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MHEDA’s Edgers Are The Industry’s Rising Stars

Edgers, risig stars of the industry
In 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 to find Edgers—great young leaders who are passionate about business and are contributors to today’s and tomorrow’s success in our companies. Edgers have the talent and drive to lead the industry now and into the future.   On the following pages are the first-person accounts of 20 men and women who are generating and executing great ideas in the workplace. These individuals tell us why their internal fire burns for material handling and what they plan to accomplish in the industry. They admit they have a lot to learn, but we feel like they also have a lot to teach. Step to the Edge. As these individuals and companies attest, it’s a wonderful place to be.  
To jump directly to one of the profiled next-generation leaders, click on his or her name below:
Brian Allen Drew Forte Nancy Lee Gene Renihan
Mark Andres Darrell Griffin Andrew Long Mike Ross
Chris Beckman Darrel Harrison Mike Olson Kevin Rusin
Chris Bratten Gary Holbrook Michael Petinge Brian Schepman
Brian Degnan James Johnson Kevin Powell Matthew Warne


Customer Solutions Thrill GENE RENIHAN

Who am I? Vice President, Pharmaceutical and Laboratory Division, Storage Solutions Inc. (Westfield, IN)
Age: 34
Background: B.A. Public Relations, Indiana State University • Joined Storage Solutions at age 29: Sales    

Gene Renihan

Gene Renihan knows that if he doesn't take care of his customers, someone else will. “It all comes down to customer service.”

Most people think I’m pretty laid back, but deep down inside, I’m a ball of fire. Nothing is more exciting than the thrill of bringing a solution to the customer, and I like seeing happy faces when we’ve done a successful job. That’s why everything I stress here at Storage Solutions Inc. is about customer service. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as the customers are taken care of. If we don’t take care of them, someone else will, and that’s what drives me—the fear of losing.

Future Goal: To expand our business with pharmaceutical companies and laboratories beyond the state of Indiana.

I started out in the insurance industry until a fraternity brother contacted me about a sales position in material handling. I liked the idea of selling a tangible product versus dealing with mutual funds, annuities and life insurance. I’m not selling a commodity because we really bring a true solution to the table for our customers. No day is ever the same, and I think it keeps me pretty sharp. I’m always thinking about something different, even though I deal solely with pharmaceutical companies. I feel proud when I see where this business has gone in the past four years. We’ve grown significantly in each of those years, so the pressure now is to keep it going. To do that, we need to continue to expand our horizons with even more pharmaceutical companies. We’ve done a lot of business in Puerto Rico, and I’d like to grow that market even more.     

For me, personal satisfaction comes from being a leader to those people around me. If they’re happy and like what they’re doing, then that’s my biggest accomplishment. I want to be in this industry for a long time, and that doesn’t happen by burning bridges.     

KEVIN POWELL Knows What He’s Talking About 

Who am I? Product Support Sales, Allstar Lift Trucks (Orlando, FL)
Age: 24
Background: Joined Allstar Lift Trucks at age 18: Parts, Service    

Kevin Powell

Kevin Powell is a self-described gearhead who loves to build trucks in his spare time. He is also a novice welder.

The family business has always been something I knew I wanted to get into. I took my first paycheck at Allstar Lift Trucks when I was running parts. I memorized the part numbers and helped the mechanics in my spare time. Moving up through the evolutionary chain within the company has brought me to sales, which I love because I make my own commission, with the freedom to see my ideas produce money. We take pride in being able to turn as much work as, if not more than, larger companies with more resources than us, and I like having a hand in that.

Future Goal: I would love to take over the reins of the company, follow in my dad’s shoes as president and CEO, and open a second location in Florida to give us a broader coverage zone.

Of course, I need to learn more about the business aspect of things. To become an expert, it takes a willingness to pay attention to and take pride in your job. Anyone can do it. I need to spend more time with my father—my role model, mentor and the man with whom I’ve never won an argument, though we had plenty when I was younger. He can teach me to develop more of a business mentality. But here’s what I have learned. Know what you are talking about and never lie. If you are false with customers, you’re probably going to be called out on it by the end of that business day. I may be new to sales, but I know to be honest.     

No Worries with DARREL HARRISON 

Who am I? Rental Manager & Transportation Manager, GB Sales & Service (Plymouth, MI)
Age: 30
Background: Western Michigan University • Joined GB Sales & Service at age 23: Rentals, Service & Dispatch    

Darrel Harrison

Once Darrel Harrison's customers tell him they need something, they don't have to worry about it again. “It's my job to remember, not theirs.”

