Supply chain management in the construction industry is often overshadowed by more visible elements, but it is an essential service to facilitate successful operations and projects in the sector. Four Seasons Equipment Inc. (FSEI) is a company that makes sure its clients have all the necessary equipment for construction projects.
Based in Houston, Four Seasons started in 2001 and has expanded to open locations in Dallas, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Williston, North Dakota. The construction equipment distributor sells or rents a variety of new and used heavy construction equipment. The company supplies everything from compaction equipment, hydraulic hammers, wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks to excavators, cranes, track carriers, specialty attachments and shears.
Company Vice President Rod Dundas spoke with Business in Focus about Four Season’s operations, history, and overall success over the years.
“We always try to keep things simple for our customer,” Dundas says. “When they have a problem that requires service, we make responding right away a priority. Our service is what keeps our customers coming back and doing business with us. By being honest and responsive with our customers, it makes business easy for them.”
Having worked together for another construction equipment company, Mr. Dundas and four other employees started the company. FSEI was built from the ground up based on the relationships they established while at their previous employer. The company started in June, 2001 and was almost immediately thrown into turmoil due to the September 11 attacks that year. However, it managed to survive and grow and thrive since its shaky beginnings.
FSEI has an extensive fleet consisting of new and used excavators and wheel loaders from Hyundai, articulated dump trucks from Bell, rollers and compactors from Sakai, track carriers from Morooka, telehandlers from Genie, plus shears, grapples and specialty attachments from Kinshofer, brooms from Superior, and cranes from Sany and Shuttlelift. Overall, the company has over 400 pieces of equipment.
“Without these companies, we’re nothing,” says Dundas. “We need them; we appreciate them and the job they do.”
FSEI’s mix of products gives the company the ability to supply heavy equipment needs for sites in many industries. Among the numerous sectors served are underground and utility contractors, site preparation contractors, construction and road contractors, oil pipeline contractors, oil service companies and mining and industrial operations. This range of diversity helped the company survive the economic slowdown that affected many companies in the late 2000s.
“We were very fortunate that we are based in Texas,” Dundas shares. “Because of the energy, oil and gas industry, we were able to grow in Texas when we were hit by the recession, and we were able to recover rapidly while most of the rest of the country suffered in comparison.” FSEI quickly recovered from the economy and is one of the few companies in the industry that didn’t lay off a single person during the downturn.
One company that benefitted from FSEI during the economic slowdown was Port Arthur, Texas-based refinery Motiva. “They needed a lot of cranes, and we provided them a large number of cranes at a time when economy was hurting. It was great timing and helped us tremendously by keeping our crane fleet busy, and they were happy with us, so we both benefitted from the relationship.”
While the recent drop in oil prices has affected some segments of FSEI, Dundas says the company is still “seeing strong business.”
Besides its focus on rental equipment, FSEI also sells new and used heavy construction equipment, provides full in-shop and field service and regular heavy equipment maintenance and keeps a large inventory of parts from its manufacturers. The company offers daily, weekly and monthly rentals, rentals with option to purchase, and a variety of heavy construction equipment financing options for its clients.
Dundas is proud of the company’s sales staff who make and maintain direct customer contact for heavy construction equipment rental, sales, service, and parts. FSEI is the top distributor for Sany Cranes since they made their entrance into the American market. The company is also the number one dealer for Bell Trucks.
Notably, FSEI has been a top-three dealer in the country for a number of years selling Hyundai excavators and wheel-loaders. “We’re the only dealer nationwide that had three employees that made the top sales list in 2014,” explains Dundas. “One of our salesmen was number two in the country.”
He credits this success to ensuring their employees are well-trained and providing optimal service to its clients. “When they [clients] buy from us, they know we will take care of them. That has been key to making us grow successfully. It’s pretty simple and obvious, but it’s amazing how some companies may not see it the way we do. As a result, we get great market share.”
As a matter of fact, the market share has been so great that finding the right balance in expanding the company can be a challenge.
“There’s always a fight to know whether to add new equipment or not,” says Dundas. “We’ve always done a good job with that. Five to six years ago, we had 250 pieces of equipment and have gradually grown to around 400 today. Selling heavy equipment is a very expensive business, so we have to be careful in what we select to put in fleet, marketing, and renting it. If you make a mistake, it could put you out of business in a hurry.”
The company’s management emphasizes best practices in safety and keeping FSEI employees well-trained. “We are very safety-conscious as a company,” shares Dundas. “We do lots of work in plants and refineries where safety is a major requirement, and they are quick to blackball a company if they don’t meet safety standards. We have site-specific certified workers and regularly hold safety training meetings with our service department. Safety is always an issue and extremely important to our business.”
FSEI has a service department staffed by factory-certified technicians. The company has 35,000 square feet of shop space equipped with overhead cranes, welding and fabricating shops, state-of-the-art diagnostics and direct access to technical specifications to guarantee efficient repairs of equipment. FSEI’s service technicians have the knowledge and expertise to get the job done quickly and on time. “I don’t care what machine you sell or rent; they can break. You have to be there to fix it.”
To this end, the team’s service department has a fleet of fully-equipped service trucks with all the tools necessary to repair equipment on job sites to reduce downtime and keep equipment moving.
Additionally, FSEI maintains a parts warehouse to support its service department with $3 million in heavy construction equipment parts inventory. The warehouse, with one of the largest selection of parts in the southwest US, ensures that it has needed parts on hand to maintain and repair all the equipment it sells and rents.
In North Dakota, clients could not get cranes serviced promptly. A lack of area service meant waiting up to two weeks for repairs, in some instances. By opening the Williston, North Dakota branch, FSEI was able to provide same-day service, and that kept customers coming back.
FSEI’s recent relocation into its new Dallas facility means that the company will have more offices and a more convenient location for its customer base. Dundas said that the company is looking to hire additional sales representatives in the region as it starts to grow business as well as adding more equipment to its fleet to meet growing demand. “We’re always keeping an eye out for opportunities,” Dundas says.
The company is constantly seeking new products that will benefit its customers. FSEI recently started selling the Genie line of telehandlers or telescopic handlers (like a cross between a forklift and a crane) from Terex Companies, which are popular with general contractors, plants, refineries, and pipeline contractors. Adding the Genie telehandler line was a part of the company’s goal to fulfill holes in inventory and demand for products.
Since 2001, Four Seasons Equipment has supplied companies with the equipment needed to work on major construction projects. Dundas feels his company is here to stay not only because of its high-quality equipment, but its people.
“We understand that service is the most important thing to our customer and we offer the best in quality service,” says Dundas. “We work hard to make it easy for customers to do business with us, and it will be a pleasure to do so. If you come to us and walk in our office, people notice that employees are happy to be there and we work to build a great environment, and as a result there is little turnover. We treat our people right, our employees and customers, and it makes people want to do business with us.”