Aligning cultures is one critical aspect that makes a rep agency work seamlessly and successfully with manufacturer partners. Synergy among team members, genuine care for each other and unwavering commitment customers are just a few of the characteristics that partners of 50-year-old Bethany, Connecticut-based Cooper New England Sales say makes the agency a stand-out partner.
“Cooper New England Sales was one of the first agencies Liberty Pumps partnered with,” says Liberty Pumps’ President and CEO Robyn Brookhart. “They’re an amazing agency that we owe much of our success in their territory to. Gary Cooper was instrumental in setting the foundation for their values, work ethic and passion for customer service. I remember the years when Scott and Gary worked closely together and I think having that close family connection has a part to play in how the company has evolved. There continues to be a synergy among the Cooper New England Sales team and ours – an alignment of our cultures and the ways we’re committed to our customers. All the folks at Cooper New England Sales are a delight to work with. They work hard and are caring, genuine and have ‘reppin’ in their blood.”
Brookhart isn’t exaggerating when she says the team has ‘repping in their blood.’ Pioneered by Gary Cooper, Cooper New England Sales was founded in 1973 first as The Gary Cooper Company. Although the company is celebrating 50 years in 2023, the Cooper family industry expertise goes back nearly 70 years as Gary Cooper began his career at another rep firm in 1954. Second generation leader and current owner of Cooper New England Sales, Gary Cooper’s son, Scott Cooper, CPSC, CPMR, joined the company in 1988 and took over as President in 1993.
Today, the agency serves the greater New England area representing 14 manufacturers within the PVF, plumbing, heating and mechanical and decorative industries through its portable training, event hosting, factory visits and all around product expertise.
INVESTING IN CONTINUOUS GROWTH
Cooper New England Sales is known for its strong company culture and core values. Cooper points out that none of those things happened by accident. “My father had an instrumental role in developing our core values that we still abide by today,” he says, “One of those core values is a commitment to improve and grow.”
A key component of its growth, the company invests heavily in training and education. The team participates in training via ASA-University, and all of the sales team members obtain their Certified Professional Sales Consultant (CPSC) certification with many also earning the title of Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR).
“We make sure the people we have here investing their time and energy in our company success feel that the company is turning around and investing right back into them,” Cooper adds.
Cooper New England sales rep Alex Guiliano, CPSC is a perfect example of the commitment to invest and grow a rock star team. “Scott hired me fresh out of college when I was 25 years old with little experience and he gave me the opportunity to learn and grow in the industry,” Guiliano says. “I’m proud to be a part of a company that gives chances like this to newcomers in the industry by investing in their development and training, and I appreciate the chance I was given to become successful.”
Cooper says that the most gratifying part of his time with the company has been seeing team members like Guiliano grow. “When I was younger I got my gratification from going out and making sales,” he says. “But as the company grew and I started to make a true vision for where I wanted to go, it was all about attracting those high-caliber people to come work here and then invest in them. I’ve found that the more you invest in your people and take care of them, the more desirable results will follow.”
According to Cooper, the recipe for success is, “getting the right people on the bus.”
“Again, it didn’t happen by accident,” he explains. “It took time, commitment and investment to build this team of great people and we are extremely proud of how far we have come.”
A ‘tight-knit” group is how Guiliano describes the company culture at Cooper New England Sales. The team is a small group of just nine members, and according to Guiliano, each person is involved with every aspect of the company.
“All of us deal with every manufacturer we represent and everyone has a say and an important part of all operations,” he explains. “Our size is an advantage; we are able to achieve a level of friendship and synergy that would be much more difficult if we had a larger group with a ton of people out on the road. We are all close friends and ultimately treat each other like family.”
Dave Kinnier, CPSC agrees, pointing out that the best word to describe the culture is teamwork. “We truly work together as a team. Communication here is different and better than any other place I have witnessed,” he says. “When one team member has a problem, we all have a problem and we work together to solve it.”
Mary Lucibello worked with the company full-time for more than 11 years doing administration, and still works with the team part-time. “I wouldn’t have stayed here more than a decade and then continue to work part time if it wasn’t such a great team,” she says. “We all know each other’s families. We make decisions together, we hire together; the company is incredibly family-based and I am proud of that.”
Even the newer team members at Cooper New England Sales can vouch for the high level of communication and family-like atmosphere that Kinnier and Guiliano mention.
“My favorite part about being a member of this team is that we aren’t just a team, we are family,” says Liz Tarantino, insides sales and customer service representative. “Everyone is supportive of each other no matter what.”
Tarantino has been with Cooper New England Sales for a little over five months, and she says the hard work and dedication from every member of the team is evident. “When we want something, we go out and get it,” she says.
One of the company’s mantras is to uphold a “Win-win” mentality. “When one team member wins, we all win,” Guiliano says. “And when our manufacturers win, we win, all of which means our customers win.”
