The board of directors of Competitive Technologies Inc. in Fairfield has voted to increase the number of directors from five to six. Subsequently the board appointed Stan Yarbro to fill the new board seat. Yarbro recently retired as executive vice president, worldwide field operations, for Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, a position he had held since 2004. He currently sits on the boards of FSI International and Carbon Design Innovations. Yarbro holds a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology and a BS in chemistry from Wake Forest University.
The law firm of Cohen & Wolf, PC has named the Hon. Bruce L. Levin of counsel to the firm, effective March 5. Levin joins the firm’s litigation practice, and will be providing legal counsel in all areas, commensurate with his experience as a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court for the past 20 years.
Milford mailing-solutions provider Neopost USA has named Nicholas von der Wense vice president of business development. Previously he was the company’s vice president of addressing solutions. Before that he was president of Rena Systems, which creates tabletop inkjet address printers.
Beth Connor has joined the Connection Inc. as director of communications. She will be responsible for managing internal and external communications and public relations strategies for the Middletown agency. Previously she was director of Community development at Community Health Resources. She holds an MBA from Western New England College.
Sovereign Bank, NA has named Chris Buchholz managing director and regional office executive for Connecticut middle-market team in the bank’s corporate banking division. Previously the University of Connecticut graduate served as executive vice president of Rockville Bank and as senior vice president and market executive in the Commercial Banking Group at Bank of America and predecessor banks.
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has recognized Gil Fried with its Sport Management Outstanding Achievement Award for his significant contributions in the field. Fried teaches in the Management and Sport Management Department at the University of New Haven. Since joining UNH in 1999, Fried has helped the sports management program grow from 60 to 150 undergraduate students. Fried is the author of Managing Sports Facilities, which is recognized as a leading text in the field of facilities management.
Gayle Capozzalo of Guilford, executive vice president of strategy and system development at Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS), was elected chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), an international professional society of more than 40,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems and other healthcare organizations. Capozzalo, who joined YNHHS in 1997, is responsible for the growth and diversification strategy, clinical and operational integration, performance management and other corporate services of the health system. She earned a BA from the University of Maryland and an MS in public health from the University of Missouri/Columbia’s department of health services management.
Five new members have been elected to the University of New Haven’s Board of Governors. John J. Falconi recently retired as vice president, GE and chief financial officer of GE Technology Infrastructure for the General Electric Co. Erika H. Steiner is vice president and CFO/treasurer for Lydall Inc. in Manchester. Allen G. Love Jr. is a deputy global anti-money laundering officer for TD Financial Group. Victor M. Polanco is chief operating officer and managing director of True Partners Consulting in Chicago. Michael J. Quiello is vice president of corporate safety for United Airlines. The latter three hold UNH degrees.
The law offices of Carter Mario Injury Lawyers have hired Daniel Baker and Adam LaRue as litigation attorneys in the firm’s North Haven office. Baker previous worked for the state attorney’s office, as well as his own solo practice where he handled criminal defense and personal injury law. LaRue also worked for the state attorney’s office, the Connecticut Superior Court and in private practice. He earned a JD from the Quinnipiac University Law School.
John J. Franco has been named managing director of Worth Avenue Capital, LLC. Franco was most recently chief financial officer of Arga, a former Branford company specializing in direct marketing and printing. He was also chairman of the organizational committee for the de novo charted Harbor National Bank in Branford, where he later served as chairman and COO.
Angie Hulford has joined H. Pearce Real Estate Co. as a sales associate in Pearce’s Commercial Division in its North Haven corporate offices. She has more than 18 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry, most recently with Press/Cuozzo Commercial Services. Hulford is a member of the Greater New Haven, Connecticut and National Associations of Realtors and Greater New Haven Association of Realtors’ Commercial Investment Division.
How one Connecticut manufacturer built a business by filling an unusual niche
New Britain native and University of Connecticut grad Bob Luther 51, is founder and CEO of Shelton-based Lex Products, a manufacturer of electrical power distribution and control systems. The company today has grown dramatically since 1989 after Luther, then 29, left Orange-based Hubbell to form a one-man manufacturer’s rep firm. Today Lex, with more than 200 employees and clients including major industrial companies, the entertainment industry and the U.S. military, continues to create new products and chart new growth in Connecticut.
That was a touchy time to start a business. How did you get traction?
The early 1990s, in my mind, were as bad as now. It was terrible. Manufacturing companies were leaving the state and the region in droves. I happened on a couple of companies in the entertainment business, in particular motion picture filming and video filming. MTV was just getting big. I hooked onto that. First I started selling parts to these people. The orders were pretty small so instead of being a rep, I just bought and resold [the products]. One day Paris Studios called and said, ‘We love these connectors but we don’t have time to make the products,’ which were cable assemblies for all the lights they were hooking up. They said, ‘Can you build 15 or so of these?’ Times being what they were, I accepted the job and the business started to take off.
So you found other studios needed the same thing?
Yes. In fact, [Paris] told me, ‘If you build this for us, every studio will buy from you,’ and they were right. I went from wondering about surviving to thinking about thriving.
So after that first burst was there a strategy or product that propelled the company?
Our first building was in North Haven, but when we got this foothold in the studio market we moved to Stamford. I didn’t want to leave Connecticut, but I wanted to be as close to New York as possible. That’s when we hit our stride in terms of product development. I was building cable assemblies that were plugged into portable boxes, and I didn’t think they were the best construction. They were made of metal and unsophisticated. I introduced a line made out of rubber.
