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Forty Under 40

Young Men And Women Poised For Greatness

Forty under 40In this time of struggle to find good, qualified leaders who have the stuff it takes to grow our companies, The MHEDA Journal set out on a mission. We didn’t care about“good”leaders. We wanted to find GREAT leaders who show executive abilities and promise for the future. We set out to find dynamic young individuals poised to set the world on fire, people under the age of 40 who are the next Movers and Shakers of the material handling industry, leaders who have the potential to take our companies to the next level.

The criteria for being a Mover and Shaker included:

  • is under the age of 40
  • has been working in the material handling industry for at least two
  • has an impact on the careers of others within the company n has accomplished
    something significant
  • demonstrates commitment to the material handling industry.

Well, we found them. On the following pages are the stories of 40 men and women under the age of 40 who are generating great ideas in their companies. They show the vision of the entrepreneur, the heart of the lion, and the brainpower behind some very innovative projects. They all share one thing in common. Each is passionate about what they do. They use words like “fun,” “exciting,” and“challenging” to describe their daily work.

Their ideas about the future are stimulating. While some of us try to figure out how to turn on our computers, they are talking about wireless connections for service vans and real-time remote monitoring of systems from an office desk. They are changing a company’s approach to selling, moving it to a new-generation concept of teamwork. And they are having fun. They really like what they do.

They come from a variety of backgrounds…bell hops, accountants, artists and engineers. Some grew up in a family business. All of them chose to work in our industry.

These men and women have a lot to teach us, and wonderfully, they admit that they have a lot to learn from us. If an organization is only as good as the people within it, they are the competitive advantage of their companies. They have bold ideas and plans for our industry.

Which leaves the rest of us with a very exciting future.

Len Boyer

Len Boyer

Age: 33

Who is he? Director of Technology, Peach State Integrated Technologies Inc. (Norcross, GA)

Background: B.S. Computer Engineering, West Point; joined Peach State, 1997: Operations Coordinator, Sr. Systems Analyst, Manager Information Systems.

When Boyer first came to Peach State, there were 19 employees. Three years later, there are 43. He points out the many technological issues that come with quick growth. “People take for granted that they will have email, a telephone system, a computer.” Boyer put a system in place to make the growing pains invisible.“I understand operations,” he says,“and my real passion is utilizing technology to streamline processes.”

“People take for granted that they will have email, a telephone system, a computer.”

Boyer’s ability to take what he calls“a whole bunch of processes,”analyze them, streamline them and turn the project around has made him an asset at Peach State. The tools he’s developed enable the sales staff and the operations group to get their jobs done more quickly, and he’s helping Peach State be on the forefront of leveraging the Internet.“Technology will drive down cycle times, streamline processes and help the customer to know what he wants and how to get an optimal solution very rapidly.”

Janis Bush

Janis Bush

Age: 39

Who is she? General Manager, Material Handling Division, Beckwith Machinery Company (North Versailles, PA)

Background: B.S. Business Administration, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; joined Beckwith, 1990: Sr. Accountant, Financial Reporting Manager.

What happens when a woman who worked as a bean counter in the front office becomes boss to a group predominantly made up of men who think she doesn’t know anything about what they do? At Janis Bush’s first field service meeting, they asked her just that question. She gained their trust by telling them: “I need to know how to get us to work better together and how to get you the information and the right tools you need to do your jobs better. I know I can do this, because you know about forklifts.” Since that first meeting, steps have been taken to teach everyone how to work better as a team.

“I know how to build a good team and I know how to focus on the bottom line. We all have to do what is important.”

Bush doesn’t worry that she does not know how to spec a forklift. In a team that works together, someone does. “I know how to build a good team. I know how to focus on the bottom line. I know how to structure a good deal. We all have to do what is important.” If success in a leadership position is the ability to build teamwork and inspire people to do what needs to be done, Janis Bush is at the top of her game. Fifteen percent of Beckwith’s business is material handling, and 60 employees are focused on it. Since Bush has been named general manager, sales have increased steadily.

Tom Campau, Jr.

Tom Campau, Jr.

Age: 36

Who is he? Executive Vice President, Andersen & Associates (Wixom, MI)

Background: B.A. Finance, Michigan State University; joined Andersen & Associates, 1987: Customer Service Representative, Territory Sales Representative, Sales Manager, Vice President of Sales.

When a sales position became available at the company owned by his father, Tom Campau, Jr. interviewed for it-without telling his father. He wanted to prove his skills on his own merits. He was hired. One of Campau’s many strengths is his ability to analyze the company’s strengths and weaknesses, and make it better. He says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

Campau loves the details of making a business run. “I’m into processes,” he says. In 1998, Campau helped to connect the entire company. Communication is done via frame-relay, voice and data, allowing the company to standardize its best practices.

Campau established a standards team made up of five vice presidents who report to him. To execute an annual common vision for Andersen & Associates, the team sets the standard, defines the process, and creates the way to meet it. Campau believes that change is inevitable in the material handling industry. “We have to look for change and embrace it, and we have to help those who aren’t good at change embrace it,” says Campau. “Change is a journey, not a destination. When you make the transition from management to leadership, you have to be able to handle change and experience change so the people you manage and work for can do the same.”

Scott Chontos

Scott Chontos

Age: 31

Who is he? Vice President Sales & Marketing, SWL, Inc. (formerly Southwest Lift, Inc.) (San Antonio, TX)

Background: University of Texas; joined SWL, 1989: Painter, Service Technician, Inside Sales, Customer Service, Equipment Sales.

Scott Chontos was an art major in college. While going to school, he had a part time job at a company that purchased lift trucks from SWL, Inc. When SWL posted a help-wanted ad, he applied. After all, the hours were flexible, the work involved painting, and he did have some experience with SWL’s forklift trucks. Little did he know then that the competitiveness of the sales arena would excite him. In fact, he has been the #1 salesperson five years in a row. Not bad for an art major!

Chontos puts his art background to use each day. “I enjoy the creative side of finding and developing new ways,” he says. Those new ways have propelled SWL into more sales and new ways of doing business. Rather than just visit the prospect and leave a handout and brochure when doing a proposal, Chontos has put together a marketing strategy that includes Power

“I enjoy the creative side of finding new ways and new business.”

Point presentations and facility tours. “These days, selling is much more consultative, and we’ve worked hard on our professionalism,” he says.

When Southwest Lift recently underwent a corporate redesign to more accurately reflect its mission to being a total material handling provider, Chontos was in the thick of the change. With his input, not only was the company name changed, but its logo as well.

Fifty percent of the people Chontos supervises are older than him. “It wasn’t hard to gain people’s respect because of the performance I generated out in the field, and my work ethic. I always like to be the best, and want to be the #1 salesman in the company.” Chontos gauges himself by other Toyota dealers. It should probably be working the other way around, though, because for the first time in Toyota’s U.S. history, a Class A dealer had more than 20% market share. “We sold 2,000 forklifts in a year,” Chontos says. To his customers, he says, “You provide the four walls and we’ll provide the solutions.”

Anika Conger-Capelle

Anika Conger-Capelle

Age: 27

Who is she? Contact Manager, Conger Industries dba Toyota Lift (Green Bay, WI)

Background: B.A. William Woods University; joined Conger Industries, 1996: Front Office, Sales Assistant, Sales Coordinator, Operator Trainer.

