf’s online team helps Exergen customers, find the right products with other value added, compatible, products, like heaters and controllers. I spend time working closely with Team Wolf, have known most of them since day one, and try to visit them, quite regularly.
Jeff Karp from Karp Consulting has been servicing or Macola ERP software system here at Exergen over the last 16 years. He is another entrepreneur, I’ve become close with, as we share a lot of the same values, such as the way we take care of all of our customers, with dignity and respect, and we also share the same sense of humor, so we have a lot of laughs when we have a chance to do lunch.
To accomplish what Exergen and myself have accomplished over the last 20 years, wouldn’t have happened without the special relationships I have built up over the years. I have been blessed to be surrounded by knowledgeable, caring, hard working people. And I have learned the importance of relationship building and that stuff does not happen overnight. I have learned to respect and treat all of our customers and prospects the same, whether they are a one piece end user or thousand piece OEM, they all get the same respect and time from me. I have learned that hard work does pay off and that by working until I feel that everything is done daily, rather than shutting everything down at 5:00 does pay off.
They say that everything happens for a reason, it was not a good thing to get laid off from my first job out of college, but it did give me some life lessons, that I will hold with me until the day I die. And I would not have found Exergen, that has given me some great opportunities, experiences, and business colleagues, that we can earn a living together with and can also call them friends.
I look forward to the challenges that we face, and my goal is to work another 40 years, so I am 1/3 of the way there, thanks to you all. Looking forward to having you all along for the ride!