Mark Berry: ‘Everybody Here Has a Personality’

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Mark Berry, an account executive who joined Allied Wire & Cable in 1998, is interviewed for Word on the Wire, a series celebrating Allied Wire & Cable’s 30ish anniversary.

The Bridgeport place was pretty run down and nasty with all kinds of rodents and stuff running around everywhere. Everybody would attest to that. I even stepped on a rat’s tail there and nearly crapped myself! But everybody was awesome. I really became friends with my co-workers. We had a blast. We were very tight, close and did things together. We’d go out after work to happy hours. They’d treat us to lunches. It was smaller back then. Everybody was all in one area. Co-owner and co-president Tim’s office was kind of like his own office with a divider wall. It had a dividing window. I used to open the slider and bust his chops. It was fun.

Phoenixville was great. It was a brand-new building. It was huge compared to the Bridgeport location. They hired new people, and I met new people, who I became friends with. They’re still here, too. It was a fun, family atmosphere.

I was at the groundbreaking for the Collegeville building, and it’s really neat to see where we’ve come from. When we first moved in here, there was a huge area where it was wide open for about two years. Now it’s completely filled. Twenty years is a decent amount of time, but in these 20 years I’ve been here, we’ve grown pretty fast.

I’ve known some of my co-workers, especially Libby Achenbach, Pat Wilson and Jen Byrne, for 20 years. I have seen some come and go who I became friends with and still keep in touch with some of them, too. Which is cool. It’s definitely a family, for sure.

Our Christmas parties have always been fun.One employee during the Bridgeport years showed up as Santa Claus, and nobody knew he was going to do that. We were all blown away.

The secret is a prompt response, getting right back to the customer. Trust is a huge thing, especially with a lot of our competitors. Our Sales team is trustworthy and gets back to customers very quickly. We have competitive pricing and good shipping, usually shipping out within 24 hours.

I think everybody here has a personality. Which makes it more interesting for the customer to deal with you because they’re dealing with vendors all day. Some people are by the book: “Oh, here’s your price. Bye.” We have a relationship with our customers. I’ve had customers since we were in Bridgeport. They’ve been with me for 20 years. I’ve reconnected with customers who have left the business they were in prior. I’m like: “Oh, my God, thanks for remembering me! I appreciate it.” That’s a huge compliment right there.

At the first golf outing I went to, I didn’t golf at the time. Later, I took up golf and was able to experience it for myself. Pat Wilson was very influential in getting me into golf. He’d be like, “We’re going to play,” and I would say: “I don’t have any clubs. I don’t even play.” And he’d say, “You can borrow some of mine or somebody else’s,” and we’d go. A lot of times, I remember going to the outing, and I didn’t golf, and I’d be like: “Oh, man, I want to play. I could be out here.” And then I remember co-owner and co-president Dan Flynn saying: “You can hit one drive. You can use my clubs.” I did, and it was great. I got addicted to it, and now I just can’t stop playing. I’ve been playing golf for six or seven years now, often with Pat Wilson, Matt O’Reilly and Jim Thivierge, from all different departments.

The golf outings are huge for connecting with customers. We’ve had the golf outing every year since I’ve been here, and a lot of other companies don’t do that. I think Tim Flynn and everybody else knows that it’s very important to reward your customers for being loyal all these years. It’s also important for customers to come out and meet your rep, or salesperson, to be able to spend time with them. We’re really not talking about business; we’re just shooting the sh*t and having fun. Everybody who has ever come to it loves it and comes back all the time. Which is great. It couldn’t be any better than that.

With customers, we’re friends more than having a traditional customer-vendor relationship.

I still love coming to work every day, and the people I work with are great. I couldn’t ask for anything better right now. I’ve actually seen my whole life happen here. I got out of school I met the mother of my boys through here. We bought a house when I was here. We had our boys when I was here. Everything’s happened in 20 years for me since I’ve been with this company, and they’ve seen it all. It’s definitely a big family.

Kansas State SAE Team’s Car Competes in Canada

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Sporting wire and cable products donated by Allied Wire and Cable, Kansas State University’s Society of Automotive Engineers formula race car and the talented academic design team, Powercat Motorsports, behind it competed in Formula North in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, on May 31 against some of the highest-ranked North American teams.

Thanks to Allied Wire and Cable’s donation, Powercat Motorsports’ car, named Ocelot, benefited from high-quality wire and cable products as opposed to off-the-shelf parts from years past. In writing Allied Wire and Cable last fall in its request for wire and cable products, the team expressed its desire to raise the bar in terms of quality and performance.

