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Meet President Richard Donnelly

Richard DonnellyMHEDA’s 2012 President brings a broad perspective to the Board.

After graduating from Oregon State with a degree in civil engineering technology and a degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing, I spent three years in the Army. Then I worked for International Harvester in Chicago as marketing manager for forest products. I traveled around the world to help dealers understand products and develop sales plans.

A lot of Caterpillar dealers didn’t understand forestry in the 1970s. They understood earth-moving equipment. When Gregory Poole asked me to join his company in North Carolina as a forest products consultant working with the sales team, I decided to make the switch from the manufacturing to the dealer side. I started in 1978 as the forest products consultant. With my background in marketing, I was soon promoted to marketing manager.

I got into material handling when I was promoted to general manager of the Industrial Division in 1983. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the material handling business, and we expanded with branches in South Carolina and Georgia. In 1990, I became vice president of the Industrial Division and later the Construction Division. In 2000, I became executive vice president responsible for all three divisions—Industrial, Construction and Power Systems.

I have a warm place in my heart for industrial equipment. Whether it’s forklifts, construction equipment or power systems, a lot of the same principles apply in relation to distribution of product. How you go to the marketplace is always front and center.

To stay on top of the industries I work in is one of the reasons I joined MHEDA. I attend meetings to learn and network. And I read a lot of magazines, like Newsweek, Time, Fortune and our own, The MHEDA Journal. I read a lot of economic forecasts, and I search the Internet to learn best practices and what other companies are doing.

“How am I going to position myself so that I can get a return on my investment, and how am I going to brand myself to our customers?” are two questions every company should be asking. MHEDA has a wide range of resources to help, like Convention, the affinity programs, our publications, the DiSC Survey, MHEDA University. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I just paid for my membership” by attending Convention or being a part of MHEDA-NET.

My goal as president is to make sure that MHEDA’s programs and resources continue to be relevant to what is happening in our businesses today, that we are a good resource for all stakeholders, and that they see value in being a member of the association.

The industry continues to evolve, and I think in three to five years, more dealers will be embracing technology to go to the marketplace, using things like Facebook and Twitter not only to promote and brand their companies, but to service their customers. The ones that are going to survive are the ones that are going to execute better than the next guy. I also think we’ll continue to see consolidations.

Linda and I have two sons. Ryan, 33, is in the insurance and financial services business, and Brad, 30, works in our Industrial Division. And I’m a grandfather, Asher is six months old.

My days are diverse. Some days when I come to work, I’m involved with our boat business; other days, it’s power generation or industrial trucks; or I might be out in the woods or down in a large mine. A wide range of activities brings a broad perspective.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association