Handle with care.
Those three simple words have meant the world to Waterbury, Conn.-based PHCP distributor Torrco, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
“One of the reasons we’ve been successful is everybody has looked at the business as a delicate jewel that needs to be nurtured,” says Torrco CEO Joel Becker, a former American Supply Association president and the recipient of the 2015 Fred V. Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award. “That’s the hallmark of any successful business.”
Torrco’s history dates back to 1917 when David Stein, the grandfather of Nancy Becker (Joel’s wife), started selling plumbing supplies from his garage in Waterbury. Along the way, Stein’s sons, including Nancy’s father, Morris, became involved in the company. Joel and Nancy Becker joined the company in the late 1970s.
Some 40 years later, Torrco, now in its fourth generation of family leadership with President Chris Fasano (Joel and Nancy’s son-in-law), has grown to a distributor with 16 trade branches (thanks to the recent acquisition of Pramar Plumbing Supply out of Westchester County, N.Y.), six showrooms and two commercial specialty divisions, including Commercial Heating Supply, which was acquired in May 2016. The company last year also completed a 60,000-square-foot addition to its Waterbury central distribution center. Torrco ranks No. 100 in the 2017 Supply House Times Premier 150 distributor rankings.
“Not many businesses get to the fourth generation,” Nancy Becker says. “Over time, it’s been the dedication and hard work by everybody. We’ve been able to attract very good people and that’s a secret to our success. The reason we attract good people and they stay is this is a real family business and our family extends well beyond our biological one.”
Squashing the status quo
Joel Becker notes Torrco never stops evolving when it comes to the company’s processes, a statement Fasano wholeheartedly agrees with.
“We have thrived over the years largely due to our commitment to be progressive and innovative in all functions,” Fasano says. “By implementing systems and processes as we have, our sales and operations are highly scalable so we can achieve that growth both in terms of product and geography. This could not have been possible without innovative leadership and the people in place to make it happen. Continuity of leadership and purpose definitely are contributing factors.”
Torrco, which supplies products to its customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, stamps its family philosophy on its go-to market strategy.
“We believe the role of the distributor is to unite the channel partners — customers, manufacturers and distributors — to commonly be profitable and grow,” Fasano explains. “This is unique in that channel partnerships, not conflict, is what will drive our businesses forward.”
One way Torrco achieves this is through its omnichannel marketing program. “The program is designed to unite all three constituencies by executing activities that jointly further our businesses,” Fasano says. “The foundation of all this is what we refer to as our ‘Peace of Mind’ promise to our customers. Buying anything can be anxiety-provoking and time is our customers’ commodity. Our role as a company is to eliminate the anxiety of the procurement process.”
Torrco Vice President of Sales and Marketing Don Polletta adds: “One of our visions is to be an indispensable channel partner. At the heart of any great company is the willingness to make the necessary investments to make employees and customers better. We have leadership here willing to be innovative and creative who do what they need to do to better our employees and customers.”
Recent innovations for Torrco include the continued evolution of a mobile website and smartphone app, helping customers electronically manage their inventory, as well as the development of a mobile delivery tracking system, not to mention a carton-packing program.
“From a customer-service standpoint, we are extremely engaged in making sure we have every possible channel for them to order, whether it’s through outside sales, the website, the mobile app or by giving us a call,” Polletta says. “We want our customers to use us in as many ways possible to transact. With the mobile tracking piece, we want to make it so customers can best plan their jobs to when they are going to receive material.”
Fasano adds the carton-packing program is aimed to make that contractor’s life even easier on the job site. “We put a label on every box that assigns the box a carton number and lists its contents,” he says. “That makes it faster for contractors to locate their material on a jobsite as well as confirm what was ordered was shipped and delivered.”
Torrco has made significant investments in its commercial and HVAC divisions, as well as in its showroom arm (Torrco Design Center), which has expanded the last few years. “The showroom continues to be a vital avenue for our customers to be able to bring in their customers,” Polletta says. “It’s like a second office for them to show products and solutions to their customers.”
In particular, Fasano sees high potential in the Commercial Heating Supply portion of the company. “It’s a highly specialized and technical business,” he says. “We believe there are additional sales opportunities within this market vertical that overlap with our core business.”
While uttered many times throughout the industry, companies tend to thrive because of the people they employ. Fasano says there is no margin for error in this department.
“Employees always are the most important,” he says. “Our success is inextricably linked to the success of our employees. That is why we have placed an even greater emphasis on both hiring and performance management. We believe when we provide the tools to the right employees, we all will grow.”
Torrco is heavily involved with the ASA and its ASA Education Foundation wing where Fasano is the current president of the EF Board of Trustees. Torrco holds quarterly training sessions where ASA EF Director of Professional Development Doug Dillon comes in to train Torrco team members on many topics, including branch management, sales training and product knowledge.
“Education supports the growth of the company,” Polletta says. “We want everybody to have the tools in place to build a winning culture. We are going to continue to focus on making our people the best they can be.”
Fasano adds: “Training is a must-have these days to both recruit new individuals into Torrco and retain those who want to develop and grow their skills and talents.”
While Torrco has plenty to celebrate, Fasano stresses there still is work to be done in upholding a family legacy that has positively affected so many lives.
“We’re focused short-term on maximizing the many investments we have made in the last few years with our e-commerce platform and our design centers, but it’s mostly about maximizing our people,” he says. “As the company moves into the fourth generation we have an obligation to make sure the company has positive leadership in place. Ownership is not a right; it’s a privilege and so is having the ability to work here.”
Joel and Nancy Becker, whose daughters, Emily Fasano and Molly Lemle, also work in the business, have a range of emotions when thinking about the company’s century-long run.
“We’re very entrenched in this area,” Nancy Becker says. “We appreciate all that this area has done for us and we have given back as much as we can.”
Joel Becker adds: “This is a 100-year legacy of sharing, working hard, laughing, loving, caring and crying. We’ve been able to do it all in a small community where we all care about each other.”
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