For 30 years, Liftech Equipment Companies has been supplying the northeastern United States industrial, construction, distribution, pulp and paper, and lumber market with forklifts and other heavy construction equipment and service solutions.
The East Syracuse, New York-based company is known in New York State, Vermont, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania for the made-in-USA forklift and equipment product lines it carries, and its unique quality of customer service.
“We consider ourselves a service organization,” says Joe Verzino, President. “For years people would look at equipment businesses as a sales organization, but when you really think about it, it’s about taking care of the customer. We looked at ourselves a number of years ago and saw that we are really a service organization that sells product, versus a sales organization that services product.”
As a result of this service-focused outlook, Liftech has been growing its service technician base and support team, including its number of technicians and technical support staff and training staff to support those technicians. As an aside, the 30-year-old company started big – with a team of about 90 employees, its own facilities and management team – due to its history as part of a larger public company, Syracuse Supply Company, that decided to sell Liftech’s division privately. Liftech has doubled in size since its establishment in 1988, and now has a team of 180, divided 50-50 between 90 technicians and 90 sales or support staff.
In addition to heavy construction equipment sales and a certified service center, customers are also able to find, through Liftech’s dealer network, fleet management services, part suppliers, capital procurement specialists, and training. Liftech also offers three wireless asset management (telemetry) solutions for equipment monitoring and data collection. All services are available from a customer’s local equipment dealer and its trained equipment professionals, who average more than 27 years of industry experience.
Not only does Liftech offer forklift and heavy construction repairs and scheduled maintenance to extend the life of its customers’ equipment, but the company is also Trackmobile’s full-service provider for rail car movers across the New England territory. Other popular brands it services include JCB, Hyster, Yale, Doosan Portable Power, JLG, and many more.
Committed to keeping up to date with the latest technology, one of the things Liftech is best known for is its training. The one-stop equipment sales and service shop offers professional forklift and aerial platform lift training that keeps its customers safe and reduces workplace injury. Training and certification is required by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for much of the heavy equipment Liftech carries.
An interesting feature of this tech-savvy business is that about four years ago, it moved away from paper in an effort that is appreciated by both the team and the customers. In an electronic age with increasingly high-tech equipment, Liftech has remained ahead by switching to completely electronic processes, so that when a technician answers a field service call, they no longer have to write out a work order. With a tablet or phone, they are able to enter the information that gets sent through Liftech’s billing system to reach the service organization. These seamless processes have helped to bolster the company’s reputation in the lift and hoist industry.
Liftech is a five-time consecutive winner of the MHEDA (Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association) MVP award, which recognizes companies with outstanding business practices. But when questioned about the accolades that Liftech has achieved, President Verzino is adamant that he finds more joy in seeing the team uphold these practices than he does from the formal recognition.
“I get more satisfaction from seeing people do the right things than the awards,” he tells us. “I enjoy talking to our people on a regular basis. I learn a lot about our business by walking around and just chatting with people. It’s amazing what you find out when you stop by the cubicle and say hello.”
In honor of the people who have made Liftech what it was over the last three decades, the team will be organizing a company party around the holiday season as part of Liftech’s belated birthday celebrations – the company officially turned 30 on September 2nd.
Another long-held fun initiative at Liftech is cooking breakfast at least once a year for all employees across all locations. “The management team does the cooking. That started around 20 years ago. Every year now, people start asking my assistant, ‘when’s the date’? It is usually early December. It’s fun, they all look forward to it and we usually get pretty good attendance. No one goes away hungry. Most of the management team smells like bacon by the time the day is over,” Verzino laughs.
Because the business is known for being so customer focused, whether hiring someone in a sales or a service technician position, Liftech believes that being able to relate to the customer is the strongest attribute in new talent.