“This year, we want to … have a thoroughly designed electrical system with state-of-the-art equipment that meets or exceeds industry standards,” the team wrote in an email. “The electronics team’s goals are to create a reliable, high-quality harness that cuts down on weight, and meets Mil-Spec standards.”

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At the Formula North, Ocelot successfully made it through a series of static events and received tech stickers after passing thorough inspections by a team of judges. These inspections encompassed a brake test, sound test and tilt test, the latter to ensure the car doesn’t leak liquids. The vehicle also successfully competed in Formula North’s first three dynamic events: skid pad, acceleration and autocross. Ocelot didn’t finish the overall competition because of a non-wire-related issue.

“We are already working on better design options for next year’s car and have used the experience to better our understanding of weak links and how to prevent failures,” wrote Brett Cook, Powercat Motorsports president, in a letter following Formula North.

“Thank you so much for your help!” Bailey Martin, Powercat Motorsports’ electronics design leader, wrote in an email to Allied Wire and Cable in late June. “As a first-year leader, it was a huge help! It is difficult to find wire in the small quantities we need for each year. Thank you for being so helpful and flexible.”

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Each year, Allied Wire and Cable supports a number of college and university design teams by supplying wire and cable products to help power their cars. The company supplied GXL, SXL, TXL, Expando and HST products.

“The experience gained from the process of designing, building and competing for Formula SAE is incredibly valuable for aspiring engineers,” Cook wrote. “… As sponsors of this team, you are helping to prepare us students to succeed and propel our career as engineers.”

Dan Flynn: ‘Nobody Takes Better Care of Their Customers Than We Do’

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Dan Flynn (pictured above) joined Allied Wire & Cable in 1990 and serves as co-owner and co-president, was interviewed for Word on the Wire, a series celebrating Allied Wire & Cable’s 30ish anniversary.

My brothers, Tim and Mike, started Allied before I got involved. I was working for Texaco in South Florida, and Tim kept saying: “Come on up! Come on up! Let’s make this go.” I started when I was with Texaco, actually, doing outside sales and helping them get some sales down there. After about a year of that, I decided in 1990 to come up here [home to Pennsylvania] and … try to make a go at this thing.

Hand to mouth is the only way to describe it. Literally, I was making $200 a week. Tim was making $250 a week. We were both married. I had to live at my parents’ home for a year just to live off my ex-wife’s salary. We would get up, cold call all day and my parents would usually make us dinner. Then we’d go back down and do any billing. We’d go out to the garage, where we’d have a hand spooler on which we had to put a vice grip on the end of the thing, and that thing would be spinning at a couple thousand revolutions. Every one of us—me, Tim and co-owner Chris [Burke]—had bruises and welts all over our hands because that thing would smack you. If you get hit by a metal vice grip going 60 miles an hour, it hurts. We’d send out line cards, and then we’d get back at it in the morning.

The only day we did not work was on Sundays. We were working from 8 in the morning till 10 at night five days a week. We were working Saturdays from 9 to 3 or 4. You’d wake up in the middle of the night and start jotting down ideas next to your bed. It was literally never off; it was always on 24/7.

We were young, stupid and full of piss and vinegar and were willing to sacrifice to try, but we never envisioned what we’d build. Our philosophy—Tim, Chris and myself—was very simple. We knew we were sacrificing at that time in our lives, when we could, before kids came along and other things came along with the hope that we could build something. The thought always was, “If we take care of the company, eventually the company will be in a position to take care of us.” We had no idea what that entailed. … My first year, we did $400,000 in sales. The next year, we did $1 million. The next year, we did $2 million. And then $4 million. Then $6 million. $10 million. That was the goal: We wanted to beat last year’s numbers. We wanted to grow at a 25-percent-plus rate. We would always have a celebration on Cash Day. Cash Day to us was when we finally got to be cash-positive against taxes from the year before. It was literally December 20. It was that tight. It was for years because we were putting everything back into growth.

One of the worst nightmares of Allied’s existence was when banks started requiring us to have a physical inventory done. At our Bridgeport building, we’d have massive—at the time, 10,000 square feet—warehouse space filled with material, and we didn’t know what it was. We didn’t put value on it, but the banks wanted to know what it was. We had to do a physical inventory every year on that stuff. [The] Bridgeport [facility] was a 120-year-old munitions factory from World War I and World War II. It was dirty and nasty. We had stuff everywhere. We asked the sales representatives to give us two nights a week. We would start around Halloween, and it went through Christmas—sometime New Year’s—with everyone giving us two nights a week. Tim, Chris and I were doing four nights a week. We’d … physically count every item. You would be black from dirt and soot. You’d be blowing black boogies. It was disgusting.

