AG Equipment Earns Early Success

Ancel Gilbreath clearly likes the truck business. Gilbreath, the light-hearted general manager of AG Van and Truck Equipment in Dallas, Texas, has been in the business a long time. Spending the last 35 years with companies like Equipment Southwest and Motor Truck Equipment has given Gilbreath a real feel for the business. Although AG Van and Truck Equipment is a relatively new company, Gilbreath's experience combined with his colorful personality has contributed to its rapid success.

The business has grown from only three to nearly 20 employees in just under three years. The administrative and sales side of the operation consists of a general manager, sales and parts managers, three salesmen, and a service manager. With the majority of its business coming from in-house equipment installations, AG employs 13 shop personnel.

AG's 2.2-acre facility is in the heart of the Dallas-Ft Worth industrial district. The facility's location on Irving Boulevard in this industrial zone contributes to its success.

"It's easy to get to, and all our competition is on this street," says Gilbreath. Although the area accommodates four truck equipment companies, AG is in direct competition with only one other supplier, Gilbreath adds.

The site contains a 12,000-sq-ft shop and showroom. Two thousand square feet are dedicated to the showroom, which is used to display everything from pickup brush guards and toolboxes to a functioning lighting display catering to service vehicles.

"I was looking for something to supplement the shop in the slow times," says Dick Ford, store manager. Ford says he wanted more retail sales of parts that didn't necessarily have to be installed. "We didn't limit anything in the showroom," says Ford. "We don't just have specialty items. We have a little bit of everything, something for everybody."

The diversity in the showroom is illustrated by items such as step-stool toolboxes and plastic tool organizers that Ford says are such quick sellers, they are hard to keep in stock. Conventional accessories are also a part of the showroom. Pickup caps, tailgate protectors, and bug shields are among the daily retail sales at AG.

The lighting display is the pride of the AG showroom. Initially expected to increase safety light sales by 30%, the display has more than met expectations. "The display has probably doubled sales of the lights," says Ford.

The shop area contains three service bays on the front of the building and one at the rear. The combined service and installation area has the capacity to hold seven medium-duty trucks.

Omaha Standard and Adrian Steel are AG's two leading equipment suppliers. Gilbreath says he relies on Omaha Standard because of its wide availability and diversity of products. Depending on one manufacturer for liftgates, flatbeds, stakesides, dump bodies, and service bodies simplifies business, says Gilbreath.

AG installs Adrian Steel service van interiors. Claiming the largest Adrian Steel shelving inventory in Texas, approximately 25% of AG's business comes from shelf installation.

AG stocks roughly a half million dollars of inventory including shelving units and truck bodies, according to Gilbreath.

Chevy Pool Program AG operates a Chevrolet bailment pool, increasing the speed and efficiency with which their customers can take delivery of a vehicle. This program allows AG to service nearly all the Chevrolet dealers in the Dallas-Ft Worth area, says Gilbreath.

"The full-size Chevy van with Adrian Steel shelving is by far our most popular product," says Gilbreath. AG is a proponent of the promotions that Chevrolet offers through the pool. "Chevrolet offers promotions that can total up to $1,750 in shelving or $1,200 in crossbed toolboxes, depending on what the customer wants," says Gilbreath.

Chevrolet conducts annual quality assessments to be sure upfitters are producing high-quality products for their customers. With an annual assessment just around the corner, Gilbreath is aware of what standards must be maintained. "Chevy looks at the way we check-in, store, prepare, and deliver vehicles to customers," says Gilbreath. AG also holds a Texas state vehicle converter's license.

AG honors manufacturers' warranties through the program. "We always try to keep the customer satisfied regardless of how long the manufacturer says they'll back the product," says Gilbreath.

Manufacturer representatives are brought in to train sales people for most products that AG sells. "This is the best training that there is," says Gilbreath. "Sometimes our customers also meet the representatives." Regular AG customers are encouraged to meet and talk to manufacturer representatives.

Serving Municipalities The cities of Dallas, Ft Worth, and surrounding municipalities are AG's primary customers, says Gilbreath. Outfitting vehicles for these cities has been a major source of business for the company.

AG recently contracted to supply the city of Ft Worth with 50 light-duty trucks outfitted with Rawson-Koenig toolboxes, making it the company's newest supplier.

"We kind of specialize in city work," says Gilbreath. He credits personal relations with his customers for the company's success. Gilbreath notes that "people-to-people relations are what make us successful."

AG hosts an annual barbecue in the fall for all customers and suppliers. "We do it for good will," says Gilbreath. "It's more of a thank you than a promotion." Feeding more than 350 people, this yearly event is a highlight for employees as well as customers and suppliers.

Sales for 1997 are expected to be more than $2.5 million, considerably higher than last year's figure.

"At this time three years ago, we didn't even exist," says Gilbreath, obviously excited about the company's success.

Expansion is already on the horizon for the fledgling company as market and sales figures increase.

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