Volume 43, Issue 5 - May 2008

From the Fabricator

Relationships Still Count 
And Can Be the Most Important Part of the Job
by Max Perilstein 

I was talking recently with a sales guy I work with who was frustrated because he lost a pretty huge account over a tiny amount of money, despite the relationship he had built with him over the years. He was pretty down and hammered on the fact that relationships don’t matter anymore. When he said that I was about to agree, but then I was reminded about one glass relationship that has really mattered to me above many others. 

It’s been over 16 years since I met the one customer who changed my life. It was the early 1990’s and I was working at the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh as a sports producer. It was a good and bad gig. The good was covering my favorite sports teams and being in the middle of playoff games and Stanley Cups. The bad was the pay, the hours, the treatment … well, basically everything else. 

It was around that time that my brother Steve called me and asked if I would give working at our family’s company a chance. His timing was perfect. 

At that time, the old Perilstein Distributing was in heavy growth mode. The company was expanding and sales were coming in like crazy thanks to the efforts of incredible salespeople like Ron Hardt and Bruce Mikels. We all worked off the mantras my brother drilled into our heads: develop the relationship with the customer, pay attention to details and have a sense of urgency. Those three things allowed us to grow and also played a huge part in the rest of my life.

Day One
My first day on the job, the phones were ringing off the hook and Susie, the receptionist, told me that she was going to send me some calls. I was pretty much petrified. One of the first she sent was from this sweet sounding woman from Michigan. She placed an order for a few insulating units and did it so thoroughly that I immediately went up to Susie and said, “If Beth calls from — Glass, please send that call to me.” Well, in those days before faxes became the rage, Beth would call three, four and five times a day and Susie would send the calls to me. Slowly but surely I would chat—er, flirt—with her, while paying attention to the details, showing a sense of urgency and of course developing the relationship. 

After several months had passed, I went on a truck from Pittsburgh to Michigan to meet all the customers that I had been talking to on the phone. Stop number three was going to be Beth’s place and I could not wait. When we got there I hightailed it to the front office to see what Beth was all about. I immediately saw this incredible woman and hoped it was Beth—and, luckily, it was. After that we talked, but I do not remember anything that was said because I was in a daze. Seriously. 

So home I went and we just continued to talk until my brother, who is always thinking, was in Michigan and he stopped by Beth’s place of work to see what she was about. When he returned home he said the following: “Dude, that is the girl you’re gonna marry,” and, sure enough, eventually that prediction would come true. But we still had work to do. How would I get Beth on my turf without being too awkward? How about throwing an open house? So Perilstein Distributing had an open house and basically did everything we could to get Beth to come from Michigan to attend. She did, and the rest is actually history. We were engaged three months after that open house and married 11 months later. Now if that’s not showing a sense of urgency, I don’t know what is.

The relationship paid off big time. I found the girl of my dreams. But there was bad news. The company she worked for was actually mad that I “took” their employee and stopped buying from us. So I gained a wife and lost a customer. I’ll take that trade any day. 

Comically, 10 years later when I moved to Arch, that same customer was buying from Arch and they stopped buying when I joined the company … so I gained a wife and lost a customer … TWICE. Regardless, the moral of the story is that despite the almighty price and all the haggling in the world, it is the relationships that matter. You just never know where that order for an insulating unit will lead …. 

Max Perilstein serves as the vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass. Mr. Perilstein’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine. His column appears bi-monthly.

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