P&Q Profile: McCloskey International’s John O’Neill

By |  October 30, 2018
Headshot: John O'Neill

O’Neill

McCloskey International’s acquisition this summer of Lippmann-Milwaukee generated a number of headlines. The development created an opportunity for P&Q to visit with John O’Neill, who offered exclusive perspective on the transaction and more.

How did McCloskey’s acquisition of Lippmann-Milwaukee come about?

The owner of our company, Paschal McCloskey, had worked with Lippmann since the start of [McCloskey], so he was always very aware of their position in the marketplace.

We used to install Lippmann feeders in our equipment that were custom built for customers, so we were very familiar and there was a lot of respect for the company. As McCloskey grew, we still recognized the need for a larger product offering. We saw an opportunity to maybe combine the two companies, and we reached out to the Turner family. It was a very simple transaction.

The Turner family and Paschal were able to come to a deal pretty quickly. The process itself was pretty smooth. Culturally, both companies being private helped. They were very welcoming to us and very open. They saw us as a good brand and a good product line to be associated with.

Will Lippmann-Milwaukee equipment now be branded as McCloskey?

What we look at is the culture and history of the Lippmann customer. It’s pretty distinct to a McCloskey customer, so we’re deciding what products can make the crossover pretty easily.

We’ll be taking some of Lippmann’s legendary reputation in the large jobs – big impactors, stationary projects – and expanding our offering to the McCloskey network. They’ve typically been very strong in North America, and McCloskey will help with expansion of the global reach.

We’re still going to keep the two brands and two dealer networks in place – there will be no major shakeups there. I often tell our sales guys if you approach an organization with strengths and weaknesses, try to maximize their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses, but build upon that.

How does Lippmann fit into McCloskey?

Lippmann has been around for a long time and developed a great team of people. Some have been on staff for 40 years plus, so there’s a great bed of knowledge there. It’s a get-the-job done culture.

Any company that’s survived 90 years is doing something right. There weren’t huge egos in place or cultural differences where we have to try and merge those; it’s a can-do attitude at their facility, and we think it’s the same at our facilities. We had some crossover with distribution, and there’s been a lot of respect on both sides for management and products. We’re just working at making both teams communicate without one overwhelming the other.

What does the future of these two companies hold?

Lippmann-Milwaukee crushers .Photo courtesy of Lippmann-Milwaukee

Lippmann-Milwaukee crushers. Photo courtesy of Lippmann-Milwaukee

We’re looking to expand their team. We are looking to invest in Milwaukee and the infrastructure there, the people there. One of the natural concerns of the Lippmann people was that we’re going to come in and strip everything out, which isn’t the case. We can build machines anywhere, but it’s hard to find good people.

Paschal has been pushing that we’re here to stay and we’re here to grow it. Our history has been, when we do buy companies, we have grown them in place. We’ve put some aggressive growth targets in sales, and with sales we need product, and with product we need more people. We’re already looking to hire more people.

We’re always hiring. We have to bring people in all the time, and if they fit in and want to work, there’s always a job for that. This business is tough and it’s not for everyone, but the people who work for us have very rewarding careers.

We’re always hiring because, if you don’t have that pipeline coming in, you can’t turn it on one day and say ‘I need 10 people tomorrow.’ It takes time.
Immigration is a hot-button [issue] for manufacturers. We have to attract people, whether they come from Texas or Thailand.

‘Oh, you’re getting cheap labor from overseas?’ Well, between the time and cost, immigrant labor for us is much more expensive. Immigration fees and lawyers and all that can be costly.

We’re open for business. If you’re a good worker, we’ll work hard to retain you. We have a very strong culture against layoffs. I would almost say it’s one of the first things we look at when we plan growth, because we’re very aware of the effect on the individual and the workforce. It’s something we really try hard to avoid.

If people commit to the company, the company really wants to commit to them. Nobody can ever guarantee anything, but that’s definitely part of our philosophy. It’s up the management to get the sales, find the product, etc. The benefits and salary you offer have to be in line with the responsibilities you give people. If you want quality product, you have to hire quality people.

Anything else of note to add about McCloskey’s acquisition?