Many things in this industry are really important, but organization, attention to detail, keeping promises and communication are the biggest factors for success. It’s important to talk to the customer and make them understand and appreciate what you do for them. But don’t over-commit. It really hurts your reputation if you can’t deliver, so you must know when not to make promises. Customers are more likely to respect you for that and will start working around what you can do. Customers want to do business with the great dealers because they know they’re getting more than just a forklift.

Future Goal: Name recognition begins in the rental department because we build relationships with many new vendors and customers. I want to build GB Sales & Service’s customer base, so that when someone needs a truck, we’re the first they call.

I came to GB Sales & Service from a landscaping job. I was looking for an office job because I wanted to get paid for my mind and ideas rather than for doing grunt work. I had absolutely no material handling experience, but I knew I had a good chance to grow if I could get into a good company. When I started at GB Sales & Service, I asked a lot of questions, learned little by little, and was able to grasp it quickly. Now I oversee a rental fleet of about 280 trucks.     

I like being rental manager because it’s a business inside of a business. I want my customers to understand that once they tell me they need something, they don’t have to worry about it again. It’s my job to remember, not theirs. I’ve been handed the torch, and it’s my job to use the tools I’ve been given to take them to the next level.     

CHRIS BECKMAN: The $100 Million Man 

Who am I? Sales Manager, Gregory Poole Equipment Company (Raleigh, NC) • MHEDA Edge Advisory Board
Age: 36
Background: B.S. Economics, University of Maryland – Baltimore County • Joined Gregory Poole at age 26: Territory Sales, Field Sales Manager    

Chris Beckman

Chris Beckman's keys to success are quite simple: work hard and work ethically.

My career in material handling came about by accident. I interviewed with Gregory Poole Equipment Company for a construction rental position, with which I had some experience at Hertz Equipment Rental. That position was filled from within, but they asked me if I’d be interested in an opening in material handling. I said I’d give it a shot, and that’s how I got involved with this side of the business.     

This is both a fun and challenging industry. In sales, it is our job to educate the customer. The most successful salespeople within our organization are those who know the fine details about the product, point them out to the customer and are able to get around price objections. By selling the quality of the product and the quality of the dealership, we are able to succeed.

Future Goal: We just finished our best sales year ever in the industrial division, over $50 million. I’d love to see us hit $100 million in the not-too-distant future.

As I’ve grown into the sales manager role, I’ve learned more about the financial side of the business, especially budgeting for our branches. By coupling that knowledge with what I continue to absorb from the experienced people on our team, I can really keep growing.     

It means a lot to earn the respect of those who have been here longer than I have. It’s very gratifying when they come to me for help. That type of teamwork is a great motivator. I get excited to see the seven salespeople I’m responsible for succeed and develop new strengths. Sales puts you in your own little world, so the neat thing about being a manager is seeing others have their individual successes.     

BRIAN SCHEPMAN Looks For New Ways To Do Things 

Who am I? Assistant CFO, Hy-Tek Material Handling (Columbus, OH)
Age: 30
Background: B.A. Accounting, Franklin University • Joined Hy-Tek at age 24: Accounting Assistant    

Brian Schepman

With the exposure to various forklifts and conveyors, Brian Schepman enjoys the variety of material handling and “not being in just one silo.”

When I first came on board at Hy-Tek Material Handling in 2000, I was still working on my accounting degree and wasn’t really aware of the material handling industry. I was just looking to get some general accounting experience when I saw the ad for Hy-Tek’s accounts receivable position. Since then, I’ve become involved in many facets of the business and been exposed to things like labor rates and billing that I didn’t know before.     

I like the challenge of finding new ways to do things, and I’d like to develop a better understanding of the company’s key assets and liabilities, as well as the various detail that goes into our banking functions and inventory levels.

Future Goal: I like my current role, and I would eventually like to be more involved in key decision-making on different financial aspects within the company.

One of my main responsibilities is providing the management and decision-makers with reports, and being able to understand what happens on a daily basis helps me give them pertinent information. I enjoy presenting reports that they’ve never seen before or presenting information in a different light. Same goes for customers. We provide some customers with reports, via the Web, that give them real-time information. They can actually go to a Web site dedicated to them and check out our inventory at that moment in time and see the stock levels needed for a future order. We’ve rolled that out for some customers, and our ultimate goal is to have that system in place for all customers.

Read More Online Read about Hy-Tek Material Handling’s Tradition of Excellence that appeared in Winter 1999.

