As you enter the Denver headquarters office of Marshall-Rodeno Associated, you are faced with two full-size oars mounted on the wall.
“The oars symbolize the importance of all of us working together,” says John Rodeno, who co-owns the business with his uncle, Tom Rodeno.
The oars were used as a symbol for new employees who joined the firm when it acquired J.N. Marshall.
“I showed the employees the two oars and told them, everyone has to pull together in the same direction or we'll go in circles,” Tom Rodeno recalls.
Communication is key to maintaining a sense of teamwork. So Marshall-Rodeno Associated hosts a meeting every Monday morning for its inside sales staff. “We follow a script,” John Rodeno points out. “This helps promote consistency and focus. Are there any holes in our inventory? New products? We follow the same agenda every Monday. It takes 'I didn't know' out of the way.”
The staff members share their itineraries for the week and discuss accounts receivable and any challenges with customers or vendors.
Once a month employees are cross-trained on a single manufacturer. The training extends beyond product knowledge to include pricing, availability and order history.
Every November the company creates a formalized budget with goals for every customer, every product, every line, says Tom Rodeno. The goals are reviewed at quarterly meetings.
Professional StaffThe team at Marshall-Rodeno Associated has served the Rocky Mountain region for more than 50 years.
“We have built our team from eight people in 2000 up to 21 today,” Tom Rodeno says. “We did not have to advertise to find those people. They joined us via networking through our teammates. It worked almost like a pre-screening.”
Everyone is on salary at Marshall-Rodeno, John Rodeno says.
“We hire professionals and they should be paid for their professionalism,” he says. “We want to create stability for our employees. They know they can afford to buy a house or sign off on a car. They have already brought something to the party if they are here working for us.”
“We are hiring the next generation,” John Rodeno notes. “Everyone is here for a reason. Some are mentoring, some are learning. Our goal is to have the learners become mentors.”
John Rodeno also mentioned Jim Sandoval, the Denver warehouse manager, and his staff. “Both a fire marshal and a pest control person have commented on how clean our warehouse is,” he says.
Lending “balance” to the staff is Jim Smith, a 30-year industry veteran who does outside sales from the Denver headquarters. “He has been instrumental in adding culture and the human touch,” John Rodeno notes. “He is our spiritual advisor and feng shui master. He can say or do things no one else can. He understands the flow of things, places and positioning.”
MotivationIn addition to salary, the company offers a “Team Job” bonus tied to the budget. Every employee has the chance to make an extra $1,000 at the end of the year. Instead of tying the bonus to a season, it is tied to performance.
The company runs an “open book shop,” he says. “We share year-to-date commissions and sales. If we are on budget, everyone benefits.”
Also, every person on the sales staff has been to the company's top manufacturers for training or a tour or is on the docket to do so. Everyone has access to training opportunities.
Marshall-Rodeno Associated believes in empowerment. “We tell our people, make a decision,” John Rodeno says. “We would rather have them ask for forgiveness instead of asking for permission.”
Tom Rodeno has brought what he learned playing football in Nebraska to the culture at Marshall-Rodeno Associated. “We never had the greatest players but we had great chemistry, respect and unity,” he says. What you get from your employees has a lot to do with respect and the way you treat them, he notes. “We tell our people, you have to want to make this the best experience of your life.”
When Marshall-Rodeno had four tickets available to see the Denver Broncos in the playoffs, customers called from all over to get them, but instead the firm gave the tickets to its own warehouse staff. “They earned it, and nobody deserves it more than these guys.” John Rodeno says.
Customer ServiceIn the last 20 years, the job of manufacturers representative has undergone a transformation, John Rodeno notes. “We used to be paid just to do sales and marketing 20 years ago,” he says. “Today we handle inside sales, quotations, engineering and act as a fulfillment center. We continue to provide additional services at no extra cost.”
The company has 24 phone lines of which 20 are for incoming phone calls and four are attached to fax machines. “We chase customers, not orders,” John Rodeno asserts. “We look at ourselves as problem solvers. We are willing to solve a $5 problem. We know we may get a $50,000 order as a byproduct.”