How did you go about creating these?
When I was at Hubbell I saw that the products like these that they used in Europe were made out of rubber. So I went to the Hanover [Germany] Fair and sure enough there was a really nice line of rubber enclosures available. I started putting components in the rubber boxes. They were smaller and they lasted a lot longer. You drop a rubber box and it bounces, you drop a metal box and it clangs and things go loose. And these are portable and insulated, and it allows us to make [boxes] smaller. That has been a flagship product to this day.
Looking at one of your newest products, it looks like you’re still finding new things to rubberize?
It is a rubberizing of a cable assembly. It’s a different problem we’re trying to solve, but it is a similar solution.
How quickly did you add employees?
There were a couple times when we added employees in big waves. In the early days it was really pretty easy. As long as I’ve been in business the economy has not been so strong that there aren’t people looking for these kinds of jobs. When we moved to Stamford and we were doing pretty well with the studios, there was this coffee shop and there were some good people in there, and we said, ‘Anyone know some people that would want an assembly job?’ At that point when we needed people it was word of mouth. Now we have more than 200 employees and 120 in manufacturing, with 25 in California.
So how and when did you begin to grow and diversify your customer base?
Kohler [engines] called me up just as I was getting back from Germany. They said, ‘We’re getting into portable power and we’re trying to select a vendor. Would you come out here?’ I didn’t really know who they were. They said, ‘Don’t you know who we are?’ I had units for ten different boxes and I didn’t even have the units in from Europe. They saw instantly that this was better, and they liked the style. It looked so much better.
What about penetrating global markets?
We have not; everything in the electrical business is different [in different countries]. There are very different standards and it is a standards-driven business. It’s been a barrier for us and frankly for competitors coming over here, too. We plan to enter the European market this year. We have to find the people to get it set up there; it is a big enterprise to get it started.
At what point did you start to formalize a research-and-development process as a component of your business?
That is actually the biggest challenge in the business right there. We’ve been trying to make it a formal system since the early days.
How did you create a patented successful product like that new rubberized assembly, the EverGrip?
Our president Mike Scala saw something similar in California and said we had to do something like it. We were fortunate to have hooked up with an outside resource [to help develop it]. The last two years we’ve been successful in creating our own resources and our VP of engineering has put in a process and we’re starting to reap the benefits. We’re going to introduce 14 new products this year.
You have your engineering and manufacturing next to each other, which is pretty different than the design-it-here-and-build-it-in-China that many companies are doing. Is this an advantage?
I’d like to have the jobs in Connecticut, unless there is a reason to do it otherwise. The synergy that occurs is in the details. In maintaining and troubleshooting products, it is very valuable to have the engineers go right on the floor and interact with the people that are building it. But we will work with outside resources as well.
Have you encountered the China knock-offs that other manufacturers often confront?
We make low volumes of many different varieties of the same thing. It may be enough volume for us. For us we sell 800 one-cable assemblies and that’s a nice piece of business. Someone would have to put in a lot of resources to compete; it’s not worth it.
So does being in a semi-custom world create a competitive advantage?
It creates a barrier to [competitive] entry. There are strong barriers to entry into this market.
The military has become a big part of your business. I can see why they would want rubber boxes. Has that market transformed the business?
The military business, which we started in 1998, is the biggest segment of our business, the most profitable, the most demand. It has transformed the business. We have 100,000 square feet of space here in Shelton, whereas five years ago we had 20,000 square feet in one facility in Stamford.
In the early days you recruited easily at the coffee shop. Has there ever been a time when you had trouble finding the people you need?
It is never been a case of not being able to find someone, as realizing that who we have found is not at the level we need to be. We’ve realized that we need the highest level of employee in order to deliver the results that we want. When we moved to Shelton we were hiring a lot of people, and we had this overall view that we have to upgrade our workforce. This is when we started reaching out to other organizations. We have used a variety of them, like Housatonic Community College, from a training program they have. We’ve worked very closely with ConnSTEP [the Connecticut State Technology Extension Program]; they’ve pointed to areas where we can get employees, and Platt Tech [in Milford]. We’ve also reached out to the Workplace and have hired a number of people from there and they’ve been a success story.
You found yourself on the 60 Minutes piece done on the Workplace (see page xx) because of a recent hire.
She was a 99er [unemployed for 99 or more weeks]. We didn’t actually know about Joe’s [Workplace CEO Joe Carbone’s] program for the long-term unemployed, though we were working with him already. In 2009 we were his Employer of the Year. Our HR director just believed in that [Workplace] program, not the one specifically mentioned on 60 Minutes. It was common practice when we had a job opening to contact them.
What is driving the need for increasingly skilled workers? Is it the complexity of the products?
The products are evolving, but it is the expectations of the customer. In the early days you could have three or four [employees] who were really good and could watch over everything. When you get up above 50 [workers] you have to have processes and people who can follow processes.
How have you been able to evolve from your one-man effort — R&D, manufacture and sell?
More than anything through fellow entrepreneurs. I joined a peer advisory group called the Renaissance Group. There are many of these groups. They’re usually local and have about a dozen members. I might have been fortunate to get into a group that was very dynamic. All the problems are the same and our leaders have brought some consultants into the group that have helped change the company. One is in the area we call HR but it’s really achievement that has helped us get the level of people that we need. I’ve gotten more out of that group than any other one thing. Our president, Mike Scala, came from a big company. When I have a highly entrepreneurial idea, he knows how to make that work in a larger company.
