We recently sat down with Michael Stempkowski of NEMA to learn about his amazing organization and why he chooses to work with Arctic Industries. A slightly edited version of the transcript can be found below.
Can you give us some background on yourself and NEMA and how long you’ve been in the industry?
Michael: “I have been in the industry for around 35 years now. Like most people, I started with a dealer base who is now one of Arctic’s biggest accounts. I worked at the counter as a route person and then a contract person. Most of the reps that are my competitors, and my peers are second or third-generation; I am first-generation; there was no model to follow here. A guy I worked with at the time said I don’t think we are going to make it in the industry unless we can go out, see the customer ourselves, help work on the order, install the order, and finalize the order; be a one-stop-shop for the dealer. It took a long time, but it worked. We tried to make selling, speaking, and installing a walk-in as easy as a bread box.”
Can you mention the history of your relationship with Arctic, the quality of the product, and what you have seen over time?
“Today, many people look at the Internet as our biggest competitor and I disagree. It is almost impossible to sell a walk-in on the Internet if the customer has already done it before.
If the customer has contracted the freight with Arctic, we’re going to be there for them. We’re still there for them if they did not contract with Arctic. We would be almost wholly involved except for the fiscal responsibility as if it was ours.
Arctic is a quality product. Only about two or three other people have a comparable design, which gives us the flexibility to the half inch. We’re also very good at turning around drawings that would take most people in this industry weeks. Arctic has worked diligently to have the best servicing of any walk-in manufacturer in this country.
It’s an excellent company to take a taste of. I’m sold on the brand, the ownership, and the management. I see the marketing is just getting stronger and stronger to match the product and service.”
Given your history, you’ve probably seen quite a bit in this industry, and the last year and a half have probably been a unique challenge. How have you guys adjusted and where do you see you guys heading into 2022?
“We’ve gained a little bit of business, but we’ve lost some due to not being able to deliver to some of the manufacturers that aren’t quality by nature. Our service is what is going to separate the good from the bad even more. Unlike many other competitors, we have a service department to follow up and people who care. I think in the long run, we will be better off for it.”
How do you view NEMA and what you do compared to other rep groups out there?
“We look at problem-solving; always have and always will. That’s how we grow. If we’re fortunate enough to get your business and there is a problem, we will prioritize you over someone new looking to buy. That’s the long and short of how we’ve grown. We do not feel that there’s any problem that is not 100 percent able to be resolved.”
Where do you see NEMA heading in 2022?
“We basically as a company look for key players. We also focus on casinos, hotels, universities, schools. Schools are a new industry for us. The school market is tough. It could take 2-3 years to break into but once you’re in, it’s yours. I’m looking to stay where I am for the next year or two but then do a measurable 15-25 percent increase when we get more into the school market. We pick up more and more chains of hospitals. I see us continuing to grow.”
What do you think will happen to the industry in 2022? What do you see happening?
“I think you’re going to see more food courts which have been a good market for us with Arctic. I don’t see the universities being an issue because they’re getting a lot of government money to go green things which is good. Somehow these chains keep surviving. When one goes out of business, another one will almost always pop up in its place. I am very optimistic.”
Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us, Michael!