Like so many children of distributors, Anika Conger-Capelle started working at her father’s company as a child doing what so many other children of distributors did-mow the lawn! Conger-Capelle says she doesn’t really have a job title, but she is learning every part of the business.“I’ve always wanted to be here,”she says, and when she was eight years old, she told her father, Gary Conger, that she too would be in the same business as him and his father.

Conger-Capelle is getting her hands into every facet of the business. Her current focus is working on the contact database and making sure that the salespeople know how to use it effectively.“We give salespeople laptops and say, ‘This is going to be so wonderful,’ but it usually isn’t unless it’s working properly and they understand how to use it.”Using the database for reports, analyses, potential sales contacts and the like has helped the sales staff increase business.

“We give salespeople laptops and say, ‘This is going to be so wonderful,’ but it usually isn’t unless it’s working properly and they understand how to use it.”

She acknowledges that she has learned how to deal with people from her father.“I’ve learned how to step back and then how to reapproach, a skill not often taught in school.”She thinks he has learned from her how not to procrastinate. “Sometimes you just have to go after things and get them.”She has also helped to bring in a number of young people to the company of 55 employees.

Clark Cox

Clark Cox

Age: 36

Who is he? Michigan Regional Manager, Bastian Material Handling Corp.(Indianapolis, IN)

Background: B.A. Economics, DePauw University; CPA with Big Six accounting firm; joined BMH, 1990: Controller, Sales Representative.

Clark Cox’s first job at Bastian Material Handling was controller. Two years later, he moved into sales.“It is connected,”he says.“Accounting requires logistics and logistics are a part of systems. There is an information tracking side to all material handling. I just enjoyed the mechanical side more.”

“One thing about material handling is that you learn something new every day.”

One of Cox’s first sales involved a critical shipment of conveyor for a large warehouse project. “I met the delivery truck at the plant at 11:30 pm and unloaded the truck so the installers could get the system up and running.” Since the truck drove all through the night to meet BMH’s time schedule, Cox felt it would not be an inconvenience for him to be there when the delivery arrived, regardless of the time.“I told the customer I would be there, and I was.”This commitment to customers has helped his branch retain a loyal following, many of whom return when they change jobs to work for another company.

Cox is eager about the next few years in the industry.“One thing about material handling is that you learn something new every day,”he says.“There has been such an explosion in automating processes with pick and place, PCs, control systems and the linking of information systems. Soon the customer will be able to sit at a desk with a wireless monitor and manage the system in real time through an Internet connection.”

Todd DeVries

Todd DeVries

Age: 31

Who is he? Vice President Sales & Marketing, Buffalo Materials Handling Corp. (Buffalo, NY)

Background: A.S. Construction Engineering Management, Herkimer County Community College; U.S. Materials Handling: Engineering Assistant, Inside Sales, Outside Sales, Branch Manager; Space Maker Systems of Maryland: Account Sales; joined Buffalo Materials Handling, 1999.

Todd DeVries started out as an AutoCAD engineer. His intention was to work for the summer, but he fell in love with the material handling industry.“I looked at the ladder to the top, realized I was at the bottom, and made a plan.”

That plan took him from being an engineering assistant to inside sales, outside sales and branch management. Anxious to move into higher management, DeVries realized the family-owned company for which he worked had no more room for growth. So he moved to Baltimore and worked in sales for a Baltimore distributor. As he was being considered for a management promotion, he and his wife decided to move back to their home area to raise their family, and he heard of a management position available in Buffalo.

Sales at Buffalo Materials Handling Corp. have increased from $l.8 million to $6.4 million, and DeVries had a lot to do with that 267% increase in sales.“I was raised on a dairy farm and I know how to work hard,” he says. “If you motivate those around you and show them that hard work really does reap rewards, it works.”

How the company’s image is presented to customers is very important to DeVries.“If we are going to present a $500,000 proposal, it’s going to look like a half million dollar proposal.”DeVries insists that his sales staff dress like professionals and proposals are professionally bound. “We understand our product, and we convey that message.”DeVries has raised the bar in this demographic and customers are responding.

“We understand our product, and we convey that message.”

He works hard to recruit the right people and let them know they are a big part of the company’s success.“It’s an exciting business,”he says. DeVries’ career plan includes being a principal/ owner in a systems integra-tion dealership. “My ultimate mission is to operate my own material handling dealership.”

Neal Feigles

Neal Feigles

Age: 38

Who is he? Vice President of Operations, Stokes Material Handling Systems (Doylestown, PA)

Background: B.S. Speech Communications, Wake Forest University; joined Stokes, 1993: Installer, Onsite Project Manager, Inside Project Manager, Corporate Account Executive.

When asked about his educational background, Neal Feigles laughs and says,“I have the speaking side of sales down!”Actually his background has been a boost for the sales department. Feigles was working on Senator Arlen Specter’s reelection campaign after college and wasn’t too keen on coming into the family business. When his father, Ron Feigles, asked him to go to Yuma, Arizona to oversee a project with Dole Fruits and Vegetables, he told him,“You’ll have fun. You’ll learn something. And then you’ll know if you like this business or not.”

Feigles went off to Yuma and got hooked.“I love the creativity you can bring to this business. I’m not just selling steel.”Feigles stayed on the road and went to another Dole project in Soledad, California. When he came back, he knew where he wanted to be.

Mechanical things have always come easily to Feigles.“Form and function and design were things I always enjoyed, but I was not a math whiz so I didn’t go into engineering. I love the technical side of it, but I can really talk to customers about details.”

“When I tell customers they have my word it will work, they can count on that.”

When Ken’s Foods was considering a palletizing operation for their growing business in Massachusetts, they asked for bids. Stokes Material Handling Systems won the project, despite the fact that their proposal was $100,000 higher. How’d they do it? Feigles says, “If I tell the customer we will provide 100% of his expectations or more, I want them to believe me. Today, no one expects 95% ROI. That fudge of 5% is no longer built in. The project must give 100%. Must. A lot of companies get to 80-85% of what a project can accomplish, but not a lot can get it to 100%.”

Feigles believes that convincing the customer that Stokes can do it better with a better design and a system that will get to 100% or even to 102% of what the customer was expecting requires a team approach.“I don’t do it myself. Our manufacturers do it with us. Our engineering team does it. Our installers do it. We generate confidence, and when I tell customers they have my word it will work, they can count on that.”

Since then, Stokes has done three more projects for Ken’s Foods without competitive bids.

Chuck Frank

Chuck Frank

Age: 36

Who is he? President, Advanced Handling Systems (Cincinnati, OH)

Background: Northern Kentucky University; OKI Systems: Installer; joined AHS, 1985: Installer, Project Manager, Account Manager, Vice President.

“Put it up front. Get everybody on the same page. And work hard.”

When Chuck Frank started his career at Advanced Handling Systems in 1985, sales were around $5 million. Last year, they were $17 million. Clients realize that if AHS commits to something, it will happen. Last year, AHS was selected as the integrator to distribute the dot-com business for a large chain store. Working with a third-party fulfillment company for the chain, Frank came up with a solution and a timeline that stretched from August through November 22, and the customer approved.

“The project was progressing well until mid-October, when the customer informed us the project had to be finished by November 1,”says Frank. AHS looked at what was needed to meet the new deadline, allocated additional resources, and expanded its team. Three weeks were shaved off the timeline of the multi-million dollar project, and it was completed by the first of November within budget.

