Telmar Network Technology
Telmar Network Technology (then called Telmar Distributing Company) was founded in 1986, in my back bedroom! I had an idea for an equipment search program, which later became Topics. I spent many hours entering telephone company's surplus equipment lists, and developing the first program. Chris made the first sales calls from that bedroom office, while I made typing noises in the background.
We moved to our first real office in Irvine's Sky Park Circle, with a 1,000 sq ft warehouse. We soon expanded into next door, and then next door to that. We also added a larger fourth warehouse a few miles away. We moved all of this into our new home at 16781 Noyes Avenue, Irvine, where we stayed for many years. (We did add the building next door as well, for our test labs.)
Our first group of employees included Sue Lowenthal (sales & operations), Gary McMullin (quality), Mark Manganella (sales, starting with Lois Weyler at our brokerage company, Apics), and Becky Manganella. Later we added Jerry Constance from Pacific Bell (testing), and Mel Santi also from Pacific Bell (contracts & sales). Robert Arias ran the warehouse team. We opened sales offices in Pennsylvania (Eric Masters & Chuck Hoyt) and Sacramento. We were a small group - maybe 20 to 30 people in all, but with Topics we had sales-per-employee ten times that of our closest competitor!
We became registered for ISO-9002 and TL-9000 quality standards, a big investment in time and effort for a small company.
We developed a good relationship with Allied Communications Equipment Supply, a long-established distributor with a huge inventory. They were a competitor, and much bigger than Telmar, but our sales were many times theirs, and we helped them sell their inventory. We gave them the ACESHIP program, and they could ship our orders directly to our customers, with our paperwork and labels. That cemented our relationship.
In 1997 we were short-listed for a sole supply contract with SBC, (Now AT&T) We put together a team to bid for the contract. This included myself (proposal writing and computer programs), Gary McMullin (business), Mel Santi (in-your-face sales), and Sandie Jarrett (PowerPoint). We held a dress rehearsal in an off-site hotel conference room. Bill Peck (Geneva) and Sidney Yeaman stood in as SBC executives.
We went to St Louis and gave our presentation to SBC. They liked it so much, they called in their senior managers to listen to the good bits over again! So we won the contract. Telmar's sales went from $12 million to over $70 million.
In 1999 I sold Telmar to Stonebridge Partners, a New York private equity firm. They soon bought Allied Communications Equipment Supply, our closest competitor, in a friendly merger.
Telmar Network Technology now has sales of over $300 million a year. They purchased Comnet Supply, a leading supplier of wireless telecom equipment, and Maya Telecom, in Florida. Stonebridge made five add-on company acquisitions. Telmar now has facilities in Irvine California, Council Bluffs Iowa, Yuma Arizona, Darien Illinois, Sparks Maryland, Annandale New Jersey, San Angelo Texas, Plano Texas, Dallas Texas, Orlando Florida, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, The Netherlands and Hong Kong. www.telmarnt.com
In 2006, Telmar Network Technology was purchased by Warburg Pincus, a New York private equity firm. By 2010 the company had over 800 employees in 14 countries around the world.
These are the early Telmar employees:
|Granville Kirkup||November 1986||President|
|Chris Kirkup||April 1987||Sales|
|Sue Lowenthal||June 1987||Sales|
|Mike Mergen (consultant)||July 1987||Accounting|
|Loleta Witherspoon||October 1988||Sales|
|Bill Kirsch||October 1988||Warehouse|
|Mark Manganella||October 1989||Sales|
|Gary McMullin||April 1990||Quality|
|Lois Weyler||April 1990||Sales|
|Robert Arias||May 1990||Warehouse|
|Eric Masters||November 1990||Sales|
|Becky Manganella||January 1991||Sales|
|Chuck Hoyt||March 1991||Sales|
|Jerry Constance||September 1991||Testing|
|Rich Kirkup||February 1992||Warehouse|
|Mel Santi||February 1992||Contracts|
|Vi Barrett||April 1992||Contracts|
|Don Van Epps||August 1994||Warehouse|
|Mark Neidl||September 1994||Testing|
|Sandie Jarrett||October 1996||Documentation|
|Mike Cassai||October 1996||Warehouse|
|Linda Farr||October 1996||Testing|
|Dennis Cabrera||July 1997||Warehouse|
|Kimberly Butcofski||September 1997||Warehouse|
|Patty Dutchover||January 1998||Warehouse|
|Burnis Coleman||March 1998||Warehouse|
|Tiffanie Lu||May 1998||Operations|
|Bill Boyer||May 1998||Testing|
|Cindy Getz||August 1998||Warehouse|
|Eric Rodriguez||August 1998||Warehouse|
|Linda Schroeder||October 1998||Testing|
Finally, Ed Sinclair, January 1999, testing.
My dad (W.G. 'Pat' Kirkup) also came by from time to time to help with junking! My dad didn't think that what I did in the office - programming and such - was 'real' work, so when he was there I had to work alongside him in the warehouse!
