Andre Gagnon had always wanted to work in sales. And he knew the best way to get there was through the field; after completing his education he worked for 16 years as a technician, adding technical and sales skills until he worked his way up to sales management. Eventually, he realized he had acquired everything he needed to lead, compete and succeed on his own.
He met with his father and a few friends, and in 2006 they started Liftboss Inc. as a forklift dealer. The operation grew quickly; by the end of their second year, they had a staff of 20. Gagnon’s father has since passed, and today, Gagnon and his partners, Dale Beatty and Marc Tougas, have two Liftboss stores (one in Edmonton, one in Calgary) offering sales, parts, service and rentals on forklifts and a full line of JCB heavy equipment. The staff numbers 48 and grows each month.
Liftboss remains privately held and relatively small compared to its publicly traded competitors. But the company maintains a neighborly attitude and a customer-first commitment that keeps their client base strong and growing. While some dealers are getting a tech on-site within days, Liftboss makes it happen within hours.
Gagnon recalls a recent Friday when a client’s wheel loader had broken down, and a replacement part was over a week away. They offered to send a replacement unit, but a truck wasn’t available to get the machine there—so a salesman volunteered to drive the wheel loader himself, two hours to the site on a Friday afternoon.
“That’s the stuff we try to do to get the customer out of a pinch. If you’re down, be open and honest with us. If you need a mechanic or a rental there right away, we will do it,” says Gagnon. “We do it almost to a fault.”
Exacting, versatile customer service has captured an impressive share of business for Liftboss. The sales team builds portfolios for each client’s needs and service preferences; this way, they can have a conversation with a client instead of simply walking them around the showroom. Their clients appreciate the attention and reward them with repeat business and referrals.
In 2013, Gagnon realized that the company’s growth was necessitating stronger structure. He studied Gino Wickman’s book “Traction” and attended a seminar on its Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), which offers strategies for effective growth and accountability. Tighter processes keep the team aligned, from leadership down.
“Traction” and EOS provided a framework for Liftboss’ organizational chart (“We call it an ‘accountability chart,’” says Gagnon) as well as structures for weekly, quarterly, and year-end management meetings. He says it’s been a tremendous help in maintaining quality of service as the company grows, particularly by regulating meetings and procedures. For instance, a weekly scorecard provides sales data, budget information and strategic guidance across the organization.
At the beginning of their Traction journey, management and staff built four core values to maintain the quality of Liftboss’ customer service: do what you say you will in a timely manner; be open and honest; do whatever it takes; and service the customer above all else. As each department grows, each team member is held accountable to those principles.
“Our focus is to be a quality company that people are proud to work for,” says Gagnon. “That sounds like fluff, but we set that precedent, our team follows it and it puts the mindset there. This is how we operate, and this is how we want to grow.”
In the near future, Liftboss will have fully integrated full-line JCB into the business. Beyond that, they’ll open two additional stores in the area. The fundamental goal will remain to keep growing the company while maintaining the level of service that their clients have come to expect. Liftboss’ core principles will support that endeavor.
“Every competitor we have is publicly traded and big, and then there’s us: the small guys fighting the big guys every day,” says Gagnon. “Which is okay. We do well at it. Our customers know who we are; we put a face to the company, not a number.”