by John D. Hubbard
The trucks bound for Connecticut are loaded and on their way by 5 a.m.
Other Ipswich Maritime vehicles, which will fan out across Massachusetts, down to the Cape and into New Hampshire and Maine, are still being stocked as the sun comes up. Gallons of frying clams, crates of cod, cases of scallops. George Delaney '92 is making sure orders are filled properly so that the drivers can make prompt deliveries and the customers are kept satisfied.
Delaney is learning the seafood distribution business from his father George Sr., who, with his partners, started Ipswich Maritime Products 10 years ago, striking out on their own after years of experience. "It took the guy who's teaching you 35 years to learn the business," the father likes to remind the son. Delaney laughs.
It hasn't been an easy education. The father has been tough on the son ("He's hard on everyone," defends George Jr.) and there were days early on when George's mother Pat, who runs the office, asked her son if he thought it was all worth it.
Delaney went to work for Met Life after graduation and learned not to fear the cold call during his sales training program. He enjoyed the work but when an opening developed at Ipswich Maritime he didn't need the 15 minutes his father gave him to make up his mind.
"He's my Dad first and my boss second. It can get heated and you have to have a thick skin but no matter what happens here, we're still going to play golf. He's still my best buddy and my number one fan."
There has been plenty for George Sr. to cheer about. Delaney was a standout wide receiver at Colgate, where he started 43 straight games and holds a half-dozen Red Raider records. He is also a top-ranked racquetball player who began touring when he was 12 and plans to join the pro tour this season. Delaney has also confronted his personal demons and emerged whole and well. As his education continues and his professional athletic pursuits unfold, George plans a late winter marriage.
Long hot summer
"In the summer I don't even get a chance to read the Scene," says Delaney. "I don't know what's going on in politics or anything else. But I know where the clams are for the next day."
Once all the trucks are rolling down the road with the right product for the right people, Delaney turns to the phones, letting customers know the price on fresh fish for the next day and taking their orders. He is now getting more involved in buying, a complex area of the business where red tide in Canada, hurricanes in Maryland and heavy rain along the Ipswich clam flats all become part of the calculations.
Ipswich Maritime carries between 350 and 400 items purchased from 25 countries. The majority of the business is distribution although there is some processing done at the plant. Halibut is filleted, cod is skinned and clams are shucked.
Clams make up the bulk of the business and George Sr. notes
with matter-of-fact pride that the Ipswich area is "home of the best frying
clam in the world." Of course, the take-out stand on the Cape is less concerned
with reputation and more concerned with having the product to serve, so if rain
does indeed close the Ipswich flats it falls to Delaney to find clams somewhere
and get them delivered.|
Service is key to good business and people are the key to service. The folks at Ipswich Maritime wear many hats, and Delaney's training is multifaceted, both to provide a comprehensive understanding of the works and out of necessity. "It's not unusual to see the sales manager and owners packing product, loading trucks or even making deliveries.
"I love this job," says Delaney. "It's not as structured as most businesses but everything I do here affects someone else, and that goes for the work everybody here does."
Driving a route
Those needs are paramount for Delaney as he works the phones. On some calls George just shoots the breeze, laughs a lot then takes the order. Others are purely culti-vational. Delaney is persistent, confident that when a competitor "screws up" Ipswich Maritime can deliver.
"We have a real interest in seeing our customers are successful," he says. "We have the same interest in our suppliers. Customers buy from us because they know we're going to take care of them -- that the service and the product are grade A."
While Delaney wishes the competition in the seafood world would disappear, he craves athletic competition. Last year he played in local racquetball tournaments nearly every weekend and he works out steadily now -- running, lifting and hitting -- in preparation for professional competition.
"I need to play the top guys to get to their level," says Delaney, who is being sponsored by E Force, a manufacturer of racquetball equipment. The game takes a toll. Delaney routinely breaks the little finger on his right hand, his elbow balloons after tournaments, his knees ache and his back pains him. "I love the competition and I'm lucky enough to compete at the top level. You have to be intense on every shot."
It was George Sr. who introduced his son as a nine-year old to the game. "My partner canceled so I took George along to hit. He was smashing backhands twice as hard as I could."
The trucks have pulled away, the summer is over and father and son have relaxed a bit. There's still more to teach, still more to learn but there is time for a story or two. Laughter floats through Ipswich Maritime. George Delaney knows where the clams are and it's a good feeling.