Keeping an eye on the future is a key focus for Pete Valconesi, president of Johnstown-based High Mark Manufacturing Inc.
“I refuse to go backwards and am always looking to make things better and to offer new products to my customers,” he said.
As a start, Valconesi created a product that would keep those customers — commercial laundry companies — up and running when their equipment needed repairs.
“I used to be a contractor and built these on-site for them, and knew that the washing machines weren’t very user friendly,” he said. “They’re bolted to the floor but have to be worked on from the back.”
With a plan for reducing disruption for laundromat customers and owners, Valconesi went into his garage one day and created a better bulkhead, which became his company’s flagship product.
“With my product,” he said, “you can climb inside and fix problems without disrupting the rest of the store.”
Since then, Valconesi has developed his offerings to keep up with the market and expand his customer base. New products include modern-looking chairs and folding tables that are both attractive and durable.
“We continue to make changes to our existing products,” he said, “as well as to create designs that help our customers modernize that old look.”
As with most businesses, High Mark Manufacturing was hit hard during the recession. “We predominantly cater to people who are just getting into the business, and a challenge about six years ago was that when the economy went south, banks weren’t lending money for people to start new businesses.”
The result slowed the growth of his company’s potential market and reduced future projections for High Mark.
To keep his own business in the game, he turned the challenge into inspiration to find what didn’t rely mainly on customers that were just getting started. Designing and manufacturing tables and chairs that upgraded the look of older laundromats fit the bill.
Increasing the number of products his company sold stretched the reach of High Mark Manufacturing and allowed Valconesi to continue building his focus on repeat businesses.
“The success of my business is completely due to customer service,” he said, adding that he’d never lost a customer. “I will always take care of problems. I’ve never turned a customer away, even if it costs me money — no matter how big or small it is.”
To punctuate that value, Valconesi travels nationally to make sure his customers know he’s listening and is there to help. Although his company focuses on manufacturing products and has distributors representing those products, he believes face-to-face visits keep customers aware of the added value he offers with every sale.