John Fireovid takes over at Tri-State and Kentuckiana

image05 When John Fireovid, president of Kentuckiana Wire Rope & Supply, Jeffersonville, IN and Tri-State Wire Rope Supply, Cincinnati, Ohio has been asked to be interviewed for various magazine stories over the past few years he has declined. For his father, Mel Fireovid, who founded the companies, was, though inactive due to a lengthy illness, still alive, and John did not feel that it would be appropriate. But when the elder Fireovid passed away in early August, his son changed his mind. He believes that talking about the success of the companies is a way of paying tribute to his father, who made them a success. “My dad worked as an outside salesman for many years for the Crosby Group, which is where he initially learned the business,” Fireovid says. “He covered his territory and felt that there was a good opportunity in Jeffersonville in southern Indiana right across the border from Louisville, Kentucky. So, in 1981, he started Kentuckiana with what was a sizeable investment for him, but in this day and age would not amount to much. He bought a swaging machine, coiling equipment and various supplies. His initial partner was Ed Elliott, now deceased. His first employee, Bob Sample, who will be retiring at the end of this year, helped make and sell the products; and my mother, Pat, did the bookkeeping. The company flourished right off the bat, which is something, especially for a small company.”

image04 In 1989, Mel Fireovid saw a similar opportunity in Cincinnati and so opened Tri-State. “He recreated the same recipe that had proven successful before,” John says. “One of our first employees at Tri-State was Dave Stafford. He was hired to work in the shop and then worked his way up. Like most of us, he’s a jack-of-all-trades, and can do a bit of everything. We typically promote from within. Somebody who starts in the shop will move up to sales, purchasing or management. It helps us to solidify our work force tremendously. And it has an amazing effect on customers, who often see someone working in the shop, then later see him in the office. It creates a sense of longevity and builds trust with our customers.” Although the company has incorporated computerization as a necessary part of doing business, Fireovid maintains that he he doesn’t let it get in theway of personal contacts with his customers, which are as important to him as they were to his father. For instance, his website is set up more as a reference than a marketing tool. And he minimizes even voice mail, so someone calling in during business hours will always get a live person to talk to. Moreover, Fireovid says, “Customers generally want to talk to the same person, so we encourage that.” He adds that the sales and marketing personnel tend to have their own individual styles. Many have different routines for staying in touch with customers. Some might feel they have a better aptitude for calling on construction rather than transportation businesses, or vice versa. Some might cold call to office executives, others to the foremen on job sites.“

Our sales people have their own styles, which we encourage, as long as they contribute to the business,” Fireovid says. For this reason, Fireovid explains, outside of the yellow pages and some basic advertising, most of the marketing efforts are person to person which result in referrals and repeat business. “We try to be there when people need us, to be ‘Johnny on the spot’,” Fireovid says. “For instance, we don’t just compete on the largest bids. We handle a lot of medium and even small orders. We don’t look at any order as a bad order. We solicit orders from anybody. This can sometimes create problems, but basically, it helps to build and cement long-term relationships.” It’s also a way, Fireovid continues, of differentiating themselves from the competition. “Price is important, but there are other ways to earn business.” He explains that by expanding from what he has always consid

image03 ered specialty products to commodities, he opens himself up to a whole new list of competitors and potential profit shavings. On the other hand, he’s decided he doesn’t want to cut this segment out for fear of not being able to respond to customer requests. “We have to be able to hold to our focus of specialty products, and we don’t want to sell with no profit, but, again, we have to compete. And that’s sometimes tough – to say, ‘hey, I don’t want to pass up this opportunity, but we have to find some way to do it better.’”

The best solution to this dilemma, Fireovid says, is an ongoing improvement of service. “The service side of our business continues to grow,” says Fireovid, “from on-site inspections and training, to testing at our facility, to tool repairs and other things.” There has always been a fair amount of competition, he continues. “We’re not the biggest guy in town, nor the smallest, but we try to find our niche right in the middle. We try to distinguish ourselves from the big boxes by providing more interaction with customers, doing more

Read the latest edition of Slingmakers for more: http://awrf.org/slingmakers-magazine/

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