We loved each other. At that time, I can honestly say, you were working with your best friends and people you loved. We laugh about a lot of this stuff—the rats and the dirt and stuff like that—but we did it. It was part of the price you were paying. We didn’t know any better. We had a blast. A lot of times, sales representatives Pat [Wilson], Mark [Berry] and Libby [Achenbach] and I will still talk about that. We miss a lot of that time—the camaraderie that we had and how much fun that we could have. I still say to people: “I used to know everybody who worked for us—their story, who they were, their family. I knew it all.” We knew everybody and everything about them. We could joke and do stuff. … The bigger you got, the less intimate it got.

We hit our stride pretty good in Bridgeport [in the early 1990s]. It was great for us because there was this huge old plant, spread over buildings and floors, so when we needed an extra 5,000 square feet, we’d just get it. When we left there, we had 40,000 square feet, but it was in four different buildings and five floors. So when we got into Phoenixville, under one building, it exploded—and we knew it would. That enabled us to get a better eye on everything that was going on.

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When we walked into [the] Phoenixville [building], it was 35,000 square feet, and we’re like, “We’ll never fill this up.” Four years later, we had to start building [the existing headquarters in Collegeville, Pennsylvania]. This was 80,000 square feet. “How long is it going to take to fill this?” A few years later, we had to put [a 21,000-square-foot] addition on. And then we had to buy another building and are renting another one. Plus, we bought [other offices and warehouses across the country]. What kind of cracks me up is when I step out of the conference room or kitchen and look down and see nothing but cubicles. Or when I go upstairs, which used to be pretty much empty except for IT, and see people everywhere. That really hits you. It’s like, “Wow!”

We’ve all heard stories about how other places are. I’ve been in hundreds of factories—both customers’ and vendors’—and you see cultures that you like and think you’d like to emulate and other cultures where people don’t look like they’re having any fun or enjoyment. One thing I want [the Allied culture to have is for employees’] work and personal life to mix. It’s just as important to people to be as happy at home as they are here. If they’re happy at home, they’re going to be happy here. When we can mix in some fun, some light times—it’s all for the better. We’ve all got to be here longer than we’re with our families, so why make it staid and depressing? I’d rather people have fun, talk and have friendships.

Four of the first 10 customer accounts I opened up still buy from us today. That was in 1990, and two of them are in our top 100 customers. We’re all about relationships. Anybody can take an order. Anybody can just talk to somebody. We’ve always believed that what can differentiate us from anybody else is to have a relationship with the customer. Not just: “I’m servicing your account.” We try very hard to teach [our sales representatives] to be personal, to find personal information and to be as friendly as they can. … If you ever heard some sales conversations, it was about: “How’d your grandkid do in the game?”, “How was the hunting trip?”, “How was the fishing trip?”, “Did your wife have the baby?” The last 30 seconds is about: “Oh, what do you need to get?” … Email and computers have killed relationships, to some extent.

We service the shit out of our customers. Nobody takes better care of their customers than we do. We give them faster turnaround times and more accuracy. We’re at 99.9991 percent accuracy. … Our goal is to be the best service company out there.

If there’s a job that has to be done around here, Tim and I have done it at one time or another. My job has evolved majorly from the point of having to be the disciplinarian for the company and running—not on an intimate basis—IT, Accounting and doing all the legal stuff. At this point, I’m still intimately involved in Operations, Reviewing, Accounting, Purchasing and still handle 25 to 30 Sales accounts that have been with me forever. I get my hands in everything but don’t do any one thing.

The one thing that I’ve learned more than anything else is that you’re never done learning. The minute you think you know it, guess what? Somebody’s going to come along and knock you off your perch. If there’s one life lesson, that’s probably it. You’re never done learning.

Allied Wire and Cable Receives Presidential “E” Star Award for Exports

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Allied Wire and Cable has received the Presidential “E” Star Award for Exports, representing the premier recognition any U.S. company or organization can receive for significantly contributing to the expansion of U.S. exports. Tim Flynn, Allied Wire and Cable co-owner and co-president, was presented the award by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross at a ceremony May 21 in Washington, D.C.

The Presidential “E” Star Award for Exports signifies to our overseas customers that Allied Wire and Cable has a proven track record of shipping wire and cable products—and a lot of them—globally. Only 43 U.S. companies and organizations were given the President’s “E” Award this year for their role in strengthening the U.S. economy by sharing American ingenuity outside our borders. Of those, just eight received the prestigious Presidential “E” Star Award for Exports.

