Family Distributor Stakes Claim to Business Milestone

Family Distributor Stakes Claim to Business Milestone

By John Filippelli

"We have a saying here that, when you buy from Dolan & Traynor, you get Dolan & Traynor," he explains.
In fact, Traynor, a second-generation principal of the distribution company along with second-generation partners Mike Dolan, executive v.p.; v.p. Tim Dolan; v.p. Steve Wilkinson and co-founder and executive consultant John Traynor strives to convey the company's commitment to its customers' needs, whether it be timely deliveries, fabrication tutorials or free sales training, he suggests.

As a result, the company, which bills itself as a "marketing distributor of quality building products and plumbing specialties," is celebrating its 50th year of catering to manufacturers, dealers and consumers.

"In the 1960s, we started calling ourselves a 'marketing distributor,' and the notion was that we wanted to be the kind of distributor that we couldn't find when we were out trying to sell our wares. Therefore, we are not just a distribution company breaking bulk with trucks. We will also do the marketing for our manufacturers," he says.

"[It has created a good situation because] customers get our full attention and commitment and, in return, we are able to have an exclusive relationship within a given territory," he adds.

For example, the company has not only forged a relationship with DuPont Corian that has stretched over some 30 years, but Dolan & Traynor is DuPont's authorized distributor in the New York and New Jersey metro areas, as well as the Hudson Valley and Albany areas.

"We didn't have dealers as customers in the early days," he says. "Therefore, distributing DuPont Corian was a real departure for us. I think DuPont took a chance [by asking us] to try and sell a product to dealers and retailers that was considered heavy and expensive. But, now we look back and think they were pretty smart," he offers, adding that Dolan & Traynor's territory for distributing DuPont was initially limited to northern New Jersey.

As further evidence, not only does the company stock over 40 leading product lines in its 41,000-square-foot facility, but "we now have 700 to 800 dealers on our computer system as customers, friends or customers of customers," Traynor adds.

Maintaining these relationships, however, would not be possible, Traynor believes, were it not for the company's staff of 65 employees, which includes a specialized sales and marketing force, certified DuPont instructors and professional installation associates.

Traynor concludes the company also sets itself apart by offering a fleet of 14 trucks for overnight delivery, as well as offering CAD capabilities for quick turnaround times for submittals and approval drawings.

Bridging the gap
For Traynor, there are several key parts of the company that allow it to best fulfill the needs of its customers.
"For one, we have a very strong technical and product-oriented group of employees, including three DuPont-certified instructors," he explains. "From the standpoint of offering technical advice to those who fabricate, we have the capability to do that on the local level, whereas the manufacturer would not be able to have someone in the field all the time to do that," he offers.

Additionally, the company's large inventory which includes Speakman Co. and Jay R. Smith Mfg. Co., both of which have been represented by Dolan & Traynor for 50 years also sets it apart from the competition, Traynor believes.

"We inventory products that other companies like us don't inventory. So, if you have it and can get it to someone very quickly, that is something customers value," he stresses.

He adds that the firm's sales and marketing force is segmented by commercial, remodel or new construction accounts to be sure that clients get the benefit of expertise geared to their specific area.

Traynor admits, "We are certainly not perfect, but we make up for mistakes when they occur. Sometimes, I think that when you make a mistake, you can make a friend for life depending on how you handle it."

Well-done stake
A crucial part of the company's mission statement is the concept of treating its customers, manufacturers and employees as "stakeholders" in the company, Traynor points out.

"Our entire company concluded that manufacturers who choose us to be their exclusive supplier have a stake in us and we in them. Our goal is for the manufacturers to say 'We don't want anyone but Dolan and Traynor.' By so doing, we hope our customers view us as invaluable," he says.

He continues: "For our employees, we strive to be a great place where they can work and learn, and we have fun doing it together."

"Overall, we want to concentrate on profitable growth, continuous improvement in our business and, as much as we can, provide exceptional service," he adds.

Product choices
Traynor and the other principals of the company have developed a very simple formula for deciding which product lines to endorse, he explains. "What we try to do is represent either the number one or number two brand or manufacturer in that particular product category," he states.

But, he is quick to point out, this was not always the case especially in terms of the company's partnership with DuPont Corian

"DuPont originally came knocking on our door because they were looking to expand their Corian bath vanity business. We took a chance and they brought us into a whole different world. We have been fortunate to experience growth with them," he says.

He adds: "As a result, we went from literally nothing to a very significant sales volume that we do to this day. Also, we were able to grow our territory from northern New Jersey to 37 counties, including northern New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, Westchester, and the entire Hudson Valley all the way up through Albany."

He adds that the company offers a division of commercial bath products called 'Section 10," which consists of vanity tops, bowls, toilet partitions, grab bars, mirrors and baby-changing stations.

To maintain this success, Traynor notes that the company will honor warranties of the lines that his company carries.
"If a customer has an issue and solving it means going beyond a warranty, you do it," he says. "In the case of DuPont Corian surfaces, we are able to offer through the dealer a fully installed, 10-year warranty. That means we will replace materials and pay for the labor to remove and replace or repair the countertop for up to 10 years as long as the product is installed by a certified fabricator or installer," he states.

He concludes: "We have a whole system in place to handle warranty claims, and that is part of the total package that we offer."

Setting the mark
Traynor adds that Dolan & Traynor implements unique marketing practices to help promote its customer base, as well as the company itself.

"One of the things we try to do is promote the need and desire for the various products that we handle," he explains. "At the architectural and engineering level, you need to educate the specifier or mechanical contractor as to the benefits of that product."

To better educate his clients, Traynor notes that the company has also offered sales training, product training and technical training to the company's clients with no additional charge incurred for the service.

"We try to offer events that are designed to get you out in front of people and have a little bit of fun," he says. "For instance, we've held one-day events that have attracted close to 400 people, where we rent out an entire ballroom and have product displays and entertainment," he adds.

He continues: "The goal is that your company constantly tries to stay connected to your customers as best you can."
Traynor notes that the company also has a large advertising program, where it will reward either long-time or large-volume customers by spotlighting that client's product line in Dolan & Traynor advertisements.

He explains: "These are things that we do as a 'thank you.' The customers are thrilled to see their name in print, and we are thrilled to know that, when a consumer buys a kitchen, they may be preferential to products that we sell."

Traynor adds that he and the management team of Dolan & Traynor have also recently taken strategic steps to ensure that the company's next 50 years are just as successful as its first.

"We have currently engaged a well-known professional consulting firm to help measure ourselves against where we are and where we want to be. We're looking at every opportunity to continue growing from potential acquisitions, to diversification, to strategic alliances. I think the future looks bright, but it is dependent upon changing world events,
the economy and whether your products and services stay relevant in a changing environment," he reveals.

The bottom line, he believes, is that, "Getting a customer is relatively easy. Keeping a customer is harder still. Keeping a customer happy is the hardest part especially when you have long-term relationships with them!"