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Episode 100: Resilience & Rhythm in Rochester Family Business

Welcome to another recap of the Family Biz Show! In our 100th episode, we celebrated in Rochester's very own RocVox studio in the Basin with Marc Iacona* from Simcona Electronics and Rochester Jazz Fest fame! Check out the whole episode above or watch the full video below or on YouTube!

A Seamless Journey into the Family Business

Marc's journey into the family business was, in his words, "seamless." The opportunity was there, but he was never forced into it. His father, Lou Iacona, and his partner, Simon Brightman, started Simcona Electronics in 1962. The company name, Simcona, is a combination of Simon and Cona. Marc grew up around the business, but he initially had other aspirations, including a desire to go into entertainment and acting.

A Detour to Xerox and Back to Simcona

However, fate had other plans. Marc ended up working at Xerox Corporation for a while after attending RIT. He then returned to Simcona in the late 80s and early 90s, working in various departments. He never really thought he would stay there, but as he started a family, the next chapter of his life was written.

The Evolution of Simcona

Simcona started as an electronics distributor, supplying electromechanical products to manufacturers and contractors. Around 2011-2012, Marc had an idea to get into manufacturing that revolved around what they were supplying, such as control panel systems and power management systems. This marked a significant evolution for Simcona, which has been growing in that direction ever since.

The Transition of Ownership

Marc bought the company twice. The first time was in August 1999, when he, along with Blanche (Simon's daughter) and Angelo (Marc's brother-in-law), purchased the company from Simon and Lou. This transition was smooth and well-received, as they had been running the company for about ten years for Simon and Lou. In 2011, Marc bought out Blanche and Angelo, taking full ownership of Simcona. This transition also went smoothly, and it allowed Marc to pursue some of the things he wanted to do without having to convince others.

The Power of Teamwork

Marc credits a great deal of Simcona's success to the team around him. He believes in the importance of respecting people and treating them the way you want to be treated, a value instilled in him by his father. This mindset has been instrumental in navigating the challenges of running a family business and fostering a positive work environment.

Watch the entire episode!

Episode 100 Transcript

Michael Palumbos
Welcome everybody to the Family Biz Show. I'm your host Michael Palumbos with Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York. And today we have Marc Iacona from Simcona Electronics and Rochester Jazz Fest with us today. Welcome, Marc.

Marc Iacona

Thank you. Good to be here.


This is, we're doing episode 100 of this show right now. And I can't tell you, I couldn't have a better guest for this. You know, iconic the Rochester Jazz Fest is, and you're a multi -generation family business. So, wicked cool, I'm very excited about the show today. One of the traditions that we have on the show is just talking about how did you end up in the family business? What was the journey? Because it's different for everybody.


Yeah, my journey was pretty, I want to call it seamless. The opportunity was there, but I was never...told you need to come into the family business. My father and his partner got together. My dad was actually, Lou Iacono was calling on a gentleman, Simon Brightman. That's how you come up with the name Simcona, Simon and Cona. And he was calling on him at Bausch and Lomb. My father was electrical guy, electronics guy. Simon was an engineer at Bausch and Lomb. Both have really awesome stories personally of how they got to where they are. That's a totally different chapter, but...They don't make them like these guys anymore. One was a concentration camp survivor. My father was a depression survivor and was homeless as a young age. So those two getting together, starting that business in 62, grew. And being around that business the whole time and seeing it evolve as a young kid, I never really thought about going in the business. I wanted to do other things. I kind of wanted to go into entertainment and acting. However, you know, as fate would have it, and the book is written, you know, for you a little bit, you control some of the chapters, I was, got involved at Xerox Corporation, went to RIT, and then ended up working at Xerox for a little bit, and coming back and forth, and then actually, late 80s, early 90s, got back to Simcona and working there, and working there is in all the different departments, never really thinking that I was gonna stay there.

But then a family starts and then the rest of the chapter is written, next chapter is written. Nice, nice, nice. So talk about, if you would, what is Simcona, what do they do? And when they started the business, what was it like when they started the business versus today? Sure. Historically, from 62 to about, let's just call it 2006, 2007, Simcona was straight ahead what we call electronics distributor. So for manufacturing, so anybody that was making a product and we would sell electromechanical products, wiring, cable, connectors, relays, fans, terminal blocks, power supplies, connectors, relays, different things like that for many, many years. And what we call it, we revolved around the circuit board. So all the product that really wasn't integrated circuits, we were having, selling the products that supported that on a circuit board and the media that came out of it, whether it was power or data.

And historically I've been a straight ahead distributor to manufacturing and contractors. In the, around 2011, 12 -ish, I had an idea when I bought the company, I actually bought the company twice. So the second time I bought the company, I'll go back to how that all happened. I had a desire to get into manufacturing that revolved around what we were supplying. So control panel systems, power management systems. And we've been growing in that ever since. So maintaining the distribution, sales, development, customer base, as well as growing a contract manufacturing control panel building service that now we're growing that business. But going back to working at Simcona, never really thinking that I was going to stay there. Always kind of wanted to go do some different things. But as opportunity led to it with my dad's partner's daughter, Blanche as well as my brother -in -law Angelo in August of 99 We purchased the company from them and it was a really smooth transition really nice transition We had been running the company for about ten years for them. So the suppliers the customers there was confidence that was there It wasn't a cold turkey, you know new ownership coming in so that that when I say that streamlined, you know Kind of transition was was really good and received well we ran the business for about ten years together and then in 2011, I purchased 100 % of the shares. I bought out Blanche and Angelo and it was another nice transition for that. And then once that happened, some of the things I wanted to do, I was able to kind of pursue without having to, because you always have to have everybody on the same page, right? Sure. Convince them, like, look, I want to try this, it's a risk, you could put the company in jeopardy. The decision was mine and the pressure was on myself.