Follow Up Is Rule #1 for MIKE ROSS 

Who am I? Sales Representative, ESS Group (Brenham, TX)
Age: 24
Background: Taking Marketing classes at Texas A&M • Joined ESS Group at age 23: Sales   

Mike Ross

Mike Ross looks up to his father, Jeff Ross, as a role model because of his persistence in developing a successful company.

Working in a family business is a very good motivator. In order for my family to survive, I must be able to make my sales quotas. It has been quite an experience to get to that point. I surpassed my sales expectations last year, which was great because I am still learning all our product lines. In addition to storage and handling equipment, we opened an overhead door company. I’m the branch manager of a store in College Station, Texas. Getting that branch up and running has been exciting.

Future Goal: To improve my sales numbers and develop better relationships with customers. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, late nights and adherence to the sales plan.

I really enjoy the variety I experience in material handling. On a typical day, I can see everything from a mushroom plant to an aerospace engineering facility. Regardless of the industry, customers want to be treated fairly. They don’t want empty talk. If you say you will do something, then you should follow through. I’m working on improving my follow-up skills. Having quotes out is one thing, but in our business, following up with the customer, even to see why you didn’t get the project, is one of the important things. You can’t be afraid of the word no. If somebody tells you no today, be persistent with them and sometimes their no will become a yes.     


Who am I? Sales Consultant, ASAP Automation/Bastian Material Handling (Indianapolis, IN)
Age: 24
Background: M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University • Joined ASAP Automation 9 months ago   

Chris Bratten

Becoming an expert in applications of RFID technology is what motivates Chris Bratten at ASAP Automation.

Material handling is such a fascinating industry to me. Coming in with no industry experience, my first visit to a client’s site and seeing the packages move around and end up all in the right places was amazing. It still is! I’m absolutely amazed at what ASAP Automation can do, and I’m very excited to be a part of that.

Future Goal: I want ASAP Automation to become synonymous with advanced technologies like RFID and to help our customers decide how to best use the technology bundled with our current offerings.

I have a lot on my plate right now. Luckily, I’m a quick study when it comes to things I find interesting. Since I started, I’ve been a sponge, soaking up information, learning the business practices and getting in touch with clients. It’s such a reward to find ways to bring in new business and to improve the existing relationships we have with customers.     

One such enhancement is radio frequency identification (RFID), which I got involved with as a graduate student at Purdue University. While doing research, I became really passionate about the technology and its possibilities. As part of my thesis, I served as technical editor of the book RFID for Dummies by Patrick Sweeney.

Read More Online A profile in Spring 2001 explains how Bastian Material Handling Corporation is Engineering Tomorrow’s Solutions Today.

I was hired by ASAP to become an in-house RFID specialist and help add RFID capabilities to the company. Once our RFID solution is ready to go, it will be my responsibility to go out and acquire customers who are looking at RFID. I’ve also done work here creating an RFID capabilities demonstration, which was a big hit last year at our users’ conference and really got a lot of clients serious about the technology.     

NANCY LEE Keeps Company Wired  

Who am I? Director of Information Systems, Modern Group Ltd. (Bristol, PA) • MHEDA Edge Advisory Board
Age: 42
Background: B.S. Computer Science, Penn State University • Joined Modern Group at age 34   

Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee brings technological efficiencies to all aspects of Modern Group's branches.

Applying technology is a never-ending process. Every time one level of success is reached, someone thinks of new ways to use the tools and improve them. Modern Group has developed technologically to be on the leading edge. We decided to outsource our e-mail, and having those services delivered over the Web allows IT resources to be redirected to help determine how technology can help the people in the field instead of just maintaining servers.

Future Goal: There are enormous productivity benefits to be realized in road technician efficiency, as far as laptops and remote user capabilities. I want to make our techs more efficient and effective.

For me, a typical day really revolves around two tasks. One is dealing with any crises that occur, such as a non-functional system or network. My second job is managing projects, going from one to another to see what guidance I can offer.     

My foray into material handling really came about by luck. I was working as a consultant and came to Modern on a sales call. I knew I wanted to get back into more of a hands-on technology job, and, lo and behold, Modern had an open position. Technology is something that is applied across the board, so the specific industry I got into was really somewhat irrelevant. For me, the challenge came in acclimating myself to bringing about change instead of inventing a path, because, technologically speaking, material handling is an old business. I always believe that there’s a better way. Get your hands as dirty as you can, because there is no better teacher than experience.