The company does daily cycle counts and its inventory variance is less than half of 1%.
“It used to be brutal, doing physical wall-to-wall inventory checks,” John Rodeno says. “With cycle counting, the focus is on good housekeeping.”
As a value-add, Marshall-Rodeno offers its customers access to four surplus storage containers at its headquarters office where they can store products and equipment for a job.
The rep firm also provides its customers with networking and educational opportunities. For example, this spring the company hosted six distributors, representing plumbing, commercial, energy and industrial products, at a summit in Wyoming. Each participant was invited to speak about the dynamics of his market. They also received cowboy shirts and went fly fishing.
The company also held a “Circle of Life” summit that included the owners of the rep firm, the president of a manufacturer, a wholesaler, specifying engineer and contractor. They met at a fishing lodge and discussed such issues as, how important is domestic origin? Why would you break a specification? What are some of the drivers that lead you to select a particular product?
“We acted as facilitators,” John Rodeno says. “These were all top decision makers and they probably had never been asked these questions before.”
Shannon Brown, who works in inside sales at the Denver office, suggested the company host a lunch for women in the industry. It started out with 20 but grew to 65 women. The luncheon was held at Marshall-Rodeno's headquarters office.
At times the company will order lunch delivered to a manufacturers' plant as a gesture of thanks, Tom Rodeno says.
“We are an extension of the manufacturer,” John Rodeno asserts. “When the manufacturer does something right, we want to be there to praise them. When they do something wrong, we want to help them solve the problem.”
COMPANY PHILOSOPHY“There's a fine line between doing too much and not doing enough,” John Rodeno says. “The vastness of our geographic coverage has given us an edge. Our goal as a company is to dominate a zip code. We want to add value at all levels of the decision process. Whether it is an architect, engineer, wholesaler or contractor, we want to be the first person they call,” he says.
“We try to do things that separate us from the herd,” Tom Rodeno notes. For example, a few years ago the company used a traditional message describing its products for customers who called and were put on hold.
“Our customers call us because of who we are,” says John Rodeno. “So we moved away from touting the manufacturers we represent and changed the on-hold message to anecdotes about our people and our business. We invited our employees to create messages that will entertain and inform people while they are on hold.”
Another way the firm sets itself apart is by showing gratitude with a big poster that simply says “Thank You” and is signed by the employees.
It might be for someone in a manufacturer's shipping department who sent out a next day air shipment at 3 p.m. on a Friday or for someone changing a specification, John Rodeno explains.
Marshall-Rodeno's creative approach to customer relations extends to the way it handles errors. “We offer a 'get out of jail free' card,” John Rodeno says. “If someone on our staff makes a mistake, we turn it into an opportunity.”
With the “get out of jail free” card, the company thanks the customer for the opportunity to serve them and says it owes them a favor, such as paying the UPS charges for a shipment or hosting a luncheon. “It's amazing how something like that will defuse the situation,” John Rodeno observes.
The company is always eager to try something new, Tom Rodeno asserts. It never gives the same gift or does the same promotion twice.
Even when it comes to training, Marshall-Rodeno puts its own spin on the event by taking it out of the classroom setting and staging it in the mountains or some other scenic destination.
Be sure if you say you will do something that you can deliver, Tom Rodeno says. “I don't know if I am successful, but I know I don't want to fail.”
Marshall-Rodeno wants to help its vendors and customers succeed in business, Tom Rodeno notes. We have a responsibility to those people. “We have to keep growing their business and building an infrastructure.”
About Marshall-RodenoHEADQUARTERS:4200 Holly St., Denver, CO
BRANCHES:Bozeman, MT; Albuquerque, NM; Salt Lake City, UT; and Boise, ID.