Fortunately, I have a great team that's around me. Okay, walk me through the player's road again. So you got your father and his partner, Simon. Yeah. Okay. And then you come in, who else are family members? What are the connections there? Yeah, so the family members on, my dad's partner, Simon's, Brightman's daughter, Blanche, she was in the business and she was involved in purchasing. My brother -in -law, Angelo, married to my sister Was head of finance he became eventually the CFO and then when we bought the company the first time from Tsai and Lou I was a president. He was a CEO. We split out responsibilities I took all sales and marketing development and he took all finance and operations and I used to say it's my job to grow the business and It's Angela's job to make sure I don't put us out of business.


Perfect. Okay that no that and that helps to paint the picture. Yeah So the three of you are working together, you know, when was that when did that start?


Well, we had been working together, you know since the early 90s we were all there in different capacities mine was I came back from Xerox and I really wanted to keep pursuing what I learned at Xerox to implement some proactive sales development from what I learned at Xerox and in some of the marketing and then like I said before he Angelo had all Operations Blanche was involved in purchasing. So that was that was all the way through until 2011 when I bought the two of them out.


Got it. Talk about the transition from your father and his partner to the three of you. How did that transition happen? What were the conversations like as you were putting those pieces together?


Yeah, I think, you know, they say opposites attract. And so Simon and my dad were a kindred spirit, both coming from nothing and suffering a lot. So that motivation, didn't even need to be there for these guys to think that they could achieve anything. But they were opposites. Simon, I have more of the entrepreneurial DNA in him from a development standpoint, and I have my father's DNA and entrepreneurship from respecting people and treating people the way you want to be treated. So that combination of the two of them. So they really came from humble beginnings. And...didn't have a lot to build off of when they started. So what they really did is everything. And it's a cool story because when they started, they would obviously do everything. There was Simon, his uncle, my dad and my mom. And my brother and sister are eight and 10 years older than me. So they were a little bit older. I was conceived in 62 when they started the business and born in 63. So that was a little bit of a surprise for them. However, What they would do is they would pursue new lines and they would go to manufacturers and say, we'd like to represent and stock your line. And they would say, well, how many people do you have in sales? They weren't lying, they said four. How many do you have in purchasing? Four. How many have in inside sales? Four, right? How much do have in there? Four. So, oh, you have 16 to 20, you know, 22 people, right? Or 24 people. And...they weren't lying because they did everything. Everybody did everything. And they would go buy from their competition locally here. And they would stock the product when other distributors locally wouldn't do that. So eventually they built up the sales and then they pursued the lines. And now one thing led to another. And then they grew, they were down on Joseph Avenue. And then my father found the facility or the property out on Mount Rea Boulevard, the industrial park there and it was right off an expressway in the old adage location, location, location, back in the day it was appropriate. Now today's day with technology. I think location's only if you're a resort or you're an amusement park, that type of thing, or a bar with entertainment. So they were very, very direct on what they wanted to do. There were other distributors that were starting back in the day that are now multi -billion dollar distributors that grew by acquisitions because they were in semiconductors and circuit boards and different things like that, they decided to stay at the electromechanical level. And they could have grown just like them, but they were happy with what they had and what they felt could be stable. So a multimillion dollar business stayed at multimillion dollars, but didn't quadruple the way some of the other distributors, the Arrows, the Avinets of the world, that event were originally some other names, right? So it was profitable, but what was key to them is that as they were successful, they made sure that they were taking care of the employees to the best that they could. And that's something that's obviously instilled in myself. So when you got involved in the business the first time, you had spent some time at Xerox before coming into the business or? I worked at the business in the summers, did everything from cleaning toilets to working with components, putting things away, learning a little bit. And then I really wanted to get into sales, talking directly to people, and there really wasn't an opportunity. And I didn't have a plan B. So I walked in one day and said, look, I've got an opportunity at another company, and I figured that my father would say, well, I don't want my son to leave. And my father said, I just signed your paycheck. You don't report to me. And I went to the general manager and he said, well, you do what you gotta do, because we really don't have a position. And whether it was pride or no plan to come back and say whatever, I left and took the job. And it was the best thing that ever happened. I worked with some great people back in the early 90s and 80s. And learned a lot and brought some of that back, that training brought some of that back to Simcona and implemented some things. So I am glad the way it happened. I was upset with my dad at first, but then I, it was the best thing he could ever do was let me leave.


So you were on the sales side at Xerox? 


Yeah, so you went to Leesburg and you got all the sales training. I was, I actually here it was started. I started in East Rochester selling supplies and then we got into low and mid volume in some of the new products. Cause we had, we had windows and we had PC network before anybody did. So I was out in Henrietta there and then moved downtown. Cause then I moved over into finance and term lease and really, you know, learned how, how we did make a lot of money by, you know, leasing equipment and buying out other people's leases in terms of the competitor. So it was all around really good education for me to see how big companies work. And I did have a taste by working at Simcona, what small business was, right? But when I came back, it was as if I went and got my doctorate somewhere, the same people were treating me different because I had left and now supposedly I'm a lot smarter, which was, you know, it's just funny, but I realized it and didn't.

