Sisters Emily Becker Fasano and Molly Becker Lemle travelled different roads to get to the PHCP-PVF industry.
Fasano and Lemle, the daughters of TORRCO President and 2015 ASA Fred Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award winner Joel Becker, and Nancy Stein Becker, both graduated from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.
Lemle, 33, had worked at the Connecticut-based distributor during school breaks and summers, but took a position at New York-based Davis & Warshow (now under the Ferguson umbrella) for further industry seasoning before returning to TORRCO 2 1/2 years ago.
“I always knew I wanted to work for the company,” she says. “We grew up in the industry. I remember in middle school going to company outings at Yankee Stadium in the summer. We grew up with a lot of company employees, some of whom have been with us for 30-40 years. It’s like a family here.”
The 39-year-old Fasano went into a completely different industry in her post Union College days. “I didn’t think I would work for TORRCO,” she says. “I worked in the human resources department for Federated department stores for five years, but I needed a change in my career. My husband, Christopher Fasano (TORRCO’s vice president of sales), joined TORRCO in late 2002, leaving the law profession behind and was extremely happy so I decided to give TORRCO a try. I wasn’t really sure it was what I wanted to do, but once I started I really enjoyed it.”
Fasano and Lemle now are part of the fourth generation of family working at ASA and Embassy Group member TORRCO (which now has 13 locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York) and are two key examples of women enjoying productive and rewarding careers in the industry.
Lemle currently manages the TORRCO showroom in Stamford, Conn., while Fasano works in the company’s new Fairfield showroom that opened last fall and also works in the TORRCO New Haven showroom. Fasano has worked in all but two of the company’s seven showrooms (other locations include Waterbury, Danbury, Brookfield and East Windsor).
“We also do special projects, help with customer-service issues and help train new hires,” Fasano says. “We wear a lot of hats.”
The sisters agree their work in the company showrooms is about much more than only selling kitchen-and-bath products.
“I enjoy meeting all sorts of people,” says Lemle, who resides in Manhattan and commutes into Connecticut. “We’re not only working with contractors — which is fun — but we’re involved with architects, designers and homeowners. This is more than just selling. With the design aspect, you are kind of their therapist and best friend. It’s satisfying when you are designing a whole house and you are there with the customer from start to finish and you get to know them and their tastes.”
Fasano adds: “You work with clients to find the best fit for them whether it’s picking out product, helping them design their space or working with their plumber or contractor. This is a technical job as well as a creative one.”
Fasano notes success in the TORRCO showrooms would not be possible without the help of many others in the company. “We work with wonderful people” she says. “It’s always a collaborative effort. We have created a non-competitive environment on purpose because we want our people to be able to work with someone else’s client if need be and to provide the best customer service possible.”
Lemle and Fasano stress the company places an extremely high emphasis on the development of its employees as evidenced by the recent rollout of an employee engagement program.
“It was a huge focus for us at the end of last year and an even bigger one in 2016,” Fasano says. “At the end of last year we did an employee engagement survey and did a lot of work with the ASA Advisory Service on how to read the results. Based on the findings, we are rolling out different programs focused on mentoring, education and training development.”
Lemle adds: “Having an engaged workforce makes a huge difference. Making sure all our employees are in the right positions for them and are engaged in what they are doing is extremely important. All our goals and plans are team-based.”
TORRCO recently developed a website that hosts all the company training and programs. ASA University and the ASA Advisory Service helped TORRCO implement its learning management system.
“We’re a family-driven business that places a high value on its employees, customers and vendors,” Fasano says.
Women in the industry
The sisters say they see more women becoming involved in the PHCP-PVF industry at various levels, but would like to see those numbers increase in the future. “We think this still is an industry driven by men, but it doesn’t have to be,” Lemle says. “Women run other businesses in different industries. Plumbing is like any business. I would like to see more women involved. It’s getting better, but I still think the industry is lacking in that regard.”
Fasano says one thing in particular she wrestles with as a woman executive is finding the proper work-life balance that has been a topic of discussion in the industry in recent years. The Fasanos are the parents of three boys (Ben, Gabe and Jake), while Lemle and husband, Jon, are the parents of daughter, Vivienne.
“The work-home balance is something I have to keep,” she says. “To find balance between work and home is a struggle for many women in all industries of the world. But our mother has worked at TORRCO for a very long time and she always found that balance. She would work, pick us up from school, take us to sports or other afterschool activities and we’d have dinner every night together. It’s harder now and a lot of women struggle with that. We are a very family-driven company and do our best to accommodate working mothers.”
Lemle and Fasano have learned plenty from their parents over the years that have translated into their work lives. “We saw our mom perfect work-family life balance,” Lemle says. “Our dad is compassionate, he makes sure all of our employees are happy and treated fairly, which in turn leads to an engaged workforce. Our dad took this company from a very small one branch shop to where we are today — an innovator in this industry.”
Not lost on the sisters is the ability to work closely and thrive with other family members (a third sister, Sara Becker Goodliss, does not work in the business). “It’s nice to be able to work with my sister, my husband and my father,” Fasano says. “We rely on each other. A lot of times it’s hard for families to work together. We are very fortunate.”
In terms of the next generation of women entering the industry, Fasano’s advice is simple.
“You can do anything in this industry as long as you have the support and training from the company you work for,” she says. “Go out there and explore all routes. It’s a great industry.”
This article was originally titled “Family matters” in the March 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.