The 4-1-1 on Weldon Parts.
Dave Settles, President of Weldon Parts, Inc
Briefly describe the history of Weldon?
Weldon Parts, Inc. was founded in 1955 by brothers Dean and Leon Settles in North Bend, Neb. Weldon has an interesting history and didn’t start out in parts and distribution. Weldon began by manufacturing metal skids, then morphed into erecting grain bins, the business then moved to repairing trucks, and finally into parts and distribution. Parts and distribution has been our primary business since the 1960s.
Please describe your company’s distributing current structure – What do you sell, who are your vendors, who are your customers?
We distribute virtually all parts needed to repair heavy-duty trucks and trailers with the exception being internal engine parts. We also carry a full line of shop supplies. We buy from topline vendors, most of whom are also OE suppliers.
Our customer bases largest segments are repair and service facilities, medium sized fleets, construction companies, and those in the extraction business, particularly oil and gas.
What separates Weldon from competitors in its marketplace? How do you communicate that to customers?
We understand that servicing customers is about parts, at the right time and place. We will go outside of regular purchasing channels if needed to satisfy a customer’s need.
While we are beefing up our marketing efforts, particularly in the social media area, the majority of our communication is person to person, whether through inside or outside sales people.
What do customers say about Weldon Parts?
Hopefully they would say we are fair and easy to do business with. As mentioned above, we have ventured into social media and so far our interaction in those areas has been positive.
How and why have your customers stayed loyal for 60 years?
We make a real effort to understand our customer’s business and how they see Weldon fitting in. We understand in every case, we need them much more than they need us.
We also have a great and knowledgeable staff that provides our customers with excellent service. We also have a high rate of retention with our staff, which makes it nice for both the company and the customers. Our staff currently has over 1,200 years of experience.
What makes Weldon a great place to work?
We treat our employees as individuals, not numbers. We give our employees the freedom to grow into what they would like to do inside the company, we value their ideas, and we make a point to know their names.
What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about Weldon that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about Weldon we don’t know)
Weldon is a woman-owned business. Leon Settles and his wife Dee had more daughters than sons.
Also, as you may have noticed the company’s name is not Settles Parts, instead Leon & Dean Settles chose Weldon to stand for two things Weld-On in reference to the metal skids once produced and Wel-Done in reference to doing things well done.
What does Weldon mean to the Settles family?
For the second and third generation of the Settles Family, Weldon is how we make our living. We understand that how the company is operated reflects on our family’s reputation.
What are your goals for the future of Weldon?
I want to see Weldon prosper far into the future. We have enough talent, both family members and non-family members to make that happen.
We intend to see geographic expansion, line expansion, and expansion into areas that we haven’t traditionally worked in such as our Chrome Shop located in Clinton, Okla.
Why did Weldon join GenNext? How can GenNext help Weldon employees?
Up until a few years ago, was very concerned about our aging workforce. We have been very fortunate lately to have acquired a lot of younger people with talent and drive. We see GenNext as a way to develop that talent.
I think the main benefit of GenNext to our peoples will be the ability to network both with peers, and with industry leaders.
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 moment was being exposed to CFS when I first began working here. It played a lot of the same role for me as I expect GenNext to do for our current crop of future leaders.
The second moment was the period of time during the early nineties when my father pretty much took off the training wheels and let me make my own mistakes. It showed while it can be stressful for all involved, it is doable.
The third moment is the recent period where we have had an influx of young workers. It has been gratifying to discover that the stereotypes about this age are completely false. They have been a huge plus to our company.
In business there are many ups and downs, how has Weldon survived these?
We are pretty conservative financially. You have to manage your affairs remembering that neither the ups nor the downs last forever.
Are there any CEO’s in the industry that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
In my early years Gooch Phillips was very kind and patient with me. Listening to him helped me understand that while companies approached something differently, we are all in the same business.
Later on I became good friends with Wayne Keller. We were probably as far apart as possible on a personality scale, but found ourselves to be closely aligned on how to succeed in this business.
Both of these people reinforced what I learned from my father, that ethics plays a big part in defining a business.
What do you think the pros and cons are for working for a family owned business?
The pros, especially in a second-generation business, are that we share a vision of how the company should operate.
The biggest con would be the danger of mixing business with family and taking disagreements away from work. I think we pretty successfully avoided that.
How vital is it to Weldon to have quality employees coming up from younger generations?
Having quality employees is absolutely vital. We won’t be able to survive without having people ready to step up.
How do you make Weldon appealing for the younger generations?
One thing that I have noticed about this new generation is that they ask more questions than some of the people that came before. I think this gives us a terrific opportunity to teach. Like everyone else they want to be included.
Do you feel Weldon is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
I think we are in pretty good shape. We have never been afraid of trying new things. Our younger employees are brimming with ideas.
We have had several employees who are under 40 years old make suggestions we have implemented in the past year. Some of those ideas were to expand our footprint in social media, implementation of a new purchasing system, and doing a health insurance review.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
Have patience. This is not an immediate gratification type of business. However, it is a business where the cream still rises to the top.