I didn't break anybody's stones about it and say I'm the same person and now all of a sudden you're treating me different, not as the owner's son anymore or as the kid, somebody that's got experience. And a little bit of it, they were intimidated because of the knowledge that I had in a way. I carried myself in a more confident way. And what I always remember is what my father said is never put yourself above anybody. So I could have really played the game. and made their lives miserable because they made my life miserable, right? Trying to discourage me in a very passive, aggressive way. And that's just not who I am. So I think I am still here doing what I'm doing because of that mindset. Okay. Now you're in the business. There's five of you, two owners, Blanche and - Angelo.


How is it working through communication and trust and all of the things about making decisions within the business? And then talk about that a little bit, but then again, I'm really curious about the succession plan. What were those conversations like when Simon was bought out and your dad was bought out? How did those things go?


Those are great questions because I don't believe there's any family business that's immune to any of the challenges that are tthere and egos have a lot to do with it and I think egos are important. I think if you don't have an ego, it's a healthy element if you can manage it, right? So, you know, communities are built on egos, companies are built on egos, relationships are built on egos if you learn how to manage them and when to give and take. And that was a little bit of a challenge because I'm more direct and it's not difficult to figure out where I'm coming from and how I'm feeling.

However, some of that with the second generation, it was tough for me because I hit things head on, but I grew a lot because you learn as you become a leader, there are some things that you just keep suppressed. I'm not talking about issues that are bothering you, just suppressed to be patient and let things develop. But I was like a,

I was like a horse in the stable before the race. And I was like, let me out, let's go. And I had some learning there, but at the same time, if you're going to grow a business, you can't should all over yourself. I learned a long time ago, should we do this, should we this. And there were times where we went with my decision, but collectively it should have been a supported one, so.

It was more of, okay, well, we're gonna do this. Just remember it was your decision. To me, that wasn't healthy and I would just get frustrated, right? However, I was respectful. And like I said, not planning on being the last person standing in terms of being in the business, once I was there, then even though you're nervous you're the only one making the decision, it was liberating to say, look at,

I may be wrong, but I'm making this decision and I'm not gonna should all over myself. You have to be prepared. What are those things, Murphy's Law and the different things financially that could happen? But there's risk in everything. Always. So a little bit of that in terms of that working together. I will say that the two owners had, even though they were opposites, had the utmost trust and respect for each other.

My dad a more low keyed guy, Simon's kind of guy that, you know, and I don't blame him. Look, he was, he watched people murdered in front of him. He hid under dead bodies when forces were coming through. So no matter what happened in life for him, we're gonna, he's gonna win, right? It's a win already by, so that was something I always admired about him. But the two of them worked really well. There were times that I'm sure that my father was frustrated from a financial standpoint of certain things, but they worked things out all the time.

When it came time to the transition, it was, I think Simon would have worked till he was 100, if he was able to, and it was my father finally saying, look it, the boys wanna do something. And I would say to my dad, look it, no problem. We don't have a non -compete, right? So if we wanna go and do what we wanna do, do whatever we wanna do, sell the company. Sell the company or I need to go do something where,

where we feel it's something we're taking the reins and doing something with. And I think finally my dad's saying to Simon, they're gonna leave. They're going in a very nice professional way. They're gonna leave. And that kind of started the little pebble off the mountain, turned into the big snowball, let's go. And it was nice the way they did it. These guys, and I told my father, I said, you know you could sell this company for double, right?

And that's the selflessness in both of them. They had already made it and the evaluation that was done, in my opinion, was one of the most major discounts that you could get, because I knew they could have sold it for double at the time, especially at the time, in financial terms. A little bit of a down stroke for them, but the rest they held the note. And they subordinated themselves to the bank because they wanted us to have the, get it going with the bank.

watching some of those conversations, when you see two guys that come from nothing and in conversations talk to a bank to basically say, we don't need you. We're doing this for them to do that. So if you're gonna keep putting these kinds of things in place, we'll finance the whole thing for them type of thing, right? We don't need to get the down stroke. And sitting back and seeing those conversations, although I have great relationships with the banking systems here and everything, and you have to. That was really cool to watch somebody that had been in it for so long still say, I took something that you're not going to take something I built here and put all this pressure on these guys out of the gate. So that transition was really, really nice. Easy for my father. He basically said, here's the keys, write me the check. And if you need my advice, great, I'm here. Otherwise, have at it.

So my father's 98, he's still with us. Simon has passed on and again, a great human being. He had a little bit difficult time letting go. And that, you talk about egos, right? So I'm walking around with a president card and he's still handing out his president card, right? And you know, I had a conversation with a mentor and the mentor said, look, you know what's going on. Your customers know what's going on. These guys have been great to you. Let it go.

It's not worth it. So, but when I looked at it that way, I said, wow, that's like having a kid. This company was his kid. And it's hard to say goodbye and hard to let it go. And that kind of woke me up a little bit to say, look it, you know what, let it be. It's interesting because you're just talking about, it didn't exist when you guys were doing this first transition, but today everybody talks about business exit planning. Yeah. And...

