Aristotle: The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its “Parts”
Aristotle must have been thinking of a well run forklift dealership when describing the idea of synergy; the interaction of 2 or more departments producing a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual efforts. There must be teamwork and cooperation for Aristotle’s theory to be true. At Sunbelt Material Handling, our award-winning Parts Department exemplifies the teamwork and cooperation necessary in every successful business. Their excellence, in partnership with other departments, has earned Sunbelt Material Handling the highly coveted Service Excellence Program (SEP) Award for 2013-2014 from Unicarriers American Corporation which is given to dealers that demonstrate excellent customer service and aftermarket support. Without the cooperation of all departments, Sunbelt also would not have accomplished receiving the Most Valuable Partner (MVP) award from MHEDA every year, 2012-2013-2014, since the award’s inception. The department’s success as a whole stems from the leadership of Parts Manager, Dennis Van Dusen.
Dennis Van Dusen was born in Dallas, Texas on April 2, 1954 as the youngest of 5 children. Dennis grew up in the forklift industry with his father, Charles, owning his own parts business. But, much of what Van Dusen learned stemmed from the sports he grew up playing. “The three things I took away from sports were discipline, organization and accountability,” he said. Van Dusen played many sports growing up but baseball and running were his two passions. From two state championship baseball rings in Louisiana to 8 marathons, his focus has always remained on his family. “I had great coaches growing up; the first being my father,” he elaborated. “The thing I learned from my dad is go to work every day and give the best you have for that day, because it makes a difference,” He has now moved from player to coach with his own children and two grandsons, instilling the same principles of attention to detail and working hard.
Dennis’ work ethic and perseverance are obvious everyday as he provides leadership by example in Sunbelt’s Parts Department. Van Dusen could best be described as a player-manager with his hands-on approach to management. “We don’t have a regular meeting, we just constantly communicate and have immediate discussions if a challenge arises,” he remarked. “I also let the other owners be just that; owners. They have the power to make decisions without coming to me.” Van Dusen began working at Sunbelt in October of 2000 as a Counter Parts Sales member. From following his father’s footsteps into the forklift industry, he had expert knowledge regarding aftermarket parts. This experience proved vital in developing the department our clients know today. Jordan Brooks, Customer Service and Support (CSS) Manager since late 2013, spoke about the impact Dennis has in his day to day activities: “His experience and frankly overall knowledge helps me communicate clearly and more effectively with my clients than I could do on my own.” Van Dusen has an unmatched dedication to serving Sunbelt Material Handling, and more importantly, our customers.
When put on the spot regarding the awards the Parts Department has earned, Van Dusen immediately responded, “First and foremost, they are company awards! It wouldn’t happen without a collective effort from territory managers, CSS managers, our service department and service technicians. We succeed by working and communicating as a team.” He also went on to add, “The guys on my team are fantastic to work with and alongside. It is not my success, it is our team’s because they are the best at what they do.” Sunbelt Material Handling has been honored by Komatsu, Big Joe and Unicarriers American Corporation as having exemplary customer service.
Teamwork is the Key
As Dennis Van Dusen mentioned, here at Sunbelt we pride ourselves in working together as a team to provide the best experience available for our clients. In an interview, both Bill Rowan, President of Sunbelt, and Warren Cornil, CEO, were candid about their decision to utilize an Employee Stock Ownership Plan and their plans for the future. “It’s a trite expression, but the ESOP is a win for all parties concerned, our co-workers, our customers, our suppliers, and for Warren and me personally,” said Rowan. “Our co-workers, who helped us reach this milestone, will ultimately own the majority shares of the company which will allow them to prosper as they continue to provide the best products, the best service, and strongest customer support available in the forklift industry.” Cornil added “During our research into ESOPs, we learned that employee-owned companies typically outperform their peers by 30% regardless of the industry involved, because each person has a personal stake in the business. From now on, anytime a customer or supplier speaks to any of our associates they will be dealing with an owner of the company.” Rowan and Cornil remain under employment contracts and expect to be actively involved in the businesses over the next 8 years as they transition to the new management team, and sell the remainder of their shares in two more stages. Both Rowan and Cornil were profuse in thanking their many customers. They issued a joint statement to close their comments. “Many of our customers, and some of our employees and vendors have been with us since the inception of our companies. We owe it to them, as well as to our newest customers and vendors, to ensure that both companies continue to grow and prosper in the future, so they can continue to count on us for support. The ESOP will do exactly that.” This culture comes from our executive leadership and managers, like Van Dusen, who have bought into what this company believed in from the beginning: we want to take our clients out of the forklift business, so they can focus on the productivity and profitability of their core business.