COMPANY: Carolina Industrial Trucks
TITLE: Vice President of Sales and Operations
YEARS ON JOB: 4.5 Years
I started at Carolina Industrial Trucks about 4.5 years ago as a Sales Manager. But I have been working in the industry since I was old enough to walk. My parents started a forklift dealership called Aurora Lift Truck in 1972, so I was essentially born into the industry. My mom and dad were both of the philosophy that there is no silver spoon. I had to cut my teeth like every other employee. When I got out of the military, I worked in the parts department. I’ve worked in every facet of the industry, which I think really helps me in my position. Working in both the sales and operations department, every day is full of new and unique challenges and I’ve found that you’re able to have more empathy to people if you’ve walked in their shoes and done the work that they’re doing.
Leading by Example
Besides having experience in all facets of the dealership, the skill that I rely on most to be successful is just a willingness to lead by example. You have to get out from behind the desk and get your hands dirty. If you haven’t walked a day in your people’s shoes, how can you relate to their daily challenges and offer decisive solutions? In many companies, people are so broken up into their individual departments. Where we’ve had the most success is when somebody has an interest in both sides. You’ve got the sales department fighting for service to give everything away. And the service department trying to clamp their hammer down. You have to have somebody who has a vested interest in both sides so that you can make rational and fair decisions.
We have put an emphasis in the last couple of years to bring in a lot of ex-military mechanics. The military instills in your mind a work ethic that makes you really take pride in what you do. You develop that adapt and overcome mentality. That is something that has really benefited me. The military was one of the biggest teachers in my life. You learn very quickly that it’s their way right away. You must work with a sense of urgency because time kills all deals.
As most MHEDA members can relate to, recruiting talent, especially service technicians, is a constant challenge. We are so excited about the Certified Forklift Technician program that MHEDA is driving. We have had good success working with UTI but other resources are certainly needed within our industry. We’ve found that recruiting technicians out of college is a more successful route than trying to find a seasoned technician from a competing dealership. We’ve found that when you truly invest in them at an early age and promote them and show them the way to do it, they’ve been a lot more loyal and loyalty is key. Plus you can immerse them in your culture from day 1. It’s a process, obviously. You’re going to take a financial hit because you can’t just take a kid out of UTI and throw them in a van. We don’t believe in mobile oil changers. It takes us a good 6 to 9 months before we feel comfortable with them even thinking about going out on the road. But in the long-run it’s an approach we believe will lead to more success.