Like most sheet metal workers in his day, Vic Petrossian was just trying to provide for his family when he started Rossi HVAC Hardware 30 years ago. Then a duct hardware invention changed his life and HVAC airflow forever.
It all began with bushings, explains Vic Petrossian. Before establishing Rossi HVAC Hardware in 1989, he was working at a duct fabrication shop in Sun Valley California. There he developed his first product: a snap-in, “near zero leakage” bushing prototype. His first customers? The company’s fab shop team.
“From a productivity standpoint, I could not justify the time it took my guys in the shop to drill holes and bolt these ancient bushings to the sides of the duct to assemble volume dampers. I also couldn’t stand the leakage the bushings had. It was appalling we were still using duct hardware that was 100 years old,” he says. “We tested out this new product internally at our own duct shop, and what we learned was that our customers loved ‘em and this little bushing was giving our duct shop a competitive advantage.”
Consulting with duct fabricators, mechanical contractors, HVAC engineers and TAB technicians, Petrossian began developing more duct hardware solutions (bushings, blades and regulators) as part of Rossi hardware.
Before long, he had a product line to sell on the road.
“This is the part I’m not that good at. I’ve always come up with innovative ideas but I’ve never really been into getting the word out,” he says. “I have to credit my son (Tony) and daughter (Linda) for that. They pushed me to get out in front of other duct fabricators at trade shows. And they both came with me to help make that happen.”
Accuduct, SEMCO, Mina Metals, Stamped Fittings and Ductmate were the first companies to purchase Rossi hardware and buy into Petrossian’s vision. “They got the vision right away,” he says. As time progressed, others followed. “It was like a snowball effect,” he says. Clearly, Rossi was on to something.
From Family To Duct Hardware Dynasty
Petrossian grew up in the Middle East and immigrated to the U.S. in 1979. Raised Christian, “my family suffered through some real religious persecution in that part of the world,” he says. “I remember as a kid, watching American television shows and movies and listening to American music and dreaming about one day living here in the USA.”
When his family’s application for legal immigration to the U.S. was granted, his American dream was finally on the horizon. “We were to become US residents. This is a day my family and I will cherish forever.”
Relocating to Southern California, Petrossian’s focus was on providing for his growing family. An uncle introduced him to the sheet metal industry, and he began applying his degree in mechanical engineering wherever he could.
“And I dove right in,” he says. “Starting at the bottom and learning every aspect of the shop, from elbows to saddles to the entire network of air ducts we were making. I worked my way up to joining the union and running the duct shop and becoming the production manager.”
Today, Petrossian utilizes every bit of his shop floor experience to lead Rossi Airflow, Inc. as a company. Although some things never change — such as the need to find a “talented and skilled” workforce. He welcomes the changes that come with engaging a new generation of employees.
“Back when I was running the duct shop we had a hard time finding our truck drivers! We had to purchase specialized Walkie Talkies and tracking systems just to try and stay connected with them during deliveries. No cell phones, no email, no text messages, no GPS,” he remembers. “I look around at the younger generation at Rossi today, with all their computers and connected devices, and I marvel at what an incredible job they do staying connected with our vast network of customers, suppliers, transportation providers and media publications like yourself. The level of constant communication just blows me away.”
In embracing new technology, the company’s workflow has also changed for the better, says Petrossian.
“We are always working on adapting designs to meet specific market needs, but now I get to see them in 3D and move them around in my hand using virtual reality to get it to a place me and the designers like. Then, we literally print out a 3D prototype to toss around the office with the team as we continue to iterate on the design,” he says. “So it’s just a lot more creative and fun to be able to develop products using today’s technologies. The possibilities are truly endless now. And we really are living in the future.”
A constant eye on the future is part of what has kept Rossi a success over its 30-year history. The other part is the company’s customers.
“We have the absolute best customers in the world, and we are hyper focused on building on those relationships to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to make their lives better,” he says. “I would say Rossi’s goal over the next 30 years will remain the same exact goal we’ve had from the beginning: to innovate duct hardware. This is all we think about all day long. This is all we enjoy doing, so I don’t see us doing anything different.”
Know an Industry Icon or someone who should be considered for our series? Submit your nominations directly to the SNIPS Editor-in-Chief at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of SNIPS magazine.