MH Equipment believes in supporting its customers as well as its employees and community members.
By Jim Harris
MH Equipment offers its customers much more than just material-handling equipment. The Chillicothe, Ill.-based dealer helps large warehouse and distribution center owners be more efficient and ultimately reduce their operating costs.
“Our fleet management model is unique in the industry and is what we do best,” CEO John Wieland says. “This model has separated us from many, if not all, of our competitors and endeared us to corporations such as Anheuser-Busch and General Motors, who’ve chosen us to manage their facilities.”
Established in 1952 in Peoria, Ill., as a small Hyster forklift dealership, MH Equipment today is one of the largest and fastest-growing material-handling service providers in the United States. The company is an authorized dealer of Hyster as well as, in select areas, Yale forklift equipment. MH Equipment has 28 service branches throughout Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Although the company specializes in class I-V lift trucks, it has expanded its offerings in recent years to include industrial cleaning equipment, railcar movers, compact forklifts and container-handling equipment.
MH Equipment’s fleet management model involves examining the three stages of the life of the lift truck. The first of these is pre-purchase preparation. “There’s a lot of things people don’t do during this stage that they should be,” Wieland says. “We spend a lot of time during this stage to make sure they are getting the right specifications as well as the correct number of trucks. We make sure our customers are making the right decisions about whether they should own or lease equipment.”
One of the decisions MH Equipment is now helping many of its customers make concerns the use of hydrogen or lithium ion batteries. “This is one of the major changes going on in the industry that we’re now navigating,” he adds. “We’re working with our customers to help them determine the best solutions for them.”
The second stage of truck ownership for which the company can offer expertise is the actual use, or economic life, of the equipment. The company developed a fleet management software system, MH Fleet, which allows users to track usage trends and plan maintenance.
MH Equipment also provides data analysis services to fleet customers with whom it has long-term service agreements. “We provide an analyst whose responsibility is to go through all the data from the MH Fleet software and make recommendations, so our customers don’t have to sift through this data,” Wieland says.
The company, through its Elite Supply Services division, can also help warehouse and distribution center customers improve the flow of products through their facilities. MH Equipment purchased the division two years ago.
The third, and last, stage of ownership MH Equipment deals with is equipment disposal. The company helps its customers identify equipment that needs to be replaced, and helps them dispose of or recycle machines.
A Positive Culture
Much of MH Equipment’s growth during the past two decades can be attributed to the leadership of Wieland, who purchased the company in 1994. Since taking over the company, Wieland has overseen its growth from a company with 50 employees and $7 million in annual revenue to an organization with more than 800 employees and roughly $250 million in revenue.
The company’s growth initially presented it with the challenge of integrating people and systems from multiple dealerships into a single organization. These transitions were ultimately a positive experience for the company because of its family oriented culture.
“I call three different people every week and ask them five questions, the first of which is ‘what, if anything, makes you proud that MH is your place of employment?’” he says. “Most of the time, our employees will say this is the best place they’re every worked. We treat everyone like they’re a real person; our leadership truly cares for its employees.”
Having satisfied employees helps the company attract new staff members. “We recruit largely through referrals from employees – if you like where you work, you will tell others,” Wieland adds. The company also posts on job boards and attends job fairs and college fairs.
Charitable work is a core element of MH Equipment’s internal culture. “Life is not just about us – we believe we are in a stewardship business,” Wieland says. “I may be the principal owner of MH Equipment, but it existed before I was born and will be here after I am gone. I’m just passing through, so it’s important that we embrace the idea of stewardship.
“I feel that we have been blessed with a profitable company, and it would be wrong not to invest in the communities we serve and try to make them better places,” he adds.
The company in 2001 established His First Foundation, which supports faith-based non-denominational organizations as well as secular and other organizations. The company earmarks 10 percent of its annual revenue to the foundation. “The fact that we do that shows just how important our communities are to us,” Wieland says. “You won’t find too many companies of any kind that commit that much of their profits to improving the communities they serve.”
His First Foundation makes matching donations to organizations MH Equipment employees have a personal or financial investment in. “We want to celebrate our employees’ passions through this foundation,” Wieland says.
The company also offers eight hours of paid time off to employees who are volunteering the time to organizations including Habitat for Humanity.
‘The Right Things’
All of MH Equipment’s offerings and activities reflect its commitment to its vision of being an employer of choice, a trustworthy partner and ethical market leader in the communities it serves.
“We are not a Christian organization, but we attempt to run our business on biblical principles because we think that plays well in business,” he says. “We believe that investing in others and always being truthful in our actions makes us more successful.
“We know we are imperfect human beings who stumble and fall, but we get back up and do the right things,” Wieland adds.