Leading By ExampleWRITTEN BY MARY SEDOR
Article Date: 02-01-2007
Copyright (C) 2007 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
"I'm an example that anyone, from any walk of distributor life can be involved and can make a difference." - AED Chairman Les Bebchick
Whether you were born into the industry or started your own business, there is one trait that all equipment dealers share – resilience.
For 2007 AED Chairman, Les Bebchick, the road to becoming a successful equipment dealer was winding, and after 25 years in the industry, he says he’s still not sure how he got here, but he’s sure glad he did.
“I’m a highly unlikely candidate for this position because I didn’t come from a family business,” he says. “I didn’t grow up in or train for this business, and comparatively I’m a small company among the large
companies I compete with and associate with at AED. But I’ve found that despite the differences in size, number of employees, years of being in business, and types of products we distribute, we all have the same issues.”
Born and raised in Lowell, Mass., Bebchick learned the importance of hard work at an early age working in his father’s upholstery business. He graduated from Lowell Tech, a state engineering school and began work for a manufacturing and engineering company in product development. Uncle Sam, however, had other plans for him. After his military service, he pursued his business career in environmental equipment and process engineering.
From Engineering To Equipment
Bebchick began Equipment & Systems for Industry (ESI) in 1982 as an environmental consulting firm in a spare bedroom of his home. A year later his friend and Lowell Tech classmate Denis Roy joined him in the business.
“We got a call from an asphalt plant owner who’d had a fire in his air pollution equipment,” says Bebchick. “He needed help solving both the equipment problem and regulatory issues, and he’d gotten our name from environmental authorities.”
ESI worked quickly to solve the customer’s problems and got an opportunity to work on a project to build a new asphalt plant in a nearby city as a result. Bebchick and Denis researched the project, completed the permitting, purchased the necessary equipment, and got the plant up and running.
“While we were purchasing the equipment, it became obvious the dealers knew little or nothing about the equipment they were selling,” says Bebchick. “We decided we should sell the equipment even if we had to give away the engineering.”
This approach catapulted the young business and ESI became a leading supplier of asphalt plants in New England. Soon the company took on the Cedarapids line, including a full line of crushing equipment.
“A district representative told us Cedarapids dealers were established companies with facilities, service trucks and the like, and were well entrenched in the industry,” says Bebchick. “Not only did we not have a presence, we had no facility or service department. In fact, we weren’t even in the Yellow Pages.”
When the company grew to five employees, ESI moved to an office in Southboro, Mass. Then about 12 years ago, moved to its current Hopkinton, Mass., location.
According to Bebchick, what sets ESI apart is that the company not only provides sales, parts and service on new and used equipment, it also provides engineering assistance and permitting services.
“This makes us a one-stop shop for this segment of the construction industry,” he says. “We’re not just selling equipment; we provide engineering solutions and support services for everything we sell, from parts and components to complete turnkey systems.”
Today, ESI employs 24 and is a full service supplier to the aggregate processing, asphalt, concrete, recycling and earth moving industries. They represents Cedarapids, Eagle Iron Works, Pegson, Powerscreen, Breaker Technology Inc., Terex Construction, Esco, Doosan Infracore America, Major Wire and Rexcon.
ESI now works closely with its sister company, Engineering Technologies Group (ETG), headed by Denis Roy. ETG is a multi-disciplined full-service engineering company that supports the technical needs of ESI.
As a startup company working out of a home office, Bebchick didn’t think AED had anything to offer him. His first taste of what AED is about came through Cedarapids. Each year, Cedar-apids held a dealer awards breakfast during AED’s Annual Meeting and their dealers were expected to attend. At the time Bebchick wasn’t an AED member, so he would fly in for the breakfast and then fly back home.
“I used to say these were the most expensive breakfasts on earth, but I didn’t want my absence to be obvious,” he says. “I’d look around at the tables during the breakfast and think AED was no organization for a small company like mine.”
After five years of attending these dealer breakfasts, AED’s Dave Gordon, began calling Bebchick about joining the association.
“I kept telling Dave my company had nothing in common with the typical AED member,” he says. Eventually, Bebchick joined AED on a “try and buy” basis and quickly saw the value of membership.
“I found that AED is not only for the big boys,” he says. “For example, at the first AED meeting I went to as
a member, I met with representatives from John Deere insurance (now Sentry) and within three months they had saved me $60,000 in insurance fees.”
Bebchick quickly became involved in the organization.
“I was still quite intimidated by the second and third generations of management, but I learned this industry from the best,” he says.
For more than 12 years, Bebchick has been a member of AED’s governance. He served two three-year terms on the AED Board of Directors, three years as vice president of finance and three years working his way up to Chairman.
“AED is as much for a small distributor as it is for a large one,” he says. “We can all make an impact through our involvement in AED for our own professional development, to improve our businesses and to understand the issues that exist outside of the four walls of our offices.”
Bebchick says his business, his way of entering the industry and learning from other more-experienced dealers is what is really at AED’s core. During his term as vice president of finance, when the industry saw a sharp economic downturn in 2002, he truly understood AED’s mission and vowed to become more deeply involved.
“I saw the commitment, the strength, the will, the wisdom of new and old members, and the sincerity in every board member and AED staff member,” he says. “I saw the commitment from everyone that this is our industry and our association, and the only way we could survive was to remain strong.”
A Legacy Of Membership
Bebchick says he’s not trying to “preach to the choir” about everything AED has to offer, but instead wants to lead by example for non-AED members and those AED members who don’t fully take advantage of their memberships. He hopes as AED Chairman to be able to influence membership in AED.
“I’m an example that anyone, from any walk of distributor life can be involved and can make a difference,” says Bebchick. “Participating in AED is fulfilling – it will not only help you personally in your career, it will help your business and your industry.”
More than four years ago, Bebchick led the effort to form the AED Membership Task Force, a group that was given the commission of increasing membership strength. He headed up the effort to hire AED’s first membership recruitment staff member, then subsequently pushed for an executive level membership director.
Together AED’s Manager of Member Services Ben Yates and Director of Membership Mike Fotty will promote AED’s value to non-members who are traditional single and multi-line dealers, as well as expand efforts to recruit members in other segments of the industry, including aggregate processing, concrete and asphalt, lifting and mining.
Looking at the year ahead, Bebchick says the relationship between manufacturers and dealers will continue to be one of the largest issues dealers face.
“As the economy turns, manufacturers are going to attempt to put more stress on the dealers,” says Bebchick. “Dealers must maintain financial stability and be disciplined.”
Another issue dealers will face is loyalty. Dealers who have remained loyal to manufacturers and brands will have to decide whether to remain loyal or take on newer, more market-focused lines.
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