Making big changes to the way things are done is no easy feat for many family-owned businesses. Why fix what’s not broken, especially if it’s put food on the table for decades?
Having reverence for tradition is good, but having the foresight to know when “business as usual” hinders growth is better.
Just ask Chris Gallagher, a former marketing consultant who now leads Gallagher Fluid Seals, his family’s King of Prussia–based manufacturing business, as CEO.
Gallagher is the third generation to run his family’s industrial applications company: His grandfather, Walter Gallagher, started the business in his garage in 1956.
“At the time, in the 1950s, sealing technology was fairly straightforward,” said Gallagher. Pump packing, gaskets, O-rings — vital parts needed by the company’s big industrial clients such as PECO and chemical company Rohm & Haas.
By the time Walter handed the reins to his three sons in the early 1980s, the family had spent a decade adapting to a big increase in the sophistication of sealing technology. They opened up satellite locations up and down the East Coast. Growth was not a problem.
Chris, having spent much of his career as a consultant in the corporate world, didn’t make his official foray into the family business until 2011, when he stepped into a role as Marketing Director. It wasn’t long before began to detect some problems that were stunting nearly six decades of business growth.
(Catch Gallagher at Growth Camp Philadelphia on Jan. 10. Technical.ly is partnering with Salesforce to produce the virtual event, which will feature presentations and panels from some of Philadelphia’s best and brightest business minds.)
“We’re fortunate in the sense that we have a very technical product that’s very problem-solving-focused,” he said. “By the time we get a design specification in from a customer, it tends to be very sticky. It’s not quite a subscription model, but unless you mess something up, your customers tend to come back and work with you.”
In other words, the business didn’t have a problem maintaining a pool of loyal, returning customers: It had a problem finding new ones.
The company had “kind of stalled from a sales and marketing standpoint,” said Gallagher.
Gallagher Fluid Seals’ “deep bench” of sales folks were too content with returning to longstanding accounts and not driven enough to chase new ones. How do you implement a new system for accountability at a decades-old family business? How do you jumpstart a well-established, brick-and-mortar company?
“Pipeline, pipeline, pipeline,” said Gallagher. “We’re a project-driven business. If we can’t accurately reflect the deals we have in the system, we can’t project growth.”
“A titanic culture shift.” Gallagher says that shift began with the implementation of Salesforce and a new tradition of adhering to the data and accountability the platform creates.
“We looked at our CRM solution and it wasn’t strong enough,” said Gallagher. “No mobile applications, and we knew we had to deliver real-time data to our sales team in the field.”
When Gallagher rose to COO in 2014, he hired a new Director of Sales and Marketing, “CRM evangelist” Michael Fischer. The Salesforce implementation began shortly thereafter.
“It became clear after the first month or two that this was not some flavor of the week,” said Gallagher. A full-time CRM Admin was hired. Salesforce bonuses were rolled out.
Most importantly, Gallagher Fluid Seals began to see results.
“We’ve seen growth in the 10- to 15-percent range. We’ve seen account development increase,” said Gallagher. “We’ve seen basically every metric that we’ve measured improve over the two to three years we’ve been running the system.”
Register for Growth Camp Philadelphia today to learn more about how Salesforce can transform your small business from Gallagher and a roster of local business leaders, including:
- Milkcrate CEO Morgan Berman
- Demountable CEO Rustin Cassway
- Webjunto Co-CEO and Head of Design Liz Brown
- Technically Media CEO Christopher Wink
- XtraCHEF VP of Marketing John Enny
- Guru CEO Rick Nucci
- GoPuff VP of Business Development Daniel Folkman