“The customer said, ‘we need this,’ and they trusted that we could have a quick response to their need,”says Frank. It also helped that Frank had developed a good relationship with the customer and they were able to sit down and discuss the issue.“We had an up front contract detailing what we were going to do. Put it up front. Get everybody on the same page. And work hard.”

Dale Guckian

Dale Guckian

Age: 35

Who is he? Sales Manager, Florida Lift Systems (Tampa, FL)

Background: A.S., Electrical Engineering, ITT; Crown: Service Coordinator, District Service Manager, Branch Manager; joined Florida Lift Systems, 1998.

When Dale Guckian moved from the manufacturing side to the distribution side of material handling, he was happy for the opportunity to be involved in a smaller market and to be able to influence the goals and direction of a company. Right now, Guckian is leading the charge to have his salespeople sell more electric and very narrow aisle products, and he believes that new technology used to design equipment will result in more use of such products.“If you are not able to show the customer the benefits of an electric and narrow aisle product, it hasn’t been sold properly.”

“If you are not able to show the benefits of an electric and narrow aisle product, it hasn’t been sold properly.”

He spends a lot of time with field salespeople to make sure they can do more than sell a lift truck. He is also teaching them how to use the lift truck as a tool to focus on other services, such as full maintenance leases.

Chris Hanson

Chris Hanson

Age: 34

Who is he? Senior Vice President/General Manager, Shannon Corporation (Grand Prairie, TX)

Background: B.S. Marketing, University of North Texas; joined Shannon, 1989: Sales Representative, Territory Manager, Sales Manager, Vice President Sales.

When he became general manager, Chris Hanson took responsibility for both the product support and the sales/service departments.“Like many companies, the attitude between the two departments was us vs. them.”Hanson worked to remove that barrier, which resulted in both departments becoming more proactive with customers as well as vendors.“It helped that one person was in charge of both departments,”he says. Hanson channeled all the information and made sure everyone was communicating.

“My goal is to keep the company successful and increase the net worth of the owner. I treat the owner’s money as if it were my own.”

As he looks at the material handling industry at this point in time, Hanson gets excited.“There is a lot of uncertainty, and there is a lot of room for opportunity. The uncertainty of things right now is very exciting.”Hanson says his goal at Shannon is to keep the company successful and increase the net worth of the owner.“I treat the owner’s money as if it were my own. That’s my job.”

Sylvia Held, P.Eng.

Sylvia Held, P.Eng.

Age: 30

Who is she? Director of Material Handling Sales & Engineering, Grayon Industrial Products (Concord, Ontario, CAN)

Background: B.S. Engineering, University of Guelph; joined Grayon, 1999.

“I make it a point to know what I am talking about,”laughs Sylvia Held, who manages million dollar material handling contracts from the Big Three automakers. Held points out that automotive industry processes are unlike those in any other industry.“They go about things differently,”she says. “Many levels exist in the customer hierarchy and timing is always critical. Usually, they need something quickly.”Held believes that meeting customer’s requirements and need for speed is very important. “If we can’t build something, we won’t take on the project.”

“I make it a point to know what I am talking about.”

Prior to coming to Grayon, Held managed a steel fabrication shop and worked as a technical sales rep in the machine tool industry; and growing up, she spent many hours in her father’s machine shop. So she knows her way around machines, and around customers. Currently responsible for Grayon’s projects with the North American automotive market, she also conducts seminars on ergonomics and related equipment for the United Auto Workers of Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

Dan Helms

Dan Helms

Age: 36

Who is he? Manager of Dealer Sales, Conveyors & Drives (Atlanta, GA)

Background: B.A. Finance, University of Georgia; ADP: Sales Manager; joined C&D, 1993: Warehouse, Inside Sales, Systems Sales.

Dan Helms has a reputation for having a great sales technique. Perhaps that comes from a seemingly insatiable desire to keep learning. His first job at Conveyors & Drives was in the warehouse getting orders out the door. Then he worked with the inside sales group and then systems sales, where he learned a lot about systems. With this knowledge of systems and great sales techniques, Helms has been able to develop strong relationships with customers. As a result, sales are on the upswing at the company and there is strong, steady growth.

“Constant change requires us to constantly refocus our skills.”

“As soon as I think I have it under control, it changes,”laughs Helms, who enjoys the versatility of the material handling industry.“Constant change requires us to constantly refocus our skills.”Helms encourages sales representatives to read the trade press and business publications to keep abreast of the latest industry information. Most important, though, he learns by listening.“As I talk with customers, I listen to what they say the trends are within their own industries, and I learn the courses they take and what solutions we can offer.”

Tim Hoj

Tim Hoj

Age: 32

Who is he? Internal Sales Manager, Hoj Engineering & Sales Co. (Salt Lake City, UT)

Background: B.S. Finance, University of Utah; joined Hoj, 1991: Customer Service Liaison, Sales Representative.

For the last six years, Tim Hoj has led his company in sales. In fact, the sales levels of the six people he supervises have grown by 50%.“Our philosophy at Hoj Engineering & Sales is to lead by example,”he says, “and I don’t expect salespeople to do anything I’m not doing myself.” While his hard work sets an example, Hoj also attributes the company’s growth to some new internal processes, as well as the examples set by his father Henning and his older brother Peter.“A lot of our success,”says Hoj,“comes from trying to be conscious of the details and listening to what the customer is saying. It’s really important to listen and hear what their needs are.”

“We’ve had to become experts in a wide range of markets and in a wide range of customer needs.”

According to Hoj, Utah is not a large enough market to have only one niche, so he is dealing with new applications all the time.“We’ve had to become experts in a wide range of markets and in a wide range of customer needs,” he says,“and because there is such variety, I make sure I continue to learn.”

Don Hune

Don Hune

Age: 38

Who is he? Vice President of Sales, Lift Power, Inc. (Jacksonville, FL)

Background: B.S. University of North Florida; General Motors; joined Lift Power, 1989: Sales Representative, Sales Manager.

“I would not take no for an answer. I wanted this account, and it paid off.”

The job of sales manager was thrust upon Don Hune at the death of the brother and partner to the president, Paul Mohrman. Since then, Hune has helped to increase sales by $3.5 million, added additional salespeople and brought in a rack line that provided expanded growth opportunities. Known around the company as a“relationship-driven guy,”Hune works hard to build strong partnerships with vendors, customers and colleagues.

When Lift Power moved into total systems integration, Hune worked to secure the distributorship of a major rack vendor by resorting to what he calls“pleasant persistence.”He says,“I would not take no for an answer. I wanted this account, and it paid off.”In two years, Hune’s efforts vaulted the company to being the vendor’s leading rack distributor.

“Success all comes down to the people side of business,”Hune says.“If you are empathetic, if you can see through the eyes of the customer, you can get a better sense of what needs to be done.”Hune believes that the best customer relationship is a true partnership.“There are bumps in the road, but they know we will come through. On the other hand, when a competitor comes in to a good account with something that may knock us out, we know the customer will call and ask us to come up with something or defend our position. Trust works both ways.”

Jon Jenkins

Jon Jenkins

Age: 35

Who is he? Project Manager/Head of Engineering, U.S. Materials Handling Corp. (E. Syracuse, NY)

Background: A.S. Building Construction, Herkimer County Community College; joined USMHC, 1987: Draftsman, Cost Estimator, Project Manager.

Jon Jenkins entered college planning on being an architect. He soon learned about the material handling industry and took a job as a draftsman for U.S. Materials Handling Corp. He had the CAD experience the company was looking for.“The thing that got me sparked on this industry,”he says, “was the ability to work with different people and different challenges. Building houses now seems boring.”

