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Dealer Issue Extra: A visit with Mellott Company’s Justin Mellott

By |  June 18, 2020
ConExpo Roundtable

Mellott

With Pit & Quarry publishing its second annual Dealer Issue this July, the magazine’s editors connected with dealers across the aggregate industry for perspective on a variety of topics. One dealer P&Q caught up with was Justin Mellott, inventory manager at Mellott Company. Our discussion focused on working through the coronavirus pandemic, characteristics that separate the industry’s best service providers, the future of the industry, and more.

What’s the Mellott Company experience been like working through the pandemic?

First and foremost, we’ve been concerned most with the safety of employees, customers and the communities we serve. Being deemed a life-sustaining business, we have an obligation to support our economy. But we must ensure we are following health and safety guidelines to enable not just our employees, but also our business partners to go home the same way they came into work – healthy.

We’ve adapted our business operations and observed social distancing rules. PPE (personal protective equipment) is required for employees and visitors. We’re also taking temperatures for all staff before we admit them into work. If they have a temperature, then we turn them around.

We’re sterilizing work stations, and we run fog machines during the weekends. There’s a diluted solution in the fog machines that makes them fog an area and kill any germs.

The other big one: Any employee who can work from home is working from home.

We’re looking at all of these changes in determining the potential long-term benefit they may be able to provide once the pandemic is over. With the massive change in perspective, we believe there’s an opportunity to improve our business and improve the lives of employees and support our customers in general. If people are sick in the future, for example, stay home. It hasn’t been a requirement to come in if they felt they could actually work from home.

Shifting more to dealer fundamentals, what does Mellott Company look for when evaluating potential manufacturer partners?

The most important aspect of determining whether to partner with a company or not is if they hold the same values of our organization.

We take our core values – safety, integrity, commitment, respect and excellence – very seriously, and so should our business partners. The dollars and cents must line up, too, but we align ourselves with world-class business partners to provide better support to our customers. You do that through transparency and collaboration with the right partner.

Product and support [are important], but it’s also about collaboration throughout different departments within the partners that we do have. It’s not just sales; it’s marketing, accounting and IT. It’s about how to streamline business operations.

Says Justin Mellott: "Dealer education is the cornerstone of creating the greatest value for our customers." Photo: Mellott Company

Says Justin Mellott: “Dealer education is the cornerstone of creating the greatest value for our customers.” Photo: Mellott Company

How has the pandemic changed the way you offer training, and does Mellott Company generally do anything unique to train customers?

Dealer education is the cornerstone of creating the greatest value for our customers. This includes [not only] manufacturers educating us as dealers, but also us educating customers with that information. Only through education and hands-on experience can we as dealers [pick up] the skills to support customers. Using what you’ve learned to educate others is the best way to spread the benefits.

From this pandemic, we see and believe virtual training seminars will become invaluable sources of knowledge for customers in the future. These seminars cannot replace the value of hands-on training and dynamic learning like we provide every winter at Mellott Company in Warfordsburg, [Pennsylvania], but they are a tool to reinforce the fundamentals.

Metso and Mellott Company, for example, are working on a set of virtual training sessions. We’re trying to get them to a point where they’re available to customers, as well.

Also, we have a blog where we write educational articles. We pick up what we call a ‘content specialist’ or a technical expert in a specific field – whether it’s crushing, liner application for your bowl mantle, jaw dies or best safety practices. We publish educational articles, not to sell parts or service, but to better educate customers on the things that they should be looking for. We get a great response from them and a lot of reads. I think they really appreciate it.

We’re an aging industry. There’s a lot of technical knowledge being drained out of our industry. I think the important thing we can do is invest in the education of our own people and experience, and try to keep that knowledge within our organization. The fact that we have that is such a huge value for our customers who may have high turnover or younger people moving into positions who may not have the education and experience.

How about the fact that Mellott Company is a contract crusher? Do you feel that gives your people an added layer of knowledge that the typical dealer does not possess?

I would consider the contract crushing one of our competitive advantages. Understanding not only what equipment works, but how it works in the field and how it produces material. We have the experience to be able to troubleshoot and know what the common issues are. We’ve experienced them and fixed them. You’re not only getting an engineer’s product view but an in-the-field view.

Offering a variety of services, including crusher rebuilds, positions equipment dealers to find best solutions for their customers. Photo: Mellott Company

Offering a variety of services, including crusher rebuilds, positions equipment dealers to find best solutions for their customers. Photo: Mellott Company

Let’s talk about the concept of service: Everyone in the industry – manufacturers and dealers alike – touts the high level of service they offer, but what characteristics do you think define the best service providers in the aggregate industry?

I think it’s fairly simple: True service comes down to being excellent at creative problem solving. Understanding a customer’s business and the problems they’re trying to overcome is part one.

The second part is having the knowledge to know how you can leverage our capabilities and the capabilities of the suppliers we have at our disposal to provide solutions to the customer’s problem at hand.

The third aspect is providing the customer options to choose from so they can determine whatever fits their business needs.

At Mellott Company, a customer may have a problem they come to us with that we can solve with our parts on hand. Or, maybe the crusher needs to be rebuilt. Or, maybe they need to utilize our Marion Machine services. Or, we can offer new or used machines. All of that gives our customers options to make decisions.

Have you seen any trends lately in how customers are going about purchasing (or not purchasing) equipment?

What we saw in the early stages of the outbreak was an initial hiccup in demand for some products and services, but really barring those few days it seems to have come back to our anticipated volume – aside from products purchased through capital budgets.

Some customer capital budgets have been frozen until we as a country have a better grasp of the pandemic. I believe the industry is waiting for fallout on state infrastructure budgets. There’s an unprecedented number of people on unemployment, as well as reduced gas tax revenues due to states’ stay-at-home orders. It’s become a revenue issue and a cost issue. There’s a lot of concern with budgets at the state level. Where are we going to come up with that money?

Mellott Company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. How did the company ultimately make it to 2020, and what do you think the future holds for Mellott Company and dealers in general?

The reason we’ve been blessed with longevity is due to some degree of luck, but also our ability to be mindful of the future and know when our business needs to pivot. Not all pivots work, but failure is part of adaptability in every organization.

That being said, the dealer of yesterday, today and tomorrow will have always needed to put customer service and support first. This is something we’ve been working on and perfecting since the start of our company.

Today, we’re focused on educating our staff to improve customer service. We’re also widening our capabilities to provide a greater set of comprehensive services and solutions. Also, we’re using tech to improve communication between ourselves, customers and business partners.

We live in a technological age that brings unparalleled convenience and access to us at the tap of a screen. That’s what the average American is accustomed to. So why wouldn’t our business adapt to the needs of our customers?

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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