Where are they now?
Granville Kirkup is with Sector Supply.
Gary McMullin is a consultant to several companies.
Sue Lowenthal is with Sector Supply.
Rich Kirkup is the President of Sector Supply.
Lois Weyler and Tiffanie Lu are still with Telmar.
Mark and Becky Manganella are with CTDI.
Jerry Constance was a quality consultant to Sector Supply.
Mike Mergen has his own accounting business.
Chris Kirkup is retired and helps with her grandkids.
Robert Arias is with Sector Supply.
Eric Masters and Chuck Hoyt are still with Telmar.
Bill Boyer owns 2 Guys Productions in Lake Havasu City, Az.
Mark Neidl is with Lightning Technology, in San Juan Capistrano.
Linda Farr is a wiring technician with Verizon.
Ed Sinclair works on contract for AT&T Mobility, and owns a handcrafted jewelry business.
Mel Santi is retired and living in Las Vegas.
Bill Peck is Managing Director of Hunter Wise Financial Group.
(To add your name to this list, . )
Some episodes from Telmar's early history
We would have a 'company lunch' every Friday. At first we would go out for lunch, but this proved to be too disruptive as the company grew, so we would have Friday lunch catered. We always had free sodas and drinks for everyone, and after-work get-togethers on many Fridays.
Ken Mockett and his company were one of our secret weapons. We had no idea how to design and build offices, warehouse racking, clean rooms, or test labs, but Ken always knew. He would deliver our infrastructure professionally and on time. We need a climate-controlled lab to house a switch? (A huge piece of telecom equipment). We would just think it and it would be done.
Topics began as an equipment search program. Then we added order processing, and separately warehouse shipping and labeling. As the company grew, we joined the various parts together, into a nicely integrated system. We adding networking and email, and a direct 'Zap' link to our Pennsylvania sales office. Many people were involved in the design of Topics. I would get a memo or a visit from Mark, Sue, Becky, Rich, sometimes Eric. They would start with, "It would be really cool if..." I would listen and go away and design it. I did all of my Topics programming at home in the evening, often until 2am (that did my marriage no good at all). There was little that could not be done in a night or two, and I would come back to the office and load the Topics update onto everyone's computer through the network. Each time we got a new customer, we could adapt Topics to exactly match their forms and systems.
Topics developed into a sort of Google for the telecom equipment market - from one screen we could see any company's inventory. For any item we could see the whole industry's wants, and our own sales, purchases, substitutes, bids and pricing history. Other companies would often call us and ask, "Do we have this in inventory? It takes too long to look it up on our system!"
For some years I handled all purchasing for inventory. Other companies would go and look at material being offered for bid, but we never needed to do this. We had a Topics report called a 'Prebid', which would show the historical sales and wants, inventory and pricing information for each item. You could quickly run a prebid on any list of material we were offered, and create a bid to purchase. In that way, we only purchased material that was saleable. You could look at a prebid and visually see the interesting items - they would jump out at you. Later, Rich came up through the warehouse, and took over inventory purchasing. He suggested improvements to the prebid, and was even better than I was - he would often have material sold before he bought it. Later we added a 'Postbid' report - we could evaluate the effectiveness of any bid, and measure the return in sales of that material - a good metric. We could also see month-by-month returns on all bids.
As part of Topics, we had airport-style overhead sales monitors in the sales office, warehouse and test labs. These would show sales as they came in, and their status as they passed through the system - New, Warehouse, Shipped, Billed, etc. Each status was a different color, so you could see at a glance how many orders were new, in the warehouse, shipped, etc. Also on the sales monitors was a section showing our sales and gross margin for the week, month and year-to-date, as well as the monthly bonus amount. All of this was updated once per minute. When Stonebridge came to see us, they were impressed, not only that we could calculate our year-to-date gross margin up to the minute, but that everyone in the company could see it. Everyone's bonus was reflected by the sales monitors.
Because the overhead sales monitors were static - just new sales popping up and changing colors occasionally, I added graphs showing our weekly and monthly sales. I added a red 'Taco Bell Menu' which would flash up for a few seconds on occasions. This became a sort of urban myth - some people had seen it, but most had not. I would see people standing in front of the overhead monitors for several minutes, trying to catch it! Later I added the arrivals screen from Orange County Airport, which would flash up for a few seconds! The overhead monitors would play music when a sale came in - a few seconds, getting longer with increasing sales amounts. A million dollar sale would play 'charge' for 30 seconds, and everyone would cheer! So why do all of this stuff? Everyone regarded Telmar as their own company. When a sale came in at 5pm, the warehouse guys would not complain, they would pack it and take it to Fedex themselves.
It was a few days after 9/11. Telmar's new president, John Kidwell, had gathered everyone together in the lunch room to talk about the awful events in New York and Washington. Several people spoke. Then Ayman got up and said that he we all knew that he was from a different culture, but he supported the United States as much as everyone else - he is a proud Muslim from Syria. Everyone in the company stood up and applauded him!