Year: 1967. Location: Saigon, Vietnam. The sixth year of the war between the USA and Vietnam has ended, yet it still goes on with all its ferocity. A company was urgently looking for a manager who would run the shop located in the American base for meeting the needs of American soldiers. It wasn't easy to find personnel who would work in the war zone. Steve Reinhold, the manager of the store and boss of Caribe Diamond, Inc., thought of an experienced manager, Hamit Tosyali, who had had his sales training in one of the European branches of the company. But how would he reach the manager who was constantly traveling. He immediately telegraphed to his family in Ankara: `We urgently expect you in Vietnam.`
Tosyali, who has begun his career in a store called Post Exchange (PX) through a general's reference he met while he was doing his military service in the NATO base in Izmir, had proven himself in a short time. He had worked respectively in Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul stores. After a while, he had left the company and started working at Caribe Diamond based in New York and who sold goods to PX.
First he thought that the telegraph was sent to wrong address and did not pay attention to it. Who could expect him in Vietnam while he was traveling from Germany to Greece and from France to Belgium? Then he learned that the address and message was correct. And the man expecting him in Vietnam was his boss's brother. He decided to go there in spite of all the objections of his family and friends. "One could not achieve success without taking any risk”. While the war was at its peak he went to the store to work as manager. Although he had gone for only one year, he stayed there for five years. He fled to the shelter when he heard the sirens; he was a friend to hundreds of soldiers whom death was waiting at every corner. He had 82 employees and he helped another Turkish friend to go to Vietnam, but hi friend was able to stand the conditions only for a year. As the war in Vietnam went on, meanwhile Tosyali sailed to new adventures and he was brought to the management of a wedding-ring manufacturing factory of the same company in Puerto Rico. He enrolled a technical school and learned the theoretical aspect of the work and improved his Spanish.
GREETINGS FROM VIETNAM
In 1973, he decided that it was time to split up with his directors with whom he worked for 7 years. He declared that he wanted to start his own business by purchasing the wedding-ring factory which was to be closed. The machinery of the factory is sold to Tosyali on one condition only: "He would continue to manufacture wedding-rings for his old company”. There was no traveling from one city to another anymore. From now on he was his own boss. But he was still single. In a distant land, he could not find someone from his own culture. His fortune smiled at a most unexpected time.
In Vietnam, he came across to an army officer whom he met when working at the PX store in Ankara. The officer was in civilian clothes. He had retired from the army and started to work for the CIA. He asked Tosyali to visit and say “hi” to all of his beloved neighbors back in Ankara. Hamit Tosyali did as he was told and in that house he met his wife Fial. The friendship continued through correspondence while he was Puerto Rico. As he was not able to leave Puerto Rico due to his work, in 1973 he got married over there. Fial, with the permission of her family, shared her life with the man that she loved thousands of kilometers away from Turkey.
TUSCALOOSA FOR THE KIDS
Tosyali, who manufactured wedding-rings in Puerto Rico, had the opportunity to frequent to the U.S. The tax advantages provided by Jimmy Carter, former governor of the State of Georgia, intrigued him. He made a price search in Atlanta for carrying the company to the U.S. but he found it expensive. He decided to settle in Tuscaloosa, AL. They emigrated from Puerto Rico to Alabama in 1974. The young couple set to work with a table and a chair. Tosyali got registered in a technical school. He did not get interested in a work other than wedding-ring production. His philosophy was to less but permanent profit. Tosyali says, "When I first came here people used to ask me `Why should I buy from you? ` In time they trusted my service and quality. I paid attention to quality and service. I had complete confidence in the quality".
400 THOUSAND WEDDING-RINGS A YEAR
Currently, Benchmark employs approximately 70 people. As for their technology, Tosyali is very assertive. He says, "Very few companies have the same technology". Benchmark's prices range from $30 to $6,000 dollars and the company sells a total of 400 thousand rings a year, 150 thousand of which is in foreign countries and 250 thousand in the USA.
Tosyali family envisages enlarging the company and they work with 12 sales representatives throughout the U.S. Nowadays Hamit Tosyali, who was born in 1937, enjoys his retirement by playing golf. Father Tosyali is the CEO of the company but it’s the second generation of his family that runs the company. His eldest son Alican is the President of the Board of Directors and Berkhan is the Vice-President. Alican Tosyali who runs the company for nine years says, "Confidence is a great advantage when you work within the family. Although we are a family company, everything works professionally and with structure. We do not run after a business once we get it off our minds. We plan everything".
LITTLE BROTHER IS IN CHARGE OF TECHNOLOGY
Little brother Berkhan Tosyali, who studies industrial engineering and works at Benchmark for three years, plays a very important role in Benchmark's computer technology and production. Alican says, "If it wasn't for my brothers’ technology we wouldn't be where we are today".
“We came to where we are today step by step. We use machinery in all the stages of the production. Manual production causes a lot of problems.”
“We sometimes receive partnership or purchase offers. We are going to have benefit of one of these offers very soon." Even though Alican Tosyali does not give details about their plans, he briefly tells us that they will carry the main company to Alabama in the following months. The young president has never seen Kilis, his fathers land, even though he frequently travels to Turkey. He is a fan of Galatasaray. His favorite food is manti.
(March 2006, 19th issue cover)
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