Bill Bootz, owner of Houston-based industrial PVF master distributor Team Alloys, didn’t know much about the business when he first started as an outside salesman back in the 1980s.
“My first sales call to SMS of Texas was on Sept. 18, 1989,” he recalls in vivid detail. “They told me my price was higher than domestic. I said, ‘What’s domestic?’ I knew absolutely nothing about the business — completely zero.”
But Bootz forged ahead. “I made 10 cold calls a day for three months,” he says. “On Nov. 18, 1989, I got my first order for 60 ft. of 1-in. pipe, which is three pieces. It was for $254.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Bootz has been involved in multiple startup operations since 1989. Two of the most notable are industry giants Ta Chen and the founding of the Global Group of Companies in 2002. Bootz says he’s thankful for the training he received while working for a Japanese multinational company.
After leaving Global, Bootz started Team Alloys in January 2012. Today, the company offers an extensive breadth of carbon, low-temp and high-yield fittings and flanges in sizes 36 in. and down, as well as a full line of stainless steel, including pipe. The master distributor represents ISO-certified manufacturers ranging from domestic, western European, Asian-approved and generic, and plans on adding carbon steel pipe and valves in the future. Team Alloys, which works with more than 60 suppliers worldwide, sells strictly through distribution.
Familiarity breeds success
Team Alloys is housed in a 70,000-sq.-ft. facility on Houston’s northeast side that also features a 6 1/2-acre outside storage area. “The location is very centrally located,” Bootz says. “There are three freight companies close by. It’s very convenient.”
During one particular early afternoon, the lot at Team Alloys was filled with delivery trucks waiting to pick up orders. Business has been swift in recent times. Bootz notes in the first 11 months of 2012 the company did $22.4 million in sales. Team Alloys was projected to hit the $50 million mark in sales last year. At present, it stocks in the neighborhood of $35 million in inventory.
“It’s about as much growth as you can have without falling on your butt,” he says. “The bank (Wells Fargo) increased our credit line 50% in August and lowered our interest rate. That speaks volumes to how we are doing as an organization.”
Bootz says a key factor in the company’s quick rise is the long-term relationships his staff has built throughout its many years in the industry.
“I’ve known our customer base for a long time,” he says. “The key from the supplier side is they’ve been with me through three startups (including the first incarnation of Team Alloys in 1996). “They have taken significant economic risks by supporting a new company against established Goliaths.”
Charlotte Horton, who works in inside sales and is a partner, has been in the industry for three decades and has known Bootz since the http://www.tachen.com/ Ta Chen days. Team Alloys’ customer list contains many names she’s familiar with.
“I’ve been dealing with the same group of customers for 30 years,” she says. “What separates us is our tenure with our customers. We spoil them rotten. Our customers are loyal.”
Bootz adds: “Our focus is on building relationships. The primary focus is on supply relationships so we can offer exceptional service and support to our customers. This is not to minimize the importance of our customers, but without a solid supply chain we are of little value to our customers.”
Horton, whose husband, Robert, is the warehouse manager and a partner, isn’t the only Team Alloys member who has a long history with Bootz. For example, Peggy Granberry, who works in sales and is a partner, has known Bootz for more than a decade. Carlos Beller, the assistant warehouse manager and a partner, has worked with Bootz since 2004. Keith Thomas, who also works in sales and a partner, was the first employee Bootz hired at Ta Chen in June 1997. Brenda Hall, the company’s quality manager, worked with Bootz during his Global days, as did Team Alloys partner Ken Albano.
“People follow Bill,” said Mark Lowther, who also works in sales. “I’ve worked for a few companies and that sense of loyalty is not common. He must be doing something right for people to keep following him.”
Bootz also isn’t afraid to bring on newcomers. Lowther was a welding foreman in Oklahoma who heard about Bootz through a customer. Andre David, another Team Alloys salesman, is a former Wells Fargo banker who opened a personal account for Bootz.
