The Ganzenmuller Electrical Marketing Award, or GEM Award, was established in honor of George Ganzenmuller, who was chief editor of Electrical Wholesaling magazine for more than 30 years until his death in 1986. George was a man whose integrity, fairness and industry knowledge won the respect of the entire electrical industry for nearly four decades. Since 1989, Electrical Wholesaling magazine has awarded the GEM Award to honor those independent manufacturers' reps who exhibit these same leadership qualities. A companion award, the GEM Rising Star Award, recognizes those independent reps whose early careers and industry contributions show promise of leadership.
The editors of Electrical Wholesaling believe the electrical industry can learn from the business careers and personal philosophies of this year's winners of the GEM Award and GEM Rising Star Award.
TONY MEGLIO, MEGLIO & ASSOCIATES, HAZELWOOD, MO.
People take all sorts of interesting paths to the electrical market. For former restaurant owner Tony Meglio, a 40-year love affair with the electrical business started because of his desire to get away from the long hours of the restaurant business and spend more time with his family. When Meglio told his brother, Lou, that he was leaving the family restaurant business and going to be a salesperson for Glasco Electric Supply, St. Louis, his brother said, “You will be back in six months. You couldn't work for anyone else.”
Fortunately for the St. Louis electrical market and NEMRA, Lou was wrong. Forty years later, the founder of Meglio & Associates, Hazelwood, Mo., a independent rep firm with 23 employees and three locations in three states, loves the electrical business just as much today as he did when he started working for industry mentors Jim Pollard and Bob Finley at Glasco.
Meglio left that sales job at Glasco after being the company's top salesperson for five years on the advice of an electrical manufacturer. “He told me, ‘You ought to be a manufacturers' rep. You could do a very good job. As a rep, you are your own boss.’ What I didn't know is that it took so long to get the good lines. That is the hardest part.”
That decision to become an independent manufacturers' rep has worked out quite well for Meglio, Jane, his wife of 54 years, his four sons and daughter. With their dad as a mentor, two of the Meglio boys, Michael, the company's president, and David, its vice president, have devoted their business careers to the electrical market. To teach his sons the electrical business, Meglio always included them in company meetings and would give them the opportunity to voice their opinions before he made a final decision about what's best for the family business. Since 1997, Michael and David have been making many of the major business decisions, with their father's input.
The company's business philosophy is a simple one. “Honesty, integrity, hard work and knowing your market are the things I have always stressed to my sons,” says Meglio. “You have to create a good reputation in this industry.”
Michael and David have helped their father expand the business outside the St. Louis metropolitan area and eastern Missouri. Their brother John also helped establish the company's operations in the Kansas City market before moving to other business interests. That operation, Meglio-ESI Group, has an office in Olathe, Kan. The company also covers southern and central Illinois from its office in Springfield, Ill.
Meglio says the St. Louis market differs from those in that reps don't operate stocking warehouses there. He says St. Louis-based electrical distributors “frown upon” rep warehouses, because they want to control the inventory in the market. Because St. Louis distributors are so committed to carrying inventory, few electrical distributors from outside the area have tried to expand in the market.
Meglio & Associates has strong market niches in the industrial business, managed by David Meglio, and in lighting retrofit work. The company has been in the lighting market for a long time and has represented Advance Transformer ballasts for more than 30 years. Other key product lines include 3M, AFC, Allied Tube, American Insulated Wire (AIW), Arlington Industries, Carson Industries, DanFoss Drives, E-Mon Erickson Electrical Equipment, Euchner USA, Genesis Cable Systems, Harger, ILSCO, Kaf-Tech, King Wire, Marley Engineered Products, Milbank Manufacturing, R. Stahl, Vynckier Enclosures and X-tra Light Manufacturing.
2008 GEM Rising Star
RICK KOSTEWA, APEX ELECTRICAL SALES, PHOENIX
One of the hallmark qualities of the electrical business is that despite the continuing surge of acquisitions by mega-companies headquartered half-way around the globe, the spirit of entrepreneurship still glows brightly in the hearts of many independent manufacturers' reps, electrical manufacturers and electrical distributors. This year's GEM Rising Star Winner is a splendid example of someone with a dream, the mentors to learn the basics of the business, the guts to start up his own company, the good fortune to be surrounded by good employees, and the drive to make it all work.
Rick Kostewa, principal, Apex Electrical Sales, Phoenix, started his career in the electrical wholesaling industry while working for his family's rep agency during high school in the 1980s. He gained some additional electrical experience at a family electrical OEM in the Phoenix area (which evolved into another family rep agency) while earning a bachelor's degree in marketing at Arizona State University. With this background, he had a pretty good idea of what he was getting into in 2002 when he started up Apex Electrical Sales in a spare bedroom of his home.
In just six years, the company has grown to serve the Phoenix market (as well as Las Vegas and southern Nevada) with a blue-chip package of lines. The company represents Aetna Insulated Wire, Conduit Pipe Products, E-Mon, Eiko, ERICO, Heritage Plastics West, Hubbell Electrical Products, Leviton, Priority Wire & Cable, Republic Conduit, Rough-in Ready, STI/Specified Technologies and Tyco Electronics ALR-Raychem.
It's interesting that a relatively new rep agency put together a group of big-time product lines in just a few years. Kostewa believes it's “a bold statement” that his manufacturers put so much faith in him as a young rep. He says Hubbell's Don Santucci has been his mentor in the business, one that he appreciates and respects as much as his father. Additionally, Kostewa believes the support offered by Don Brody, also of Hubbell; Albin James (then with Republic Conduit); Bill Curley (now retired from Republic Conduit); Mike Stine (then with ERICO); Mark Larsen (then with Raychem); and Bill Raffaele of Heritage Plastics was very important for Apex Electrical Sales.
Interestingly, Kostewa is friendly with a former GEM Rising Star Award winner in the neighboring New Mexico territory — Barry Oliver, principal, Electrolink Sales, Albuquerque, the 2006 winner of the award. He and Oliver talk regularly and enjoy the good-natured competition of trying to out-do each other while selling some common lines they represent in their territories. Kostewa also has gotten to know this year's GEM Award winner, Tony Meglio, and says over the years he been very gracious with his time sharing experiences and insights about the business.
Kostewa prefers to give the credit to his co-workers for the company's growth, and says being surrounded by a great group of seasoned employees at Apex Electrical Sales has been integral to its success. “I have awesome employees,” he says. Victor Postoy, the company's outside salesperson, has 30-plus years of industry experience, and Mike Pflueger, its inside salesperson, worked for more than 25 years as a purchasing agent for several contractors before coming to Apex Electrical Sales. Shawn Russell and Gerri Rael complete the tight-knit team.
As Kostewa says in a statement to visitors to the company's website, “Through the efforts of our outstanding employees, Apex Electrical Sales Inc. has evolved into a solid, consistently growing manufacturers' rep firm. We take pride in the manufacturers we represent, and the industry we serve. Our line sheet includes companies that are well-known and respected in the industry.”
Kostewa's parents helped shape his business philosophy. His father (“the most honest man you'll ever meet” he says) taught him to “say what you mean, and mean what you say.” While working at his family's rep firm, his mom used to tell him, “Whatever you do, if it's printed on the front page of the newspaper would you feel good about it?” “It makes it easier to make decisions based on that,” says Kostewa.