Our plan is for rapid growth. We’re looking for people who want to grow with us, both domestically and internationally. We have the resources to invest in the product line and chase all available business. We’re going to invest in inventory and increasing our parts and service availability, so I think we’ll have a fantastic product offering that will be made in America and compete with foreign brands.

Let’s shift gears and talk about you and your career. How long have you been in this industry, and where did you get your start?

Out of college, I worked in marketing for Pepsi in Northern Ireland. Anyone that’s worked in marketing knows it’s not all fancy advertisements, but a lot of analysis and other things.

I was very frustrated with being stuck in an office. A friend told me a company called Finlay Hydrascreen was hiring, so I went to work with them. They sent me to Chicago to help with a dealer in 1997, so I worked there for three years [and] then moved to Ohio, where I worked for Grayson, a Finlay and McCloskey dealer.

I met Mr. McCloskey in the summer of 2000 and moved to Canada to work as a sales guy for him. Over the years, I worked my way up and basically got more involved in the management side of the company. I was part of the team that bought Viper when we moved there in 2004. I moved to the States in 2005 to focus on setting up dealer networks for McCloskey International.

We launched pretty heavy into the aggregate market in 2005 and have grown the business globally. I’ve been with McCloskey for 18 years after about three with Finlay.

How has the industry changed in your time working in it?

I’ve been impressed with the ability of the mobiles. Design engineers come up with fantastic products that [offer] very quick setup and operation time, and the capacity of the mobile equipment has gone through the roof. The product offering has increased so dramatically, primarily in the tracked mobile equipment. It’s probably three or four times the size it was when I first started.

The consolidation of the industry has peaked, but there has been a lot of new interest coming back into it, which shows the strength of the market and the innovation that’s out there, driving each company to perform for the end user.

I’m also amazed at the value of the product an end user can buy. When we consider 100 tons an hour used to be a lot, now they’re routinely asking for 500 tons. If you have a loader operator and he’s a good guy, give him the tools to get more productivity out of those assets.

What do you enjoy most about working in this industry?

One of the things I enjoy personally is when you provide a good product and solve a customer’s problem, you can always make a good friend. Being in international sales, I have friends in many places, and I always feel welcome as a vendor. But you get beyond that and become a true partner of ‘let’s do it together.’

One of the areas that drives our operations staff is our obsession with how can we solve our customers’ problems. The customers wants what the customer wants, and we have to figure out a way to meet their expectations and do it profitably so everyone can come out ahead.

Finish this sentence: The aggregate industry in 2018 is…

Very buoyant. Very optimistic. The business here is very focused on the next couple of years. The cycle of what we were in still has some legs to run. There has been a lot of pent-up demand on infrastructure, and we can help solve that.

Our customers don’t just move on a dime; nobody wakes up thinking ‘I’ll buy a crusher today.’ There’s a lot of thought in making investments in the plants and the people. Those decisions and investments are still being made because people are always looking to the future.

The aggregate guys are optimistic, and they have to be thinking a few years ahead. The feedback we’re getting is [that] we’re going to be busy for a long time. I think people are making more considerate decisions.

One of the things we’ve seen is a bigger transition to more creative financing of equipment, longer-term rentals and leases instead of just buying outright. That may change with increase in demand.

A good dealer has to be ready to offer all the options to his customer, and rentals are certainly a bigger part of what we do. The rent-to-rent market has taken a bigger hold of our equipment.


FIVE THINGS

BEST ADVICE RECEIVED – Do what you say you’re going to do. People don’t expect miracles or the impossible, but if you say you’re going to do something, just do it. If you can’t, tell them quickly because they make decisions based on your input.

FIRST JOB – Burger King. I worked there for about a year and learned about team building and following directions.

HOBBIES – My wife’s support has really enabled me to be successful. I have four kids under 11, so my hobbies have been whatever they want to do.

BOOKS – I read John Ringo books. I also always try to read autobiographies every month. Last one I read was the story of Walter Chrysler.

TRAVEL – I really like South Carolina. I like Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m becoming more impressed with Milwaukee – the downtown is a great place with a lot going on. Tokyo is a phenomenally interesting place, and Santiago, Chile, too.

 

*Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Lippmann-Milwaukee

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