“Our company is marking our 30th anniversary, and it’s remarkable to look back and consider that Allied Wire and Cable has grown from a basement operation to not only a sizeable organization with sales and warehouse locations across the country but making a major impact in international trade,” Flynn said.

Allied Wire and Cable has enjoyed past recognition for its trade impact. The company received the Presidential “E” Award for Exports and a Pennsylvania Faces of Trade award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both in 2014.

Looking for this kind of expertise? Get in touch with one of our helpful Sales Rep’s or order online today!

Libby Achenbach: ‘Relationships and Trust Are Huge’

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Libby Achenbach (pictured above), a sales manager who joined Allied Wire & Cable in 1994, was interviewed for Word on the Wire, a series celebrating Allied Wire & Cable’s 30ish anniversary.

It was awesome that I got this job. This was my first job out of college, and I got so lucky. I hear how the corporate world is, that it’s so rigid and nonflexible. … With the family atmosphere here, it’s really nice. The owners—Dan, Tim, and Chris—want to reward everybody with tickets to Phillies games, bowling night, Employee Appreciation Month all throughout March. … If we do well, they do well, so they want everybody to be happy so we’re all doing well. … I feel appreciated here, and that’s why I’ve stayed here so long.

I knew nothing about wire or cable; I never faxed anything before; I never worked in an office. Coming in, I sat with Pat Wilson. He was very—“Hey, how are you? I’m busier than a three-legged cat in a litterbox!” He still uses that phrase. I didn’t have much training at all. I had a week or so of just sitting with a few salespeople, listening to them make sales calls. Everyone was extremely busy. Tim [Flynn] was doing IT, sales and all kinds of stuff for the company. Dan [Flynn] was also doing sales, managing the warehouse and accounting. … I’d just start cold calling. They gave me a bit of a script and said to just ask these questions. If someone said something to me, I’d put them on hold and run over to one of the guys and find out what I should ask. I’d then get back on the phone.

Everything was brand new to me, so I just listened to what Dan, Tim, and Chris told me and just took it to heart. I did 100 dials a day, constantly just dialing and prospecting people.

We had no computer system. I’d run out and ask Frank James in the warehouse: “Hey, do we have this or do I need to buy it somewhere?” I used to get in trouble because I’d write out my orders and write “Please ship today” with a little smiley face [laughter] so it’d always ship that day. And then the guys said: “You can’t do the smiley face anymore. You can’t be all nice to them so they ship your orders and not our orders.” [Laughter.]

We did almost everything ourselves. It was a lot to learn. Which was great because I know everything—well, not as much now because of our growth—about what every department goes through.

When we first moved to Phoenixville, we barely filled all the cubicles. We moved in, and I was like, “Oh, my God, we have so much room!” and “We’re going to be here forever!” And then we just started hiring people and filling cubicles. It was definitely a busy time. We had a lot more stock. Everything was right there. It was a brand-new building.

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I’ve been here 24 years, and I still have customers from when I first started out. They’ve been with the same company, and I’ve kept them the whole time. Or they may have left and gone to a different company. Some people have gone to multiple companies, and they’ve always come back and said, “You’re always so knowledgeable and friendly.” I’m always positive and want to be very helpful to them. … I definitely feel as though I’ve taken care of them over the years so they feel like: “I’ll go to Libby. I know she’ll take care of it and make it happen and help me find what I need.” Relationships and trust are huge in keeping businesses going.

I enjoy helping the new people because I’ve been in their shoes. … When they’re new, they come into the office of myself, Sean [Brennan] and some of the other mentors to get advice on certain situations and how to quote things. No matter how busy I am, I say: “What do you have? Let’s take care of it.” Because I know they have to get back to their customers, and they need to learn everything.

The Collegeville years—a lot of growth. We’ve added on to the warehouse. It’s been awesome. As I’ve built up my base of customers, these have been my best years with the company financially and saleswise. When I started in Bridgeport, we didn’t have departments, and then in Phoenixville, we had some small departments. Now, we have [all these departments] and branches. Having all these departments makes it much easier to sell nowadays. We’ve just exploded. We keep growing, and for a lot of our competitors, you can’t say that about them.

Allied Wire & Cable Is Recognized for Commitment to Supporting BLOCS

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Support Helps Many Receive Catholic School Education

Allied Wire & Cable was recently recognized by the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, for its longtime support of Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools, commonly known as BLOCS. Allied Wire & Cable has donated more than $1.2 million in the past five years in support of Greater Philadelphia’s Catholic schools.

Allied Wire & Cable received a letter from Archbishop Chaput in mid-April 2018 thanking the company for its support. “On behalf of administrators, teachers, parents, and students, I want to personally thank you for your generosity and commitment to Catholic education,” Archbishop Chaput wrote. “Without the assistance from local area business leaders like yourselves, many families would be denied the opportunity to take advantage of a faith-based, Catholic education.”

