It was 1989 and Oliver Romano was mapping out his future. The native of Pontiac, MI, was interested in technical careers, and had even received some schooling to that end. Looking back on that year, he now sees his decision to join the US Navy as a major jump-start to his future livelihood.
“The military background for me is a great benefit,” said Romano, partner and general manager at the metro Detroit PIRTEK Service & Supply Centers.
Being a veteran, he said, has made all the difference, opening doors and imparting qualities that tend toward success.
PIRTEK is in the business of hydraulic and industrial hose replacement sales and services. The company has more than 400 locations and 2,000 Mobile Service Vehicles in 23 countries. Currently, there are 58 PIRTEK Service & Supply Centers in the United States.
“When a piece of machinery ruptures a hydraulic or pneumatic hose, or if the hoses need maintenance, we go on-site and perform the replacement on the spot,” he said. “Instead of someone at the factory having to shop around town for the right hose, we just take care of it. All the fitting is done in the vehicle.”
In addition to welcoming veterans, the company provides discounts to those interested in becoming franchise owners. PIRTEK is also a supporter of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF), established in honor of the famed American Sniper by his wife, Taya Kyle. The mission of CKFF is “to honor God, country, and families who serve by providing experiences that strengthen military and first-responder marriages.” CKFF is also the official, not-for-profit organization of PIRTEK Team Murray, which raced during the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. Taya currently serves as the team’s ambassador.
10 years of service
Romano’s road to PIRTEK ownership began with his boot camp in Great Lakes, IL. That and his later training helped him develop greater levels of self-discipline, respect for others, orderliness, and knowledge – all things that would serve him well in the decades to come.
His first job in the Navy was hydraulics technician for weapons systems on destroyers. The hydraulics background was integral to his later work with PIRTEK.
Romano’s position took him overseas on a number of occasions. First, he participated in Operation Desert Shield while stationed in the Red Sea. He was involved in the embargo associated with that famous operation.
During a five-year tour on the USS Scott, Romano served as a maintenance technician for that vessel’s missile launches. He spent a subsequent stint at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in Virginia, building surface-to-air missiles for destroyers. “We put out 15 or 16 missiles per day when I was there,” he said.
Romano finished up his military service aboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport for Marines that was active during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.
After 10 years of service, it was time for Romano to enter the private sector and start a career. He moved back to his home state of Michigan. As luck would have it, the newly opened PIRTEK in Madison Heights, MI – the first of four Detroit-area locations – was looking for someone who had his skill set.
“I started out there as a technician,” Romano said. “But I was really involved, working with the business, pushing sales.”
That involvement paid off. Romano became operations manager of the facility in 2001.
Before long, new PIRTEK Service & Supply Centers began opening up in the Detroit area. Romano became the general manager at PIRTEK Westland. Then he became involved in two more PIRTEK franchises in the area: a Sterling Heights location that opened in 2011 and a Wixom location in 2015.
“We started off with three vans and one location, then went to 18 vans and four locations,” he said. “Our employees went from five to 38. That’s a lot of growth in a short period of time.”
Romano assumed general manager duties for the Detroit area, and also became a partner.
Hiring veterans: good business
In his own hiring role at PIRTEK, Romano has always viewed people with military backgrounds as strong candidates. In fact, two of his current operations managers are former military. “I look for veterans because of their experience,” he said. “They have added a lot to the business, both on the technical side and in managing people. They’ve always worked well for us.”
The military, he said, cultivates a number of important skills that translate into business, including the ability to think on one’s feet and manage stress. “Their time in the military helps them handle customer pressure and builds maturity,” he said. “If you’re in the Army and your tank breaks down in the desert, you’ve got to come up with something. You don’t know what’s coming, and you have to find a solution right away.”
That trait is important at emergency services companies such as PIRTEK, where every situation is different, and where there’s often a need to improvise.
Teamwork is another characteristic the military instills in those who serve. Romano said he considers the cooperative work of the combined staff in metro Detroit PIRTEK to be of utmost importance in their success.
“We have a great team here,” he said. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”