PM's 2008 Rep Of The Year: Dellon Sales - Industry Educator
“Visiting Dellon Sales Co.’s outgrown facility … is like watching a movie on fast-forward as about half of the firm’s 39 employees scurry about at double-time while others talk on the phone, occasionally barking out snippets of information to one another as they edge forward like a car anticipating the green light while shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with the visitor, because the bustle cannot completely halt if they are to consummate the endless tasks that may or may not be part of their assigned duties but nonetheless need to get done to fill an order or retrieve some information for customers that number in the thousands, and if this beehive of activity leaves the visitor feeling somewhat breathless after just a few minutes of exposure, he can only marvel at the folks who keep up this pace day after day … thriving in an atmosphere of creative chaos that can only be described with a sentence that runs on way too long.”
That is how Editorial Director Jim Olsztynski described Dellon Sales in 2002, when the company was named Spec Rep of the Year by sister publication Supply House Times. When this reporter visited Dellon Sales last month, the “frenetic” pace and extreme energy level had not changed.
However, the evolution of Dellon has been outstanding, as has its growth. Dellon Sales moved to a large building in Roslyn, N.Y., on Long Island, complete with modern offices, a large high-cube warehouse and a state-of-the-art training center. Open 12 hours a day, six days a week, Dellon now has 60 employees and 11 divisions - contractor/builder, mechanical sales, HVAC, showroom/hospitality, commercial, shelf-commodities, fire protection, heating, fixtures, cabinets/retailer and marketing.
“We’ve grown by increasing our sales of our existing manufacturers; taking on new, complimentary manufacturers who ‘wanted in’ on the good relationships we have; targeting new markets and niches; and by acquiring other firms,” says owner and CEO Scott Dellon.
Dellon Sales believes its strength is in its people. Many have been with the company for 15 or more years. Most of the Dellon team either owned or managed their own plumbing supply houses or rep firms, or started off as plumbing contractors. Complementing this mix are employees who received on-the-job training at Dellon and now have grown to play important roles in managing product lines or departments.
Three and half years ago, Ken Shwab’s agency, at that time the fourth biggest agency in New York, merged into Dellon Sales. “When you combine the Dellon team and the way our manufacturers’ product lines complement each other, it’s actually fun and rewarding to be a part of,” Shwab remarks.
Another change at Dellon Sales is the addition of David Dellon, Scott’s son, who is an integral part of the business. He graduated from Penn State University in 2005 with a degree in supply chain management and now works full time at Dellon Sales. “David’s been involved in the industry all his life,” Scott explains with pride. “He worked at trade shows since he could walk, worked in the warehouse most summers in high school and college, and has done almost every job in the company.”
David works in every aspect of Dellon Sales - warehouse redesign and management; wholesaler sales; contractor sales; trade shows and associations; engineer visits; inside sales/customer service; and sales management with the sales team.
When talking with him, you understand why his father is so proud of him, as he is a sincere and intelligent young man, but that prideful feeling goes both ways. “My whole life my father and I loved talking about Dellon Sales: the industry, marketing, technology and distribution,” David says. “What always impressed me the most was his love of the industry and his industry friends. His intensity and the fun he has every day at work is contagious.”
David is making his own impression with Dellon’s vendors and customers. Recently he and Commercial Plumbing Manager Andy Meisner sat down with about 40 New York City plumbing inspectors and discussed water hammer arresters, since the city’s new building code now requires their expanded use. They explained the history of water hammer, why it was bad, and how a Dellon vendor could help them solve that problem. They then presented the same concept to ASPE engineers.
“We try to hit everyone in the whole market on the same subject,” David says. “Now we are considered the experts, all because of the early work we are putting in to prepare the market for changes in the new code.”
Niche SpecialtiesDellon Sales specializes in market niches and new industry trends. Just as it was at the forefront of the plumbing industry during the New York City toilet rebate program in the mid-1990s, Dellon continues to try to be a leader in the industry when it comes to new movements or trends, such as the LEED/green building movement. Recently Dellon exhibited at multiple trade shows, highlighting LEED products from each of its manufacturers. The company has employees in the process of becoming LEED-certified and Dellon is in the final stages of developing its own LEED marketing brochures. Other new areas of focus are solar heating and seismic hangers.
