Uplifting Story in Down Times
When Dan Tumminello tells you that you need to try the ribs at Pappy’s Smokehouse, you can forget about ordering the pulled pork. Pappy’s, the quirky little place owned by champion barbecue chef Mike Emerson, is located on a little cul de sac called Cardinal off of Olive near St. Louis University. Pappy’s has no street signage on Olive and doesn’t need it. The ribs are everything that Tumminello touts them to be — as close to Memphis as you’ll find in St. Louis
Every day, cops, construction workers, nurses, and executives are queued 50-deep in the fast moving line to place their order. And somewhere in the line you’ll often find Tumminello and some of the crew from Midwest Aerials, the company that he and co-founder Kevin Morrell started in Morrell’s basement 12 years ago.
Tumminello had background in the construction industry. They tried 48 banks before they finally got their first business loan.
Today, Midwest Aerials occupies a sprawling nine-acre complex on Papin near Jefferson and Chouteau in the City of St. Louis with over 33,000 thousand sq. ft. of offices and shops. The company’s fleet totals over 2,600 pieces with an employee team of 100. The company also has facilities in Kansas City and Springfield in Missouri and Bloomington in Illinois.
A separate facility on the Papin site houses MAE Parts & Service, which services customer owned equipment in the shop or on the jobsite. The concept, Tumminello, said, was that Midwest did not want its customers competing with the Midwest rental fleet for technician time.
Joe Alonzo, director of sales for Midwest, who joined the company as a partner along with Dan Martino, director of operations in Midwest’s third year, says that the principles that have allowed Midwest to continue to grow in this economy are very straightforward. First and foremost, the company is focused on man- and material-lifts. “Our mechanics aren’t working on a trencher in the morning and a lift that’s going to put somebody’s dad 100 feet in the air in the afternoon,” Alonzo said.
Midwest has an incredibly strong, collaborative, team-focused culture. You can tell that their employees actually like one another. It’s a money-making business that includes focus on families, riding Harleys, and barbecue – straightforward and no frills. Customers get to participate in that culture, with claybird shoots catered by Pappy’s and Midwest field people who are doing whatever they can to make things right.
Alonzo said Midwest’s best ideas come from the field. To be a successful member of their team, he said, you have to be ready to perform 24/7/365. He expects his sales force of 15 to be proactive with both prospects and existing customers. Cell phones are on business cards and if a team member isn’t in the office the receptionist offers the cell number. As a result customers, like the auto plant that needed 28 lifts on the Fourth of July knew that their rep would pick up the phone, jack in from his laptop and get the equipment on the road.
In a down market, the spirit at Midwest is positively uplifting. Just remember: Order the ribs at Pappy’s.