Read More Online From the Winter 2005 issue of The MHEDA Journal, read ways that Modern Group Sets The Bar High.

Material Handling “Lifer” MICHAEL PETINGE  

Who am I? Director of Sales, Abel Womack Integrated Handling Solutions (Lawrence, MA)
Age: 39
Background: B.S. Marketing, Stonehill College • Joined Abel Womack at age 21: Territory Sales   

Mike Petinge

Michael Petinge applied for a job with athletic apparel maker New Balance upon graduating from college. He didn't get the job, but now he supplies their forklifts.

I didn’t know much about the material handling industry when I started, but I’m a material handling lifer. I enjoy coming to work every day because something different always comes up, whether it’s a new product for customers or new technology.

Future Goal: I’d like to have more of a role in helping the organization continue its growth curve.

I’ve gotten experience in many aspects of the business, from implementing a warehouse management system to my current role as director of sales, where I oversee about 30 people. In sales, respect is based on numbers. For example, in 1996, I did around $3.8 million in sales, which was about three times my previous high. That was great, but sales is really self-rewarding. Once you do well, you never want to look back. You don’t want to let yourself down, but more importantly, you don’t want to let anyone around you down.     

In our industry, a sale is not a quick hit. The best customers are the ones you start with and grow with over a period of years. I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve stayed at the same organization and developed contacts at what were once relatively small companies. Now they are extremely large, and they still come to me for advice and expertise.     

The key is to be honest. It’s easy to fall into the trap of dishonesty in the heat of the sale, but doing so always comes back to bite you. The honest answer might not be the best news for the customer, but it develops your credibility.

Read More Online Learn how Abel Womack Integrated Handling Solutions delivers Performance Beyond Expectation in this profile from Winter 2002.

MIKE OLSON Never Stops Learning  

Who am I? Operations Manager, Badger Material Handling (New Berlin, WI)
Age: 36
Background: Attended technical school for Computer Aided Drafting • Joined Badger Material Handling  at age 21: Parts, CSS Aftermarket  

Mike Olson

Mike Olson loves material handling because customers rely on the distributor to help them do their jobs and keep their companies running smoothly.

During my time at Napa Auto Center, I developed a relationship with Badger Material Handling when their people came in to pick up parts. Badger’s representative would always ask for me when he needed a part they didn’t have in stock. When a position opened up, he invited me for an interview and hired me in Badger’s parts department. I assumed there wouldn’t be much of a difference between the automotive and material handling industries, but it didn’t take long to find out that material handling is much more dynamic. There is so much more involvement with customers and their daily operations. Once I learned that, it was an easy decision to stay in this more interesting field.

Future Goal: I want to continue to become a bigger part of our company’s growth strategy by being more hands-on in creating our future and hiring people who will help the company grow.

When I worked in customer service support, I was involved in the acquisition of quite a few large accounts. To see them develop from a simple meeting and to help them grow was a pretty rewarding experience. Knowing that customers rely on me and our company to keep their operations running smoothly is a big motivating factor. Every day, changes in the industry force me to be alert and learn new things. You can never stop learning in this industry. I’ve been here 15 years and no matter how much I think I know, there’s always something else to learn or improve. Never assume that you know everything.     

Blank Canvas to Work of Art with DARRELL GRIFFIN  

Who am I? Manager of Project Implementation, Cisco-Eagle Inc. (Dallas, TX)
Age: 37
Background: Computer Aided Design Technology, Mountain View College • Joined Cisco-Eagle at age 26: Design Technician, Design Resources Manager, Project Manager  

Darrell Griffin

At Cisco-Eagle, Darrell Griffin leads six project management teams, each composed of a project manager, project coordinator, design technicians and administrative staff.

Coming to Cisco-Eagle was a nice transition because I had already gained a level of experience using material handling equipment while working for a mail-order fulfillment center. My experience managing processes that depended on the material handling system gave me a customer’s insight regarding automation.

Future Goal: I want to grow the department into handling $5 million conveyor projects.

We recently completed a $3.6 million job for a food-processing facility, the largest conveyor project ever done by my department. With such large projects, it’s important to pay attention to the data collection and planning phases at the start of the project. When you follow the 6P rule of project management—Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance—you uncover things that may not have been considered before. Projects are successful when there are no surprises. Currently we outsource all our controls work, but I’d like to know more about them so I can monitor the progress on installation more closely.     

At the end of a project, I get satisfaction out of looking back to see the masterpiece we’ve created. It’s great to walk into a warehouse before beginning a project and see the 100,000-square-foot blank canvas and then seeing what it becomes afterwards. It’s really fun and satisfying to know I’ve helped a customer improve their productivity and make more money.     

