BREWSTER, N.Y. - Advanced Copier Technology Inc., (ACT) is turning 35 years old this summer, and it’s no accident that the business has lasted nearly four decades.
ACT’s president and founder, Sal Altavilla, says the reason for their success is the personal touch they bring to their commercial office equipment sales and service business.
“With other companies, if you call for service you get a recorded message,” Altavilla said. “When someone calls us, you get to speak to a long-standing employee. I am very proud of that. If you need help, or are dissatisfied with something, you get to speak to a person who can make a decision. We guarantee service within four hours, no matter where you are.”
Advanced Copier Technology sells and services commercial office equipment, not just in Putnam, Westchester and Fairfield counties, but all over the country—everything from copiers to printers to scanners.
“If we have a customer whose home office is in Putnam County, but has another office in Des Moines and they need equipment there we negotiate the terms and deliver the machine. I call the dealer in Des Moines, tell them the particulars of the deal and they deliver it and perform all of the service functions. Recently we even installed a color copier in a place called Mineral Wells, Texas.”
Altavilla started more than 40 years ago working for Konica Minolta as a regional manager.
“The company was bought out, so I decided I could do it on my own,” he said. “I needed to find a place close to where I lived that had a good road system. In this industry, you want to be within 40 minutes from any customer you might have to service.”
Altavilla found a 600-square foot storefront on Main Street in the Village of Brewster.
“It was me, a part-time employee, and one full-time technician,” he recalled. “Now, we have 24 full-time employees and two part-timers. We have a 6,000-square-foot warehouse with our corporate offices on Mt. Ebo Road in Brewster, as well as an office in Stamford, Conn.”
There were very difficult times in the beginning and it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Altavilla to enable him to get from a small storefront to a huge warehouse with offices in two states.
“When I started this business, I thought I knew it all,” he said with a laugh. “In my first two years, the paychecks made out to me were practically worthless. I took a second mortgage on my home to keep the business running.”
But Altavilla was determined. He hired more sales personnel who knocked on doors and slowly began to increase the company’s market penetration. In 2007, Altavilla bought another company—Universal Business Equipment, located in Bridgeport, CT., which he merged with ACT, eventually moving its offices to Stamford.
“I think what makes us different is that we retain most of our customers—almost 97 percent,” Altavilla said. “This industry, like others, is consolidating. Larger companies are buying smaller companies making them bigger and bigger. While ACT has grown considerably over the past 35 years, I have never forgotten where I came from. I take enormous pride that I still operate this like a small business. My service dispatcher, Fran Kilgallagen, has been with me 27 years; my office manager Alison Scuderi started with me when she was only 16, and she’s still with me 26 years later! One of my salespeople, Bruce Schwartz, has lived in Mahopac and has worked with me for almost 30 years.”
Consequently, ACT does “small company things” to provide the best customer experience possible.
“An example of this is that twice a year we take anywhere from 125 to 150 of our customers to a ballgame at Dutchess Stadium to see the Hudson Valley Renegades,” Altavilla said. “It is a real family event. We rent out the entire picnic area providing food, beer and entertainment. We do the same thing for our Fairfield County customers at the Blue Fish Stadium in Bridgeport, Conn. Does Xerox do that? Does Canon do that?”
During the holiday season, Altavilla and his sales team personally deliver trays of cookies to their customers as a way to say thank you for their support.
Altavilla requires his salespeople to visit their clients at least four times a year.
“In this industry, the only time you see a salesman is when it’s time to get another machine,” he said. “We do it just to say hello; big companies don’t do that.”
ACT is the official copier vendor for the Greater Mahopac/Carmel Chamber of Commerce, the Brewster Chamber, the Yorktown Chamber and the Hudson Valley/Peekskill Chamber.
“Tompkins Mahopac Bank has been a customer of ours for 23 years,” Altavilla added. “We are delighted to say that we have machines in all their branches. Westchester Jewish Community Services has 57 large copiers with us, a relationship that has lasted almost 30 years.”
ACT is A1+ certified by the Better Business Bureau without a single complaint in 35 years.
Altavilla recently asked his employees what they liked best about working for the company. Their overwhelming response was that ACT is their family away from home.
“Our employees have been with me forever,” Altavilla said. “My son, Bob, is the operations manager and has been with us 27 years. Al Lupi, my service manager, has been with us for 23 years. Whenever it is that I do retire, the business will be theirs to carry on.”
ACT is located at 16 Mt. Ebo Road South, Suite 4, in Brewster. To learn more, call 800-893-2679.