And so you're hit a few things that I just want to make people aware of. But during a transition, it's okay. One, am I okay financially? So they looked at it and said they could reduce the sale, the price, whether they reduced it or just gave a sweetheart deal to you guys. And you can do that for family, but they were taking care of, they knew that they were financially okay. Your dad was mentally prepared. Simon was not. And so one of the things that...

you know, I like to do with an owner is to help them think through and say, what are you going to retire to? Because this has been your baby. And so what is, you know, what is your third act? Your first act was getting your kids out of the house and making them responsible, good adults. Right. Second act is doing it with your business, you know, and that's so that you say legacy ones, your kids like to choose the business. So what's your third legacy going to be? And, and there's a whole process thinking through those things. That's spot on. I'm in a CEO group here, chapter here locally, and we had a, we're very, very tight, very, very tight. And exactly what you just talked about, that person now and their partner have to make a decision on what's the chapter in life we're gonna do now. Is it travel, is it enjoy family, is it learn something new?

You know, it's definitely not start a new business because where they're at in their age, and they're going to be continuing to mentor because it's a second gen coming into the business. But all those conversations, what you just said are spot on because I think if you just do a cold turkey thing, that's where people, you know, this brain is a muscle. And if you don't feel relevant,

I think that's the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs have as they segue out of the existing business that they either started or took over in terms of sense of relevance.


I'll throw this one out to you. One of my solutions for that is if they have grandchildren that are under the age of 18, we start something called the Grandparent Grandchild Philanthropy Project. And we have found that philanthropy is a sandbox for entrepreneurship and leadership. And so by, you know, the, one of my mentors told me, you know, taught me that the, the grandparents and the children are the common enemies of the parents. Grandparents want more time with the kids, right? And the children don't want to listen to them. So by pairing those two together, you know, the, the friend of my, the friend of my enemy is my friend.


I'm looking forward to that. Cause I have a granddaughter that was born in June and I said, here's my opportunity very covertly to. Yeah. And so one of my clients ran with this. And so with her grandkids, she was just showing me some things that they did where, you know, she makes them right, you know, at eight years old and six years old, when they started this and they're still doing it now, they made them right. She made them right in crayon. Why do they want to give to this charity? What is important about that? What do you know about them? And so got them doing critical thinking. And, you know, they've been doing that for three years already now, and they're going to continue doing that. But what happens is as the children get older, now you put them into groups and you make them do some teamwork and then you make them do family presentations, you know, so that now they have to present to the whole family. What are you teaching them? You're teaching them, you know, oral skills and, you know, and how to present. You're talking to them about critical thinking, teamwork. Especially in today's day and age with this thing.

Yes. When you've got the electronics and everybody's doing that, I have kids that can't pick up the phone when they come to me. They're like, they get nervous to pick up the phone because the only thing they've ever done is texted or emailed somebody or Facebook or so really cool stuff. When the three of you are now running the business and doing your thing and everything's going great for you. Okay. Talk about when, you know,

What was the decision for you to buy everything, the partners out? How long were you in business? How many employees, too? Talk about that a little bit. So, all interesting questions. My brother in law, Angelo, who is, I'm a year older than Blanche and he's eight years older than myself and this was back in, let's just call it 2005. We went into the conference room and he goes, I wanna talk to you guys.

He says, I'm done in five years.

He says, I'm just letting you know, so I just want to plan for it. He made a conscious decision. He just was, I'm done. So I got with him and I said, okay, what is, you know, we finished and then I'm like, obviously we're brother -in -law's, it's, you know, and I said, okay, what's going on? I wanted to know first something with his health. It really wasn't, he was like, look, I think again, you know, when you're an individual that comes into a family business through marriage,
I think unless you were in the industry from the beginning, which he kind of was, but he comes from the finance background, or if it was part of the, I think there's a different passion. And I think he was like, I've been doing this, I did this kind of for the family type of thing. This is just my opinion. And he was done. He wanted to do some stuff. I think he really did what he wanted to do with my sister is travel the world, which they've been doing.

And he got involved helping his kids in some businesses that they're in. So I got with him, I said, so what do want to do? He goes, what do you want to do? I said, well, do we want to look for buyer? You know, just test the waters type of thing. And we didn't go through a firm or anybody, you know, equity based or banking system or consultants, we kind of tested the waters and we had one really big fish on. And...

We started doing that right when we finished the note. Basically the note was done with sine loop.

And one thing led to another and it just didn't, it didn't work out. Okay. So, um,

It's interesting because at that point in time I was like, okay then do I want to get out type of thing? Do we want to definitely now professionally go pursue someone? And I just took a step back because I've been involved in the festival at this point in time and everybody thought when I got involved in the festival, Mark's not going to be for long at Simconum. Which from a financial standpoint, they made no sense at all because I had already signed back in 2000.
or in 1999, my life away in terms of the note that we were obligated to. So if I would have walked, I would have actually, at the time when the festival started in 2002, I would have owed money. A lot of money, right? So I kind of pursued both, but as we got into it, people thought I was probably gonna be gone. You know, there was a time in...

I have to give it to my wife, you know, because I contemplate, I said, is this what I really want to be doing or do I really want to be doing this other thing? At a time would have been a step, kind of a step back, but really starting a brand new business. My wife said to me, what's your last name? I said, what are you talking about? You know, the intelligence from somebody so close to you that you take for granted, right, that you live, right? And I said, well, you know, my last name. She goes, yeah, what's your last name?

it's in the name of that company. Do you really want to leave the company? And I just looked at her because she said, you know, what would your dad think? My father never told me what he thought because he never wanted to be held accountable for influencing me to stay or to leave. However, deep down inside, I know to this day, he's very, very happy that I stayed because he doesn't, he's not a guy that likes conflict and his partner was still alive, that type of thing.

