Gen X Meets Old School

Sept. 1, 2000
Admar Supply proves that tradition and high-tech can mix. Richard DiMarco Sr. is "old school." Every day, after the shop has closed and the staff has

Admar Supply proves that tradition and high-tech can mix. Richard DiMarco Sr. is "old school." Every day, after the shop has closed and the staff has left, he walks around turning off the lights. And when he is out on business, he calls his general manager to remind him to shut off the lights.

"Little things like that add up at the end of the year," he says.

They sure do.

DiMarco's Admar Supply is the largest independent rental company serving upstate New York and is No. 73 in the RER 100.

"It's probably because I was raised in a different era," DiMarco Sr., 60, says of his old-school ways. "We didn't have a lot. I had one bike my whole life, it got stolen, and I never got it back. These kids now, they have four or five bikes. Everything's available to them. But sometimes I just keep my mouth shut because I know everyone can't follow what I do. I'm just one pea in the pod."

His conservative ways mesh perfectly with his son's aggressive game plan. Richard DiMarco II, 32, is Admar's vice president of operations, the "tech guy" who recently computerized the company's sales system.

"My dad and I work well together. He's a little more conservative, I think, because of his background ... he didn't take as many chances," DiMarco II says.

When he joined Admar in 1990, the company had two scissor lifts. To meet a growing demand for aerial equipment, he suggested it acquire 10 more. His father thought two lifts would be sufficient, but DiMarco II was persistent.

"Now we have over 1,000 lifts," he says. "But if we never bought the first 10, we wouldn't have grown."

"The company changes with the times," general manager Gene Stupp, 60, says. "When need be, they change, and that's one of the keys to their success. But it's controlled growth - they don't just do things off the hip. We also recognize that our success is due to loyal and exceptional employees."

The `250 Rule' In this cyber era when business is conducted over cable lines rather than a cup of coffee, when appointments are "palm-piloted" rather than made by a handshake and when companies are created faster than you can say "startup," Admar edges the competition the old-fashioned way.

"We do what we can to help our customers and build lasting relationships," DiMarco II says. "We don't want to say `no' to the customer. We're like a problem solver. Because of our construction background, we can relate to what they need."

He remembers when Admar provided telecommunications giant Nextel with generators during a recent power outage less than an hour after receiving the service call. Since then, Admar has supplied Nextel with power generation equipment.

Going beyond the call of duty is an Admar trademark, a philosophy that Anne DiMarco takes to heart. She is the daughter of John DiMarco, Admar's co-founder, vice president and CEO.

"A college professor told me about the `250 Rule' - for everything you do good or bad for a customer, they tell 250 people. I try to keep that in mind," says the 24-year-old marketing and promotions manager at Admar.

She says Admar's marketing strategy is peculiar because it relies mostly on word-of-mouth advertising. "I think what also makes us unique is that we're a family-owned business with a contracting background," she says. "Our customers know there's always a DiMarco here all the time, and as the decision makers, we try to be fair and consistent."

A little civic service never hurt the books either. Admar sponsors several local charities and hosts children's activities such as "Kids on Trucks," for which they enlisted the help of local contractors and displayed heavy construction equipment, to keep its name out in the community.

Access granted First-time visitors to the Admar facility will find it surprisingly easy to reach. The company is so well-known in the Rochester area that cab drivers can take you to it without asking for the address. Admar lies on a 16-acre property bordered by green fields and commercial area. Admar shares the lot with DiMarco Constructors, a construction manager/general contractor serving the Northeast.

Once you're there, it becomes evident how Admar successfully juggles the new with the old. For security purposes, all employees carry an access cardkey to enter rooms in the facility. A faint buzz from the ceilings alerts newcomers to carefully concealed cameras that keep a close watch on visitors and employees. Such measures, Stupp says, protect against theft and help maintain an injury-free workplace.

"The building is very secure," he says. "We have to make it secure because there's thousands of dollars worth of equipment and parts in some rooms."

The personal touch With Admar going strong in its 28th year, DiMarco Sr. looks back on it all and muses about the future. He says he never envisioned that the small, family-owned company would grow into a multimillion-dollar operation.