The Workplace’s Carbone is trying to change the way we think about long-term unemployment
Joseph Carbone is CEO of the Workplace, one of the five Regional Workforce Development Boards in Connecticut. The Workplace serves communities from Greenwich up the Gold Coast and into the Naugatuck Valley north as far as Oxford. Carbone became CEO in 1996 following a career in private industry as an executive for the Textron Corp. On February 17 the CBS News program 60 Minutes aired a feature on Carbone and his efforts to help workers facing long-term unemployment. By the next day the emotional feature generated hundreds of calls and e-mails about his research and initiative known as Platform to Employment. (The 60 Minutes feature may be viewed at workplace.org.)
How was the economy and the job market when you first arrived at the Workplace?
By ’96 things were really getting pretty good. The unemployment rate was moving downward, the economy was expanding so quickly that within six months it was clear we needed to get prepared in Fairfield County for the day when we had more jobs than people. We did some interesting things to build up the skill, education and credential levels of our citizenry, so that productivity through technology would be used to sustain this region, during a period of labor shortage. It worked pretty well until the recession.
How did the employment change play out?
We were under five percent [unemployment] by the first month of the recession, but by late 2008, 2009 even after the recession was over and the “official” recovery began, in June-July ‘09 we were continuing to see our unemployment number rise.
How were the lowest income and education groups doing before the recession in Fairfield County? Was there a shortage of labor across the board, or just the higher-educated workforce?
When you have a lot of high-level, high-wage jobs that we have in the financial sector [in Stamford], there is a multiplier effect. You hire somebody at a UBS or RBS that makes $250,000 a year, they’re going to spend [much] of that money locally. It has this effect of constantly growing the local economy, Bridgeport’s unemployment number was never lower, it was down in the five-percent level.
When most people get a call from 60 Minutes they tell their secretary they’re out to lunch. How did the 60 Minutes piece come about?
I didn’t reach out [to CBS]. We just got a call last August. I had seen a piece that [60 Minutes’] Scott Pelley did in 2010, where he focused on long-term unemployed in Simi Valley, Calif. The person who called was aware of our ‘Campaign for Hope’ that I created about a year before when I began to see the numbers building on the ‘99’ issue [people receiving unemployment benefits for 99 weeks or more]. They’re called ‘99ers,’ and that’s become part of the stigma they have to live with. They’ve had UI [unemployment insurance benefits] for 99 weeks; the benefits end and they’re still out of work. When the numbers [in that group] began to surge, I knew we had to do something in a very fundamental way to change our system. I started the ‘Campaign for Hope,’ taking the issue on the road to create awareness and a sense of community support for some initiative.
I wasn’t even sure what it would be at the time, but we would try to create awareness, some remedies and mostly find ways to instill hope in these folks.
It’s probably the most important thing I’ve done here in 16 years.
Is there anything that really pushed you toward this issue?
I didn’t really understand much about 99ers except I knew they must have been hurting. I got an e-mail one day from Connecticut’s acting commissioner of labor in May 2010. It said, ‘On May 15, 12,000 people in Connecticut will lose their UI benefits [having exhausted 99 weeks of benefits], and therefore I’m going to put a police officer at all the One-Stops [state unemployment offices] in Connecticut beginning on that day.’ I thought, these people are going to be losing their benefits, they’ve been out of work for two years and the remedy is a police officer at the One-Stops. From that day on I got myself involved emotionally and otherwise into the issue.
Many people have little sympathy for someone otherwise capable being out of work so long. You don’t think that’s justified?
If you go back to where we were a year and a half ago, unemployment was in the nines and over ten percent. We were losing jobs in the economy month after month. You heard the term ‘recession’ and ‘depression.’ The feds kept extending and extending the extra benefit program. People became convinced we would have to wait it out. In previous recessions, almost everyone would return to the same kind of work they held before and in a reasonable time. People waited, but they didn’t wait because they had so many jobs they were saying no to — there were no jobs out there. The benefits were being extended and that’s a message: ‘We understand there are no jobs out there. Then you reach a point that the number of weeks you’ve been unemployed is in and of itself the single greatest barrier to you getting a job again.
Are you saying there is discrimination against the longtime unemployed?
There is no question that some companies are abusive about it — they actually put it in advertisements. But it is more fundamental. When you have unemployment at eight percent, you have businesses that have to be very focused on their bottom line. We’re going through a period when you have some great talent within the unemployed, the underemployed and the employed, and a business can go through a program to re-package its human capital. Every time you post a job [opening] you can get 200 or 300 applicants. [Employers] can say, ‘I’m not going to consider any applicant who’s been out of work for a year or more.’ That is a dynamic of business that has resulted from this recession. I’m not criticizing it; I’m a free-market guy. But what that does for those with long-term unemployment is it makes them a victim.
We still often hear from employers — manufacturers, for example — that are still having problems finding the workers they need. Your data shows the majority of workers who lost jobs in manufacturing didn’t return to that industry when they do find a job.