Lessons Learned from Mentors and Role Models
Through Mike McKinley’s mentoring, Kevin Rusin learned how to get to the other side of the china shop without breaking all the china. He now thinks about and analyzes situations before reacting.

As a child, Darrel Harrison used to get in trouble for talking to everybody during school, but his parents understood that being able to hold a conversation is a positive thing and worked hard on his public relations skills.

When Brian Allen first started his job, he rode along on calls with Ronnie Quick, who taught him how to relate to customers on a close, friendly level. It seemed that everybody Ronnie knew was a friend of his, not just a customer.

Gary Holbrook‘s mother worked in the customer service department of a large company for 30 years. She showed him how to turn negatives into positives and how to really look at something and work it from a different angle.

Fred Wuebker, Nancy Lee‘s first boss, recognized that his employees right out of college lacked “real world” experience, and spent a lot of time teaching them the right way to do things and how to be grown-ups.

Mike Olson looks to his father’s example, who, when he met a challenge or wasn’t successful, found a way to become successful.

Andy Milam, Darrell Griffin‘s first boss at Cisco-Eagle, showed him how to break a project down into manageable parts and delegate them.

Mike Petinge‘s mother instilled the value of treating others the way he wanted to be treated, and his father instilled a tenacious work ethic and taking responsibility for his actions.

MARK ANDRES’ Material Handling Addiction  

Who am I? Vice President of Sales, Toyota Material Handling Northern California (Hayward, CA)
Age: 31
Background: A.A. Los Positas Junior College • Joined TMHNC at age 21: Parts Delivery, Rental Coordinator, Sales  

Mark Andres

TMHNC's Mark Andres, who oversees 22 outside sales reps, enjoys “having a blank canvas every day.”

My father, Rich Andres, has been in the industry for a long time, and I was very reluctant in the beginning to follow the family path at Toyota Material Handling Northern California. My brother Stephen and I didn’t want to feel like we were taking an easy handout. I was really intent on having my own career, but I decided to give material handling a shot and ended up getting addicted to it. From the time I was in rentals, going the extra mile for the customer has given me the edge over somebody else. It’s really that simple.

Future Goal: To lead the industry in the way we manage our sales reps, with both our CRM system and the way we attack the market. It is our intent to get customers into large fleets without diluting the forklift market.

Some people say, “Forklifts will always lift, lower, go forward and go backward, so don’t make it difficult.” I don’t advocate complicating things, but if something doesn’t seem to work, change it. Don’t wait for it to get better. Material handling is ripe for a revolution. The available opportunities are really interesting because hardly anything hasn’t been touched by a forklift at least once. New, fresh ideas and points of view will help grow this industry. We’ll be successful by rolling with the punches and evolving with the market. If we stay in one place, we’ll be run over.     

As the owner’s son, there is always that stigma—real or perceived—that people view your accomplishments as the result of who your father is. In the beginning, it was difficult to always have that hanging over my head. I was able to shed that stigma working in outside sales because family background doesn’t make a success. I’ve been bred to go the extra mile to shake that monkey off my back. It just comes naturally to want to work hard and make it happen.

Stephen Andres Stephen Andres
Mark’s younger brother Stephen, 27, serves as vice president of operations at TMHNC and says the variety of dealing with different people at different company branches each day keeps his job exciting. Stephen is also on the MHEDA Edge Advisory Board.  
Read More Online
The Andres brothers were profiled in more detail in the First Quarter 2006 issue of The MHEDA Journal. See how they plan to be Leading The Material Handling Revolution.
  What I Learned in School
In addition to one with an MBA, one Edger has a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and another is working on a Master’s degree in Applied Economics. Popular UNDERGRADUATE DEGREES include Marketing, Economics, Public Relations, Accounting, History and Speech Communications.

GARY HOLBROOK Presents New Ideas  

Who am I? Information Systems and Operations Manager, Western Carolina Forklift (Greensboro, NC)
Age: 30
Background: B.S. Finance, UNC-Greensboro • Joined Western Carolina Forklift at age 27: Leasing, Marketing Support Manager  

Gary Holbrook

Western Carolina Forklift's Gary Holbrook advises Edgers to be patient with their ideas and not to give up, because some day, those ideas will prove valuable.