“Does the solution help to lower the customer’s cost.”

Jenkins spends a lot of time thinking about application challenges.“How will this help the customer? Is it a storage problem? A damage/defect problem? Does the solution help to lower the customer’s cost.”Jenkins acknowledges that he’s always been good in math, and he’s left handed, so“coming up with creative solutions for a variety of projects is very exciting.”

The biggest job Jenkins has done to date was a million dollar project for the U.S. Post Office. Project development took place in an empty airplane hanger, and it went on for two years.“When the project was finished, we took it apart, shipped it and then put it back together. There are now 100 of these systems throughout the country.”

The logistics, the meetings, the reports, keeping the wheels rolling, scaling it up, dealing with suppliers and work crews brought Jenkins to a different level. At the end of the project, he went to Washington D.C. to present the finished product.“I’m 30 years old, speaking to government officials and very experienced, 60-year-old engineers who have seen a lot of projects in their careers.”Jenkins was so sure of himself and comfortable about what he was saying and doing that he didn’t worry about the fact that he was the youngest engineer there.

Steve Koel

Steve Koel

Age: 36

Who is he? Vice President, Raymond Handling Concepts Corp. (Newark, CA)

Background: B.A. Economics, Stanford University; joined Raymond, 1988: Sales Representative, Regional Sales Manager, Corporate Sales Manager.

Steve Koel’s first job after college was director of guest services for the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, California. This job was also known as the captain of bell services.“In this position,”says Koel,“I met a lot of people who were leaders of the industry groups meeting in the hotel, and I learned to make good contacts.”When Steve Raymond came to a software meeting being held at the Hyatt Regency, Koel already knew the players, because the Hyatt kept records on the important people coming to the hotel, including photographs. And he made sure to carry the right bags.“I told him that if he was ever interested in an outgoing guy, let me know. So, I suppose the material handling industry really chose me,”says Koel.

While in his first job at Raymond, Koel earned the distinction of being top sales representative for three years in a row. Today, as vice president, he is proud of his ability to form a team and measures himself by the success of the people around him. With 170 employees at six locations, he has a lot to do.“We work hard to achieve a goal together and do not consider the organization as ‘segmented’ departments.”

As an example, Koel cites a Reno project he worked for more than a year and a half.“Sales had the strong support of the service department, and we were able to get the leasing arm to play ball with us to get the terms the customer needed. With the consignment parts in place, we were very credible and the customer trusted us entirely to do the right thing.”

Koel knows that gaining the customer’s trust comes from a lot of team work.“This goes all the way down to the front end where invoicing is done. Everyone in this organization is critical to the success of each individual person’s success. This includes accounts receivable, the phone and reception people.”

“A large amount of growth really strains an organization, and it is critical to have employees who can work with that stress and still be professional and show good customer service.”

It turns out Koel’s first job as a bellman prepared him well for his future career. The bellman is often the first person a guest meets upon arrival at a hotel, and the bellman can set a positive tone for the guest’s visit. Koel knows the importance of this job, and he is quick to say,“We really have to applaud the people in the trenches. I have a tremendous respect and praise for the people I work with day in and day out.”

That energy has propelled Raymond Handling Concepts into tremendous growth. In the last four years, the company went from $15 million to $60 million in revenue. “That amount of growth really strains an organization, and it is critical to have employees who can work with that stress and still be professional and show good customer service.”

Koel is quick to add,“Now that we understand and have learned how to be a big company, no one can touch us,”and he looks forward to what lies ahead.

Dan Kremers

Dan Kremers

Age: 36

Who is he? Director of Systems Sales, DPI Materials Handling Systems (Grandville, MI)

Background: B.SE. Mechanical Engineering, Calvin College; Rapistan: Systems Engineer; Conveyor Craft: Project Manager; joined DPI, 1995: Project Sales Manager.

Prior to working at DPI, Dan Kremers was a systems engineer at Rapistan and a project manager at Conveyor Craft. When DPI opened a branch office in Chicago, Kremers’ father-in-law, Tom Bonthius asked him why he was working for the competition. When Kremers didn’t have a good enough reason, he joined DPI.

Kremers is fascinated with DPI’s design-and-build process, and he gets excited by walking into a building that sometimes is just a big, empty building and other times is just a big, big mess.“We have no pre-conceived ideas,” he says.“We get our arms around the customer’s operation, we ask where the customer is today and where they want to be tomorrow.” By analyzing the historical data and listening to the customer, Kremers gets to the correct solution. He likes the challenge of outsmarting the competition and coming up with what is the best solution.

“The numbers and the data drive the design, and the design drives the equipment.”

Three years ago, Kremers worked with a newly launched E-commerce grocery company to design and build a 250,000 sq. ft. warehouse. The customer then wanted five more.“The customer was at the beginning of the growth curve, and we grew along with them,”he says.

Kremers supervises 12 employees in systems sales. Almost 70% of DPI’s 100 employees have an engineering background.“We have a lot of talented staff. We let the numbers and data drive the design, and the design drives the equipment.”

Scott Larsen

Scott Larsen

Age: 32

Who is he? Vice President, R. H. Brown Co. (Seattle, WA)

Background: B.S. Business, Central Washington University; joined R. H. Brown, 1996: Inside Sales Representative, Outside Sales Representative, Sales Manager.

When Scott Larsen first started working at R. H. Brown Co., he just wanted to take advantage of a job offer.“A year and a half later, I realized how passionate I was about the business and the industry.”This past year, Larsen was responsible for a high-speed sortation systems integration job at Nintendo.“It was exciting to be in a position to be able to compete for the job and not feel the risk of failure or incompetency for a project with a high profit, nationally recognized customer.”

“You’ve got to have the whole package to make the customer turn his head and say, ‘Even though I don’t know you, I am going to work with you.’ ”

Larsen believes R. H. Brown was chosen for the job because they stayed close to what Nintendo wanted.“We didn’t jam something down their throats that was standard, or the bread and butter stuff. We gave them what they needed, even though it was different from the regular, standard solution. This was not a problem for us.”

Larsen acknowledges his growth in the business. He has come to realize the value of the personal business relationship with customers and their key people. “You’ve got to have the whole package to make the customer turn his head and say, ‘Even though I don’t know you, I am going to work with you.’” Nintendo turned its head when Scott Larsen introduced the company to R. H. Brown.

Kevin Lee Matthews

Kevin Lee Matthews

Age: 22

Who is he? Sales Manager, Customer Service & Equipment Sales, Preferred Material Handling (Moore, OK)

Background: A.S. Oscar Rose Junior College, Oklahoma City Community College; LPM; joined Preferred Material Handling, 2000.

Being the first employee of a brand new company is not always easy. When Preferred Material Handling opened its doors a year ago, Kevin Lee Matthews had already had a year of experience at another distributorship. It also helped that he grew up watching his father.“In my eyes, my father is one of the greatest salespeople,”he says.“I’ve watched him do the things that make him successful, and I’ve learned from him.”Matthews supervises four salespeople, all older than him. His enthusiasm is infectious.“I absolutely love the material handling business, even though my wife does not understand!”

“It’s a big game and I love to play it.”

Other than his father, Matthews is responsible for more business than any other salesperson. In addition to supervising sales reps, he covers a large territory. How does he do it?“It’s in me, it’s in my blood,”he says.“It’s a big game and I love to play it. I thrive on the challenge, everything is something new.”He also spends time watching and knowing his employees.“My weaknesses are their strengths,”and Matthews relies on that knowledge.“I had to prove to them that I knew what I was doing, even though I was younger than them.”

