Applying the Fundamentals
How FMH Material Handling Solutions has grown and evolved according to bedrock values and beliefs
By Steve Guglielmo
What is today FMH Material Handling Solutions (Denver, Colorado) was initially founded as Clarklift of El Paso, Inc. in January 1978. John Faulkner, president of FMH Material Handling Solutions, was working at a company called Powr-Lift Corp in North Texas, at the time, selling Clark Products.
“Clark came to me in November of 1977 with a dealership and investment opportunity in west Texas and southern New Mexico,” says Faulkner. “I was 26 years old at the time.” At the time, the company had just seven employees. The company started as a Clark Equipment dealer but continued to add products and manufacturers over the years. Today, FMH Material Handling Solutions represents MCFA, Clark, Crown, Doosan, EnerSys, HELI, Kalmar, and Donkey Forklifts. “Each vendor has allowed us to expand our territory and open business units outside of our original territory,” says Faulkner.
Values and Fundamentals
FMH Material Handling Solutions was founded on the tenets of the Golden Rule. The company’s mission statement says, “We treat our customers, employees and vendors the way we want to be treated in all circumstances.” “The FMH culture is hard work and honesty,” Faulkner says. “Treating people the way they want to be treated. That has always worked for FMH so we keep to it!” Not only has that allowed FMH to thrive with its vendor partners and customers, but it has allowed the company to amass an incredible team of loyal, hard-working employees who keep the company on its continuous growth path.
“I think that the values of the company keep the employees here,” Faulkner says. “I think, in a general sense, that our employees enjoy working in an environment where they know that honesty and integrity prevail. It’s a culture of hard work. We just don’t let politics enter the business. We keep our heads down and get the job done.”
Today, FMH has 171 employees, some of whom have been with the company from the very beginning. Current key executives at the company include: John Perkins (50 years representing the Clark line), Nadine Vera (40 years), Nikki Main (35 years), Gilbert Sanez (34 years) Peter Sahd (34 years), Susan Gates (28 years), and Maria Wagner (21 years).
One thing FMH has always done well is communicate with its vendors, employees and customers.
“Problems can arise in relationships when there is little or no communication,” says Faulkner. “If you can communicate, the relationship will grow. FMH represents a large number of manufacturers and we value all of those relationships. Communication is the key to growth and prosperity.”
Growth and Evolution
With a great culture, the right staff in place, and a great manufacturer partner, Clarklift of El Paso soon began to expand outside of west Texas and southern New Mexico. “We have grown the business through acquisitions,” Faulkner says. “The first was in Odessa, Texas, in 1984.” But that would be far from the last. Starting with that first acquisition in Odessa, the company went on to acquire companies in: Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1984; Chihuahua, Mexico in 1985; Denver, Colorado in 1987; Salt Lake City, Utah in 1991 and Boise, Idaho in 1994.
“In 1996, we opened an EnerSys dealership in Denver,” says Faulkner. “Then in 1998, we purchased a rack and shelving business in Denver called Alpine Equipment.”
These companies combined to form FMH Material Handling Solutions.
In 2001, FMH merged all of its assets with Darr Equipment and grew to represent 12 locations in three timezones with more than 500 employees. However, in 2007, FMH left that merger and returned to its original territory in west Texas, New Mexico and Colorado with its headquarters in Denver.
Since that time, FMH has become a master distributor for HELI, FMH Kubota was formed and is a Kubota dealer in southern New Mexico, and in January 2018 opened an internet store “Theforkliftstore.com” for online used equipment sales.
“The Forklift Store is designed for the Internet shopper,” says Faulkner. “That web presence is critical. It’s where people go. That’s what people do all day is sit behind a computer and I think that’s where they’re looking, especially in the used market. The first place they go is online.”
Today, FMH Material Handling Solutions comprises FMH Dock & Door, FMH Kubota, Industrial Forklifts, Alpine Equipment Company, Rocky Mountain Battery and The Forklift Store (theforkliftstore.com). It has branches in Albuquerque, El Paso and Denver.
One area where FMH has seen tremendous growth is in its rental business.
“We’re a full-line dealer,” Faulkner says. “We have a $8.1 million rental fleet. I think rental is, without a doubt, one of the biggest growth engines of our business. The indecisiveness with NAFTA and our position on the border increases our rental activity along the Texas border. It’s a very big piece of our overall business.” Fundamentals “I don’t think much has changed in the past 46 years,” Faulkner says. “The way we deliver quotes and the automation in service has reduced the number of people required to do many jobs. The speed in which we deliver information has also increased. But the distribution business remains the same. We are a service business that provides products to a customer base.”
While the business has changed, the general distributor-customer dynamic has remained unchanged for nearly half a century.
“Customer demands are just as great now as they were when I made my first customer call in 1974,” Faulkner says. “Not much has changed with the customer. Really the only thing that has changed is the speed and velocity with which we respond to a customer’s request for a quote. In years gone by that might have taken several days. Today our goal is to get back to a customer with a quote in hand as soon as that request comes in. It’s instantaneous.”
For Faulkner, the fundamentals that were put in place 46 years ago still apply today.
“They’re just applied a little bit differently,” he says. “The demand for turn key services has always been there.”
As with all MHEDA members, the greatest challenge facing FMH as it marches forward toward the next 50 years is finding qualified sales employees and technicians.
“Here in Colorado, it’s a major task,” Faulkner says. “The availability of talent in this market just doesn’t exist.”
However, the company’s culture is a major selling point for potential employees. FMH has also increased its online presence to find and recruit potential employees.
“We are always looking for good people,” Faulkner says. “I have two daughters in the business. I hope they keep the business going for another 50 years!”
Faulkner sees great things ahead for the industry, and for FMH.
“There is a bright future in the material handling industry,” he says. “If you’re in business already and have access to capital and employees, the opportunities are endless.”
With the principles and tenets that have helped FMH become a market leader in the industry for 46 years in place and a continued commitment to providing the most honest customer service possible, all signs point to an auspicious future for FMH Material Handling Solutions.