That fact is exaggerated. A lot of companies going through this process of repackaging their human capital will take a [job] that’s available and pack it with new requirements, and in some cases they’ll also reduce the pay. In this environment they can still get applicants, and if they don’t they say, ‘We can’t find anybody.’ If that position is so important to your business you would find somebody, train somebody. This is a buyer’s market — that’s what my program tries to accept and acknowledge.
How does the program work?
There are lots of other special populations and we make provisions to compensate for whatever barriers they have [to employment]. We don’t have an obligation to create a job for everyone; that’s not going to happen. Our job is to create this level playing field.
What do you mean special groups?
Veterans, dislocated worker, a person with a disability, people on re-entry [from incarceration], which is a big project in New Haven. We have a lot of special populations, we never had to worry about long-term unemployment. Now we have on a national level four million people in this category, and this group equals all other special populations in the system.
Besides being unemployed for a long time, what makes this population ‘special’?
It is very different if you’re out of the job for a year or longer than being unemployed for three months. You get depressed, you often have problems at home, you lose your self-esteem. You can’t begin to talk about ‘re-careering’ or retraining if you have emotional issues like that in your life. The programs have to include special assistance, and we have to get you back into a fighting mode, to get the spirits, the motivation level up, where you can market yourself. I tried to do that with this P2E [Platform to Employment] program, the program featured on 60 Minutes. I went out privately and raised almost $600,000 from companies, foundations, private individuals. The money was to be used to provide a wage subsidy. Once we dealt with the emotional issues, [program participants] went into a job search. Once they found an employer they would remain on my payroll, the Workplace [for eight weeks]. It was like a staffing arrangement. I had money I raised privately, no government money, to prove that he or she could do that job as well as anyone else.
Why was it important that it was private money?
If it’s government [money], a lot of businesses will not even do business with you. If it’s government money it’s going to carry all of the regulations that come with government money.
So what are the results of this initiative?
We started out with 100 people. Six dropped out. I dismissed two because they turned down two jobs. As of last Tuesday, we had a [remaining] group of 92, and I have 53 employed. Not a single person who was employed has lost the job. Not one who has reached the eight-week point wasn’t hired.
What are the demographics of the group?
They are good people. I’ve had investment bankers, teachers — the whole gamut of employment disciplines. They come from Greenwich, from Bridgeport; are black, white, Hispanic; half are over 50 [years old]. They are Americans that were at the wrong place at the wrong time, and they can’t figure out what hit them. I hope this [publicity] will serve to get the system to redefine long-term employment. Right now the definition is anybody who goes beyond 26 weeks. But then it is the same service if you’re out of work for 26 weeks or out of work for 126 weeks.
The Connecticut Economic Resource Center Inc. (CERC), the state’s nonprofit economic development firm, has elected to its board William Vallée, state broadband policy & programs coordinator for the Office of Consumer Counsel. An attorney, Vallée specializes in telecommunications with the state’s statutory public utility advocate, where he manages and conducts policy positions and litigation in telecommunications and public rights-of-way cases. Vallée holds a BA from Union College and a JD from Fordham University School of Law.
Juan A. Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, has announced that he will step down later this year. Following his announcement the board of directors of the advocacy group for health-care reform at the state level announced that it had selected Frances G. Padilla, currently the organization’s executive vice president, to succeed Figueroa. A former state legislator, Figueroa had headed the UHCF since 2003.
Stuart G. Marcus, MD, FACS, has been named president of St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. He succeeds Susan L. Davis, RN, Ed.D, who remains CEO of the medical center and president/CEO of St. Vincent’s Health Services, and who has assumed additional regional responsibilities within Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit healthcare system. Marcus most recently served as senior vice president, chief medical officer and chairman of oncology at St. Vincent’s. A diplomat of the American Board of Surgery, Marcus is also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and Alpha Omega Medical Honor Society. He holds a BA degree from Rutgers University, and in 1987 earned his medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine.
Sharon Mansfield has been promoted to vice president/commercial loan officer at Naugatuck Savings Bank. She will oversee the bank’s small-business loan portfolio and develop new commercial and loan business and manage a commercial mortgage and loan portfolio. Mansfield previously was an assistant vice president and real estate officer at People’s United Bank in Waterbury.
The Connecticut Alliance for Business Opportunity (CABO), which describes itself as the state’s LGBT chamber of commerce, has elected Wiggin & Dana attorney Jason Smith to its board of directors. A member of the New Haven firm’s Private Client Services Department, Smith holds a JD from Yale Law School.
Laura Gallinoto has been named regional manager of Naugatuck Savings Bank. She will manage sales, service and operational efficiencies of the bank’s branch offices. Gallinoto has 22 years of banking experience, including management positions at Sovereign Bank and BankBoston. She is an alumna of the University of Virginia.
Randy Streck has been named assistant academic program manager/laboratory manager of the biology program at Post University in Waterbury. He will teach courses in biology as well as maintain and manage laboratory safety standards. Streck recently held a position at Pfizer as a senior principal scientist. He earned a BS in biochemistry from Harvard College and a Ph.D in molecular biology from the University of California/Berkeley.
Mario Coppola of Milford has been named a partner with the law firm of Berchem, Moses & Devlin, PC. He will practice in municipal law, land use and zoning, property tax assessment appeals, real estate transactions and general civil litigation. Berchem graduated from Boston College as well as the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he earned his JD degree.