He surely does know what he is doing, because he has established half of the company’s customer base. Like many good salespeople, Matthews does not work 9:00 to 5:00.“I work Monday through Monday,”he says and enjoys the challenge of looking at an application and seeing what others can’t see.

Robert E. McCarter

Robert E. McCarter

Age: 38

Who is he? President, N. J. Malin & Associates (Addison, TX)

Background: B.B.A. Finance and Marketing, Baylor University; joined N. J. Malin, 1984: Sales Associate, Sales Manager, Vice President of Sales.

In 1992, Robert E. McCarter and his business partner, Bill Hyde, purchased N. J. Malin & Associates. Since then, sales have gone from $20M to $86M.“I attribute our growth to great employees, great products, and just a little luck,” says McCarter. It may also have something to do with the fact that McCarter loves to sell.“I always wanted to go into sales,”he says. “Even as a child, when I was selling subscriptions to newspapers, I knew I would do this, because I enjoyed it so much.”

From his position as president of a growing, successful company, McCarter is looking at the future. “Technology will play a greater role in our industry,”he says, “whether in the area of lift truck technology, more advanced warehouse management systems, or the processes we use to run our businesses.” McCarter knows from experience that even the simple addition of a network for email can have positive consequences.

“Technology will change our industry the most because we have been so far behind”

N. J. Malin has spent the last two years catching up to the technology used by its customers. In 1992, there were only 20 PCs in use at the company. Today, there are over 200 employees on a network and an IT department made up of five employees.

“Technology is pushing all dealers to quickly improve their technological infrastructure. It is changing the way we communicate with our customers and suppliers. The role of technology is no different than for any other industry, but it will change ours the most because we have been so far behind.”

John Megas

John Megas

Age: 38

Who is he? Dock Service/Installation Manager, Materials Handling Equipment Company (Denver, CO)

Background: Automotive Diagnosis and Repair Technology, Phoenix Institute; Rite-Hite; joined MHECO, 1996.

John Megas worked in the automotive industry for 10 years as an ASE-certified automotive technician before joining the Rite-Hite Corporation as a loading dock master technician. When he came to Materials Handling Equipment Company to take over a department with some personnel challenges, a large backlog and customer service issues, he knew he had some work to do. Through personal development and formal management skills training, mentoring by senior management, and simply lots of hard work, Megas built a strong team of material handling installers and technicians and has grown the department by 35%.

“You can’t promote everybody to be the boss, so we put something in place for veteran employees to shoot for.”

To retain the good employees he worked so hard to develop, Megas put together a“Professional Development Program”for installers who want to remain in the industry but feel stagnant in their current position. The program came about when one of the most talented installers came to Megas to tell him he was thinking about leaving to work in another trade.“It’s one of those things about guys doing the same thing every day. People with the potential for leadership are probably already in a lead role. The veterans, too, need something to get excited about and something to learn, to help put them in a forward motion within the company. You can’t promote everybody to be the boss, so we put something in place for them to shoot for.”

The goal of the Professional Development Program Megas developed is to develop professional installation, leadership and electrical skills to broaden an installer’s capabilities. Activities are as follows:

1st Quarter-Attend one introductory electrical course at night. MHECO helps to select the course and pays the tuition. Employee attends on his or her own time.

2nd Quarter-Attend a day-time leadership program of one or two days in length at Mountain States Employers Council. MHECO selects the program and pays tuition and time.

3rd Quarter-Attend a second level electrical course at night. MHECO selects the course and pays the tuition. Employee attends on his or her own time.

4th Quarter-Attend a factory installation maintenance course. MHECO pays travel and time.

At the end of the first year, an overall review occurs to determine the program for the remainder of the 18 months. At the end of each quarter, written and oral evaluations are conducted, and pay increases based on performance.

The program is helping retention, and Megas’ team of 14 people are excited about the project. They are mentoring other employees, learning new and more complex skills within the industry, and developing a new enthusiasm for their daily work.

“Our company has enough talented managers to pursue all or most of its promising opportunities”

7% of respondents strongly agree.

(From McKinsey & Company’s War for Talent 2000, a survey of 6,900 executives and managers in 56 companies)

Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller

Age: 35

Who is he? Vice President of Engineering, Advanced Handling Systems (Cincinnati, OH)

Background: B.S. University of Cincinnati; joined AHS, 1988: Project Engineer, Manager of Engineering.

Jeff Miller first started working at Advanced Handling Systems as a co-op student in college and has been with the company ever since. He likes doing design as well as computer jobs, working on site as well as inside.“I enjoy the challenge of developing control systems that can keep up and make the product work well,”he says.

“I like the challenge of developing control systems that can keep up and make the product work well.”

For a computer retail fulfillment center, Miller designed an automated picking system. The customer was hand-picking totes, bringing them to a picking area and then moving them into a shipping box. Miller’s challenge was to automate the process. He developed a pick system that moves the tote to the appropriate picking container and then shoots it onto the conveyor. It is then conveyed past a scale and, depending on its weight tolerance, moves down the appropriate lane. Because less people are involved in the process, the error rate improved.“

Mark Milovitch

Mark Milovich

Age: 32

Who is he? President, Lift Atlanta (Decatur, GA)

Background: B.S. Management, Jacksonville, University; Linde; joined Lift Atlanta, 1993: Branch Manager-Augusta, Vice President of Operations.

“Some of our employees were here selling lift trucks when I was driving them as toys,”says Mark Milovich, who remembers coming to work with his father on Saturdays as a child and driving the small golf cart around the warehouse. At the age of seven, Milovich decided he had enough of that golf cart and hopped onto an electric forklift, put it in neutral and the rest is the stuff of family legend. As a result of that first test drive, Milovich learned great respect for racks and is now driving Lift Atlanta to greater sales.

“I have worked in all aspects of the dealership and have a degree, but decades of experience go a long way,”he says when asked how he supervises employees older than him. While Milovich has his own ideas and desires and philosophy of how the company should be run and how it could grow, if it’s contrary to what his employees know and have learned, he wants them to tell him there may be a better way. And they do.

“Lift Atlanta went back to the girl we came to the dance with.”

Milovich’s father, Mitch, taught him that he can’t do it all himself.“You have to have good people, you have to trust your people, and you have to be willing to allow mistakes to be made as long as those mistakes are learned from.”Like that rack he backed into.

After graduation, Milovich went to work for Linde in Germany. When he returned to the states, he took over the company’s Augusta branch.“My first full year, we did $1.6M in sales, the lowest it had ever been.”But he took care of some things, rebuilt it and now it’s just shy of $3M in sales.

Named President in January, Milovich sees the company continuing to grow.“Lift Atlanta has returned to being a single line,”he says.“We went back to the girl we came to the dance with, and we have been able to focus our attention on our core product line to better serve our core group.”

Milovich says the dance is fun.“I love meeting customers. I love laughing with our employees and creating a place where you can wake up in the morning and be excited to come to work.”

Kurt Nelson

Kurt Nelson

Age: 37

Who is he? Vice President, Nelson Equipment Company (Shreveport, LA)

Background: Louisiana State University; joined Nelson,1982.

