Becoming a part of something bigger, at Big Joe

Becoming a part of something bigger, at Big Joe

By Jay McNichols

Director, Dealer Sales

Sometimes the career finds you.  My official title is Director, Dealer Sales at Big Joe and I’ll admit it, I geek out on forklifts!  I’ve been in the industry for most of my adult life.  From OEMs to dealerships and batteries to lenders, I’ve experienced almost every aspect of the industry and I’ve just about seen it all.  Booms and busts, mergers and acquisitions, product launches and OSHA regulations have been a part of my career since day one and that constant evolution is what keeps me energized.  Our industry is all about moving forward, stagnation would be counterintuitive to the entire process!

Can it be a grind?  Of course.  To sell a forklift a hundred things have to go right, but 1,000 things can go wrong.  Sometimes the application isn’t right, sometimes the you’re two inches short on the lift height, or the customer’s credit bounces, sometimes the internet screws up the whole deal.  This is a job where you’re creating a system to move an object from point A to point B and sometimes you just can’t beat the point spread.

I hear a lot of guys in the industry complain that it’s not like it used to be and that’s true. 

There has been consolidation between OEMs. Small family owned dealerships were pushed out by larger regional operations who, in turn, are being gobbled up by the OEMS.  These “factory stores” are often forced to push the “Brand” before the solution.  The factories have to make forklifts and the dealers have to make money. Unfortunately, there is often an imbalance in that relationship.  Even the independents who remain face incredible pressure from the OEMs to book orders.  It’s there at the end of every month, builds at the end of the quarter and peaks at the end of the year. 

So, you may ask, “How can I be excited about working in this industry?” My answer is, “Because I made the switch to Big Joe.”

In many ways, Big Joe is the anti-OEM.  We strive to find a balance between forklift sales and dealership relationships.  We don’t demand that our dealers stock part minimums, maintain certain truck inventories or even that they hit specific sales numbers.  Right off the bat, we’ve taken the pressure out of the equation which puts us in the unique position of helping our dealers succeed versus making them comply. 

As a supplemental brand or “allied line” for many of our dealer partners, we have to be innovative in our product offerings to fill gaps in their flagship OEM lines. 

Where our competitors are all about the all-powerful bottom line, Big Joe really is different.  We’re the guys who will take on a custom build to meet a one-off spec.  A classic example is the IBH or “In Between Handling” walkie stacker series, a platform that we’ve been building to order for over 60 years in our Wisconsin Dells, WI factory.  With over 50 base configurations with thousands of possible custom permutations, the IBH fills an important niche that is neglected by the Major brands.  It also makes it fun to work on!

You get to use your brain to problem solve, conferencing with the customer, the sales rep, and our engineering team to create a solution to a real-world challenge.  You get to build a relationship that a commodity product sale lacks in this day and age.  You get to be a part of something bigger than yourself, not just a step in the process! 

Even in our mass-produced product lines, we offer more options than just about any other OEM.  Take powered pallet trucks, Big Joe has six models with capacities ranging from 2,500lbs to 6,000lbs and two completely new models on the way.  Most OEMs only offer two or three choices.  We also build more styles of standard straddle and counterbalanced walkie stackers, with a wider range of capacities, lift heights and configurations than just about anybody.  You have an opportunity to engage the customer and work together to find the right truck for their application, which is way more satisfying than forcing a square peg into round hole. 

When you consider the fully customizable IBH, PDC and PDX lines and all the different specifications they can be built to, you really have the opportunity to be a problem solver for the customer.  As a Big Joe team member, I feel empowered to contribute in building partnerships between our dealerships and end users.  The culture here is unlike any other organization I’ve been with, and its not merely my opinion.  From sales to service to support, the Big Joe team really is a team.

Our support site has complete parts listings, service bulletins, and manuals for practically every truck Big Joe has ever made.  Can you think of another manufacturer who stocks parts for trucks dating back to 1955?  More importantly, we have a group of knowledgeable and experienced product support specialists to assist you in our Lombard, IL main office.  To serve our customers better, we literally update our on-line aftermarket parts inventory at the end of each business day to maintain our same-day shipping capabilities.

Did I plan to spend my life in material handling? No.

Were there times I wanted out of this crazy business?  Many. 

Am I glad I joined the Big Joe team? Definitely! 

My grandfather once told me, “People buy drills when what they really want are holes.”  If I were to apply his logic to material handling, I’d say “People buy forklifts when what they need is movement.  People buy Big Joe when what they need are solutions.”