Getting to know Grote Industries
Matt Forner, national sales director at Grote Industries
Please briefly describe the history of your company.
Grote Industries has been a family-owned business since 1901. Headquartered in Madison, Ind., we are a manufacturer of vehicle safety systems (lighting).
Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.?
We have multiple OE and Aftermarket divisions. Our OE division sells to on-highway, trailer and body builder, off-highway, OE Europe. The Aftermarket division sells to U.S., Mexico and Canada (three separate divisions) and all have heavy-duty commercial programs service by a direct Grote Salesforce. We also have traditional automotive served by sales agencies. We also have a fleet sales force in the U.S. and Canada, four people direct. We don’t sell the fleets direct; we sell through distribution and to OEMs.
What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?
Our salesforce expertise, high-quality products, family owned and operated.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
High integrity, top sales support and customer service, high quality, innovator.
How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?
We have a system sell approach rather than just a single part sale. We try to integrate all pieces together to create lower maintenance costs and solution provider to the customers problems.
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 have a customer training center in Friendship, Ind., about 30 miles from our plant that accommodates up to 10 people with overnight stays.
What makes your company a great place to work?
The family atmosphere. You are not a number but an individual person.
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 very important that we have a younger generation coming in. As most of us “old guys” know we have an aging workforce in our industry. It is critical to have the right younger people coming in with a passion for moving our industry forward. Grote has donated and supported Northwood University in various programs for continuing education. Grote has three individuals that have received the Northwood Education Award presented in Vegas every year.
Does your business feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
Yes, Grote is very dynamic and able to move quickly on adjustments or issues. The family owned principles eliminates many “red tape” issues with adjusting to change. We have begun to institute flexible working schedules and try to accommodate to the needs of the employees
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
Yes, learn as much from the many experienced professionals that are out there today. Also, don’t move around from job to job, gain an understanding and experience of growing with a team at one company. Many younger generation move from company to company trying to move up or even avoid issues. This does not allow those individuals to with work through issues by finding solutions to their problem … don’t just leave the problem, address it and fix it. By working through issues, is how you truly grow and gain the ability to offer a value add to any company.
Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?
We must support the upcoming youth in our industry. They are our future. Bringing new fresh ideas can certainly help any organization look at things differently.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
Deciding to move away from my hometown for a sales position with Grote — Chelsea, Mich., to Chicago. Taking an early promotion to move inside the office for Grote at our HQ in Madison, Ind. I moved from sales to product management, which gave me a much broader exposure to our company and the industry. Moving back into sales after gaining inside experience within Grote. This allowed me to be much more effective driving our sales to new levels.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
John Minor – John has always taken interest in my career from when I started with Grote as a salesman in Chicago, but also covered his Midwest Wheel locations. He was always genuine and pretty much would tell the ways it was … good or bad. His perspective on how to build relationships through partnering has been invaluable through the years. I could bounce many ideas off John and get honest feedback both good and bad. We have become good friends and continue that relationship after his recent retirement.
Don Reimondo – Don has always been someone I could call and discuss any issue with good or bad and he would be able to help any issue. His long time industry knowledge on both the manufacturer and distributor side was always very helpful. He has become one of my good friends as well and we stay in touch even after his retirement from HDA Truck Pride.
Dominic Grote – He started with our company about a year before me in the field. We both came up through the sales organization and both went into product management and eventually he became our current president and CEO. Through the years I have worked beside him and directly for him. He has always been supportive and pushed me to become better and drive to improve. His friendship and motivation has helped me grow within the company and the industry. This is the only company I have ever worked for and after 27 years, I don’t plan on going anywhere else. This is a great place to be!