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TITANS OF INDUSTRY


New York. With the pre-rinse units selling well, the firm began to create additional products.


Murray and Sorenson eventually went out of business in 1954, so the continued growth of T&S Brass was a salvation for the family. Adapting its offering to equip laboratories and hospitals and selling commercial products to the plumbing trade, led to bigger factories and increasingly sophisticated machines. Claude Theisen began working for the business in 1967, during summer breaks from college, joining full-time in 1972. By this time, the company was struggling to deliver increased volumes. “We could always sell a lot more than we could make. It became apparent that if we were going to become the kind of company we wanted, we needed to consolidate the plating and manufacturing operation under one building,” he says.


But there were even larger concerns beginning to stir within the business. While George Theisen had aspirations to grow the business into a nationwide, eventually global, operation, Spatt was more comfortable running a relatively


“If we were going to become the kind of company we wanted, we needed to consolidate the operation under one roof”


small business. “He didn’t enjoy the stress of a big business, but my father, like myself, wanted it to become a big company. That led to a rupture between them, which eventually led to my uncle selling his part of the business to my father,” says Theisen.


Going south George Theisen’s first big decision was to unite the whole business under one roof. At the time many business were re-locating to the southern states, taking advantage of the cheaper land. “The necessity was to move, and once you had to move 100 miles, it didn’t matter if you moved 1,000,” says Claude Theisen. “We found a piece of land in this


town called Travelers Rest, South Carolina. We moved down there in 1978 and had a host of problems. We almost went bankrupt. We had >


George Theisen: integrity and passion


The business integrity that George Theisen retained and the passion he had for serving his customers has been instilled in his children. “You keep stuff simple. It’s what George did. He took care of the customer. It’s not that hard,” says Fox. “There isn’t a lot to manage. Just do it right. Take care of everybody that takes care of you and keep it humble. He was a great father, but quite a character.


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He had a lot of different things that he brought to the table. He expected you to be responsible. “We’ve also been very strongly


focused since the beginning on taking care of the customer. The customer is the most important person, and my father would lecture us when we were kids on how the customers paid for everything, and everything we do is for the customer. My father was very aware of creating loyalty in his customers and


watching out for colleagues. He taught me you could accomplish anything if you try hard enough. And that ‘good enough’ is not good enough,” says Theisen. “I’m not a hands-on guy


and never have been. I try to understand the different aspects of the business, but I try not to tell anyone how to do something. My father would always tell me: ‘Take care of this’, but he never said how to do it. You learn that way.”


Learning the ropes


Claude Theisen


“My father and I got along extremely well and I always felt a great deal of kinship and affection towards the business. We’d talked about the business a lot when we were kids. There was always a lot of enthusiasm for it. When I got out of college I went to graduate school and got an MBA, so I had different opportunities, but my father and I eventually decided that I could join the company. “I started with sales and enjoyed it


a great deal. I tore a page of company names out of Yellow Pages and I spent that first day schlepping through Manhattan where someone sold me a fold-up desk. So that was my first selling experience: buying something. That will destroy my reputation! “The first time I went to make a sales


call was in Times Square, which in those days was a seedy part of town. I would go into offices and say, ‘I’m from T&S Brass,’ and some guy with a three-day growth on his face and half a cigar in his mouth would say ‘What the hell is a T&S Brass? What do you want, stupid?!’ It was a humbling experience.”


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