So you wanted to always be naturally the way it happened. So I said, okay, I guess I'm gonna buy ya. Or we're gonna buy you, meaning Blanche and myself. The...

whether it's my own opinion or delusional opinion, I believe that my former partner, Angelo, had a conversation with Blanche, who I respect a lot, saying, Mark runs at a different speed. Are you sure you wanna stay and deal with that? Because there were times we were like this a little bit, right? Doesn't mean I don't respect the person as a human being. It's just I'm, it was running at a different speed. And...
things she probably contemplated like, yeah, I don't know if I want to, you know, either he's a little crazy or whatever, like that kind of thing. So that's what led to the valuation. It was a very fair, I didn't even really negotiate. I said, because Tsai and Lou gave this business away to us, in my opinion, we did the valuation based on it, a multiple that I think was fair and consummated that in March, but was retroactive January of 2011.

So again, another nice, you know, the down strokes, holding the paper, they're paid off. But there's still debt with the company now because I'm growing the business, right? But it could have been very frustrating, uncomfortable, egos could have gotten in the way, different things. And it just didn't happen because I think the way we were raised, I really think it's the way we were raised in the same way, even though Angel wasn't in the family, the way he was raised.

I think was more of, you value the people that you've been working with, whether there's differences or not, and as a transition is happening, you're only hurting yourself if you don't help with the transition, right? And one of the things he always said is, I wanna make sure that, don't worry about, if we have to be subordinate too, rather be subordinate and finally get my money versus pressure on you to have to keep up with payments.

based on what happens in the economy, and then we all lose. So that to me was insightful that, and it was sincere. It wasn't just words when he would say, look it, we're subordinating ourselves because we want to make sure that you're able to grow this company. Yeah. It's interesting that as you're talking about that, one of the things that popped up, one of my mentors, we read a lot of buy -sell agreements and help people to think through, do they have everything covered?

Nowadays, you know, they weren't there when I started, but nowadays we put, you know, have the attorney put in things like seller protection clauses. And so that way it's like, you know, Mark can't go trying to triple the size of the business, bring on $40 million of debt until, you know, unless we give them the okay, which is really nice. And we had that. Yeah. Okay. Even capital equipment, anything over $50 ,000 in purchase. I had to bring it back. It didn't have to be unanimous though, which was good. So if I got,
Angelo or Blanche is yes. That's, that's all I need versus, but yeah. And, and that is, that is smart because what if I wanted to start making, you know, rocket ships, you know, and things like that. Um, so no, really those things were in place and I didn't have a problem with it because I knew it was to protect myself too. So let's talk about the Rochester Jazz Fest a little bit in terms of, you know,

What was the genesis for the Jazz Fest for you? I think you alluded earlier, like, I wanted to be in the entertainment business when you were younger. But more importantly, they're two totally separate businesses. They are both a boatload of work. How do you do that and how do you juggle the different teams and making all those things come together? Well, first of all, I was around music, had some scholarships, helped some people produce some CDs.

in the 1990s, because education was really important to me and my father and mom and dad instilled in me, you know, never always give back. So I had some things going with Jeff Tyzak here with some of the jazz musicians when it came to the scholarship that I wanted to have. But John Nugent brought the concept to Rochester for a jazz festival. And in the first year,

I was approached to be a sponsor, not by John, by some other organization. And through some of that, I was really impressed. And I'll leave it at that. But I get along with everybody. So I said to myself, I'm gonna call the guy. And I picked up the phone and I said, it's the last time I think he ever called me Mr. Iacona. It was weird. It's just because we're like brothers from another mother. And I said, look, I wanna meet ya. I wanna talk about.

you know, what you're doing. I'll say, he says, well, I got this commercial shoot, I gotta do this, I gotta do that. I said, I don't care, why don't you come to my house? He says, come to your house. And I said, yeah, it's right around the corner from where you're going. So my wife has always been great with, you know, when I had customers or suppliers come in from out of town, I would say, you know, don't go sit in your hotel room, let's go out to dinner or come over the house type of thing. And she would cook up, but I would always give her at least like a week's notice that somebody was coming. I gave her like less than 24 hours. I thought she was gonna kill me, but we had a,
We had a couple bowls of pasta, a couple bottles of wine, and I asked him a ton of questions about what his concept was, what he saw, what it was, and different things like that. And I contemplated on it, and I said, well, look, listen, I'm interested in this thing. If it has legs, I wanna own it with you. He goes, what are you talking about? I said, well, I'd like to own 50 % of it. I said, I know there's no really,

value to it, and probably in this first year it's not gonna do well, but intrinsically, let's agree on a number. And we did. Most people would think I'm crazy. Definitely didn't tell anybody. My wife was the only one that knew what I was doing, and I said, look, there's gonna be some crazy hours, because I got Simcona, gonna be doing stuff at night, all this stuff. And trust is everything. I'm pretty good at reading.