 It’s nice to have the freedom to express some new ideas to an old-school industry. When I started at Western Carolina Forklift, we could not even print a list of our active customers or tell what type of customers they were. I’ve since combined four different databa-ses to make one contact management database so that anyone internally can readily access customer information. I can see our salespeople’s eyes opening now that they have that information at their disposal. The company is turning a corner toward retaining more customers and selling more trucks. It has been hard work, but now the system is much more efficient.

Future Goal: To develop a system to manage all aspects and branches of our business so that each department can see what the others are doing. We want to be working together toward a common goal, rather than independently from each other.

It’s quite a change from when I started here as a temp with little idea of what to do for a career. Piece by piece, however, this industry and this company have helped me identify what to do with my life. That’s why I enjoy it and want to stay here. At first, there wasn’t a position open, but one was created for me. I was in charge of leases, generating credit approvals and lease documentation for each customer. My new tasks are to improve and streamline the communication and processes inside the company.     

Working on these projects reminds me of a lesson my mother taught me about how to take a problem, turn it into a positive and work it from a different angle. My next step is learning how salespeople interact daily with customers so I can give them more of the information they need instead of shooting from the hip because I have no experience in sales. Seeing the difference I’ve helped make drives me to continue to improve.     

MHEDA Edgers range in age from 24 to 42. Their AVERAGE AGE is 32.


Shop Foreman BRIAN DEGNAN Keeps it All Together  

Who am I? Shop Foreman, Hyster New England (North Billerica, MA)
Age: 24
Background: B.S. Marketing, University of Massachusetts-Lowell • Joined Hyster New England at age 23: Sales Administrator  

Brian Degnan

Brian Degnan makes sure the workflow through the Hyster New England shop is as efficient and accurate as it can be.

 I’ve always been interested in heavy equipment and enjoyed working with it. I worked as an auto mechanic from the time I was 15, while going to school full time. When I saw this job opening in the newspaper, I jumped at the chance to work at Hyster New England, because I knew about the Hyster product.

Future Goal: I always look for ways to better myself and the shop and make everything more efficient.

While a motor is still a motor, the transition into material handling equipment has not been that simple. The different transmissions and hydraulics make a forklift a completely different animal than a car. I’ve spent most of the last year just learning the technology and everything else that is different about this industry.

Edger Role Models
Parent or Parents . . .
Owner of company . . .
Direct Supervisor . . . .
Former Boss . . . . . . .
Co-Workers . . . . . .   

That type of challenge motivates me. I like working hard, getting results and putting my name on something. Every day as shop foreman provides a different challenge; it seems like I’m always doing 20 different things at once, and I’m always looking for ways to improve.     

I supervise four technicians in the shop right now, and seeing the monthly numbers we produce together is rewarding. I reorganized the layout of the warehouse and the shop and revamped some processes to make our jobs safer, cleaner and easier. We preach that it’s more important to do things safely than quickly because you can definitely hurt yourself if you aren’t careful. We want to work smarter rather than harder.     

MATTHEW WARNE Works on Behalf of His Customers  

Who am I? Salesperson, E.D. Farrell Company (West Seneca, NY)
Age: 39
Background: A.A., Aquinas College • Joined E.D. Farrell at age 34  

Matthew Warne

Teamwork is the most important thing Matthew Warne has learned, and that support gives him confidence to deal with customers.

 An amazing thing about our industry is that you can walk into grocery stores, bakeries and casinos and see how everything is done. It’s neat to see because I had to learn the industry from scratch. I learned a lot from my customers, and the people here at E.D. Farrell Company make sure I do what’s best for the customer in the end. The company has been under the ownership of the Otis family for its entire 70-year existence, which is one reason I wanted to work here. It’s hard to make a mistake with so much experience at your disposal.

Future Goal: I’d like to get into a sales manager role. I have a lot to offer young people entering E.D. Farrell, educating them on the dos and don’ts of sales and the tricks of the trade.

Relationship building is what I like. As I get to know customers and develop our relationship, the customer trusts my counsel. It takes time to develop a territory. Market shares are what they are. You’ll be lucky to win 20 percent to 25 percent of sales sometimes, and it can be very frustrating to be on the short end of the stick the majority of the time. You just have to take it with the mindset that you may have lost the sale, but you didn’t lose a customer. Don’t let a defeatist attitude get the better of you.     