While he was in college, Kurt Nelson’s father became ill. The forklift business he owned was in the middle of transitioning into an allied commodities house. When he died, Nelson left college and came home to help older brother Mark run the business.“Against everybody’s judgment, we continued forward with the reorganization,”he says. Nelson decided not to return to school, because he found himself doing papers during the day when he should have been with customers; and thinking about customers and the business at night when he should have been paying attention in class.

With another reorganization, Kurt and his brother moved Nelson Equipment Company from an allied commodities house to a systems integrator.“Our success is not rocket science,”says Nelson.“It’s a desire to do a job well, to do whatever is necessary to take care of the customer. You get up early and you stay late, and you build strong relationships with customers and vendors.”It must be working. In its B marketplace, Nelson Equipment Company is at or above the industry average.

“Success is not rocket science. It’s a desire to do a job well. You get up early and you stay late.”

Success, though, is hard work.“Once you crack the first sale of a new product application, similar companies want that product,”he says. Nelson is targeting automobile dealerships with an automated storage and retrieval system for their parts departments.“If you’ve ever had to wait at a dealership’s parts desk while they looked for the part, you know exactly how beneficial this new system is.

Nelson is excited about the constant changes in the industry brought on by new technology, especially the move from static to dynamic storage.“Stationary drive-in racks are almost obsolete. We are now moving to systems that do something, and accuracy is improving.”

Matt Olsen

Matt Olsen

Age: 28

Who is he? Service Operations Manager-Syracuse, Pengate Handling Systems (York, PA)

Background: B.S. Psychology, State University of New York at Buffalo; joined Pengate, 1995: Shipper/Receiver, Correspondent, Senior Correspondent, Parts Manager-Albany, Parts Manager-York.

Matt Olsen literally began his career in material handling at the back door. He worked as a shipper/receiver and quickly moved up. His next position as correspondent had him taking phone calls, answering customers’ questions, and searching for parts. His boss saw something positive in Olsen, and continued to move him up the ladder. As parts manager in the York branch, revenue more than doubled from $1.3M to $2.7M.

“I improve and continue to learn by listening to experienced technicians and new employees who bring a fresh eye to the job.”

Olsen attributes this growth to providing good customer service.“We made sure we followed through, and customers trusted us to do what we said we’d do.”He also helped to control costs by instituting better procedures and recouping more on warranties. And that degree in psychology came in handy when he turned over staff with the wrong attitudes and hired people who could grow and learn and be positive about the company.

As service operations manager, Olsen supervises 22 technicians, parts staff and a dispatcher.“I lead by example,”he says. Olsen continues to learn by knowing who to talk to and who to learn from, and he pays close attention to “technicians who have a lot of experience and new employees who bring a fresh eye to the job.”

Edward R. Otis

Edward R. Otis

Age: 39

Who is he? Vice President, E. D. Farrell Company (W. Seneca, NY)

Background: B.S. Industrial Distribution, Texas A&M University; M.B.A. University of Notre Dame; joined E. D. Farrell, 1986: Outside Sales Representative, Assistant General Manager, Branch Manager – Jamestown.

Ever since high school, Ed Otis wanted to work in his father Jim Otis’ company. As soon as he turned 12, he got a work permit and began his career at the company working as an assistant janitor.“I was paid minimum wage which was pocket change, and I got to work on Saturday mornings,” he laughs.

Over the course of summer vacations, he worked through shipping and receiving, parts and service. After finishing his undergraduate degree, he started in sales.

During the next few years, E. D. Farrell experienced much growth and wanted to open a new branch in Jamestown, New York. The plan was to build a full-service facility and start quickly, since the company was already servicing the area. When the company finally found the perfect building in the perfect location, Otis was excited.“This was a promotion for me, and I was eager to get started.”

“You see what the customer needs, you address it, you develop an interpersonal relationship and you are awarded the contract based on your efforts.”

On the day the building was purchased and inspected, Otis, as new branch manager, left the signing with the keys to the building.“When I returned to the building, to the branch I was going to be in charge of in my new management position, I saw that a leak in the roof had created some damage while we were out signing the papers. So on the day of my big promotion, after being handed the keys, I picked up a mop and immediately went back to my first job at the company—janitor!”

Otis knows that managing a branch means doing it all. After fixing that leak, he built the new branch to an annual sales revenue of over $1 million in the first two years; employees increased from 3 to 11.

While Otis enjoys being branch manager and probably still doing janitorial duties when called on, he fondly recalls his experiences in outside sales.“The ones you get, you generally feel good about, because you saw what the customer needed, you addressed it, you developed an interpersonal relationship and you were awarded the contract based on your efforts. It’s instant gratification.”

Vincent J. Penisse

Vincent J. Penisse

Age: 34

Who is he? Customer Operations Manager, Warner Specialty Products (Cheshire, CT)

Background: B.S. Package Engineering, RIT; M.S. Operations Management, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; joined Warner, 1992: Inside Sales Representative, Operations.

Warner Specialty Products was a relatively new company when Vincent J. Penisse came on board nine years ago. He established an inside sales department with the direct support of outside sales staff. This aided in a sales increase of 10% for five consecutive years.

Penisse’s background in operations management was put to good use when a customer’s application required a custom-designed power mover. It was going to take the manufacturer 8 to 12 weeks from design to build. The customer agreed to the time frame and signed the purchase acknowledgments.“Two weeks after we had the papers in hand, the customer told us the drop-dead date for delivery and installation had to be moved up to four weeks, because they had to meet a new deadline from their customer. Of course, they realized it was a manufacture-to-order special project,”Penisse says calmly.

“Look for that win-win situation.”

He looked for the win/win situation for everyone. Should the manufacturer be paid more to work overtime to get the project out in time? Could the customer live with two units (they needed six)? Could they do with five? “All these questions were going through my mind,”he says. In the end, the manufacturer worked overtime and the parts were delivered and installed on time. Penisse satisfied his customer, who satisfied their customer.“Look for that win-win situation,”says Penisse. “Partner with both the manufacturer and the customer for the right solution.”

Jim Ripkey

Jim Ripkey

Age: 32

Who is he? Vice President/General Manager, Hy-Tek Material Handling (Columbus, OH)

Background: B.S. Operations Management & Procurement, Miami University; OKI Systems: Sales Representative; Yale Michigan: Operations Manager; joined Hy-Tek, 1995: Director of Aftermarket Services, Director of Operations.

A few years ago, Jim Ripkey recalls a lot of advice from within the industry as to how to get bigger and better.“Consultants, managers, articles, books, all had advice. And it was good advice.”But Ripkey thought that the most important advice as to what Hy-Tek can do for its customers should come directly from Hy-Tek’s customers. So he formed the Hy-Tek Customer Advisory Board and asked,“What can we do better for you?”

Twenty-five customers were asked to be on the Customer Advisory Board. At the end of their term, they requested that the board not be disbanded because they were learning so much from each other, along with helping Hy-Tek. “The Customer Advisory Board has been the single best resource of objective direction that we could get,”says Ripkey.

“What can we do better for you?”

This direction has focused Hy-Tek in its rapid growth over the last few years. Sales have more than doubled and Ripkey attributes that to Hy-Tek’s employees and corporate vision.“Our products are secondary to our people,”he says.

Ripkey has also established Hy-Tek University whose mission is“to provide familiarity with and exposure to the profitable implementation of material handling solutions.”Classes devoted to forklifts, rack and mezzanine began in January.

Jay Rivard

Jay Rivard

Age: 38

Who is he? Vice President/General Manager, Rivard Power Lift (Overland Park, KS)

Background: B.A. Philosophy, University of Kansas; joined Rivard, 1989: Marketing Representative.

