Fiore Talarico ’81
Entrepreneur gives back to create a cycle of success
by Liz Cezat, contributing writer
Attending business school at University of Detroit (U of D) has proven invaluable to Fiore Talarico ’81, who made his fortune buying and turning around companies. A resident of Houston, Fort Worth, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, he is now a retired executive who thrives on giving back to college students and his community while pursuing a multitude of interests.
One of those interests is a movie Talarico produced and is presently promoting. It is a project unlike anything else he has ever done. “Altergeist” is based on a real-life haunted California winery and explores how people deal with their darkest fears. The film is showing at film festivals this spring for release later in the year. The trailer can be found at http://altergeistmovie.com.
In addition to his business interests, Talarico is involved with the Republican Party as a fundraiser and supporter.
Born in the Bronx, Talarico pursued his education while working at various jobs to yield a successful career. He earned an Accounting degree from the University of Dayton in 1978. He moved to Detroit to become a CPA at Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG) and took evening classes to earn an MBA in Finance at U of D. His courses were directly applicable in handling complex financial deals for clients such as American Motors Corp. and the City of Detroit.
One of his favorite campus memories was getting together with fellow students to critique and present a business plan of two Fortune 500 companies. They would meet at area restaurants and bars or students’ residences to brainstorm and write the 200-page reports. The practice served him well in business acquisitions and turn-arounds.
His greatest success was at the helm of B.A. Research International in Houston. Under his leadership, the company grew from seven employees to nearly 800 in three countries. The company was sold to Boston-based Summit Partners in 2005, and Talarico retired.
An extravert, Talarico developed leadership skills that included listening to customers and gaining a quick grasp on how companies earned a profit. He would assess the basic business model and gauge its financial logic. For example, could a clinic fill its time slots? Could a research lab assay more drug tests with the same fixed costs? Could a comedy club fill its seats and sell enough food and beverages for each performance?
Talarico has the ability to “read” people and find out what motivates them—is it money, power or recognition? He looks for employees and managers that are competent, dedicated and fit the company culture.
His unique management style is the key that unlocked profits in the purchase and sale of nearly 40 businesses … from pizzerias to manufacturers. Like Warren Buffet’s approach to investing in the stock market, Talarico got to know the business and its executives and employees before taking a stake in it.
Ethics that evolved from his Jesuit and Catholic education guided Talarico in business. As a board member at one firm, he learned that the company was going to put a defective product on the market with the plan to handle returns as they came up. He nixed the plan and demanded that the defective batch be destroyed. That decision cost him 90 cents on the dollar. Plus, many people lost their jobs for putting higher profits before a quality product.
“Winning gets you more winning,” Talarico maintained. “People want to go home at night and feel good about their day at work. They want to talk about their wins with their family and friends.”
In recent years, he has focused on passing his experience on to the next generation of students. Talarico’s gift to the University of Dayton resulted in The Center for Selling. This unique addition to the business school offers an office-like setting on campus where students can practice their sales skills. They receive real-time feedback from professors and business professionals. This helps students push past their fears and polish their pitches to get that sale—whether it’s a product, a service or themselves. He is also exploring ways to help business students at UDM and other universities succeed through salesmanship, mentoring and other support.
“The world is a sale; every day is a sale. You need to sell yourself first or nobody will believe in you or your product,” Talarico said. “Businesses are driven by marketing and numbers together. If you don’t understand the client and don’t have the product they want, you won’t succeed.”