"We just went on a year-by-year basis when we started," he says. "We didn't plan ahead in the beginning. Later, we realized that we needed to look ahead."

This means covering bigger territories, according to DiMarco II. "In the long term, we would look at surrounding states, but right now our focus is New York and our customers," he says. "We work where our customers work."

Large rental powerhouses have courted Admar several times, but the family has escaped consolidation relatively unscathed. The consolidators might have the upper hand pricewise, but DiMarco Sr. says he is not worried.

"We consider this a plus, because that personal touch may be missing with some of our competitors," he says. "Our customers know they can stop by anytime and talk to me. With the consolidators, a customer has to talk to a manager, who has to talk to his boss, who's in another city, so he may not be able to make a quick decision. But a contractor doesn't have time to wait. If they want to purchase or rent something, they need a price."

DiMarco Sr. may be "old school," but his customers are luckier for it. He recalls days when he had to sacrifice time with his family to help a customer.

"Sometimes on Christmas Eve and you wanted to go home to supper, a customer would call and say they flipped a forklift upside down," he says. "So you had to go there with a crane and help him out. If he had called any other time it wouldn't be so bad, but it was a holiday. Those are the things that stand out in my mind.

"But there are more glorious things than the bad things. That's why I keep going. It's fun to meet the people you deal with."

Admar's founders, brothers Richard and John DiMarco, created Admar out of frustration. Their father, Richard, was an Italian immigrant who in his 30s built a successful masonry business in the Rochester, N.Y., area in the 1940s. Following in his footsteps, the brothers in 1965 started a contracting company called DiMarco Constructors, which is still active. The contracting business took off, but they had problems with the local equipment supply houses.

"When dealing with equipment rental companies, we were not satisfied with the service," Richard DiMarco Sr. recalls. "So we decided to get into equipment rentals. My brother said, `Hey, we know the business, we know equipment, and we know many of the contractors in town.' We also knew a retired salesman who had contacts in equipment rentals. He came in and talked to my brother, John. That's how we started."

When they opened Admar in 1972, Richard was 32 and John 30. Despite a shaky start, the four-person operation realized about $300,000 in revenue its first year.

"We couldn't get all the equipment lines we wanted because in those days you had protected territories and the other dealers in town already had the popular lines," DiMarco Sr. says. "We just took whatever was available. For renting it was satisfactory, but for sales it mattered because some people only wanted certain brands."

Admar quickly became a player in the Rochester market, picking up the customers and product lines its competitors left behind. Now, Admar's fleet consists of more than 4,000 pieces of equipment for rent or sale, and the company has more than 125 employees. Along the way, it opened three branches - Buffalo in 1991, Syracuse in 1994 and Albany in 1999 - and added a catalog with used equipment for sale as well as employment opportunities.

But despite the success, Admar has not lost touch with its origins.

"We're like a contractor talking to a contractor," general manager Gene Stupp says. "It doesn't matter whether it's a contractor with one pickup truck and a shovel or a hundred employees, we service them all equally. Our service and counter people talk their language, which has been our advantage. We still come out in the mud with them because our customers tell us they want the personal touch that Admar offers."

Admar Supply History: Richard DiMarco Sr. and his brother, John, both contractors established Admar Supply in 1972 in a small garage after years of being let down by supply houses. In its first year, Admar totaled about $300,000 in revenue. In 1999, it reported about $19.9 million.

Equipment: Aerial lifts, material handlers, air power equipment, compaction, concrete, generators, welders and lighting equipment, earth-moving units, pumps and pressure washers, saws and a wide array of masonry, landscaping, safety and electrical tools, and protective clothing.

Customer base: About 55 percent rentals; 45 percent sales and service of used and new equipment.

Key management: Richard DiMarco Sr., president; John DiMarco, vice president and CEO; Richard DiMarco II, vice president of operations; Gene Stupp, general manager; Anne DiMarco, marketing and promotions manager; Dick Pomponio, sales manager.

Rental revenue: $10.5 million in 1999, No. 73 on the RER 100.

Major jobs: Admar Supply's fleet was used in the remodeling of Greater Rochester International Airport and in the construction of rest stops along the New York State Thruway, local Wal-Marts, Webster Ice Arena in Rochester and several Wegmans, a large grocery chain, in New York.