The Victor L. Phillips Co. (VLP), founded by Victor L. Phillips and W.C. Jones, opened its doors in 1911, selling used construction equipment, including used concrete mixers and horse-drawn concrete carts.
Not long after that, the duo saw there was a demand for more cutting edge equipment, and Phillips designed and built new offerings, including an asphalt kettle, just one of many patented items he produced.
President Bill Schoenfelder recalls looking through some catalogs from the early days of VLP. “We sold everything but the horse,” he says.
He’s joking a little bit, but not really.
In more than a century, the Kansas City, Missouri-based company has grown with the times, understanding the value of innovation, education and customer service. Today it remains independently owned and employs more than 100 at its six locations serving markets in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma and selling, renting and servicing used and new construction equipment for a number of lines, many of which they’ve been dealers of for decades, including Atlas Copco (which they’ve sold for 100 years), Case (for more than 40 years), Dynapac, Epiroc Hyundai, Takeuchi, and more. They also have a sister company, Rex Spencer Equipment, which sells mostly compact equipment.
Besides understanding that the construction equipment industry continues to shift in a more technical direction, they’re also willing to get their hands dirty, literally, to help their customers.
VLP has had more than a century in heavy equipment, and they have also enjoyed a long relationship with AED. They joined in 1929 and have been active ever since in donating to the Foundation, attending seminars and molding curriculum.
“(Our company’s) always been a big believer” in AED, says Schoenfelder. “We see value there … and try and support them wherever possible”.
AED and its Foundation in turn provide benefits to VLP, including a legislative voice, working with PACs, and support of technicians and training programs.
“We recently made a donation to The AED Foundation,” he says. “When it comes to supporting technical training, we’re like every other dealership we know and interact with on a daily basis – we’re all looking for more technical help and bringing in new people who see an opportunity in our business and industry. That’s a challenge, and no one can do it alone.”
VLP has also been involved in a tech program at Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka, Kansas. Washburn initially had HVAC training where they partnered with local businesses to mold future workers with needed skill sets. When it came time to shape a program geared toward construction equipment, VLP partnered with the school and The AED Foundation in letting them know what should be on the curriculum, and VLP also made machines available for students.
“Case Construction (CNH) was also a valuable partner in developing this curriculum program, and supported it with components, technology and machines. We’re trying to build a network, a pipeline for techs into our industry. What a great opportunity to put those students on our equipment so they get a firsthand look and understanding of the construction equipment.”
AED doesn’t just offer material, it provides needed and welcome support, Schoenfelder says. “It’s obviously really powerful when you’re trying to build a network of service technicians. The machinery is very complicated and takes a lot of training and a highly talented individual.”
As for the Washburn program, it’s gone on for a few years now. “We’ve enjoyed some of the benefits of that training,” Schoenfelder says.
Beyond shaping technical education programs, VLP actively seeks new talent. Many of their existing staff have decades of valuable experience, but when those who have been in heavy equipment for thirty or forty years decide to retire – which will be soon – there will be a labor shortage, even more so than what exists presently, and educational and recruitment programs need to be accessible.
VLP does its part in addition to helping shape curriculum. “We take part each year in an open house,” Schoenfelder says. “Students can come in and get a feel for what the program is all about.” Plus, with growing metropolitan and suburban areas, less youth are exposed to equipment (the way someone who grew up on a farm some decades back might have been) so the need for recruiting talent is very real and very pressing, especially since “the industry seems to be changing at what seems like light speed,” he says.
“I recently talked to an HR recruiter who said the war for talent is real.” Schoenfelder agrees. And he and VLP, along with help from The AED Foundation and educational institutions like Washburn, are all doing their part for the effort.