A culture more than 90 years in the making.
By Steve Guglielmo
Steve Raymond knows a thing or two about great customer service and forging life-long relationships. In fact, you might even say that it’s in his blood. After all, his grandfather, George G. Raymond, Sr., was the founder of The Raymond Corporation (Greene, NY) in 1922. More than 90 years later, The Raymond Corporation is one of the most recognized brands not only in the material handling industry, but in the world. And Steve is applying those same principles of customer service and culture, passed down through generations, at Raymond Handling Concepts Corporation in Fremont, California.
Steve Raymond began his career in material handling working for The Raymond Corporation in 1976, after having served in the Air Force.
“I had seven jobs in four locations in my first 11 years,” says Raymond, president of Raymond Handling Concepts Corporation.
He started as a junior engineer in Greene, NY, at Mobility Systems, a subsidiary of The Raymond Corporation that focused on Engineered Systems. From there, he moved to Syracuse, NY, to start The Raymond Corporation’s parts division. He then moved to Atlanta to work as part of the company’s systems operation, working specifically with horizontal carousels. Finally, he moved to Hollister, CA, to work with Raymond’s newly acquired conveyor division.
While Steve was moving across the country and throughout different segments of the industry, the owner of Integrated Handling Systems, an independent dealership that represented Raymond Forklifts in Northern California and Nevada, was considering retirement.
Ultimately, The Raymond Corporation acquired most of the assets of Integrated Handling Systems and began looking for somebody to run the dealership.
Steve, used to changing roles and already on the West Coast, saw this as an opportunity to settle down.
“Prior to starting Raymond Handling Concepts, somebody would come up to me and say, ‘Here is what we need you to do now.’ That’s how I ended up with so many jobs in such a short period of time,” Raymond recalls. “When this opportunity came up, I saw it as a chance to gain experience in a different area, so I applied for and ultimately got the job.”
In 1987, Raymond Handling Concepts Corporation was born.
As with many of its dealerships, The Raymond Corporation serves as a minority owner of Raymond Handling Concepts. The Raymond Corp. owns 49-percent of the dealership while Steve owns the other 51-percent.
“We were offered the opportunity to expand into the Northwest,” says Raymond.
It was a similar situation to the company’s founding, as The Raymond Corp. acquired the assets of an independent dealer and moved them under the Raymond Handling Concepts umbrella.
“We hired most of the employees of that company and increased our geographic territory and our market. We more than doubled our opportunities and increased sales by about 35-percent in 1997.”
That acquisition expanded Raymond Handling’s coverage into Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Western Montana. It also grew the company to its current size of 10 branches in seven states.
“At Raymond Handling Concepts, our purpose is to establish and maintain lifetime relationships by listening to our material handling customers and satisfying their material handling needs better than any alternative. We work closely with our customers to help them analyze their needs and propose innovative, productive, and reliable material handling solutions. To us, achieving customer satisfaction is not an event. It is an ongoing process that is constantly reevaluated and improved upon.”
Those words, from the President’s Note on www.raymondhandling.com, signify a promise to Raymond Handling’s customers. They are the pillars that The Raymond Corporation was built on and they represent the culture of excellence that Raymond Handling Concepts strives to achieve every day.
And while Raymond lift trucks are the centerpiece of Raymond Handling’s offering, do not mistake them as solely a forklift dealer.
“We have, over the last couple of years, expanded our role in automated systems and warehouse design,” Raymond says. “It’s not just a forklift solution or even a forklift and rack system solution. We offer an expertise on layout and design of warehouses that optimize operations and reduce costs in ways that don’t relate just to the sticker price of a forklift. We want to be looked at as more than a forklift supplier. We want to be a partner for customers that are trying to optimize their entire warehouse operation.”
Traditionally, Raymond Handling Concepts’ sales fluctuate between 2/3 Raymond products, including batteries and chargers, to a 50/50 split of Raymond products and system projects, depending on the market.
