A Family Affair

Edition: September 2000 - Vol 8 Number 09
Article#: 742
Author: Repertoire


Tri-anim celebrated its 25th birthday with a four-day national sales meeting and party for most of its 230 employees and their spouses. It was a family affair. In fact, the company closed its doors for the first time ever on July 21, in order to allow families and employees time to travel to Palm Springs. It was the company's first national sales meeting since 1996.

Sixteen of the company's prime manufacturers were on hand to give half-hour training sessions to the company's 90 salespeople, nine regional managers and 22 customer service representatives. One of those companies - Precision Medical - was rewarded for its efforts by being refunded its entire participation fee. Precision Medical was voted by Tri-anim sales and customer service reps as offering the most educational and entertaining training, and equipping them better than the other companies on hand to leave Indian Wells and sell its products.

A Big Small Company

Although Tri-anim's annual sales recently exceeded the $100 million mark for the first time, the company still looks and feels like a small company, said Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dan Pearson. For example, Tri-anim President Bob Byers still calls up every employee on his or her birthday and anniversary date.

‘Sales can be hard on a person's family life,’ Byers told Repertoire. ‘It's not a 9 to 5 job.’

‘We don't hire just a person. We hire a family,’ he added.

Speaking to the entire group, NCI Senior Vice President Jim Dausch echoed Byers' comments.

‘You tend to see [the family] environment in small start-up companies,’ said Dausch, whose company has helped Tri-anim with national accounts and marketing for several years. ‘But you tend to lose it as you grow.’

Yet, Tri-anim has managed to maintain that family atmosphere throughout its 25 years of growth, said Dausch. Its employees feel it, and even its manufacturer partners feel it, he said. That type of environment tends to foster longevity among its employees, he added. And Tri-anim has its share of long-timers.

One of them - Mary Sager - was honored with a 45-minute roast to note her retirement from the company. She had been the customer service manager in St. Louis for 15 years. Unable to attend the meeting because of an illness, she visited with the Tri-anim group via closed-circuit television from the hospital in which she is recuperating from back surgery.

Noted for her colorful language and adoration by customers, Sager received more than her fair share of barbs and long-distance hugs. But she responded in kind. For example, when teased by Pearson about her slow Southern drawl, Sager explained that Southerners have to talk slowly in order to give Northerners time to understand what they're saying.


Tri-anim was founded 25 years ago by Byers, Don DeMate (currently the company's Southwest Regional Sales Manager) and Jay E. Davis (currently a Tri-anim sales rep in Orange County, CA). The word ‘anim’ is Latin for life, breath, soul. A fitting name for a respiratory company, said Byers. The three hired their former boss - Carl Reisman - to act as chairman and CEO, while they did what they did best - sell. Reisman retired in 1986, but still is involved with the company.

In 1978, Tri-anim made its first acquisition, a company in northern California. Since then, it has made about a dozen more, said Byers, who ultimately bought the ownership interests of his two partners. Today, the company services its customers from 13 locations around the country.

In addition to the carefully nurtured family atmosphere, Tri-anim has another key to success, said Byers: All executives and managers allow those who report to them to have the final say over their areas of responsibility.

Tri-anim has one more oddity - no budgets. ‘We don't believe in them,’ said Byers. ‘We make a decision about what's right for the company, then decide whether we can afford it.’

Budgets only lead to over-spending or under-spending, he added. A person with a budget will spend it, regardless of whether he or she needs to. Likewise, he or she may hold back from doing the best thing for the company because the budget won't allow them to. Either way, the company loses.

Likewise, Tri-anim has cut down on paperwork by adopting flat-rate expense reports, rather than detailed line-item reports.

‘The bottom line is, decisions should be based on doing the right thing,’ said Byers. ‘The rest falls into place.’

That kind of philosophy has driven Tri-anim to become one of the most technologically advanced distributors of its size, said Pearson. For example, the company outfitted its entire sales force with laptop computers back in 1989, and has continued to push forward with technology initiatives ever since, he said.

The reps' laptops give them as much information as they could access at their home office, including sales history for all their customers, any recalls, pricing, inventories at all 13 of the company's locations, stocked order reports (alerting the reps if their customers haven't ordered particular products at the historical intervals) and contract pricing, he said.


Honors and awards flowed freely at the event.

Twenty-three reps were inducted into the President's Club for meeting certain goals in Tri-anim's Prime Manufacturer program. For fiscal year 2000 (July 1, 1999 - June 30, 2000), the reps increased their total gross profit on prime manufacturers more than $45,000 and their total gross profit on each ‘A’ manufacturer over 20%.

Each rep received a seven-day, expense-paid trip for two to a destination of their choice and a $2,500 shopping spree (with limo) for spouse or guest during the sales meeting.

Forty-six reps were recognized for achieving sales exceeding $1 million. Topping the list was Craig Ziegelbein, Springfield, MO, whose FY2000 sales were $2.7 million.

The top regional sales manager was Tom Sampson of the Midwest Region.

For the third consecutive year, the Manufacturer of the Year was Respironics.

Pearson acted as emcee for the Saturday night dinner and awards banquet, which featured manufacturer awards as well as photos of Tri-anim employees as they looked in 1975 - the year the company was founded.