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Berry Companies Grooms Future Technicians: Help Always Wanted

Practically every company in the equipment industry faces the same dilemma:  finding qualified technicians.  Berry Companies, Inc. knows the struggle is all too real.

“Our industry has a severe shortage of technicians,” says Judy Worrell, Vice President Administration/Secretary/Treasurer for the Wichita-based company.

Berry Companies’ roots extend back to 1957 when brothers Fred Berry, Jr. and Paul Berry purchased the Sam H. Denney Road Machinery Company.  In the decades since, they’ve acquired and founded seven more companies, including the holding company, Berry Companies.  Today Berry employs nearly 700 individuals  at 31 locations in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Wyoming.  From its headquarters it provides administrative support – including Information Technology, accounting, payroll, benefits and financial resources – to its operating divisions, which are managed independently and distribute construction and material handling equipment.  They offer Bobcat and Komatsu lines, among others.

“Everything to do with the customer experience is run through our divisions,” Worrell explains, “and the General Manager runs their enterprise with autonomy.  It’s important to the company that every employee feels it’s their business, too.”

“Berry provides oversight and services that each company/division would need to purchase from someone – we feel Berry Companies is a more efficient structure for us.”

Berry Companies has been involved with AED and The AED Foundation for decades – supporting the annual AED Foundation Fundraising Gala, making use of educational offerings and accessing best practice resources AED provides.  “We’ve had a few branch managers go through the branch management certification program,” Worrell says.  Berry takes many of their managers to Summit to attend educational tracks, meet with manufacturers and network with other distributor members.

Today, Steve Meadows, Vice President of the company’s Bobcat operations, is an at-large director for the AED Board and Worrell herself serves on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

As for the shortage of service technicians, Worrell says, “Counselors have been encouraged to steer all students toward a four-year degree.  That’s been a big hurdle for AED and our industry.  Getting the students with technical skills and interest to a two-year accredited school or technical college is a win/win. Service technicians can earn a very good income.”  

Berry hired a recruiter a couple of years ago to fill the growing number of open service technician spots. “Our recruiter is responsible for finding technicians, and visiting technical schools, as well as high schools to get students interested in our company and field,” Worrell says.

Berry has also taken an active role in grooming future leaders for their company.  About ten years ago, a person working for Worrell was pursuing a master’s in training and development. The result evolved into Berry Companies’ Leadership Development Program (LDP).  “The underlying element of the six modules is all about our culture and getting our future leaders aligned with the culture,” Worrell explains.  To date, approximately 130 have graduated, including service technicians, salesmen, department and branch managers. “To be nominated for the program, a supervisor must see potential in the candidate,” Worrell says.

Even if a company is large enough to create its own education and leadership programs, as Berry does, Worrell states that there is tremendous value in supporting The AED Foundation.

“The AED Foundation has many resources for education to offer their members. The programs and resources that The AED Foundation provides can be utilized by your training department,” Worrell says.  “It is an excellent resource for members to use. We all need educated employees and few are working harder than The AED Foundation to provide well-qualified employees.”

Your donation fuels the work that allows The AED Foundation to develop a dealer model for success. The future of dealerships depend on how we come together to build our industry's workforce. Thank you, Berry Companies Inc., for investing in the future of our industry!

To contribute to The AED Foundation annual campaign, visit bit.ly/2018aedfcampaign.

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