“Bill offered me an opportunity and room to grow,” David says. “I’m learning from the industry’s best people.”
Bootz says having the strongest possible roster is a main differentiator for his company.
“It starts with developing a positive work environment,” he says. “The internal development of human resources is key to the growth of an organization. We want to be the most responsive, the most dedicated and the most service-oriented supplier we can be. Everybody working here cares about what we are doing. We’re not burdened by big company policies. The people who work here have a passion for the business and are totally focused on taking care of the customers.”
Bootz isn’t your typical company owner. His desk, the same size as everybody else’s, is located in the bullpen area with his staff in the upstairs portion of the facility. There are no individual offices.
“I like listening to what people have to say and helping them. Being with everybody else gives me a good idea of what’s going on,” he says.
Bootz encourages his hourly staff to work as many hours as they’d like as long as they have legitimate work to do. He also takes great interest in his employees’ family lives. He once paid for the Quinceanera of an employee’s daughter. That generosity later allowed the employee to purchase a home. He helped rehab another employee’s pickup truck that paid tribute to the worker’s son who had died recently.
“Bill takes care of us and we take care of him and his company,” says Michelle Adair, who works in the administrative department. “I’ve never worked for a boss where you can walk right up to him and talk to him without making an appointment.”
Bootz has set up his staff with a heavier emphasis on the operational side. Out of an employee roster of 63 people, 40 work on the operational side, including 32 in the warehouse and eight in the machine shop.
“Our opps to sales ratio is probably the highest in the industry,” he says. “You can talk all you want about service, but you have to deliver. There is no time off when it comes to exceptional service.”
Thomas adds, “People will save money by the trucks getting in and out of here quickly.”
Albano, a metallurgical engineer with an MBA, borrowed a phrase from a popular 1980s song to describe the forward momentum the company currently enjoys.
“The future’s so bright, you have to wear shades,” he jokes.
Part of that optimism stems from a pair of projects currently in the works. Bootz is developing a software design company called Team Total Solutions that focuses on distribution software packages. Team Total Solutions will develop tailored software packages for other clients. Bootz is hopeful to go live with Team Total Solutions in April.
“We’re starting with the leaves on the trees instead of the trunk,” he says. “This will redefine expectations of software companies and create an entirely new level of performance for the distribution industry.
“This will allow a company to stay on top of every aspect of its customers and how that data relates to their business. It will be sold on a subscription basis. A lot of companies spend exorbitant amounts of money to set up a computer system and customize it and then it doesn’t work right. We’re developing business tools that are not available in most software packages and we will guarantee it works for the customer.”
Team Alloys also is in the process of constructing a new and larger headquarters facility on property adjacent to its current location. Bootz and Albano are hopeful to open the building in July, but a September start may be more realistic. The new facility will feature nearly 200,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space and 14,000 sq. ft. of office space.
“We’re designing and building the facility around the problems that could affect everybody,” explains Albano, who is spearheading the project. “I’ve never driven a forklift with a 22-ft.-long piece of pipe on it and tried to get it down an aisle and on the ramp and on a flatbed. That’s why the warehouse manager and the supervisor of pipe and the fab-shop folks and the racking supplier have been involved in the design process.”
These new initiatives are being implemented with one thing in mind — taking care of customers.
“What is going to differentiate us?” Albano asks. “We have lots of pipe, flanges and fittings just like everybody else. Why are people coming to us? There is that trust factor. They trust us and we have what they need. Our inventory is multidimensional in breadth and tracked by a specific manufacturer.
“We provide a level of service that helps our customers make money. If they send a truck and that truck sits here for two hours, they can’t make as many pickups and that detracts from profitability. If we say come here at
2 p.m., we’ve made a commitment to them. If we fall down, they fall down and look bad in the eyes of their customers. We work as hard as we can to help our customers be successful. They are the ones who sign our paychecks. We don’t cry wolf when we say we will get you something at a certain time. We’re for real.”