Mario Gaboury, interim dean of the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice & Forensic Sciences, has been named the permanent dean. A full-time professor of criminal justice in the Lee College since 1996, Gaboury replaces Richard Ward, who last fall was named associate vice president for special programs and sponsored research at UNH. A scholar on global human trafficking, victimology, victims' rights, juvenile justice and community policing, Gaboury served as the Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation Endowed Professor at UNH from 2007 to 2009 and as the president of the American Society of Victimology from 2000 to 2010. Gaboury earned a law degree from Georgetown University, a doctorate from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree from the University of Maryland and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut.
The Bridgeport law firm of Willinger, Willinger & Bucci, PC has named Toni Marie Gelineau a principal. She will practice in real estate and probate, including residential and commercial real estate transactions, commercial law, estates, wills, conservatorships and guardianships. Gelineau was graduated from Fairfield University, as well as the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has appointed recently retired state Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein to serve as his appointee on the seven-member advisory committee that will evaluate and present a list of recommended candidates to fill the role she championed for the last 12 years. Milstein’s retirement as child advocate becomes effective on March 1. Mickey Kramer, the office’s associate child advocate, is serving as acting child advocate until a successor is named. The Office of the Child Advocate is responsible for overseeing the protection and care of children and to advocate for their well-being, particularly for those who are most vulnerable.
In 2011, Al Subbloie and Tangoe danced to the top of the heap
We should all have a year like Tangoe Inc., the Orange-based developer of communication lifestyle management (CLM) software and related services, had in 2011.
Where to begin? Last year the company executed three major acquisitions, opened its first offices overseas, managed an initial public stock offering that raised $88 million and ended the calendar year with a market capitalization of half a billion dollars.
Not bad for a company that in 2000 had just two employees languishing in a dreary office in Shelton. That was before it was acquired, on what can fairly be described as a flyer, by Albert R. Subbloie Jr.
Today Tangoe’s chairman, president and CEO, Subbloie has graced these pages before. In 2005 he was named Business New Haven’s Innovator of the Year. Like his company, Subbloie is moving up in the world: This year BNH has named him its Businessperson of the Year.
Al Subbloie has many qualities that distinguish him as an entrepreneur and an innovator. But this may be his most precious gift: to identify a unique value proposition market niche hidden beneath a dense, tangled undergrowth of technology chaos.
He always has. If you know his track record, you would expect to encounter the personality of a single-minded tech geek — an intense, self-righteous engineer-type who views the world through the crystalline binary lens of ones and zeros.
Subbloie can talk the digital talk, and he does. But what impresses one in person is not the arcana of tech gibberish, but the polished and personable poise of the Trinity College liberal-arts grad and unapologetic jock that he was and is. (“I am not an introvert,” he acknowledges.)
Cognitive dissonance, they call it.
Matthew Nemerson, president of the Connecticut Technology Council (CTC), has known and worked with Subbloie (a past CTC chairman) for a quarter-century.
“I don’t know anyone who better combines the skills that define the complete entrepreneurial package,” observes Nemerson. “He has a complete grasp of what a given technology can do, but he never falls in love with it. Second, the man thinks in business models. He instinctively can figure out who will pay for something and why. Third, like [Wayne] Gretzky he is always skating to where the puck is going to be and this shows up in his working years ahead in his game plan and acquisition of his team, capabilities and other companies.”
Speaking of hockey immortal Gretzky, Nemerson adds of Subbloie, “He has an athlete’s need to win.”
Al Subbloie grew up in Orange (Amity High School class of ’78), the same community he still calls home. His father was and is (at age 86!) a building contractor, and his mother an X-ray technician working in New Haven. His parents still live in Subbloie’s childhood home, not far from Tangoe’s present-day world headquarters on Enterprise Drive, where Al and his older sister (now a family-law attorney) who occupies a standalone office in the Tangoe building, go to work each day.
At odds with the stereotype of the propeller-head nerd, Subbloie is frank about the role athletics (he played both football and baseball through college, a relative rarity these days even at a Division III school like Trinity) playing in developing his character and stoking his competitive fires.
At Trinity Subbloie majored not in science or engineering, but in economics, with a minor (and intellectual affinity) for philosophy.
Although as an undergrad he didn’t know how his career would unfold, Subbloie had a keen sense from an early age “that business was where I wanted to be,” he says. “It would give me the most flexibility” in navigating a career and a life, he calculated.
Following graduation Subbloie went to work for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). He was advised in that decision by Trinity economics department chair Ward Curran, whose career advice the graduating senior had sought. Subbloie’s instinct was to start his own company — Steve Jobs was an entrepreneurial inspiration even in the formative years of Apple. But after the senior presented his honors thesis to the economics department, the chairman informed him, “Al, you don’t even know how to wear a suit.” That comment jolted Subbloie to his core. “He was saying, ‘You haven’t even hit the world yet — why don’t you get a job?” Subbloie recalls.
He took that advice, and interviewed with three major companies: US Steel, Northwest Mutual Life Insurance and Andersen. The recent grad’s future pivoted not on what he had learned in the classrooms of Trinity College, but on its playing fields.
“The person who interviewed me for Andersen was also the coach of the company softball team,” Subbloie recounts. “They had a really competitive team. And the first thing he saw on my résumé was that I’d played baseball at Trinity. He said, ‘Would you like to play softball for the Andersen softball team?’ I said, ‘That would be great.’ So I was in.”
Subbloie stayed at Andersen for two years, immersing himself in two areas of inquiry he had actively disliked in college — accounting and computer science.
