2013 Dealer of the Year: Singer Equipment Company

Another key step in Singer Equipment Co.'s evolution occurred in June 2011 when it acquired New Jersey-based M. Tucker Company. While this deal left many in the foodservice equipment and supplies industry slack-jawed, it gave Singer Equipment Co. an immediate presence in the greater New York market, which would have otherwise taken years to establish. In addition, acquiring M. Tucker allowed the company to provide continuous geographic service to customers from western Pennsylvania into New Jersey and New York. This also will help facilitate the company's eventual transition into the greater Washington, D.C., market.

Of course, acquiring and integrating a $60 million dealer like M. Tucker into a $126 million company, which Singer Equipment Co. was at the time, is no small feat. Still, under Singer's leadership the dealership embarked on a thoughtful and thorough process "to preserve the strengths of M. Tucker's organization while making sure it fits in with the culture, values and behaviors of the larger company."

"It is important to get to know the employees, the strengths of the individuals on their team and to get to know their customers," Singer adds. "During the first year, I was up at Tucker a lot establishing a reporting and communication rhythm with the whole company. What we focus on is making sure their behaviors are in keeping with the values of the company and they are keeping with the standards of the organization. I want everyone, whether they are at Tucker or Singer, to have that drive and passion."

And Singer's early efforts clearly have been rewarded. "He's much more familiar with who we are and more comfortable with us. He gets formatted information that helps him ask intelligent questions and make informed decisions," says Steven Tucker, president of Singer NY LLC/M. Tucker Co. "Fred certainly understands that each division is like a company in its own right. We have budgets that we work out together. He won't allow for a slam-dunk budget, but he won't allow for a budget we can't attain either. I work as hard or harder for Fred as I did for myself. So part of it is your accountability to yourself and understanding this is not a part-time business."

The transition for customers was a smooth one by most accounts. That's because most of M. Tucker's employees remained in place and continued using the same systems as before. "The marketplace never knew there was an issue with Tucker, so there was never an issue with restarting the brand as part of Singer," Tucker says.

“We reinvest in the company and take a long-term approach to managing our business, which keeps us stable and able to grow. Over time that longer-term approach has become more important. In the boom years anyone can make it, but you have to be prepared for the lean times, too. By taking a long-term perspective, we can be flexible in meeting our customers’ needs while still being able to meet all of our financial obligations.” —Jim Batty, Controller, Singer Equipment Co.Although roughly two years have passed since the deal was first announced, Singer remains very enthusiastic about the opportunities it presents to Singer Equipment Co. "The growth opportunities we have in New York are essentially limitless," he says. "The market is so huge and fragmented that there is a lot of room to grow. We intend to invest in that market and remain committed to it. This is my 20-year project."

To facilitate this growth, though, clear, free-flowing communication between Singer Equipment Co. and its New York subsidiary will need to continue to evolve. To help facilitate this process, the company has added video-conferencing capabilities to allow people at the various offices to interact on a regular basis. "Growth companies have a rhythm of communication, and [sharing] their progress against goals is how they chart their success," Singer adds.

In addition, the company continues to explore other ways to further integrate its operations. For example, Singer Equipment Co. and its M. Tucker division are not yet on the same computer system; but making such a transition would allow the company to ship orders from either warehouse, thus making the organization even more responsive to customers. "That opens up tremendous opportunities to support each other," Singer says. "There are just so many ways to help each other to become more efficient and effective."

More than providing an entry into the New York market, adding M. Tucker to Singer Equipment Co. provided the Elverson, Pa.-based dealership with some additional insight experience at the senior management level, according to Singer. "Steven Tucker and Marc Fuchs are both highly intelligent and experienced. For our organization it is nice to have two more senior executives at the table to help discuss strategy. They have a lot of relationships with vendors and customers, and that adds a lot of value."

And the feeling of respect among Tucker, Fuchs and Singer is mutual. "It is very refreshing to be part of something so big and growing. Not only is Fred as smart as anyone in the business, but he also works harder than anyone else in the business. I am not sure anyone knows how hard he works," Tucker says. "I like being accountable to Fred; and when it comes to business, there needs to be accountability. He treats me respectfully and honorably. He always asks good questions and pushes us to do better. Fred does not like to lose and always asks good questions so we can learn from this."