The Yale-gold lift track is ubiquitous in the material handling industry. Even people outside of the industry are familiar with Yale forklifts. It is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The company, founded in 1844 and now part of NACCO Material Handling Group, is known for its outstanding product and superior service. To achieve such a level of excellence, Yale has cultivated an outstanding dealer base. Much of that success can be attributed to Don Chance, who will be retiring from NMHG at the end of 2013.
Don began his career on June 28, 1971, with the Eaton Corporation. Unlike some who graduate from college and walk right into the C-level, Don worked his way up through the company rung-by-rung. A lifelong football fan and player (having beaten out future-NFL Hall-of-Famer Franco Harris as New Jersey’s First-Team All-State Fullback), Don applied many of the lessons he learned from football to business.
“Don has kind of modeled his style after Vince Lombardi,” says Jay Costello, NMHG’s Director of Training. “When he is in a room or a meeting there is a certain presence that he brings. His messaging is very clear and very forceful and he just inspires people to work really hard and inspires success in others.”
Throughout his 42 years with the company, Don has worn a variety of hats. He has been Director of Dealer Development, Manager of Dealer Operations, General Sales Manager, Area Manager, Regional Retail Manager and now President of NMHG Sales for the Americas and Vice President of NMHG.
“Don worked his way up from a cubicle, to a small office, to a large office, to the corner office,” Costello says. “He has a great perspective on what it takes to get things done and that comes across in his leadership. He doesn’t ask people to do things that he hasn’t done before. People respect that and appreciate it.”
Colin Wilson, President and Chief Operating Officer, NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc., said, “When I was given responsibility for both Hyster and Yale in 1998 I had to nominate my successor as President of Yale. Although not the obvious choice to many, Don was my first choice. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Don was also my first choice to lead the NMHG sales organizations in 2009 when we reorganized. We have developed a special relationship over the nearly 20 years of working together and throughout that time I have witnessed his limitless passion for the company and his family, and his unmatched drive to win. He will be missed, but never forgotten.”
Cultivating Success at the Dealer Level
One of Don’s signature achievements has been in cultivating Yale and then Hyster’s vast dealer networks. As the Manager of Dealer Operations and Director of Dealer Development, Don had the opportunity to actually run several branches. He brings a unique perspective on what it takes to run a dealership to his executive role, because he has spent years doing it himself.
“I think Don’s guidance early on in the development of those companies made significant contributions to the way some of these dealers have grown and become some of the most successful dealers in the material handling industry,” Costello notes. “His influence is still felt today in many of our Yale and Hyster North America dealers.”
His presence is still felt in that dealer network today.
“Don is a leader of men and women,” says Duncan Murphy, president of Riekes Equipment Company. “He has done so by rolling up his sleeves and working with everyone and generating a loyalty that pulled his distributors to follow. His competitive fire, rooted in athletics, made him formidable on a single transaction. He set an example for everyone in sales.”
Ken MacDonald, president of M & G Materials Handling Company, echoes those sentiments. “What will be missed the most about Don is the gentleman that he is. Too often in our challenging world, the ability to laugh and love is lost to the race. Don could do it all. He could be stern and still laugh with the best of them,” he says. “I will always have the deepest respect and affection for Don. He is a man whom I admire and hope to emulate in a small way.”
Standing Out from the Pack
As Don continued to move up within NMHG, he was never content. His intense work ethic and competitive spirit drove him to find a way to set Yale apart from its competitors.
“When Don was president of Yale, he was looking for something that Yale could be known for that would be relatively exclusive,” Costello says. “Don took the concept of a fleet management program and really expanded and developed it. Yale still has the most trucks in its fleet management program.”
This idea continued when Don took over as President of Sales for NMHG, as he applied this fleet management concept to the Hyster side of the business. Even the dealers began to institute their own fleet management programs, following Don’s model and heeding his advice and assistance.
Through all of the hard work and all of the success, Don remains ever the football coach — always striving to be better and achieve more.
“He is the kind of boss that always puts his staff, his crew, his team out in front,” Costello says. “He likes to manage quietly and let his staff be in the spotlight.”
As his 42-year career comes to a close this year, it’s time to shine some of that spotlight on Don. His presence in the company, in MHEDA and in the industry as a whole will be missed.
“We have had the privilege of working with Don for many years here at MHEDA,” says Liz Richards, MHEDA’s Executive Vice President. “Don started early on taking full advantage of his membership in MHEDA first as a member of the Young Executives Forum, then as a strong advocate of MHEDA when he worked in Dealer Development and eventually, as President of Yale, Don was one of the first Lift Truck Manufacturers to serve on MHEDA’s Manufacturers Board of Advisors. We will always be grateful to Don for his unwavering support, strong leadership, trusted advice and warm friendship. On behalf of the MHEDA Board of Directors and staff, we send our very best wishes to Don and Susan for many years of happiness during their retirement.”