Safely Ahead of the Game
So, within two weeks of showing interest in purchasing the company, to engage Safeco employees in the deal, Longo visited each of Safeco's seven regional offices, learning all employees' names in the process. Starting a month before the deal and continuing for a month afterward, he flew Safeco employees up to Northern Safety's headquarters to see how the company was run. He also held strategic planning sessions in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for management on both sides. In short, "We really rolled out the red carpet for them," Longo says.
The result? "The buy-in has been unbelievable, just tremendous," Longo says. "We never expected to buy a company and turn a culture around as quickly as we did."
Northern Safety Corporate Time Line
1983: Sal Longo and his brother Ronald found a home-based business selling first-aid kits and safety gear out of a van to local factories and municipalities in Frankfort, N.Y.
1985: The company adopts the name Northern Safety and enters the direct mail industry with an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch mailer with two gloves on one side. Armed with 1,000 names from the McCray's Industrial Directory, Northern Safety sends the mailer in a No. 10 envelope and sees a 2.5 percent response rate. Later that year, the mailer turns into a 24-page catalog. Sales increase threefold over the previous year, and the company moves into a small office and warehouse in Utica, N.Y.
1999: The company moves into a new building in Frankfort, N.Y., a 94,000-square-foot, custom-built facility.
2001: Northern Safety completes the expansion of its warehouse, doubling its size from 60,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet.
2002: The NS® family of products is introduced. The first products are N-Specs® Safety Eyewear and NS® Hand Protection.
2005: Sal Longo completes the buyout of his brother and co-founder in June and restructures the company. This begins a period of rapid expansion for Northern Safety. In one year, the company grows from 170 employees to 310.