Years later the 51-year-old speaks frequently of “life lessons.” One that has remained with him since the dawn of his professional life took hold when he was assigned to create financial models for a major client using the then-ubiquitous spreadsheet program VisiCalc — and, according to his supervisor, “You’re going to start tomorrow.” “But I’ve never used VisiCalc,” Subbloie protested. “How can you charge me out at $50 an hour?” “Well,” the supervisor replied, “you have a lot of time between now and tomorrow.”
So he stayed up all night with a VisiCalc manual and his computer and made himself, literally, an overnight expert. “It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it,” he observes.
Another valuable lesson from Andersen was that the natural assumption that large organizations, be they private companies or governmental entities, always make rational decisions and operate with maximum efficiency was far from the truth. “I was shocked at the degree of inefficiency in American corporations,” he recalls. “From that experience I came to believe that you could find many niches within large corporations and make things a lot more [efficient]. And computer automation really became the tool to go after that.”
Learning this life lesson would make Al Subbloie a lot of money down the road.
The genesis of Subbloie’s first entrepreneurial venture, Information Management Associates (IMA), unfolded when Subbloie and another young Andersen upstart, Gary Martino (today Tangoe’s CFO), hooked up with Martin J. Mattessich, founder of International Biotechnologies Inc. (IBI) headquartered in New Haven’s Science Park. Mettessich wanted to work with Subbloie and Martino but balked at paying Andersen’s steep hourly consulting fee. So he encouraged the pair to strike out on their own — which had been Subbloie’s intention ever since graduation college.
“We left Andersen together on a Friday and started IMA on Saturday,” he says. “And our first client was IBI, which is why our first office was in Science Park Building 25.”
That was in 1984, at the start of a 16-year run characterized by giddy highs — IMA would grow to $50 million in annual sales and seven offices worldwide — a few crushing lows, and plenty of those life lessons Subbloie speaks of. “You learn the street-fighting ways of building companies,” he says now.
IMA was built on developing and selling call-center and data solutions for sales, marketing, telemarketing and customer-service applications. It was one of Connecticut’s high-flyers in the surging technology marketplace, and Al Subbloie was anointed a rising star in the industry.
But in 2000 the Internet bubble burst, and in July of that year IMA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (“The end of IMA wasn’t a success parade,” he says now from the salving distance of a dozen years.) In the wake of that filing one division of the company was sold to TeleTek Software Inc., a call-center outsourcing company. Subbloie went with that division and stayed for six months. “I went there intending to stay for quite a while,” he recalls. “I was the No. 2 person in a division that was mostly the division I had built and sold to them.” But Subbloie quickly grew frustrated with the new company’s inability to move quickly, and he readily acknowledges he is constitutionally ill suited to working for someone else.
Beyond that, “I find that in markets, especially tech markets, there’s only one position in a market — and that’s the No. 1 position,” he says. “The bone yard is filled with the ones that weren’t No.1.”
With TeleTek, “I didn’t see its ability to maneuver,” he says, “and of course I didn’t have the authority to maneuver it in that direction or move quickly enough.” That calculation, coupled with a disinclination to move his family permanently to the West Coast, prompted a life change from which would be born the company with the funny, misspelled name.
Tangoe began life in 2000 as an enterprise known as Telecom RFQ (Request for Quote), a startup based on a reverse-auction telecom buying model. Subbloie had along the way founded a reverse-auction company called BuyersEdge in 1997, and Telecom RFQ was started by four people who had worked with Subbloie on that project. Subbloie was not a founder of the business, but was an early and major investor, to the tune of about a third of a million dollars. Soon he would jump in feet-first.
“Like a lot of Internet companies in 2000, [the company] got to 14 [employees] very quickly, but by the time I got there there were two people left,” he says. “At that point the [Internet] bubble had burst — there was no revenue, and it needed more cash.”
Subbloie had returned east from the TeleTek experiment, and “I had a choice: I definitely wanted to something on my own, and I could either come up with a brand-new idea — and I believe I’ve had a few of them — or I own a decent portion of this business [Telecom RFQ] that is sitting in Shelton with two people and a bunch of computers — I could take it over.
“Between you and me,” he says conspiratorially, “I didn’t love the reverse-auction thing. But I took it over anyway.”
“What I did like was [the opportunity posed by] telecom inefficiencies,” he says. What he liked most was that it was largely untapped market with low barriers to entry. “I’d rather have a concept that is so unique that [customers] can only get it from you,” Subbloie says. “Then you can charge a nice amount of money for it, you can grow a great long-term profitable revenue stream without risk.”
Which, more or less, is what in fact transpired with Tangoe. But beyond the product side, Subbloie and his team still had to decide what marketplace would become Tangoe’s arena. “Picking markets is so critical,” he says. “Pick a market that has great value propositions in it.” That market was the so-called enterprise market — large companies with large operational inefficiencies — the counterintuitive lesson Subbloie had learned years earlier.
Another Subbloie life lesson: “When in doubt, sell something,” he says. “In business, in witnessing the sell you learn everything. It’s the hunt — you’re in the middle of it. In the room you’re going to witness all the elements of the proposition — you’re going to feel it and see it. And if you’re smart, you walk away and you begin to learn the model that can win.”
Subbloie injected new capital (his own and other investors’) into the company, “and the first we did is we started selling. And immediately when we started selling, the mess that ultimately became the vision emerged within 60 days.
