Volume 41, Issue 8 - August 2006

Well Represented
USGlass Recognizes Some of the Industry’s Top Manufacturers’ Representatives

The life of a salesperson isn’t an easy one. On any given day a salesperson may have to endure any number of inconveniencies: long hours; unreturned phone calls; exhausting travel; going to an out-of-state meeting only to find the customer is on vacation; schmoozing, which, in and of itself, can be exhausting. And some even do this job completely on their own—without administrative assistance, without sick leave, without company-provided medical insurance and without a retirement plan. These are the individuals who choose to serve as independent manufacturers’ representatives. And it’s time they were recognized. 

Yes, the job can be tough and it takes a devoted person who truly cares about the product to get it done. For them, the rewards outweigh the downside. These salespeople are out there everyday working hard for the industry—especially for those companies that have entrusted them to sell, sell, sell. 

USGlass sought out nominations for the industry’s top manufacturers’ representatives, looking for those who did their jobs “above and beyond” the call of duty. Our only requirement was that the nominee be an independent representative and not a direct employee to any manufacturer. These next four pages pay tribute to the best reps, as nominated by our readers.

Paul DeGray

PDG Architectural Sales, 
Lake Grove, N.Y.

J.E. Berkowitz L.P., Walker Glass, Leed Himmel and United States Aluminum

First thoughts when you learned you were nominated: “I thought it was great and wonderful!”

Since 1974 Paul DeGray has been a part of the glass and glazing industry. His career began at what was then Floral Glass and he worked his way up through the ranks serving the company as a laborer “on an old wing table insulating glass line,” truck driver, sales person and eventually sales manager for New York and Connecticut. 

After 12 years of service he left in 1986 and went to work for Insulpane Industries for three years as the architectural sales manager.

Then, in 1990, he made the decision to begin his own rep firm. As a rep, he explains, “You’re able to take companies to a particular area and generate more sales for them. I have fun at what I do and I make it a point to learn about the industry; I am learning everyday and I like being able to be a resource,” 

Mike Nicklas, architectural sales and marketing manager with J.E. Berkowitz L.P in Westville, N.J., says Paul’s desire to always learn is evident. 

“Paul consistently learns new product information to stay on top of new technologies and trends,” says Nicklas. “His knowledge helps him build strong relationships with customers in the metro New York City market, where he has worked his entire career. Professional and personable, he stands out.” 

And DeGray says his career is one with many likes, and few dislikes. 

“I like the freedom I have in developing new business for my companies,” he says. “I like being out there, trying to get specified and being awarded the project. There’s not much I don’t like about it.”

It is also these job characteristics that stand out to him as his greatest achievement. “It’s bringing companies into the marketplace and seeing [them] achieve success, too,” he says.

DeGray is also very optimistic and enthusiastic about his future in the business.

“I look forward to working with architects, factories and glazing contractors in the rebuilding of the great city of New York with the many new projects that are developing,” he says.

David Hessel

Vitralum Associates, 
Chatham, N.J.

Viracon, Pilkington Planar (W&W Glass LLC) Sota Curtainwall, Dawson Doors and McMullen Windows

First thoughts when you learned you were nominated: “I was flattered. It’s nice to see one of the trade periodicals doing something on manufacturers’ reps and recognizing their importance in servicing the glass industry.”

Before he became a part of the glass and glazing industry David Hessel was teaching music and working in restaurants. But things changed in 1979 when a friend who owned Texas Tempered Glass asked if he’d like to come work for him. 

“At the time I thought he was talking about glass bottles,” says Hessel, who has been in the industry ever since. Hessel and his business partner, David Rosenstein of Boston, formed Vitralum Associates to serve the Northeast’s glazing needs in 1989. Today they represent a gamut of companies, including fabricators and glazing/curtainwall suppliers. 

Hessel says it has been the opportunity to be involved in the design end of projects that he enjoys most.

“The jobs are very fluid. There’s something different and new all the time. It’s very gratifying to feel a part of the design process,” he says, adding that he considers his companies’ involvement and work on the reconstruction of the World Trade Center sites his greatest achievement. 

Of course, there’s always a downside to every job.

“It’s frustrating when a job is so budget-driven that the general contractors or purchasing agents attempt to break specifications that have been written and try to change the design of the job,” says Hessel.

While not all manufacturers choose to work with reps, Hessel says there are benefits to be had for those who do.

“Depending upon the product, reps can handle a variety of related products that can generate additional openings within the architectural community,” he says. “Reps are able to present all aspects of the product line. You could be called in for one product, and end up getting openings for all the products.”

Ed D’Ambrosio, of Clifton Architectural Glass & Metal, a glazing contractor in Clifton, N.J., says, “Dave has changed the architectural landscape of the Tri-State area. He is the most architecturally-astute rep I have ever met; someone who knows building as well as his product line.” 

Looking to the future, Hessel hopes to continue changing that architectural landscape. 

“In five years time I’d like to become more involved with the presence of European architects moving into the New York City area,” he says. “The design challenges from European architects are much greater than those of domestic architects and I’d like to see our suppliers answer those design challenges.” 

Bob Van Horn

VP Associates, 

Fenzi North America

First thoughts when you learned you were nominated: “Somewhat surprised.”

Bob Van Horn has been working in the glass industry since 1968, and since 1976 has focused his efforts solely on the insulating glass industry. He admits that the news of learning he had been nominated as one of USGlass magazine’s top manufacturers’ reps was a bit surprising, but adds, “I’ve been in the IG business since 1976 and so I have some staying power and knowledge of the industry.”

