Cleaning up on the environment
New federal spending will boost environmental equipment suppliers like ERE Inc.

When David Anderson, Canada's Minister of the Environment announced $3 billion in new spending as part of last month's budget proceedings, at least one Montrealer had a broad smile on his face.

"We live on environmental legislation," said Angelo Diadelfo, president of ERE Inc. "Any new initiatives, especially new government money are likely to eventually benefit environmental equipment suppliers like us."

ERE, which stands for Environmental Remediation Equipment. manufactures and distributes products are used in site cleanups, water and air purification in a variety of sectors including pulp and paper plants and petrochemical facilities.

Diadelfo who is just 36, founded the company in 1994 in his parent's garage. Since then sales have grown steadily, doubling every three or four years. Today the company generates close to $3 million in annual revenues by marketing products in three categories: industrial water treatment, soil sampling equipment and -- its biggest division -- remediation equipment used in soil decontamination.

According to one industry expert, real estate price movements are changing the economics of site decontamination and companies like ERE are operating in a profitable niche.

"When land costs rise, it becomes more worthwhile to cleanup polluted sites such as abandoned gas stations," said Guy Crittenden, editor in chief of Hazardous Materials Management magazine. "New federal initiatives, which are run in partnerships with provincial and municipal governments are also accelerating the process."

Diadelfo has been a self-starter all his life. After high school he went straight into the workforce, working as a shoe salesman, and later store manager. When he was just 19, he founded his own alarm installation company, which he ran on the side while completing trade school studies, later working full time as a designer and trainer at an environmental consulting firm.

But he always knew he wanted to run his own show, and when he was just 26, he sold his stake in the alarm company and set out in the environmental equipment business.

"In the beginning I was putting in 135 hours a week, doing just about everything," Diadelfo said. "I would sell during the day and assemble products after supper. I had many sleepless nights."

According to one expert, the environmental equipment manufacturing business is fraught with pitfalls for the unsuspecting.

"You can't just deal with anyone," said Lise St-Laureant, chief technician at Dessau Soprin's environment department. "You have to make sure that your suppliers can give you the right product to so the right job."

"I've dealt with Angelo for six years. He knows the environmental equipment business well," St-Laurent said. "I buy groundwater testing equipment and other remediation products from him, and if there is a problem they do the servicing themselves."

According to Doug Leblanc, president of DL Services, which employs 200 and is one of the largest site cleanup contractors in the country, Diadelfo's salesmanship is a big key to his success.

"He is very client and customer oriented," Leblanc, who bought more than $300,000 of ERE equipment last year said. "He has a good sense of humor, and he uses it to put you at ease, and create a climate in which you can hammer out the tough issues."

Asked if he was one of those fast talkers who could sell a fridge to an Eskimo, Diadelfo agreed.

"I've done it," he said with a smile. "Last year when our sales staff was doing some training, we created an exercise in which we pretended to sell a fridge to an Eskimo. You'd be amazed at the creative ways which the guys came up with."

Diadelfo credits a lot of his success to his team of 13 employees, which includes his wife Diana Trasente, who joined the company after completing her masters degree in engineering and who now works three days a week doing administrative work. The couple also cooperate on another joint venture; their two young sons Matteo who is three years old and Roberto who is just one.

In recent years with his business a little more established, Diadelfo has managed to cut his workweek down to a more manageable 70 hours. But he refuses to rest on his laurels. Last year ERE acquire Sampson Filtration Separation a company that builds custom made water treatments systems and Diadelfo want to build on its base. Another key goal is tackling the U.S. market, which provides only 15 per cent of ERE's sales, a small amount relative to the enormous potential south of the border.

"I want to reach $10 million in sales within five years," Diadelfo said. "You can't afford to sit still in my business. Either you are a leader or you fall behind."

 

Photo caption: Angelo Diadelfo, president of ERE Inc. expects strong demand for his decontamination equipment in the wake increased spending on the environment announced in the recent federal budget.

Sidebar: Getting ahead

o Angelo Diadelfo has been a self-starter all his life. He started work as a shoe salesman right after high school, later rising to store manager. At just 19 he founded his own alarm installation firm, which he sold in 1994 the year he founded Ere Inc.
o For the first few years while running the company out of his mother's basement, Diadelfo put in 135 hour weeks doing everything including sales, product assembly, installations and paperwork.
o Last year the company acquired Sampson Filtration Separation, which provided a foothold into the industrial wastewater treatment market.
o Diadelfo's philosophy boils down to setting out concrete goals, expanding slowly while never taking on excess debt, surrounding himself with the best people available, and maintaining a happy positive spirit.

 

peter@peterdiekmeyer.com

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