To Russia with - EquipmentBy Mary Sedor
Article Date: 04-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
This isn't your father's kind of dealership - unless you're Andy Rocklin. Being the exclusive Ditch Witch dealer for a distant country - from the home base of California - poses a unique set of challenges.
Imagine running a company with no rental equipment, little used equipment sales and a huge-beyond-huge territory. While it may sound far-fetched, such a dealership actually exists. But there's a catch - it's in Russia. That dealership is Ditch Witch Service, as it's known in Russia. Intertorg Inc., as it's formally known, is owned by Andy Rocklin and his father Yuri Rocklin, and they sell 99 percent of their equipment in Russia - but Intertorg is headquartered in Orangevale, Calif., and the Ditch Witch Service company to which they supply is headquartered in Moscow.Intertorg was founded in 1972 by Tamara Kerim, a Russian-born immigrant. She started the company in an effort to build a bridge between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union for trade, explains Rocklin. She later sold the company to Yuri Rocklin; today Andy is part owner and vice president of the company. In the '80s, Intertorg sold concrete plants, equipment for pipe laying and they represented Lovat, a tunnel-building equipment manufacturer. In the late 1990s, the company started getting requests for small directional drills from their customers. "Before the Ditch Witch era, we represented Lovat successfully for a decade," said Rocklin. "We started getting requests for these small directional drills and we started looking around to see who was available in the market. That's how we got together with Ditch Witch." Intertorg became the official dealer for Russia and a portion of the former CIS Republics in 1997. Today, Intertorg represents Lovat as well as Ditch Witch. The company became an AED member in December of '07. The Charles Machine Works, manufacturer of Ditch Witch products, started a program for younger management in Ditch Witch dealerships and encouraged them to become AED members as well as to participate in the association's management training programs. Road to StardomLast year, Intertorg was named Ditch Witch's No. 1 International Dealer. But the road to the top hasn't always been easy.About 10 years ago, as a new Ditch Witch dealer, Rocklin says he and his father were able to start growing the business with the help of Dimitriy Soldatskiy, general manager for Ditch Witch Service. "He's a very talented salesman and overall just a very talented guy," said Rocklin. Together, Rocklin and Soldatskiy - along with some strategic help from Yuri Rocklin - began to promote Ditch Witch, get the name out and they started selling equipment. But a year later, in 1998 there was a total economic collapse in Russia. "The banking system across the whole country of Russia collapsed," Rocklin said. "There were absolutely no sales. The economy was at a standstill for a year."While this was a difficult time for a new dealer, he says that surprisingly it was worth it. "It was rough, but it gave us a good opportunity to do the legwork and talk about Ditch Witch in Russia," he said. "There were a few machines that somehow got in." And so slowly the team began getting the name out, selling machines and growing - and eventually needed to hire more sales reps. While establishing their company's presence in the territory, Rocklin frequently traveled to Russia and spent several weeks there at a time. In fact, Rocklin was born in Russia and emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager with his family. He's a native Russian speaker, so he's able to converse easily with clients and employees. After spending 10 years in the Russian market, Intertorg and its Ditch Witch Service organization operated with a strong and well established staff, and Rocklin is no longer required to travel as frequently to Russia. At last, Intertorg is enjoying widespread name recognition. "They know us and the Ditch Witch name," he said. "Our high quality equipment sells itself. Our job is just to get the name out there." Today the company has 30 employees, 20 of whom work on the Ditch Witch side. Rocklin expects the company to continue to grow this year. Unique Challenges Being the exclusive Ditch Witch dealer for Russia presents its own unique set of challenges. While the equipment is sold for the same kind of uses, the dealership is not exactly like those in the U.S."We don't have shiny windows and equipment on the floor where someone can walk in from the street," he said. "Our facility is behind a gate and customers can enter by appointment only." The territory itself is very large and has nine different time zones. "When the people here in the East are finishing their days, the Moscow guys are just getting into the office," he said. "It's a challenge." The inventory, parts, warehouse and repair facility are all the same as in the U.S., but due to the geographic size of the territory, customers are unable to bring their equipment in for service. "It's extremely expensive to truck it," he said. "If someone is by the mountains it's a very long way to get to Moscow, so our techs go out to the customer." In addition, unlike most of its U.S. counterparts, Intertorg is unable to provide any rental equipment. "There are no collections procedures," he said. "If the equipment goes out of your hands you can't repossess it or collect money for it. We just recently developed some leasing, but before that there was no financing available for [equipment]. We either did our own in-house financing or asked for 100 percent of it up front, which are good terms but not everyone can do that." The introduction of leasing is what helped Intertorg have its record year in 2007 and receive the recognition as top international dealer for Ditch Witch. Another contrast to U.S. dealers is that while the majority of the market is used equipment, Intertorg sells little used equipment. "For being a young market, there is still a lot of room for new machines," he said. "Just now, after 10 years, we're starting to see the need for used equipment." As for their customer service philosophy, it's a little different in Russia. The customer isn't always right. "That philosophy is taken too far in Russia," he said. "We try to provide the best customer service within reason."
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