“He is a true, hands-on sales pro who has ruined many pairs of slacks and dress shirts while adjusting or even rebuilding a customer’s filthy sealant pump,” says Dave Cooper of Guardian Industries about Van Horn. “I’ve known Bob to visit an IG plant in the middle of the night to set-up equipment so the company would not lose production time. The customer always comes first in Bob’s mind. When we worked together, he was never shy about giving management his unbiased opinion, or asking for the impossible in order to please a customer.”

And so it was only last December that he decided to begin his career as an independent rep. 

“I decided to do so because I’m committed to the industry and my customers,” he says.

And for Van Horn serving as an independent manufacturer’s rep is an ideal career path. 

“There’s not too much I don’t like about it,” he says, “But what I enjoy the most are the manufacturers and the people in the business; the people in the glass business are fun.”

He says it has been these people in the industry who also stand for what he calls his greatest professional achievement. “I’ve been able to work with some of the largest IG fabricators in the world; there have just been some unbelievable people to work with,” Van Horn says.

Bruce Mikels

BDM Architectural Sales Inc., 
Endicott, N.Y.

UGC/PDC Glass of Pittsburgh, UGC/PDC Architectural Aluminum of Pittsburgh, Standard Bent Glass, Global Security Glazing, Litex Architectural Windows, Wojan Window & Door, Nudo Products Inc. and Thermal Windows Inc.

First thoughts when you learned you were nominated: “I was very flattered at the opportunity to be considered for such a title.”

It’s been said that once you’re in the glass industry for five years, you’re in for life. That may just be the case for Bruce Mikels of BDM Architectural Products Inc. “The glass industry has been a part of my life for 27 years,” he said “I was 13 years old when I started repairing windows and screens at a local glass shop.” 

Today Mikels runs his own rep firm, working with companies from glass fabricators to window and door suppliers. Before becoming a rep he spent two years in project management with a general contractor, and also worked in the contract glazing industry for four years.

“I formed my rep firm in January of 1990 and started with an aluminum window product line,” he said. “In January of 1991 my firm was hired by then-Perilstein Distributing Corp. (now called PDC Glass), which was a family-owned glass fabricator looking to grow into the New York State territory.” He continued, “My general construction background and the hands-on experience in the glazing business has provided me with the tools to work with all parties in the supply chain.”

When it comes to being a rep, Mikels says he most enjoys the ability to be a part of the design process.

“I enjoy working on projects from the early design stages to completion with high-level architects and professional glazing contractors,” he says, adding that his challenge is not taking on too much at any one time. “After being in the business for 16 years, I find that there are many companies with great products, and it would be unfair to my long-standing product lines [if I] represented too many others; I find it difficult to say no to other great product lines.”

Tom Parsons of Litex, one of the companies represented by BDM, says he has had nothing but a positive experience working with the firm.

“As a heavy commercial/architectural window manufacturer we have found BDM to be not only professional and enthusiastic in the sales promotion end of the business, but also in product support after the project is purchased and completed.” 

Mikels says that working as a rep has been enjoyable and professionally gratifying. 

“Historically, most start-up companies do not make it past three years. I am proud to say that BDM has survived for more than 16 years with long-term employees, continuous growth and has always responded to the needs of both our manufactures and customers.” And as far as the future, his plans are to continue growing.

“Companies that stay in the status quo tend to not survive. My goal is to continue to promote today’s most technologically advanced products that meet the needs of today’s architectural community. I also plan on expanding my business with additional staff, synergistic product lines and new territories.”

Bob Voigt

BV and Associates Inc., 
Marshall, Mich., 

Kanal Co. Ltd., Trulite Ltd., Alumicor, Champion Aluminum Windows, Sherwood Windows Ltd. BV and Associates also serves as U.S. distributor for SunView Doors.

First thoughts when you learned you were nominated: “I was a little surprised, but it’s nice to know someone has recognized [your work]. It was surprising because you always think someone else is out there doing it better than you are, but we’re pleased to know we were recognized.” 

In October of this year Bob Voigt will celebrate 30 years in the glass industry, and until just a few years ago he had worked for manufacturers and glaziers. His career began in 1976 with Acorn Window Systems, where he started as a shop drawing detailer. When he left four years later he was a contract administrator. His next job took him to Miami where he worked for Howard Industries for a number of years, followed by a stint as a branch manager for Harmon before going back to Acorn Window Systems as a division president. By 2001 he says his career had evolved and his wife liked the area in which they were living.

“So we decided to plant some roots here and started our independent rep business in February of 2001,” says Voigt. “It has served us well.”

And there are a number of aspects of his career he enjoys. 

“I enjoy the engineering side and looking at the job to determine the best product,” he says, adding, “and I really enjoy being in front of the buyer and closing a deal.”

Still, there is a downside. “I abhor the administrative side of the job. It’s very time-consuming.”

Voigt says one of the things that sets his business apart from other reps is that they have offices and staff employees. “It’s not just me; so we’re different than most,” he says, adding that his greatest professional achievement is that he has had some of the same customers for 29 years, having been able to develop ongoing, mutual trust with many.

Michael Natbony, who worked with Voigt in real estate development in the 1980s and 1990s, says it’s very clear and easy to see why Voigt has been able to maintain his professional relationships.

“Bob exhibits the finest qualities necessary to deliver friendly, honest and professional service,” says Natbony. “He is extremely knowledgeable and goes out of his way to make it work.” 

And as far as the future goes? 

“I would like to bring on some younger people to carry on this business as I approach retirement, and would like to have a more active, involved role in industry committees and organizations.” 

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.