Bus Andrews Rides Suspensions to Business Success

AN OLD AXIOM for success says to find the thing you do well, then do that thing. The Bus Andrews company has taken this nugget of wisdom to heart.

"We do a lot of suspension work," says Jim Young, owner and president of Bus Andrews Equipment Sales and Service, Springfield, Missouri. "That part of our business seems to be growing especially fast.

"We shorten and lengthen truck frames, add third axles, tandems, and whatever is needed." Young says. "It helps that Ridewell is based in Springfield. We put on the second suspension Ridewell ever made."

Suspensions have long been an area of expertise for Young. That knowledge has been passed along to shop personnel and forms the foundation of Bus Andrews business.

Young credits shop personnel for his company's success. "We have an extremely low turnover rate here. Customers come to know and trust people they have worked with in the past. Good, solid service and prompt follow up on the job are important."

Expanding Operations Continued service growth has led to the need for a new facility to ease growing pains.

"We've purchased eight empty lots (4.6 acres) that sit behind us, and we're going to build a 3,200-sq-ft metal building with four service bays before the end of the year," says Young. "The new facility will be used primarily for installing and modifying suspensions."

The additional space will give the company ample room to spread out and expand its operations. Dump bodies, flat beds, gooseneck bodies, fertilizer spreaders, and ice control equipment are stored outside on the existing five-acre site. Parts are stored in empty trailers on the lot.

Computerized Inventory Recognizing the need for an organizational system to keep pace with recent growth, Young is investing $30,000 in a new computer system.

"Excel Solutions of Omaha installed our present system in 1988," Young says. "It has served us well, so we will be going with Excel for the upgrade.

"All of our inventory is tagged, labeled, and entered into the computer system," Young says. "The computer prints and processes all work orders.

"The computer alerts us when it is time to reorder fast-moving parts each month. Our inventory turns at least three times a year."

Young is looking into the bar code system and may adopt it in the future. A web site is in progress and soon customers will be able to place their orders online.

Full-Line Distributor Bus Andrews is a full-line distributor with a trade territory that covers a 150-mile radius around Springfield. Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas are primary sales areas, but Young says he will go anywhere business calls.

Bus Andrews sells and installs Heil dump bodies, Knapheide and Stahl service bodies, and van bodies by Webco/Pacific.

Tommy Gate, Waltco, and Thieman liftgates are all big sellers, says Young, as are Parkhurst and Knapheide platform bodies, Crysteel hoists, Ramsey winches, and Ridewell suspensions.

Hiniker, Western, and Flink snowplows are part of the Bus Andrews product line, along with Waldon aerial devices and New Leader fertilizer spreaders.

Young says the company sells both new and used parts. "We don't carry a wide selection of used parts at this time, but there is a big market for them and we may expand that part of our operation at a later date.

Sales and Promotions "We find that word-of-mouth is still the best method of promotion," Young says. "But we go to trade shows, agricultural shows, and we do some radio advertising. One new thing we tried recently was advertising on the quarter panels of a race car, and we have had customers come in and say that is where they first heard of us."

Jim's son James joined Bus Andrews as a salesman in 1983. He is now the sales manager, secretary, and treasurer. Jim's wife Liz serves as vice president.

"We have four salespeople all together-," says Young. "James, an outside salesman, an inside salesman, and myself.

Young pays his salespeople on a full commission basis with a draw against commission. This method seems to work well, says Young. "Salespeople have a percentage they are trying to achieve and they are able to keep track of their sales with the computer system. A percentage report keeps track of sales and shows what is making money and what it not."

The company sends out an updated catalog once a year, and direct mailers go to customers two or three times a year.

Prior to the winter months, mailers promoting snow and ice control equipment go to municipalities. In the early spring, mailers with information on dump bodies go to landscapers. During the year, mailers on service bodies and aerial devices go to co-ops. Design and layout for the mailers is done in-house.

Young says telephone sales are not part of the Bus Andrews marketing plan. Knapheide, however, will sometimes target various areas of the country for canvassing. Any leads gathered that fall within the Bus Andrews sales region are sent to Young.

Experience Means Quality Experienced parts and service employees support Young's sales staff.

"We don't have a lot of turnover in our personnel," Young says. "Some of these guys have been with us for 20 or 30 years. They receive mid-year and end-of-year bonuses, and every few months we have an appreciation dinner for them. Our employees have a full benefits package that includes dental coverage and a 401(k). It's worth it to have and retain quality people here. Their experience shows up in their work. They know how long a job will take and what is required to get it done properly."

Bus Andrews has a total of 20 employees. They include 11 mechanics, two painters, four salesmen, one bookkeeper, and two people in the parts department.

Young has been with the company for more than 40 years. He started as a mechanic with Bus Andrews in 1958, about the same time the company got into the truck equipment business. Prior to that, it had been a garage.

In 1973, Young and the late Blond Warren bought out Bus Andrews. Warren handled sales and Young took care of service. In 1985, Young bought out Warren and became sole owner of the company.

The present facility has 40,000-sq-ft of space that includes offices, seven service bays, and a separate paint shop. Completion of the new facility will make a total of 10 service bays.

"I enjoy most aspects of the business, but my heart is in the shop," Young says. "I do 95% of the bidding on suspension modifications and frame alterations. I started out as a shop mechanic and I believe that's really where it all happens."

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