Getting to know Fleet Engineers
Bob Montgomery, vice president of sales and marketing
Please briefly describe the history of Fleet Engineers? (a quick summary is fine)
Fleet Engineers, Inc., was founded in 1963 in a Muskegon, Mich., garage by Lou Eklund, father of current President Wes Eklund. The company steadily grew throughout the late 20th century by adding manufacturing capabilities and new products and expanding its production facilities to its current four-plant manufacturing facility. Today, the company’s capabilities include a wide array of metal cutting, stamping and forming, a complete roll-up door manufacturing facility, and an injection molding plant. The company now produces thousands of commercial truck and trailer parts for consumption worldwide, focused on North America.
Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.?
Our parts are sold into the multi-tiered commercial vehicle parts industry, both OEM and aftermarket. Our company is represented both by regional sales agencies and our own sales representatives, who focus on supporting our distribution partners and creating demand at the fleets using our products.
What separates Fleet Engineers from competitors in its marketplace?
Probably our most distinguishing difference is our broad product offering, with around three thousand SKUs, we can offer a “one-stop shopping” experience to our distribution partners for dozens of product categories. We offer aerodynamic solutions, roll-up door systems and associated parts, a wide array of spray control products, and a variety of replacement parts for truck and trailer.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
I recently joined Fleet Engineers and surveyed several industry contacts as I considered the position. I heard a consistent message from them: good company; U.S.-manufactured products; quality. Since joining the company, those messages have been confirmed day in and day out.
How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?
Like all U.S. manufacturers, we face continuous price competition from overseas, and we are extremely grateful to our loyal customers and distribution partners. We have managed to grow the business above the pace of the U.S. economy, despite this competition, by producing quality products at fair prices and striving to be responsive to the needs of our fleet customers and distribution partners.
What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about Fleet Engineers that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about Fleet Engineers we don’t know)
We manufacture roll-up doors! Fleet Engineers is a diverse U.S.-based manufacturer with four plants on our Muskegon campus. One plant is fully dedicated to producing wood, poly, and composite roll doors for trailers and box trucks.
What makes Fleet Engineers a great place to work?
The company, having grown from a one-man shop to where it is today, has maintained a small-company feel. Many of the employees have been here more than 30 years, and turnover is very low. There’s a sense of loyalty going both ways between the ownership and the employees that can be lost when companies outgrow their roots. Everyone here seems committed to becoming better in every facet of our operation.
How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?
I dropped in on the planet right at the beginning of GenX, and remember the baby boomers saying we were lazy, didn’t have any ambition, had it too easy … I’m pretty excited about the way the younger generation views the world, the tools they have at their disposal, and what they’ll do to make it a better place when the collect some wisdom along the way.
Ours is an aging industry, and frankly our diversity leaves something to be desired. We need talent from the Gen Y and Millenial pool to bring a fresh approach.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
Balance. Don’t wake up one day and wonder when your kids moved out. Listen and Learn. Don’t be the person in the room waiting to get your turn to speak so that you can show everyone how smart you are. Ask great questions. If you want to be a great leader, you need to care about the people in both directions on the org chart — and you can’t fake that. Don’t get too high on the wins or too low on the losses. Each is an opportunity for humility and learning.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
I’m not sure I can think of three, but I’ve noticed this: Throughout my career, the people I reported to kept getting better. Partially, I’m sure, it’s because as I climbed the ranks, the people above me had climbed even higher, and were better prepared to be great leaders. But I also noticed that as I got older, I was more willing to accept that I could learn from my boss. I saw that they were interested in helping me grow, not just getting results out of me. Yes, there are bad bosses, but in reflection, I’ve never had one, and I’m sure they are rarer than one might think.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
The trucking industry is full of amazing people, both at the fleets and at the suppliers. I really enjoyed the principals of the companies in the American Commercial Tire Network, such as Tom Raben (Raben Tire), Randy Drake and Bert and Barry McGriff (McGriff Tire), Bob Schwenkfelder (Commercial Tire), among many others. Tim Musgrave with PSI was a competitor of mine for some time, but I always felt he was a very fair and kind person to be around. A few fleet folks I really enjoyed working with are Brent Nussbaum (Nussbaum), Steve Grover (Knight), Pat Leonard (Prime, Inc.), Tom Newby (Old Dominion) and, of course, Royal Jones at Mesilla Valley.