“What emerged from that was a business model that was a little different from what we thought we had been selling,” he says. “It became immediately apparent that the way big companies managed telecom expenses was a disaster. I was shocked by how much money they spent, and we found that out through the sell. It was a mess they way they bought [telecommunications services], and it was a mess they way they managed it.”
Subbloie and Tangoe knew there was a lot of money to be made cleaning up that mess.
The “mess,” Subbloie quickly determined, “was tailor-made for software. It was a game of details — these big [telecom] contracts, all these bills, and they’re all wrong. Think about it: All it is is a bunch of data to be reconciled.”
Bingo. Within 60 days Subbloie had renamed the company. “Tangoe” represents the “dance between the enterprise and the telecom carriers,” he explains (the E was added because the domain name “Tango” belonged to someone else). “We help manage that dance.”
(Subbloie recounts with pride that the Tangoe URL cost him $35, and the company logo, straight out of a graphics book, cost $200 — a far cry from the $50,000 IMA paid for a new logo when it was flush with cash. “Another of life’s lessons,” he says.)
From that realization, “It was clear to me what we needed to do,” Subbloie says. “You take the different components of the [expense] system — telecom contracts on paper, electronic billing from carriers — and you figure out how to create databases and software that can reconcile and audit these things.”
From that, “We began the design and build of this brand-new technology model from scratch,” he says.
Today Tangoe has more than $16 billion worth of data from more than 1,900 billing systems worldwide on its platform. Along the way the company’s core offering has evolved from selling software to clients to managing their telecom expenses soup-to-nuts outside of the enterprise client.
“I thought from the beginning that we would sell the software and companies would self-manage,” Subbloie says. “But this market — banks, retailers — it’s not what they do. It’s not at the core of their business to make sure that their telecom expenses are well managed.
“This became an area where [clients] wanted to have a third party that was an expert [in expense-management] be able to deal it — not just from a technology perspective, but also to have the bundled services around that,” Subbloie explains.
By 2005, he says, “It became evident that the majority of the market was moving in that direction.” So in April of the following year, Subbloie changed Tangoe’s business model from selling software suites for a one-time licensing fee to forging expense-management contracts with clients to create recurring revenue streams.
The results speak for themselves. Today Al Subbloie’s little two-person company employs nearly 900 people. It has a market cap of about $500 million, and generates just under $100 million in annual sales. In late January TNGO stock was trading in the mid-$15 range, with a first year target estimate of $17.50 per share.
For its chairman, president and CEO, life is good. He earned $734,000 last year, according to SEC filings, and recently bought a new Ford F-150 pickup truck. It’s red.
But Al Subbloie still sees himself (and likely always will) as a “street fighter” who’s been bloodied but remains unbowed.
But even more than the in-the-trenches fighter who lives for the sell, Subbloie is first and foremost a visionary.
“I thrive on that – I love it,” he says. “I just love thinking about things and where [the company] should go. It’s what makes me really happy.”
“You can’t help but kvell when guys like Al make it big,” offers the CTC’s Nemerson. “It means there is something just in the cosmos.”
Business leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist, volunteer extraordinaire — Bob Alvine has seen and done it all
If you ask Bob Alvine what it is that he likes to do best, he says bringing people together toward a common goal but with a diversity of viewpoints and an abundance of their personal assets that will make the experience richer for all involved. This may be why he has given so generously of his time and talents to so many different organizations over a span of 50 years, bringing to each the lessons he has learned in life and in business.
Alvine, who was born in Newark, N.J. in 1938, earned his BA with honors in science, majoring in chemistry and chemical engineering with minors in physics and biology from Rutgers University. He did postgraduate work at Syracuse University and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School executive program for management development. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of New Haven.
Following graduation with top honors from the U.S. Army Signal College, Alvine served in the Signal Corps, where he had top-secret security clearance for his assignment during the Cuban missile crisis. He serves on the panel for the U.S. National Technology Transfer Center of the Missile Defense Agency and NASA, and is a member of the Harvard Business School Club of New York and Connecticut.
Beginning his career with Celanese Corp., where he spent 17 years, Alvine rose through the ranks to hold dual positions as vice president and general manager of the company’s worldwide multi-division subsidiary and in a leadership role on the company’s Worldwide Strategy and Acquisitions Committee. During the next ten years with Uniroyal Corp. in Naugatuck he held top-level posts including CEO of its billion-dollar Engineered Products and Services Group, while also serving as chief corporate officer for worldwide strategy, capital formation and allocation, mergers and acquisitions, and research and development.
In his last position at Uniroyal as CEO, president and chief operating officer, Alvine led the company and its 32,000 employees in 1985 in the largest management buyout in history to date, and remains a principal of Uniroyal Holdings, Inc.
Alvine says he began his work serving on more than two dozen for-profit boards of directors that primarily had a business focus. He is a life trustee and chair emeritus of the Jackson Laboratory, where he has led several Board of Governors’ Trustees committees and the Jax Mice and Services Committee for the past five years. He was chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of New Haven (UNH) for six years and remains on that board as chairman emeritus. At UNH, he founded the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science in 1998, which he continues to chair, and also founded the university’s Alvine Engineering Professional Effective Enrichment Program and the Alvine Business Professional Effective Enrichment Program.