And after a couple months, I said to John, stay at my house. I displaced my son. He wanted to sleep on the floor in our room anyway all the time. And really got to know each other, kind of learned about the upbringing and stuff. And he's from Newfoundland, Canada, and family is important. He had not exactly the easiest upbringing in terms of that, but really knew the industry, had some great mentors himself.

and we just took it year by year in that watershed year after year five is when we really knew we had arrived. And what are we gonna do to invest in order to keep this thing growing? So, John being the artistic director, we collaborate a lot on the headliners, but the Club Pass series that we have that's, we call it's not who you know, it's who you don't know. My part of it was to build the operational side of it, going.

drive the sponsor base. And I think the story was a strong one because here I am, an entrepreneur here in Rochester, from Rochester, going to people and saying, look, I support this thing, this is where I'm involved. Really would appreciate if you wanted to get involved as a sponsor and it has to mean something to them. So the confidence that they started to see that it was, and eventually John moved to Rochester, raised a family. So to me,
An event like ours, you have to be part of the community if you really want to. You don't have to, but it's tough if you're not part of that community and they can't put a three -dimensional touching on the person versus somebody coming in and blowing into town and blowing out of town and running an event and not being part of a community. Now I know I just said that all in one little five -minute thing. There's a lot more that goes on there. We have a great team all the way from the sponsor base to the team that we work with and outsource to many companies here that...

really look forward to this every year because it's part of their annual revenue stream. We're proud of that. What happens there from an economic standpoint, between eight and $10 million worth of positive economic impact that the Festival brings at Rochester Research has done the research for us through the surveys, not us doing them, to the team that we work with on the educational aspect and giving back, a Jazz Studies scholarship that we have.

So I mean, it's really been an event that has touched lives, changed lives, you know, enhanced our community during those nine days from an artistic standpoint. And it's really a good feeling inside knowing that this has been an organic evolution of this 20 years of what's happened here. Yeah. I mean, it's an amazing story when you think about the success of the Rochester Jazz Fest and what you've done with it.

Congratulations. Yeah, no, thank you. How do you manage those? So you're an entrepreneur at heart. You've got two different companies going on at the same time. How is that, you know, a lot of entrepreneurs, you've been in CEO groups. They're sitting there with one company and you're running two different organizations. How do you do that? What's the secret? You don't count the hours. Okay. You focus on what the result is that you want. You...

acknowledge and appreciate the people involved. And you also have to have leadership in place. So at Simcoe and I have a senior team and I always say, I'm not perfect, you can find a better CEO than me, I can find better players. But when there's desire and there's trust, it makes things more fluid to happen, especially when things go wrong. So the team that is surrounding myself with players come and go.
but has afforded me to be able to spend time and give the attention to the festival that it needs along with my partner John. So, and at the same time, the people we outsource, the logistics coordinator that we have, the transportation coordinator that we have, all the PR team that we have, all the way from the beverages director that we have and merchandise, having those people looking forward to this and knowing that they're part of it.

makes it, I don't wanna say easier, but makes it fluid and obtainable so that you don't lose your mind. There's a lot of stress on both of them. But I don't look at stress as a bad thing unless you can't manage it. And there have been times over there where you just sit back and like, whether it's anxiety, and you're like, what am I doing and why am I doing this? Is it for my only my ego? It isn't about the money. If you focus on doing the right thing,

the compensation will fall into place where you want it to. However, I do it just because I want to make a positive difference in people's lives. And if that's the one thing that can be said about me is that I was involved and I was genuine, authentic, not perfect, far from perfect, but really genuinely doing these things to make a positive difference and...

That's all I'll need to hear, you know what I mean? So. When you look at both organizations, you go back 20 years when you started that, how many employees at Simcona at the time, and it's just you and John for the most part, as you're starting the Jazz Fest, versus where you are today. What does that look like? Yeah, so Simcona had always fluctuated between, let's just call it 35 and 60 employees. Okay.

Right, and when I say fluctuated, based on what we were in and part of the business, in the past eight, let's call it five to eight years, we were trending to go over 100 because of the manufacturing services that we get, the contract manufacturing. So obviously, you've got your operational teams, sales teams, but you also have direct labor. And what we're building is not just like taking a screw and screwing it into a terminal block.
These people that we have, these men and women that we have building the control panels, it's the next level of what you have to be able to read a print, look at it, you're populating an enclosure. So anytime you see any kind of gray panel with a handle on it, near a big piece of equipment or something, whether it's a conveyor system or it's a power distribution, that's loaded with components in there that just you don't throw in.

So there's time and it's consuming. And so the individuals that we had started to hire and when we had contracts come and go, hard to find, right? They're out there, but you know, you just don't go like this and you get 17 people, right? So we're around the 75, 80 right now. And I see us growing as the business grows. We're in the industrial park, but as we grew the manufacturing, I couldn't really kick tenants out. That's not my style.

So I'm literally leasing about 30 ,000 square foot building out at Mile Crossing from Andy Kalina's company. And it's a very state of the art manufacturing facility in terms of when you walk in, you don't really have to go, what are you doing here? Like the confidence level is there because we have an engineering community that's there. We have direct labor and we have the operational team that is specific to the contract manufacturing services that we have.

Nice. At the Jazz Fest. 20 years ago, how many people versus how many people are involved today to make it happen? In the beginning, started with a media company, PR, outsourced it, and John and I were the ones licking the envelopes and sending the passes out and doing all the different stuff like that and writing the thank yous. So we have one direct employee right now.

but a lot of what we do comes together that 90 days out and it's like clockwork and the people expect. And I gotta tell you, we're blessed because a lot of the companies we're dealing with now are the same companies because they want to do the business. People have come and gone from a health standpoint, which is really the last three years has really took a toll on.

some many companies but with us you know we've lost some key people due to the illness and it's a bummer almost actually to this point in the last couple weeks and one of our major outsourced production companies audio images Sebastian Marino the first day of the new year last this year passed away and that was a big unknown for us because the deal that we have with audio images is an organic homegrown even though they're huge now.

any other places, the relationships wouldn't be there like this. Unfortunately for us, the individuals that were helping Sebastian out during COVID, two class act gentlemen, as well as the people that they have working for them locally here. And it was like, seamless, like there was no issues to be concerned. So that's really important. So really it is the three of us.

