How collaborative culture enables Trailer Equipment to be strong 'strategic partner'

Trailer Equipment building headquarters

Everyone has a say at Trailer Equipment. The company’s value proposition is “Your Strategic Partner for all Your Trailer Needs,” and it’s a statement the business takes seriously.

Since its founding in 1984 as a five-trailer leasing business, Trailer Equipment has used feedback, dialogue and a smart business sense to grow.

“That’s what we do and who we want to be,” says Vice President Mackenzie Wellman of the company’s slogan. “We believe in progress, not perfection, and that speaks to how we set expectations with our people and our customers.”

She adds, “We are always looking for the next thing we can do to better support our customers.”

The list of things the company already does is noteworthy. Trailer Equipment supports four trailer brands and Capacity Trucks, and its Trailer X-Press leasing fleet is one of the largest in the Midwest. The company operates 24 trailer service bays and also has 12 mobile service and one tire service truck.

From its locations in Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan, the company employs more than 100 associates and each of them are taught from their first day that customer satisfaction is main tenet on which the company is built.

The company’s long list of greater than 20-year customers and associates helps visualize that commitment, too.

“This is a family business that feels like a family business,” says Controller Rachael Martens, who has been with Trailer Equipment 18 years. “Everyone here knows everyone and we all understand what we’re here to do. We’re willing to go that extra mile to help our customers.”

Trailer Equipment customer eventTrailer Equipment holds many customer events at its facilities and participates at customer and local community events to build engagement in its region.

Adds CFO Scott Westers, another 18-year veteran, “I’ve watched this company grow and we may be more a corporation than we were 18 years ago, but we still very much operate like a family unit in the way we operate and help our customers.”

It’s clear customers and the trailer industry have taken note, as Trailer Equipment has now been named one of five finalists for the inaugural Trailblazer Award, powered by Successful Dealer.

Wellman says the recognition is appreciated and reaffirming for the business, which just recently opened a new state-of-the-art headquarters in Grand Rapids. Built with careful input from associates and customers alike, Wellman says the facility was the cumulation of decades of success listening and learning from customers and building a store designed to maximize the company’s go to market strategy.

“Ross [Wellman, the company’s founder] has talked for years about a new building and has always said if we built one, what would it have,” Mackenzie says. Which meant when the decision was made in 2019 to build it, the company had plenty of unique ideas.

Trailer Equipment new building groundbreakingTrailer Equipment's leadership team took input from its entire workforce when it designed its new corporate headquarters. Construction on the building (seen here) began in 2019.

“We had a lot of input from staff — what do you want? What do you need?,” Mackenzie says. “We tried to take all of that and use it in our design.”

Since opening, one of the facility’s biggest resources has been its automated wash bay. Open to customers at all times, Business Analyst Josh O’Neil says the wash bay has been a hit, enabling customers to clean and dry their equipment during Michigan’s brutal winter months and, ideally, reduce winter-related service events.

“We’ve had a lot of great feedback on it,” he says.

Parts and service department shop design is another new resource of the new building. Wellman says Trailer Equipment’s parts and service teams were influential in how the departments were designed to maximize shop productivity.

Trailer Equipment takes feedback in other areas too. Wellman says when COVID-19 flipped the world upside in 2020 and business slowed, Trailer Equipment used the period to evaluate many of its internal and external processes.

“It really gave us a chance to just stop and think about what we wanted the company to be in the future,” she says. “We took that time to really work on our communication. We identified things we did poorly and what we could do better and started working on that.”

Wellman says internal communication is substantially stronger in 2023, as is the distribution of the customer feedback that is so vital to the company’s mission. Associates are trained to elicit feedback during transactions and act accordingly, and regular communication with management and the workforce ensures those comments reach decision makers.

Sales manager Roger Swierbut says, “We are all allowed to execute on our customer focus.”

The company’s familial culture can be found in its community outreach as well. Wellman says Trailer Equipment supports multiple charitable foundations that are particularly close to the company’s family, and also requests input from associates about other organizations that deserve the company’s support.

Trailer Equipment doesn’t just say it’s a family business, Wellman says, it lives it. When employees believe an organization is worthy of support, Trailer Equipment provides it.

“We try to support what matters to our team,” she says.

The Trailblazer Award was created in 2023 recognize and honor North America’s trailer dealer community for their essential support of the transportation industry. The Trailblazer Award is graciously sponsored by Hendrickson and Procede Software. To learn more about the program, go the award page.

Trailer Equipment new building wash bayTrailer Equipment's fully automated wash bay in its new facility has been a big hit with customers and essential to keeping equipment clean during cold, wet winter months.

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