Allied Wire & Cable has funded more than 100 scholarships for students in need at schools such as Pope John Paul II and St. Francis of Assisi. Allied has also supported the GESU school, located in one of Philadelphia’s most marginalized neighborhoods. Most students currently enrolled at the GESU school would be forced to attend one of the poorest-performing schools in the city if left in the public school system.

Company Has Had ‘Enormous Impact’ on Education

With the support of BLOCS and companies like Allied, more students have access to high quality, values-based education, helping them succeed not just in academics, but in becoming well-rounded, active members in their communities.

Founded in 1980, BLOCS is supported by individuals, companies, firms, and foundations throughout Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. BLOCS has helped as many as hundreds of thousands of children throughout Greater Philadelphia receive high-quality, values-based education. BLOCS reaches more children in more communities than almost any other private education charity in the region.

“You and your colleagues throughout the area have made an enormous impact which has allowed the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to continue our great tradition of educating thousands of area children in the morals and values of our Catholic faith, and for that, we are most grateful,” Archbishop Chaput wrote.

Chris Burke: ‘Just Be Yourself’

WOTW-ChrisBurkeChris Burke (center in top image), a co-owner and vice president who joined Allied Wire & Cable in April 1990, is interviewed for Word on the Wire, a series celebrating Allied Wire & Cable’s 30ish anniversary.

I played professional basketball for about six years over in Europe and here [with the Philadelphia 76ers] and used to deal with the clubs in negotiating contracts. I had an agent but just learned to deal with people. I’ve always been a people person. Being on your own at a young age over in Europe with no support system, you learn how to get what you need to get done and to protect yourself. That prepared me for coming back here.

I thought I was finished with my basketball career and was looking to get on with the next phase of my life. My brother’s wife reached out to me and said there were two brothers selling wire and cable out of their basement. She set up a meeting for me to go out and meet Tim [Flynn] and Mike [Flynn] at their house along with their father and mother. There were two desks and two phones in a basement, and I looked around and said, “This could work.”

A funny story that I like to tell often happened about a week in for me, in April 1990. I’m just learning the ropes, learning how to get on the phone and do all that kind of stuff. Tim tells me that their brother Danny is getting married down in Florida. Danny was still in Florida, selling industrial lube at the time, I think. He says, “We’re going to go to the wedding.” I say, “Great!” He says, “Well, we’re all going to the wedding, and you’re going to be here by yourself.” [Laughter.] So two weeks into my tenure there, they’re all leaving for Florida, and I’m sitting in the basement by myself, fielding phone calls. At one point, I tell Tim, “Hey, I have to get lunch,” and he says, “Put them on hold.” So I put the phones on hold and quickly got lunch and came back.

We were doing everything on our own. A customer would call, and we’d take an order. We would literally have to go wait for it to come in from the factory, we would repackage it, put a UPS label on it and wait for the UPS guy to come. We did everything. At night, we’d invoice items. We did whatever it took.

Early on, we would call anybody. I was calling people at Bombardier Learjet, a billion-dollar company, and we were selling them wire and cable. What was funny was when they’d say: “So where are you guys located out of? Where’s your warehouse?” If they had Google Maps back then—[laughter]—and they saw our address, they’d be like, “That’s a house!” I always laugh about that now. The funny thing was, they never knew. We’d service them and got them what they needed and got them out of their jams and kept their production floors running. Thinking about it now, it’s awfully funny to think that these gigantic companies were coming to us and usually to find something that they couldn’t find anywhere else.

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We never ever said no to anybody. Until we looked under every rock. Usually, a lot of the bigger companies back then wouldn’t do that. If they didn’t have it in their stock, if it wasn’t on their screen, they’d say, “We don’t have it.” But we’d go find it, and that’s how you get in the door with a lot of these guys. You’re solving their pain; you’re getting them something that they can’t find; and you’re making them look good.

Just be yourself. I tell a lot of the young guys, “You know what, people always tell me my greatest attribute as a salesperson is that I sound genuine and am somebody they can trust.” That’s just being yourself. That’s the way I am. I always say, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” It’s pretty simple.

Recently, we had an event and were taking a picture as a company family, and we had everybody out in the parking lot. I looked around and said, “Oh, my God.” You get a sense when someone says you employ 250 people, but until you actually see it—. … When I go out into our warehouse and look around, I go, “Oh, my God.” We were in a garage with a little motor and a screwdriver. … It’s amazing. It really is.

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