Stronger International Markets Buoying Florida
Still, challenges remain.
Through the internet, Jerry Pierce has built a sizable restaurant equipment exporting business from Orlando. But like any good salesman, success comes down to personal contact for him — and storytelling. Just get him going about his days in the printing industry when he landed the job printing 6.5 million Farrah Fawcett posters that became the ubiquitous wall decor in teen boy bedrooms. "There’s a lot of people who have opportunity in front of them and don’t seize it," Pierce says.
Jerry E. Pierce
Restaurant Equipment World / Chairman / Orlando [Photo: Sándor Fizli]
"To me, it’s as much a technology business as an equipment business," says Mario Fidanzi, director of Stetson University’s Family Enterprise Center. (Pierce chairs the center advisory board.) "It’s a story of continuous reinvention."
Booming international sales are offsetting a sluggish domestic market.
Pierce’s son, Brad, runs the company day to day. One daughter, Patty Nuzzo, is a vice president while another, Barbie Boyd, does marketing part time. Pierce himself spends more time volunteering with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which named him "Small Business Champion of the Year" in 2006. His civic work includes past-president of a veteran’s group — he was a 1st lieutenant in Korea — that successfully pushed for a new Veterans Administration hospital for Orlando and chairman of another group that wants to build a Veterans Memorial Park.
He’s still active at Restaurant Equipment World, however, and still believes in sales truisms and people-to-people contact. His company depends on the internet, but all phones are answered by a person. "It’s high tech and high touch combined together," he says. "It’s also a lot of personal selling."