Autino (Tony) Maraia
Retired as President of National Gypsum in November 1999
As told to Nancy Spurlock on July 9, 2010
I went to work in the New Haven, Connecticut, Sales Office in 1958 as a salesman. At that time, we had to wear a suit, matching trousers and jacket, and we had to wear a soft hat. Some fellows carried their hats. It was a very structured environment. Colon Brown was chairman at the time, and he was known to watch when people came in and would report them to their supervisors if they were late.
We all went to Tom Fallon's sales training classes in Buffalo. He was a strict instructor and conducted various workshops to familiarize us with the products we were selling. On a couple of days during the training, he would take us to a restaurant and the company officers would come by to get to know us.
But my important lessons came from Fred Griffin, who was manager of the New Haven Office, and Dick Tarbell, who was plant manager of the small New Haven plant.
Fred was traveling with me when I sold my first truckload of lath to State Lathing Company. Jim Frouge owned the company. He was intimidating, never smiled. My goal was to sell him our lath. In preparation for his new shipment, Jim bought a little fork lift with hard tires. Jim was out in front of his store with the fork lift when the truck arrived. Fred and I had driven over to meet the shipment when I noticed the truck had been loaded to unload by hand, not with a fork lift. I wanted to drive away. Fred told me to never run away from a problem and to go and buy two pairs of gloves. When I got back, we put on the gloves and helped unload the truck. I have a picture of Jim in his tee-shirt unloading the truck. He became a regular lath customer.
Dick Tarbell was plant manager at the New Haven plant. He was a great teacher, too. I had an idea that we could sell metal studs and stock them in the plant. When I approached Dick, he said, "Okay. Let's take a walk through the plant. When you see a spot, tell me." Of course, there was no place for the studs. At that time, Sales made the decision to take Durasan out of the plants and stock metal studs.
After that, I was in the plant and Dick told me to take a walk with him. He pointed out a stack of metal studs. He said those studs have been sitting there for a long time, hinting we had better work a little harder.
When I became district manager, my sales representatives knew Dick Tarbell as well as they knew me. He traveled with our salesmen. I loved and respected the man. He was the most sales minded plant manager I ever knew.
Before we announced a price increase we would build inventory in the plants. Dick taught us a lot about scheduling and inventory. He would schedule the plant to make product for different sizes. Then, he would tell us how many more days he had not scheduled in a month and would ask us what we wanted him to make.
I was selling building materials most of my career with a few exceptions. At one time I moved over to the company's Mobile Home Division before it started to falter. We had an idea to combine wallboard, metal studs and foam insulation into one building component. We took five of the homes built with the new product to a big show in Louisville. We took five and displayed three. The other two fell apart in the parking lot. Of course, the competitors took customers out to see the pieces!
I went to the Biscayne Floor Division. It was a poor acquisition and didn't survive. When I came back to Gold Bond, the company was going through rough times. Fortunately, Peter Browning came along in 1989 and literally changed our culture. He got sales and marketing working together for the first time in my memory. Peter was a bright spot.
He introduced quality management through TQM (Total Quality Management). Jerry Carroll headed Manufacturing, and I was over Sales. He sent us and others to Japan to observe the TQM techniques.
He was people oriented, and he taught me and others how much people matter. He showed us if we treated people with respect they would respond accordingly. Peter got me motivated and got my sales force motivated.
During the dark days of the bankruptcy, Peter brought us all together and explained the process and what it would entail. We developed a good understanding of what would happen. Peter communicated continually. He made employees as comfortable as possible during that period. As far as I'm concerned Peter was the savior of this company.
During the bankruptcy, we began a plan to start closing sales offices and bring customer service representatives into the Charlotte Office. I worked with Fred Macholz. We made the transition very slowly. All the systems were in place before people transferred and, when it was possible, the people kept their same telephone numbers, and helped pick the furniture for the Customer Service Center. The transition was very successful. "One and done" was in place. The customer service representative was empowered to check inventory, price, and delivery.
Barnes Haupfuhrer handled the Spanglers' purchase of the company. He and Tom Nelson are as bright as they come. Barnes is a real strategic thinker and moved the company in the right direction.
One day Tom and I were having lunch. He told me Dick Spangler wanted to meet with me. During the meeting, Dick Spangler told me he wanted me to be president of the company and told me what my salary would be. There was no negotiation, and there was no problem on my part. Dick then called in the officers and then we told the entire company. He always treated me fairly.
No one told me to do it but, during the time I was president, I covered every aspect of the company with Tom. He was an eager, good student. At the time, I had no idea Tom would succeed me. I have great respect and admiration for him.
National Gypsum is a great company, and I had a great career. A lot of people helped me including wonderful secretaries – Debbie Robinson, Renée Cieslikowski, Sandra Burt, and Janice Elder.
Autino O. (Tony) Maraia retired in 1999 and passed away on August 14, 2016, at the age of 84. The company celebrated his life in an article on its intranet, NGCentral. Many of his fellow associates commented on his service to the company. (Full article).