Jay Rivard grew up in the business.“I stacked tires, mowed the lawn, was a delivery driver, and filled orders in the parts department. As a student of philosophy, Jay Rivard studied formal logic, which came in handy years later as Rivard Power Lift’s VP/GM. Rivard’s been with the company for 12 years, and during the last five, business activity has doubled. “We are quick to react to trends,”he explains.“We also have many good employees.”

“We are quick to react to trends.”

The company has been a family-owned business for over 70 years, and Rivard plans to continue to grow the company from a small dealership to one with significant marketshare. “This would be new for us,”he says,“and it would be satisfying to make the successful transition from one generation to another and continue to see the company succeed for my father.”When asked what he has learned from his father, he answers without hesitation, “loyalty and honesty.”When asked what his father has learned from him, Rivard laughs and says (also without hesitation),“Patience.”

“Our company pays whatever it takes to prevent losing our high performers to other companies.”
6% of respondents strongly agree.

(From McKinsey & Company’s War for Talent 2000, a survey of 6,900 executives and managers in 56 companies)

David Rizzo

David Rizzo

Age: 38

Who is he? President, A.J. Jersey (S. Plainfield, NJ)

Background: B.S. Business & Industrial Relations, Seton Hall University; joined A.J. Jersey, 1984: Parts/Rental, Comptroller, General Manager.

Toward the end of his college years, David Rizzo dabbled in retail at Macy’s and Bambergers.“When they told me I had to work 80 hours a week for $13,000, I said ‘forget it!’ ”In the last few years, sales at A.J. Jersey have increased from $8M to $25M. The company has also gone from a non-web, non-computer company to one with a full time IS staff.

Rizzo says,“Handling the beast called marketshare is a big challenge, and overcoming factory to customer-direct is the way to get it.”Rizzo is working hard to gain that market share.“Pricing is the biggest hurdle today. It’s very difficult to sell non-price issues,”he says.

What excites Rizzo the most is the ability to go out and hear people talk about A.J. Jersey’s service reputation and hear customers speak of how good it is to deal with a family business.“They can always get a Rizzo on the phone.”When A.J. Jersey needed to round out its line and looked to get an IC-product, many manufacturers came calling.“Our reputation and abilities are known and respected, and that’s a great feeling.”

“Handling the beast called marketshare is a big challenge, and overcoming factory to customer-direct is the way to get it.”

Bill Sandford

Bill Sandford

Age: 33

Who is he? Sales Representative, Industrial Truck Sales & Service (Greensboro, NC)

Background: B.S. Business, Elon University; joined ITSS, 1996.

“No matter what happens, the customer will be satisfied, regardless of what it takes.”Bill Sandford has a reputation among his customers and co-workers that he will do whatever it takes to make a customer happy, and he will go the extra mile or even two.

“The customer will be satisfied, regardless of what it takes.”

At 5:45 on a Friday evening, as Sandford was driving home, he received a call on his cell phone that a customer with a 24/7 operation had a unit down and it would take the service department a few days to fix it. Sandford found a demo truck to use as a replacement, had it delivered to the customer, picked up the truck needing repair, and delivered it to a service facility. By 8:45 pm, the problem was solved and by 9:30, the customer’s operation was up and running.

Industrial Truck Sales & Service recently took on a new product line. While Sandford was vacationing not far from the manufacturer, he spent one of his days off touring the plant to find out more about the product. With commitment like this, it’s not hard to understand how Sandford has sold over a million dollars for four consecutive years.“It’s fun being here. A lot of people call and say, ‘Bill, I need to do this. Help me.’ ”

Marcus Scrudder

Marcus Scrudder

Age: 33

Who is he? Vice President Finance/CFO, Shannon Corporation (Grand Prairie, TX)

Background: B.A. Finance, University of Central Oklahoma; joined Shannon, 1997: Regional Manager.

Most of Marcus Scrudder’s job involves crunching numbers. The rest is trouble shooting other departments and improving areas of low gross profit. Scrudder recently discovered that the high number of free rentals being used for loaner vehicles was decreasing profits.“The loaners had to be given out because we didn’t have enough parts or equipment to provide the needed service.”So he increased inventory in parts and service, significantly decreasing the need for the loaners.

“It’s a good feeling to find a way to provide better health options for employees.”

At the corporate office, Scrudder changed the health insurance policy, saving money and at the same time providing employees with better health options.“It’s a good feeling to find a way to provide better health options for employees,”he says,“and saving money for the company at the same time made it feel really good.”In one branch, by cutting a separate dispatch area, Scrudder saved $150,000 a year.

Scrudder’s mission is to continue to cut costs and find different ways to improve Shannon Corporation’s profit.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Age: 39

Who is he? Vice President, Carolina Material Handling Services (Columbia, SC)

Background: B.S. Business Information Management, Clemson University; M.B.A. University of South Carolina; joined CMHS, 1989: Comptroller, Aftermarket Sales Representative.

“Customer service and relationships sell equipment now,”says Mike Smith.“Many companies older than 10 years were built on selling equipment, and at that time, that’s what had to be done. But it’s different today.”Smith was CMHS’s comptroller for a year. From that spot, he was able to sit back and watch each department. What he saw:“Every idea in the team concept broke down when it came to management because every team still had the same manager.”

“Every idea in the team concept broke down when it came to management because every team still had the same manager.”

Smith felt there were a lot of ways to organize the aftermarket and take advantage of some of the information he could get on cost and equipment maintenance to give more value to the customer. He really took an interest in the aftermarket department and moved into operations.

Working out of CMHS’s Greenville/Spartanburg branch, Smith developed Aftermarket Customer Service Teams made up of several people: a customer service manager who moves around the territory much like a salesperson; a parts coordinator who focuses on getting the parts up; a service manager who acts as the dispatch coordinator for his/her team; and several technicians.“Together, they are focusing on their customer,”says Smith,“and the manager is spending more time with customers, making decisions in the field.” Smith notes a change in administrative time.“So many invoice issues were coming up and overwhelming us. Now the customer has someone they can deal with in the chain of command, decreasing the need for administrative time.”

Mitch Smith

Mitch Smith

Age: 31

Who is he? Kentucky Regional Manager, Bastian Material Handling Corp. (Indianapolis, IN)

Background: B.S. Industrial Technology, Morehead State; joined BMH, 1993: Inside Sales Manager, Branch Manager.

“There is always something changing in systems integration,”says Mitch Smith,“particularly with the integration of warehouse management and material handling.” Smith acknowledges that equipment hasn’t changed much.“Conveyors and rollers stay the same, though technological changes in microprocessors have made them smaller.”Smith likes to look at the bigger picture to help customers on a fuller scale.“I want to know: How do they get their orders? How are those orders downloaded through the facility? How are they routed? How are they tracked? The information side is changing, and managing and integrating this information will be the key to the future.”

“Managing and integrating information will be the key to the future.”

Smith says that BMH’s success and ability to get all of this done for customers is based on the company’s employees.“We have great people. They are very well educated and sharp.”He makes sure that employees are trained in how to talk with customers. He also sets goals that are realistic, as he says, “attainable but challenging.”Smith believes his attitude sets the tone for motivating his employees.“I come in every day, put a smile on my face, enjoy what I’m doing, and then try to translate that to the people I work with. I stand by people who make decisions, even when they are wrong. They learn respect and support, and continue to grow. We, too continue to grow.”