It was at UNH that he met Henry C. Lee, chief emeritus of the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven and former chief of the state’s crime lab in Meriden, with whom he became good friends.
“I’ve know Bob for many years,” says Lee. “Over the years he has made quite a contribution to our institute here, where he is chairman of the board. He developed a business plan for the institute and made a contribution to it. He is an excellent leader and someone who easily gets along with everybody.”
Lee, along with Alvine, formed what he calls “The 1938 Club,” which includes former UNH president and Third District congressman Lawrence J. DeNardis and former Pilot Pen CEO Ron Shaw — all of whom were born in 1938.
“Every year we get together — not to talk about business, but to share some of our life experiences,” says Lee, who still puts in 16 hours a day at the institute that bears his name. “I’ve learned so much from him. He genuinely cares about people and he cares about students. It’s been a wonderful experience working with him.”
“Since 1994, Bob Alvine has provided invaluable service to Long Wharf Theatre as a member of the Board of Trustees,” said Charles Kingsley, chairman of Long Wharf Theatre’s Board of Trustees. “First and foremost, he has served as chair of the board’s finance committee, helping us make tremendous improvements in our financial reporting and in our development of the budget. He was also a member of the search committee which recently hired LWT Managing Director Joshua Borenstein. Bob brings a very high level of expertise in both the business and not-for-profit arenas and we are so thankful for his contributions to our work. It is a pleasure working with him and this honor is much deserved.”
Alvine remains active with the Naval War College Foundation, is past chair of the board for the National Theater of the Deaf, and served on the board of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. He has served in one capacity or another on numerous business, civic, military and trade associations including the National Association of Corporate Directors, of which he was a charter member, the National Institute of Board Chairs, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association for Corporate Growth, the Naval Institute and the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology.
He is also a charter member of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation. Most recently he served on the boards of Kaman Corp., EDO Corp. and the Public Commission on Government Waste established by President Ronald Reagan. He currently serves on the board of the state of Connecticut Life Sciences Group and is treasurer of Long Wharf Theatre, where he also serves as chair of the finance committee and is also a member of the executive, human-resources and compensation committees.
Obviously not a person to let any grass grow under his feet, Alvine founded i-Ten Management Corp./i-Ten Capital in 1987, where he serves as chairman and CEO. With his son, Robert James, and his daughter, Laurie Anne, he founded several family-run businesses overseen by his son including Premier Subaru, Premier Kia and Premier Realty.
Alvine shares his advice with young people coming into their own. “Do well at what you love and what you’re doing in your line of business, because the better you do in what you know best, the more you will have proven yourself to have the knowledge and the capability to contribute,” he says. “In the process of doing well, and having the proper recognition for that, you’ll begin to understand where some interests lie within you that you may not have had a chance to pursue.”
Alvine advises that if one’s interests are in the not-for-profit sector, it should be in an area one enjoys.
“Because you want to make a difference,” he says. “It’s just like the philosophy that, whatever you love, you do well. And if you love a certain kind of business, as a consequence of that, you can offer your experience in that subject to others. It’s not just about writing checks. It’s saying that you’re willing to get involved somehow and then you go from that involvement to helping others.”
His own sweeping range of interests — science, engineering, medicine, education, music, theater, the arts and military affairs — have steered him toward the organizations that he helped found and with which he continues to be involved.
Alvine believes that the addition of the Jackson Laboratory to the University of Connecticut Medical Center in Farmington is one that will have a lasting impact on the state’s focus on biomedical and high-tech industries and bring many new jobs to the state.
“It’s a world-renowned institution that is absolutely remarkable, the most advanced lab in the world when it comes to research on genomes,” Alvine explains. “The lab mice they created are the model for doing all the research on genetics and are provided to over 12,500 labs throughout the world. And here we are, in Connecticut, launching the first major move toward personalized medicine. It has enormous implications. It will be a huge catalyst for the state in biomedical and high-tech areas.”
He views the current worldwide economic crisis as part of historical economic cyclical swings, but he considers this one to be different.
“We’ve had other recessions, but I think this is different in three ways,” Alvine asserts. “First, at no time before in our history was the world so connected. In the past, when one country got into [financial] trouble, it didn’t ripple down through other countries as it has this time. Because the connections are so significant, it’s hard to make a turnaround by curing just one country. We have to make the whole problem turn around at one time. Otherwise it will just keep pulling us all down.”
Alvine cites as a second issue the accelerated pace of business driven by furiously evolving technologies.
“It’s more difficult to put teeth into something and allow it to build, because it gets substituted for something else, it gets changed, and as a consequence, keeping up with every change is very difficult,” he notes. “And finally, the world political environment is in a different boat than it’s ever been in and the United States — still a world leader in many ways — has also lost a lot. Whether we can get that back, I’m not sure. We have to position ourselves on some real solid ground so that whatever happens in the future, we will have our own capabilities to protect ourselves.”
Alvine, who lives in Woodbridge, has enjoyed playing tennis and golf in the past but now plays piano, enjoys woodworking, theater and art, and likes to garden and travel, the latter with a focus on history.
“I love traveling but with a historical bent,” he says. “We’ve traveled to Italy three times now and just love to focus on the joy of seeing different things and different places in the world. Traveling is a continuous education.”
“I love music,” he says. “I played piano in Carnegie Hall, but over time I stopped it. One of the things I’ll do is get back to it.”
If he can find the time.