So how does Dellon keep its finger on the pulse of emerging industry trends?
“As Dellon became more diversified in our product representation over the past few years, we decided the best way to stay on top would be for us to develop divisions within Dellon to handle every market we were involved in,” says Scott Dellon. Each division’s manager is responsible for keeping staff and customers abreast on new products and trends, while also staying in communication with Dellon’s manufacturers and customer base to assure that the company is seizing every market opportunity.
Dellon Sales has a division that specializes in dealing with the New York City School Construction Authority and the NYC Housing Authority. Not only do members of the division make regular visits to the city agencies, they also visit the contractors who specialize in school construction and public housing work. Dellon’s Heating Division, managed by Joseph Knott, covers the NYC and New Jersey utility companies, oil dealers, contractors and heating specialty wholesalers.
The Commercial Division is in constant contact with every wholesaler and contractor in New York City and New Jersey to see where the opportunities are and how Dellon’s manufacturers can become involved. The Fire Protection Division, managed by Dennis Stephan, is always searching for that next fire protection job, while also seeking out new lines or products to enhance the division’s offering.
That same desire to educate the industry pops up again as New York transitions from the NY Plumbing Code to the International Plumbing Code. For Dellon's staff, this includes taking courses themselves in order to better educate their customers.
Relationships With ContractorsDellon Sales prides itself on its relationships with all its customers, but the company goes all out for its contractor customers, a fact that was drilled into me during my visit. You would be hard pressed to find a day where someone from the Dellon team isn’t getting down and dirty helping a contractor fix an issue in the field. You’ll find team members on a contractor’s doorstep at 5:30 a.m. with bagels and coffee to review what jobs the contractor is bidding and where Dellon can save him time and labor.
“They’re more than just customers; they’re like our family,” says Vice President of the Contractor/Building Division Sean O’Connor (contractors know him just as Sean), a Dellon team member for more than 18 years. “Our customers are confident in our abilities and knowledge, and that we care. When one of my close contractor friends is awarded a new job, he will call his partner or wife, and then he’ll call us.”
Dennis Zervos, manager of the HVAC/Mechanical Division, doesn’t make appointments with his contractor customers; he just walks right into their offices. “In New York City, it’s about relationships, service and value. We are so involved with our customers that we know their families, their kids’ birthdays, just about everything that’s going on in their lives.”
While most of Dellon’s sales team calls on plumbing and mechanical contractors as some facet of their overall sales responsibilities, O’Connor and Zervos grew up in plumbing families, which helps them connect with their contractor customers. In addition, Zervos has a degree in architecture, which enables him to review plans and help with project designs.
Others of the Dellon team that have more than 20 years of plumbing experience in field and contractor service include: Rich Near, Tom Smith, John Markoulatos, Dan O’Neill, Carl Boedner and Steve Klieman.
Because developers are trying to get their projects completed as economically as possible, the Dellon team works with mechanical and plumbing contractors to bring down the costs or enhance the value of a job using Dellon’s vendor lines.
“Our experience allows us to be able to quickly learn our vendors product lines and be able to discuss, design or troubleshoot almost any product on a job, whether it is mechanical, plumbing, fire protection or heating,” explains O’Connor.
And you don’t have to be a boss, a foreman or a super to be important to Dellon Sales. A laborer in training or a journeyman is just as important, maybe even more so because then the company can build that relationship from the ground up.
“We make sure that the men in the field are comfortable with our vendors’ lines, and that they learn that by buying anything represented by Dellon Sales means they are guaranteed service and satisfaction,” says Bruce Wolk, commodities manager.
Dellon Sales carries this service beyond just contractors. The firm has found success in reaching the decision maker as far down the channel as it can: plumbing engineers, architects, builders and owners, management companies and hospitality groups. Relationships with engineers come by way of Tony Pennello, Dellon’s specifications manager and an industry icon for more than 40 years. Pennello is currently mentoring 25-year-old Jon Ross.
Dellon UPart of the process of getting those guys in the field comfortable with Dellon’s vendor lines is Dellon University, the training center at Dellon Sales. The center has a big projection screen TV for presentations, as well as every product line displayed around the room. Training may be a one- or two-hour lecture, followed by viewings of actual installations and hands-on demonstrations.