McKinsey & Company, a Washington-based management consulting firm, surveyed 6,900 officers, executives and mid-level managers at 56 companies to examine the difference that talent makes for company performance. McKinsey has six recommendations for building and retaining top talent:

  1. Create a widespread mindset that having great people in key jobs is critical, and ensure that all managers are held accountable for developing people and making the right job match.? 

  2. Foster a compelling reason for high caliber people to choose your company over others.
  3. Combine a performance ethic with an open and trusting culture.
  4. Seek out talented individuals continuously.
  5. Move out under-performers to make room for superior performers.
  6. Grow great leaders by giving people stretch jobs, informal feedback, coaching and mentoring.

Source: The War for Talent 2000: Building a Superior Talent Pool to Drive Company Performance (New York: McKinsey & Company 2000)

Steve Strifler

Steve Strifler

Age: 36

Who is he? President/COO, Cisco-Eagle (Tulsa, OK)

Background: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, West Point; Marketing Manager, PepsiCo; joined Cisco-Eagle, 1995: Sales Engineer, Vice President-Arkansas Branch.

“I think all change is difficult for people to accept at first,”says Steve Strifler. When he was named president, the first thing he did was make everyone read the book,“Who Moved My Cheese?”Then he set out to re-define Cisco-Eagle’s structure.“The founder was a true entrepreneur and that flat vision took us to the next level. He gave me the opportunity to take the reins of the company and the first traumatic thing I did was take it away from that flat organization.”

“All change is difficult for people to accept.”

Strifler divided the company into six functions: 1) Finance/ Accounting; 2) Systems & Design; 3) Sales; 4) Marketing; 5) Cisco-Eagle, Inc. Operations; and 6) Field Operations. Each function has several elements. For example, Systems and Design is made up of consulting, applications engineering, implementation engineering and controls. And each of these elements has teams under it with a project manager, project coordinator and technicians.“We got away from individual salespeople. Now we have sales teams and we go to market with the entire team, made up of two to four people.

Strifler expects that in five years, Cisco-Eagle will be“a very large player.”He gets excited about helping customers envision the future, designing the solution, making it work and meeting the desired objectives.“We have good employees and lots of strengths,”he says.

Steve Thigpen

Steve Thigpen

Age: 31

Who is he? Vice President, R.S. Braswell Company (Kannapolis, NC)

Background: B.S. Furman College; joined R.S. Braswell, 1991.

“My grandfather started this company in 1950,”says Thigpen.“Twenty years later, my dad, Alton H. Thigpen, came on.”Thigpen graduated on a Saturday and started working the following Monday. When asked what his first job was, he laughs and says,“It was the same thing I do now-everything!” R.S. Braswell has 50 employees and three branch locations. Thigpen is overseeing the company’s renovation of a vacant shopping center and expansion from a 15,000 sq. ft. facility to one that is 45,000 sq. ft.

“No matter how old I get, I can always learn.”

The company’s focus is on used equipment and Thigpen points out the large demand for it, especially for new companies just starting out. Thigpen looks forward to owning the company one day.“Being around equipment is enjoyable. Selling and the details of running the business are exciting.”From his grandfather and his father, Thigpen has learned many lessons, but one things stands out,“No matter how old I get, I can always learn.”

Corey Thorne

Corey Thorne

Age: 25

Who is he? Branch Manager-Richmond, Southeast Industrial Equipment (Charlotte, NC)

Background: B.S. Finance, Appalachian State; Envirolift: Sales; joined SIE, 1999: Sales Representative.

When Southeast Industrial Equipment decided to open a branch in Richmond, Virginia, they knew it would be tough. SIE had no history in the area, Toyota had been absent for almost two years, and there were many independent companies driving labor rates down and internal rates up. The company anticipated that the new branch would lose money for 16 months. What really happened was that it lost money for five months and has been profitable ever since.

Corey Thorne has a lot to do with that profitability.“I have hydraulic fluid in my blood,” laughs the younger Thorne, referring to his father Steve,“and I like to sell, so going to the branch was a great opportunity for me.”

“I have hydraulic fluid in my blood.”

Thorne came in as a sales rep and put an ad blitz together.“We knew where the big trucks were being used in the 1,800 ITA region.”So he made a game plan. The area was mapped into quadrants and detailed by ITA class. Thorne explains:“We figured out the number of people who could work in a specific area in one day. We also figured that they could do 30 calls per day with good customers in their quadrants.”

Nineteen employees from other branches came to town for two days to blanket the area. Detailed maps were given out with such directions as:“Turn right on this road, you will see this on the left, etc.”Thorne knew that the sales reps were coming from out of town, and he didn’t want them to waste any time being lost.

The blitz resulted in 300 certified leads that turned into 45 new truck sales or new service customers within the first three months. Last year, the Richmond branch sold 75 new trucks. For the first month of 2001, 22 have already been sold.

“You have to surround yourself with good people,”Thorne says.“We’ve been able to make all of our employees understand what we are here for-to make this branch in Richmond the most profitable branch in the Southeast.

Mike Wall

Mike Wall

Age: 33

Who is he? Sales Representative, Container Systems Inc., CSI Materials Handling, (Westmont, IL)

Background: B.S. Finance, Indiana University; Motorola: Financial Analyst; joined CSI, 1993.

Everyone has projects that don’t go the way they are supposed to…something doesn’t come in the right color, the installation crew leaves the site, the delivery is late. Mike Wall recently sold cantilever rack to an out-of-town customer which had to be installed within a two-week time frame. At the end of 10 days, the local crew hired to do the installation had only erected 10 percent of the material.“The customer was very concerned that we would not be able to finish the job in the allotted time of 14 days,”says

“I knew our people would come through.”

Wall. Wall admits that it was anger that got him through the job.“I was angry at what happened, and an energy came from that. I’ve also learned from the best how to deal in a crisis, and I knew our people would come through.”Wall worked the phones, hired two new crews, put on his jeans and a flannel shirt, and became the installation manager.“The job was completed on time, and the customer has remained loyal to CSI.”

In five years, Wall plans on running the company. He acknowledges that he is always learning and improving his skills“by listening to the guy who’s been doing the job for many years, my father.”

Paul Wanous

Paul Wanous

Age: 36

Who is he? President, Skarnes, Inc. (Minneapolis, MN)

Background: B.S. Economics, University of Minnesota; joined Skarnes, 1988: Sales Representative, Sales Manager.

As Paul Wanous was growing up, his father Tom was growing his company, and he had a strict policy: business was to be kept separate from family life. After college, Paul wasn’t too keen on working for the family business. “But there was an opening in sales, and I came on board to see if I liked it.”He did. Today, Wanous gets excited just talking about conveyors and people and solutions.

“Doing a succession plan taught us a lot of things about ourselves, and a lot of things about the company.”

Several years ago, the Wanous family went through a company succession plan, consisting of tests and interviews with family members, spouses and employees. Many issues were discussed, including finances, communication, corporate structure and future development. The plan included an evaluation of individual strengths and personalities. Turned out both Paul and his older brother David were both qualified to handle the company. So they divided up the responsibilities and flipped a coin for the title. Wanous says the experience of the succession plan was very helpful.“It taught us a lot of things about ourselves, and a lot of things about the company.”

As the company continues its strong growth each year, Wanous makes sure to do the things necessary to insulate it from“the goings on in the market.”He is currently increasing the sales staff and adding a service department.


Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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