A History Of Serving Its Customers - Best Practices
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A History Of Serving Its Customers

Written By: Mary Sedor

Article Date: 03-01-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Cummings, McGowan & West reaches a 50-year milestone.

From its humble beginnings as a small general-line dealership, to the multi-million dollar asphalt, concrete and aggregates distributorship it is today, Cummings, McGowan & West has been celebrated for its expertise and customer service.
Through the company's 50-year history, CMW has continually kept the customer at the forefront.
"If you take care of the customer, the customer will take care of you," says Larry Glynn, CMW president.
Finding Their Niche

In 1956, J.L. Cummings, Thomas F. McGowan Jr., Victor W. West and Ethel A. Klein started Cummings, McGowan & West (CMW), a small general-line distributor, on I-179 and Olive Boulevard in St. Louis, just down the street from the company's current location.
When the company first began, many believed the small company wouldn't make it. The company's
success depended on the persistence of salesmen Lack Cummings, Tom McGowan and Vic West, along with office coordinator Ethel Klein. The four founders were determined to succeed, and with the help of other equipment dealers in the area and the reputation of the company's employees, it wasn't long until the small business was thriving.
CMW soon took on Northwest Engineering, Gardner-Denver, J I Case, T.L. Smith, H&B, Chicago Pneumatic, Thurman Scale, among others. And the distributor steadily built its reputation for expertise and customer service through the years.
In 1961, CMW moved into its new offices at 8668 Olive Street, where it's been ever since. That same year, CMW became a Blaw-Knox dealer. The company's success with road-building equipment grew in 1970 when the company began selling slipform paving equipment.
CMW became a well-recognized name in asphalt and concrete paving equipment. But, in the early 1980s, the construction industry was changing. It was becoming more competitive and diverse. And, the company's management, which at the time included Bill Humphrey, Larry Glynn and Bob McGowan, decided to expand on the company's success. Instead of remaining a general line-distributor, in 1981, CMW became dedicated to what they did best - asphalt and concrete equipment.
"We didn't have the capital necessary to compete with the larger dealerships, so we decided to continue our success with asphalt and concrete, while expanding our reach," says Glynn.
During the years after the company refocused its strategy, CMW continued to add products and equipment that enhanced its ability to serve its customers in asphalt and concrete. Then in 1991, as a result of customer suggestions, the dealership added aggregates. Today CMW represents an array of concrete, asphalt and aggregate equipment lines and covers Missouri, Kansas, and Central and Southern Illinois.
"The object is not to be everything to everyone, but to be good at what we do," says Glynn.

Customer Service First

The company's commitment to excellence begins with its employees. Through careful consideration, CMW is able to determine the employees that best fit the company's culture and ultimately will best serve the customer. Potential CMW employees undergo a telephone interview, two personal interviews and personality testing before they are selected.
One aspect of the company that attracts employees is the work environment. Each of CMW's 23 employees has a stake in the company's success. CMW operates with an "open door" policy which makes for a comfortable work environment. In addition, CMW employees work together as a team. They all work hard and are able to back each other to serve the customer to the best of their abilities.
"We expect a lot out of our people," says Glynn. "We work hard, but we take care of our employees and ultimately the customer."
Many of CMW's customers have been loyal customers since the company's start 50 years ago. New customers are greeted with a contact sheet of the names and phone numbers of the managers. Further, the after-hours message provides them with the home telephone numbers of the management team.
"We have a very personal relationship with our customers," says Glynn. "If they need anything we take it very seriously. Our customers pave at night, and if it's midnight and they need a part, we'll open the shop and get them the part they need. We're there for them 24-7."
Glynn says, customers are allowed to interact with anyone at the dealership, including the mechanics.
"Our customers can go back and talk to the mechanics," he says. "If they have questions about the way their machine was fixed, they can go and ask the guy who fixed it. Our customers appreciate the fact that they can come and get the answers to their questions without having to go through a bureaucracy."
What keeps CMW at the top of its game? A commitment to its customers and its employees.
"We're constantly evolving and trying to find better ways to serve our customers and our employees," says Glynn.

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