Perseverance and Service Win

Aug. 1, 2004
Getting funding from lending institutions is never easy. You have to put together a business plan, have every angle covered and it's not easy to get the

Getting funding from lending institutions is never easy. You have to put together a business plan, have every angle covered and it's not easy to get the attention of lenders without a track record. I've heard a lot of stories over the years about companies going to great lengths to get loans, but I don't think I've heard anything to top what Dan Tumminello and Kevin Morrell went through getting turned down by 47 lending institutions before finally getting the loan they needed to start Midwest Aerials & Equipment.

Not many that I know could have endured 47 rejections and kept going. The amazing part of it was that Tumminello and Morrell learned from every interview and meeting. They learned about themselves and how they needed to present better. They learned about what banks were looking for. Rather than give up, they refined and improved their business plan, researching and developing a detailed awareness of aspects of the business they hadn't fully considered. They are undoubtedly a much better company today because of what they learned going through this process than if they had received the money straight away.

To Tumminello hearing the word “no” was not a concern. He had heard it many times during a career in sales, and his ability to handle it makes him the go-ahead guy that he is. As he says in this month's cover story, if a prospect says no, it just means the customer doesn't know him yet. I love that confidence. He believes if the customer said no, it's because he hadn't had the opportunity to prove what he can do yet, or maybe he just didn't find the right ice-breaker to communicate with him.

In some cases, it's a matter of waiting your turn. Maybe that customer is already doing business with a rental company. But just wait until a situation arises where that competitor can't fill the required need. Then you have to be ready to jump in, and as we've talked about many times in RER, once the opening is there, don't drop the ball.

I asked Tumminello about Midwest's competition and his essential view is that it doesn't matter. The important thing, he says, is what we do. He and his management team don't talk much about what the competition is doing or charging. The main questions he asks every day are: Are we doing everything correctly? Are we offering the kind of service our customers really need? Are we doing what we told them we would do? If we do that, Tumminello says, everything will fall into place and it won't matter how many competitors they have.

Tumminello has a similar view about having his employees sign non-compete agreements, which he doesn't. “If a guy doesn't want to be here, why would I want to lock him in?” he says. “If you don't want to work for guys like us, you don't really want to work in this business, that's the way I see it.”

I asked if he was concerned about an employee leaving and giving company information to the competition. Again the answer was not at all. Be the best you can be was his philosophy. If we're doing everything right, let them do or say whatever they want.

I like his view. I don't believe you win the confidence of customers by bad-rapping your competition, whether you're in rentals, whether you're selling equipment, or no matter what you do. Respect your competition because you never know when you might need them and don't underestimate them because you never know when they might beat you to a job. But don't try to win a customer by spreading rumors about your competition. I've seen it many times and it usually comes back to bite you in some form.

You might lose a job because of a rate but as soon as that competitor can't fix a broken-down piece of equipment on time, that discount is not worth the paper it's written on and they'll seek the company with the best service. You can take that one to the bank.

I learned another thing from Dan Tumminello, Kevin Morrell and the hardworking, enthusiastic crew at Midwest Aerials. St. Louis may have the best baseball team in the Midwest (so far in 2004) and the best Italian food, but when it comes to barbecue, Kansas City and Arthur Bryant's have got them all beat.

Talk to you next month.