As seen in the Tried & True Spring 2020 issue
It’s a known fact that Fratco would not be here without its loyal customers. This is a sentiment expressed by employees across every location. But sometimes, the inverse is true, and Fratco is able to make an equally profound impact on its customers.
Manske LLC, located in Le Sueur, Minnesota, is one of Fratco’s largest customers and distributors, though they did not start out that way. When the owner of Manske LLC, Ron Manske, was first introduced to Fratco in 2012, he was selling golf carts. He heard rumors of Fratco opening a plant in Iowa and through a mutual friend of Fratco salesman Alan Kruzska, knew they were looking for a distributor in Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota. Having previously been a salesman for a competing drainage supplier, he had bought fittings from Fratco and knew of the high quality products they produced. He had the knowledge of the industry and an insatiable desire to provide for his family.
Kruzka encouraged Manske to join him at an engineering show at Iowa State University. Manske decided to attend the show to meet Kruzka and within an hour and a half the deed was done.
“They shook my hand and made us a distributor,” said Manske. “They took a big chance on us. I didn’t have a lot of collateral or receivables. But there was trust in that handshake between Fratco and Manske LLC.”
Eight years after that fateful handshake, Manske’s business is booming. What started as he and his wife, Dana Mankse, hauling pipe on a golf cart trailer hitched to the back of a Ford Escape has evolved into a 15-truck and trailer fleet with five full-time employees. They have accumulated an impressive customer base who are incredibly loyal. So much so, that they refuse to work with other drainage suppliers, even if that means shifting their schedules or switching products.
“Once the customer uses our product and experiences our service, the loyalty and the honesty that we receive from them is the best,” said Manske. “I’ve even had a couple customers that knew they couldn’t get their product from us because it involved sizes that we didn’t carry. Instead of going to one of my competitors who was closer to them, they waited until we could get their products in stock and switched to a different job that we could help with in the meantime. They say, ‘Nobody treats us like you do.’”
This loyalty is something to covet as it is not easily won. For Manske LLC, that means they can be reached 24/7 to ensure any issues are resolved and any order can be fulfilled as quickly as possible. While it is unconventional and many companies are weary of being open seven days a week, Manske explains it helps to keep them competitive. Plus, with a team as passionate about service as Manske’s, they are happy to do it for their customers.
Speaking of customers, one of Manske LLC’s biggest customers is a company owned by Manske’s younger brother, Bill. When Manske first started distributing Fratco products, Bill was thrilled because he was aware of Fratco’s overwhelmingly positive reputation and jumped at the opportunity to start taking pipe orders. Bill has connected Manske LLC to a number of new customers over the years and has supported his brother in countless ways. Without him, Manske asserts the company would not be as successful as they are today.
Another important aspect of Manske’s success is the cohesive team behind the operation. Manske stresses that Manske LLC would not be the same without his wife leading the charge, his son, Ben, by his side and the rest of his team working collectively to reach their goals. While his other son, Matt, lives in North Carolina, Manske acknowledges that he has been a huge supporter of the company’s success.
Manske also considers Fratco to be an incredibly crucial member of this team. Their partnership with Fratco has worked remarkably well, largely because of a shared vision of family, quality and going the extra mile for their customers.
“There are so many instances where Fratco went the extra mile for us,” said Manske. “If they know a customer has a purchase order and we are limited on time, they are so quick to act. They’ve brought it out of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and St. Anne, Illinois. They’ve brought it out of their headquarters in Francesville, Indiana, too. These guys have gone above and beyond to supply products to our customers, even if it means loading up the truck and sending it out the next day just make our customers happy. You won’t find that many places.”
The pairing of these two companies is successful because they see eye-to eye on a fundamental level. With both companies placing family at the forefront, their customers ultimately become part of their respective families. That means doing everything in their power to make sure a job is done well, and working effectively to solve problems as quickly as possible should they arise.
Manske’s appreciation for Fratco extends beyond customer service. He expressed his gratitude for Fratco’s devotion to maintaining the quality of their products. Manske is proud to say he’s a distributor for Fratco because he knows the processes Fratco has in place, from sourcing the materials to quality checks throughout the entire manufacturing process, allow for only the best pipe to make it into the ground.
“The best quality pipe in the world is right here and it points to Fratco, and it has for many years,” said Manske. “They’re almost a hundred years old and that’s evident in what they’re doing. They are incredibly quality-conscious which truly makes for a superior product.”
Before Manske LLC was established and he worked as a salesman for another pipe company, he didn’t get the same amount of positive feedback as he does with Fratco. With Fratco, when customers call unexpectedly, it is rarely to express dissatisfaction; it’s almost always to order more pipe. Manske is convinced without Fratco’s commitment to quality, Manske LLC would not be experiencing the success they are today.
Manske LLC has now helped to encourage Fratco’s expansion, specifically through the construction of their new Algona plant, and Fratco has bolstered Manske through the highs and lows of the last eight years. The mutual respect between these companies has formed an honest, everlasting partnership. Manske expects their company to continue experiencing rapid growth in the future, with Fratco by their side every step of the way.
Reminiscing over the years of hard work and looking back at how far he and his family have come, Manske feels emotional. The intense gratitude he feels for Fratco supporting his business and the pride he experiences doing his job everyday is palpable.
“I don’t call it work anymore and I haven’t in years,” said Manske. “When I wake up in the morning, I know Dana’s going to be okay, and I know my boys are going to be good. I just thank God he gave me the chance and the opportunity.”