Posted: Monday Nov 11, 2013
Nov. 11, 2013
Alex Tufano never imagined that he would learn so much from a truck.
Tufano, 23, of Dunbar Twp., graduated from Saint Vincent College in May with a bachelor of science degree in finance and immediately went to work full time at TufanoTrucking, the quickly-growing business he started during his junior year.
“I made a big mistake with the first truck I bought,” Tufano admitted. “I had to invest a lot of money in repairs to get it working properly but in the end it turned out OK. That experience taught me a lot about trucks and the trucking business!”
The young entrepreneur has invested nearly a half million dollars in the fledgling business that he started with support from his father, Barry Tufano. He now has a fleet of five tri-axle dump trucks that are busy daily providing service to stone quarries, highway construction firms and drillers in the Marcellus shale industry.
“We have a service to sell,” Tufano explained, “and that service is truck hauling that is dependable and done in a professional, quality manner. We are a middle-man, delivering someone else’s product to someone else’s customer. I think we can add value to any business we serve.”
Tufano said that trucking is a business he didn’t know a lot about. “I am learning as I grow,” he said. But, he comes from a family with experience in the business world. “I have quite an extensive background with family-owned businesses,” he continued. “My parents, Barry and Tedi Tufano, owned three retail pharmacies in Connellsville, Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale, where I worked while in high school. They weren’t in favor of my idea at first since it was out of their comfort zone. But, I convinced them that I would work hard and had developed a business plan that would be successful. Although my college major was finance, I knew I didn’t want to work in an office all day. I was interested in managing a business where I could be outside, moving around. I just love what I am doing and am excited about how well the business is growing.”
With his parents financial assistance, Tufano bought two tri-axle trucks to get started, one in January and the second in March. Then he obtained broker financing to purchase two more trucks, one in June and another in November. “I purchased my fifth truck during final exam week of my senior year of college,” he recalled.
Several Saint Vincent College professors and administrators are credited with helping Tufano. Mark Abramovic, instructor of finance, and Dr. Gary M. Quinlivan, dean of the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government, were both influential in Tufano’s decision to start a business while he was still a student. “I still keep in touch with Mr. Abramovic,” he said, “to ask questions and seek advice on my business. Dr. Quinlivan and the entire McKenna School faculty have always been helpful.”
Tim Bates of the Small Business Development Center at Saint Vincent College helped Tufano refine his business plan. “I needed to be creative since I didn’t have all the details that would normally be required,” he noted.
Tufano said that 16 years of Catholic education has influenced the way he does business. “I attended Montessori School in Mt. Pleasant, Conn Area Catholic elementary school and Geibel Catholic High School,” he reported. “Looking back on my college experience, I am starting to realize that one characteristic of the Catholic, Benedictine approach to education is hospitality. I felt that at Saint Vincent and it changed me to be more hospitable to other people. I am more friendly and less judgmental now. That has influenced how I interact with my customers, my suppliers and my employees.”
“In addition to the specific skills I gained in my classes, Saint Vincent taught me how to creatively develop ideas and think critically. I learned how to evaluate my options and choose the best course of action,” he said.
He has utilized some non-traditional compensation for his four employees. “I pay a percentage of what the truck makes,” he explained. “I think that motivates employees to work harder, even though we are probably paying a higher wage than other companies our size.”
He has kept his promise to his parents and works hard every day. “I start most days at 6 in the morning and sometimes work until 11 at night depending on the work schedule, breakdowns and other things that come up, especially since the trucks cover a large geographic area,” he noted. “Other days are shorter. I love all of the things I do except for the required paperwork.”
Tufano said that he is in the process of purchasing two additional trucks that will be tractor trailers to start diversifying the business. “I also want to get a flat-bed trailer to haul lumber and steel and a low-boy trailer to haul equipment,” he said. “Eventually, I will purchase equipment to serve other branches of the construction field to do demolition and excavation projects. I don’t want to be just a trucking company. Long term, I intend to get into the development of housing plans and apartments. I have lots of dreams.”
Saint Vincent College included Tufano in a survey conducted by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) some months ago. In response, Don L. Francis, president of AICUP, informed the college that they loved Tufano’s story and would be including him in a brochure they are producing about students who are prepared for entrepreneurship at independent colleges. It is part of the association’s efforts to promote entrepreneurial activity on the campuses of Pennsylvania colleges and universities.
Tufano is single and lives at his parents’ home in Adelaide. He admits to spending a lot of his time thinking about the business. But, in his spare time, he enjoys reading and travel. While in college, he spent a semester abroad studying at John Cabot University in Rome where he enjoyed the Italian foods and European lifestyle and would like to return there someday.
Photo: Alex Tufano with one of his trucks.
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