Michael J. Ryan
2013 Sturgeon Award winner discusses his 30-plus years in the industry with Peelle.
Michael J. Ryan, vice president of Sales and Marketing, The Peelle Co., has had many accomplishments in his career, the most recent being the recipient of the National Association of Elevator Contractors’ (NAEC) William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award (ELEVATOR WORLD, December 2013). The native New Yorker has lived in Poughkeepsie, New York; New York City (NYC); and Charlotte, North Carolina, at Peelle’s behest and currently lives in Miller Place, east of NYC on Long Island’s North Shore. He holds a BBA in Marketing from Pace University and an MBA in General Business from Long Island University.
Ryan entered the elevator industry in 1980 as a Peelle draftsperson for the Modernization department but was transferred to Sales a few months later when a coworker was moved to the Chicago office. He assisted the sales manager until 1987, when he was transferred to Poughkeepsie, where he assumed the role of Sales manager for Sedgwick Lifts Inc., a Peelle subsidiary that manufactured dumbwaiters and home lifts. In 1990, he was again transferred, this time to Charlotte, in the role of South East Regional Sales manager for Peelle, which included his Sedgwick duties. He left Peelle in 1992 to earn his master’s degree, returning with it in 1995 as New Equipment Sales manager. He was promoted to his current position in 2002.
“Anytime you can interact with consultants and elevator contractors at a trade show or an event, whether talking product, golf or politics, I think it’s a good thing for your business and your career to attend industry events.” – Ryan
Ryan considers ending up in the elevator industry “quite random” but a decision he has never regretted. “It was interesting to work on buildings that I could visit, walk through and were part of the community,” Ryan remarked, enjoying being able to say, “I sold that” or “I worked on that job.” Some of these jobs are the World Trade Center in NYC, the White House, Target stores and Boeing aircraft. He also enjoys close friendships with many industry people he probably would not have otherwise met.
Two of Ryan’s top-three mentors were also elevator men. Ryan commented on those who guided his career:
“Joe Sproule, who was the vice president of Sales when I was hired, [taught me] that it was ok to have fun if you got your job done, as well as give back to the industry in the form of volunteer service. My father, who was an entrepreneur and small-business owner, instilled my work ethic. [There is also] my current boss, and friend, Hank Peelle, who works harder than anyone I know and truly ‘walks the walk.’”
Ryan advises those who want to enter the industry and work with its “great group of people” to find their niche and be the best they can in it. “Try [to] make a difference, and if you’re not sure what that niche is, there [are] dozens of people who are willing to help you out,” he continued.
Ryan considers his biggest challenges in his current position the changing dynamic of how product is purchased and the retirement of industry professionals who appreciate fine workmanship and customer service. He works to overcome these hurdles by being involved in all aspects of the elevator purchasing cycle, offering education to those who ask and engaging in personal contact. “It takes more effort to maintain the same sales level and relationships than it did when I originally entered the industry in 1980,” he noted. He is also not afraid to access some of the many experts he has met when he thinks they may be of help.
Ryan said a “strong sense of responsibility to ensure that industry professionals know as much about Peelle’s products, services and personnel” push him to remain very involved in industry associations. A member of NAEC; the Canadian Elevator Contractors Association; the National Elevator Industry, Inc.; the Elevator Conference of New York; the Mid-Atlantic Elevator Chapter of NAEC; the Massachusetts Elevator Safety Association; the International Association of Elevator Consultants; the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation; and NAESA International, he has come to appreciate all the people who paved the way for our modern organizations: those who created the associations, sat on committees, worked long hours on codes and developed products to create a sustainable industry in which to work. He strives to attend the functions these organizations host, explaining:
“Anytime you can interact with consultants and elevator contractors at a trade show or an event, whether talking product, golf or politics, I think it’s a good thing for your business and your career to attend industry events.”
Ryan’s large family spends holidays together, and he often visits his parents in Otis, Massachusetts. He considers himself lucky to have great role models and family support, in addition to a large social circle on Long Island. He enjoys spending time with the special people in his life in NYC and on Long Island’s east end, which in the fall alone offers wine tasting, harvest parties, pumpkin and apple picking, corn mazes, and clam chowder tasting. Ryan believes in giving back to the community, which he does as chairman of the Long Island Chapter of the Red Cross. He has even presented first-aid courses at NAEC functions (EW, June 2013).
Looking to the future, Ryan said he would like to see his Sales department “operate on autopilot,” while he helps develop other products and services Peelle could offer. He has no plans to retire anytime soon and would like to split his time between Long Island and Florida. He believes the industry can expect tepid growth for a few more years, which he said should not be considered a bad thing: “It’s a move forward at a slow and steady pace, versus the crazy ride of the late 2000s.” He advises companies to:
“Sell out of the recession; reinvent what [you do] and how you do business. Dropping your price is not the answer for manufacturers or contractors; it compromises our products and services, as well as devalues the important work we do.”