My daughter's involved in the business a little bit with the sponsor relations and some other things that she's learning. So, but that team that we outsource to those companies that we work with, it's like our family.

Um, she just said your daughter's been involved in the business. What's it look, what's that like for you, uh, having her involved? It's, it's good. It's, it's, it's nice. Um, you know, I have to refrain from what I really think her sweet spot is of what she could be doing. Um, I know it agitates her, but, um, she's a natural around, um, children.

And she has her, you know, her, her master's in childhood education from Fordham and went to Syracuse and got a, her, her marketing degree as well when, when she was there. So she's talented and smart individual. And it's hard for me to, um, not say what I really, you know, but it's got to be the individual. Yeah. And it's, um, I don't know, sometimes, sometimes cause I see it.
And it's hard because when you're not the individual, it's, you know, sometimes it's unfair to do that. So I have to let her, so I enjoy working with her. She's doing stuff with me, like I said, with the sponsors and things. She's at Simcona doing some marketing things for us. Looking to start a family. So, and like I said, my other two children are in medicine, so they're there to take care of my wife and I as we get older. Perfect. You mentioned being part of a CEO group. Yeah. What are some of the...

best things that you learned through the years to be a better CEO and to manage the organizations better through groups like that? Yeah, humility. Also that it's a built -in advisory board, board of directors that are there, and that if it's only as good as you allow it to be. So humility, being humble, realizing that also,

being a sole proprietor, there are other people that are sole proprietors and there are other family businesses there, and knowing, okay, I'm human, I'm normal because you had the same problems I had when I was. But I believe that it's only as good as you allow it to be having these individuals, whether they have seven employees or 7 ,000 employees, and it's a pretty diverse group.

but financial challenges, strategic challenges, human being challenges, all the way from leadership to the youngest family member, to me I think it's imperative that as an entrepreneur you're involved in something like that. I do think it's very important that you have somebody financially working with you as well, especially if you're a sole proprietor.

Even if you're a financial person that thinks you know everything, that outside looking in effect is so essential and beneficial to an entrepreneur having some firm like yours that is, that's the core competency. So yours is family wealth, but at the same time, you do touch on what's going on with the business because at some point in time, what's going on with the business is gonna affect the future like we talked about. So.
I think having this team, we've become like a family. It's very confidential. Once you really figure out and it's opening up the Komoda, it's not just on the business, it's on the personal stamp side. And I think once you realize there's other human beings going through what you're going through, you let the guard down a little bit. Confidentially is huge. And once you get that confidence level that the confidentiality is really there, you are a NITPAC group.

is when the value of being in this group is priceless. That's great. I think it's, being a CEO is lonely. At the end of the day, if you're doing it all by yourself, you might talk to your buddies at the country club or whatever your organizations are, but it's not the same as being a part of a group, having that advisory. And I will tell you this, the, you know, you,

I'm fortunate to have my father around all these years right now. His health from a standpoint is starting to fail. His body, his brain is all there. But even there were times I felt more comfortable talking to him about problems when he was the owner. But as he's gotten older and he's asked about the business and what's going on, very reluctant to share with him the challenges because I didn't want him to worry. So you would think, well, you could go to your father if he was in the middle.

You can, but at the same time, I'm built differently, not because I wanna do it on my own, because I'll take help from anybody, but I also am aware of when I walk out that door, what stress did I just put on a person that just doesn't need that stress right now, right? So having this group doesn't make me feel uncomfortable not to tell him anything other than.

you know, here's what I'm doing, this is what, but never really give them the whole thing because I don't need him worrying about his kid. You know I mean? Right, right. My father, I think we talked about this, I talked about it on the show for sure, but you know, I bought my practice, half of my father's practice, the family -owned businesses, because that was my favorite part, which is why I ended up doing the business coaching side of things as well as wealth management, because they just...
You couldn't do one without the other in our opinion. How do you do in a succession plan without understanding core cultures and core purpose and the values and building a strong development team, leadership team. We were together over the holidays, obviously, and it was nice to give him the highlights without giving him any of the stress. He's got enough stresses in the zone as you're aging and you're going through things and life is changing.

Exactly. I agree. So. Talk about your leadership team for just a couple of minutes. What would you say, you know, what are the core elements that make your leadership team click and make it work for you surrounding yourself with the players that you have on your team today? First of all, I have them with coach, with a coach.

Not my coach. So you have a coach and you're part of a CEO group and then your lieutenants are okay. And I wanted them to all have the same coach because having multiple coaches within an organization, unless those coaches are all talking to each other all the time, puts them at a deficit. Because if I'm confiding in you and giving you a lowdown,

And yet there's another coach working with my, how does the triangle work in order to help things happen? It also gave this coach the opportunity over the last 10 years to learn the DNA of my company, whether people come and go on my leadership team or not. We also have her with middle managers too. And learning the DNA and understanding the business, she's able to call out the BS. Didn't happen overnight.

And a couple of them were like, well, why do we only have this one culture? I said, because there's a method to my madness. If I want this person to understand what's going on with all of you, they have to understand our business too. And they're gonna learn, this person's gonna learn from the interaction that they have with you in regards to your particular responsibilities. So it was interesting, but now they all get it.
And it's actually to their advantage having someone that understands a business and understands the interaction between the different managers. So I have our warehouse manager, my VPS sales, my CFO, the purchasing manager, the insight sales manager, all players that are working with her on a regular basis. Smart. Yeah. Very smart. And that's really, I forgot the second part of the question, but.