The company conducts monthly training on all lines to all channels of the industry. It’s not uncommon for one of its vendors to come in to conduct a session and have 40+ people attend.
“If one of our contractors has a problem on a job, we may bring him in to the training center and do some test runs on various designs, see what the problem is and what may work as a solution,” says Dellon veteran O’Neill.
Dellon U staff makes off-site visits, too, when needed. “When the time comes for the actual installation of a product, the contractor may have questions,” says Stephan. “We’ll go to the jobsite and show him how to install or service the product. We do that all the time.”
He adds that the majority of the contractors like coming to the Dellon U facility because they know they’ll get the knowledge they need to complete each job with confidence. Dellon also owns its own display trailer that is retrofitted from plumbing to heating to mechanical, depending on the situation or opportunity.
“Graduates” of Dellon University receive a collegiate-looking certificate to indicate they have completed their “university” training. During the winter, grads also receive a hooded sweatshirt with Dellon U on it.
The facility is not only used for education; it’s also used for parties, dinners, Monday Night Football, any activity to strengthen the bond between Dellon and its clients, says Brent Brake, Dellon’s marketing manager. “We try to make a visit to Dellon U not only productive but enjoyable.”
The Branding Of DellonDellon University is just one part of the branding effort that Dellon Sales has embarked on. The firm is proud of the recognition and respect the Dellon name has achieved in the marketplace.
“We treat the Dellon Sales name as our brand name,” explains Brake. “Every opportunity we get proudly displays the name ‘Dellon.’ Our salesmen are provided an extensive collection of Dellon-logoed business attire, all in the traditional Dellon black.
“Our customers and contractors know that if Dellon represents the manufacturer, they are guaranteed an excellent product, as well as excellent service and reliability. So we make sure everything falls under the brand.”
Dellon firmly believes in promoting itself, and does so at many industry events, including counter days, chapter meetings, local and national conventions, dinners and Dellon’s legendary parties at trade shows. The company is always organizing dinners, golf days, Vegas trips, sporting event outings, plant visits, golf outings, etc.
Dellon Sales also works with trade organizations involving engineering, architecture, kitchen and bath, fabrication, real estate development, mechanical, oil heat, HVAC, heating, jobbing plumbers, wholesalers and plumbing groups.
All of this to get the Dellon name front and center in the minds of everyone who has anything to do with specifying or installing products.
I ask Scott Dellon what he perceives the role of the rep in the industry to be, and if he believes that role will change in the future.
“Manufacturers and customers look to the rep to provide services well beyond that of just a local salesman,” he states. “As manufacturer and distributor consolidation increases, and economic times drive each to be leaner, the importance of a multichannel and multifaceted rep firm will continue to grow and include increased focus on education and training; specification, engineering and design; troubleshooting and field service; marketing; business consultation; distribution and warehousing; professional salesmanship; and maybe even the skills of a psychiatrist.
“The need for strong reps to defend brand loyalty and recognition will only continue to grow and Dellon Sales will make sure we can continue to assemble and train the best team in the market.”
Company ProfileHistory: Scott Dellon’s great, great grandfather worked as a plumber in czarist Russia. His great grandfather, George, came to America in 1892 and held NY Master License No. 1. He did a huge amount of plumbing work as the industry exploded in NYC at the turn of the century, but lost everything in the Great Depression. Scott’s grandfather, Earl, was an oil burner parts wholesaler who later started Dellon Sales in 1949, along with Scott’s father, Gene Dellon, and his twin brother, Stan. Scott received an MBA in industrial marketing management, joined Dellon Sales in 1977, and became the sole owner in 1988.
Headquarters: Roslyn (Albertson), N.Y. Warehouse has 46,000 and 4,000 square feet, nine loading docks, 26-foot high ceilings.
Territory: Metro New York, northern New Jersey.
Market segments served: plumbing, radiant heating, HVAC, waterworks, fire protection.
Employees: 60. Outside sales: 21; inside sales: 18; warehouse: 15; accounting: 4; drivers: 2.