Having a breadth of products from top-of-the-line manufacturers is certainly an advantage, but what sets Raymond Handling Concepts apart from the competition is its slavish devotion to personal service.
“There’s nobody in the industry that hasn’t heard of Raymond (Corp.),” Raymond says. “People have respect for the brand. But it doesn’t sell itself. What makes us successful is what we do locally that’s different from our competition. I think our approach in all of our locations to custom care is a very intimate relationship with our customers’ needs. We customize our service based on our customer’s needs, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer service.”
One of the programs that embodies this philosophy is Raymond’s CustomCare program. CustomCare, which is a philosophy passed down from The Raymond Corporation and embraced by its Sales and Service Centers, is a total commitment to understanding the customer’s business. And for Steve Raymond, and his team at Raymond Handling Concepts, it is an obsession.
“A lot of people get upset when they lose orders, and obviously we do too,” says Raymond. “But that doesn’t upset me nearly as much as a customer who calls because they didn’t get the service that we represent and that we should have provided. I literally lose sleep over that.”
“By listening and working closely with our material handling customers from the very first meeting, we learn as much as possible about their business, goals and challenges. Then, we utilize the expertise gained from hundreds of successful deployments to develop the custom solutions that best suit their specific needs,” Raymond adds.
Attitude and Aptitude
But those tenets of customer service are meaningless without the proper personnel to carry them out.
“The primary factors that set Raymond Handling Concepts apart from our competition are our people and their unequalled dedication to Raymond forklifts, to the Company, and, in particular, to exceptional service for our customers,” Raymond says.
The company recruits through Career Builder and has an extensive relationship with the Universal Technical Institute. Each applicant goes through a rigorous interview process, often involving multiple interviews with multiple managers.
“We’re looking for people that have the right stuff,” Raymond says. “We are looking for the attitude and the aptitude. They have to be able to do the work and enjoy it, but they also have to fit our culture. We have excellent training programs to teach them how to work on Raymond equipment, but you can’t teach attitude.”
The company has taken the characteristics of its most successful service technicians and service managers and applied them to a program that evaluates applicants based on their decision-making, complex reasoning, independence and behavior.
“The interview process is not just asking questions and listening to the answers,” Raymond stresses. “It’s also about telling them how we work. We have to make sure there is a good fit. That’s why we have multiple interviews with multiple personalities. Both sides have to be comfortable.”
Raymond, who didn’t have any layoffs during the recession, has 207 employees in 10 locations.
More than eight years ago, Raymond Handling Concepts developed and implemented a wireless, paperless repair order system that replaced the multipart paper repair order forms that the company’s service techs had been using to record activities when servicing equipment.
“We anticipated several advantages in technician efficiency, data accuracy and processing time savings,” Raymond says. “As far as I know, we were the first in our industry to adopt this technology, a distinction to which I have never aspired.”
The company, reading the tea leaves of the market, anticipated an 18- to 24-month head start before all of its competitors adopted similar technology.
“We have realized a distinct competitive advantage with customers who are trying to better understand their fleet maintenance costs, especially with customers who have multiple locations across the seven-state territory that we cover,” Raymond adds. “We have also begun to realize additional benefits beyond what we initially anticipated. Our original wireless, paperless repair order system, along with other remote apps that have been designed specifically for Raymond service technicians now carries the name iTech.”
Raymond is on the brink of launching the fourth generation of iTech, and is deploying new tablets to service technicians for use.
“A few others in the industry are launching their first generation of electronic work order systems, and some are still waiting from the sidelines,” Raymond says. “And we’re currently in our 100th month of an 18- to 24-month head start.”
The Company You Can Trust
With its top-of-the-line product offering, a seasoned and knowledgeable staff, and the backing of The Raymond Material Handling Network, Raymond Handling Solutions is ready for anything.
And after changing jobs seven times and moving to four locations to begin his career, Steve Raymond has finally found his home.
“I guess it has worked out,” he says, 26 years after taking the helm. “It’s the last job I have had and it will be the last job I’ll ever have.”