Getting to know Hendrickson
David McCleave, director of aftermarket at Hendrickson
Please briefly describe the history of your company.
Hendrickson is a leading global manufacturer and supplier of medium- and heavy-duty mechanical, elastomeric and air suspensions; integrated and non-integrated axle and brake systems; tire pressure control systems; auxiliary lift axle systems; parabolic and multi-leaf springs; stabilizers; bumpers; and components to the global commercial transportation industry. Hendrickson is a privately held company that is over 106 years old and has had the stability of only two owners. The Hendrickson family sold the business to John Boler in 1978 and the Boler family remains the sole owner of Hendrickson today. We are a global company with 28 locations worldwide and over 5,500 employees with corporate headquarters in Woodridge, Ill.
Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.?
Hendrickson’s direct OEM customer base includes very familiar brand names to the industry. Our truck OEMs include Daimler, Paccar (Kenworth and Peterbilt), Navistar, Mack, Volvo, Hino, Autocar and others where we sell steer suspension and axles, drive axle suspensions, bumpers, springs and lift axles. Our trailer OEMs include Utility, Great Dane, Wabash, MAC, Fontaine, Heil, Vanguard, Hyundai and many other trailer OEMs where we sell trailer suspensions, tire inflations systems, brakes and full wheel end solutions.
Our aftermarket customer base not only includes the above customers, but also includes national distributors such as Dayton Parts, Triangle, Universal Group, PAI, Meritor, UAP, Aurora Parts and Accessories, New Life, FleetPride, TruckPro, Traction, and a whole host of other regional independent distributors. We rely heavily on these aftermarket partners to ensure downstream component availability for the fleets that specify our systems on their new equipment. We support all of the above activity with over ten individuals who call on the OEM customer base along with more than 35 sales individuals in North America calling on dealers, fleets and distributors on why to choose Hendrickson. To technically support the vast amount of product in the market, we also employ over 15 field service managers in North America.
What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?
The quality of our products and the level of support is what I believe sets us apart. Integrated with truck and/or trailer chassis, we design, model, lab test, and field validate all of our systems and components to OEM specifications to deliver the highest quality and world class performing products. Combine this with the high quality of field and in house support, and this is what I believe sets us apart. Uptime is a fleet’s No. 1 priority. Delivering products that perform and support them when required, is what helps Hendrickson remain an industry leader. Do what is right, and no issue goes unresolved, is how we approach the market and our customers.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
I believe customers perceive our business in a very positive light. Serving the industry for over 106 years with high quality products and support takes a tremendous amount of energy. Our customers that were outlined above and fleet customers, continuously push us to meet their demands and exceed their expectations. If we don’t, there are alternatives. It is with their support of Hendrickson that drives our passion. Obviously, there are things to work on and improve, and our customers remind us of those items to ensure we don’t reach complacency.
How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?
Customer loyalty is something you can lose with a push of a button, but you cannot earn it with a push of a button. Customer loyalty is grown and nurtured throughout a long period of time by delivering quality products and services, maintaining discipline in your processes and various strategies, cultivating relationships, and doing what you say you are going to do. I believe this is how and why we have been fortunate to have earned and maintained such loyalty. Do what is right, and never leave an issue unresolved.
What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about your company that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about your company we don’t know)
We are United States centric. We manufacture our trailer axles, trailer suspensions, truck suspensions, auxiliary axle suspensions, and bumpers, right here in the United States and we are extremely proud to do so. The plants that we have in China, India, and throughout Europe, are used to support those local markets and those products do not come here to be used in North America. We essentially want to manufacture where we sell and support local economies and communities.
What makes your company a great place to work?
The people make Hendrickson a great place to work. We put the customer first and everyone is eager to help. Whether it is from Sales, Engineering, Operations, Manufacturing, Marketing, etc. Hendrickson is a family-owned business and the culture reflects family values, ethics and morals. Hendrickson invests in technology, buildings, equipment, systems, and most importantly, their people.
How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?
It is always important to attract and retain younger talent. Hendrickson prides itself on product and process innovation to deliver high quality products and products that will provide solutions to fleet user issues. To do just that, you need a continuous influx of younger talent that brings new ideas for products, processes and the use of technology. Recruiting the younger generation means Hendrickson’s HR department had to make changes in the tools they use to reach and communicate with these individuals. Hendrickson also made changes in benefits to match younger generation needs and values to improve our ability to capture these talented individuals.
Does your business feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
Hendrickson continues to benchmark companies inside and outside our industry to ensure our benefit package and salaries are competitive. Hendrickson also benchmarks competitive product and strategies. Lastly, Hendrickson has business unit called Advance Technology Group. Benchmarking for best practices, products, and strategies, ensuring a competitive and exciting place to work, and developing new technologies and innovative products, supported by the Boler family investments in Hendrickson, positions Hendrickson well for change. These elements not only position Hendrickson to change with the times, but to also lead change in the industry.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
My advice is to look for companies where people enjoy working and carries a strong brand and legacy. Seek out companies that have a strong position in their market space. The heavy-duty industry is an industry where relationships still matter and is filled with great companies with strong brands — from suppliers to local distributors. The heavy-duty industry needs talented individuals to lead change and take on challenges that truly affect trucking fleets that only make money when equipment is running. Your actions have a bottom line impact in this industry — be a part of innovative solutions and make a daily difference.
Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?
GenNext provides a forum where ideas can be shared, plain and simple. We all have a responsibility to leave what we started or got involved in, in a better position than when we started. This includes the specific job, company, and industry we all live and work within. GenNext provides the platform to provide and garner knowledge to deliver on that responsibility.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
The first pivotal moment started with my first job in high school. I told my boss I didn’t want to go to college. He told me he would fire me if I didn’t go to college. That was easy, I went to college. The second pivotal moment was 10 years into my company and career after college. I noticed people gaining opportunities and I mine were limited. I looked to see what they had and I didn’t. They all had their MBA degree. That was easy, I went and obtained my MBA degree, which led to a large opportunity for me. It brought me to Hendrickson and the heavy-duty industry. The third pivotal moment is not really third or any one moment. I moved my family around during my career and that led to many sacrifices. I will tell you that I would not be where I am today without the unwavering support of my wife and son. My family provides the critical pivotal moments for me to succeed.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
I have been very fortunate to have been influenced by a number of industry leaders. The list is numerous and would be unfair to any individual I would inadvertently omit if I started to list those folks. I continue to have the opportunities to be exposed and influenced by industry leaders and colleagues that include business owners, CEOs, product managers, engineers, fleet directors, etc. This diverse exposure and network provided me the knowledge and direction to be able to speak, develop strategies, and carry of view that is holistic vs. myopic.