EDUCATION: Highest Level     
of Completed Book Learning  


High school . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Some College (no degree) . . . . . .
Associate’s Degree/technical school.
Bachelor’s Degree . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Master’s Degree . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sales Manager BRIAN ALLEN Develops and Delivers  

Who Am I? Sales Manager, Warehouse Equipment & Supply (Huntsville, AL)
Age: 35
Background: B.A. History, Athens State • Joined Warehouse Equipment & Supply at age 24: Warehouse, Inside Sales, Outside Sales  

Brian Allen

“Finishing a job correctly” to make the customer happy is all the motivation needed for Warehouse Equipment & Supply's Brian Allen.

 Starting out as a milkman quickly taught me that those hours were ones I didn’t want for very long! My brother, who at the time was a salesperson for Warehouse Equipment & Supply, told me about the material handling field. When he talked about his job, I thought it sounded like a great career to pursue. Luckily, I was randomly teamed up in a golf foursome with David Allen, the owner of Warehouse Equipment & Supply, who asked me to come in for an interview. I got the job, and I’ve been learning something new every day since.

Future Goal: To help the newer sales representatives develop their product knowledge and time management skills, and get all seven reps generating the same amount of profit.

It’s important to have the desire to acquire as much product information as you can. Don’t just quote a price, deliver the product, and move on. It’s best to try to understand how the engineers solve problems, because you’ll almost always learn something you can apply to another project.     

The first sizable job I sold was to a local utility. I was 25 and in my first year in the business, but the buyer trusted me and accepted my bid. It ended up being the biggest job I’ve ever sold, and I’ve been on straight commission ever since. Salespeople in this business tend to job-hop, but I’ve stayed at one company. It’s an advantage because I have developed a long history with customers and do not have to repeatedly sell myself to them.     

Now, as sales manager, I must incorporate seven different management styles to communicate with each of seven salespeople. It’s best to adjust to each individual personality rather than making them adjust to you. Trying to change them will end up hurting the salesperson, hurting you, and hurting the company.     

MHEDA Edgers began working FULL TIME in the industry between the ages of 18 and 34. The average age for STARTING a material handling career is 24.

ANDREW LONG Searches for Next Big One  

Who am I? National Account Manager, Scott Lift Truck (Elk Grove Village, IL) • MHEDA Edge Advisory Board
Age: 33
Background: B. A. Speech Communication, Southern Illinois University • Joined Scott Lift Truck at age 29: Sales • Prior Industry Experience with Master Motor Relifters (MMR), IMC Holdings 

Future Goal: To bring on another national account and get as much market share as possible for Scott Lift Truck and for Komatsu.

Material handling was one of the farthest things from my mind when I graduated from college. My first job was in sales—selling paper and pens for the Quill Corporation. I then worked in the technical service department at Mongoose Bicycle. Compensation wasn’t great, but it was a fun job. When our location was liquidated, I moved back to Chicago and contacted a headhunter who had an opening at IMC Holdings, selling aftermarket parts throughout the southern region. Selling quickly became my passion and I realized quickly that it really is fun. I like being busy and am always looking for that sale, for that next big customer.     

I was responsible for the single largest order in Scott Lift Truck’s history, all the result of a cold call. I was driving around the Chicago suburbs and came upon the building—U.S. Can. I thought to myself: “Just one more cold call today is not going to hurt.” It turns out that was the most important one I could have ever made because U.S. Can is now my biggest customer. That initial cold call resulted in two orders over two years, the first for 48 trucks and the second for 30 more to be shipped all over the United States.

Read More Online Learn how Customer Confidence Is Priority for Scott Lift Truck Corporation in this profile that appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of The MHEDA Journal.

When I first started selling material handling, I was hungry enough to do everything I could to get market share. I wasn’t interested in margin the first time around. That strategy is paying off for me now. Today my customers include some very large accounts.     

Compensation is my biggest motivator, but I know that sales come and go. Sometimes the odds are stacked against you and you can save the reputation of your company if you walk away from a sale.     

Crunching the Numbers with KEVIN RUSIN  

Who am I? Chief Financial Officer, McKinley Equipment Corporation (Irvine, CA)
Age: 35
Background: B.S. Marketing, California Polytechnic University, Pomona • MBA, University of Southern California • Joined McKinley Equipment Corporation at age 21: Computer Technician, Service Manager, Operations Manager  

Kevin Rusin

Quickness is a virtue in material handling, but Kevin Rusin reminds himself to slow down so that he doesn't forget to compliment his employees to let them know they're doing a good job.

 Competition is what drives me; I like to win. Stagnation is boring. I don’t want to look at a new thing and not be challenged by it. Being the competitive guy that I am, I immediately want to attack a new problem, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned at McKinley Equipment Corporation is to be patient and analyze all the information before reacting. Learning makes life more exciting.

