YESTERDAY, the company I once worked for shut its doors for good.
That company was home-base for my first (of only two) full-time jobs I’ve ever had since retiring from the Marine Corps.
In 1998, I became a service tech for one of the ten branches in a privately-owned, top performing company - headquartered out of Indianapolis…300 miles to our north. We employed twenty-four in our branch and OWNED our local market back then. I worked there for fourteen years.
It was initially a great place to work. Lotsa camaraderie.
- A company picnic each summer.
- A Christmas party each year as well.
- Christmas cards. Birthday cards.
- A memorable little annual inventory on a given Saturday (that was usually a NON-work day).
- They were fun though. The branch manager would hide $5 bills in ONE bin box on each line of parts shelves…just to make sure we were thorough.
- My inventory partner and I were always done first (we were fast), so the bossman would hand me his credit card to go pick up the pizzas he’d ordered…and a case of beer.
- After all THAT was gone, THEN we could clock out.
- When my father passed away and I went to tend to the services a-thousand miles away, there were flowers at the funeral home from my company to pay their respects.
- The OWNER came through to visit once a quarter and made it a point to talk to EVERYONE.
In 2001, after MANY reservations and mulling over a THIRD offer, he sold the whole company to Ecolab.
Our local business methods quickly changed. People were let go with severance as their duties were up-lined to newly hired people at the national office in Indy. They established a NATIONAL call center there too.
Many service parts processing duties were initially cast down upon the technicians' plate via assigned UPS Store boxes and nightly courier deliveries to tech's trucks in their (our) driveways.
Imagine hearing the dogs barking every single night at around 3 am while truck doors are being slammed...
The changes in how our business was conducted eventually became a disappointment to our loyal customers. They didn't like talking to a different person every time they called for service. After being on hold for so long waiting for ANOTHER unfamiliar person to finally answer, they eventually decided to call OTHER companies and became friends with THEIR consistently familiar voices.
Our LOCAL business volume s-l-o-w-l-y dwindled. We were forced to make two moves into progressively smaller locations in the next dozen years - going from a big warehouse to a small warehouse…and finally into a suite with a large room in the back for the handful of parts shelves we could fit in it.
Three local service techs and I left the company (within weeks of each other) in 2012. Six employees remained LOCALLY…including two techs. More techs were hired to replace us.
Despite our LOCAL woes at THAT time, Ecolab Equipment Care strived to be the market leader by making claims of dispatching 500+ techs NATIONALLY…along with having the industry's largest food equipment PARTS sales organization.
Late last year, Ecolab decided to sell off the entire NATIONAL food equipment service division due to poor performance (the "bean counters" didn't like the numbers). The marriage was OVER.
The new owner (a private equity firm) renamed it Smart Care Equipment Solutions.
SUBSEQUENTLY – just this past June, Smart Care split off its national parts sales portion (PartsXpress) and sold it to the sponsors of THIS board (congrats)
So, as of yesterday, the ladies that were hanging in there and running the parts sales office that I once called my home-base…ladies that stayed the course for the past seventeen years following the 2001 Ecolab acquisition - have closed the doors for the last time.