In the plumbing, HVAC and water-well industries, if trade pros were asked to name a top 10 national “movers n’ shakers,” this name would surely surface among them: George Simas.
Since 1991, Simas, who is retiring at year’s end, held various positions at Randolph, Mass.-based Flexcon Industries where he’s been president since 1991 and CEO since 2004. Flexcon is one of the largest producers of diaphragm tanks in North America. Prior to that, Simas held key positions at manufacturers rep firm Emerson Swan and NIBCO.
Tom Swan Jr., CEO of Emerson-Swan (owned by the Swan Group), hired Simas in June 1976.
It was the deep friendship that grew between the two that became the crucible for Simas’ career. And from that friendship grew legendary successes — the type of success that builds companies and careers while supporting thousands of families.
But Simas is quick to point out his relationship with Joanne – his wife of 54 years – is his bedrock. They’ve know each other since childhood. He was (and still is) enamored with her “natural ability to mix with anyone, anywhere,” he says. “Soulmate? Absolutely!”
Together, Simas and his wife raised their two boys: George III and James. George III, now president and COO of Emerson Swan, and executive vice president of Swan Group, married Alison and the couple is raising daughters, Emily (16), and Victoria (14). A few years later, Jim, now senior vice president at Emerson Swan, married Rachel and together they are raising sons, Jack (12), and Owen (10).
Early years at Flexcon
Flexcon was born as a joint venture startup in 1988. As a result of the need to manufacture well-water tanks for the North American market, Flexcon’s manufacturing efforts led to the development of its controlled action diaphragm (CAD) tank. Today, tank sizes range from 2 to 119 gal., in fabricated-steel, stainless-steel and lightweight composite materials.
Being a startup in need of sales talent, Swan Jr. asked both Simas and Parker Wheat, currently Emerson Swan’s CEO, to travel and work with various Flexcon well-water distributors.
“We were successful but we also had a lot of fun presenting and selling Flexcon’s well tanks,” Wheat says.
According to Wheat, it was Simas’ sales talents, perseverance, street savvy, directness, likeable personality and loyalty that made Flexcon into the company it is today.
“George will be impossible to replicate,” he says. “We’ll simply have to accept the fact the mold won’t be reused again. He’s legendary in so many ways, all uniquely his own.”
Gerry Duggan, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Flexcon, adds: “You want to look at American greatness? Look at what Tom Swan and George did together.”
Sadly, Swan passed away in March 2011. Simas looks back on that relationship with great warmth and immense respect. “Tom was a driving force and one of the classiest guys I’ve ever met,” Simas recalls. “Even competitors liked him and that’s a rarity.”
Bill Kay, president of rep firm Florida Waterlines, says many of the customers who visited Flexcon experienced something that became part of their life’s story — and all of them survived.
“As George drove customers to the airport, or to his favorite restaurant (the late Jimmy’s Harborside), they witnessed and lived through a Boston experience like no other: George behind the wheel,” he says. “He conquered every stretch of road, highway or Big Dig tunnel. I’ve seen 250-lb. drillers gripping seatbacks with white knuckles, most of them with giant grins, as though they were on the latest thrill ride at Universal.”
Matthew Phillips, with distributor Coast Pump, fondly recalls George as a veritable bulldog for business with an insatiable curiosity and entrepreneurial drive that can’t be taught at Harvard or Yale.
“George is a rarity and a real contradiction in some ways, too,” he explains. “He’s street smart, yet with a keen and very educated sense of what works in most situations and how – with insights honed from experience. George is loyal, even to a fault, and a man of his word. With him, there’s never a need for a signed document. He has a sincere affinity for people that plays out at so many levels.”
Lesson lasts a lifetime
Simas’ older son, George III or “GL,” feels forever grateful to his dad for opening a door into the industry and for his introductions to the Swan family “Both changed my life,” he says. “My dad is the most passionate, loyal and honest person I know. As a mentor, and more importantly, as a father, he has created a standard that I strive for every day. From his humble beginnings in Cambridge to his role as president of Flexcon, my dad’s journey evolved from six city blocks to a global business strategist. I couldn’t be more amazed or proud of his life and business accomplishments.”
Younger son Jim Simas adds: “My dad has an innate ability to reach people and to leave a lasting impression. His passion is truly singular, loyalty never challenged, and love of family and friends is the foundation for everything in life. To say I was fortunate to grow up with his guidance is truly an understatement.”
Dee Davis met Simas back in the mid-1990s. Today, he is president of Franklin Electric’s North America Water Systems. They share similar backgrounds as kids: A rough-and-tumble world full of challenges and opportunity. “We both hustled and learned the value of hard work,” Davis says. “George has real respect for all people: the warehouse worker, a guy under the truck and yet he quickly related to those around the boardroom, too.”
Joe Swan, chairman of the Swan Group, has known Simas for more than 40 years. “George has my utmost respect and highest regard,” he says. “He’s an exceptionally talented communicator and he certainly knows how to get peoples’ attention. Integrity, competency and loyalty are his watchwords.”
Swan Group Co-CEO Tom Swan III adds: “I love George Simas and his whole family. It’s as simple as that. They’re enormously talented, loyal and hard working. My father (Thomas J. Swan), who was as good a judge of character as I have ever known, saw a unique talent in Big George and together their blood, sweat and tears gave us Flexcon as we know it today.”
Tom’s cousin, Keith Swan, chimes in: “When Tom and I entered the family business, George immediately took us under his wing to introduce us to many of Flexcon’s customers. I think the world of George and thank him for his help.”
Randy Lyne is president of Fort Worth, Texas-based Preferred Pump & Equipment and for many years has seen and appreciated Simas’ natural relationship-building among contractors. “He’s admired and loved for his doting attention to customers,” he says. “It’s his life.”
“Preferred Pump has the most effective customer trip in the industry and George is the ultimate guest. Actually,” Lyne reconsiders, “George and Joanne are, because they work together so effectively as a team among customers and prospects. Boston is the beneficiary because colorful ‘Jaaa-ge’ is the city’s greatest champion.”
Bruce MacKay, of Bruce MacKay Pump & Well Service in Reno, Nev., has known Simas since the early days of his sales career, meeting at Hays Pumps in California. MacKay offers up six things that impress him the most about Simas.
His love for Joanne is special and genuine. You see it in their eyes.
His grandkids are special, but he is especially proud of his own children and their success in life.
A love for his job and the tireless hours he puts in providing customers with the very best. He’s an energetic professional and is proud to do a good job.
His stories of swimming for clams in his early years and walking across the tracks to school helped shape him.
He has the biggest heart and includes everyone in wanting the best for them.
He always wears a contagious smile.
“Stay happy and healthy my friend,” MacKay says. “Thanks for the memories.”
This article was originally titled “The Consummate Sales Pro” in the December 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.