I think it was just your interaction with them and knowing, you know, like what is your cadence and how do you, what level of decisions do they get to make? Well, part of my, when we do the strategic planning for each year, mine is, as a CEO is focused on what are we doing for training and what are we doing for empowerment. And that needs to be focused on because you can just say it.

If you don't do it, things can get out of hand, right? So empowerment's really big and allowing them to make some decisions to make sure that they don't put us out of business as well. And how do you manage that and monitor that? And then training is really important. Well, so we have an HR manager that we've started with an HR manager over 10 years ago because I want that person to know the DNA of my company. And...

working that angle, the coaches, and then with myself, the director reports to me, we do one -to -ones, we do our L10 meetings that we meet. I expect them to do their management L10, but there's a CEO one that we do every Monday because it's really important for me to understand what's going on, even though I do know I want to see how and what's going on as well from in their eyes.

For those who don't know, an L10 meeting is a level 10 meeting, and it's at the end of the meeting. What are people supposed to do? Well, there's smart goals, and there's different things that we have. We really look at it. We kind of put it in a nutshell in terms of what progress has been made this past week, what challenges are we having, what opportunities are there, what concerns are there, and then the smart goals that we have. And accountability. Yep.
So it's really about accountability publicly stated as well as strategically stated. Because if we're not, if there's no closing on something, it's just not closing an order, it's closing the activity of what's pushing our company forward. Yeah, and if you're having meetings just to have meetings, then you're not building that culture of accountability. And if you don't have smart goals on them, you know, and.

For those that don't know what a SMART goal is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound, right? There it is. And it's so important, you know, it's just, it's blocking and tackling. Yeah, and I think consistency is the toughest thing. You know, it's so easy to have the right desire and outlook starting of a year and you get everybody and we're ready to go. And by the time it's March,

Staying consistent is the most inconsistent thing sometimes. But if you hold to that, that's what's great about these meetings. It turns into like working out and like, can we just do a different arm exercise? Can we do it there? Sure, we can tweak it, but we're not gonna get away from the regiment of working out and working out the body parts, right? So consistency to me is I think where things fall off.

And that's the biggest challenge. Nobody's immune to it. It's cause stuff either gets mundane or we had a tough week. We had a three, nine, one, ones this week. I couldn't get there without. So we, you didn't do anything. That's something worth talking about. Like, so I think that knowing that there's a core consistency of a, as a cadence, like you mentioned before, that has to just stay in place. If it doesn't, that's where the free -fall starts to happen. That's where stuff is left out. There's a saying that I've heard.

many times, and I'm totally guilty of this, is that it works so well that we stop doing it. Or you think someone else is taking care of it, or someone else is taking care of that responsibility. No, it's our job, right? And keeping those function accountabilities in check is super important. Yep.
Talk about, as we're wrapping up here, talk about what books, or you mentioned the CEO group was instrumental to a lot of your success, and just having that sounding board and whatnot, but any books or any other things that you looked at to say they inspired you? Well, I know this is gonna sound cliche, but I read the Bible every morning. Okay. And it's just my faith. I don't push my faith unless somebody wants to talk about it, that type of thing.

But there is a directness in the word that is not only humbling, but it's a direction in life that I chose to be sold out on. And that's basically what keeps me from an accountability not only in business, but as a person. And it keeps that conscious there that convicts you in terms of that, as a leader especially.

And then there's books like, you know, can go back to, you can look at it, Good to Great is something that I look at. It's an older book. Some of those companies are out of business, but when they were running the business, the way they were running it are really good. And then I start reading some different, I try to sample from all different economists and in looking at the more things change, they stay the same or they repeat themselves. So all the way from guys like Ray Dalio,

to even your, I try to sample the Warren Buffett's types of personalities and look at, and ITR is a company that, what I like about the Bolios is that, and they have a book that's out as well predicting what's gonna happen in the 30s in terms of that, but if you're ready financially, whether it's in business or personally, you should be able to weather the storm on some of these things.

And the reason I like the bullies is they take data. They don't give their opinion. Here's the data, this is what it reads, this is what it's showing, and here's what it looks like for the outlook from a manufacturing to service and things like that. So the one thing I've been lazy on is reading from me, to just read from me. You know, being around...

Michael Palumbos (59:32.49)
music and entertainment, I like to read about the greats, whether it's Dizzy or Miles or Monk and those guys, because they just, to me, they were the pioneers of tweaking music that was traditionally all the way. A lot of these guys were classically trained too. So if you look at that, it gives it a validity that they've classically trained way back into hundreds of years ago, but then took their own personality, their own articulation and...

modified music to the point where it was, whether you call it bebop or not, is their articulation of where the music could go. And now you see what other younger people have done with music, right? I always try to keep an open mind and read things of articles on what's going on with the development of music, just because I'm in that business, right? I love it. Well, thank you everybody for listening. We're at the top of the hour and I wanna, you know,

Keep things, I'm going to edit that. I don't know exactly where I was going. My voice just didn't come together. That's all right. Well, thanks everybody for joining us. Mark Iacona from Simcona Electronics and the Rochester Jazz Festival. Really appreciate you being here today. My name is Michael Palumbis. I'm with Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York. Thank you everybody. And...

Really appreciate you listening to episode 100 and we look forward to doing another 100 in front of you. Talk to you soon everybody, take care. 

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