“From a sales perspective, we want people who can deal with others; even though it’s a technical business you are still dealing with people on a daily basis. You’ve got to be able to relate to them, you’ve got to be able to look for solutions, because products today are very similar. When we look at salespeople, we ask what difference they are going to make when it comes to helping a customer and creating a solution for the customer,” says Verzino, who mentions that these skills are particularly important in today’s environment, where transactions are not as simple as emailing a customer a quote; customers (and therefore salespeople) must understand what the benefits are, because there are numerous other heavy equipment products out there.
“On the technical side, it’s the same thing. First you’ve got to evaluate the technical skill of the individual, but we also take it another step further and we see what their personal characteristics are because, like a salesperson, the customer relies quite extensively on that service technician. You want to make sure that they can communicate and not only service the product, but relate to the customer because the customer puts a lot of faith in those individuals,” he adds.
In fact, Liftech owes most of its growth to its sales force. Referrals from existing satisfied customers are also important, but Verzino anticipates that there will never come a day where people don’t want to interact with salespeople and connect on a face-to-face basis. Salespeople and service technicians who go out there and visit the customer are able to forge a connection with them that will never 100 percent be replaced with digital interaction.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where somebody doesn’t have to visit with someone to discuss an opportunity or a repair. Even though it may not be as much time as it used to be, people still like talking to other people,” comments Verzino.
That isn’t to say that Liftech eschews digitization. The modern company dedicates a considerable amount of work to maintaining a robust web presence, which not only improves Liftech’s ability to capture leads from its website and bring them to its sales force electronically, but also enhances the customer experience. This is because so much information is now readily available to new customers at the tips of their fingers, at www.liftech.com. President Verzino attributes these changes in large part to Kaitlyn McNeil, Liftech’s Marketing Specialist, who has optimized the website to make it more user-friendly.
“We’ve seen a definite improvement in the number of leads and the quality of the leads that we get, and it’s a credit to her that she’s figured out how to use Google, keywords, and other things to bring attention to us.”
This all ties in to the importance of having the right team. In the lift and hoist industry, it can be difficult to attract good talent, as the busy sector has a wealth of opportunities for a talented professional to choose from. But since 1988, Liftech has been able to continue to attract exceptional candidates who are interested in joining its team of almost 200 by offering a healthy and competitive compensation and benefits package. Furthermore, Liftech is set apart by the opportunities it affords its team to use the latest technology in a fast-changing industry.
“We get a fair amount of referrals from our people, references for people who may be working somewhere else or outside the industry who want to try to come to our industry. It’s interesting when you find somebody who has been referred by an internal person – they won’t make that reference unless they are pretty comfortable,” Verzino says.
Moreover, most of the experienced salespeople and technicians who work at Liftech have been there for quite a long time. “We’ve got a lot of employees and associates that have been with us 10, 15, 20 – some of them as many as 40 – years, from the previous company,” Verzino points out. “We’ve got longevity here, which is nice.”
There is no magic formula to maintaining the perfect company environment that keeps workers happy and customers coming back for more, but with low employee turnover rates and consistent rates of business growth, Liftech is proud of what it has achieved in 30 years.
“We try to create as much of a family atmosphere as much as possible. It’s not always perfect, but we try, and we listen, and try to adjust. There are a lot of opportunities out there, so we must be doing something right. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but I’ll accept it,” says Verzino.
Of course, there is always room for improvement. Updating training programs, looking into new equipment lines, or considering possible acquisitions and other opportunities for growth are constant processes at Liftech. “It’s always on the front burner for us. Is there anything definitive planned today? No, but as we look to the products we sell and the services we offer, it will always be one of the first priorities,” Verzino says.
Going forward, this paperless business will continue to invest in the latest technology and training in order to keep satisfying its customers and making its employees’ jobs easier.
“Everybody is hiring and so we are going to have to figure out simpler ways to use technology to do more with less. That is really what we are going to start focusing on, and have been focused on, for the last few years,” Verzino concludes.
Management’s other goals are to continue to grow the construction service and sales business, seek out opportunities in its markets served, and to continually recruit the right people for the right jobs.