Future Goal: I want to create an account management system that can report all of a customer’s project history, allowing that customer to remain our partner for life.

I started here as a computer technician, but material handling really started becoming fun once I moved to the service side. It was amazing to see all the different areas that use our products and how everything gets from point A to point B. I’ve been involved with nearly every part of the company, so I understand the way everything flows through the business and links together. Using that knowledge, I can develop new ways for computer technology to help us become more efficient in-house and with our customers. For example, I’ve created some financial reports that enable us to figure out where we are and react more quickly.

For 8 of our 20 Edgers, their current company is the ONLY ONE they’ve ever worked for.

You have to understand the way that everything flows through the system, not just what you’re doing. I teach my employees to not be like a Tennessee Walker Horse with blinders on. Listen to what others are saying and asking, so you can respond appropriately. There are no dumb questions.     

Supply Chain Underperformers Get Up to Speed with DREW FORTE  

Who am I? Director of Client Distribution Improvement, FORTE (Mason, OH)
Age: 28
Background: Studied Business Administration at University of Dayton • Joined FORTE at age 20: AIDC Sales Rep, Regional Sales Rep.  

Drew Forte

Drew Forte enjoys being a part of the process that enables clients like Delta Faucet to efficiently get their products to customers on demand.

When I was in high school, I wondered how raw materials went through the manufacturing process to become a product, and then how those products went through warehousing and distribution to eventually end up in the customer’s hands. That has always interested me about material handling. I especially like taking a company that is underperforming in warehouse distribution operations and helping it create a highly recognized, world-class organization throughout the supply chain.

Future Goal: To become very knowledgeable about the industry, somebody whom younger individuals can look up to and call to ask questions, just as others have done for me.

I get great satisfaction out of seeing projects that FORTE has developed receive recognition within the industry. It not only helps our organization, but it also helps me professionally. I served a term as president of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, and have also been heavily involved in trying to get a Warehousing Education and Research Council roundtable here in Cincinnati.


Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Parts & Service . . . . . . . . . . . .
Information Technology . . . .
Finance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rental & Leasing . . . . . . . . . .
Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I’m a firm believer that in order to understand and to learn, you must get out there and do it yourself. In this industry, technology changes constantly to make processes better and more efficient for the customer. You will get left behind if you’re not on top of your game.     

Our most recent project has been working with many of Wal-Mart’s top suppliers to help them comply with the retailer’s RFID mandates. We want to lead the industry to the next phase of RFID. I’m very focused on staying ahead of the technology and really helping clients understand the benefits they can gain from RFID technology.     

JAMES JOHNSON Looks to Wireless Technology to Improve Service Calls  

Who am I? Branch Service Manager, Oram Material Handling Systems (Kansas City, KS) • MHEDA Edge Advisory Board
Age: 34
Background: Joined Army after High School • Joined industry at age 19, joined Oram Material Handling Systems at age 30 

James Johnson

James Johnson supervises 12 shop and field service technicians and handles the rental dispatch and billing functions at Oram's Springfield, Missouri, branch.

As a mechanic working on howitzers in the Army during Desert Storm, I obtained a great mechanical background. I also learned lessons about patience and dealing with people, which are very important skills in material handling. I enjoy meeting customers and seeing how things are done in different factories and industries.

Future Goal: I want our customers to feel like Oram is a partner rather than a necessary evil. I want to be thought of as a fair, honest, forward-thinking leader and to see the industry become more attractive to prospective employees.  

Many service technicians finish school and enter the automotive industry because it is perceived as more “glamorous.” I went the other way, and I haven’t regretted it. I was working as a truck mechanic and comparing notes with a buddy who was servicing forklifts. Listening to him talk about dealing with customers, solving problems and the technological advances coming up in the material handling industry was really exciting. Working as an automotive technician, most of my time was spent in the shop working on equipment. I didn’t get to meet a lot of people and develop relationships like I have since I joined Oram Material Handling Systems.     

Manufacturers are forced by EPA guidelines to make advances that require more technical equipment on the trucks and more technical knowledge and diagnostics to keep the trucks running. Therefore, it soon will be a must for service technicians to carry and use laptops and handheld devices. Wireless connections will help us do our jobs faster and will allow access to more information. Technological changes like these make this an exciting time to be in the material handling industry.   

Read More Online The Fourth Quarter 2005 issue of The MHEDA Journal featured an extended profile of James Johnson, where he encourages young workers to Be All You Can Be, Join The Material Handling Industry.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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