Lee Free from Centro, Inc.

One of the most interesting sales reps in the industrial fan industry hails from Shelby County, Tennessee and if asked in the 1980s if he would be a Division Sales Manager for a supplier of automation and product solutions, he probably would have given the side-eye and kept walking. In this month’s Rep Highlight we introduce you to Mr. Lee Free of Centro, Inc.

Long before serving in his current role at Centro, Inc., Lee Free served as an active duty Nuclear Machinist Mate in the United States Navy in the early 1980s, cutting his teeth on an SSN-615 fast attack submarine out of Groton, CT. After the events of September 11, 2001, the Navy recalled Lee to serve another stint, this time in Italy at a submarine repair base.

So, this intrepid sailor with degrees in mechanical and industrial engineering from the State Technical College of Tennessee stepped out into the industrial fan industry after his military service and met an unlikely mentor in “Stan the Fan Man.” Stan— a semi-retired, salty fan salesman—had two types of advanced cancers and Lee would often sit with him during chemotherapy treatments, so Stan taught Lee how to size fans during those sessions. Lee attributes much of his career success to “Stan the Fan Man” and remembers Stan with great respect and affection.

Years later Lee received an invitation to breakfast from Centro’s owner, Michael Gallagher. Soon after that breakfast meeting, Lee accepted a position in the Filtration Process Division and then more recently was promoted to Sales Manager of the Bulk Solid, Material Handling & Dust Collection Division where he oversees 17 outside salespeople in a fast-paced and constantly changing industry.

In terms of business philosophy, Lee asserts that he “believes in hard work, telling the truth—even when it hurts and the customer doesn’t want to hear it.” He adds, “If you truly care about the business, the vendors and customers know it by your actions.”

Centro serves multiple industries including Automotive, Food & Beverage, General Industrial & OEM, Mining, Grain, Chemical & Refining, Contractors, Government & Municipal, Pulp, Paper & Lumber, Power & Natural Gas, Reseller & Integrators, and E-Commerce in a geographic region that includes Arkansas, Northern Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama.

We asked Lee what he considers the biggest challenges of working as a Manufacturer’s Rep. He explained that working with manufacturers that have never been out in the field and do not understand the life of a salesman on the road, can pose challenges. He also emphasized the delicate balance of advocating for the manufacturer and the customer at the same time. Lee also extols the benefits of partnering with AirPro: “Since working with AirPro, I have had access to a great fan sizing program, quick customer support, quick rep support, and friendly people to work with.”

For rookie reps just breaking into the industrial fan industry Lee imparts this wisdom: “Firm up a great Linked-In profile and post products that you know your customers can benefit from. Don’t be afraid of cold calling (get those 19 no’s out of the way to get to that 1 yes). Follow-up on your quotes.  If you don’t follow-up, you will probably not receive a PO. Take a different route, if possible, to find new customers and make one more call when you are done for the day.”

When Lee isn’t selling AirPro fans and blowers for Centro he enjoys hunting, fishing, and watching his grandchildren grow. We at AirPro are proud to know and work with Mr. Lee Free.

AirPro Rep Highlights and Connections 

Centro, Inc. is part of the established field of AirPro Reps across the country. To learn more, check out https://www.centrosolves.com/, follow the Centro LinkedIn page, and connect with Lee on LinkedIn. 

Contact us to connect with your local rep. Our team is available to discuss your fan application, provide technical expertise, and even visit your plant to inspect existing equipment for retrofit/repair recommendations.