Top management: Scott Dellon, owner and CEO; David Dellon, executive vice president; Ken Shwab, vice president, fixture sales; Ron Barba, vice president, cabinet/retailer division; Sean O’Connor, vice president, contractor/builder division; Brent Brake, director of marketing; Joseph Knott, heating manager; Dennis Stephan, fire protection manager; Brittany Stansberry, showroom, high-end residential and hospitality manager; Dennis Zervos, mechanical/HVAC sales manager; Bruce Wolk, commodities sales manager; Andrew Meisner, commercial plumbing; Arthur Brendell, warehouse manager.
Vehicles: Two delivery trucks, a display trailer, van.
Lines represented: Anaco, Anvil International, Crane/Fiat, Coyne & Delany, ECR International, Eemax, Elkay, Husky, InSinkErator, Maax, McGuire, Mr. Steam, Mueller Copper, Olsonite, Plumberex, Rockford Separators, Roth Radiant, Sioux Chief, Symmons Industries, T&S Brass, Tyler Pipe, Wade Drains, Watco, Woodford.
Trade group affiliations: ASPE, ASSE, ASHRAE, PMCA, NKBA, AIM/R, ASA, AIA, MPCA, ASME, MCA, NFPA, Plumbing Foundation of NY, Westchester Plumbers Association, Associated Builders and Owners, National Association of the Remodeling Industry, NY State of Association of Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors, Professional Women in Construction, New Jersey State League of Master Plumbers, Sales Representative Association.
Web Site: www.dellonco.com.
High-Profile JobsCommercial and luxury jobs have been the lifeblood of Dellon Sales. With a diversified mix of manufacturers and an equally diversified group of employees, Dellon has secured some of the highest profile jobs in the New York metro market. The staff at Dellon works tirelessly to make sure every facet of the job quoting process is covered. Once a week, the division management staff comes together to review all jobs and puts a plan of action together to go out and get every job.
Starting in early 2000, Dellon Sales put a package of products together that landed one of the most high profile jobs of that time, the AOL/Time Warner building. Working with the architects, engineers and contractors, Dellon was able to get some of its vendors’ products submitted, approved and installed on the project.
More recently, Dellon has been hard at work nailing down jobs such as Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and The Edge. For Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, Dellon relied on the traditional avenues (architects, engineers and contractors) to get its manufacturers approved for the jobs. When each of these projects is completed, the Dellon package will be well-represented.
The high-end project The Edge called for a different approach. Scott Dellon and Sean O’Connor went directly to the owner of The Edge and asked him what looks he wanted to use for each section of the job. The owner came back with product ideas that were not present in the Dellon product offering. Through countless hours of work, rejections and revisions, Dellon and its vendors put together a package that was exactly what the owner wanted, and allowed Dellon to land one of the highest profile jobs in recent New York City history. (To see photos of The Edge, go to www.williamsburgedge.com.)
Spotlight OnLuxuryEven in a down business environment, Dellon is finding success. The high-end luxury market is booming in the New York metro area, both at the luxury plumbing showroom and in the high-rise/condo residential market. This success has translated into double-digit growth for its luxury lines over the past several years, and 2008 is proving to be more of the same.
Dellon has assembled quite a team to focus on these opportunities. Ken Shwab directs the team on the luxury end, while Ron Barba manages sales of kitchen and bath cabinets, sinks and doors to the more competitive builder and retailing markets. To complement its existing sales team, Dellon went as far as Texas to recruit experienced Brittany Stansberry to help with architects, designers, owners/developers and high-end showrooms. Mike Gomer recently joined the team to help with covering the hundreds of showrooms in the metro market.
To reach architects, Dellon has conducted many AIA presentations in coordination with its vendors. “Dellon finds this an effective way to get our products known and considered, as well as to hear about jobs at the earliest stage,” explains Stansberry.
Dellon Sales makes a point to call on showrooms across the board - wholesalers, contractors, kitchen and bath dealers, retailers, tile stores and shower door companies. All this is done to ensure that it creates demand for its manufacturers’ products and makes them flow through the distributors’ shelves.
“Even though showroom customers cannot buy direct, they are a very important part of the channel,” says owner Scott Dellon. “We make sure their showroom people are trained on our lines, their displays are up-to-date, and their literature current and stocked.”