TEAMMATES:John Rodeno, and Tom Rodeno, both outside sales/co-owners. Outside sales/Denver staff includes: Jim Smith, Mark Najera, Wayne McFaddin, Nick Moran and Don Richardson. Inside sales/Denver staff includes: Mike Dinan, Shannon Brown, Shaun Dreyer, David Ketelaar and Roy Vance. Others include: Todd Carroll, outside sales/Salt Lake City; Jason Bodley, outside sales/Albuquerque; Clive Grover, outside sales/Bozeman; David Norby, outside sales/Boise; Doug Naylor, operations/Denver; Josh Vance, customer service/Denver; Sue Lipien, administrative assistant/Denver; Tammy Schulte & Devanie Horner, receptionist & customer service/Denver; Jim Sandoval, warehouse manager/Denver; Chris Vigil, Allen Montour, Sean Shaubert and Luke Gallardo, warehouse team.
TERRITORY:Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and the southwestern part of Texas that includes El Paso.
PRODUCT FOCUS:Plumbing, commercial mechanical, industrial, power, mining and oil & gas industries.
CUSTOMER BASE:Wholesale distributors, engineers, contractors, architects, home builders.
AWARDS:Conbraco Industries' Clarence C. Mosack award for Best Rep of the Year (awarded four times); Rep of the Year for AB&I Foundry; Quota Buster from Brass Craft (awarded seven years running); “Top Brass Award” from the American Supply Association. Also, Marshall-Rodeno Associated was one of 12 rep agencies asked by Ferguson (Newport News, VA) to participate in its National Independent Rep Advisory Council. The company also serves on the rep councils of Chicago Faucet and Apollo Valve.
Company HistoryBoth John and Tom Rodeno have worked for Anvil International, a manufacturer of pipe hangers and supports, fittings, couplings, valves, nipples, flanges and other products, which they now represent. From the mid-1800s until 1999, the manufacturer operated as part of Grinnell, but since then it has carried the Anvil name.
Tom Rodeno moved to Denver in 1977 for family reasons and started his own business, Thomas J. Rodeno & Associates. It gained the reputation as the premier PVF agency in the Rockies, according to John.
The agency services the Rocky Mountain region for most of its manufacturers. In the late 1990s Tom Rodeno recognized the market was changing and focused on expanding into the commercial and plumbing markets.
In 2000, Rodeno purchased J.N. Marshall, another rep firm in the area that was primarily involved in the plumbing industry. The company was renamed Marshall-Rodeno Associated. By retaining both names, it combined two highly recognized and respected names in the industry and opened doors in all market segments covered by the new entity.
At about the same time John Rodeno joined the company as part of the transition to create future leadership. John Rodeno became a managing partner within a year.
In 2004, Marshall-Rodeno moved into its current home, a high cube 23,000-sq.-ft. facility centrally located in downtown Denver.
The market has changed from 10 to 20 years ago, when company leaders were promoted from the sales and marketing departments, John Rodeno says. Today the top executives are former chief financial officers. “Some people are being promoted to high positions who have never sat across from a customer,” he notes.
Pipe and steel sales trends also have changed over the years, says Tom Rodeno. The industry grew 7% a year worldwide from 1945 to 1970, but from 1970 to 2000 the growth rate dropped to 1%. “From 2000 on for the next 20 years we expect to see 10% growth in the world market for pipe and steel,” he says.
Operating in the Rocky Mountain region, a rep firm needs to work like crazy, John Rodeno says. “This market forces you to be multi-dimensional. We are as close to running on all eight cylinders as we can be.”
Marshall-Rodeno expects all market segments to remain strong for the next few years based on its involvement in the oil and gas, plumbing, commercial and industrial industries, Tom Rodeno says.
Manufacturers represented by the agency at the time of the interview included: AB&I Foundry; Anvil International; Apollo Valves/Conbraco Industries; BrassCraft; Chicago Faucets; Church Seats; EXL Tube; Flint & Walling; Gerlin; Hayward Flow Control Systems; Holdrite/Hubbard Enterprises; Imcoa; Independence Tube; Sharon Tube; Stockham; Sure Seal; Techno; Tylok; Zytech.