Another newer team member, Debbie Soltis, customer service/inside sales, summarizes the Cooper New England Sales atmosphere well, saying, “With the camaraderie we have, everyone shares equally in the success of the company.”
COMMITMENT TO QUALITY AND SERVICE
A large part of being able to keep this win-win mentality is by representing manufacturers that supply products the company feels good about selling. “We represent a great group of manufacturers,” Kinnier says. “When we’re out I the marketplace telling people about the best of the best products, we truly back these products 100% and know the customer will be happy with them.”
Although people think a rep-manufacturer relationship begins with the manufacturer awarding their business to a certain rep, Cooper explains that Cooper New England Sales is selective with what lines it represents. “We have to uphold this integrity with our product lines,” he says. “So when it comes to taking on a new line, we are every bit — if not more — as choosy as the manufacturers are when they select reps.”
Cooper adds that the team isn’t afraid to resign some product lines is a manufacturer isn’t holing up their end of the bargain and providing top-tier product an service. “Our reputation is attached to every product we sell,” he explains. “So we will walk away from a manufacturer — no matter the dollar signs attached to it — if the accuracy, timeliness or quality doesn’t match our standards.”
Joe Hoffman, national sales manager for GPK Products can tell you first-hand how committed Cooper New England Sales is to quality of product and service. “Simply put, they take care of the customer. In a world where customer care, service and sales are often forgotten about, it’s never forgotten with Cooper New England Sales. Their organization exemplifies what it means to take care of customers. Hard-working, honesty and integrity are just a few words that come to mind when I look to describe them.”
Proving its commitment to customers, Cooper New England Sales has invested in two new product training trailers over the past four years, allowing the team to “take the show on the road” and meet contractor and specifier customers where they are to perform product training.
Cooper describes the role of the rep when it comes to product training as “a bit of show and tell.”
“The tools we use to show and tell these products now have become much more sophisticated because that’s what the marketplace demands,” Cooper says. “When we can just show up somewhere (like on a jobsite) and command an audience, it’s especially effective.”
Lucibello says these training trailers are a perfect example of the company's consistent ability to evolve with the marketplace. “We used to do mostly in-house trainings and luncheons,” she says. “But the needs of engineers and contractors have changed, so we evolved with the times. The company has always been willing to adapt and change, never staying stagnant.”
Having been in business 50 years, Cooper New England Sales is no stranger to PHCP-PVF industry challenges. According to Cooper, one of the top hurdles reps are having to adapt to today is the constant consolidation at both the distributor and manufacturer levels.
“In order to cope with this environment we have become laser focused on a smaller number of manufacturers,” he says. “With consolidation looming, it’s even more important that we are the right fit for one another. We can’t afford to invest our time with a manufacturer that doesn’t value what reps do or remain committed to the rep model.”
Guiliano brings up another challenge: connecting with your audience. “With many specifiers still working at home and contractors busier and more short-staffed than ever, it continues to be a challenge to connect with those audiences,” he says. “We’ve had to be creative and intentional with our time in order to not disrupt their work, but find a way to deliver our message. As a team we’ve been able to navigate this challenge and remain relevant to our audience.”
The Cooper New England Sales team says that although the vehicles of communication have changed over the years, the value of strong relationships with manufacturers, distributors, constrictors and specifiers had never changed. “In a lot of cases the strength of relationships can get you further than having the better product can,” Guiliano says. “Our job is to be a crutch customers can rely on for whatever they need.”
With the internet, social media and marketing efforts of today, Cooper explains that reps have taken on a training and product expert role. “Years ago we would go to a counter and say, ‘here’s this new product we’ve got,’ but today, customers come to us already aware of the new product, wanting us to demonstrate how it works and what applications it’s for.”
The team has become so technically knowledgeable that customers will call for information on product that they don’t even carry. “We’ll always point them in the right direction, even if they aren’t buying from us,” Cooper says. “Instead of wondering why they’re calling us, I’m thrilled that they call us. It shows the breadth of our industry expertise and our reputation as product experts; these calls are worth their weight in gold.”
BETTER FOR TOMORROW
Just as Cooper New England Sales invests in its own team, the company invests in the PHCP-PVF industry as well. Cooper is on the AIM/R Board and an ASA Division Board. “By investing my time in these associations I am surrounding myself with good people who are devoted to the industry,” he says. “Where else can you meet with wholesalers, reps and manufacturers from across the country and share ideas? That type of networking is extremely valuable.”
Cooper says it’s about making the industry better for everyone. “It’s my duty to give back to the industry that has served our company so well,” he says. “And by investing in the betterment of the industry, we are making progress for everyone across the board.”
Looking ahead, the company's goal is to do just that: make the industry and the company better for those who are coming up.
“My father (Gary Cooper) used to say that the toughest competition is the face looking back at you in the mirror,” Cooper says. “So that’s how we measure ourselves and our growth. We just have to keep going, keep growing and be better tomorrow than we were today.”